Settlement of land at the mouth of the Skagit River began as early as 1863, but a huge natural logjam prevented any upriver development until it was dynamited apart in 1879. After this, sternwheelers could move up and down the river, opening the country to mining and logging. Five years later, Mortimer Cook opened a general store in a riverside town he named “Bug”—for the mosquitoes that tormented him in the summer.
Cook later succumbed to local pressure and changed the name to Sedro, a corruption of cedra, the Spanish word for the cedar trees that once covered this area. About the same time, P. A. Woolley built a sawmill a few miles away that became the economic basis of a small but thriving community. The towns were so close together it was difficult to determine their borders, so in 1898 they agreed to join forces while retaining both names. Hence the only hyphenated town name in Washington, and one of just two in America.
After a pair of devastating fires early in the last century, the town was rebuilt using bricks. As a major logging settlement, Sedro-Woolley attracted many of its residents from North Carolina, a heritage that is still evident today. By the early 1900s, the town was home to 17 lumber mills, a steel foundry, and a big state hospital. Very little of these remain. An effort is now under way to re-create Sedro-Woolley’s 1920s-era downtown with old-style lamps and restored brick buildings.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition