Sedro-Woolley is a city in Skagit County, Washington, United States. The population was 10,540 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Mount Vernon–Anacortes, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Officially incorporated on December 19, 1898, Sedro-Woolley was formed from neighboring rival towns known as Sedro and Woolley in Skagit County, northwestern Washington, inland from the Puget Sound, south of the border with Canada and north of Seattle.
Four British bachelors, led by David Batey, homesteaded the area in 1878, the time logjam obstructions were cleared downriver at the site of Mount Vernon. In 1884–85, Batey built a store and home for the arrival of the Mortimer Cook family from Santa Barbara, California where Cook had been mayor for two terms. Cook intended to name his new Pacific Northwest town Bug due to the number of mosquitos present, but his wife protested along with a handful of local wives. Cook was already the namesake for the town Cook's Ferry on the Thompson River in British Columbia. With "Bug" being so unpopular, Cook derived a town name from Spanish; knowing was the word for cedar, he replaced one letter to make the name unique, settling on "Sedro".
Sedro, on the northern banks of the Skagit River, proved susceptible to floods. In 1899, Northern Pacific Railway developer Nelson Bennett began laying track from the town of Fairhaven, northwest on Bellingham Bay, and real estate developer Norman R. Kelley platted a new town of Sedro on high ground a mile northwest of Cook's site. The Fairhaven and Southern Railroad arrived in Sedro on Christmas Eve 1899, in time for Bennett to receive a performance bonus from the towns at both ends, and a month after Washington became the 42nd state in the Union.
Within months, two more railroads crossed the F&S road bed a half mile north of new Sedro, forming a triangle where 11 trains eventually arrived daily. Railroad developer Philip A. Woolley moved his family from Elgin, Illinois, to Sedro in December 1899 and bought land around the triangle. He built the Skagit River Lumber & Shingle Mill next to where the railroads crossed and he started his namesake company town there that was based on sales of railroad ties to the three rail companies, including the Seattle and Northern Railway (forerunner of the Great Northern Railway) and the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Meanwhile a fourth town rose nearby when the F&S laid rails on a "wye" that led northeast from Sedro about four and a half miles to coal mines. Bennett bought the mines, along with Montana mining financier Charles X. Larrabee, and they soon sold their interests to James J. Hill, owner of the Great Northern. The resulting ore soon turned out to be more suitable for coking coal and a town began there named Cokedale. Cokedale faded in importance when the mine declined and the other towns all merged on December 19, 1898, as Sedro-Woolley.
On May 15, 1922, a large circus elephant known as Tusko escaped from the Al G. Barnes Circus, which was making one of its stops in Sedro-Woolley, at that time. The elephant stomped his way through the little logging town and right into local history, demolishing fences, knocking over laundry lines and trees, telephone poles, and a Model T along the way.
After logging and coal-mining declined, the major employers and industries became the nearby Northern State Hospital (a mental-health facility) and Skagit Steel & Iron Works, which rose from the back room of a local hardware store to became a major supplier of implements and parts for logging and railroad customers and which manufactured machines and parts for the war effort in World War II and artillery shells, starting in 1953. By 1990, that company was gone and the hospital was closed but new industry is developing north of town, including robotics.