History of Sekiu & Clallam Bay
The first inhabitants of the North Olympic Peninsula arrived in the area that was to become Clallam County more than 12,000 years ago. Many scientists believe that they crossed an ice age land bridge, which connected the European continent with the North American continent.
It has been estimated that by the late 1700's, the Native American population numbered over 4,000 individuals. This population included over 2,000 members of the S'Klallam tribe ("Clallam" is said to mean "big, brave nation") living in 17 coastal villages spread from Discovery Bay to Clallam Bay. The Makahs and Ozettes numbered more than 2,000 individuals in villages near Neah Bay and Lake Ozette. The 2000 census found 3,303 Native Americans residing within Clallam County. Many live on reservations which were established in the l850's.
In 1592, if early reports may be believed, a Spanish expedition was led by a Greek navigator named Apostolos Valerianus, better known as Juan de Fuca. He believed the straits to be the long sought "Straits of Anian". It was not until 1787, 195 years after Juan de Fuca's voyage, that Captain Charles William Barclay, an Englishman, rediscovered the straits and called it the Strait of Juan de Fuca in honor of its alleged founder.
The Spaniards laid claim to the Pacific Northwest by establishing the first short-lived European settlement at Neah Bay in 1792. In 1800, Spain relinquished all of its enormous claims throughout the New World, including the colony at Neah Bay.
The Olympic Peninsula joined the United States as part of the Oregon Territory in the early 1800's. Scandinavian immigrants settled the Lake Ozette area in 1890. When the area was included in the original Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897, most of the settlers left the area. Although a rush of timber claims resettled the community when the Reserve was reopened in 1900, interest faded and homesteads were deserted again.
West Clallam, now Sekiu (which means "quiet waters"), was founded in 1870 by owners of a salmon cannery before any white settlers had come into the area. In 1889, the California Tanning Company set up the only west coast distilling plant making a leather tanning extract from hemlock bark. The company required hundreds of workers. The extract was shipped in barrels made in Clallam Bay.
East Clallam (officially renamed Clallam Bay in 1920) was a mill town when it was founded in 1890. During the boom that followed, the Clallam Bay Record, the local newspaper, was established. Two years later the mill burned down. Following the fire, the main industry became the barrels for the tanning extract. When the extract became useless due to the development of a newer tanning process, both towns were devastated. The community recovered gradually through the advent of commercial and sport fishing and logging.
In 1892, East Clallam was the starting point for the first road from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Forks prairie.
D.A. Robertson started a logging operation in this area in 1902. He built several miles of railroad and what was at the time the longest railroad bridge in the world. The 808 foot long, 202 foot high bridge, over which logs were skidded on grease, spanned Charlie Creek.
Clallam Bay was a regular stop for the Mosquito Fleet, a group of passenger and freight steamers plying the coast. The lighthouse at Slip Point was lighted on April Fool's Day in 1905. The steamer Alice Gertrude, built in 1898 in Tacoma, sank off the shores of East Clallam in a winter blizzard in January of 1907.
For a short time, there was a coal mine half way between Clallam Bay and Pysht. It lasted four or five years, but did not produce a successful quality or quantity of coal and was closed.
Sekiu grew and by 1918-1920 a school, a cemetery, saloons, rooming houses, and businesses had all been needed and developed on the narrow ledge of land and up the hillside along the bay of "quiet waters". The cemetery is still there, one mile south of town on what is assumed to have been a section of an old trail. The schoolhouse was the town's education center for 30 years and is still used as a community center.
Although the last to develop, the "West End" has played a powerful part in Clallam County's economy. In sharp contrast to the dry eastern part of the county, our rainfall averages 85" yearly in the Clallam Bay-Sekiu area, which provides a prime ingredient in the growth of lush forests. Logging and the wood products industry formed the basis for economic growth in the West End of the county. These industries have been in decline since the early 1990's due to government restrictions on log harvesting and export. The main employer now is the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, which opened in 1985 and employs approximately 400 people.
Today Clallam Bay and Sekiu are known internationally for the quality of sport fishing and as a tourist destination for bird watching, great beach combing and hiking, surfing, kayaking and diving.
Visit the Chamber Of Commerce Site
(Sources for history include Tracks, Trails, and Tales in Clallam County by Harriet U. Fish, 1983,
and The Jimmy Come Lately History of Clallam County.)