Sequim townsfolk voted to incorporate 100 years ago today
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Hizzoner then and now: Jilson White, left, Sequim's first mayor, and Ken Hays, the current mayor who holds a copy of the city's original Articles of Incorporation from 1913. -- Photo at right by Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Nora Polizzi, Sue Nelson, and Liza Main, from left, hold an informal "council" meeting in the city's original Town Hall, now the yarn store A Dropped Stitch.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM –– Happy birthday, Sequim.

One hundred years ago today, citizens voted 90-66 to make Sequim an official city.

“I think we look better than ever,” Mayor Ken Hays said.

The vote didn't become official until Oct. 31, after the election results were canvassed by Clallam County and the articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State, but Oct. 14 was when locals decided to turn the village into a city.

The city has been celebrating its 100th year since Oct. 27, 2012. The year-long party culminates with a centennial party in Club Seven at Seven Cedars Casino in Blyn on Nov. 2.

The council plans to recognize the 100th anniversary of the vote to create Sequim at its 6 p.m. meeting tonight in the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

At the time, there were just over 300 people living in what would be the boundaries of the city, then a hub for the many farm families that had settled the Dungeness River Valley.

Now the town that aims to be the retail center of the North Olympic Peninsula, with big-box stores in former dairy fields, has a population of 6,606, as of the federal government's 2010 census.

“It may look a little different, but it's still a pretty close-knit city,” Mayor Hays said.

Jilson White was selected as the town's first mayor and presided over the council's first meeting Nov. 19, 1913, at Frank Babcock's drug store.

Babcock was one of the initial members of the council, joined by J.S. Bugge, Clinton McCourt, Austin Smith and H.P. Barber.

After allocating duties of the councilmen, according to minutes from that first meeting, the council passed its first two ordinances; setting the school auditorium as the location for future council meetings and deciding those meetings would be conducted at 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday after the second Monday of each month.

Speed limits were set at 15 miles per hour for the new cars cruising the valley.

The speed limit was 8 mph for horses.

That first council also decided to post its public notices at the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, the Post Office and at the regular location of council meetings.

Meetings of the council would move to a City Hall which was built in 1914.

That original City Hall is now the home of A Dropped Stitch yarn store, 170 W. Bell St.

“I'd like to think we still run the town,” said Nora Polizzi, co-owner of A Dropped Stitch, as she held a knitting circle Friday with Sue Nelson and Liza Main.

Three city employees were approved, along with their salaries, by the first council.

The salary for town clerk Jess Mantle was set at $15 a month. Treasurer Bert Godfrey received a salary of $50 per month. The town marshal's pay, not yet appointed at the first meeting, was set at $15 monthly.

By contrast, the city's 2014 budget calls for the equivalent of 74.79 full time employees who will be paid an estimated $5 million in salaries and $2 million in benefits.

Though archeologists date human settlement in the Sequim prairie back tens of thousands of years, the European settlers that would eventually found the town arrived in the middle of the 19th century.

In 1866, John William Donnell received a claim of 320 acres northwest of Sequim, building a home at what would become the intersection of Priest and Hendrickson Roads, north of what is now Walmart.

According to the history of pioneer families at the Museum & Arts Center of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, Donnell and later settlers such as John Bell, John Brown and first postmaster William Webster left the booming village of Dungeness because it was becoming too crowded.

In 1896, Dr. “Crazy” Callen created the valley's first irrigation ditch, a development that opened the dry valley — home to its own species of cactus — to farmers.

The bulk of Sequim's growth came just after World War II. Between 1948 and 1974, the city annexed 570 acres into its limits.

In 1973, citizens voted to change Sequim from a town to a city.

Just after, the Fifth Avenue retirement center was built, according to an essay on the city's website, and so began the growth of Sequim's reputation as a retirement spot.


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: October 13. 2013 6:20PM
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