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La Conner History

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The Town of La Conner which has a population of approximately 770 is located along the eastern shores of the Swinomish Slough just a few miles south of Highway 20.

Its rich history can be traced back to the first trading post on the Swinomish flats right where the town now stands when the Swinomish post office was established by Alonzo Low in the spring of 1867.

Early History

By 1870 when J.S. Conner and family were known to be operating a store and post office the Swinomish post office was either abandoned or the name was changed to La Conner, the records are not clear.

At this time, there were no roads or other settlements in Skagit County and all travel was accomplished by water, making the Swinomish Slough the "highway" of the time.

Indians used to paddle canoes over areas now considered among the finest farmland in Washington, including the Skagit flats west of Mount Vernon. The native craft of the Northwest was substantial and long-lived for it was fashioned out of one entire piece of cedar, and varied in length from five to 60 feet. The seasoned log was split using a stone maul and wedge made from elk horn or stone. The rest of the canoe was fashioned by using a hand-ax called an adz and by lighting a few slow-burning, controlled fires.

Canoes were used to hunt, fish, fight, and ship goods. They gave freedom to travel in mountainous and isolated areas. Each fall, whole villages would paddle to social gatherings, dances, and potlatch feasts. At death, a warrior's body was wrapped in blankets or rush mats and placed in the largest canoe he owned. A smaller canoe was placed on top and then it was all set upon a light scaffolding, or hauled high in the tree tops.

The Swinomish Indians currently have 123 fishing boats registered on their reservation. This includes river skiffs, bow pickers, gill netters and purse seiners. They fish for salmon, crab, clams, and sea urchins. The Swinomish practice their native religion in a traditional 200-foot long smokehouse that can seat up to 1,200 people. However, most of these ceremonies are closed to the public.

The Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner has one of the slower, smaller voyaging canoes on display. The Legends Art Gallery, located on La Conner's waterfront, carries Northwest Coastal art, including masks and jewelry.