Originally calling this island
"Skallaham," the Lummi Indians are thought to have had two longhouses near
Village Point which they used when they came to harvest berries and clams, fish or hunt
deer. Villages were not established here because the location was too open to attack from
northern Indians. The island was charted for the first time in 1792, by Spanish explorers
Galiano and Valdez as "Isla de Pacheco." Later it was known as McLaughlin's
Island. The name it bears now was bestowed officially by the U.S. Geodetic Survey in 1853.
It is thought that the name referred to "luminara", or great
bonfires seen by the Spaniards as they arrived, a name the Lummi tribe later
took as their own.
The first permanent settler was whaler and
California goldminer Captain Christian Tuttle who arrived by canoe in 1871. His original
land holdings, 320 acres, stretched from near Village Point south to Tuttle Lane. He and
his wife Clara had seven children including the father of longtime Island residents Floyd,
Marion and Echo (Griffiths).
Next Frederick Lane arrived in 1881. Lane Spit
bears his name. With his Indian wife and twelve children, he tended the kerosene-burning
navigation light off the tip of the Spit. Having such a large family it's not surprising
that he helped establish a separate school district, No. 32, on the Island and was the
first superintendent of the Lummi Island schools. Frederick was also postmaster from 1887
to 1890. By 1893 he was carrying the mail in a small sailboat from Fairhaven to the
Island, a sometimes hazardous journey. Our post office was officially opened on July 24,
1882, as Beach, Washington, named after the first postmaster, Wade H. Beach. The name was
changed to Lummi Island in 1946.
Melzer Granger came alone in March of 1888,
followed in the fall of that year by his wife, Lucy, their six sons and one daughter. One
son, C.R. "Chan" Granger built and, with his wife, operated Loganita Lodge, a
popular resort for many years near Point Migley. Another son, Art, also married, had
eleven children and remained on the Island, as did some of his children, Mac, Frank, Irene
(McFarland) and Earl. The Grangers living on Lummi Island today are Art's descendants.
Frank Taft "discovered" Lummi Island
about 1902 and convinced his wife, Ruby, with baby Maurine, and parents-in-law, Sallie and
Leonidas "Lon" Blizard to come. Frank and Ruby, who were affectionately known by
Islanders as "Pop" and "Mom", started taking in boarders. This
enterprise became Taft's The Willows resort, run by all the family including the Taft
daughters, Maurine and Dorothy, and their husbands Jack Melcher and Leo House,
respectively, and their children Jackie and John Melcher, and Victoria and Greg House.
the original Taft property is now Isle Aire Subdivision.
Transportation to and from Lummi Island was first
by canoes, rowboats and sailboats, then by cannery tenders or steamboats such as the Brick,
a midget forty-foot wood-burning stern wheeler. The first car ferry was a scow towed
to Gooseberry Point by the steamer, Imp. According to Islander Cathy Scott (now deceased)
who lived near our present post office, a flag waved from Gooseberry Point alerted the
ferry crew, who often played cards on the porch of her cabin, that they should bring over
the ferry. By 1926, Lummi Shore Road from Bellingham was completed and a ferry, the Central
owned by Whatcom County and large enough to hold six small Model-T Fords, was making
scheduled runs between Lummi Island and Gooseberry Point. The slightly larger Chief
Kwina replaced it in 1929. In 1962, the Whatcom Chief began service.
Logging and timber sales were the most common
livelihoods on the Island in the early days. In 1896 a salmon cannery was built at Village
Point by the Lummi Island Packing Company, which became the Carlisle Packing Company. From
1895 to 1910, a shingle mill operated on Lane Spit, then was rebuilt as a salmon cannery
by Beach Packing Company, later known as Lummi Bay Packing Company. By 1906, at Smugglers
Cove, Puget Sound Fertilizer Company was operating an odorous rendering plant, turning
fish offal into fertilizer. In 1908, the launch Sehome was providing daily mail
service. By 1919, the Nooksack Packing Company also had a cannery on the Island at Sunrise
Cove. Later Island livelihoods included chicken and dairy farming, growing cherries and
raspberries for commercial canning, and operating summer resorts. One man unsuccessfully
tried mining coal, another thought he had discovered platinum on the Island, an
impossibility because of the type of rocks here.
By the 1960s, with an aging population, the
Island was becoming a retirement community. Low school enrollments created serious
concerns about keeping the school open. That has now changed and the Island has a lively
growing population of all ages.
Compiled by Beth Hudson from her research
notes, with additional research by Nancy Simmerman. Thanks to Marion Tuttle, Irene
Granger McFarland, Earl Granger, Jackie Melcher Gaines-Aschenbrenner, Kay Niedhamer, Clark
Blake and the Lummi Island Newsletter for additional information and to Paul Davis
for access to the Island archives.
Another source for genealogical &
historical information is the Lummi Is. Cemetery's burial listing.
© 1993, 1998 by Friends of Island Library (FOIL)