Ferndale, Washington
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History of Ferndale, Washington

Early pioneers first called the Ferndale area “the lower crossing” to distinguish it from Everson, the main crossing of the Nooksack River at the time.

The first legal land owner in what is now Ferndale was named Darius Rogers. He and perhaps a dozen other settlers established the first church, school, and blacksmith shop in the area during the 1870s. Until this time, the settlement was referred to as “Jam” because of a large log jam on the Nooksack River nearby. It was in 1876 that the area was officially named “Ferndale,” a term coined by Alice Eldridge, the first teacher of the settlement’s school.

Since the only way to get around on land was by muddy, meandering trails, most settlers lived and worked close to the river and used it as their highway.

More settlers trickled in, many from Scandinavia, and they began fishing and lumbering. As more saw mills appeared, the forest began to recede and revealed the fertile farmland beneath. Since then, farming has continued to be a key industry in the area.

Ferndale was not connected to any other towns by road until 1884, but still remained rustic and isolated until 1893 when the Great Northern built its railway line across the western part of Whatcom County. The line ran through Ferndale to Blaine, and on to Vancouver, B.C.

The city of Ferndale was also shaped by a number of other outside events. The Treaty of 1846, fixing the boundary between American and English soil, brought a large crew to survey the 49th parallel, clearing a 40 foot gap along the line. The San Francisco fire caused the price of lumber to skyrocket, which resulted in the building of the first sawmill in Bellingham. The Fraser River gold Rush of 1858 brought thousands of prospectors through the area, on what they hoped would be the road to wealth. The race to build a telegraph line to Europe via Seattle, Alaska, the Bering Sea and Asia dragged a trail across the County and left fragments of the Telegraph Road that still remain today. A generation ago, it was almost impossible to foresee that Ferndale would house the location of two large oil refineries, which process oil from Alaska and other continents. No less remarkable, is the fact that the shipment of Alumina from Australia brought Intalco Aluminum, once the County's largest employer.

Ferndale began its existence as a "town" under Washington law when it was incorporated in 1907.

Ferndale's 1998 population was 7,620, making it the 3rd largest community in Whatcom County and 68th among Washington's 278 incorporated municipalities. The population today has nearly reached 10,000.

Information from www.whatcomoldsettlers.com

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