Thursday, September 12, 2013

Skansie (Morris) Netshed

Gig Harbor Netsheds
(The Largest Inventory on the Puget Sound)

Today's visit is at the Skansie Netshed built by Peter Skansie, and later owned by his son, Vince Skansie and Olive, owned until the property was purchased by Tom Morris Sr. and Dave Morris around 1972.

Vince started his career as a commercial fisherman around 1919 when he was 15 years old when he went with his father, Peter Skansie for a "full share".  That "full share" after deducting for gasoline and groceries and other personal expenses left the 15 year old with $2,200.  What a surprise for one summer's work!  And Vince surprised his father by asking him to help him open a savings account rather than spending it.  Peter was quite happy with Vince's decision; as Vince recounted, Peter explained that within a couple years he would have enough money put aside to pay for a college education and a great future 'off the water', in other words  'not as a fisherman'.  Vince saw this as a perfect time to tell his father the truth, that he didn't want to go to college, he didn't even want to go back to high school.  He wanted to spend his life fishing.    

Lee Makovich goes on to say in his February 1994 article in The Fishermen's News "The Gentlemen Skipper" that Peter Skansie was very angry and tried everything to force Vince to change his mind.  Finally he called a banker friend of his, explained the difficulty he was having in convincing Vince of the need of an education.  He wanted the banker to to talk to Vince when they went in to open the savings account the next day.  So, as the conversation is related, Vince presented the check and explained that he had made the $2,200 fishing with his dad during the summer.  The banker was amazed; he looked at the check, he looked at Peter, he looked by at Vince.  And as the story goes the banker told Vince he had finished high school, he went to college and he had worked at the bank every day and he hadn't made near as much money all year as Vince did during the summer.  He went on to say that if he were Vince he wouldn't go back to school either.

We have several copies, though not all, of The Fishermen's News in the Harbor History Museum Resource Center that you can look through if you make an appointment to do so. Lee did a remarkable job of creating a written history of the fishing community, its boats, and the various fisheries.  We have also created an index of Lee's articles for you review to see if any interest you.  

I want to thank the City of Gig Harbor for allowing me to use material from the Historic   American Engineering Survey on Gig Harbor Net Sheds.  The complete surveys can be located  

The SKANSIE (MORRIS) NETSHED is the sixteenth of 17 netsheds along Gig Harbor’s waterfront and will be the subject of this week’s blog.  A copy of the survey can be accessed at  The survey includes Engineered drawings in Plan and  Profile thanks to funds provided by the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the National Trust.  To view images of the Skansie (Morris) Netshed (presently owned by David and Thomas Morris) go to

You can also obtain a copy of a brochure for a self-guided tour of the 17 netsheds from the City of Gig Harbor, the Harbor History Museum, or the Chamber of Commerce or click 

To me and many others, the netsheds of Gig Harbor are a constant reminder of the first major industry here after the white settlers arrived.  It was the Europeans escaping hard times in their homelands that came to Gig Harbor and either took up fishing or continued fishing earning them and their families a livelihood on the water harvesting the bountiful fish in the surrounding waters.  The principle fishermen were Croatians, but there were many Scandinavians as well.

The 'netsheds' were built by the immigrants to provide a place to mend nets, repair their boats, provide a gathering place between fishing seasons and perform other jobs necessary to get their boats ready for the next venture at sea.  Fishing is a full time job otherwise known as "12-month job".  Many men fished the Pacific Ocean waters from the coast of South America to the Bering Sea.

Today's fishermen ranging in age from their 60s (maybe 70s) to their early 20s are still carrying on the traditions and values of their ancestors. Fishing is a living, thriving, industry - young people still enter the fishing profession after completing their education.   Over the past 36 years that I have lived in Gig Harbor I have seen many historic net sheds and fishing families properties disappear.  Some of these historic properties have changed hands and have been adapted to reuse and rebuilt retaining little if any of the original features.  

When you look at the west side of Gig Harbor Bay and you'll find  the 17 netsheds we are identifying in this and the other 16 blogs, you can see the remnants of what was one of the most vibrant working waterfronts on the Puget Sound.

Okay, so now I have encouraged you to check out a few of these structures -  how do you go about it? As I mentioned earlier, the City of Gig Harbor has prepared a brochure for a self-guided tour of all 17 net sheds.  Grab a copy and then decide how you are going to do it. But remember that except for the Skansie and Ancich Brothers netsheds these netsheds are privately owned and you will need permission from the owner to enter unless they are operated as a business enterprise open to the public.

If you have a boat, that is the best way; it allows you to close your eyes and visualize how busy those properties were in their heyday.  But, though not quite as impressive, you can do the same thing walking along Harborview from the old Ferry dock at the mouth of the harbor all the way up to West Shore Marina.  

Tune in next week for the next in our series on the historic net sheds of Gig  Harbor.  

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