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Whatcom County History

Early History

The story of Whatcom County will take you back to the ancient times. Nearly 12,000 years ago, this picturesque area was occupied by three Native American tribes: the Lummi, the Semiahmoo, and the Nooksack.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, modern day Whatcom County was being explored by traders, prospectors, miners, and farmers from Canada, England, Spain, and other parts of the United States. Unable to resolve territorial issues, the Treaty of 1818 was signed, which stipulated joint supervision of the area. The 1820s saw the beginning of active settlement of Whatcom County: in 1827, the Hudson’s Bay Company founded Fort Langley north of Lynden. In 1852, Gold Rush entrepreneurs reached Bellingham Bay and built a sawmill there.

The mid-19th century experienced further growth of Whatcom County. During its early years, Whatcom County saw both ups and downs. Coal was discovered in the area around the 1850s, and towns started to emerge by mine shafts. Fraser River Gold Rush resulted in an influx of new residents in Whatcom County, with over 75,000 people coming here to try their fortune.

However, in the 1890s the economic boom of Whatcom County slowed down. Shortly before, fire burned down the mill and several mines were closed. As a result, the population of the bay dropped to just 50. A major obstacle for the county’s economic development was lack of railroad which would help transport produce to different cities in Whatcom County.

Late History

The situation got significantly better at the turn of the 20th century. In 1899, the Pacific American Fisheries, a large canning company, was established in Fairhaven. New businesses were opening in Whatcom County, including American Can Co. and the Puget Sound Saw Mill, which created new jobs for residents and newcomers. New mills, canneries, department stores, and creameries stabilized the economy of Whatcom County. The new century brought about agricultural boom, with Lynden leading the way.

Today Whatcom County is one of the northernmost counties of Washington, with a population of over 220,000 people. The largest industries in Whatcom County involve manufacturing, agriculture, real estate, and retail trade. The county’s proximity to the Canadian border is a significant driver of Whatcom County’s economy. Situated in the scenic Pacific Northwest, Whatcom County is a popular tourist destination, offering plenty of recreational opportunities for all ages.