One of the perks of being a “fifth generation” Whatcom County resident is having the responsibility of protecting a portion of the historical records that have been acquired by our family over the decades.
My great grandfather, Arni S. Myrdal, along with his father; Sigurdsur Sigurdsson, were among the first families to settle at Point Roberts, Washington.
I'm publishing this piece in commemoration of the Whatcom Land Trust’s purchase of Lily Point, a place that I visited often with my great grandfather as a small child. And, in tribute to Arni, who worked hard to protect the environment and especially the Blue Herons that nested in the trees at Point Roberts.
I only knew my great grandfather for a couple of years before he died. He was 93 years old when I met him. But he would be waiting for me every day after school at the school bus stop and we would walk to Lily Point and other parts of Point Roberts so he could teach me about the flora, fauna and history of this unique but tiny corner of the world.
I have in my possession a map of "Squatter’s Claims" in Point Roberts in 1904. For those who are not familiar with the history of Point Roberts, it's important to note that the Point was originally set aside as a military reserve. But it's value was negligible, since it was isolated and more than seven miles away from any other U.S. possession. Eventually, a group of "Squatters" petitioned the President of the United States for Homesteader Rights. My great-great grandfather and my great grandfather were two of the "squatters" who were eventually granted homesteader rights by the U.S. government.
In 1904, the property collectively known as "Lily Point" was listed as the property of Kate Waller, Arni S. Myrdal and S. Sigurdsson, my great, great grandfather. (Our family name in Iceland was Sigurdsson- they adopted the name "Myrdal" when they immigrated to the United States).
Arni Myrdal was the former manager of the Alaska Packers Cannery, which had operated on the site in the early 1900's. It was one of the largest fish canneries ever built on the West Coast.
Point Roberts, the most Northwest portion of the United States, (if we except Alaska), is the Southern point of a peninsula of British Columbia, east of the entrance to the Fraser River and contains about four square miles of land.
Mrs. Kate Waller, arrived in Blaine in 1876, from California and homesteaded 150 acres at Point Roberts. These were the famous fishing grounds established by her deceased husband, Captain John Waller.
Captain Henry Roeder, who had much fish trapping experience on Lake Erie and at Sacramento instructed John Waller as to the construction of fish traps. Later, this trap location was sold for $25,000.00, an enormous price for that period of history, but a most profitable investment for the purchasers, as many hundreds of thousands of dollars of Salmon had been harvested there.
Drysdale's Semiahmoo Cannery put up a fair pack in 1892, and in January of 1893, A.E. Wadhams commenced work on a similar cannery at Point Roberts, where Drysdale had located and was establishing fish traps. Joseph Goodfellow constructed the trap and L.D. Pike operated the two traps. By March, W.A. Wooding's Fairhaven Mill shipped 100,000 feet of lumber for the Wadham's Cannery. In June, a lawsuit was filed challenging Kate Waller's riparian (shoreline rights), but the State Lands Commissioner found in her favor, and the other Point Roberts fisheries had to observe the fish trap license law. (Lottie Roeder Roth, ed., History of Whatcom County, Vol. I, pg. 662). During the 1930's fish traps were outlawed by Initiative 77, for fish population depletion reasons.
Arni Myrdal was also one of the founding members of the Washington State Audubon Society and worked hard throughout his life to preserve the Blue Heron population at Point Roberts. He was still participating in Audubon bird counts at the age of 95. My mother (Lily) was raised by Arni and Sara, my great grandfather and great grandmother. She was the first born of eight children, and arrived just in time for the great depression. Her parents (my grand parents) could not afford to raise her, so they left her with my great grandparents.
So, here's a bit of history regarding the leasing rights for the Cannery located at Lily Point.
Kate Waller to Edmund A. Wadhams Lease.
This indenture, made duplicate this 17th day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two between Kate Waller, of Whatcom County Washington, party of the first part and Edmund A. Wadhams, party of the second part, --
Witnesseth: That the said party of the first part in consideration of the rents, covenants and agreements hereinafter reserved and contained by the said party of the second part to be paid, kept and performed has demised and let and by these presents does demise and let unto the said party of the second part all that certain lot, price or parcel of land situate and lying in the said County of Whatcom, and the State of Washington and described as follows, to wit: Lots One (1) and two(2) of Section One (1) and lots two(2) and Three (3) of Section 12 (12) in Township numbered forty (40) North of Range Three (3) west, containing One Hundred and Thirty-seven and three quarters (137 ¾) acres of land more or less, together with the tide flats, timber growing thereon for fuel and building purposes, including the right to use the same for building wharves, docks, ware-houses and cannery, the rights thereon, and the exclusive rights of all fishing privileges and that may beholden by the party of the first part, by reason of the ownership of all the shore line of said premises and all riparian and littoral rights whatever belonging and appurtenant to said lands, including the right to drive piles and make other improvements in front of said premises, to Have and to Hold unto the said party of the second part, for and during and until the full end and term of ten (10) years commencing on the first day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety three and then next ensuing: yielding and paying therefore unto the said party of the first part or her legal representatives, the yearly rent or the sum of Twelve Hundred Dollars ($1,200) payable semi-annually in advance, that is to say the sum of the Six hundred dollars ($600.00) to be paid on the first day of July A.D 1893 and a like sum of Six hundred dollars to be paid on the first day of January and the first day of July of each and every year thereafter until the said term shall be fully complete and ended.
And it is mutually covenanted and agreed by and between the parties to these presents, for themselves and their respective heirs, executors and assigns as follows: That in case said party of the second part should erect any buildings or structures upon said premises, during the life of said lease, that, at the determination of this lease, the party of the first part, her heirs, or assigns shall pay the reasonable value of the improvements by him erected, and which shall be then remaining upon said premises, such valuation to be determined and ascertained by arbitration: each party to choose a disinterested person to estimate the value of said buildings or structures and adjust a fair and proper value thereon, and in case said persons can not agree upon such valuation, then the two arbitrators so appointed shall then appoint a third person whose decision shall fix and determine the same and shall bind all parties: said arbitration to be at the mutual expense of both parties.
And, it is mutually covenanted and agreed by and between the parties to these presents, for themselves and their representatives, heirs, executors or assigns that the party of the first part shall pay all taxes, charges and impositions, whatever on said real estate, above described and that the party of the second part, shall pay all taxes, charges and impositions, whatever on said real estate, above described and that the party of the second part, shall pay all taxes, charges and impositions upon improvements by his representatives, heirs, executors or assigns shall erect or cause to be erected upon said premises, and the said party of the second part in consideration of the premises, and of One dollar paid to him by said party of the first part, the receipt by whereof is hereby acknowledged, hereby covenants, promises and agrees to and with the said party of the first part, her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns to take said premises for the term aforesaid and pay the said rent therefore at the times and in the manner herein before specified for the payment thereof, and at the expiration of said term to quit, surrender and yield up said premises to said party of the first part or her legal representatives and further that if default be made in the payment of said rent or in any of the terms and covenants and conditions herein contained by the party of the second part, to be kept and performed, then it shall be lawful and competent for the said party of the first part or for her legal representatives at her will and option, without any legal process or warrant t re-enter upon and take possession of said premises, the same to have again, repossess and enjoy as in her first due former estate: and if said payments or any of them herein provided for, should be behind hand, or remain unpaid, for the period of thirty days after written notice by the party of the first part to the party of the second part, addressed to the premises herein before described from the days or times above mentioned, for the payment thereof, then the party of the first part, her heirs, administrators, executors or assigns shall not beholden to purchase the buildings, or structures heretofore mentioned to be erected by the party of the second part and the covenants and conditions of this lease shall become void: but without thereby excluding her or her representatives from the right to recover any other or further damages sustained by reason of such default, and the said party of the second part further covenants and agrees as aforesaid, that the said party of the first part, or her children, shall during the occupancy of the said premises by the party of the second part have the right to reside upon, build a house or houses, barns or barnees thereon or to occupy the house, now thereon, and the improvements thereon and to cultivate said premises and to maintain stock thereon in such a manner as will not interfere in or with the conducting of any business carried on by the party of the second part, or with the exclusive right of the party of the second part to conduct business thereon, it being expressly understood that the right herein reserved to said first party and her children to reside upon, improve and cultivate said premises does not extend to the use of said premises or any part thereof by said first party or her children, or any of them, for any business of any kind as one of the principals, save as hereinbefore mentioned in their right to cultivate said premises and to raise stock thereon, the principal considerations upon which said second party takes the lease of said premises is that said party of the second part secures the exclusive right to all of said premises for any business he may determine to conduct thereon, or in front thereof, save and except that said second party is expressly forbidden to maintain upon said premises for the sale or exchange of spirituous liquors, or the maintenance of any other disreputable business.
To have and to hold said premises unto the said party of the second part and to his heirs and assigns during the continuance of this lease, Signed and Sealed in duplicate this 17th day of December A.D. 1892.
Signed and Sealed and Delivered in presence of F.D. Cleaves, State of Washington, County of King, as this is to Certify that on this 17th day of December A.D. 892, before me Paul d”Heirrys, a Notary Public in and for the State of Washington, King County, personally appeared Kate Waller and Edmund A Wadhams to me known to be the persons described in and who executed the foregoing instrument and they each for themselves acknowledged to me that they signed and sealed the same freely and voluntarily for the uses and purposes therein mentioned, subscribed and sworn to before me this 17th day of December A.D. 1892, “To Secure Homesteads to Actual Settlers on the Public Domain,” and the acts supplemental thereto, the claim of Horace Brewster has been established and duly consummated, in conformity to law, for the lots numbered two, three and four of Section Four, and the South West quarter of the South West quarter of Section three and four of Section four, and the South West quarter of the South West quarter of Section 3 in Township forty, north of Range three West of Willamette Meridian, in Washington, containing One hundred and Seventy five acres, and twenty five hundredths of an acre, according to the Official Plat of the Survey of the said land, returned to the General Land Office by the Surveyor General:
NOW KNOW YE, that there is, therefore, granted by the United States unto the said Horace Brewster the tract of land above described.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said tract of land, with the appurtances thereof, unto the said Horace Brewster and to his heirs and assigns, forever; subject to any vested and accrued water rights for mining, agricultural, manufacturing or other purposes, and rights to ditches and reservoirs used in connection with such water rights, as may be recognized and acknowledged by the local customs, laws and decisions of Courts, and also subject to the right of the proprietor of a vein, or lode, to extract and remove his ore therefrom, should the same be found to penetrate or intersect the premises hereby granted, as provided by law, and there is reserved from the lands hereby granted a right of way therein for ditches or canals, constructed by the authority of the United States.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States of America, have caused these letters to be made Patent, and the Seal of the General Land Office to be hereunto affixed.
Given under my hand, at the City of Washington, the Third day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety two, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and seventeenth.
Seal of the United States BY THE PRESIDENT: Benjamin Harrison,
General Land Office E. Mcfarland Ass’t Secretary
Recorder of the General Land Office
Filed for Record at 11:30 o’clock a.m., January 31st, A.D. 1893 and recorded at the request of Ed L. Collier, Auditor and Recorder of Whatcom County, Washington.
The Homestead Certificates are as follows:
Patent: Kate Waller
Patent Number 38924
Homestead Certificate N0. 4390
Lots numbered one and two of Section one, and the lots numbered two and three of Section 12 in Township forty north of Range three West of Willamette Meridian in Washington, containing one hundred thirty seven acres and seventy-five hundredths of an acre,
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, etc, Kate Waller and her heirs, and assigns, etc.
There are additional Homestead Certificates attached and signed by Grover Cleveland and J.H. McGrau, Governor.
The University of Washington has archived photos at this location: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/results.php?CISOOP1=any&CISOFIELD1=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOROOT=/cobb&CISOBOX1=Point&CISOSORT=subjecf