The year 1889 was a big one for B. Aksel Seaborg of Ilwaco. In January, at the Pacific County Courthouse in Oysterville, he filed the plat for his newly created town of Sealand. As a major stockholder and member of the board of the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company, he was confident that he would soon be selling property to be used for the depots, shops, storage facilities and other necessities of the fledgling railroad.
Later, in November of that same year, Seaborg would be seated in Olympia as the first senator elected to represent Pacific and Wahkiakum counties in the newly formed Washington State Legislature. He had won his election by an overwhelming majority and was already prominently identified with much of the fishery legislation that had concerned the territorial government.
Born Bror Aksel Sjöborg on July 29, 1841 in Vaasa Province, Finland, he changed his name after arriving in Astoria in 1873, thereafter was known as B. Aksel or B.A, Seaborg. By 1879, he was among the several hundred Finns who were working as fishermen and cannery employees on the Columbia River. Seeing opportunities for advancement in the thriving industry, Seaborg left his job as a gillnet rack foreman at an Astoria cannery and moved his family to Ilwaco.
Seaborg’s Aberdeen Packing Company was the first salmon cannery on Ilwaco’s docks. It is said that he chose the name “Aberdeen” because, at that time, the name was connected with an excellent brand of salmon coming from Aberdeen, Scotland and he was hoping for success via association. Whether for that reason or not, his company thrived. Bachelor Finns followed Seaborg across the river to work for his new company, either as fishermen or in the cannery itself. The Aberdeen Packing Company was immediately profitable — so much so that in succeeding years Seaborg was able to purchase or build another eight canneries along the Pacific Coast and one as far north as Wrangell, Alaska.
During the first year of the cannery’s operation, Seaborg built a two-story wooden store structure on the main street of town to serve as a wholesale/retail outlet for food and hardware. In addition, it provided office space for the company and living quarters for some of the employees. At about the same time, he began operating a small sawmill at the north end of Black Lake where lumber was milled for boxes used by canneries throughout the Lower Columbia region.
In the location where Ilwaco’s namesake Elwaco-Jim had lived, Seaborg built his own home, commodious enough to accommodate his wife Charlotte and their seven children. As his enterprises prospered, his Aberdeen Packing Co. Store became too cramped to continue as the headquarters office, so in 1896 a new two-story brick building was erected at the corner of First and Spruce Streets. It is the building we know today as the “Doupé Building.”
Seaborg was also actively involved in community and civic causes. He was elected Pacific County commissioner from his district in 1883; he was a member of the Ilwaco Board of Education; he served eight years as pilot commissioner. As chairman of the state’s Fisheries Committee, Seaborg was a major force in pressing for the development of fish hatcheries in the state. Despite his severance with the IR&N in 1893, he had large interests in steamers and transportation lines of his own, apparently originally developed as part of his plan to go into competition with Mr. Loomis.
According to a biographical sketch in the “History of Washington, Volume I,” 1893, by Julian Hawthorne, “Personally Mr. Seaborg is of magnificent physique, kind and genial in manner, and with a pleasant smile which seems to be always on his face, and which reminds us in every sense of a typical son of Thor and Odin. Being in the prime and vigor of manhood and having already achieved great results in the financial and political world, we can safely predict still greater honors for him in the future.”
By 1900, although Mrs. Seaborg remained as an Ilwaco resident, Aksel Seaborg had left Ilwaco to pursue cannery and fishing-industry interests further afield. He died in 1923 at age 83 in Nez Perce County, Idaho