Edward Eldridge and Theresa Lapin Eldridge
Edward Eldridge was born in St Andrews,
Scotland in 1828/9. Orphaned at age eleven, Eldridge ran off to sea
at age fourteen and became
a sailor, traveling to America in 1849. After sailing the Great Lakes,
Eldridge headed to San Francisco. There, working alternately
as a miner and a sailor during the height of the gold rush, Eldridge
met Teresa Lapin, who he married in February 1952. Lapin, born in
County Armagh, Ireland, came to America with her sister in 1850, and
had traveled to California while employed as a domestic servant.
During his time in San Francisco, Eldridge established close connections with Whatcom
pioneer and mill owner Henry Roeder. In 1853, at Roeder's request, the Eldridges sailed with their daughter Isabelle to
Bellingham Bay to settle and work at the Roeder-Peabody saw mill on Whatcom Creek. Following their arrival in May 1953,
Edward Eldridge worked in the construction and later the operations of the saw mill. Theresa Eldridge cooked and provided
meals for the mill workers from the Eldridge's first cabin, sited at the future intersection of Clinton and Division streets.
In 1854, the Edward and Theresa acquired tracts of land around the mouth of Squalicum Creek,
where they constructed a new family cabin. Oregon law entitled men who settled in former Oregon Territory between 1850 and
1855 to make donation claims of 160 acres apiece. As a married man, Eldridge was able to stake claims totaling 320 acres.
Shortly after establishment of his land claims, Edward went to work at the Sehome coal mine, and also taught school in
for miners at night.
Theresa Eldridge established a boarding house for men working at the mine. Her boarding house later expanded to became the
Keystone hotel, located at the corner of Laurel and State Streets.
Edward Eldridge soon became actively
involved in local and regional politics. Between 1856 and 1858, Eldridge
served as the first probate judge for Whatcom County. His subsequent
political appointments in Whatcom County included County Commissioner,
County Auditor, County Treasurer and Deputy Collector of Customs.
As a member of the Territorial Legislature, Eldridge served as Speaker
in 1866-67. He was a delegate to the Territorial Convention in Walla
Walla in 1878, and attended the State Constitutional Convention in
Olympia, in 1889. He also led the unsuccessful campaign for women's
suffrage in Washington state.
In addition to his political interests, Eldridge became
a key figure in the commercial and
industrial development of early Bellingham Bay. Besides part-ownership of the Bartlett and Eldridge saw mill (sold to the E.K. Wood Company in 1900), he served as director the Fairhaven and New Whatcom Street Railway Company, Puget Sound Loan,
Trust, & Banking Co, and was president of the Bellingham Bay National Bank, Bellingham Bay Gas Company and Bellingham Bay
& Eastern Railway.
Edward and Theresa Eldridge had four children: Isabelle (1852-1911), Edward Jr (1855-1868), Alice
(ca. 1858-1886) and Hugh (1860-1939). The family home (built in 1862) was burned in 1878,
along with Edward's extensive book collection which had served as an
informal community library. In 1891, the "Eldridge Mansion"
was constructed on Eldridge Avenue, on the bluffs overlooking Squalicum
Creek. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1893 just after
Edward's death in 1892. Theresa died in 1911.
- Jackson, Lelah. Fourth Corner: Highlights from the Early Northwest
- Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Museum of History & Art, 1968, pp. 28-32.
- "Donation Law Helped Settle Bellingham Bay," Bellingham Herald
- Sunday April 26, 1953, p. 10.
- "Edward Eldridge, Pioneer of Beloved Memory," in The Bellingham Herald's
- Chronological and Biographical History of Northwest Washington pp. 23 - 25.
- "High Lumber Price Led to Settlement on Bellingham Bay," Bellingham Herald
- (April 25, 1953), p 7.