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The following blog was written by Marv Waschke, the owner of the Waschke homestead which is currently up for sale. View photos & find more information on 5438 Waschke Road here. Read on to learn the history behind Waschke Road.
I’ve written before about how my grandfather, Gus Waschke, picked the property straddling the Deer and Silver Creek watersheds. He chose the land with his plans to farm in mind, but the property was inaccessible without going through Agnes’ father’s property on the Aldrich Road. That was okay to start out, but it didn’t square with Gus’ plans for the future. He wanted a county road.
Fortunately, or maybe part of his plan, there was already a county right-of-way for a road on the west side of the property. From a newspaper clipping, I discovered that a petition was filed in with the Whatcom County Board of Commissioners (which eventually became the County Council) on December 18, 1886 for a right-of-way that eventually became Waschke Road. 1886 was probably before any Waschke had arrived in Whatcom County.
According to the clipping, the right-of-way was for a two-mile stretch, but it didn’t say which two-mile stretch. However, the length is right for a road on the section line from Axton Road to the point where the section line intersects Northwest Drive. This is only guess, but it also corresponds to what I remember hearing about the right-of-way. If my guess is correct, the right-of-way was a public trail, but not all the planned road was built.
I’ve marked on the map the locations of the present Waschke Road, the piece that Gus built according to my father Ted, and where I think the original petition for the right of way was located. There may have been some sort of trail opened before 1900. In the 1950s, there was an wooden bridge over Deer Creek where the right-of-way would have been that was used for cattle and farm equipment. It had washed away by the early 1960s and was not repaired. The old bridge is the only indication that the northern end of the right-of-way was ever used.
The south section
The newspaper clipping suggests that the southern section of the road was built first. That may be true. The clipping mentions a shingle mill where a branch of Silver Creek crosses Waschke Road. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cedar shingle mills were sprinkled all over the county and the first part of the road may have been built to service the shingle mill.
You can see a gap in the road from Larsen north to the Whatcom County Public Works garage. My guess is that the right-of-way from Larsen Road to the Smith Road was used, but never developed. The entrance to the the Whatcom County Public Works garage is now an extension south of Smith Road to Waschke Road, but that is a later addition. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was no road.
The Northwest Diagonal
Northwest Drive, first called The Northwest Diagonal, was one of the first roads north from Bellingham Bay to the Canadian Border. I suspect it dates from around the Fraser River Goldrush of 1853, which was also about the time Whatcom County was established. The Northwest was the main route to Ferndale before the highway (now I-5) was built. The route turned west at the Axton Road and threaded along Deer Creek and Barrett Lake and across the Nooksack at Ferndale. As I understand it, until Portal Way was built, the main road from Ferndale to Custer and Blaine was what is now Vista Drive.
Around 1916 when the Waschke Homestead farmhouse was built, Gus cleared a lane from the house to Waschke Road along the right-of-way. Gus did the work, but the county supplied a few wagon loads of gravel. Over time, the county took more responsibility, adding more gravel and grading several times a year. In the 1950s, the neighbors on the road paid the county to oil the road, cutting down the dust and potholes.
Gus’s lane crossed a skid road marked the southern boundary of the homestead. My father Ted remembered strings of logs pulled by oxen to the Nooksack on the greased skids. I don’t know the route taken to the river, but my grandmother Agnes told me that she covered my dad’s ears so he could not hear the ox skinners cursing at the oxen.
The newspaper clipping, written in the early 1970s says the original petition is stored at the Whatcom County Courthouse. I am planning a visit to the courthouse to find it, if it still exists. I may have something to add to this post when I have seen the original.
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