This article is full of mistaken assumptions, a lesson waiting for recovery beneath the ice of ignorance. For instance, I always assumed that Stevens Pass was named by good old George McClellan, as if he took time out from his trout fishing ever to really explore ways to get across the Cascades when Washington Territory’s first governor (and railroad route scout), Isaac Stevens, ordered him into them hills to locate a pass for a railroad to use. (By the way, if you’re interested in what the fishing was like around Yakima in the 1850s, McClellan’s journal will tell you. McClellan never got far. He glanced at the frowning cliffs above the Tieton River and turned around, reporting that a pass didn’t exist.) I started the article by claiming that a plaque memorialized the Reverend James M. Thomson in the basement Scout Room of St. James Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, Washington. But in a fact checking expedition this weekend, I discovered that I was mistaken: no such plaque exists. Now, I wonder why.
A grainy portrait of Reverend James M. Thomson was found in the 1909 history of the local Presbyterian Synod.
James Thomson was not a Boy Scout, and the Stevens for whom the pass was named was a railroad surveyor working for entrepreneur James J. Hill, whose Great Northern Railroad fearlessly scraped out a series of switchbacks on the faces of seemingly impassible peaks. A bit of fear might have been in order. Continue reading
Posted in Bellingham, History, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Washington, World War I
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