Pioneer Headquarters Building was constructed at Pioneer Park in 1925. The building houses the office for the Ferndale Heritage Society and the Old Settler’s Association. It also serves as the registration booth for the annual Old Settlers Picnic.
Pioneer Park Cabins
Pioneer Park was created from 4 acres of uncut Western Red Cedar trees purchased by the Whatcom Old Settlers Association in 1901 for the purpose of holding its annual pioneer picnic, a continuing tradition that is today considered one of the oldest celebrations of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. In 1925, a dance hall building and a headquarters building were constructed at the entrance to the park. With an interest in preserving local pioneer history, the Old Settlers Association has gradually moved abandoned pioneer structures to the park beginning in 1935. The slab cedar houses at Pioneer Park, built in the late 1800s, have all been relocated here from their original sites of construction at various locations around Whatcom County. Today these preserved cabins are the most important assemblage of this distinctive regional style of rustic pioneer architecture.
On June 1, 1972, the Old Settlers Association turned the property over to the City of Ferndale to be operated as a public park. In 1993, the Ferndale Heritage Society was formed to assist in managing the cabins and opening them to the public. In 1999, the park was placed on the Washington State Heritage Register. The following descriptions of the pioneer park cabins are excerpts of information compiled by Bob Nelson for the website www.whatcomoldsettlers.com, which has extensive additional information.
Congregational Church was built in 1876 on California Creek, close to the corner of Loomis Trail Road near Blaine. This was the first church built in Whatcom County. In his 80th year, the Reverend W.M. Stewart visited his son in Whatcom County and quickly decided to move here and build a church. He had led an active life. From 1914 to 1955, the Tom Snow family lived in the Church. It was moved to Pioneer Park in 1968 under the sponsorship of Elmer and Edna Pike. Meetings are still held in the church from spring to fall and it is growing as a popular location for small weddings.
The Granary was built by John Gischer in 1887 on Marine Drive in Birch Bay. Gischer was one of the earliest settlers of the Birch Bay area. It was moved to Pioneer Park in the 1970s. The building was originally intended to be a house but ended up as a granary and now holds many of the tools that Mr. Gischer used on his homestead.
One of the earliest dragsaws manufactured in Bellingham is displayed in the Granary. These types of saws were designed to be drug from tree to tree by the sheer will of the operator. The large red dragsaw on the west wall had a sign on the underside, whereon the company that manufactured it in 1846 boasted that this was the ultimate invention for sawing wood and couldn’t be matched.
An early grain fanning mill constructed of crabapple wood by Mr. Gischer in 1872 or 1873 and more modern grain fanning mill run by stationary engine or tractor are located in the back of the building.
Foster House, originally constructed in 1895 near Squalicum Lake, was the first cabin moved to Pioneer Park in 1935. It was a somewhat crude example of split-cedar log house construction, but its 24-inch thick log walls and two-story height amply demonstrated the general size of regional pioneer log houses.
The Foster House was donated by D. Ross and moved by long time Old Settler Association member William Scrimsher. The building was dismantled, carried to the park as a log truckload and reassembled into a dovetailed pen on a slab concrete pad. A new frame roof and cedar shingles were added. The successful reconstruction of the Foster House displayed the possibility of saving the buildings in a meaningful way.
Today, the Foster House is filled with photographs, letters and other reminders of the past including a handmade license plate, shovel-nosed canoe, a plank from one of the plank roads and a bell from the Ferndale Nooksack River ferry crossing (prior to any bridges).
Shields House was built on the Old Guide Road south of Wiser Lake in 1885. It was the second building moved to Pioneer Park in 1950 by the Whatcom Old Settlers Association. The two-story Shields house is a monument to craftsmanship of the early pioneers and specifically to Conrad Shields who constructed the house.
Cedar trees were cut down, bucked into the proper lengths, and pulled by three ox teams belonging to Shields and his neighbors. Each log, some thirty feet long were split and mortised and dovetailed so precisely that no nails are needed to hold them together. Weather boarding came from the old Shelter mill on Deer Creek, and the inside ceiling and wall lumber was hand split, hand dressed and tongue and grooved by hand until it looked like the millwork.
The house is furnished as it may have been years ago. The wicker lamp in the parlor dates to the 1920s and the wallpaper is thought to be from the 1940s. The dress displayed on the mannequin inside the house belonged to Mrs. Cora Shields.
Parker House was built in 1879 across the river from Pioneer Park and was one of East Ferndale's original buildings. According to George LaBounty, who later bought the house, Eugene Parker lived in the house for 52 years. During 1882-83 it served as Charlie Dowden’s Hotel and was frequently filled to overflowing with incoming, land hungry, settlers who slept on mattresses put down on the floor.
This house was donated to the Whatcom County Parks Department by owner Dr. Greg Harvey in 1974 and was stored at Hovander Homestead Park for some time. It was completely dismantled in 1979 and moved to Pioneer Park sans any photos, plans or system of numbering the pieces. Fortunately, Fred Sutcliffe the City of Ferndale’s Parks Maintenance Supervisor could remember exactly how the building looked and reassembled the building over a period of a month.
The Parker House is set up as a country store, which at one time it was. Pioneers often set up a store in the corner of their house, sometimes just a few shelves, selling whatever was surplus amongst their own supplies. Freight came infrequently and it behooved the prudent to order as much as they could afford at one time.
Grandview Rogers House was built in 1877 across the Nooksack River from Ferndale. LeRoy Rogers later moved the house to Portal Way and Grandview. It was also used as a dance hall and hotel. John Young purchased the building in 1952 from Charles Cowden and sold it later to Al Jensen. The house was to be burned down in the 1970s. Pioneer Park was given one week to get it moved off of the property or it would have burned.
There were three separate, unrelated sets of Rogers brothers among the early settlers -- one at Blaine, Everson and Ferndale. According to Jeffcott, in 1881 when Arthur Rogers first arrived, just three log buildings existed in all of east Ferndale.
The Grandview Rogers House currently functions as a Veteran’s Museum, displaying uniforms and military memorabilia donated by a variety of local veterans. The two W.W.II Japanese flags on display are one of the most interesting exhibits. A local man married a Japanese woman who was so impressed with the Ferndale Pumpkin Growing Contest she sent some pumpkin seeds home to Japan. Eventually, a group of friends and relatives from Japan visited Pioneer Park. While they were being shown the buildings, they walked into the Veterans Museum and were visibly shaken by the two flags, especially the one signed by their countrymen. It was their belief that the spirits of the men who signed the flag will never be at rest until the flag is returned, yet on the other hand, the museum had been entrusted to keep the captured flag at the park in Ferndale. Through some often delicate and diplomatic negotiations, the flags remain as artifacts in the park. The hometown of the signatories of the flags has since become a sister City of Ferndale.
Van Buren Post Office, circa. 1879, was originally located on Van Buren Road. It was first established as a post office 3 miles north of Everson on the Milwaukee Rail Road on October 2, 1891. It served as a post office until November 14, 1918. The post office had four postmasters during its history: William Van Buren, Andrew Kirkman, Allen Holstein, and Mary Acikinson.
It was later moved to Berthusen Park in Lynden and, in 1994, was brought to Pioneer Park in pieces. Local Eagle Scouts and the City of Ferndale Park Maintenance Supervisor reassembled the building.
Because there is already a post office in the park, the Van Buren has been renovated and deemed the "First National Bank of Ferndale". Early banking artifacts are on display.
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