A bit of Lake Samish History

Lake Samish History

It is said that William H. Harris, and his friend  Charley Barnes  “discovered” Lake Samish.

Harris divided his time between being  Whatcom County Probate Judge from 1883 – 1889, and ranching in Whatcom [Bellingham]. He handled homestead and pre-emption filings as a probate judge and would go with applicants to locate their claims. This gave him the opportunity to learn a lot about county timber, soil, streams, lakes, animal and bird life.

In March, 1885, Charley Barnes, a friend of Harris’ from Montana, came to Whatcom to look for a homestead. The pair made many trips walking all over the county. On one of their journey’s they decided to explore the area we know as Lake Samish. They didn’t take any food or camping gear expecting to find lodging and meals with settlers. I guess they didn’t find many settlers as a few weeks later they returned to the area with food, equipment and a compass. They stayed several days – “running lines, locating section corner and quarter stakes.” They each chose a 160 acres claim fronting the lake on opposite sides of each other. Barnes took the side nearest Whatcom [Bellingham]. They made a crude raft, and clumsy paddles, made with an axe from poles to cross the lake.  They returned to Whatcom and filed their claims with the Court Clerk.

Harris and Barnes began to make frequent trips to the Lake , carrying food, tools and camp equipment. They built two cabins and even cleared an acre of land, leaving the finest trees by the lake.

By 1902, Lake Samish was a bustling metropolis called “Bluff.” It had it’s own post office, and a station on the Great Northern Railway., there were also three shingle mills, a coal deposit, and telephone connection. A schoolhouse was built near the Humphries home and political meeting were held there.