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.

1 comment:

  1. Nick and Ella's second home on Harborview drive was not razed, but is alive and well cared for. It has however been renovated and added onto. Their first home - the "Honeymoon Cottage" has been razed and the property now belongs to the City of Gig Harbor and is a park.