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Skagit River Journal

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Daniel J. Harris, original Fairhaven man

(Dan in the canoe)
      This is the only known photo of Daniel J. Harris, although there are some drawings that may be a reasonable facsimile of his face and eccentric dress. This scan was made from a photo copy that Galen Biery gave me three decades ago. When you visit this site of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, you will find information about how you can see the entire Biery collection by appointment and purchase copies. The photographer was facing northeast and you can see behind Dan and his canoe the old town of Bellingham on the flank of Sehome Hill.
      Whenever we look at this photo we are reminded of our favorite, possibly apocryphal legend of Dan, which was published in the 1917 book by Herbert Hunt and Floyd C. Kaylor,
Washington West of the Cascades (S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.: Seattle): "Harris made a trip to Olympia and a friend of his there presented him with two pigs. He did not know what to do with them, but taking them back home with him, he turned them out to rustle for themselves. They grew fat and Harris was at a loss to know how the trick was done until he found them on the tide flats digging clams. This gave him an idea and he followed the pigs as they followed the receding tide. They would dig out two clams and Harris at once appropriate one for his own use, treating the pigs fairly, he explained, by never taking more than he could use between tides . . . . [Dan] located at what afterwards became Fairhaven many years before the coming of [Nelson] Bennett and his Fairhaven Land Company, and in reply to a question from Bennett, [Dan] said that 'at first he did not know how he was going to find stuff enough to live on, but that when the tide went out the table was set.' "

Frank Teck, Fairhaven The Evening Herald, April 4, 1903
      There have been several picturesque characters among the pioneers of Bellingham Bay, but by unanimous report the picturesquest of them all was Daniel J. Harris, the original Fairhaven man. There were robust and solitary frontiersmen of singular habits, but singularest among them was Dan Harris of Harris Bay. There were men who affected outlandish dress and who clad themselves in whatever chanced at sun-up, and the outlandishest of these was Dirty Dan of Harris Creek.
      Daniel J. Harris was born in Sag Harbor, New York, as nearly as he and his brother could recollect, in 1826. Like many other Sag Harbor youngsters, the sea won his affections early in life and when he wasn't on deck he was usually up in the air above it. He spent his youth before the mast on the busy Atlantic and at the age of twenty or a little more he boarded a whaler and came to the Pacific Coast. I have been told that he was a whaler in far Alaska during the seasons of 1851 and 1852. He came to Bellingham Bay in a ship from Honolulu late in 1853.
      Before this time John Thomas landed in Whatcom, and in January 1853, took up a donation claim in what is now Fairhaven, Seventh Street being about the western boundary of the Thomas claim.

Whatcom County's First Funeral
      John Thomas and Dan Harris became fast friends and Harris was engaged to assist Thomas in the construction of his cabin, which was built at or near what is now the corner of Seventh and Donovan streets [southwest of Padden Creek and south of the future mill pond]. Here, while the cabin was still in process of construct ion, John Thomas was taken ill and in May 1854 he died. The funeral was one of solitary solemnity, Harris burying the remains near the cabin.
      Harris then completed the cabin and made it his home, succeeding eventually to Thomas's claim. William R. Pattle, the original [old-] Bellingham man [the village that was originally a mile north of Fairhaven], was appointed administrator of the estate of John Thomas by Probate Judge Edward Eldridge. The descendant's effects consisted of nothing much, but what little there was went through a mellowing period of seven years in court, when it was sold "without publication, in order to save expense to heirs." Daniel J. Harris securing possession and absolute ownership in 1861. The patent for the land claim was issued in 1871.

A pioneer Prizefight
      Being a sailor, Dan Harris never lowered his roving spirit into the Sehome coal mine, nor did he condescend to work in Roeder & Peabody's sawmill at Whatcom in the early fifties. He was a robust, muscular, broad-chested fellow, about 5 feet, 11 inches in height and weighting about 200 pounds — physically a splendid specimen of manhood. Some say that in his younger days it would have kept a platoon of ordinaries busy to whip him. And it is not altogether improbable, although Dan was a man of peace and good temper, that he liked harmless exhibitions of the manly art — which may account for the fact that Tom Sheldon, who was knocked out in Bellingham Bay's first prizefight, at Dan Harris's place in 1858 or '59, [actually the summer of 1860], waiting until 1883 before he mustered up courage enough to come back to the bay to get a clearer look at the battle ground.

(Beach at Fairhaven)
      In the 1891 Fairhaven Illustrated magazine, this photo is of the northern beach of what, during Dan's life, was called Harris Bay. In September 1889, the photographer was looking roughly east. In the background is the Mason Building, now known as the Marketplace. Nelson Bennett's Fairhaven Land Co. was laying out its downtown section of Fairhaven near the remaining trees. You can see the pilings of Dan's original dock in the center. You can see a better print in the reissued edition of Biery's book, Looking Back, The Collector's Edition, or at the Museum. Magazine from the Bourasaw collection.

Master of a sloop
      Dan Harris just couldn't be satisfied as a landlubber, to which circumstance the settlement was indebted for the good service of a large sloop, which Dan used in the fifties in various ways for the benefit of everybody, especially Dan. He used to gather into his sloop the surplus potatoes and other vegetables grown in the gardens of the Bay and take them to Victoria, where he sold them. Returning, he would bring back a cargo of rice, etc., to be supplied to the coal miners in the Sehome and Bellingham coal mines. The etc., it is darkly hinted and more substantially confirmed, consisted of what the sordid and vulgar mob of today call booze — Hudson Bay Company whisky, brandy and run.
      Making sure it was contrary to law, even in a fine sloop ostentatiously loaded with rice, to convey liquor (ancient name of snake-bite) into the United States from Canada, even for thirsty coal miners, it is volumes to the credit of Dan Harris's discretion that there appears no record of his ever having been in court to tell just how such things were done.
      Old timers, however, tell of one instance in which Dan's presence of mind that that respect became a matter of local legend. Captain Edward Eldridge was at that time customs inspector. He was notified or learned in some way that Dan was on his way from Victoria with a characteristic cargo of rice, etc. So when Dan reefed sail out in the bay, Captain Eldridge put out from shore in a rowboat to take a look. Dan, however, had the first look and before taking up valuable time in looking again, he rolled a small barrel out into the briny and anchored it. Of course, officially, the cargo was all rice.
      One of the several gentlemen who told me several versions of this story informed me that Dan afterwards towed that barrel of jags to shore near what is now the foot of Taylor Street [two blocks north of Douglas] and stowed it away in an old abandoned coal tunnel, traces of which may to this day be seen there — the tunnel, not the liquor. It is said the latter was bad, but too good to keep.

The Picturesquest Character
      Dan Harris's ideas of dress were original to the point of the unique. In the very early days he wore no shoes nor socks, a shabby, greasy coat, a red flannel undershirt, and old pair of homespun trousers and belt and an indescribable ancient hat. After the Cariboo gold boom in 1860-62 he occasionally dressed up by wearing shoes. After the Jay Cooke Northern Pacific railroad boom's collapse, Dan spruced up a little. It was about that time that Charles Donovan first saw him, July 4th, 1874, when Dan went over to the Bellingham Coal Company's supply store at the corner of Rose and Elk Streets, Whatcom (then Sehome) and bought a stiff white vest to put on over his red undershirt.
      His raiment might have then been invoiced as follows, beginning at the top. A fairly well preserved and very dignified plug hat; long shabby brown hair; a shaggy, sandy beard; red flannel undershirt, unbuttoned in front, exposing a massive and hairy chest; faded, old-fashioned frock coat; trousers of venerable age, having under one knee a generous tear-out exposing a large section of Dan's bare skin; [no] socks; veteran shoes having laces that perhaps had never been used for the purpose for which they were intended.
      In the boom days of 1883, when Dan began to blossom forth as a townsite mogul, there was a notable addition to his wardrobe in the form of a real boiled white shirt, a photograph of which was taken at the time, as it appeared in actual service in company with the sandy beard and the noble silk hat, but I been unable to run a copy of it down, although I saw a copy some fourteen years ago in the home of a Whatcom friend of the father of Fairhaven. [Journal ed. note: we hope a reader may have such a copy in a family scrapbook. That photo has never surfaced and we have no actual mug shots of Dan to share.]

The Reformation of Dan
      The boom of 1883 put Dan Harris on the easiest street in town. He platted Fairhaven, sold about $32,000 worth of lots, spent $16,000 on Fairhaven's wharf, where the ocean dock is now, and on the original Fairhaven Hotel, which still stands at the northeast corner of Harris Street and Bennett Avenue, and began to put on in his own unique way the airs which his new position in the community seemed to demand. This, however, included the old plug hat, the red shirt most of the time, no socks about a third of the time and the unlaced shoes nearly all the time.
      Dan was liberal and good-hearted; consequently he was often imposed upon and not at any time unpopular. That he was no simple-minded individual, but had some very good ideas about a number of estimable things, I expect to show in a future article on this very enticing subject.
      The evolution of Dan Harris from a semi-wild state of borderism to some sort of conformity to frontier conventions dates from 1885. On October 16, 1885, Daniel J. Harris and Miss Bertha L. Wasmer, an elder sister of Mrs. [Edgar] L. Cowgill and Mrs. Charles Schering, were united in marriage in the parlor of Harris's Fairhaven Hotel. Rev. B.K. McElmon of the [St. James] Presbyterian church, who has built more churches in Whatcom County than any other clergyman, performing the ceremony in the presence of relatives, and a very few intimate friends.

(1883 Fairhaven Plat)
Harris filed this original plat of Fairhaven on Jan. 2, 1883. You can see it in the excellent 1983 oversize booklet, Whatcom County in Maps 1832-1937, by James W. Scott and Daniel E. Turbeville III; or the blueprint is at the Washington state regional archives in the Center of Pacific Northwest Studies. Click on the thumbnail for a full copy of the plat.
      From that time until Mrs. Harris's death, which occurred in their new home in Los Angeles, California, November 20 [or 19], 1888, Dan Harris was a reserved, quiet and dignified citizen. Before they removed to Los Angeles, Mr. and Mrs. Harris had sold their Fairhaven property to [Edward] M. Wilson, [Edgar] L. Cowgill and Nelson Bennett of Tacoma and had received the first payment on the property.
Harris's great sale
      Just six days after the death of Mrs. Harris in Los Angeles, the Fairhaven Land Company [Nelson Bennett's operation], with a capital of $250,000, was incorporated in Tacoma, November 26, 1888, by [Edward] M. Wilson], Edgar L. Cowgill [the husband of Dan's wife's sister], Nelson Bennett, Charles X. Larrabee [who bought out much of Bennett's Fairhaven interests], and his brother, Samuel E. Larabie. This company assumed the Harris purchase, including the Harris land claim of 146.40 acres and the forty-three acres including Dead Man's Point and Poe's Point, bought by Harris from A.M. Poe in 1861, the price [for all] being $70,000.
      In July 1889, Dan Harris came up from Los Angeles, collected the balance of the $70,000, stayed here about a month and then left for Los Angeles, never to return. Much of his newly acquired cash, which included $6,000, which he got for a lot now occupied by the Hotel Fairhaven [the newer grander model at 12th and Harris that was built in 1890], was invested in Los Angeles property, where he built a handsome residence in which he continued to "batch" as he had done the greater part of his life at the mouth of Harris (sometimes called Padden) Creek].
      However, it is told that young Los Angeles doctor and his wife took Dan in tow and led him a very entrancing life of luxury. It is said that even his large bank account wouldn't have lasted much longer to keep up the pace they set for him. Now, it is but natural that it was unnatural for Dan to live on the fuss and frills of the chefs of the gay burgs of California, and his constitution, accustomed for so long to the nutritious bacon, soon rebelled and rebellion triumphed. Daniel J. Harris died in his handsome home in Los Angeles on August 19, 1890, although in the ordinary course of events for a man of such rugged fiber and only 64, he should have had at least a score of years more to his credit, — and in such event how easy it would have been now to tell all about him. [See the other articles in Issue 38 about Dr. Andrew S. Shorb and his wife Martha.]
      There is much more to be told about this remarkable character and I promise a still more entertaining chapter in my next, the which is just now minus an important link or maybe two or three that must be unearthed from the field of sear [sic, modern usage is usually sere, dry and withered] and yellow leaves.

(Dead Man's Point)
This drawing of the proposed new Fairhaven Hotel at Dead Man's Point was part of an 1888 Reveille newspaper promotion for the new FLC townsite of Fairhaven. Note that the slope at the western end of what became Harris Street was much higher and steeper at the time, with a proposed diagonal horse-and-buggy path leading to it. Contractors eventually regarded part of the hill to produce fill for the docks area. The new hotel was actually erected in 1890 on the hill to the east, at the northeast corner of Harris and 12th Street, and stood there grandly until 1953. Click on the thumbnail for a full-sized panorama of Fairhaven and Bellingham Bay.
1. Dan Harris birth
      We have never seen a birth certificate or authoritative declaration of Dan's birth date. Frank Teck and other historians base it on 1826, but his application for a land patent states 1832, and when his brother George visited Fairhaven in 1890, he gave a third year of 1831. Complicating the story even more, his age in various census enumerations indicates that he was born sometime between 1830-35. After considering all the records, we agree with author Ralph W. Thacker that 1832 is the more likely year, since that also fits into the timeline of Dan leaving Long Island to be a sailor as a teenager. His birth place is similarly confusing. We know that it was on Long Island in Suffolk County, New York. The original place was given as the town of Sag Harbor, which Frank Teck in 1903 corrected to nearby Patchogue. Shortly after Dan's death in 1890, his friend James H. Taylor declared the birthplace to be nearby Bridgehampton. But on Oct. 18, 1890, the New Whatcom Daily Reveille quoted Dan's brother, George W. Harris, who was in town dealing with the estate and said that Dan "was born in Southampton on Long Island. His father was a farmer. Dan left home when about 15 years old. He shipped with his uncle at that age on a whaling voyage to the arctic seas and on his return home staid a month and reshipped with a skipper named McKator Cooper, a Yankee skipper; went to Japanese seas whaling; found a Japanese junk with fourteen Jap sailors." Ralph W. Thacker will explain Dan's background more in his upcoming booklets.
      Mary B. Haight, one of the most important early Whatcom biographers, threw us still another curve in the Jan. 20, 1918, issue of the Bellingham American Reveille. In that article she referred several times to either Dan's own claims or the claims of his pals that he was born and raised in Maine. She especially emphasized that location in connection with Dan choosing the name Fairhaven, which she twice insisted was the name of his hometown in Maine. At first glance, the reader is tempted to conclude that the Maine claim is just another mistake in research, like her claim that Dan did not come to the Bay area until 1859. But after we checked the various census records, we conclude that Dan sowed the Maine seeds himself. For example, he told the 1860 Federal Census enumerator that he was born in Maine and was 30 years old. Regardless, we conclude that this Maine story is just one of the many tall tales that he told while originally living here. The best evidence of his birthplace is from his family — brothers and nephew, who detailed Dan's birth and early life on Long Island. [Return]

2. John Thomas, original settler on Fairhaven site
      John Thomas was the first to stake a claim along what is now called on Padden Creek, while searching for coal and timber with Morrison and Pattle in 1852-53. You can read more about them in Endnote 3 below. [Return]

3. Old Bellingham/Unionville
      The original village of Bellingham was located roughly where The Boulevard on the northwest flank of Sehome Hill turns south towards Fairhaven. It encompassed most of the claims of William R. Pattle and James Morrison. Pattle, who often attached Captain to his name, secured a contract in 1852 with the Hudson's Bay Co. to furnish timber for Fort Victoria. Indians told him about "black fire dirt," — or coal — on Bellingham Bay so he crossed over Puget Sound from Lopez Island and explored the shore along the Bay with James Morrison and John Thomas. They found coal outcroppings and in about October 1852, Pattle staked a donation claim at the northernmost part, Morrison staked one south of him and John Thomas staked a claim further south that eventually passed on to Dan Harris after Thomas's death. Those were the first three such claims in Whatcom County.
      Pattle took ore samples to San Francisco and although they were assayed as being low quality, he attracted Calhoun Benham and Captain Fauntleroy to come and buy a portion of the claims for a mine site. Thus Pattle was responsible for the birth of the coal-mining industry on the bay, as the Union Coal Co. dug a 100-foot shaft. The company's work led to a tiny unincorporated village named Unionville and Sheriff James Kavanaugh settled there in 1863. The mine eventually folded and parts of the Pattle and Morrison claims were later platted as Unionville in 1871 by Arthur A. Denny, Dexter Horton and partners of Seattle as a hedge in case the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Bellingham Bay as its terminus.
      After the property dwindled in value during the lean years of the Bay, Edward Eldridge and Erastus Bartlett purchased Unionville and some surrounding property and platted their property as Bellingham on April 24, 1883. They soon built a dock at the foot of the street they named Broadway, which today is named Bennett Avenue. You can determine its location by visiting Chrysalis Inn, which is upslope from the old dock, at the corner of 10th Street. Contractors found the vestiges of an old Union coal mine while digging out for the foundation.
      Nelson Bennett eventually consolidated the old townsite as part of his Fairhaven development. Although Lelah Jackson Eddy and others claim that Bennett bought all the property in 1888, we discovered a May 22, 1890, edition of the Lynden Pioneer Press that reported: "The largest real estate deal ever recorded in Whatcom county took place on the Bay last week. Erastus Bartlett and Mr. Eldridge sold the Bellingham townsite to the Bellingham Bay [Improvement] Company for $1,000,000. The property was placed on sale Monday morning and $250,000 worth sold that day." You can see the Bellingham plat in the excellent 1983 oversize booklet, Whatcom County in Maps 1832-1937, by James W. Scott and Daniel E. Turbeville III.
      We note here something that often goes unnoticed. It concerns Charles E. Richards, who in 1858 erected the brick building with partner John G. Hyatt at E Street that was later used as the Whatcom Courthouse and which is being restored in 2007. In a complex series of mortgages back and forth between him and others from 1860-71, Richards bought, sold and re-bought the Morrison claim, which Erastus Bartlett thought he bought free an clear in 1883. But The Daily Reveille of New Whatcom reported on Sept. 23, 1890, that Richards went East and married, came back alone and transacted business as a single man, and then went back East for good. He died in 1889 and while his wife Henrietta C. Richards sorted through his papers, she found deeds and she came to Whatcom in the summer of 1890 to sue to clean up the mess, the same year that Bennett folded the former Unionville/Bellingham into Fairhaven. [Return]

Dan Harris the boxer, and Sheldon's prizefight
      Later the sheriff of Whatcom County, James Kavanaugh wrote a diary while living in Whatcom and Unionville and on Fidalgo Island. On Sept. 22, 1867, Kavanaugh noted, "Sam Brown gave Dirty Dan Harris a beating night before last. I treated him for doing it." Re: Tom Sheldon and the prizefight of 1860, Mary B. Haight wrote in the Jan. 20, 1918, issue of the Bellingham American Reveille that Sheldon was a Englishman. "Billy Blimpton, an Irish miner who worked in the Sehome mines, insulted a Presbyterian minister, and Tom Sheldon took it up. A terrible quarrel ensured, which it was finally agreed must be settled by a real combat." Hugh Eldridge recalled that Dan invited the fighters and the assembled audience to stage the bout on the sand spit at the mouth of Harris Creek (now Padden Creek), possibly his first attempt to promote his location as an alternative to the village of Whatcom. London prize-ring rules prevailed and fight fans from all over Puget Sound came to observe. The combatants fought for 104 rounds until Irishman Plimpton prevailed. Sheldon still kept in touch with Eldridge 60 years later, from Australia where he owned a hotel. [Return]

5. Charles Donovan (1849-1936)
      Often called "Silk Stocking Charley for his meticulous dress, Donovan was born on the high seas as his parents emigrated from England to New Orleans in 1849 aboard the Sailor Prince vessel. When he was barely a teenager his father abandoned the family and his mother moved her six children to the Great Salt Lake by covered wagon. As a young man, Donovan punched cows, worked on a railroad survey team and became a miner, which took him to Lewiston, Idaho, and the Cariboo country of B.C. He came to Bellingham Bay as the telegrapher for the Bellingham Coal Co. in Sehome on June 26, 1873. He married Sarah Crockett of the Whidbey Island pioneer family in 1876 and Donovan soon became a Democratic political powerhouse as country treasurer, auditor, clerk, deputy sheriff, deputy assessor, county commissioner, marshal and mayor of Whatcom. His political skill earned him enemies, who called him Boss Donovan, but his memory was encyclopedic as observers noted that he could recite the history and chain of ownership of almost every piece of property in Whatcom County. His daughter, Mabel, married George Bacon, the financier and author of Booming and Panicking on Puget Sound. [Return]

6. Dan marries Bertha Wasmer
      Seven months after installing his Cleveland flagpole in the stump on the corner near his hotel amidst copious amounts of liquor, Daniel Jefferson Harris, age at least 53, married Bertha L. Wasmer, age 27, on Oct. 16, 1885, in the marbled lobby of his Fairhaven Hotel at the corner of 4th and Harris Street near his dock. The minister was Beveridge K. McElmon, who was preaching to a non-denominational group at the time, in anticipation of the future St. James Presbyterian Church that would soon be erected at the corner of 13th and Columbia, up the hill. The affiant was Charles Schering, who married Bertha's older sister, Emma Wasmer, in 1883. They and their mother, Mary Wasmer, and their much younger sister, Lillie, moved to Whatcom County sometime between 1883 and 1885. Contrary to Teck's genealogy above, Emma was older than Bertha by three years; they were born in about 1855 and 1858. Sister Lillie was born in September 1872.
      We are unaware of whether Mary's husband was still alive when they settled in Fairhaven but after much searching we found the family in the 1870 Census when they lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while Bertha and sister Emma were teenagers. Only four of her 12 children survived until 1900. As a widow in 1900, Mary lived with Charles and Emma Schering, presumably for the rest of her life.
      Bertha apparently had a fragile constitution because the couple wintered in Los Angeles for her health's sake in 1886-87. They returned to Fairhaven in the early summer of 1887, but then went to southern California again in early November that year. In the spring of 1888, Dan returned to Fairhaven alone but when he received a telegram in November that Bertha was gravely ill, he raced to Los Angeles on November 9. She died there ten days later. Author Ralph W. Thatcher is researching California records to determine her health problems and other details and will share much more information in his books planned for spring 2007. He discovered that both Dan and Bertha are buried at the Rosedale Cemetery, located at 1831 Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. [Return]

6a. Affiant versus witness
      Because people often confuse "affiant" for "witness" on marriage certificates, we turned to Donna Sand, Whatcom researcher, for her explanation of the matter. She explains: "An affiant is the person who goes with the bride and groom when they apply for a marriage license. This persons affirms (swears) that he personally knows both parties and knows there is no impediment to the marriage. This is sometimes written on the license form, listing the facts such as age, consanguinity, mental competency et al. In a court of law, some people do not wish to "swear," so they then "affirm," thus the two words carry equal weight.
      "However, the "witness" on the marriage merely says that they were present and witnessed the marriage vows of the couple. This person usually is known to the couple, but need not be. It can be just someone walking down the street that is asked to witness the marriage vows. So, when copying marriage information, people should remember that the affiant personally knows the couple — there my be an affiant for both bride and groom and often the affiant is the parent giving consent for an underage child. In my opinion a genealogist really should be more interested in the affiant than the witness.

7. Edgar L. Cowgill
      Cowgill and Edward M. Wilson arrived at Fairhaven in February 1888 as associates of Nelson Bennett when Bennett was purchasing the townsite from Dan Harris and setting up the construction of the Fairhaven & Southern Railway. When Bennett bought the old Kansas Colony Mill in Whatcom, Cowgill managed it and later he was a principal of Samish Bay Logging Company. Cowgill was a native of Delaware and his wife, Lillian "Lillie" (Wasmer) was the youngest of the Wasmer sisters of Wisconsin, one of whom was Dan Harris's wife, Bertha. Edgar and Lillie married on an unknown date in 1889 when he was 35 and she was 17. [Return]

(Elk Saloon)
The Elk Saloon and Cafe. Courtesy of Brad Imus.
8. Charles Schering
      Schering is seldom mentioned in Bellingham histories but he was one of the key investors and capitalists of Fairhaven and Whatcom after arriving in 1885. We know very little about his life before he came here except that the Federal Census shows that he was born in Germany and immigrated in 1865. His wife, Emma, was the first of the Wasmer sisters to live in Whatcom County and she came here as Mrs. Schering. Charles and Emma married sometime in 1883. Researcher Donna Sand discovered that Charles Schering lived in Seattle before his marriage; he was the affiant and witness to the marriage of James Kay and Julia Wilshire in Seattle on Sept. 8, 1882. Sometime after the Scherings settled here, she was joined by her sisters Bertha (future wife of Dan Harris) and Lillie ( future wife of Edgar L. Cowgill) and her mother, Mary Wasmer.
      Schering benefited from the Nelson Bennett development of Fairhaven and may have been involved with Fairhaven Land Company. His first major investment was a woodframe building with Elk saloon and Elk cafe at corner of Harris and Tenth, which also housed the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co., conducted by the Moran brothers. That structure burned in 1903 and he erected a stone building in its place, with brick from the Alger Oil & Mineral Co.. The Jan. 31, 1903, Fairhaven Evening Herald reported that the contractor was Martin Siersdorfer and the building was to be 50x80 feet, two stories and would cost about $10,000. Brad Imus told us he owns the building, which presently houses the Archer Alehouse on the northwest corner of the intersection. In 1905, the Elk Saloon still occupied the grand floor.
      Researcher Donna Sand found that Schering became a noted real estate investor. For instance, the Fairhaven Times reported on Jan. 31, 1903, that "Mr. Chas. Schering a few days ago paid Harry Osier [who married Happy Valley pioneer Michael Padden's widow] $8,000 in gold coin for 16 acres of land back of Bellingham." Schering lived at 17th and Larrabee in Fairhaven and his business was Young and Schering and he was also president of Hidden Treasures Gold and Copper Co. with Edward M. Wilson. In 1900, Schering was also the vice president of Fairhaven City Water & Power Co. We also discovered that Emma Schering was a skilled investor and trader, herself. In 1890 sold ten lots in Fairhaven to Bennett for $9,400, which was very good timing before the Depression hit in 1892-93. [Return]

9. Nelson Bennett
      Bennett and his brother Sidney were the "big powder" men during the construction of the Cascade Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad to the West Coast. They completed the Stampede Pass Tunnel in 1887-88 and reinvested their fortune in Tacoma and Fairhaven. We have a series of biographies of Nelson and his Fairhaven Land Co. and the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad. See this Journal Whatcom County link. [Return]

10. Edward M. Wilson
      Nelson Bennett singled out Edward Merton Wilson as a "prince among men." Wilson is not an easy man to profile because, as Jeff Jewell of the Whatcom Museum and Bob Wilson (not directly related) have pointed out, his father, E.A. Wilson, was rather creative with his own biography and thus colored his son's profile. The father was an early Oregon Territory pioneer and surveyor and claimed to have platted the town of Pendleton in 1869, but we have found no proof of that. Jewell discovered that the father was a British prisoner exiled to Tasmania for his role in the abortive "Patriots Rebellion" of 1838. On the way to the United States in 1847, he and his wife stopped off at the Sandwich Islands where Edward was born.
      In his younger years, Edward ranged back and forth from Idaho to Montana to Utah and engaged in both newspapers and mining. There he met Nelson Bennett who was building his rail line westwards as part of the Cascade Division of the Northern Pacific. He soon moved to Tacoma and invested in really cheap real estate there and in Olympia and then came to Fairhaven with Edgar Cowgill in February 1888. After going back to Montana on business he returned to Fairhaven and became manager of the Fairhaven & Southern Railway shortly before it connected with old Sedro on Dec. 24, 1889. He also invested with Charles X. Larrabee in the Skagit Coal and Transportation Co., which founded the town of Cokedale near Sedro. In other businesses he was president of the First National Bank of Fairhaven, treasurer of the Bellingham Bay Gas company, president of the Cascade Club, and helped establishment of the Water and Electric Light company. He also served as Mayor of Fairhaven for a year from January 1891 to January 1892.
      His 1915 obituary listed him as "Colonel" because he was the commander of Company "M" of the Washington State Militia around 1904, and it also noted that he was a member of the Idaho Territorial Legislature and was an aide on the staff of Washington Governor Henry McBride (1901-05, from Mount Vernon). He married late in life to Kathryn (North), a native of Wisconsin. [Return]

11. Larrabee/Larabie brothers
      Charles X. Larrabee's name has become synonymous with Fairhaven after he added his financial weight to Nelson Bennett's and they developed the town, plus the Fairhaven & Southern Railway and the Cokedale mines near Sedro. We plan to profile these brothers in an upcoming edition and we will answer the question of why Charles's middle name was changed to "X" and why his brother Samuel changed his name to Larabie. This is another one of the Whatcom stories that has never been explained so far, just like Edward Eldridge's real name and this story is just as good. The brothers made a mega-fortune due to banking, mining and fine investments in Montana and Oregon before X, as he was fondly known, moved to Fairhaven. Samuel lived and died in Montana. [Return]

(Lake Padden)
This drawing of a tranquil Lake Padden is also from the 1891 Fairhaven Illustrated. For some reason, Frank Teck called it Harris Lake. Click on the thumbnail for the full-sized drawing.
12. Michael Padden, Padden Creek and Lake Padden
      We are in the process of researching Padden Creek for another upcoming feature, with the help of Padden descendant Cathy Padden Atkinson. The history of the family is even richer than what has been written so far. To summarize, Cathy's great-grandfather, Michael Padden, came to Happy Valley in 1870, just east of Dan Harris's future townsite, and filed a homestead there in 1873, just two years after Dan received a patent for his land. Padden also obtained land around Padden Creek and dreamed of a town there, but the lake was not developed until after 1883, when Will D. Jenkins arrived from Kansas and fell in love with the lake, eventually platting part of the land as Highland Glen in 1906.
      Unfortunately, Michael's life came to a tragic end three years earlier. In the lean years for the Whatcom settlements, Michael worked in a mine in Seattle as did his neighbor, Thomas Clark, Sr. In 1880, Clark and Padden argued over the survey of their adjoining land and the border between their parcels. On March 6, according to an account in the Puget Sound Mail newspaper, "Michael Padden was killed instantly by a shotgun-blast fired by ten-year-old Thomas Clark, Jr. at the insistence of the boy's mother" while Padden was fencing a piece of the disputed land with his father-in-law, Edward Connelly, who was buying rights to Padden's property. We will soon share the details of what transpired from there.
      Michael's son, John V. Padden, recalled before his death that there were six heirs to the Padden homestead: "We donated the land for the Round House and Railroad (Fairhaven & Southern), and gave the right for water from Lake Padden." According to the newspaper, Whatcom Watch, the lake and the surrounding area (the future site of the park) was purchased by the city in 1925 from the Fairhaven Water and Power Company for $165,900. The lake had been used as the water supply for south Bellingham since 1900, with the purchase simply assisting in the administration of this function. In 1968 the south Bellingham water supply was switched from Lake Padden to Lake Whatcom."
      In Frank Teck's series about Dan Harris from 1903, he still referred to Harris Lake and Harris Creek, so we are researching to see when the official or even colloquial designation changed to Padden Creek and Lake Padden. John V. Padden's son, John J. Padden, died in Burlington in 1998. In one place, Teck in 1903 refers to Harris Creek, "sometimes called Padden Creek." [Return]

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