Town of Forks incorporates on August 7, 1945.

  • By Julie Van Pelt
  • Posted 12/04/2007
  • Essay 8394
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On August 7, 1945, the Town of Forks incorporates in a vote of 129 for and 99 against. The town thus becomes one of only three incorporated places in predominantly rural Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula (after Port Angeles, 1890 and Sequim, 1913). Boyd Schlaefer is elected the first mayor and Bert Frazier the first treasurer, along with a town council of five men. The town experiences challenges after incorporation but remains optimistic.

"This Is Your Town -- Or Is It?"  

After initial white settlement in the 1880s, Forks grew slowly during the twentieth century from a remote farming settlement into a center of logging and secondary wood processing. The first U.S. decennial census after incorporation counted 1,120 people within city limits, and the population would hover around this number until it jumped to more than 3,000 in the 1970s.  

Discussions of incorporation appeared in the Forks Forum in the months leading up to the special election in August 1945, including a full-page ad sponsored by local businesses that asked "This Is Your Town -- Or Is It?" Concerns addressed in the paper included a fear of increased taxes for things like street maintenance, questions about how much officials would be paid, and whether wages paid by area businesses would be affected.

The local chamber of commerce was fully behind incorporation as the de facto body in charge of town governance, believing that status as an incorporated town would give the community a greater say in its future. "With our own city set-up we will have here in Forks a very important lever of the machine which gets-things-done," wrote the chamber's secretary in one front-page article ("Many Asking Question").

Growing Pains

A year after incorporation, Forks had gained experience "the hard way" ("Forks Publicized"). Because of state laws at the time of incorporation, the new city received no revenue for the final months of 1945 and the entire following year, which amounted to a loss of income of almost $3,600. The City was only able to collect police fines and taxes on state liquor sales, and residents were discouraged about the town's progress. "We had to learn all the musts and don'ts of the class four towns as well as the ways and means," Mayor Schlaefer said ("Forks Publicized").

Still, in the first year streets were engineered for improved drainage and sidewalks, with many private-property owners building concrete sidewalks themselves. City plans included taking over funding of the recently established library and buying the county airport near the town. "When we look back now and consider that not one person in the whole town administration had previous experience in city work, we feel we have made real progress," said the mayor. "Our plans for the future are ambitious" ("Forks Publicized"). 

Sources: "Businessman Shows, by Contrast, Why Forks Should Be Incorporated," Forks Forum, February 22, 1945, p. 1; "Forks Incorporated: Proposition Carried by 30 Votes," Ibid., August 9, 1945, p. 1; "Forks Publicized in Western City Magazine," Ibid., October 3, 1946, p. 1; "Many Asking Question: 'What Do You Think about Incorporation,'" Ibid., March 5, 1945, p. 1; "$10 Per Capita Paid from State Taxes to All Incorporated Towns," Ibid., April 12, 1945, p. 1; "This Is Your Town -- Or Is It?" Ibid., August 2, 1945, n.p.; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1950 Census of Population, vol. 2, Characteristics of the Population, pt. 47, Washington (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1951), table 6.

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