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History of the Skagit Valley
Alger History

Until the 1880's, the area around Lookout Mountain was a wilderness with virgin timber and few settlers. With rail service it became a logging camp, which later became Alger.

During World War I, the camp produced wood for airplanes being built for fighting in France. After the timber industry declined, only farms and homes remained.

Old Highway 99, which connects Burlington, Alger, and Bellingham, is a nice country alternative which parallels Interstate 5.
Between Blanchard and Bow there used to be a commune called Equality Colony. At one time, it had more than 200 residents who operated a mill and fishing boat, farmed, and had a newspaper and a school. The only remaining evidence of this commune are the names on signs like Colony Road and Colony Creek.

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Anacortes History
In 1791 Narvaez of the Eliza Expedition discovered and named Guemes Island and Padilla Bay. Just a year later, Master Joseph Whidbey of the Vancouver Expedition discovered Deception Pass and Whidbey Island. Both were named by Captain George Vancouver.The animal population of sea otter, beaver, and other fur bearing animals was seriously depleted by trappers. Hudson Bay Company had a small trading post at Pass Lake.

Hunters, trappers, prospectors, soldiers, and surveyors were the early white settlers. They became farmers of fruit, cabbage, cauliflower, and hops and raised cattle. The native people were the Samish and the Swinomish Indians. The Samish lived on Samish Island, Guemes Island, and on the northern part of Fidalgo Island. The Swinomish lived on the southern part of Fidalgo Island, northern Whidbey, and on part of the Skagit (meaning "hide from the enemy" pronounced Ska-jit) River delta.

The Cap Sante area was called The Portage in 1870 and the area along the Guemes Channel came to be called Ship Harbor. At that time, Anacortes was also known as City of Necessity, Magic City, and Squaw Harbor. In 1876, when Amos Bowman and his wife moved to the eastern area of Ship Harbor, he established a post office and named the city Anacortes, derived from his wife's maiden name Anna Curtis. It was his dream that Anacortes would become the terminus for a trancontinental railroad.

It was this speculation that brought the boom in 1890. The population went from 200 on January 1st to 2,000 by mid-March. The boom quickly turned into a depression by the end of 1890 when it became clear that Anacortes had not been selected as the railroad terminus. It was at this same time that the Puget Sound Black Ball Ferry Line was conceived by Joshua Green. He delivered mail and cargo to Friday Harbor and was operating two such boats by 1910. The Anacortes Electric Railway that was to run from Anacortes to Dewey Beach didn't do so well though. The power failed about a mile down the track on its very first trip.

Not to be kept down for long, Anacortes incorporated as a city in 1891 and began the road to economic recovery in its fresh identity as a fish and lumber town. Dozens of fish processing plants were built for salmon canning and codfish curing. Chinese immigrants who worked in the canneries experienced a great deal of prejudice. By 1903, there were four shingle mills and three sawmills, forming the second major industry of Anacortes. Sloans Shipyard on Guemes Island, built ships during World War I, and employed 600 people in the spring of 1917.

Some of the other early industries were the Anacortes Box and Lumber Co., See's Brick Factory, Anacortes Glass Factory, Anacortes Steam Laundry, and in 1925 the Anacortes Pulp Mill started operation. From 1930 - 1990, a community cooperatively owned plywood mill operated. But by the 1950's, victims of the shift to cardboard paper for boxes, the box mills had ceased operation.

Shell and Texaco both built refineries on March's Point in the late 1950's and in 1960 expensive housing developments were built, most notably in the Skyline area. Marinas, motels, and other tourist based industries emerged.

Since 1962, when Anacortes hosted its first Anacortes Arts and Crafts Festival, Fidalgo and Guemes Island have become known as places where many fine artists and writers live and create. Anacortes Community Theater produces several highly admired plays each year. With the Vela Luka Croatian Dancers and the Skagit Scottish Highland Dancers in residence, there is never a lack of entertainment and recreation.
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Bow/Edison History

Bow was born in l902 when the Great Northern Railroad rerouted its main north-south line to follow around the foot of the Chuckanut Mountains. It became the rail stop for the Samish flats.

Travel to Edison was along the dikes and on the waterways leading to Samish Island for many years. It soon became an agriculture and logging center. Oyster cultivation in the Samish flats prospered nearby.

Both Bow and Edison intersect scenic Chuckanut Drive and have several wonderful shops and restaurants to attract visitors.

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Burlington History

Burlington is located at the crossroads of Interstate 5 and Highway 20 and has become known as the retail hub of Northwest Washington.

It was founded in 1882 when John P. Millett and William McKay entered a dense forest of cedar, spruce, fir, and smaller timber to establish a logging camp. The city has now grown to a population of over 4,000.

Agriculture is the major industry and consists of dairy farms, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, potatoes, green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, wheat, corn, and carrots as mainstays. Every year, in the middle of June, it recognizes its agricultural history with a community celebration called Berry Dairy Days.

The city also boasts a regional shopping mall called Cascade Mall and a large factory Outlet Center along with a number of national retailers on Burlington Boulevard located adjacent to Interstate 5.

The Skagit River which borders the city offers fishing and other recreational opportunites all year long.
The 27-hole Avalon Golf Course is just a few miles north of town.
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Conway History

Conway started out as just a ferry landing across the South Fork of the Skagit River. It served the nearby Norwegian-populated town of Cedardale and other areas.

It had a creamery and was a center for surrounding agriculture, despite periodic flooding from the Skagit River. The first bridge was built in 1914 and the town became an outlet for Fir Island.

Today Conway has a small business district, its own school district for grades K-8, and a small riverside county park which is used primarily by fishermen. Many of the old, elevated houses can still be seen in the residential community.

Charles Mann's Landing, with its store, was an important river stop on the South Fork of the Skagit River, and became the twon of Fir. It was connected to Conway by ferry. All that is left of Fir today, is the historic Fir-Conway Lutheran Church.

Skagit City, which was located just below the fork of the Skagit River, was a welcome refuge when log jams kept steamers from traveling further up the Skagit. Today there isn't much left but a road.

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La Conner History

The Town of La Conner which has a population of approximately 770 is located along the eastern shores of the Swinomish Slough just a few miles south of Highway 20.

Its rich history can be traced back to the first trading post on the Swinomish flats right where the town now stands when the Swinomish post office was established by Alonzo Low in the spring of 1867.

By 1870 when J.S. Conner and family were known to be operating a store and post office the Swinomish post office was either abandoned or the name was changed to La Conner, the records are not clear.

At this time, there were no roads or other settlements in Skagit County and all travel was accomplished by water, making the Swinomish Slough the "highway" of the time.

Indians used to paddle canoes over areas now considered among the finest farmland in Washington, including the Skagit flats west of Mount Vernon. The native craft of the Northwest was substantial and long-lived for it was fashioned out of one entire piece of cedar, and varied in length from five to 60 feet. The seasoned log was split using a stone maul and wedge made from elk horn or stone. The rest of the canoe was fashioned by using a hand-ax called an adz and by lighting a few slow-burning, controlled fires.

Canoes were used to hunt, fish, fight, and ship goods. They gave freedom to travel in mountainous and isolated areas. Each fall, whole villages would paddle to social gatherings, dances, and potlatch feasts. At death, a warrior's body was wrapped in blankets or rush mats and placed in the largest canoe he owned. A smaller canoe was placed on top and then it was all set upon a light scaffolding, or hauled high in the tree tops.

The Swinomish Indians currently have 123 fishing boats registered on their reservation. This includes river skiffs, bow pickers, gill netters and purse seiners. They fish for salmon, crab, clams, and sea urchins. The Swinomish practice their native religion in a traditional 200-foot long smokehouse that can seat up to 1,200 people. However, most of these ceremonies are closed to the public.

The Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner has one of the slower, smaller voyaging canoes on display. The Legends Art Gallery, located on La Conner's waterfront, carries Northwest Coastal art, including masks and jewelry.

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Mount Vernon History
Jasper Gates and Joseph Dwelley first settled on the banks of the Skagit River, where the City of Mount Vernon now lies, in 1870. Later on, Harrison Clothier came to the community to teach school and got into business with a former student, E.G. English. They were later recoginized at the city's founders.

Today Mount Vernon boasts a fine school system, a vibrant downtown shopping district and a prosperous retail district on Riverside Drive and College Way. It boasts the lion's share of professional services for Skagit County.

Mount Vernon is the home of the county courthouse, jail, and administrative buildings and serves as the county seat. It is located in the downtown area.

Skagit Valley Hospital, in conjuction with Affiliated Health Services, makes Mount Vernon a center for medical services in Northwest Washington.
 
A new middle school and elementary school were built recently. The premiere high school boys' basketball team has been a perennial visitor to the state tournament, and has the highest winning percentage of almost any team in the state over the last 20 years.

The boardwalk along the Skagit River is a fairly new feature that has been developed through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and the city. This area was originally a trading post in 1877, but was destroyed by a fire in 1891. Front Street was washed away by the Skagit River in the ensuing years, and so was part of Main Street until the erosion was stopped by building a revetment.
 
Mount Vernon's most famous event has got to be the Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It runs the first two weeks of April. People are everywhere, bicycling, walking in the fields and taking pictures.

Another wonderful event is the Highland Games the first weekend in July. There are booths where you can search for your Scottish Tartan. You can watch the dance contestants or the caber toss. Many Scottish items are for sale.
 
The Lincoln Theatre is a historical landmark and serves as a center for performing and cinematic arts throught the year. It is a non-profit organization that boasts 4,000 members. It offers 3 films a month, featuring independent, foreign, and other films not readily available locally, as well as a once a month Classic from the 1930's, 1940's, or 1950's. Live concerts are presented by such artists as David Grisman, John Renbourn, and The Flying Karamazov Brothers. Community groups that regularly use the Lincoln include the Skagit Valley Children's Theatre, Skagit Symphony Chamber Players, Kiwanis Club Comedy Night Series, and Theatre Arts Guild Annual Children's Musical.
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Sedro Woolley History
Sedro-Woolley, known as the Gateway to the North Cascades, has a population of 6,500 and is enjoying economic renewal through a more diverse economy.

Although it has been called "the town that logging built", still has several mills in the area, and a significant amount of logging is still going on, it has had to diversify in order to grow.

Sedro-Woolley celebrates their rich timber industry heritage every Fourth of July at the Annual Loggerodeo Celebration which boasts a lumberjack show and the biggest parade in Skagit County. The town was once called "Bug", it took its current name when the two cities merged: Sedro, a variation of the Spanish word for "cedar", and Woolley, named after Phillip A. Woolley.

Historic downtown has many murals on the buildings of historical logging scenes and quite a few restaurants boasting a hearty breakfast.
 
Just east of town on the Fruitdale Road is the Gateway Golf Course or you can drive out to Big Lake and play Overlook. They are both nine-hole courses with reasonable green fees.
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Upper Skagit Valley History
Early settlers came to the Baker River in 1871, originally calling the settlement on the west bank "Minnehaha". In 1890, the townsite was platted by Magnus Miller, a post office was set up, and the name "Baker" was adopted. On the east bank of the river, the community that sprang up around the Washington Portland Cement Company (1905) was named "Cement City". After the Superior Portland Cement Company plant (1908) was built in Baker, it was decided to merge the two towns, and in 1909, after much discussion, the new community settled on the name "Concrete".

Prior to 1921, several fires destroyed most of the original wooden buildings which had lined Main Street. Since concrete was in ample supply, it was decided that subsequent commercial buildings would be made from this nonflammable material. Historic plaques on many of the buildings list their construction dates. Three of the oldest wood frame structures which escaped the fires include the Baker Street Grill, the Assembly of God Church, and the town Hall & Library. The Main Yard, near Silo Park, is the only surviving wooden structure of a business district called Superior Addition.
 
Lyman and Hamilton are the smallest incorporated communities in Skagit County.
 
Lyman, which has a current population of 325, was first settled in the early 1870's. The natural resources of the region attracted farmers and lumbermen. Lorenzo P. Lyman officially established it as a town and became its first postmaster in August 1880.
 
Lyman continued to grow through the first two decades of the twentieth century and served as a center for people traveling up river. In the 1930's, its two major industries, a shingle mill and a saw mill, were hit with labor problems. By 1939, with the closure of both mills, the growth of Lyman ended.

Hamilton was a boom town in the early 1900's and had a population of nearly 2,000. Coal deposits and iron were first to attract people, but it was timber that actually brought prosperity to the town.
 
The railroad had its terminus there for several years. As the standing timber was turned to lumber and shingles, and the mines closed, Hamilton's population declined also. Today it is approximately 297.
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