The Eldridge Family:
Edward Eldridge (1829-1892)
Edward Eldridge was born December 7, 1829
at St. Andrews, Fifeshire, Scotland. He was orphaned at an early age, and
was raised by his grandparents. At the age of eleven, Eldridge ran away
from home and went to sea, where he became a sailor and visited many
foreign lands. At one time, Eldridge had signed on with Dr. Sir John
Franklin’s expedition in search of the North Pole, but he was in the
hospital when the fleet sailed away, never to return. In 1846, at the age
of seventeen, Eldridge made his first trip to America, as a crew member of
a vessel carrying mahogany from Honduras.
During this voyage Eldridge was nearly declared dead and
buried at sea after he was struck by a load of mahogany. He was initially
thought killed, but a visiting captain examined the corpse and had his
steward save Eldridge’s life.
Eldridge immigrated to America, and became a sailor on the
Great Lakes. Eldridge first met Captain Henry Roeder while sailing
Lake Erie. Not too long after the encounter, Eldridge returned to the high
In October, 1849, Eldridge was aboard the vessel
Tonquin when it put into port at San Francisco. He jumped ship, and
spent a year in the gold fields. Eldridge’s attempts at making a fortune
failed, and after a year he returned yet again to the high seas, signing
on as second mate of the Tennessee of the Pacific Mail line, in
coast service between San Francisco and Panama.
During one of those voyages, Eldridge met Teresa
Lappin. Teresa Lappin was born on June 24, 1832 in County Armagh,
Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1850, during the Great
Potato famine. In 1851, Teresa joined a group of young women going to
California, with passage by boat via the Isthmus of Panama. Eldridge and
Teresa were married in California in February, 1852.
At the end of his trip up the Pacific coast, Eldridge
went to the gold fields at Yreka, California, but once again had no luck.
The couple, along with their infant daughter, Isabella, born in 1852, had
planned on settling in Australia when Eldridge ran into Captain Henry
Roeder in San Francisco. Roeder persuaded Eldridge to join him in timber
development in Bellingham Bay.
In May, 1853, Eldridge and his family moved to Whatcom. The
Eldridges originally lived in a tiny log cabin by the falls. Teresa
Eldridge was the first white woman in Whatcom, and Isabella was the first
white child. Eldridge made a donation claim of 320 acres of land adjoining
the claim of Captain Roeder’s, and fronting on the bay. They soon moved to
a new cabin built on their donation claim on Squalicum Creek.
In May, 1855, Edward Eldridge left the employ of the mill to
become a miner at the Sehome Coal Mine, as well as being a schoolteacher
at Sehome. Teresa ran a boarding house for the miners, which grew into the
Keystone Hotel, at the present-day corner of State and Laurel streets.
Teresa was joined that year by Mrs. Charles E. Roberts, the second white
woman in Whatcom.
In July, 1856, Edward Eldridge was elected the first probate
judge in Whatcom County, serving until 1858. In 1862-63, Eldridge served
as justice for Whatcom Precinct.
Eldridge was quite active politically. He considered himself
a Democrat until the firing on Fort Sumter, after which he became a
Republican. From 1864-66 and 1883-84, Eldridge was a member of the board
of county commissioners. He served as county auditor from 1866-68. In
1874, Eldridge was elected county treasurer while running as an
independent. He ran as a Republican for re-election in 1876, but he lost
to Charles Donovan by five votes.
Eldridge was one of the first men in Washington State to
strongly advocate women’s suffrage, and made many speeches on that
particular issue. He was a member of the Territorial legislature, serving
as speaker of the house in 1866-67. In 1878, he was a delegate at large at
the territorial constitutional convention at Walla Walla. In 1889,
Eldridge was a member of the state constitutional convention at Olympia,
and in 1892, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in
Minneapolis. Eldridge also served as deputy collector of customs.
Additionally, on February, 7, 1889, the Bellingham Bay National Bank of
Sehome was chartered, with Edward Eldridge as vice president. Before his
death he was made president.
His eldest daughter, Isabella Eldridge, began teaching
school, near Maple and Cornwall streets, at the age of sixteen, teaching
there until 1874. She also taught at the Sehome School in 1877.
The Eldridge’s second daughter, Alice Eldridge, also was an
early schoolteacher, teaching at the Nooksack District School shortly
after it opened in June, 1874. In 1876, Alice was the first school teacher
in Ferndale. Alice named the community after the luxuriance of fern growth
near the new log schoolhouse.
In 1862, Edward Eldridge built a house on the bluff at
Squalicum Creek. This house burned down on April 25, 1878, while Eldridge
was in Walla Walla. His wife and daughter Isabella were at home, but escaped uninjured. Nothing
except for a few articles of furniture were saved. In 1891, Eldridge built
a luxurious Victorian mansion on the same spot as the earlier house. This
house was thought to be the grandest in town at the time. This too burned
down, in a forest fire in August, 1894, two years after Edward’s death.
On October 12, 1892, Edward Eldridge died of paresis.
Funeral services were at the Eldridge mansion, and were reported as being
the most largely attended in the history of the county to that time. At
the time of his death, Eldridge was president of the Bellingham National
Bank, Bellingham Bay Gas Company, Bellingham Bay Land Company, Bellingham
Bay & Eastern Railway Company, Bellingham Bay Water Company, and a
director of the Fairhaven & New Whatcom Street Railway Company, and of
the Puget Sound Loan, Trust & Banking Company.
Edward and Teresa Eldridge had four children, Isabella, born
in 1852 in Yreka, California, married to Mr. J. J. Edens, and died on May
11, 1911; Alice, born in 1853, married to James Gilligan of Skagit County,
having two daughters of her own before dying February 4, 1886; Edward
Eldridge, Jr., born August 1855, and killed after shooting himself
accidentally while on a boat on the Whatcom waterfront in October, 1868;
and Hugh, born December 14, 1860.
Hugh Eldridge (1860-1939)
Hugh Eldridge was born December 14, 1860, roughly at the
present day corner of State and Laurel streets. As a boy, Hugh loved to
hang around Dan Harris, legendary founder of Fairhaven, and listen to his
stories of adventure.
In 1886, Hugh Eldridge was elected county auditor, the same
job his father once had, beating Charles Donovan. He served as county
auditor from 1886 to January 1891.
In January, 1891, Hugh Eldridge was an organizer of the
Fairhaven & New Whatcom Street Railway Company, and was its first
president, serving until 1895.
The job most associated with Hugh Eldridge was postmaster.
He was first appointed by William McKinley in 1898, serving until 1916,
and again serving as postmaster from 1921 to 1934.
Hugh Eldridge lived in a house on the site of his father’s
two previous mansions. On March 31, 1907, this home was destroyed in a
forest fire. Eldridge and his wife escaped without injury, but only a few
articles were saved from the fire. It was the fourth fire suffered by the
Eldridge family since 1878.
The Hugh Eldridge Mansion was built in 1926 at 2915 Eldridge
Avenue, on the site of his father’s two previous mansions. The mansion, a
French Chateauesque design, was owned by Hugh until his death in 1939,
then owned by Hugh’s nephew, H. Eldridge Carr. The house is listed on the
National Historic Registry.
Hugh Eldridge married Dellisca J. Bowers on February 23,
1893. Dellisca was formerly chair of language and drawing at the Normal
School in Lynden in 1888. She died in 1910. On June 24, 1922, Hugh married
a second time, to Mrs. Clara Burleigh, widow of Walter A. Burleigh of
Seattle. There were no children in either marriage. Hugh Eldridge died at
the age of 79 on December 11, 1939.
Edward Eldridge and his
Numerous members of the Eldridge family are buried in the
family plot not too far from the Roeder Monument, in Bay View Cemetery, in
Archival Sources located in the archives of the Whatcom
Museum of History & Art.
Bellingham Herald, October 27, 1906.
Edson, Lelah Jackson. The Fourth Corner (Bellingham,
"Eldridge Home is Destroyed by Fire" Bellingham
Herald April 1, 1907.
Murray, Keith A. The Story of Banking in Whatcom
County (no publishing data, 1954)
Roth, Lottie. History of Whatcom County (Seattle:
Pioneer Historical Publishing Co., 1926)