Blanket Bill

Blanket Bill

Bartender at Bellingham Bay Coal Company

Bellingham Bay Coal Company

General Information


Permanent White Settler - Whatcom County

White Settler - Skagit River Journal

Recent News  

Ray Jordan on William R. Jarman

"Blanket Bill" Jarman, our first white settler
W.R. "Blanket Bill" Jarman and his klootchman, Alice, had just completed the long back packing haul from the head of canoe navigation on the North Fork of the Samish River near Bow to the Prairie upon which he intended to squat and hold. Now occurred one version (the popular one) of the incident that gave Jarman his colorful sobriquet of "Blanket Bill." News of a white captive among the Indians finally leaked out to Governor Douglas of the Hudson's Bay Company at Victoria who is supposed to have ransomed Jarman in 1848 for 32 blankets giving rise to the nickname of "Blanket Bill. But freewheeling Blanket Bill could not stay put too long in any one place, so some time in 1852 he loaded a canoe and with Alice paddled in the big Indian village on Samish Island which to be their headquarters for many years. Thus Blanket Bill became the first permanent white settler in Whatcom County, [Washington Territory] (Skagit County was part of Whatcom County until 1883). He fished, hunted and trapped. During the 1850s he is said to have staked out a 640 acre Donation Land Claim where Edison now stands, but didn't prove up on it. Also, he is supposed to have made a trip to California and tried his luck in the gold fields. Blanket Bill never lost his love of the sea and in the meantime either built or traded for a small sloop which he named the Alice, in honor of his wife. In this vessel he cruised far and wide. The fall of 1871 found Blanket Bill working as a bartender at the Bellingham Bay Coal Company Saloon at Sehome. And here took place one of the most spectacular events in his checkered career. No doubt much relieved to escape his recent publicity, Blanket Bill returned to his friendly Prairie and for some time devoted himself to improving his claim. In 1873 the Government surveyed the area making it possible for squatters to file their claims. Here the record is on firm ground for the writer has a photostatic copy of Jarman's pre-emption Certificate - "Squatted June 1868" - Filed September 6, 1873 - Certificate issued March 22, 1876. (He couldn't have filed much earlier since a government survey was not made until early in 1873.) Excerpts from his final proof papers: "Entered upon and made settlement in person on the said land since the 4th day of September, 1841, to wit: on the 15th day of June 1868, and built thereon two dwelling houses. Blanket Bill had been present at the fort when the first flag was raised and is said to have climbed the pole to free the flag when it caught in the branches of a tree. Now, he was invited as the oldest pioneer to raise the flag on the same pole that he had mounted in 1856, after a span of 47 years. This last flag was the one that had so proudly flown on the cruiser Olympia during the Spanish-American War. During the year of 1912 his faculties began to fail and on June 11, 1912 a stroke ended the old sailor's long voyage at the age of 92. Today he lies anchored in peace in Woodlawn Cemetery near Ferndale. Long live "Blanket Bill." A profile of William R. Jarman and the legends of Blanket Bill, researched, discussed and debated, Part One. A profile of William R. Jarman and the legends of Blanket Bill, researched, discussed and debated, Part Two. Ray Jordan's story of Blanket Bill and Jarman Prairie, from his point of view as a young Belfast neighbor.

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John Warner's family settles their namesake Prairie

We recently discovered a story in P.R. Jeffcott's book, Blanket Bill Jarman, that pinpoints when Warner decided to start moving east up the Samish valley. [Subscribers can read Jarman's biography in Issue Number 9 of the separate Journal online magazine.] Jeffcott found records that Warner succeeded Jarman after "several months" when Blanket Bill was appointed supervisor for "Road District No. 15 or East Samish" in 1875.

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