La Conner Washington (a.k.a. LaConner) really has the best of both worlds going for it. You have the friendly folks in the town areas, plus the outdoor recreation of the Pacific Northwest. Especially the fishing (smelt), hiking and crabbing throughout the year.
My first experience with La Conner was with some close friends. We went smelt dipping and then later on, crabbing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done smelt dipping in the Cowlitz river on many, many occasions. But to dip (with a net) smelt in La Conner was just a bit different.
No river with smelt running near by. That was a real challenge. However, the most enjoyable part about La Conner was the crabbing in the sound about 10 miles north near Anacortes. That was a real treat.
Skagit (pronounced as : ska-jit)
The influence of the Hudson’s Bay Company was always present in the Pacific Northwest for many years. In 1824, John Work traveled through the area and came across a number of Indian tribes (a.k.a. Native Americans).
Being ignorant of the fact that there were at least, eleven separate tribal groups, he lumped them all together and called them Skagit Indians from the word Scaadchet.
The local villages of Swinomish (later renamed La Conner) was one of the very first permanent settlements of the mainland located north of Seattle. With a whopping population of 28 people, it had become a “city” in it’s own rights.
The Swinomish Trading Post
Michael Sullivan along with good friend Sam Calhoun began an aggressive diking program to allow the current marshy flats nearby to become usable agricultural lands.
Then in about 1867, Alonzo Lowe created the Swinomish Trading Post located on the western side of the Swinomish Channel. His venture was short lived though. Not being able to make a profit, he closed up the trading post after some fourteen months.
Moving the trading post to the opposite side (eastern) of the channel proved to be an excellent decision by it’s new owner Thomas Hayes. Recognized also as a Post Office, it naturally drew people in from the surrounding areas.
What’s In A Name?
In 1969, John Conner and wife Louisa Ann, chose to purchase the flourishing trading post/post office from Hayes. The Conner’s added a General Store in addition to the trading post/post office. It was quickly becoming the central point of the community.
With so much going for the Conner family, John chose to rename the post office and subsequently, the town also.
Using the initials of his wife’s name (Louisa Ann) LA along with his last name, the township of La Conner (also LaConner) came into existence.
With the sale of the Trading post, Conner now focused his attention on building the township. He did so by promoting it as a steamboat hamlet and a center for transportation, commerce, fishing, government and agriculture.
La Conner became the main port between Seattle and Bellingham.
With more diking and draining of wetlands and river deltas, gathering more usable land was becoming more and more of a challenge. Diking was done by hand. Using shovels and wheelbarrows, the locals brought the dike to a height of between 3 to 7 feet.
This gave them much needed space. Some 25,000 acres of usable space now gave way to the hay, grain and huge truck farming industry.
La Conner Today
Locals were disappointed in the early 1900’s that the much anticipated railroad line would come through La Conner was put to rest when it by passed the city. Yet the population continued to grow.
Though La Conner was pretty much destined to remain a “steamboat community”, locals did all they could to promote tourist attractions.
Then in the late 1930’s artists and book writers took note of the beautiful surroundings and peaceful, friendly folks living in La Conner.
Many of these professionals began to migrate to the La Conner area.
Fish Town, which eventually resulted into the La Conner Museum of N.W. Art, came about as a direct result of talented individuals proclaiming the La Conner area as one of the best to be experienced.
Since most of the town of La Conner still has it’s original buildings intact, you’ll enjoy your surroundings as you walk through it’s streets. It almost like a walk back through time.
Why not come and pay us a visit? We’ll be glad to have you.
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Written by: Tom McDaniel