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What’s the Deal With: Knute Aker’s obelisk?

Ferndale monument marks homestead of 19th century farmer

According to Janene Aker, Knute Aker’s granddaughter-in-law, the obelisk, pictured here on March 24, cannot be taken down because it is a covenant on the property, which is no longer owned by the Aker family. (Jaya Flanary/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jaya Flanary Digital Editor/Designer

Just west of the Guide Meridian in Ferndale on West Wiser Lake Road sits a granite obelisk, nearly double the height of its maker.

The monument was erected in the late 1800s by Knute Aker. Originally from Norway, he moved to Whatcom County in April 1883. His grandson, K.B. Aker, now 86 years old, said Knute lived in a family’s attic in Everson. He found property to buy, but overheard the family planning to “beat him out of the homestead rights.” Knute Aker walked from Everson to Old Town Bellingham’s courthouse to claim the 152 acres the next morning.

According to a 1953 article in The Bellingham Herald, the obelisk is located “where his ax first hacked at the virgin forest to clear a farm.” Aker believed it would take 300 years for the county to convert to farmland. 

The land was divided between two of Aker’s children. His daughter’s portion included the house and obelisk. Aker’s son inherited the other portion. His grandson, K.B., and his wife, Janene Aker, bought that portion from the estate when K.B.’s mother passed. The land with the obelisk was sold and is no longer in the Aker family.

Knute Aker was 100 years and 6 months old when he passed away in 1965.

Knute Aker stands beside the obelisk for a photo printed in The Bellingham Herald on April 26, 1953 with the headline, “Whatcom becomes great farm county in single life span.” (Photo by Jack Carver, courtesy of Whatcom Museum)
Using electricity — such as the pumping plant Knute Aker installed to irrigate — made him one of the most “progressive and capable farmers in his section of the county,” according to Lottie Roeder Roth’s “History of Whatcom County: Volume II.” (Jaya Flanary/Cascadia Daily News)
Knute Aker and his wife, Elizabeth Aker, pictured in Lottie Roeder Roth’s “History of Whatcom County: Volume II.” (Jaya Flanary/Cascadia Daily News)
Aker built a home, barn and silo on the property. He raised sheep and cattle and grew hay, grain, potatoes and sugar beets. Aker’s grandson, K.B. Aker, said his grandfather was “a hard worker.” (Jaya Flanary/Cascadia Daily News)

WTD is published online Mondays and in print Fridays. Have a suggestion for a "What's the Deal With?" inquiry? Email us at

Jaya Flanary is CDN's designer/digital editor; reach her at; 360-922-3090 ext. 106.

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