Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Ross Family

As you wander through the museum you'll find the Ross family well represented, or you might happen to meet one of our docents, Rosemary Ross, hard at work with the Midway classes of young children.  I thought you might enjoy learning a little more about the family Rosemary married into.  There is so much more to tell about this prominent family that what is contained in this brief blog; but it's a start.

John (Yodrossich) Ross Sr. arrived in Gig Harbor in 1888. He had left his home on the island of Premuda in the Adriatic Sea on a year-long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean traveling down the around Cape Horn and up along the west cost of South America, Baja California and the west coast of the US arriving in Gig Harbor. 

He was the first white settlers in Gig Harbor and first built a cabin near the sand pit.  From there he ran an eight man oar boat and the crew set the nets and pulled the catch in, all by hands.  He was one of the first Gig Harbor fishermen to take his open vessel north to the San Juans and Alaska where he and the crew camped ashore at night to cook and collect both fuel and water.  Even then, they were gone for three months at a time.  

John's first purse seiner was a 45-foot open vessel named "Bogdon" was built in Seattle at the H. W. Lake Shipyard in 1909 and powered by a 20 h.p. Frisco Standard gas engine.  John Sr. had named it after his son "Danny" who passed away as a young boy.  John operated the "Bogdan" in the Puget Sound until 1914 when he sold it.  He immediately had his new boat, a 52-foot seiner "Brooklyn" built at the Strubstad yard in Tacoma. 

He was one of the first Gig Harbor fishermen to take his open vessel north to the San Juans and Alaska where he and the crew camped ashore at night to cook and collect both fuel and water.  Even then, they were gone for three months at a time.  

In October 1902 John Sr. purchased Lot 8 Block 6 in the Town of Millville for $350, and in September 1907 purchased Lot 9 for $100.  John Ross Sr. died on July 20, 1928 leaving behind his brother Luca Ross, his sons John Ross Jr. and Emmett Ross, four daughters, Mrs. Anna Masnov, Mrs. Famie Bruncev, Mrs. Winnie Bujacich and Miss Agnes Ross and 16 grandchildren.  Emmett, Adam and Johnnie Ross all began their long fishing careers as skippers in the early 1920s.  

His son, John Ross, Jr. was one of the first non-Indian children born in Gig Harbor, and he carried on his father's tradition of fishing not only in Puget Sound but also in the San Juans and Alaska.  John Jr. also skippered the early ferry boats"Skansonia" and "Defiance" whose run was between Gig Harbor and Pt. Fosdick and "The City of Tacoma" run from Pt. Fosdick and Fox Island. John Jr.the oldest son also ran "Providence" and "Advocator" for Lee Makovich Sr.  He also skippered the "Majestic", "Juno" and Gerald Crosby's "Sea Comber".    

His purse seiner was named "Home II" which he owned with his brothers Adam and Emmett.  It was built at Blind Slough, Oregon in 1916 and was 62-foot powered by 40 h.p. Frisco Standard powered. Adam Ross Sr. ran the vessel exclusively from 1924 when they bought it until he fell ill in 1966.  During the mid-1940s the vessel was completely rebuilt by the master carpenter Jack Bujacich, Sr. repowered with a Cumminns diesel.  Adam was a top skipper around the Sa Juan Islands and he and the "Home II" provided a training ground of sorts for a number of future skippers.  His son, Adam Jr. was one of those future skippers who eventually owned and operated the "Chinook" in the Puget Sound.  Adam Jr. sold "Chinook" and in and  had a new 58-foot seiner "Adana R" built in Richmond, California at the Don Bishop yard.  "Adana R" was operated in southeast Alaska until Adam Jr. retired in 1994.

In 1923 it is believed that Emmett had his first year as skipper of Lee Makovich Sr.'s "Providence".  Story has it that the first year Emmett skippered he took the "Providence" out and was scouting Eagle Point (San Juan Island) and suddenly fish were jumping everywhere.  Even though it was a Sunday closure, Emmett couldn't resist.  He went in for the haul and filled his net, and the crew pulled the net in as fast as possible hoping the fish commissioner didn't show up.  They filled the hatch and the deck with hum pies and 2 or 3 nets (brailer) into the skiff.  

The 3 Ross brothers got the 63-foot "Westland" in 1928 so that now they had 2 boats among the 3 brothers.  It is believed that because Johnnie still wanted to skipper ferryboats when he wasn't fishing they did not acquire 3 boats.  In the 1940s "Westland" was rebuilt from the guards up acquiring a new pilot house and again the carpenter was Jack Bujacich Sr.  Then in 1970 they sold it.Emmett and Spiro Babich had one of the closest competitions always trying to outdo the other.  Sometimes the 2 of them would be the only fishing boats out. 

From the beginning in 1888 through the years the Ross men lived by the sea and fishing.  Their boats ranged from Alaska to Mexico harvesting salmon, tuna, anchovie, crab and sardine.  The family fleet of boats carried the names of "Bogdon", "Juneau", "Brookdale",  "Westland", "Chinook", "Home II", "Marilyn R." and "Adana R." 

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.


  1. Famie Bruncev's granddaughter advised the office that these names in paragraph 6 were misspelled: Mrs. Anna Musnov should be Mrs. Anna Masnov; Mrs. Fannie Brumcev should be Mrs. Famie Bruncev, and Mrs. Winnie Brycicick should be Mrs. Winnie Bujacich. Thank you very much. We are correcting our records, and have now corrected in the body of this blog. Please accept our apologies although it will be difficult to correct all the documents used in writing the blog.

  2. Does anyone know what Adam Jr (that owned the AdanaR) Mothers maiden name was?