Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Nicholas Castelan Family

Last week I shared with you Pauline Castelan Stanich's story of Gig Harbor which she prepared in April 1988. Pauline was my neighbor when I first bought the house that is still, to this day, referred to as the "Scrivanich's," although they purchased it in 1909. But that is not important, let's get on with Pauline's history of her family...

"Nicholas Castelan (1874-1921) came to the United States from the Isle of Mljet in Croatia. At that time, Croatia was a part of the Austro-Hungary Empire.

"Nicholas joined his half-brother, Frank, who was established in the fishing industry in Gig Harbor. Although Frank decided to go back to Yugoslavia, Nicholas stayed in Gig Harbor and became a successful fisherman, business man and an active civic leader. He also delivered local farmers' produce to the markets in Tacoma.  The name Castelan was often misspelled and/or mispronounced as Costello. It was legally documented as Castelan during World War II.

"In 1896, Nicholas gained his American citizenship. He then sent for his bride-to-be, Ella [Jela] Markovich, from Croatia. He was married in 1903 and had seven children, five daughters and two sons. Pollie Castelan, the oldest daughter was burned to death in an accidental fire at the young age of five in 1910. His other four daughters, Mary Castelan Jerkovich, Ann Castelan Stancic, Rachael Castelan Plancich, and Pauline Castelan Stanich all had houses within three blocks of each other on Harborview Drive. His son, Mike Castelan, resides on Soundview Drive and his other son, Nick Castelan Jr. lives in California.

"Often, Nicholas would bring home surprises. The most memorable were those of a red wagon from which Mike kept a wheel, and the first Victrola brought to Gig Harbor. The victrola became a highly prized possession.

"Nicholas did well despite of the fact he lived only 47 years. He and his wife generously donated a statue of St. Nicholas to the St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Gig Harbor. The Castelans first home sits on the waterfront with its roof just above street level. It later became known as the "honeymoon cottage" in that the little house was rented by many newly wed couples of Gig Harbor. Their second home, a two-story house, was built in 1914 for $475. (The structure was razed a few years ago.)

"Fishing was quite an event in the beginning of the 20th century. Nicholas Castelan rowed out in a skiff to seine for salmon in the nearby waters of the sound before investing in a motored launch introduced in 1905.  He and other "openboat" fishermen would hire a Foss tug to tow them to Steilacoom and return for them after their catch was made. With the introduction of the engine, he built and owned the boats, Union 1909, Monarch 1913, St. Joseph 1913, and the Editor 1914.

"When Nicholas died, Ella's brother, Marko Markovich, helped raise the family. Ella never recovered from the loss of her daughter and husband. She always wore black and very seldom left her house. The love and support of her children and brother made it easier to cope with her loss.

"After the children married, a daily three o'clock social hour spent at Ella Castelan's house became tradition.  Coffee and a variety of each ones favorite dessert were served. And of course there was local gossip. In the evening, the men had coffee and dessert after dinner followed by fishing gossip.

"Ella adored her grandchildren. She had her son, Mike, go to the bank once a week to draw a pocket full of nickels. When the grandchildren came to visit to listen to her favorite stories, she presented them with a nickel and a big hug. How they loved and respected their grandmother.

"The remaining waterfront property that was once owned by Nicholas Castelan is used for fishing by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"Mike and Nick Castelan, Marko Markovich and John Jerkovich were investors in the purse-seiners, Pacific Raider 86', built in 1945, and the Corregidor 82', built in 1942 and sold in 1954 to a Canadian family. Mike continued fishing as far North as the Bering Sea and as far South as the Mexico boarder for sardines, mackerel, bottom fish and salmon. In 1952, Mike also worked for the University of Washington tagging seals in Pribilof Island, Alaska.

"Mike Castelan and Marko Castelan, Mike's uncle, were partners in the boat Two Brother 70', later named Corregidor II. After the death of his uncle, the boat was sold. He then seined the Sara B and Pillar Bay, and built a small marina. Illness forced him to sell in 1980.

"Nick Castelan ventured to California and invested in a fish market.

"Mike Castelan donated to the Gig Harbor Historical Society the heavy 14 foot oar once used on local fishing boats. [The oar is permanently displayed in the Harbor History Museum lobby.] It is distinguished by a "monkey fist" made of hemp. The "monkey fist" was later replaced by a leather cuff that stops the oar from sliding through the oarlock. The oars were made of ash which wore well without being painted. The "tar pot" and a net tarring description were also donated by Mike. Local and family tell the story that Nicholas Castelan's "tar pot" was used by many fishermen to tar their nets until 1980.  It was also used as a cooking pot for the army during the Civil War. Nicholas Castelan purchased it at the army surplus store.

"Mary, Rachael and Annie are deceased, but Pauline, Mike and Nick can share great stories about the life in the early 20th century."

Please remember Pauline Castelan Stanich recorded this story and all the information contained therein in April 1988. So several of the family members are no longer with us. But that should not prevent your enjoyment of the history of one family and their life in Gig Harbor.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 26, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Loafed and felt miserable all day worrying away a slow headache."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nicholas Castelan Daughter, Pauline Castelan Stanich

Castelan home. Left to right: Winnie Malich, Rachel, Anna, and Pauline Catelan

I dearly love it when I can let the voices of the past reveal the history that lies behind present day Gig Harbor. I love it even more when the voice I am sharing is that of my former neighbor, a most lovely lady, Pauline Castelan Stanich. 

The home Pauline shared with her husband and daughter is on Harborview Drive, at one time referred to as "Captains Row." Close your eyes and "hear" Pauline's voice as she described Gig Harbor to us (Pauline recorded this in April, 1986)...

"Gig Harbor was a small village, a harbor protected by the forest and the bay and founded over 100 years ago. The first cement road was paved from the west end of the town known as Millville to the east end of the town known as the Head of the Bay (ca. 1919-1920). For pastime, young girls walked from one end of the road to the other to greet the steamers and ferries at the private docks. There was a grocery store on the dock, a pool room and a saw filing shop. A large building housed a bakery, clothing and barber shop where the Shorline Restaurant is today. It was called Sweeney Block since the Sweeneys owned. Also, Gig Harbor's post office was located across the street in the Sweeney house. Around the bend, was Donkey Creek. The "donkey" engine was stationed in the middle of the creek pulling logs out of the woods, under the bridge and into the bay. Girls picked berries along Harborview Drive. Many fishermen from Yugoslavia came here to make a living fishing. The rumor was that Washington had an abundance of fish. When the fishermen settlers came to this country, they left their families and fiancees in Yugoslavia. Later, they brought them to the "new country" and married them.

"Today properties, as well as occupations and businesses, are passed from generation to generation. Some people live in their grandparents' houses.

"In earlier years, fishermen used large skiffs, oars and a net. They rowed out to the "fishing ggrounds" outside the harbor and came back later in the day. The crew members, three or four men. had nowhere to sleep.  The boat owners built cabins for the crew on their waterfront property. A considerable number of cabins were built. Later, they moved the crew to new homesteads and used the cabins as garages. The last cabin was recently torn down on the property of the family of Nicholas Castelan.

"Next, the gas engine and larger boats were used. There were 6 to 8 men plus the captain as crew. They had a roller on the stern with a winch to bring in the catch. The Puretic Power Block, which was attached to the boom, came later. This was a much easier way to pull in the catch.

"Then came the bigger boats run by diesel. Most of the older boats had their engines changed to diesel. The large boats went to Alaska, Bering Sea and San Juan Islands. The boats had to anchor in the middle of the bay because the tide was too low to dock at the wharf. They had to wait for high tide to bring the boats to the net sheds. The crew had to prepare for fishing. The men wore canvas gloves, boots and oilskin fishing gear. The fishermen would tar the nets to preserve them. They would build a fire under large vats of 150 to 200 gallons of tar. When it was hot, they dipped the net into the tar. The net was made of white twine. A wringer attached to the end of the trough was connected to the vat. Slowly, they would take the net out of the vat. Step two was to take the net to a nearby field and stretch it out to dry. The creqw would stretch it two or three times a week. When  it dried, they took it to the net shed to put on rope, lead, cork and brass rings. Tarring was performed to prevent the salt water from eroding the net.

"The tar vat used by Nicholas Castelan has been donated to the Peninsula Historical Society by his son, Mike Castelan, from the estate of Nicholas Castelan."

Pauline Castelin and John Stanich wedding portrait, 1937

Next week I will continue Pauline's story of her father, Nicholas Castelan, and the family.

Pauline was a beautiful lady, she never appeared outside her house if she was not perfectly groomed. Not even to pick up the newspaper, to gather the mail, or any other task performed out-of-doors.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 19, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "... and wife went home again.  Had my first battle with the 14-15 = 13.  Conquered it nearly everytime but would hate to guaranty success."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 12, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Fournoon passed in absolute indolence.  P.M. wandered in quest of I know not what.  Floyd getting better but Floyd still very bad."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ruby Chapin Blackwell

Formal portrait of Ruby Blackwell

As I was doing research on the origin of box/basket socials as a type of entertainment and courting ritual -- especially as families moved westward to establish new homes -- I happened upon an interesting, entertaining novel about people moving west.  The book entitled “Courage of Substance, a Journey to the Oregon Territorywas by a 71-year-old first-time writer. I must confess, I found it as hard to put down as any of Louisa May Alcott’s books when I was a pre-teenager.

Although this novel had nothing about basket/box socials, it did elaborate on some of the lighter moments amongst the hardship and death often encountered on the long journey. Many evenings were spent enjoying music and dancing when there was someone with a musical instrument, whether a Jew’s harp, a mandolin, or whatever other instrument. The travelers would also share their meager food supplies at community suppers.

As I result of reading this book, I began a search for life after arrival and settlement in the new West and in the new communities.

I didn’t find another novel but I did find “A Girl in Washington Territory written by Ruby Chapin Blackwell when she was 96 years old.  Ruby’s journey west wasn’t in a covered wagon but instead by train.  Ruby’s mother was a widow with five children, and the country was suffering from the effects of a long Depression.

When Ruby’s uncle visited the family in Bridgewater, New York, in 1893, he and his wife took the two youngest girls home with them to Tacoma, Washington. Ruby was 7 and her sister Pearl was 12. The Blackwells, Alice and William, ran one of the first hotels in Tacoma and were a quite influential family. But this piece concentrates on Ruby, not the Blackwells. From Ruby...

“When I first talked to my Aunt about teaching, she stressed the idea that what I had to give was more important than the amount of money I might receive. I tried to live up to her admonition and more than earn my pay.”

Ruby’s Aunt Alice had helped George Ferguson of Artondale find customers for his poultry, eggs, butter, and cream that he took to Tacoma each week. And, Artondale needed a teacher for a three-month spring term. 
Students outside  

Mr. Ferguson arranged for Ruby to go home with him one cold February day where she received a warm welcome. A young man living in Artondale, the school district clerk, drove Ruby about to meet the three school directors at their homes.

Her credentials were acceptable, and she assured the directors that she would not attend the Saturday night dances. She also assured the directors that she would incorporate two expensive items that some good salesman had persuaded them to buy: a collection of wooden blocks in all geometric shapes and an anatomical chart nearly life size showing skeleton, muscles, nervous system, etc.  Ruby was offered the same $30 per month in 1896 as Emmett Hunt had received when he taught the first term at the new Artondale School 20 years earlier. Ruby wrote a lovely piece entitled “A Mélange of Experiences, Dug Up from Memories” in February, 1956, telling about her Artondale experiences.    

Ruby was a talented water colorist, and her paintings are of the Puget Sound area, Eastern Washington, and of course her beloved flowers. Her art often was on show at the Tacoma Art League or at the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma. All her life Ruby was a staunch supporter in money and contributions of the Washington State Historical Museum. Her contributions of Indian baskets formed the nucleus of the museum’s collection.

Ruby was a past president of the Tahoma Study Club, an honorary member of the Tacoma Garden Club, a member of the First Congregational Church, and life member of the Washington Historical State Museum.

Ruby, despite being quite beautiful, remained unmarried and died at age 103 in 1979.  

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September 5, 1880, Sunday

On this day Emmett Hunt wrote in his diary "Floyd appears much better.  Father not yet returned.  Something strange about it."

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.