Edward Merton Wilson
Fairhaven Business Partner
Wilson at 604 Harris Avenue
Office of Fairhaven Land Company - 1905
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.
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E. M. Wilson’s background can be described as two variations on a theme, the documented version and the sanitized version. It has been documented that his father, Edward Augustus Wilson, was arrested for his involvement in the Patriots Rebellion of 1838 in Upper Canada and shipped off to a penal colony in Tasmania. He married Mary Ann Sly of Hobart, Tasmania, on November 4, 1844. E.A. Wilson was soon pardoned, and he and his wife sailed to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) where their daughter was born. Their eldest son, Edward Merton Wilson, was also born here in 1846, prior to the family relocating to Oregon.
The sanitized version describes the father as wanting to see "the wonders of the world abroad”, sailing to many countries before landing in Australia and marrying his second wife, the woman who would become the mother of his children. Instead of being born in Hawaii in 1846, E.M. Wilson claims to have been born November 5, 1847 in Oregon City, Oregon.
|In addition to this modification of his life story, Wilson was very successful in his many business activities. In Utah, he was in the newspaper business as an anti-Mormon advocate. In Idaho and Montana, he became involved in mining and merchandising while active in Republican politics as a member of the Idaho Territorial Legislature. In the mid-1880s, Wilson established his connection with Nelson Bennett and became instrumental in managing a large part of Nelson’s railroad contracts. This involvement led him to Washington Territory where he purchased large blocks of real estate in Tacoma and Olympia before being summoned by Bennett to Bellingham Bay. || |
Full photo of Wilson at FLC Office
In February 1888, Wilson and E.L. Cowgill began an examination of Bennett’s railroad and mining operations and other development possibilities between Seattle and the Canadian border.
E.M. Wilson settled in Fairhaven in September of 1889, becoming involved in various financial ventures and soon also becoming a leader in the civic and social life of this growing community, including his year as mayor of Fairhaven.
In 1893, Wilson married Kathryn North of Wisconsin and brought her to his handsome residence at 15th Street and Knox Avenue. In the yard of his home, in 1904, Wilson erected the flagpole that had been standing next to the hotel built by Dirty Dan Harris at 4th Street and Harris Avenue that Harris had dedicated to President Grover Cleveland. Wilson re-christened the flag in honor of President Roosevelt after moving it. Both the house and the flagpole have since been torn down.
Edward M. Wilson died at his home in August, 1915, and his body was sent to Seattle for cremation. His virtues were extolled in a laudatory obituary published in the August 31, 1915 issue of the Bellingham Herald, outlining his many contributions to the birth and development of this community.