HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SEQUIM! You're 100 years old today!
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Two sides of Sequim’s most recognizable structure, the Clallam Co-op Association grain elevator, in the 1960s when the railroad passed by at left, and today as host of a Mexican food restaurant and several satellite dishes and cellphone transmitters. -- Peninsula Daily News photos

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– While growing from a sleepy farm town of some 300 people to a booming city of 6,606 with the Peninsula's largest collection of big-box stores, Sequim has had a busy century.

The city's first century becomes official today, the 100th anniversary of when the original city fathers filed articles of incorporation with the Washington State Secretary of State's office.

“There's just something really special about Sequim and the [Dungeness] Valley,” Mayor Ken Hays said.

“I feel like it just inspires a sort of an innovative, expansive, creative spirit,” he said.

“And there's a spirit of togetherness here that really shines out when you look at things like our volunteerism.

“It's a special place.”

A year of events celebrating the city's century will be capped by the Centennial Finale Dinner on Saturday at Club Seven in 7 Cedars Casino at 270756 U.S. Highway 101 in Blyn.

The finale bash includes a special dinner with cake and champagne as well as keynote speeches by Hays and Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, about the first century and the next 100 years.

Tickets for the Centennial Finale Dinner are $50 per person and are available through Friday afternoon at Sequim City Hall, 152 W. Cedar St.; Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., and the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center, 1192 E. Washington St.

A limited number of tickets will be available at the event, said Barbara Hanna, the city's communications and marketing director.

Sequim began as a farm town, a place to gather to swap commodities and share culture.

“When I was in high school, we had 200 dairies. Every kid knew how to milk a cow,” said Bob Clark who spent all of his 83 years in the Dungeness Valley.

Now, the valley has two commercial dairies; the Smith family's Maple View Farm and the Dungeness Valley Creamery.

Early farmers discovered that the summers were too dry and began a system of irrigation ditches in use today for lavender and other crops.

The organizational meeting of the Sequim Prairie Ditch Company was on July 20, 1895, according to Historylink.org .

Clark's great-grandfather, Elliot Cline, for whom Cline Spit is named, settled in the area in the mid-19th century.

“When they came, everybody was building the city at Dungness,” Clark said. “Then it all slowly moved to Sequim, because of the railroad mostly, and Dungeness faded away.”

Said Hays: “There was a certain amount of inevitability, I think, that Sequim would flourish over Dungeness.

“The road from Seattle goes to the west coast. And Sequim is right on that route.”

Sitting on the now defunct Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific railroad built in 1915, and storing crops that would be shipped to Seattle markets and exporters, was the grain elevator, now a landmark as the city's tallest building.

In 1941, 65 cars of peas were shipped east.

An invasion of Army worms, however, spoiled the pea paradise in the 1940s, Clark recalled.

“I remember standing on the corner of a field with my dad and, just standing there in morning air, you could actually hear those army worms just eating away at the pea crops,” he said. “That was the end of that.”

The railroad failed in 1985, according to Historylink.org, and the roadbed is now part of the Olympic Discovery Trail system.

The granary now houses El Cazador Mexican Cantina.

Warren Grant, 73, remembered growing up on his grandmother's farm on the west side of Sequim.

“She ran quite an operation out there after my grandfather died,” Grant said.

“Now, it's been cut up and that's left is the farm house.”

His grandmother's farm is now part of the retail center that is Sequim's west side.

Near her farm are big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot that cropped in the early years of the 21st century as Sequim found a new identity.

“It's a whole new city,” Grant said.

Bill Littlejohn grew up running around the farmland around Sequim.

Now grown, Littlejohn is a key player in the city's retirement community as the owner of Sherwood Village and Olympic Ambulance Service.

“The retirement industry has done well here,” Littlejohn said.

“It's a little bit like living on an island. And that kind of kept the traffic down and made it more inviting to retirees.”

The city's retirement population grew in the 1970s after articles touting the city's climate and laid-back pace.

“It's certainly a popular place to retire, but that's not all that it's about,” Hays said.

“The agriculture, the dairy, those things are still strong elements in our community. And I think there's something about that lifestyle that draws retirees here.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 30. 2013 7:27PM
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