About Gig Harbor|
Gig Harbor's history is a rich tapestry of pioneers in
fishing, mills, farms, steamboats, ferries and bridges.
The area was named in 1841 during the U.S. Exploring Expedition
commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes. During a storm, several
longboats and the Captain's gig, which is a
small boat, sought shelter in a small bay. Later, Captain
Wilkes named the haven that sheltered them Gig Harbor.
In 1867, fisherman Sam Jerisich became one of the first
white settlers on the shores of Gig Harbor. Others arrived
from Norway, Sweden and Croatia and lived side by side with
the Native American people. Commercial fishing and related
industries, like boat building, dominated the local economy
and rhythm of life in the community for more than 100 years.
Several sawmills also operated in Gig Harbor from the 1880s
through the 1950s.
As the area thrived and population increased, steamboats
began to carry passengers and freight around the Peninsula
and to Tacoma in the 1880s. Car ferries began to transport
automobiles between Gig Harbor and Tacoma in 1917. The first
Narrows Bridge, linking Gig Harbor and the Peninsula to
Tacoma, was completed in July of 1940. It soon became known
as Galloping Gertie, Galloping because
of its rocking motion in strong winds and Gertie
because it was made of girders. The bridge collapsed in
a windstorm just four months after completion. The existing
bridge opened to traffic in 1950.