View from 1891

Editors a century ago had dreams of a huge Whidbey metropolis

  • Thursday, December 30, 1999 7:00pm
  • News

“These excerpts are from a front-page editorial in the inaugural edition of the Island County Times on March 17, 1891. The Times later joined with the Farm Bureau News of Oak Harbor to become the Whidbey News-Times.Island County, comprising Whidby, Camano and Smith’s islands, is one of the oldest organized counties in the State, and, considering its size, one of the most promising sections in this whole Sound country. Owing to the fact that the county is segregated by water from the mainland it has not grown in wealth and population as rapidly as its sister counties have done, but of its natural advantages in all other respects, and its superior quality of soil for productiveness, every one who has been upon these islands is ready to testify.It is only a year or so ago since Island County has begun to attract the attention of the general public. The old settlers have been content to dwell here in comparative peace and comfort, away from the bustle and scramble for place and profit that make up the life of other communities. They cultivated their lands, improved their surroundings and educated their children in that homelike simplicity which is the mother of virtue and the instructor of sterling honesty. They have never spread their sails to float into the turbulent waters of more active life. Their markets were created for them, and the soil of their broad acres yielded wealth to supply them with every comfort and luxury. They had no occasion to go forth to do battle as bread-winners, nor were they obliged to send out inducements for people to come here to be fleeced. They lived independently and happily, and were satisfied with the slow material growth of their homes and their island possessions.But the Argus eyes of the outside world have fastened upon this little Puget Sound paradise. The old regime is vanishing before a new order of things. Our people accept the inevitable and are disposed to join in the popular swim. Although they have enjoyed the many blessings found here for so long a time, they have not grown so selfish as to try and keep others from partaking in the good fruit. While they have not actively invited immigration heretofore to these islands, they have never discouraged it; but now, after their long season of quiet prosperity, they feel disposed to open broad their gates and let the world know what wealth lies within.Since the early days of the Northern Pacific railroad there has been but slow progress in population in Island County, until about a year ago. At present the population numbers about 1800, and the assessed valuation of property is something like a million dollars …[After 70 column inches or so of accolades for the beauties of Island County, its rich fields, its friendly, yet bustling towns (Oak Harbor is described as possessing “an enchanting loveliness truly Arcadean), the editors conclude with this:]… About a year ago the Northern Pacific Land Company, of Tacoma, purchased a tract of 130 acres on Admiralty Bay, in township 31 north, range 1 east, platted it and put the lots on the market. A wharf was built, a hotel erected and the foundation laid for the building of a new town. Lands lying contiguous thereto were also laid out into town lots as additions to the embryo city. A good many of these have been sold, but no improvements have yet been made, although the prospects are bright for active operations there in the new future. This will certainly be the case if the railroad, which is projected from LaConner across Whidbey Island, ever materializes into anything more than talk. In that event Chicago [the proposed name of the new Whidbey Island metropolis] will become the western terminus of a trans-continental line and a city of great magnitude.”

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