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city, seat (1854) of Whatcom county, northwestern Washington, U.S. Located 18 miles (29 km) south of the Canadian border, it is situated along Bellingham Bay (named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver for Sir William Bellingham) on the northern edge of Puget Sound. The site was settled in 1852, when Captain Henry Roeder built a sawmill at the lower Whatcom Falls. Coal-mining operations began in 1854, and the bay was a temporary "staging area" for the ill-fated Fraser River gold rush (1857-58). Four communities (Whatcom, New Whatcom, Sehome, and Fairhaven) known as the Bellingham Bay Settlements were established by the 1880s. In 1904 they had merged to form the present city of Bellingham.