Searching for Ella Higginson

March 12 2015 7:00

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St. • Free

Join us for a fascinating talk about Ella Higginson with Laura Laffrado, professor of English at WWU. Laffrado will speak about her efforts to reintroduce readers to Higginson’s life and work and to reclaim Higginson as a significant voice in American literature. A new publication from the Whatcom County Historical Society on Higginson is due out soon. Laffrado is the author.

An Early Voice of the Pacific Northwest

The first prominent literary author from the Pacific Northwest, Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940) has been largely forgotten Higginson with Car 001as a key American writer. During the turn from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, readers across the nation were introduced to the remote Pacific Northwest region by Higginson’s descriptions of majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters, as well as the often difficult economic circumstances of those dwelling near Puget Sound. Higginson was celebrated for her award-winning fiction, her lyric poetry which was set to music and performed internationally, and her distinguished position as the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Throughout her literary career, Higginson published hundreds of poems, stories, and essays in leading magazines and newspapers, while also writing books, including the novel Mariella, of Out-West (1902) and the nonfiction work Alaska, the Great Country (1908).

Lost to Time but Relevant Today as Precise Look at Our Region 100 years ago

Higginson’s reputation as a well-known American author faded chiefly due to her singular position as a literary writer in the turn of the century Pacific Northwest, far from other regions and writers at the time. Areas of the United States such as New England and the South were often portrayed by many different authors in earlier American literature. Taken together, such writings created familiar literary regions for readers. However, only in Higginson’s writing did the Pacific Northwest of over a century ago spring to life in precise detail. Because of this, her work stands alone.

Laffrado is the author of Uncommon Women: Gender and Representation in U.S. Women’s Writing (The Ohio State University Press, 2009) and Hawthorne’s Literature for Children (University of Georgia Press, 1992).At right: Higginson near her High St. home (Whatcom Museum).

February’s Program: The Great Sedro-Woolley Bank Robbery of 1914

Join Speaker Rustan RobertsonSW Cover on the Great Robbery of 1914

Thursday, February 12, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St. • Free

What’s It About

Oct. 17, 1914,  robbers struck a bank in Skagit County, but the deadly chase that followed reached into Whatcom County and lower British Columbia. The bandits’ identities were never confirmed, but it’s believed they were part of a gang that committed multiple robberies in Washington and Canada. They spoke a foreign language, possibly Russian.

Several sightings of the bandits were made in Ferndale and Blaine before the fiery ending of the story. About half of the $11,649 stolen was never recovered. The coins would be worth about $400,000 today. The robbery continues to be one of the most popular stories from early 20th century NW.

A long time interest

Guest speaker Rustan Robertson, who grew up in Sedro-Woolley, began researching the 1914 robbery for a high school project and recently authored “The Wages of Sin: The True Story & Photos of the Great Sedro-Woolley Bank Robbery of 1914,” published by the Sedro-Woolley Museum. One of the highlights of his research was the almost 100 photographs of the crime and chase scenes, the officers and citizens involved, and two of the robbers in an undertaker’s parlor in Bellingham. These were copied from glass plate slides donated to the S-W Museum.

Robertson now lives in Anacortes. The book will be available for sale at the program, as well as at: Join us for a interesting and entertaining evening.

First Program of the New Year 2015

Happy New Year!!

Here at the Whatcom County Historical Society, we all wish you the very best day and year to come. Please join us for our first presentation of 2015.

Incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II”


Bus for removal

Presented by Fumio Otsu and Carole Teshima

Thursday, January 8, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St. • Free

A Difficult Chapter in Our Nation’s History

More than 120,000 Japanese and Japanese American families were incarcerated in the United States during WWII. This presentation will give an overview of the incarceration on the West Coast and follow the experience of two families’ pre-WWII, during WWII and post WWII.

Pat Shima  evacuation kidPresenter Fumio Otsu was born in the Tule Lake Concentration Camp where Japanese families from Bellingham were also imprisoned. The overview will include a timeline for the incarceration beginning with the evacuation order by President Roosevelt in 1942 to the formal apology by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. People of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in 10 concentration camps and 29 prison locations. The post war impacts of their release will be discussed from the perspective of each of Otsu’s families. Teshima will present research on the established Bellingham families who were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses, gave up everything and never returned.

Recently, with the help of Otsu and the Japanese American Museum in California, records of what happened to the local families have become available.

courtesy Whatcom Museum Photo Arcie

Removal sale at the Sakamoto Store

Come and hear this important presentation.

WCHS Kicks off 2013-14 Speaker’s Series with “Bellingham Under Ice and Under Water!”

Welcome to the WCHS’s 2013-14 Speaker’s Series. We have a great year of speakers lined up for you. Join us for October’s talk:

“Bellingham Under Ice and Under Water! The Fascinating Glacial History of Western Whatcom County”Mount Baker

An illustrated presentation by Doug Clark, WWU

When: Thursday, November 14, 2013

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room • 121 Prospect St.


Whatcom County is a land with a past—a glacial past that is both geologically interesting and historically significant. Dr. Doug Clark, Western Washington University Geology professor, has been studying the effects of glaciation around the world, but has found one of the most fascinating stories right here in western Whatcom County. Come hear about the incredible record of glacier advance and retreat and sea level rise and fall that formed most of the landscape of the Whatcom lowlands.

Dr Doug Clark WWUClark is a glacial geologist and geomorphologist with nearly 25 years of experience studying glaciers and climate change throughout western North American and elsewhere around the world. He has been a geology professor at WWU since 1998, and loves investigating and teaching about our amazing glacial landscapes here in western Washington.

New research indicates that the landscapes of Whatcom County were dramatically shaped by a surge of glacial ice from Canada at the end of the last glacial epoch.

Join us for this fascinating talk.  If you want to learn more, a good follow up to this talk is Whatcom Musem’s new Vanishing Ice exhibit.


The San Juan Islands: Into the 21st Century

Join us for a presentation by author JoAnn RoeJoAnn Roe

When: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Where: Whatcom Museum Rotunda Room 121 Prospect St.
Free and open to all

What’s it all about? The San Juan Islands

The 172 San Juan Islands of Washington State are the uppermost remains of a mountain range that once separated the fifty miles between Vancouver Island and mainland Washington. Its valleys today are saltwater channels and open waters that seamlessly melt into the Canadian Gulf Islands and the Inside Passage to Alaska. Some American Campforested mountains soar skyward to 2,409 feet with their bases plunging underwater to great depths. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany negotiated a boundary agreement between Britain and the United States in 1872, after a period called the “Pig War,” about which much has been written.

From a fifty-year resident’s viewpoint, The San Juan Islands: Into the 21st Century examines this remote yet oft-visited northwest corner of Washington State. The author tells of farming IMG_0010lavender rather than wheat and alpacas rather than cattle; of inter-island boats and barges that still fight stormy seas and riptide; of the development of reliable medical care only during the 1950s; of the emphasis today on sensible land management, the orca whales that are native to the area, and the former and current island people.

JoAnn Roe explores both the history and the present of this unique and alluring region. Roe traces the challenging task IMG_0023of bringing electrical power to the islands by Opalco, a possible “first.”

Spring Sale

We’re having a Garage Sale to benefit the Territorial Courthouse on Saturday April 6th, 2013 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.  Donate your gently used clothing, art, toys, books, and household items at our pre-sale drop off times this Saturday March 30th from 10am-1pm and April 4th and 5th from 4pm-7pm.  Bring an item to donate (or just donate!) and we’ll give you a quick tour of the restoration work.  See you there!