Did You Know explores the history of Sequim, the Dungeness Valley and Clallam County. It is produced by Thomas E. Montgomery of John L. Scott-Sequim Real Estate in collaboration with Melissa A. Coughlin.
The 1880s were a time of remarkable economic expansion in the United States. As industries grew, endeavors became driven by speculation. Railroading in particular was an industry where large fortunes could be made and many companies tried to take over others, jeopardizing their own companies to do so.
A serious nationwide economic depression, often referred to as "The Panic of 1893," hit the United States as a result due in part to railroad overbuilding and unstable railroad financing.
This set off a series of bank and other business failures that had been dependent on railroad expansion and services.
The Olympic Peninsula was hit hard. Local real estate values plummeted and new construction was at a standstill.
Population in Port Angeles decreased as residents left with land and timber prices tumbling. The only cash brought into town was from Civil War veteran pensions and sales of locally produced shingles. The shipping industry was crippled so timber and other goods couldn't move out of port. The economy was so bad it was unusual to see any real U.S. currency. The scarceness of cash worsened when the only bank in town crashed in June 1893.
A leading Port Angeles businessman and store owner, Gregers M. Lauridsen, loaned money and extended credit to customers until he ran low of cash. Lauridsen filled the gap by producing his own money, "Lauridsen Money" or "Port Angeles Money," which was circulated throughout the Olympic Peninsula. Originally it was only good for merchandise at the Lauridsen store, but soon it was traded from Neah Bay to Port Townsend for the equivalent face value of U.S. currency and for 10 years it aided the people of Port Angeles and surrounding towns through the economic hard times.
Fleets and fairs
In the years following, attempts were made by civic leaders to boost morale and the local economy. In 1895 the U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet was invited to a celebration in Port Angeles to showcase the natural harbor there. Surprisingly, Rear Admiral Leslie Beardslee accepted and began the tradition of an annual visit from the fleet every summer until the 1930s. During the stay naval crews provided exhibitions on military drills and held band concerts in the evenings.
The countywide celebration included an agricultural fair sponsored by the Clallam County Horticulture Society, held in the 3-year-old Opera House on First Street in downtown Port Angeles. Exhibits crowded the decorated auditorium and stage. Pens filled with livestock were on display outside. A "Harvest Home Ball" ended the festivities. This was the beginning of the Clallam County Fair, which was held at the Opera House every year until 1920. In May 1920 the current site for the fairgrounds was agreed upon by the board of Clallam County Commissioners and the city of Port Angeles. The Clallam county fair has been held every year since then. This year's County Fair will be held Aug. 19-22 at the fairgrounds, 1608 W. 16th St. in Port Angeles.
Reach Tom Montgomery at 460-3796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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