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Gig Harbor in Pierce County, Washington — The American West (Northwest)
 

First Settlers

 
 
First Settlers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., August 3, 2021
1. First Settlers Marker
Inscription.  

In 1867, Sam Jerisich, Peter Goldsmith, and John Farrague were fishing in Puget Sound when bad weather prompted them to seek shelter in Gig Harbor. They liked what they saw and decided to make it their home, becoming the first three white people to settle in the harbor. Also living in the harbor were the Native American people in a village at the head of the bay.

Sam had been born in Kotor, Montenegro, on the Adriatic coast in 1833. Like Sam, Peter was from the "old country," probably Montenegro or Croatia. It is believed that John was from Portugal. Although all three settled in Gig Harbor, it was Sam and his family that would leave an enduring mark.

As a young man, Sam was a sailor, rounding Cape Horn three times. He eventually made his way to Vancouver Island, Canada, where he met and married Anna Willits. It is believed that Anna was a member of the Penelakut tribe of Thetis Island, British Columbia.

Sam brought Anna and her infant daughter, Caroline, to Gig Harbor. The Jerisich's first home was a one-room cabin made of split cedar boards on the east side of the bay. It was surrounded by dense forest choked
First Settlers Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., August 3, 2021
2. First Settlers Marker
Near steps to the Jerisich Dock viewing platform at Skansie Brothers Park
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by underbrush. Sam cut down trees to clear enough land for a garden. Anna shot bear and deer and dressed the meat for food. She also picked and dried berries.

Sam caught fish using nets he and Anna made by hand. He build a smoke house and a rendering plant. He rowed the resulting dogfish oil and smoked fish to Steilacoom to sell. This was the beginning of the commercial fishing industry in Gig Harbor.

The family built a larger home on the west side of the bay. Sam and Anna had eight children. Descendants of Sam and Anna continue to engage in commercial fishing from Gig Harbor.

[Photo captions, top and bottom, read]
• (l.-r.) Anna Willits Jerisich, granddaughter Julia Skansie Babich, and daughter Julia Jerisich VanWaters, circa 1910

• The Jerisich Family, 1901 or 1902
Back row: Michael, John, Sam Jr., Peter Skansie.
Front row: Katherine, Julia, Anna, Sam Sr., Melissa (Peter's wife) with daughter Julia, and Mary.
 
Erected by City of Gig Harbor and Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNative AmericansSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1867.
 
Location. 47° 19.845′ N, 122° 34.915′ 
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W. Marker is in Gig Harbor, Washington, in Pierce County. Marker is at the intersection of Harborview Drive and Rosedale Street NW, on the right when traveling north on Harborview Drive. Marker is at Skansie Brothers Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3215 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor WA 98335, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fishing Family Memorial Anchor (a few steps from this marker); Lost At Sea (a few steps from this marker); Across the Bay (a few steps from this marker); Our First Sawmill (within shouting distance of this marker); Explore Gig Harbor Wildwaters (within shouting distance of this marker); Skansie Brothers Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Skansie Netshed & House (within shouting distance of this marker); Birth of the Business District (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gig Harbor.
 
Also see . . .
1. Gig Harbor's Heritage (Harbor History Museum Blog, 2014). (Submitted on August 21, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Julia Jerisich VanWaters (1884-1961) (Harbor History Museum Blog, 2017). (Submitted on August 21, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Early Settlers on the Gig Harbor Peninsula (Harbor History Museum Blog, 2013). (Submitted on August 21, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 21, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 21, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 137 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 21, 2021, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Feb. 4, 2023