Stanwood, Washington
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History of Stanwood, Washington

Stanwood is located in the northeastern corner of Snohomish County in western Washington. It was established at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River.

Prior to the arrival of the settlers from the eastern U. S. and Europe, the Stanwood area was the home of Native Americans primarily of the Stillaguamish and Skagit Tribes.

In the late 1850's settlers arrived in the area via Utsalady located on the north end of Camano Island. Logging activity provided lumber and spars for the national and international trade. The mill owners, Grennan & Cranney, were successful until 1876, when cargo and funds were lost in a shipwreck. The Puget Mill Company took over the until it closed for good in 1891.

Meanwhile, when the telegraph went through Port Susan (now Warm Beach) in 1864, the first logging camps and farms were being established around a trading post named Florence on the Stillaguamish River. Another trading post named Centreville was established on the south pass of the river. The tidelands and marshes of the river delta were diked and settlers moved inland.

The Centerville trading post and hotel moved from South Pass to locate just above the fork in the river. In 1877 its Post Office was renamed Stanwood.

After a brief rivalry with Florence in the 1880's as a trading center, Stanwood became the largest community because it was located at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River. It had two lumber mills and canneries.

Meanwhile settlers established several other small but thriving communities with their own stores, churches and schools: Silvana, Norman, Cedarhome, Milltown, Warm Beach, Victoria, Village, Woodland, Freeborn and Happy Valley. Farmers sold their oats, hay and shingles for cash.

In the late 1890’s, the area was one of the largest settlements of Norwegian immigrants in the West. The Great Northern R. R. (originally known as the Seattle & Montana R. R.) arrived in 1891 changing the focus of transportation to land and diverting it from the steamboats. A new community grew up around the depot one mile east of Stanwood's wharf, called East Stanwood. It established its own cooperative store and milk condensery and was platted in 1906. It was incorporated in 1922.

From 1904 to the 1930’s, the two towns were connected by the H & H Railroad, a streetcar with freight cars for carrying lumber from the two mills on the river.

In 1909 a bridge replaced a horse ferry and connected Camano Island to Stanwood. Camano Island was sparcely populated for many years. There were no "towns" but the small communities of Camano City and Mabana continued as small steamboat stops until the 1930's with logging activities, small farms and schools. In the 1920's auto camps were started for tourists followed by more elaborate resorts that rented fishing boats and cabins.

The Stanwood area’s original dependence on water transportation is hardly noticeable a century later. In 1960, the costs of sewage treatment, schools and other public works finally forced consolidation of Stanwood and East Stanwood. It is, however, still an agriculturally based community and until recently has been out of the main stream of urban expansion spreading from Seattle.

For more information, visit the Stanwood Area Historical Society.

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