Logging and shipping are a big part of the history of Washington State. Much of the state is woodland with a large Pacific coast and many rivers. This history has influenced the past and the present of the small town of Hoquiam.
Before European settlers arrived, the two main tribes that lived in the area that became Grays Harbor County were the Chehalis and the Quinault. Their descendants still live in the area, continuing their tribal traditions and communities to this day.
The first white resident to live in the area was a man named James Karr. Soon after he arrived, Ed Campbell moved to the town, becoming the first postmaster of Hoquiam. Today, his family’s home still exists as the oldest home in town. After James Karr and Ed Campbell, many other people moved to the area, and by 1890 the town had a population of over 1300 people.
The early residents of Grays Harbor made a living primarily from logging. From the 1880′s until the 1930′s, the Northwestern Lumber Company did booming business, employing locals and supporting the economy of the area. Because of the lumber industry, a railroad was finally brought to the town, bringing with it more people and money. The Northwestern Lumber Company was the primary lumber business in town until the Twentieth Century.
The past century and a half has seen hundreds of logging businesses work the local forests. The Polson Logging Company had the greatest impact on the town. Currently, the Polson Museum, operating in the old Polson mansion, teaches visitors about the history of the local logging industry. Exhibits and photographs show the lifestyle of past loggers. The museum has almost 10,000 artifacts concerning local history and the logging industry in the area.
As the rest of the country experienced tough times throughout the Twentieth century, so did Grays Harbor. As a one-industry town, Hoquiam was hurt by the Great Depression and the labor strikes over the years. By the end of the Twentieth Century, logging was on the decline, especially in Grays Harbor. The government placed restrictions on the business due to environmental concerns, therefore causing companies to close and people to be laid off.
However, the locals have found new ways to keep the town vital and busy. The town is home to many tourist draws, such as the Logger’s Playday, the Shorebird Festival, and the Hoquiam Riverfest. These events teach people about the past and about nature. By bringing visitors to the town, the fairs bring business and money to the town. Many historical sites have been restored and provide education and entertainment.
The will and personality of Hoquiam’s community is evident in the town today. The residents are proud of their history and enjoy sharing it with others. They have worked to bring new opportunities and events into the county, showing that lumber is not their greatest resource. That would be the local’s creativity and love for their home.