Gig Harbor


Gig Harbor

Gig Harbor was named during the 1841 Wilkes expedition after a crewmember in a small boat, called the captains gig, sighted a harbor and led other boats exploring in the area to take refuge in the harbor during a storm. When the first European-American settlers came to the harbor in 1867 there was a Native American village, with longhouse, located at the head of the harbor near a small creek. In 1867, two Slovenians and a Portuguese rowed a skiff south from British Columbia to fish. They entered Gig Harbor by accident to seek shelter at night. Samuel Jerisich liked the area and decided to stay. He married a fifteen-year-old native woman from near Vancouver Island and settled in Gig Harbor, becoming the first European-American settler in Gig Harbor. Soon Yugoslavians, Germans and Scandinavians followed to settle in the harbor. A major boatyard, lumber mills, salmon fishing fleet and farming provided the early economic base for the town. In 1886, the Indian longhouse served as the first school. Later, the Indian village became the site of Austin mill.

Dr. Alfred Burnham, from Minnesota, filed a plat for the town site in 1888. Dr. Burnham was the towns first doctor and opened the first general store near todays business section in North Gig Harbor. Chicken farming prospered in the 1920s and 1930s. Early fishermen used rowboats to fish. Later, motorized boats allowed fishermen to fish in Alaska and the San Juan Islands starting around 1905.

The town incorporated as a fourth class city in 1946 because of the need to provide for water and sewer systems. Gig Harbor was home to a fishing fleet of more than 70 vessels in the 1970s that decreased to 30 vessels in the later 1980s.

Early fisherman organized a fund drive in 1914 to build the first St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Gig Harbor. The  Skansie Shipbuilding Company was founded in 1912, producing four-to-five boats per season with 25 to 30 employees. The company built a variety of boats including ferries and wooden fishing boats. One of four Skansie brothers operated the Washington Navigation Company, which operated ferries around the Puget Sound in the 1910s until the 1940s and for the State between the time the first Narrows Bridge collapsed and the second Narrows Bridge was constructed.

Lumber was one of the early industries in the area. The first mill in Gig Harbor started operating in 1887 on the west side of the harbor with two others in the early 1890s and in 1909.

Many early settlers engaged in farming, including apples, pears, loganberries, holly and chickens.

Gig Harbor Homes for Sale

Gig Harbor Waterfront Homes for Sale


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