The Tillinghast Seed Company is
believed to be the first seed company in Washington state, if not
the Pacific Northwest.
Alvinza Gardner Tillinghast (b. 1845
in Pennsylvania) worked as early as 1873 in Padilla Flats, Skagit
County, Washington with two cousins (Rienze E. Whitney and E. A. Sisson)
experimenting with cabbage seed. In 1877 the partnership was
dissolved and Mr. Tillinghast left the area.
For some period of time, he went back to Pennsylvania.
was recorded in the 1880 Census as living with his wife and parents
(Stephen Tillinghast and Tryphena Capwell Tillinghast) in North
Abington, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.
He returned to the Padilla Flats,
Washington area sometime prior
to 1882, was listed as the postmaster in 1882, and by 1885, founded
the company. Seed stock was initially purchased from suppliers
in the East and packaging and sales done from his house. He
produced his first seed catalog in 1886 and called the company the
Puget Sound Seed Garden.
After relocating from Padilla to La
Conner, Washington in 1890, Tillinghast contracted with local
farmers to produce cabbage seed. They set up shop at the
entrance to the little town and had fields that spread east toward
Pleasant Ridge. Their business grew and their seeds were sold all
over the country.
In the 1920s, the company changed its name
to the Tillinghast Seed Company and remained under family ownership
until 1980 when Ruth Tillinghast Dalan sold the company to Arberta
Lammers still (as of 2007) runs a
flower and gift shop called Tillinghast in La Conner. The last
seed catalog ended with the 1993 issue and she sold the seed company
name in 2003 to a Seattle entrepreneur who also owned the
now-defunct Barkley Seed Company name.
The old seedhouse building is now home
to a restaurant, appropriately named "Seeds." The old seed
bins and counter reportedly are owned by the Christiansonís Nursery
east of La Conner, and most of the old company documents as well as
their printing press, reside at the Skagit County Historical Museum.