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History of Bellingham

Early History

Located on the shores of Bellingham Bay against the background of Mount Baker, Bellingham is the northernmost city of the United States with the population of over fifty thousand people.

For centuries, the area around Bellingham was occupied by American Indians, and particularly the Lummi. The tribes survived by fishing and mastered fishing techniques that became widely used far beyond the area. The 1850s and the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush signaled the start of the Euro-American settlement, with miners and storekeepers heading to the area from all corners of the U.S. It was Captain Henry Roeder who discovered coal in the area around Bellingham, and in 1854 the Bellingham Bay Coal Company was founded. Coal mining was the major industry in Bellingham from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.

The town of Bellingham was incorporated in late 1903, when four towns located on Bellingham Bay – Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham, and Fairhaven – merged into one. The new century brought about the boom of the salmon industry: fishermen would fill boats with the fish and return to the cannery to clean the fish and prepare it for shipment. Between 1990 and 1945, three canneries including the Bellingham Canning Company, the Pacific-American Fisheries, and the Puget Sound Canning Company were established in the area. These companies became Bellingham’s largest employers for both local population and immigrant workers from Norway, Sweden, Italy, China, and Japan.

However, residents were unhappy about immigrants coming to Bellingham. Local population thought that immigrants were stealing their jobs, as they agreed to work longer hours for lower salary. This dissatisfaction led to anti-immigrant violence: in September 1907, a group of about 500 white men attacked the homes of immigrant workers. As a result, immigrants started to leave Bellingham.

Latest History

In the 20th century, Bellingham turned into a popular tourist destination with easy access to recreational opportunities in North Cascades and the San Juan Islands. Today Bellingham is a mid-sized city in the Western United States and the county seat of Whatcom County. Lush forests, uncrowded trails, old breweries, and picturesque mountains that dominate the horizon make Bellingham the city that you should not miss when traveling along the West Coast of the United States.