Hints of cities lost to history hidden all around | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Apr 26, 2017

A report says that the lost city of Etzanoa has been found in Kansas. It was found hiding under the modern municipality named Arkansas City, or Ark City, as one former Kansan tells me it is called.

Etzanoa was home to perhaps 20,000 ancestors of today's Wichita Nation. It was one of the largest settlements in pre-Columbian North America, a rival in size to Cahokia in Illinois.

We do not have anything as large hiding around us, but we certainly have history nearby that we don't notice. And it isn't just native settlements that pre-date European arrival. Significant numbers of places, that were important settlements earlier in Washington history, have disappeared or nearly disappeared.

A few weeks ago, I was in the Edmonds Museum. I was looking at old R.L. Polk directories. Polk directories gave information about who lived where and what sort of businesses might be found.

In one directory, I was looking at Edmonds. Listings are alphabetical, so I expected to see Everett next. It turned out that the directory was too old for Everett. The next listing was for Florence.

I am betting that most readers don't know where Florence is located. It happens that I do know, but I was still surprised to see Florence as the next listing after Edmonds. I hadn't realized that it had been that important. Florence is located near the mouth of the Stillaguamish River near Port Susan.

If you drive between Warm Beach and Stanwood, you will pass Florence Road. I have driven it a few times, most recently last year. Several buildings that were clearly commercial and industrial still stand – several houses, also. But, it is not a place that I would have expected to find in a Polk directory.

Florence isn't the only location like that.

Utsalady on Camano Island was once the location of an important saw mill, and a frequent stop on the route of the Mosquito Fleet. Now, it is just an upscale residential neighborhood.

Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island is much the same. Now, it is a neighborhood of expensive homes. Once, it was the location of reputedly the biggest saw mill under one roof in the world, and a very large, successful shipyard. Some records claim that Port Blakely was the second busiest port on the West Coast, after only San Francisco.

A dozen miles north of Florence was Skagit City. The metropolis of what is now Skagit County sat on Fir Island. Most people only know Fir Island as a place to watch snow geese and a route to get to La Conner.

Skagit City was upstaged by Mount Vernon when the Army Corps of Engineers made the Skagit River navigable above Fir Island and the railroad came through Mount Vernon. Skagit City was abandoned and is now farmland, and a launching point for small boats for sport fishing.

Above Skagit City, Avon thrived for a time as a rival to Mount Vernon, but the railroad reduced the value of a location on the river. Avon is now a residential neighborhood, but if you look closely, you may recognize that it once was a place.

That is the key. Notice what is around you, what history does it have, and how did it contribute to the historical economy of the region.


Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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