NAME: Balfour
COUNTY: Whatcom
CLIMATE: Temperate
COMMENTS:Current Residents in nearby Peaceful Valley area, Paradise Lakes Country club and newer housing developments being built bearing Balfour name. 
REMAINS: Foundation of Balfour Quarry building, overgrown fruit grove and large locust tree where houses once stood. 

At the end of the 19th century, a German settler named Peter Zender received a patent for his homestead a mile north of the settlement of Keese, Washington. In 1899, Zender sold off his claim to a subsidiary company of the Balfour, Williams Co of England. This firm was called the Balfour-Guthrie Investment Group. DW Reidle oversaw this transaction for Balfour-Guthrie, and the primary interest in this new acquisition was the ample, world-class grade ledges of limestone that were found in the areas of the nearby Sumas and Red mountains. The Balfour-Guthrie company made plans to build a limestone kiln on their land as early as 1900, but ran into legal snags as at that time, foreign investment groups were not allowed to own mining claims in the United States. After a lengthy legal battle which was eventually routed to the supreme court, it was decided that foreign investors would indeed be allowed to own mining claims, which was a reversal of previous policy, and with that, plans for the lime kiln were soon back on the table. In an effort to avoid more legal troubles, a separate entity still wholly operated and managed by Balfour-Guthrie Investment Group was established. It was called the Olympic Portland Cement Company. In 1905, plans for a small city were developed and the clearing of trees for a townsite began. Some 700 houses were planned to be built for the purpose of  housing workers at the newly built lime kiln on Peter Zender's old homestead lands. By 1915, 12 small houses had been built, as well as several bunkhouses, a schoolhouse/cookhouse, a dance hall and a roundhouse. Half a mile from the townsite along the Sumas-Kendall road, right on the line of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad, a small station was built for on and off loading of crushed limestone. A spur line of the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad was soon built, which ran directly to the quarrying operation at the base of Sumas Mountain. Another operation managed by the Balfour-Guthrie Company began quarrying limestone on the adjacent Red Mountain. This company was called the Northwestern Portland Cement Company. A spur line was also built to this site. Once quarried, the rock was shipped by rail to yet another facility managed by Balfour-Guthrie Company (using the Olympic Portland Cement name) at Whatcom Harbor, 26 miles away.  

Working conditions at the Balfour Quarries were hazardous and pay was meager. Workers were exposed to abestos and other cancerous elements. Residents would walk to the nearby town of Kendall (now a semi-ghost town in its own right) along the railroad tracks for groceries and supplies before the automobile became prevalent. In the 1920s, local smokers showcased Balfour's boxing talents, and the company sponsored a baseball team to play against teams from around the area. Balfour at the time was described as a "rousing, colorful community." At it's peak during World War 1, about 200 residents lived at the townsite and in the neighboring valley, working two shifts daily. Nearby Sprague and Kendall lakes, formerly called Zender Lake, were utilized for recreation and water.

In 1928, operations moved across the valley where Olympic Portland Cement Company had aquired rights to taker over the facilities of the International Lime Plant, another large quarrying operation. This location still has many Olympic Portland Cement buildings on site, one notable structure sits dormant, far above the valley floor and has become a local landmark of sorts,  which has watched over the valley with a formidable, castle-like appearance since 1928. Though not in use, rock is still periodically extracted from where this building sits. An unbelievable catwalk and aerial tram system also sits nearby, with conveyor belt extending deep into a cavernous shaft some 150 feet into the hillside of Red Mountain. In recent years vegetation has made this unique tram system exceedingly difficult to find. The original Balfour quarry ceased operations at the time these aforementioned utilities were built. Balfour Quarry however, having never yielded enough rock to meet initial expectations, was abandoned completely during the transisition.
Only 12 houses of the originally planned 700 were ever built.  

By the 1940s, only three houses remained where the original 12 had stood. The last house was demolished in 1964, and a string of forest fires claimed the lives of the other neglected structures at Balfour. Around this time, the tracks leading to Balfour Quarry were paved over, and the town became the site of a proposed drainfield for a planned country club and housing developmemt. Over the years, vacationers from Canada developed nearby land into summer homes and permanent residents came shortly after. The original site today sits undeveloped, however, and a short walk down a gravel logging road called Balfour Valley Drive (where the original tracks once were) will take you to a drainfield where the houses stood. Notice the fruit trees planted by the former residents. A large concrete ruin at the base of Sumas Mountain is all that remains of limestone kiln that once produced 2,000 barrells of material daily. Vegetation and thick brush have made spotting the 30 foot walls of this site difficult to spot. Two large water tanks are accessible from this same road, both tanks still being utilized by Whatcom County water district #13. 

Balfour-Guthrie was an important shipping and commerce company during its heyday, their headquarters buildings still standing, both as national historic landmarks in Seattle amd Portland, the company having moved north after the San Francisco earthquake leveled their original offices.   Their other investments included barley hops, canned salmon, fireworks (imported) and other produce ventures. They were intensively scrutinized for their labor camps during the 1930s in the fruit groves of California, where makeshift camps and company "towns" (much like that of Balfour) exploited workers seeking refuge from states plagued by the after effects of the dustbowl and the US' struggling economy. 

Balfour is difficult to find any information on, and aside from photographs taken by famed local photographer Darius Kinsey in 1920, no other known pictures of the town exist. Balfour is not mentioned in any ghost town literature or on any website. It truly is Washington State's forgotten boom town. 

Submitted by: Jimmy Calhoun

Darius Kinsey photo of Balfour ca 1930
Courtesy Jimmy Calhoun