Bellingham historian documents 1880 slaying of Lake Padden's namesake


Last summer I wrote about a group that hosted a 40th anniversary party for Lake Padden Park. My story mentioned that Michael Padden, the Irish immigrant for whom the lake was named, had been fatally shot during a property dispute.

Now a new, detailed account of the slaying, a truly sad story, has come out in the latest annual journal from Whatcom County Historical Society. Bellingham historian Candace Wellman took time out from her research into cross-cultural marriages in pioneer Whatcom County to explore the killing.

Wellman writes that Michael Padden, an Irish miner, started his Happy Valley homestead in 1870 close to the homestead of Thomas Clark, another Irish miner. In 1879, their property lines were resurveyed to account for an error.

As a result, ownership of about three and a half acres with several apple trees and part of a garden shifted from the Clarks to the Paddens. The Clarks, alas, had a hard time coping with the outcome and kept using the land without permission.

In the spring of 1880, Michael Padden, his son and some in-laws were working on fences. Susan Clark, who, as Thomas' wife, faced the daunting task for running the family farm and caring for seven children while her husband worked near Seattle, approached with her 11-year-old son, Tommy, who was toting a gun.

Susan told Tommy to shoot Padden. The gun went off. Padden died soon after.

Susan Clark and her son were arrested and taken to jail in Port Townsend. A jury found both of them guilty of manslaughter, rather than premeditated murder, for which Susan Clark could have been hanged. Instead, she was sentenced to five years with hard labor at a grim territorial prison.

There's more sadness in the story, but I don't want to reveal everything in Wellman's fine article.

Other pieces in the journal are less bleak. For example, Bellingham native Ted Van Dyk, who went on to become a prominent behind-the-scenes figure in national Democratic politics, wrote an engaging account of high school, college and professional sports in Bellingham after World War II.

The journal can be yours for $10 at Village Books and at Whatcom Museum's gift shop.


The old Granary Building on Bellingham's waterfront remains a hot topic for people interested in seeing historic structures preserved and reused rather than flattened.

Anyone interested in the Granary should check a nearly four-minute video on YouTube.

The Port of Bellingham, which owns the building, hired Summit Engineering and Design, LLC, an engineering firm in Ferndale, to document the building's layout. Summit used 3-D laser scanner technology to do that, and the video shows how Summit can use the scanned data to digitally slice, dice and portray various parts of a building.

Daryl Johnson, engineering manager at Summit, said the technology provides a fast way to detail a building's innards, such as the Granary's.

"It took us almost as long to be safety-trained to go in there as to do the work," he said.


To learn more about Summit, go to

Reach DEAN KAHN at or call 715-2291.

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