This blog – which more properly ought to be called an archive – came about as the solution to a problem. For the last couple of years, I have belonged to a public Facebook group “You grew up in Bellingham, WA if you remember…,” (the “remember” part being open-ended, obviously). Thus, the group has been first about nostalgia and the memories of those who grew up in this place, and second about the history of this place, which subsumes decades-worth of nostalgic memories.
My primary focus as a contributor to this group has been a history of Bellingham and its general environs, and it is here that the problem has arisen. Facebook is not the best possible platform to serve as an archive of historical information – in either written or visual form. Anything posted to the group very quickly gets “buried” beneath new postings, and the search capabilities of Facebook, being poor, are insufficient to aid in locating this material with ease, later. Therefore, I conceived of this online archive as a place to preserve my postings, which at present is an ongoing process and will take some time, as I am essentially reconstructing old postings here, and in some cases even amalgamating several different postings that rightly belong together.
I expect this archive to expand considerably beyond the confines placed upon it in Facebook; theutility and flexibility of the WordPress platform in terms of writing, revising, adding information, incorporating photographs and organizing all this together into searchable categories is so user-friendly as to cry out for expansion of some former postings, where additional information can be incorporated, substantially enriching the subject under consideration.. This too, will be an ongoing process; one person working in his spare time can only accomplish so much in any specified span of time.
I should note from the outset that I am not a trained historian, and the intent in creating this archive is not to provide a “formal history” of the city of Bellingham, WA and its environs, such as might be found in a textbook. Rather, the hope is to help those who are interested in the history of this place connect with it in a meaningful way, so as to inform and inspire their personal studies and investigations. Equally important is to provide those who were born and raised here – those who come from families that have been here for generations – a means to integrate themselves and their forebears into the historical and geographical contexts of this place.
The latter discipline mentioned here – geography – bears a moment’s attention, since I do have some formal education in this area. Geography as a scholarly discipline is divided into two areas: physical and human geography. Physical geography deals with the study of natural features and their distributions, organization, etc. Human geography is concerned with studying the activities of human beings and how they interrelate across the geographic landscape; thus, the human “built environment” in all its forms is the province of this branch of geography. Both have bearing on the course of history in virtually any place with a name.
I was fortunate to study the historical geography of the Pacific Northwest and of Canada under the late James Scott, professor of geography at Western Washington University, author of the Washington Centennial Atlas, among a host of other publications. I benefited immeasurably from his vast knowledge and acute insights into the historical geography of this part of the world. Particularly useful in a northern U.S. border town such as Bellingham is the supplementary education in the historical geography of Canada, because the influences of the two nations here, along with the influence of Great Britain (“the U.S. and Canada are, after all, children of a common mother,” even if the U.S. happened to be the “naughty child”), and even earlier, of Spain, have served to shape the Pacific Northwest, on both sides of the border.
Last, but certainly not least, we must acknowledge the place of the Native American in the context of all of this, because, as almost goes without saying, they were here first.
It is my hope that in some small way I may inspire a future generation to learn about the history and geography of this place, without m having to repeatedly state the time-honored maxims about what becomes of those who forget where they and their forebears came from, and how they got here from there.
July 11, 2013