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'Echoes of War' serial delves into Bellingham's connection to Civil War mystery

Janet Oakley of Bellingham wrote the first chaper of "Echoes of War: Mystery of the missing Confederate treasure in Whatcom County." Oakley is standing in front of the Territorial Courthouse in Bellingham's Old Town neighborhood.
Janet Oakley of Bellingham wrote the first chaper of "Echoes of War: Mystery of the missing Confederate treasure in Whatcom County." Oakley is standing in front of the Territorial Courthouse in Bellingham's Old Town neighborhood. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Last summer, a serial story written by six community members pondered what life in Bellingham might be like 100 years from now.

Starting Monday, July 21, a new group of local writers look back in time in a six-part story about Bellingham in the early 1900s.

"Echoes of War: Mystery of a Missing Confederate Treasure in Whatcom County," is the latest community serial story published in The Bellingham Herald. As the title suggests, the story is set in turn-of-the-century Whatcom County, but the plot harkens decades back to the Civil War.

This year's contributors are all well-known for their research and writings about local history.

CHAPTER ONE, JULY 21

Janet Oakley vividly sets the scene with businessman Phineus James Arkeson taking on an unexpected clock-and-dagger role when he should be attending to party guests at his palatial home on Garden Street.

Oakley is a historian and the award-winning writer of "Tree Soldier," a novel of historical fiction, and its prequel. "Timber Rose." She has written about state and local history for Historylink.org and for The Journal of the Whatcom County Historical Society.

CHAPTER TWO, JULY 28

Troy Luginbill deepens the story by introducing Arkeson's wife, Martha, and their son, Teddy. Puzzled by his father's absence from the party, the boy quietly investigates and stumbles upon his father acting mysteriously.

The director and curator of Lynden Pioneer Museum, Luginbill holds a bachelor's degree in archaeology and anthropology from Western Washington University and a master's degree in museum studies from the University of Washington.

CHAPTER THREE, AUG. 4

Wes Gannaway weaves in details related to the story's subtitle about missing Confederate treasure that might be tied to Whatcom County. To his credit, Arkeson realizes his son is old enough and smart enough to help unravel the mystery.

Gannaway has researched local history the past 30 years, and recently donated a large collection of historical pictures and documents to photo archives at Whatcom Museum. He is currently writing a fourth book on local history with co-author Kent Holsather.

CHAPTER FOUR, AUG. 11

Jim Berg introduces a new character who makes an unexpected and possibly significant visit to Whatcom County, staging his visit and revelations in the north part of the county that is central to Berg's upbringing and his research and writings.

A fourth-generation county resident, Berg has written two books on local history, "The Nooksacht's Trail and Crossing" and "Glen Echo School - Centennial Edition," with more in the pipeline.

CHAPTER FIVE, AUG. 18

JoAnn Roe bends the story in a new direction, to another member of the Arkeson family, as Arkeson and Teddy realize answers to the mystery are much closer to home than they expected.

Roe is a lifetime journalist and the author of 17 books. Her books about the region include "The San Juan Islands," "Stevens Pass," "The North Cascadians" and "Ghost Camps & Boom Towns."

CHAPTER SIX, AUG. 25

I always appreciate the final writer's challenge of bringing the five earlier chapters to a satisfying conclusion. In this case, Sara Holodnick artfully pulls it off with final scene full of emotion.

Holodnick is one half of The Bureau of Historical Investigation (also known as The Good Time Girls). The Bureau is a gift and souvenir shop at 217 W. Holly St. that's home base for special events and for history tours of downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven by guides in Victorian underwear.

COMING UP

- "Echoes of War," a serial historical fiction story written by six Whatcom County residents, runs Mondays, July 21 through Aug. 25, in The Bellingham Herald, and at BellinghamHerald.com/serial-novel.

- The writers - Janet Oakley, Troy Luginbill, Wes Gannaway, Jim Berg, JoAnn Roe and Sara Holodnick - will read their chapters at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

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