History of Bellingham, Washington

The history of Bellingham, Washington involves the settling of Whatcom County in the mid to late 1800s. The name of Bellingham is derived from the bay on which the city is situated. George Vancouver, who visited the area in June 1792, named the bay for Sir William Bellingham, the controller of the storekeeper's account of the Royal Navy.cite book |last=Hitchman |first=Robert |title=Place Names of Washington |year=1985 |publisher=Washington State Historical Society |id=ISBN 0-917048-57-1|pages=18]

Bellingham was officially incorporated on November 4, 1903. It was the result of the consolidation of four towns initially situated around Bellingham Bay: Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham, and Fairhaven.

In detail

The first white settlers reached the area in 1854. Local history and legend credit one "Blanket" Bill Jarman as the first white man to reside in the areaFact|date=February 2007. The original settlement was named Whatcom, located where Whatcom Creek empties into the bay. A stockade, "Fort Bellingham", was built on Peabody Hill, and commanded by Captain George E. Pickett, later to become famous as a Confederate General in the American Civil War. Pickett's house remains to this day as the oldest house in the city.cite web | title = George E. Pickett House | publisher = City of Bellingham | url = http://www.cob.org/pcd/cd/historic/tour/16.htm | accessdate = 2007-08-17]

In 1858, the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush caused thousands of miners, storekeepers, and scalawags to head north from California. Whatcom grew overnight from a small northwest mill town to a bustling seaport, the basetown for the Whatcom Trail, which led to the Fraser Canyon goldfields, used in open defiance of colonial Governor James Douglas's edict that all entry to the gold colony be made via Victoria, British Columbia. The first brick building in Washington was built at this time, the T. G. Richards and Company Store. The first newspaper in Whatcom County, the Northern Light, was published by William Bausman during the boom. Just as soon as it started, the boom went bust with the miners being forced to stop at Victoria, B.C. for a permit before heading to the mining fields. Whatcom's population dropped almost as quickly as it had grown, and the sleepy little town on the bay returned.

Coal mining was commonplace near town from the mid 19th–mid 20th centuries. Coal was originally discovered by Henry Roeder off the northeastern shore of Bellingham Bay. In 1854, a group of San Francisco investors established Bellingham Bay Coal Company. By 1866, Darius Ogden Mills purchased and reorganized the company, renaming it the Black Diamond Coal Company. The Sehome Coal Mine at the present Laurel Street in Bellingham, employed 100 people in 1860. Under the management of Pierre B. Cornwall, the mine operated profitably until its closure in 1878. By this time, Black Diamond had acquired a considerable amount of land around Bellingham Bay, and throughout the next 19 years, Cornwall focused the company’s efforts on the sale of its real estate [ [http://www.acadweb.wwu.edu/cpnws/bbic/bbichist.htm BBIC Company Records] ] . The Blue Canyon mine, at the south end of Lake Whatcom, opened in 1891 with solid investment, and supplied lower-grade bituminous coal for the United States Pacific Fleet. Twenty-three workers died in huge explosion on April 8 1895, Washington's worst industrial accident to date. The Blue Canyon mine closed in 1917, having produced 250,000 tons of coal. That same year, the Bellingham Coal Mines opened near present-day Northwest and Birchwood Avenues. The mine extended to hundreds of miles of tunnels as deep as 1200'. It ran southwest to Bellingham Bay, on both sides of Squalicum Creek, an area of about one squre mile. It employed some 250 miners digging over 200,000 tons of coal annually, at its peak in the 1920s. It was closed in 1955.Citation | last = Southcott | first = Bonnie Hart
title = Mines faced disasters, financial woes
newspaper = The Bellingham Herald | date = 2003-10-20 | accessdate = 2008-03-10
url =http://www.bellinghamherald.com/special-pub/centennial/160479.shtml
] Citation | last = Stark | first = John
title = Beneath the city of Bellingham lie the memories of the mines
newspaper = The Bellingham Herald | date = 2008-03-02 | accessdate = 2008-03-10
url =http://www.bellinghamherald.com/513/story/336698.html
] Citation
last = Burkhart
first = Brendan
title = Postcards and Dead Fish: The Capitalism and the Construction of Place, Bellingham, Washington, 1918-1927
journal = Occasional Papers
publisher = Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
year = 2003 | accessdate = 2008-03-10
url = http://www.acadweb.wwu.edu/CPNWS/occasionalpapers/postcardsandfish/titlepage.htm
. The coal mines are described in [http://www.acadweb.wwu.edu/CPNWS/occasionalpapers/postcardsandfish/1%20intro%20templ.htm 1 - "Introduction"] and [http://www.acadweb.wwu.edu/CPNWS/occasionalpapers/postcardsandfish/5%20claiminng%20nat%20of%20place.htm 5 - "Claiming the Nature of Place"] .]

In the early 1890s, three railroad lines arrived, connecting the bay cities to a nationwide market of builders. The foothills around Bellingham were clearcut after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to help provide the lumber for the rebuilding of San Francisco. In time, lumber and shingle mills sprang up all over the county to accommodate the byproduct of their work.

In 1889, Cornwall and an association of investors formed the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company (BBIC). The company was mostly composed of wealthy California businessmen who were investing heavily into Bellingham with the vision that it would one day become an important urban center for commerce and trade. The BBIC invested in several diverse enterprises such as shipping, coal, mining, railroad construction, real estate sales and utilities. Even though their dreams of turning Bellingham into a Pacific Northwest metropolis never came to fruition, the BBIC made an immense contribution to the economic development of Bellingham. The BBIC had the franchise for providing electricity to the city of Bellingham, which at that time primarily went to street lighting and electric streetcars. However, by 1903 the small generator powering Bellingham was proving to be inadequate for the growing city. The BBIC began developing a hydroelectric plant on the north fork of the Nooksack River, below Nooksack Falls. However, all the difficulties of maintaining a generator and trying to construct the Nooksack site took its toll on BBIC. In 1905 the board of directors announced the sale of its utility holdings to Stone & Webster [ [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=pphhdatapage&fileName=wa/wa0200/wa0227/data/hhdatapage.db&recNum=6&itemLink=D%3Fhh%3A13%3A.%2Ftemp%2F%7Epp_O3rN%3A%3A%40%40%40mdb%3Dfsaall%2Capp%2Cbrum%2Cdetr%2Cswann%2Clook%2Cgottscho%2Cpan%2Choryd%2Cgenthe%2Cvar%2Ccai%2Ccd%2Chh%2Cyan%2Cbbcards%2Clomax%2Cils%2Cprok%2Cbrhc%2Cnclc%2Cmatpc%2Ciucpub%2Ctgmi%2Clamb Library Of Congress Engineering Record] ] .

BBIC was not the only outside firm with an interest in Bellingham utilities. The General Electric Company of New York purchased Bellingham's Fairhaven Line and New Whatcom street rail line in 1897. In 1898 the utility merged into the Northern Railway and Improvement Company which prompted the Electric Corporation of Boston to purchase a large block of shares. Stone & Webster was also involved in Puget Sound area railways including a considerable amount in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. By 1902, Stone & Webster had acquired the Fairhaven and New Whatcom. Over the next several months Northern Railway and Improvement sold the rest of its holdings which included Fairhaven Electric Light, Power and Motor Company and the Whatcom-Fairhaven Gas Company. Stone & Webster organized these under the umbrella name of the Whatcom County Railway and Light Company [ [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=pphhdatapage&fileName=wa/wa0200/wa0227/data/hhdatapage.db&recNum=9&itemLink=D%3Fhh%3A13%3A.%2Ftemp%2F%7Epp_O3rN%3A%3A%40%40%40mdb%3Dfsaall%2Capp%2Cbrum%2Cdetr%2Cswann%2Clook%2Cgottscho%2Cpan%2Choryd%2Cgenthe%2Cvar%2Ccai%2Ccd%2Chh%2Cyan%2Cbbcards%2Clomax%2Cils%2Cprok%2Cbrhc%2Cnclc%2Cmatpc%2Ciucpub%2Ctgmi%2Clamb Library Of Congress] ] .

Bellingham was officially incorporated on November 4 1903. It was the result of the consolidation of four towns initially situated around Bellingham Bay: Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham, and Fairhaven. A fictionalized account of the history of Bellingham in this era is "The Living" by Annie Dillard.

The Bellingham Riots occurred on September 5 1907. A group of 400-500 white men with intentions to exclude East Indian immigrants from the local work force mobbed waterfront barracks. The white men beat and hospitalized 6 Indians while 410 Indians were jailed. No actions were taken against the perpetrators.

Fishing has also played an important part in the development of the region. By 1925, eight salmon canneries were doing business in Whatcom County - two on Bellingham Bay, the rest at Lummi Island, Semiahmoo and Chuckanut Bay. Together, they packed nearly a half-million cases of salmon one yearFact|date=February 2007.

Increased efficiency in the canneries, combined with the cold efficiency of the fish traps, decimated the area's salmon runs. Traps were banned in the 1930s, prompting canneries to move their fish-catching operations to Alaska, where salmon were still abundant and traps were still legal.

Bellingham's proximity to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to the Inside Passage to Alaska helped keep some cannery operations here. P.A.F., for example, shipped empty cans to Alaska, where they were packed with fish and shipped back for storage.

Pipeline Accident

On June 10 1999, the Olympic Pipeline ruptured in Whatcom Falls Park near Whatcom Creek, leaking 237,000 US gallons (897 m³) of gasoline into the creek. [http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/174862_olympic25.html Wear caused gas leak in Olympic pipeline ] ] The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the damage done by an IMCO construction crew while conducting modifications to a water treatment plant, but not reported to Olympic or any agency authorities.National Transportation Safety Board (October 8 2002) [http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2002/PAR0202.pdf Pipeline Rupture and Subsequent Fire in Bellingham, Washington] Report (PDF)] The convert|400|mi|km|sing=on pipeline carries gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from four refineries to the Renton, Washington distribution center and to locations as far south as Portland, Oregon, including all the fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The four refineries are the BP's Cherry Point Refinery and ConocoPhillips' refinery both at Ferndale, Washington and Shell Oil Company's refinery and Tesoro's refinery both at Anacortes, Washington.

The vapor layer from the spill overcame an 18 year old man, Liam Gordon Wood, who was fishing in the creek; he fell into the creek and subsequently drowned. [http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5468 HistoryLink: Olympic Pipeline Accident] Accessed: 13 August 2008.] An explosion was set off by two young boys playing with a non-functioning fireplace lighter and burned over a mile (1.6 km) of the creek bed and sent a black smoke cloud over 30,000 feet (10 km) into the air. Steven Tsiorvias and Wade King, both age 10, were students at nearby Roosevelt Elementary School. They were discovered by firefighters immediately and rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital. The boys were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They died the next day due to extensive burns from proximity to the blast. Although some buildings were destroyed, due to road closures and evacuations around the creek, there were no further fatalities. The explosion resulted in over $45 million in property damage. Several years later, the families of the pipeline victims sued Olympic Pipeline Company and settled for around $100 million in damages, which they pledged would help support pipeline safety and provide legal representation for pipeline accident victims.

Because of the efforts of the Tsiorvias and King families, whose children died in the tragedy, the U.S. Department of Justice worked to make $4 million of the criminal settlement with the pipeline companies available to start the independent Pipeline Safety Trust [ [http://www.pstrust.org Pipeline Safety Trust Homepage ] ] . The Pipeline Safety Trust is now the only independent non-profit organization working to ensure greater safety of the pipelines that run through communities nationwide.

ee also

*Bellingham riots

References


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