EARLY HISTORY OF BLAINE, WA
As printed in The Blaine Journal December 12th and 19th, 1889
Previous to 1857 the land on which now stands the town of Blaine, the harbor, the harbor's shores and all the country round about was unknown to white men, and none but Indians, the forest denizens and the sea birds knew of this beautiful nook of the world. In 1857 an old man-of-war man named SHAW came to this point and built him a house and commenced to live with his wife, on what is now the D. S. MILLER place. The U. S. soldiers to work on the international boundary line, to the number of 100 or more also came here that fall and camped at the mouth of Semiahmoo creek (now Campbell creek) on the British side, or then, as the boundary was uncertain, no one knew on which side. They built comfortable log houses, and prepared for a long stay. The detachment was under command of Lieutenant PARK, Captain WOODRUFF and Lieut. MCGIBBEN and other minor officers.
SHAW sold whiskey to the soldiers, who were a rough crew and they often visited his house and became uproarously drunk. Once they came there when he was away, late in '57 or early in '58 and assaulted SHAW's wife, and Indian woman, and committed other depredations. He returned soon after, and seizing his rifle rushed up to their camp to punish the offenders. The first man he saw was Sergeant LANGLEY, and drawing a bead on him he shot him through the hand. The sergeant then rushed upon SHAW with his revolver and killed him before he could reload. Thus ended the career of the first settler in Blaine.
SHAW while living here built a wharf from his place out to the channel, but only about half of it was ever planked. Some of the remains of it can still be seen.
A man named FINKBONNER succeded SHAW on Shaw's point, and when Mr. BERTRAND came in '58 there were three houses on the point. FINKBONNER's sons are still living near White Horn point just south of Birch Bay.
King LEAR was the first settler in Semiahmoo, himself and a man named GRAY, who kept a hotel, coming there about the same time SHAW settled on Shaw's Point on the Blaine side. LEAR kept a store and saloon on the spit.
In 1858 Mr. James C. BERTRAND, who came to the coast in 1850, now a merchant in Blaine, and the gentleman who furnishes us with the information for the first chapter of this sketch, came to this point and opened a restaurant, etc., where the iron post now stands. He was also a suffer by the unruly soldiers, who ransacked his house during his absence, and carried off what they wanted and smashed what they did not care for.
The soldiers remained here three falls and winters, 1857, '58 and '59. Active work on the boundary line was not commenced, however until late in '59, the time previous being taken up by the astronomers of both countries in certainly locating and surveying the line. After the line was located the Americans cut the first ten miles, the British the second, and so on alternating, until the whole was finished. It was cut out slick and clean thirty feet in width through the woods, and iron posts set one mile and sometimes as much as two miles and often only a few hundred feet, apart, owing to the condition of the ground. Those posts bear the legend: "Treaty of Washington, June 15th, 1846."
While the soldiers were camped here one of them was shot while trying to desert, and one was drowned and buried near where the international hotel now stands. His name was William LUCAS, and the head board of his grave remained until a few years ago, marking the spot. Campbell creek was named after another deserter who was captured there by the Indians, and who only about two months ago, while intoxicated, was thrown from his horse at Sumas and killed. About ten miles east of Blaine a large tree fell across a tent in which were sleeping eighteen men, and, strange to say only two of their number were killed. Their bones still lye (sic) therem as they were buried near where the accident occurred.
Smuggling was actively carried on while the boundary commission was at work, just as it has been ever since, the American soldiers and others transporting whiskey and the British smugglers bringing beef and other commodities to this side. The king of the smugglers on the British side was a Judge BRAMFORD, who was superintendent of the Hudson Bay Company's farm on the Fraser. He managed, before through to kill about all the company's cattle, and at one time had 400 barrels of beef sunk in the mouth of Campbell creek. It is said that he also swindled the bank of British Columbia out of about $10,000 before decamping for unknown parts.
Among the boundary commission was John HARRIS who was cook for Lieut. PARK, and who after the commission had finished its work here took up what is now known as the ELWOOD place, between California and Dakota creeks. He settled there some time early in the '60's, and a few years ago was murdered on Point Roberts by a Greek brigand.
Mr. PEABODY, who afterwards settled in Whatcom, was also a member of the boundary commission, being quartermaster for the detachment.
This part of the country had also a large share in the Fraser River mining excitement in 1858. Large numbers of the miners debarking at this point and also later the disgusted ones returning here. This was much the shortest route, as it is now, for travel between the upper Fraser river and tide water by land. There were also saloons and stores at Point Roberts, which was also used as a landing place during the Fraser river excitement.
The Indians had always had a trail from the mouth of Campbell creek up through Hall's prairie and via Langley to the upper Fraser country, and the whites improved it some, making quite a respectable pack trail of it, building bridges and clearing out the logs, and it is said that in many places the marks of their work may still be seen, and that some of the old bridges still remain. It was called the Langley trail, and hundreds of miners came down by it to Semiahmoo bay and hired Indians to take them in canoes to points further up sound, or to Victoria.
Prior to 1858 the Mr. HALL, from whom Hall's prairie received its name, settled in that magnificent tract. A man named Joe LITTLE attempted to jump his claim once while he was away from home, but HALL came back and attacked him with his gun and broke his arm. LITTLE gave up the fight, and HALL declared that if he ever came back he would shoot him. We understand that HALL is still living, and we have heard a rumor that he was sent to the penitentiary only a few months ago for killing his wife, as to the truth of it we cannot say.
Mr. BERTRAND saw the first buildings going up in New Westminster in 1859, and also saw the town of Queensboro, just above New Westminster, laid out by Col. MOODY the same year. In 1871 Mr. BERTRAND settled at Bertrand Prairie, twelve miles east of Blaine and five miles northwest of Lynden. At that time there were only about a dozen people on the Nooksack river from the mouth to the head. Mr. BERTRAND remembers at Ferndale Wm. CLARK, Terry GROGAN, Rube BISER, John TENNANT, T. WINN, H. POST, Fred LANE and Jim TAYLOR. At the mouth of the river Mr. ALLEN. At Lynden H. A. JUDSON, Jos. EMERLING and James MCCLANAHAN, and at Nooksack crossing Chas. STANLEY, Joe RICHIE, Ever EVERSON, Mr.HAMPTON and Sam COLWELL. Now in the territory covered by those same precincts there are not less than a thousand votes cast.
After the boundary commission finished it work here things returned to their original quiet for several years. Now and then a man-of-was ship visited the harbor, but there was no commerce of any kind, not even with sailing vessels until early in the seventies, when a new era commenced, with which we shall deal in another chapter.
It is a difficult matter for a general newspaper worker to do justice to such a sketch. The work should be given into the hands of a special interviewer by rights and several weeks should be devoted exclusively to its completion, and the whole history with all its incidental points carefully compiled. As it is, however, we have gleaned our information from many sources and we fear it will be sadly lacking of incident, and that the thread of the narrative will be broken in many places. We commence this chapter with matters which should properly have been included in chapter one:
The settlers of '71 found several men living here, among whom were Charles HUNT, who settled on the British side about two miles up the shore in 1864. Alex HEMPHILL and John HARRIS were also both here at that time. Mr. HUNT is the first white settler of Blaine, now living, and has spent most of his time on this bay since '64 though he spent several years on Fraser river lagoon on the British side. Seventeen years ago he planted the Mud bay oyster beds which now produce large quantities of the bivalves. He also furnishes us some information which we did not procure for the last chapter.
While the American portion of the boundary commission was working here and camped at Campbell creek the British had a company of soldiers garrisoned on Point Roberts. There was quite a village on the point at the time, and several hotels one of which was kept by the WILEY Brothers and one by Capt. MCLEAN, who died a short time ago in New Westminster. The British forces opened the boundary line across Point Roberts, which is about three miles wide, and on the west side near the shores of the Gulf of Georgia sat a stone monument. Just as they were ready to place the shaft in position one of the soldiers died, and his body was buried at its base. Thus the farthest west monument on the international boundary line is also the grave stone of a British soldier. We cannot learn his name.
The British forces remained on Point Roberts several years, and had a garden to supply them with vegetables on what is now Blackie's spit near the mouth of the Nicomekl river.
What is now the Semiahmoo hotel, kept by J. F. TARTE, Semiahmoo, is the oldest building at this point, having been constructed in 1868 by Sam LOVETT, who kept it as a hotel. Harry VERICK kept a saloon there at the same time. Mr. HUNT is an old coaster, having come from the east when a boy. His career has been a checkered one from school days in the east to mountain life in the west and long ocean voyages and if he would he could write a book as interesting as "The Gold Hunters," or as any tale of the sea ever conned.
With mining excitement and boundary commissions many people came and went at different times during the years covered by the previous portion of this sketch, but the real permanent settlement of Blaine and Semiahmoo commenced about 1870 the latter part of which we believe Messrs. DEXTER, WHITCOMB, J. BROOKINS, J. and L. CHESTNUT, D. S. MILLER, E. A. BOBLETTE, Z. JONES, H. STOLTENBERG, J. F. TARTE, J. MCBEE, and many others came here, or at least they were here in June 1871, when the CAINS came.
During the years 1870, '71 and '72 a large number of people came here from Dakota, and located. In addition to those named above were S. MARTIN, E. WOODS, Wm. PATTERSON, Geo. FAIRHURST, Jas. KENNEY, L. L. HUNDARY, H. HENSPETER, F. PERRY, J. BROOKINS, C. VOUGHT, the BRUNS, the CLARKS, the UPSONS and KINGSLEYS. Not all these people came from Dakota, but a large number of them did, though several of them were from other eastern points.
Of those mentioned, the KINGSLEYs still live here. The Elder Mr. KINGSLEY died years ago, but his widow, Mrs. C. C. KINGSLEY, and his son B. N. still occupy the old homestead, one of the most beautiful places here. The BRUNS family occupy beautiful homes on Birch Bay. Chas. VOGT lives on a fine farm on Birch Bay. The CLARKS are now running a boat building business in Seattle. Frank PERRY is in Nova Scotia, R. RICHARDS is in Sydney in this state. Mr. DEXTER is occupying comfortable home on the south side of the harbor. Mr. WHITCOMB is dead, but his aged widow still live with her daughter Mrs. E. A. BOBLETTE, in Blaine. Jas. BROOKINS has gone back to Iowa. The CHESTNUTs live in a nook on the south side of the harbor. D. S. MILLER is here now on forty acres of the best land in the center of Blaine. E. A. BOBLETTE is one of the Blaine townsite proprietors. Z. JONES lives in Semiahmoo. H. STOLTENBERG has the finest farm in northern Whatcom county located on the Ferndale road about six miles south of Blaine. J. F. TARTE lives in Semiahmoo. Geo. FAIRHURST is in Tacoma. Alex HEMPHILL is dead. S. MARTIN is in Texas. J. KENNEY and L. L. HUNDARY live on Dakota creek. H. HENSPETER, still resides on his fine farm on Birch Bay. The UPSONS live on Dakota creek. E. WOODS is in Alaska and Wm. PATTERSON still lives on Dakota creek. He was also one of the first visitors to this point, having first come here in 1858, though not permanently settling here until later.
John CAIN and family came from Dakota to Semiahmoo by June 1871 and found the above mentioned people here. About the same time, or a little before, E. W. ADAMS, E. HOLTZHEIMER and Mr. FREESE came from Dakota in company with the CAINS. Mr. HOLTZHEIMER still lives on California creek. Mr. ADAMS in the central part of the county and Mr. FREESE in New Westminster. Mr. LINDSEY is here yet. The CAINS lived on the bank of California creek a few weeks and then moved up to Hillsdale, where they lived several months, and then sold out and moved down to Blaine, or rather the place where Blaine now stands. They also owned one hundred acres of land on the south side of Drayton harbor near where the town of Drayton is now located.
Several years before the CAINS came a man named COMPTON has squatted on the water front near the international boundary line. It was thought at that time that the two governments would reserve from settlement a strip one-half mile wide on each side of the boundary line. The land was unsurveyed, and could not be regularly settled upon, but Cornelius CAIN had from the first desired to settle as close to the boundary line on the water front as he could get, and when COMPTON became tired of waiting and left the CAINS came over and squatted on his abandoned claim. At that time one Phineas HAUSINGTON was squatted on what is known as the Billy CAIN place just east, and now owned by the Blaine Land Co. They lived for five years as squatters on the land, and then the government surveyed the half mile strip making township 41, a little piece of only a few acres of tp. 41 N. R. 1 w. falling in between Blaine and the boundary line on the water front. Neil CAIN filed a premption on the COMPTON claim which contained a fractional quarter section in the s. e. corner of sec. 36, tp. 41 R. 1 w., upon which the CAINS have lived ever since.
Captain S. P HUGHES and family, also from Dakota, came here October 12, 1871, and settled on the place now owned by Thos. BUNBURY just east of Blaine. He removed from there to New Westminster where he lived four years and then moved upon his present place. Mr. and Mrs. HUGHES have the honor of being the parents of the first full blooded white child born on the shores of this harbor, Willie HUGHES, being the fortunate candidate and arriving safe and sound in 1872. James CAIN, son of Mr. and Mrs. Marion CAIN followed in about three weeks, a close second.
Professor HALL had been running a store in Semiahmoo, but was bought out in 1870 by R. S. and Mason CLARK who conducted it for several years.
J. N. RUCKER came from Dakota to Blaine in 1872, and HANSEN, MURNE & ELWOOD arrived in '73 and opened on the spit with a general store.
People coming to this new town now from cities think life here a hardship, but they should have been here in the real pioneer days prior to '76 to have experienced the real beauties of the situation. There were no roads in those days. All the communication between neighbors was by skiffs or on foot over trails around among the logs and brush. It would take a man a whole day to travel ten miles in the woods.
J. C. BERTRAND started to Blaine from Bertrand prairie one cloudy day without a compass, during the summer of '71 and was four days on the road, going to Mountain View and Hall's Prairie before reaching this point.
The burned timber area then was about the same as now, but not as much grown up with young timber.
There were several hundred Indians on the Campbell river reserve then and they had a huge dance house in which they used to hold potlaches and feasts. Often the people on this side of the boundary used to go over there to witness their performances. The old building fell down a few months ago, and the Indians have dwindled to forty or fifty in number. The stores in Semiahmoo used to make most of their profits off the Indians before many white settlers were here.
There were no government mails in Blaine or Semiahmoo until about '76, the settlers getting all their mail from Whatcom by a small sloop run by the CLARKS in their store business.
So far as we can learn the first steamer to run into this harbor was the J. B. Libby which came here one trip to bring the family of E. A. BOBLETTE. Other boats came occasionally thereafter, and when the port office was established in '76 the little steamer Teaser we are told was the mail boat. After that the steamers Phantom and Dispatch were the mail boats. The steamer Ettie White also visited this point in 1872 and the Rose, of Sitka came a few trips earlier still, but not before the Libby. The Brick and Evangel followed.
All this time Blaine was not a town, but Semiahmoo was headquarters for all business done here, and for near ten years held that position, the people going in boats for their mail and provisions and other goods. In 1884, however, Gen. M. A. MCPHERSON made his appearance upon the scene with a project to build a railroad eastward from Blaine, (which project is not dead yet, but only asleep) and the town of Blaine was platted under his direction, C. T. MOORE doing the surveying work. So it will be seen that our stout young city is only five years old.
The Blaine Journal was started by the CAIN Brothers under the editorial management of L. R. FLOWERS on Thursday, April 22, 1885. Mr. FLOWERS ran the paper for about a year and gave Blaine a habitation and a name in the world. Orville ESPY followed him on April 22, 1886, and continued in its management until August, 1887, when the present management began. The CAIN Brothers showed good judgement in starting the newspaper early as any one can see by comparing other towns with equal chances which have no newspaper, but we will not say much on that point.
In 1885 Blaine was made a postoffice, and the overland mail route was opened between here and Whatcom with J. N. LINDSEY as the first postman, and James CAIN as postmaster.
The principal industries in this part of the country have always been logging, hand shingle making and fishing, as there were no sawmills here until within the past four years. Now there are four sawmills and two shingle mills here.
The town has never ceased to grow since it was first surveyed up to the present time, and it is in the air that there will soon be a large city here. In addition to the original town there are now 500 or 600 acres more laid out on the water front on the American side, from the iron post to Semiahmoo, and our neighbors on the British side are also platting 160 acres joining Blaine on the north, where will be built up a fine town. This certainly gives great promise of being a city of importance on both sides of the international boundary line. Steamers will be running into the British harbor before another twelve months, and Blaine will be a port of entry and we will have steamers every day in the year by March next and the railroad will have trains running through here by next year at this time and we will have everything to invite those who are looking for a pleasant place to live.
Back to Town History Index
Back to Whatcom GenWeb main page