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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Edward and Teresa (Lappin) Eldridge
and their descendants, updated September 2006

(Edward Eldridge)
      In this section — part two, profiles of Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge
Part Two: Profiles and Obituaries of the Eldridge Family
Edward and Teresa Eldridge

Charlotte "Lottie" Roeder Roth, History of Whatcom County, 1926
      Edward Eldridge, who in his generation was one of the most conspicuous personal factors in the development of the Bellingham community, was born its the important seaport town of St. Andrews on the North sea in Fifeshire, Scotland, December 7, 1829, and from the age of eleven years followed the sea, in time becoming a licensed navigator.
      At one time what came near to being a tragedy was averted by a spell of sickness, for he had signed on to go with Sir John Franklin's expedition in search of the north pole, but was in a hospital when the little fleet sailed away never again to return. His first trip to America was made in 1846, he then being a youth of seventeen, a member of the crew of a vessel carrying mahogany from Honduras. He later came inland and was for a time a sailor on the Great Lakes.
      When word of the gold strike in California aroused the spirit of adventure in the breasts of young men in all parts of the world he, with many other sailors, became interested. Meanwhile he had left the Great Lakes and again was sailing the seven seas, and when the vessel on which he was in service, the Tonquin, put in at the port of San Francisco in October, 1849, he signed off and followed the stream of gold seekers into the Yuba fields. He spent a year in the gold fields and then returned to the sea, signing on as second mate of the Tennessee of the Pacific Mail line in the coastwise service between San Francisco and Panama.
      On one of his trips in this service in 1851 he met Teresa Lappin and their marriage followed not long after their arrival in port. Following his marriage Mr. Eldridge resigned his mate's ticket and with his bride went into the gold fields about Yreka, but fickle fortune failed to favor him there and he presently decided to return to the sea, intending to take up mining in Australia.
      While waiting in San Francisco to complete the details of this plan he came in touch with Captain Henry Roeder, a former Great Lakes captain whom he had known when in service on the inland seas, and the latter persuaded him to abandon the sea and the Australian mining project which he had in mind and to join with him in the timber development in which he had become engaged in the Bellingham Bay country. The prospect was alluring and it was thus that Edward Eldridge and his wife and baby girl in 1853 became numbered among the first settlers in Bellingham, locating at Captain Roeder's mill.

Teresa Lappin Eldridge
(Teresa Eldridge)
Teresa Eldridge

      Mrs. Teresa (Lappin) Eldridge, who was born in Ireland, June 24, 1832, came to this country in 1850, landing at the port of New York. In the next year (1851), in response to the call being sent back east from California for young women to come out and help people the new coast state, she joined a numerous party of young women who left New York, taking passage via the Isthmus, to become part of the wonderful new community then growing up at San Francisco. Edward Eldridge was the second mate of the vessel on which she made the trip up the coast from Panama, and, as noted above, they were married not long after their arrival in San Francisco and in 1853 settled at Captain Roeder's mill on Bellingham bay.
      Mrs. Eldridge was the first white woman to settle on that site, and she became a power for good in the new community. She endeared herself to all and her name will ever be held in precious memory there. With her, upon her arrival here, was her firstborn, a daughter, Isabella, who was born at Yreka, California, and who in the course of time married [John] J. Edens, in his generation one of the forceful figures of the neighboring county of Skagit, [namesake of Edens Hall on the Western Washington University campus] and a state senator from that county, both now being deceased.
      Her first child born here was a son, Edward, named for his father. He was born in August, 1855, one of the first white children born in the Bellingham settlement, and died when a boy of thirteen, in 1868. The next child, Alice, also born in Bellingham, married James Gilligan [not Gilliland as erroneously noted in some sources] of Skagit county, and died in February 1886. Then came the son Hugh, who is now the sole survivor of this interesting pioneer family.
      The honored pioneer mother died at her home in Bellingham, May 10, 1911, she then lacking about a month of being seventy-nine years of age. She had survived her husband for almost twenty years. Her funeral services were solemn and impressive, and it may be truly said that they were participated in by the entire population of the city, as business was suspended, flags were at half-mast and thousands lined the streets to gaze on the cortege and pay the last tribute of love and respect to the venerable lady.
      Upon coming to Bellingham, Mr. Eldridge took up a donation claim of three hundred and twenty acres of land adjoining the claim of Captain Roeder and fronting on the bay, and in addition to his service in helping to erect and operate the big sawmill, he began to develop that tract, which as the community grew became a part of the town site and the foundation for the considerable fortune, which rewarded Mr. Eldridges enterprise and public spirit, creating an estate to which in time he was succeeded by his son, Hugh Eldridge, who has in many ways promoted and expanded it.

Edward's role in the community
      Edward Eldridge became one of the forceful factors in local development work along other lines, not only in lumbering, as a member of the firm of Bartlett & Eldridge, but its general commercial and industrial lines and in railroad building. At the time of his death he was the president of the Bellingham Bay National Bank, president of the Bellingham Bay Gas Company, president of the Bellingham Bay Land Company, president of the Bellingham Bay & Eastern Railway Company, a director of the Fairhaven & New Whatcom Street Railway Company and of the Puget Sound Loan, Trust & Banking Company, and president of the Bellingham Bay Water Company.
      In civic affairs he also took a prominent and influential part and rendered public service in various capacities. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature from this district and Speaker of the House during the session of 1866-67, and in 1878 he was a delegate-at-large in the Territorial Constitutional Convention at Walla Walla. Upon the adjournment of this con¬vention, a Walla Walla paper, in summing up the capabilities of the various members, said of Edward Eldridge, "He was the Jeffersonian of the body on parliamentary tactics and in all things the Nestor of the convention."
      In 1889 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention at Olympia. When this convention met, John Miller Murphey, editor of the Washi¬ngton Standard published in Olympia, in giving a resume of the various members, said of Mr. Eldridge, "Who is this that comes from Hara, not with kingly pomp or pride but a great free son of nature, lion-souled and eagle-eyed? Edward Eldridge is indeed lion-souled in standing by his convictions and eagle-eyed in looking after the interests of his constituents. A better parliamentarian never sat in a legislative body."
      In 1892 he was a delegate to the Republican national convention held that year in Minneapolis and was ever one of the most influential leaders in the councils of that party in this district and state. In local offices he also did his part well, for he rendered service at one time and another as a member of the board of county commissioners, as county auditor and as county treasurer and also for some time was deputy collector of customs in this port. It has been written of Edward Eldridge's civil service that "he never wooed public office and responded to the call of his fellow citizens in the spirit of duty." Indeed, he might have had a brilliant political career but for his positive stand on all questions in which he believed, regardless of their popularity with the masses.
      He was an ardent believer in women's suffrage and about the first public man strongly to ad¬vocate it in Washington territory. This question was very unpopular at that time, particularly among the foreign element which in early territorial days was practically dominant. He therefore devoted himself to his manifold business interests and his love of literature. It is said that he was a Democrat up to the time news came verifying the report that Fort Sumter had been fired upon. Then he repudiated the party as the author of rebellion and never returned to its ranks. As a Republican he was not a bitter partisan, but a conscientious worker and a broadminded citizen.
      Edward Eldridge died at his home its Bellingham October 12, 1892, he then being about two months under sixty-three years of age, and at his passing left a memory that long will be cherished in this community. Reference has been made above to his love of literature. His studious habits grew as his condition in life gradually became easier and he surrounded himself with one of the most thoughtfully selected private libraries in the state and with the contents of which he had a student's familiarity. This library constituted one of the chief attractions of his beautiful home and it has been a matter of unceasing local regret that not long after his passing this home, together with the library of thousands of choice volumes, was destroyed by fire.
      Following the passing of Mr. Eldridge the press of the state commented widely and in the most complimentary terms upon the character of his life and upon his service to the commonwealth. One of these commentators observed very fittingly that "every chang¬ing condition found him ready and in the forefront of progress. Whether it was a matter of personal enterprise or of public weal he was active, wide-awake, constructive all the time." Another observed that "the extent of his influence and work is almost immeasurable. There is practically no phase of the development of the Bellingham Bay district with which he was not closely associated, and his labors were of even greater extent, for his business connections reached out into other quarters and his activities touched the general interests of society, leaving their impress not only upon the development of the hour but upon future growth and great¬ness. To realize what were his early surroundings and his almost utter lack of youthful advantages and opportunities is to come to some understanding of the splendid work he accomplished — building a fortune, but building even better than that — a character that would bear the closest investigation and scrutiny anl which shone most resplendent in the clear light of clay."

Biographies of Edward and Teresa Eldridge
By Lelah Jackson Edson, The Fourth Corner, 1968, page 28ff
Edward Eldridge (1828-1892)

We hope that a descendant will have more photos of Edward Eldridge, his wife, children, grandchildren and their various homes, and possibly some answers to the questions about the name change and the feud with the Munroes. We also seek photos or documents about his various business ventures, especially the Eldridge and Bartlett mill and the original Bellingham townsite on the flank of Sehome Hill, which he owned with Erastus Bartlett

      Edward Eldridge, who so definitely influenced the trend of state and local history, like Captain Roeder, had been a sailor, school teacher, town-site developer, County Commissioner, Auditor, Treasurer, Deputy Collector of Customs, and later was president of transportation, financial and public service companies; legislator, exponent of Women's Rights; Speaker of the House; member of the Territorial Convention, and of the State Consti¬tutional Convention.
      The man has been described by one of his granddaughters as a person of medium height and weight, calm and somewhat slow spoken, with the kindliest of brown eyes. He was prematurely gray, white haired in fact, at twenty-five years of age. This pioneer was a self-educated, well-read man, who, over the years, acquired a large library that was destroyed when the house burned shortly after his death. His granddaughter has related that he seemed impressed by educated people, by artists, and the like, and was prone to forgive acts in these persons that he would not have tolerated in others; also that he might enter into deals with these same people, when such deals sometimes were to his disadvantage.
      Edward Eldridge desired the best of education for his children and grandchildren. Often he would press a forefinger against a small child's brow, explaining solemnly that this was to give the youngster a high and intelligent forehead. Associates seem to have set high store by his judgment and decisions in matter of business; and by his memory of details in the various companies he headed. Fellow legislators have stated that he might have gone high politically had his Scotch integrity permitted him to compromise on matters of principle.
      Edward Eldridge was born December 7, 1828 at Saint Andrews, Scotland. Orphaned at an early age, he, together with brothers and sisters, was reared by his grandparents. At eleven years, he ran away to sea. For nearly a dozen years he was a sailor, this period including service in the British Navy.
      In 1846, young Eldridge came to America, and shortly afterward was sailing the Great Lakes. There he met Captain Roeder. Again he returned to salt water, and was on the Tonquin, when she sailed into San Francisco, October 1849, at the height of the gold excitement. With others, he joined the gold rush to newly opened diggings on Yuba River. After twelve months of mining on the Feather River, he returned to the sea as second mate on the Pacific Mail Steamship Tennessee plying between Panama and San Francisco. On one of these trips in 1851, he met Teresa Lapin, whom he married in February 1852.

Teresa Lapin (most often spelled Lappin) Eldridge (1832-1911)
      Teresa Lapin Eldridge, known as the "Mother of Whatcom," has been described by her granddaughter as a good looking young woman, above average height, inclined to be stout, "a typical Irish girl with raven black hair and blue eyes — twinkly they were. She was quick tempered and out¬spoken, just the opposite, in many respects, of her studious husband." The pioneer scene, into which she soon was to be projected at Whatcom Creek, gave her no time for the improvement of her mind, what with rearing her family, feeding and mothering the homeless men at the mill site, and later running the boarding house at Sehome.
      Teresa Lapin was born in County Armagh, Ireland, June 24, 1832. With a sister she came to America in 1850, and there took service with a Long Island family, which joined the California rush the next year. After her marriage to Edward Eldridge the young couple moved to Northern Califor¬nia, where the husband mined unsuccessfully in the Yreka camp. There their daughter, Jsabelle, was born. Discouraged, they were in San Francisco, pre¬paring for a trip to Australia, when Eldridge met Captain Roeder.
      To transport his machinery and supplies, and the company of twelve souls, Captain Roeder chartered the schooner, William Allen, Captain McLain, master. The tedious voyage ended in May 1853, when the little vessel dropped anchor in the estuary just below the Whatcom Creek Falls.
      Her infant daughter in her arms, her voluminous skirts and petticoats wrapped about her, Mrs. Eldridge was carried ashore, to become the first, and at that moment, the only white woman in the far northwest corner of the United States. Her arrival, in fact the setting up of the first home, marked the beginning of the town of Whatcom, later to be part of the City of Bellingham. Years afterward, Mrs. Eldridge reported the enthusiasm of her husband at sight of the Bay and the selected townsite. She has left no word of her own reaction. An irrepressible Irish spirit no doubt overrode a housewife's heart-sickness at sight of the untenanted shores and the dark, somber, coniferous forests.
      With a woman and child needing shelter, the mill hands hurriedly con¬structed a cabin of logs, split cedar boards, and shakes. This was where Clinton Street later crossed Division Street. Bunk and mess houses were erected even as the machinery was being installed. Hungry men had to be fed. Thus naturally, the young wife became cook for the crew. In the meantime, there were homemade bunks, benches, tables, cupboards required to make the Eldridge cabin livable. In after years, when questioned about her beautiful home and belongings, Mrs. Eldridge said she was prouder of her first table cloth, made of four flour sacks and used in this cabin, than of any later possessions.
      Burdened with the task of providing three hot meals per day for the hungry mill hands, Mrs. Eldridge could spare little time for the mothering of her small daughter, Isabelle. The Indians, who had shown stolid indif¬ference at the arrival of the whites, soon became interested in the little girl and brought gifts of food—a great aid to a meager larder. The crews in the woods and at the mill increased in time, and the pioneer woman became more occupied. Satisfied that the Indians were entirely friendly, she allowed the women to take care of Isabelle. They would call for the little girl early each morning, and take her with them while they fished or picked berries. Soon the child was talking the Indian language, not the Chinook jargon; rather the ancient dialect, known only to the older tribesmen, and now a lost language. Isabelle, Mrs. Eldridge was wont to declare, could talk the In¬dian tongue before she could speak English, while she, herself, who had to know Chinook, could not understand a word her baby said.
      While working at the Roeder mill, Eldridge and wife, in 1854, staked two donation claims totaling 320 acres, and including the mouth of Squali¬cum Creek. Since the law required residence on the property, he constructed a cabin on the beach to which he moved his family. On the bluff above was a bit of open land or prairie — very poor soil. First efforts at raising a crop were a failure. The Eldridge family was increased in 1855 by the arrival of Edward Eldridge Jr., the first white child born at Whatcom. [He was] accidentally shot and killed, 1868, age thirteen, while in a boat on the Whatcom waterfront.
      Money was scarce around the Bay. A reported gold strike near Fort Colville in the Okanogan country lured the ex-prospector east of the moun¬tains. In his absence, he was elected to the Territorial House of Representa¬tives, the first representative from Whatcom County. Indian outbreaks drove Eldridge south. Traveling afoot, and mostly at night to avoid the hostiles, he made the journey of several hundred miles to Olympia. There, according to Roth, he learned that he had been elected, reported killed, and that a special election was about to be called to fill the vacancy. He decided to fill the vacancy himself and remained in Olympia for the second session of the legislature, meantime notifying his wife that reports of his death had been "grossly exaggerated."
      In an interview given the American Reveille, June 14, 1908, Mrs. Eldridge stated: "We depended almost entirely on the Lummi Indians for food . . . They brought us clams, fish, and many different sorts of birds', ducks', gulls', and divers' eggs. They were nearly always friendly, although I was twice badly scared by them." The first time, she reported, was when Chief Cha-wit-zit, in a drunken rage declared: "The Bostons all will have to go. They are stealing my coal. All the coal and all the land is mine."
      The second incident occurred a few years later when the Indians broke down the door of the Eldridge's cabin, captured a Kanaka slave girl who was hiding under the bed, and dragged her away by the hair to a waiting canoe. No violence was offered Mrs. Eldridge, who had tried to save the fugitive. In the early '50's, the Hudson's Bay Company brought a shipload of natives from the Sandwich Islands. This slave was evidently one of these Hawaiian girls.
      When Eldridge realized he could not make a living by farming, he moved across the Bay and went to work at the Sehome Coal Mine, running the engine. His wife opened a boarding house for the miners. This was so suc¬cessful that it grew into the Keystone Hotel, corner of State and Laurel streets. Here their fourth child, Hugh, was born in 1860. The third child, Alice, had been born in Sehome about two years previously.
      In 1862, the family erected a fine house on the bluff at the Squalicum Creek farm, and began the development of the place. This home became the center of hospitality for the district. Dignitaries, officials, scientists, and plain travelers made it a point to arrive about meal time or to stay overnight. Mrs. Eldridge later told how, on some Sundays, she set her table five times.
      Edward Eldridge served as delegate to the Territorial Constitutional Convention held at Walla Walla in 1878. He also helped launch the new state of Washington by serving as delegate to the State Constitutional Con¬vention convened in 1889 at Olympia.
      The Eldridge residence burned in 1878. In 1891, one of the largest and finest mansions in the west was erected on the bluff nearer to the Creek. When the 1894 forest fire threatened the town, the street car company of which Hugh Eldridge was a heavy stockholder sent hundreds of fire fight¬ers out to the farm. Despite several days' exhausting struggle, the flames from the forest consumed the mansion.
      Meantime Edward Eldridge had died in 1892. Mrs. Teresa Eldridge followed her husband in 1911.

Biography of Edward Eldridge (1828-1892)
From Washington West of the Cascades, Hunt, Herbert and Floyd C. Kaylor,
S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.: Seattle, 1917

      Capt. Edward Eldridge was born in Scotland and in 1849 was a sailor on Lake Erie. In 1853 Eldridge was in San Francisco and met Captain Roeder, who had gone to that city to buy a sawmill outfit. Roeder was accompanied by R.V. Peabody, who was interested with him, and they induced Eldridge to come north with them. Eldridge took up a donation claim and assisted the other men in building the sawmill. All of the lumber used in its construction, as well as that used in the building of the first houses, was hewed out of the logs. The sawmill was built at the mouth of Whatcom creek and had a daily capacity of about one thousand feet. It was a famous old mill, cut much of the lumber used in early building operations of Whatcom county and from that day to this there has always been a sawmill or other woodworking plant at the foot of Whatcom Creek Falls.
      Captain [William] Pattle made some shipments of his coal to San Francisco, but the tests were not very successful. The coal was of low grade, but he induced Calhoun Benham and Captain Fauntleroy to visit the bay and inspect the mine. Benham and Fauntleroy bought the mine, the latter remaining at Sehome while his partner returned to San Francisco. A man by the name of [Edmund C.] Fitzhugh came up as agent of the purchasers and development work began. The Indian war of 1855-56 caused considerable excitement among the few people then on the bay, but as none of the settlers were killed no damage was done. At the close of the war eighteen donation claims had been taken on the bay.
      The first white woman on the site of the city of Bellingham was Teresa Eldridge, born in Ireland June 24, 1832. She died in Bellingham May 10, 1912. She came to New York in 1850 and to California in 1851. Edward Eldridge being second mate of the vessel on which she made the trip. They were married the next year and in 1853 came to Bellingham. Her son, Edward Eldridge, was the first white child born there. This was in 1855. The Eldridge donation claim of 320 acres formed a part of the old Whatcom townsite.
      Ed. note:Most records prefer the spelling of Teresa. We hope that a reader will have a family tree and more information, along with photo scans of the family, their children, their several homes and businesses.

Hon. Edward Eldridge
Elwood Evans, History of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, 1889
      One of the most useful of Washington's public men has been Mr. Eldridge, whose portrait we present. He is a Scotchman, having been born at St. Andrews in 1828. The Scotch either stay at home and become doctors, essayists, psychologists or preachers, or else go abroad and found institutions and cities. the mind of these islanders is said to be the most severely logical of any in the world, and their grip upon affairs the most tenacious. As a city builder and legislator, our representative of this great people has brought into effective action these characteristic qualities.
      When but a boy of thirteen he shipped as a sailor and followed the sea until 1849. This was the golden year of our coast; and the sharp-eyed young argonaut turned up in San Francisco about that time, hailing from the ship Tonquin. He found that he could handle a spade and "Long Tom" as well as a halyard or helm, and for a year dug gold on the Yuba. He then took a run of eighteen months on the Pacific mail steamer Tennessee; but, concluding that the only satisfactory way of living was as a man of family, he married and went to Yreka. Neither this place nor San Francisco, which he tried again, quite suited him; and in 1853 he came up to the Sound with Captain Roeder, who was taking up machinery to build a sawmill at Whatcom. Here were the sea-breezes, the convenient boat, the "finest sheet of water in the world," and the place for cows and chickens and other livestock in the woods along shore. He located at Whatcom while the sawmill was building. the inhabitants at that time consisted of twelve men working on the mill. Here for a short time he found employment with the mill owner, his wife cooking for the men. He located half a section of land adjoining Captain Roeder, where he has resided ever since and now has the finest home on Bellingham Bay. He was also on the Sound in time to take a hand in the Indian war, serving in Company H, Captain Peabody, and in the battalion of Major Van Bokkelen. He was also left for a time in command of a company to guard Whatcom and the newly opened coal mines there.
      In a public way he began early serving the county in nearly all the offices, and going to the legislature quite continuously. In 1866-67 he was speaker of the house, and in 1878 was member of the territorial constitutional convention. In every public capacity he has filled his place with dignity, and has displayed sagacity. Everything which he has undertaken has prospered; and although his early adventures and operations have been, by the quickly shifting times, acquiring a certain antiquarian interest, he is still a man in his prime, and dispatches as much work as ever. He was a Democrat in politics until the flag was fired upon at Sumter. Since that momentous event he has been a Republican.
      His wife, Theresa Lappim [actually Teresa Lappin], a native of Ireland, whom he met and married in San Francisco, has been in very way his efficient helpmeet, and shares with him the comforts of their pleasant home. two of their four children are living, — Mrs. Isabella Eveds [Isabelle Edens], and Hugh, auditor of Whatcom county.
      Ed. note:This biography is courtesy of this website, a transcription of the vital resource, History Of The Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, by Elwood Evans, 1889. Janine Bork and Marjorie Rundall Campbell have painstakingly transcribed almost all of the two volumes of this 1889 book, for which all we researchers should be eternally grateful. They share the information in hopes that family researchers and students will learn from it. Please thank them personally: Bork and Campbell. Ms. Bork has authorized us since 2000 to use excerpts for educational purposes; please be very careful how you share this information and please request permission to re-publish it.

More Eldridge profiles in this section
      Read our Journal research about Edward Eldridge and the details about his change of name from Alexander Braid Munro.
      In part three of this Eldridge section, you will find these additional profiles of Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge and their descendants

      Part four:

Links and further reading

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