EDMUND C. FITZHUGH
Lottie Roeder Roth, "Edmund C. Fitzhugh and the Sehome Mine," History of Whatcom County. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926. Volume one, pages 37-39.
The land upon which this coal was discovered was filed on as a Donation Claim by Captain W. H. Fauntleroy, commander of the steamer Massachusetts, the supply ship of the coast survey to prospect the coast in anticipation of the building of transcontinental railways and which was a part of the Pacific railway coast survey. This survey was made in 1853 and many of the names in the local history of the Sound found their origin in this expedition.
The record of the transaction is not entirely clear, but it would appear to have involved two deals, one the sale of the coal claim by Brown, Hewitt and Roeder, and the other the sale of the land upon which it was located and which had been filed on Captain Fauntleroy. On June 10, 1854, a quit claim deed was recorded as given by Fauntleroy to E. C. Fitzhugh, by which, in consideration of 500 shares in the Bellingham Bay Coal Company Fauntleroy transferred his claim on Bellingham Bay to the company on condition that "the said Fitzhugh shall have obtained possession of the same in a legal way prior to this date."
This deed was dated March 2, 1854, and on May 1, 1854, Fitzhugh, in consideration of stock, gave the Bellingham Bay Coal Company the right to mine for coal on his claim. In 1855, Charles C. Vail sold his claim, bounded on the north by the Fitzhugh claim and on the south by the Pattle claim, to Fitzhugh, agent; the consideration being $500.
As superintendent of the coal mine which was the largest employer of labor in the entire Northwest Edmund Clare Fitzhugh at once became the most important man in the community. He was the head of the mine and of the company store which was soon established. He was county auditor, Indian conimissioner, and, under Buchanan, served four years as United States District judge.
Fitzhugh was typical of the adventurous, high-strung Virginia gentleman in the days before the Civil war. A born fighter, quick to take offense, absolutely without fear, something of a roisterer, imperious and self-willed, following his code of honor without thought of consequences, but withal a man of superior intellect and many kindly impulses.
Generous, hospitable, impulsive, self-indulgent, honest and brave; Virginia never sent a more typical example of its chivalry into the Northwest than Edmund Clare Fitzhugh.
He had a history of high adventure before coming to Bellingham Bay. He was a pioneer of California, in 1849, when he formed a law partnership with Edmund Randolph and A. P. Crittenden, who was afterwards killed by Laura D. Fair. Fitzhugh was one of the seconds for Judge Perry in the famous duel at San Francisco in which Broderick was killed, and it may be that he was glad to leave the turmoil of San Francisco for the quiet of Bellingham Bay.
Here he showed his fighting qualities during the San Juan episode and his judicial ability was evidenced in his work for the Indians and as a judge. With the opening of the Civil war, Fitzhugh, as well as Pickett, felt first allegiance to his state rather than to his country, and he was a Major in the Confederate army.
While living here he married a daughter of chief Sehome and three children were born to them. He remained in Virginia after the close of the Civil war, was married there, and served for four years in the legislature of his native state, being one of the chief figures in the exciting session when R. T. Hunter was elected to the United States Senate.
His next residence was in Iowa, but in 1879 he left his wife and children, and in his old age returned to the scene of his early adventures in San Francisco. Poverty and dissipation clouded the last years of his once brilliant career and on the morning of November 24, 1883, his lifeless body was found in his room at the What Cheer hotel, death being caused by apoplexy.
The mill was a losing venture almost from the start. Captain Roeder who came to make this his chief interest soon returned to his first love; the love of the sea. He was never happier than when he trod the deck of a ship he could call his own. He carried the timber to market, brought back the supplies needful to the little colony and became one of the best known men in the entire region of Puget Sound.
In return he knew all the waters of the Sound and all its shores and islands and all its people. He was the messenger, the friend and counsellor of all the settlers over a wide area, and as the years passed his interests grew to include lands on Whidbey, Vendovi and other islands, a store and hotel in the Caribou country of British Columbia, and his shipping interests as well as his holdings in Whatcom County.
Lottie Roeder Roth, "Edmund C. Fitzhugh and the Sehome Mine," History of Whatcom County. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926. Volume one pages 37-39.