In 1998 Sedro-Woolley celebrated its 100th year, honoring the city’s incorporation on December 19, 1898, which officially merged the neighboring towns of Sedro and Woolley.
In 1884, Mortimer Cook brought his family to the Skagit Valley from California. He bought and cleared 34 acres along the Skagit River, near what is now Riverfront Park. He ran a general store there, opened a shingle mill and was the town’s first postmaster. Mortimer Cook wanted to name the town after himself, but learned that Washington Territory already had a town named “Cook.” He then proposed the name “Bug,” in honor of the bat-sized mosquitos that bedeviled the loggers, but his wife didn’t care for it, nor did fellow settlers. The women suggested the use of “Cedra,” a Spanish word for cedar; but the spelling wasn’t certain and the name became distorted into “Sedro,” which stuck. on December 7, 1885 they christened the post office Sedro.
In 1890, Philip A. Woolley purchased 84 acres just north of Sedro, where he founded the town of Woolley; he died there and is buried in Sedro-Woolley’s Union Cemetery. The two towns developed a rivalry and did not merge until 1898. The town of Woolley was flourishing, with a growing population and many businesses, including a coal processing plant employing approximately 2000 people.
Key to the development of the area were the three railroads serving the towns of Sedro and Woolley. The Northern Pacific, originally the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern, ran north to south; the Great Northern ran east to west, connecting downriver towns with the wooded areas along the upper Skagit; and the Fairhaven and Southern had its terminus in Sedro, at Cook’s Wharf.
P.A. Woolley made a fortune supplying ties for the GN; he also prevailed against his rival, Cook, to have the NP depot built in his town. The railroads contributed to the area’s prosperity as local merchants catered to the needs of travelers visiting the area on the trains.
In 1891 and 1893, Woolley suffered two major fires, which severely curtailed its growth. Both towns were also struggling through the economic woes of the time, and it became clear that both of their interests would best be served by a merger. However, neither town was willing to give up its name. After much spirited debate, “Sedro-Woolley” became the official name of the newly-merged town, which was incorporated December 19, 1898.
The town is deeply connected to its history through the descendants of its founding families and through many historical buildings, such as the Bingham mansion, which was owned by one of the original residents of Woolley in 1890. C.E. Bingham founded a bank and served as mayor for 17 years.