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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

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
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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LaConner history collection

      Ed. note: Many subscribers have asked us to transcribe stories that were written about the Northwest more than a hundred years ago. As those of you have followed our site over the last two years know, we like to feature original sources and quote from them. We have been aided in our quest by Janine M. Bork, who lives in Wallowa county, Oregon. Janine is one of those wonderful volunteers who add so much to the internet history of the Northwest. She has scanned and transcribed many chapters of a fascinating early history, History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, Volume II, which was published by the North Pacific History Company of Portland, Oregon in 1889. In that year, when Sedro was born as a boom town, when Washington became a state, when Seattle burned and when the Fairhaven & Southern Railway chugged into town as a Christmas present for Sedro, this story about LaConner was written. For some reason, the town name was spelled La Connor in the story, which we have corrected. The reporter also spelled the family name, Connor, but luckily the rest of his story seems quite accurate. And Whidbey was spelled Whidby, even though the island was named for Joseph Whidbey, the master of Captain Vancouver's crew when they charted Puget Sound in 1792. It was misspelled that way through the 1950s. The U.S. Navy corrected the spelling to the original, apparently about the time that the naval air station was built there.

LaConner, Washington, 1889

      Among the multitude of attractive and salubrious towns on Puget Sound, LaConner, in Skagit county, is surpassed by none. This live town, whose buildings, people and general air are calculated to startle the traveler, who still has the mists of past days in his eyes, by their general metropolitan style and appearance, commands indeed a wide section of tributary country at its back, and a long sweep of water in front. As shown by our excellent engraving, it is picturesquely situated on an almost level shore, which rolls away in the distance, and give a view beyond of the towering Cascade Mountains, and the snowy Mount Baker.

(LaConner Drawing)
A Drawing by an unknown artist, standing on the Swinomish Reservation side of the slough, looking northeast at LaConner waterfront and up the Skagit River valley, probably in the 1870s or '80s.

      Across the arm of the Sound which lies in front is seen the sinuous shore line of Whidbey Island; while to the north opens the narrow pass leading to Paddle Bay. A little north of west, about twelve miles distant, is Deception Pass, dividing Fidalgo from Whidbey Island, and making a passage way westward to the Strait of Fuca. Leading up on the south, or a little east of south, is a long level way of waters, making a deep, broad path for the boat or ship to Utsalady, and past the east shores of Whidbey, along the Tulalip, Port Gardner, and into the main sound to Seattle and Tacoma. With a fertile and extensive country at its back, and such facilities for navigation in front and to left and right, the future of LaConner as an important commercial point seems assured. It is well calculated to be the emporium for the large and productive Skagit valley, which is the most extensive, and, taken all in all, the most important, of any of the valleys opening on the Sound. The Skagit, the water-course of this region, is a powerful river nearly one hundred and fifty miles in length; and, drawing its waters largely from British Columbia, it cuts into the Cascade Range of mountains, making one of the deepest passes in the range.
(Waterfront 1902)
Click on the thumbnail photo above to see a panorama of the LaConner waterfront in 1902 from Sebring's Skagit County Illustrated magazine.

      From this fact it is believed that at some time a railway will be constructed to connect with some northern transcontinental line. If ever accomplished, as does not seem unlikely, large inland interest would be added to the local advantages of LaConner. In this view it must be confessed that she enjoys a rare position, and may well stand as a rival to Whatcom, and other ports on the east shore of the Lower Sound. Even if not looking so far ahead, and to such wide results, she possesses great attractions for the business man and capitalist, and will soon be the center of a railroad system extending along the east coast of the Sound, and up the Skagit valley.
      This is found to be a delightful community for residence, and is blest with intelligent and refined society. It is a town where good taste and public spirit, and a love of good order and good morals, are well united to work the best results. Its people enjoy easy communication with other parts, having but a strip of twelve miles to reach Mount Vernon, the county-seat; and eighty-six miles brings them to Seattle. It is itself the seat of the district court. For the religious needs of the people, three churches are supported; and a circulating library contributes to literary culture and enjoyment. Among the hotels which may be named as well fitted for the accommodation of the traveling public is the McGlinn House, one of the best hotels on the coast. The four-story Planter's Hotel of Thomas Ligget is also well spoken of. It is there that the well-known Puget Sound Mail is published, a weekly paper, Republican in politics. It was established in 1873, and is owned by a company of which F. Leroy Carter is president, and June Henderson secretary. The town is supplied by over a dozen mercantile houses of all descriptions, meat markets, photograph gallery, restaurants, blacksmith shops, dental rooms, drug stores, etc., and such like institutions as are to be found in our more comfortable towns.
      The public school is supported with great enthusiasm, the citizens being ever ready to carry it to its highest efficiency. There is no more popular man or successful merchant than Bedford L. Martin, of this place, a biographical sketch of whom will be found in this volume. The Skagit County Bank is presided over by William E. Schricker, who is also proprietor. This institution is on a sound basis, and in a flourishing condition.
      Among those thoroughly known throughout Washington as a man of recognized ability, not only in his profession, but also in public matters, is Doctor George V. Calhoun, who was for many years a resident of Port Townsend, but has in these later times made his home at LaConner. A succinct account of his life and work will be found on another page. Among other public names may be found those of Mr. H.S. Connor [Herbert Conner was the son of John S. and Louisa Conner, the town founders]. Honorable James O. Loughlin [actually O'Loughlin], Mr. Perry Polson, agent of the Northwest Express Company, and also hardware dealer, and Messrs. James and George Gaches, general merchants. A personal acquaintance with the people of this town only confirms one in the opinion that it is on a thriving basis, and has the promise of large future growth; and it assures one that the best interests of the community, educationally and morally, as well as commercially, will ever be well guided.
      The present population is nearly one thousand, and is increasing. In the growth that is coming so rapidly throughout the whole of Washington, and, so to say, the transference of empire to the Western waters, LaConner is destined to have no inconspicuous part.

(LaConner waterfront 1870s)
      This is the earliest known photograph of the LaConner waterfront, from 1873, scanned from the book, Chechacos All, which is still for sale at the LaConner Museum. The original caption read: "LaConner in 1873 when the town was in its infancy — Note the two-masted schooner at the dock. Sailing vessels found the narrow channel difficult to navigate, so most ships which came were sternwheelers. Photo courtesy Mr. And Mrs. Francis Tillinghast, LaConner."

Links, background reading and sources

      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.

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Story posted on Nov. 23, 2002, moved to the new domain and last updated on Nov. 29, 2005
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