|Although non-Indian people settled on densely forested Fidalgo Island in the 1850s and the Swinomish Indian Reservation was established in 1873, it was not until the arrival of Amos Bowman in 1876 that the area (later known as Anacortes) gained prominence.
A mapmaker and geologist by trade, Amos Bowman fervently hoped the Canadian Pacific Railroad would establish a western terminus on Fidalgo Island, although it was a place he had never seen. By the time Bowman reached Fidalgo Island shores in 1876, the CPR had already dashed the plan. Despite the disappointment, Amos Bowman invested in his future - and in Anacortes - by purchasing 168 acres of land and constructing a home, a store, and a wharf.
It was not until the 1877 establishment of the "Anna Curtis Post Office" - named for Bowman's beloved wife - that the settlement of Ship Harbor received its present name of Anacortes. (Speculation exists that the modified name was chosen to echo the Spanish influence of neighboring islands and waters such as San Juan, Lopez, and Juan de Fuca.)
Although the CPR dream never materialized, people believed that other railroad companies such as Northern Pacific and Union Pacific were on their way to bolster shipping and trade. The determined people of Anacortes were committed to their dream - and that of Amos Bowman - of creating a special community for their families and friends. By 1891, the Anacortes community boasted a full range of businesses and services to meet the needs of its residents.
Over the years fervent speculation continued to draw widespread attention from neighboring communities, including the interest of many Seattle-based investors. Turn-of-the-century notables, including Dexter Horton, Arthur Denny, and James McNaught, joined the Anacortes expansion push with land purchased and investments.
Although Amos Bowman's hope for a railroad terminus in Anacortes was never realized, his dream of creating a special community came true. Today, Anacortes boasts of being the second largest city and the number on industrial and shipping center in Skagit County. The Port of Anacortes, shipyards, seafood processing facilities, oil refineries, and tourism are important contributors to an ever-growing economy. Prime real estate and spectacular panoramas, combined with exclusive residential areas, yacht charters, and marina facilities, bring residents and visitors alike to "Anacortes, Northwest Park Place." Thus, much of what Bowman wanted for Anacortes has become a reality.
Determination and faith in a community - so important in those early days - help keep Anacortes a community for all generations. Amos Bowman would be proud.