Anacortes, Washington
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History of Anacortes, Washington

Skagit County was created in 1883 from the southern portion Whatcom County. The County derived its name from the Indian tribe which lived along the river known by the same name, the largest watercourse in the North Cascades.

For more than 10,000 years people have lived in the Fidalgo and Guemes Island areas. Native people belonging to the local Samish and Swinomish tribes were signatories to the 1855 Point Elliot Treaty. The treaty gave Western Washington tribes the right to self-governance and set aside several reservations, including one for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on southeastern Fidalgo Island, home to approximately 2664 Swinomish tribal members (2000 U.S. Census) and a smaller reservation located beyond Sedro Woolley, which is home to about 238 Upper Skagit Tribal members.

In the 1700s the Spanish, British, and Russian explorers and fur traders were the first Whites to enter the Skagit region. The first nonnative settlers, Richard and Shadrack Wooten, arrived in present-day Anacortes in 1865 and established claims along the western shoreline of Fidalgo Bay. The Cap Sante area, then called The Portage, was home to a few homestead families around 1870. Others lived along Guemes Channel, now known as Ship Harbor. In 1877 residents of Ship Harbor, Amos and Anna Bowman, established a post office and named it Anacortes, derived from Anna Curtis, Anna’s maiden name.

Fishing and logging industries began to dominate the town during its incorporation in 1891. In the next several years salmon canning and codfish curing industries became established. By the early 1900s hundreds of Anacortes residents were employed in about a dozen fish processing plants in the town. In 1925 the Anacortes Pulp Mill began operation and remained in production until 1978. Today the lumber industry is less prominent as the Port has ceased logging operations and only one log export yard remains. Over the last fifty years the economy of Anacortes has changed. In the 1950s Shell and Texaco built refineries on March Point. By the 1960s most of the fish processing plants had closed, only three remain in operation today. Large housing developments were built in the 1960s to meet the needs of retired people coming to the area. The tourism industry in Anacortes has also grown, providing lodging, restaurants, shops, and marinas to incoming visitors. Several festivals attract visitors to the area including the Anacortes Arts Festival in August, the Waterfront Festival, and the annual “Oyster Run” which draws thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts.

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