Early Fairhaven People
A Settler, a Founder, Pioneers & Important Contributors



 

 
Alonzo M. Poe

 
Fairhaven Pioneer 
 
Early Settler
 
Alonzo M. Poe filed a donation land claim on September 11, 1853 for just over 300 acres (and less than entitled to under the Donation Claim act.)  His claim included this shoreline area, where he built a cabin, and incorporated the land to the south which is now known as Edgemoor.  The area of Fairhaven which is now occupied by Marine Park and part of what is now the Fairhaven Shipyard, adjacent to the Post Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, was historically known as Poe’s Point.  
 
 

     
Daniel Jefferson Harris
(Dirty Dan) 
 
Fairhaven  Founder 
 
Fairhaven Founder

Daniel Jefferson Harris ("Dirty Dan”), acknowledged as the founder of the town of Fairhaven, is one of those characters whose lore and legend make it difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Even his birth place and date of birth are shrouded in uncertainty.

The sobriquet, "Dirty Dan”, was acquired from his appearance in soiled clothing and lack of personal hygiene.  His reputation as a colorful character of distinctive qualities was based on his many serio-comic exploits.    
 
    
 
Pioneers
(Alphabetically)


        
 Nelson Bennett
 
Fairhaven Promoter
 
The development of the town of Fairhaven owes a great deal to the economic stimulus and personal impact of Nelson Bennett and also to the men he brought with him to share in the challenge of building a new city.
 
"Behind the scene [i.e. the establishment of the Bellingham Bay Gas Company] was the master entrepreneur Nelson Bennett who was the chief promoter behind almost everything happening in Fairhaven” (p. 169, Boulevard Park and Taylor Avenue Dock, Brian L. Griffin).   

 
  >More on Nelson Bennett

 Edgar L. Cowgill

Fairhaven   Businessman
 
Edgar L. Cowgill (pronounced Co-gill), born near Dover, Delaware, came to Fairhaven from Tacoma in 1888 and became a leading businessman and a member of the town council at the time of incorporation in 1890.  In 1888 Edgar Cowgill joined E.M Wilson, Nelson Bennett and C.X. Larrabee in the Fairhaven Land Company.  Cowgill also worked with Nelson Bennett running the Bellingham Bay Land Company under Edward Eldridge. Other business interests included Skagit Coal & Transportation with many members of the Fairhaven Land Company, and Fairhaven & Southern Railroad.
 
Cowgill built one of the first homes in Fairhaven on the northeast corner of 13th Street and Harris Avenue in 1890.  He was married to Lillie Wasmer, whose sister, Emma, was married to Fairhaven entrepreneur, Charles Schering, and also sister to Bertha Wasmer, wife of "Dirty Dan” Harris, founder of Fairhaven.   

 >More on E.L. Cowgill

 John Joseph
(J. J.) Donovan
 
Fairhaven Builder
 
Today, Bellingham residents drive along Donovan Avenue, sit on the bench at 11th and Harris with the bronze statue of J.J. Donovan, and they swim and picnic at Bloedel Donovan Park. 
 
J.J. Donovan arrived in Fairhaven in 1888 at the invitation of Nelson Bennett for the purpose of building a railroad which would transport coal from his mine on the Skagit River to be shipped from the newly-settled town of Fairhaven.  Donovan joined other Bennett partners in building the infrastructure of this booming town where he was to spend the rest of his life and contribute in multiple capacities to the development of this area that was to grow into the city of Bellingham.   

>More on J.J. Donovan

 George E. Finnegan 
 
Fairhaven Funnyman 
 
George Finnegan was known as a pioneer South Bellingham druggist, humorist and a leading public figure.  A philosopher, friend and a humorist par excellence he was called the "Will Rogers of Bellingham".   The unofficial mayor of Fairhaven, Finnegan died on November 5, 1939 at 56.  Gone, but not forgotten,  the City Council voted in May 1944 to name a new Fairhaven street, Finnegan Way.  In 1946, the Washington Club unveiled a plaque for Finnegan at Fairhaven Park.  George, who's wit made the Washington Club infamous, was honored as a  "lovable character one meets but once in a long, long lifetime".     
 
   

 Cyrus L. Gates
 
Civic Benefactor

 
"It is only now and then that a man of unusual character and personality comes into the life of any community, and, in a quiet, modest manner, becomes a great living force for the upbuilding of civic life and public welfare.  Such a man was Cyrus Gates to a marked degree.”  (Board of Park Commissioners Resolution, February 4, 1927).



Charles "C.X."  Larrabee
 
Fairhaven Entrepreneur 
 
Charles Xavier Larrabee was one of the most influential men in the development of the town of Fairhaven.  Principal financier of the Fairhaven Land Company, along with Bennett, E.M. Wilson, E.L. Cowgill and his brother, Samuel Edward, Larrabee was instrumental in building this small settlement into a thriving city, both economically and socially. 
 
Larrabee made his fortune in the copper mines of Montana.  He also maintained a horse ranch near Deer Lodge, Montana, along with his entrepreneurial brother. 

  

 Frances Payne Larrabee
 
 
Enriching a Community
  While men of means and influence were building the physical and political infrastructure of Fairhaven and the surrounding towns of Bellingham Bay, the women of the region were playing a significant role in the cultural enrichment of the growing community.   

Single women of limited resources and education worked in canneries, in laundries, or as cooks and domestics.  Others with greater skills and education became teachers, nurses, bookkeepers or librarians.  The married women of this era, especially wives of successful businessmen, were involved in civic and cultural activities that enriched not only their own lives but those of the community as a whole.  Notable among this group was Frances Payne Larrabee, wife of financial magnate, Charles X. Larrabee. 
 

Edward M. Wilson
 
Fairhaven Business Partner

E.M. Wilson was one of the principal partners in the Fairhaven Land Company, the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad, and the Skagit Coal and Transportation Company.  These businesses were integral to much of the growth of early Fairhaven. Wilson also served as president of the First National Bank of Fairhaven, treasurer of the Bellingham Bay Gas Company, president of the Cascade Club, was instrumental in the establishment of the Water and Electric Light Company and served as the second mayor of Fairhaven in 1891-92. 
 

 James F. Wardner
 
Fairhaven Investor and Nationwide Character
 
James F. Wardner arrived in Fairhaven in 1889, encouraged by promoter, Nelson Bennett, to invest his talents and his financial skills in guiding the future of this promising young town on Bellingham Bay.
 

 Important Contributors to Historic Fairhaven  
Ken Imus
 
Fairhaven Savior
 
 In 1975-76, long-time resident, George Hunsby, wrote two small volumes of recollections and anecdotes of Fairhaven events and characters that he entitled, "The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Fairhaven”.  The decline, or "death”, of Fairhaven during subsequent economic downturns is illustrated in photos by its many rundown buildings and weed-infested vacant lots scattered throughout the district.  Hunsby then writes of the arrival of a developer who would lead the transformation, or "resurrection”, of this area and breathe new life into the land and the historic buildings. 
 
 
Gordy Twieit 
 
Heart of Fairhaven
 

 

 
Gordy was born in Fairhaven in 1927, and except for a few years at the University of Washington Pharmacy School, and a stint in the Navy in World War II, he spent all of his life in his beloved Fairhaven.  Most of it was at the Fairhaven Pharmacy.  He was part of the tradition of delivery boys becoming pharmacists that began when the pharmacy opinion in 1888.   
 
Gordy owned and operated the Fairhaven Pharmacy from 1962-1991. He also had his museum in the basement of the pharmacy until 2017 when the Pharmacy closed. He enjoyed photography and enjoyed taking photos of community events and children on Halloween.  He was an avid collector and a friend to many in the neighborhood.  Most folks knew that on Friday afternoon, Gordy's museum would be open and he would be thrilled to welcome one and all.
 
 
 

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