Puyallup-Nisqually Indians Lived near head of Bay by Gladys Para, Gateway Staff and Executive Director of Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society 1985
I received a request to reprint this article which originally appeared in The Peninsula Gateway in 1985. The request was based upon the fact that the Puyallup-Nisqually Native Americans history and contributions are generally overlooked except in certain circumstances. So in an effort to correct that, here is Gladys’ original article.
Old Town, Gladys Para
Lillian Goodman Rust was only an infant among the six children Joseph and Rose Goodman brought to the Harbor in 1883. Here to meet them were Sam and Anna Jerisich and their family, John and Josephine Novak and children, and Joe Dorotich, who only a week previously had married the eldest Jerisich daughter, Caroline.
In addition, many of the people who called Gig Harbor home were Puyallup-Nisqually Indian families who moved from it to Vashon and back with the seasons. They had lived for generations in cedar houses on the creek (Burnham) [we know it now as Donkey Creek] whose mouth forms the northwest corner of the Harbor waters. They called the place Twa-wal-cutx.
One resident of the Indian village was addressed by his white neighbors as Buckshot, Quickshot, or sometimes Shinshot. He was knows to the Puyallups as one of their “trainers” of the children, a man who taught them their own history. They gathered for this training in the potlatch or meeting house. This building was recalled in her old age by Puyallup tribal member Lucy Gur as being 100 feet long.
It, therefore, must have seemed logical to the Twa-wal-cutx teacher to loan it, later, to the new Gig Harbor teacher. It was the largest structure in Gig Harbor at the time.
The Goodman family stayed in Sam Jerisich’s first log hut on the spit while Joseph Goodman built a house near the mouth of Crescent Creek. Within two years, Lillian’s 17 year-old sister, Anna, stepped forward as teacher of the local children — from the Indian families, the Jerisich and Novak families, and her own brothers and sisters. Classes kept only slightly warm in the potlatch house near the clay and stick fireplace that would self-destruct in too hearthy sic a blaze.
Lillian, who was the last surviving Goodman of 10, before her death in 1969, was taken by her mother to visit Mrs. Jerisich, who occasionally persuaded Mrs. Goodman to wrap her into a papoose board, as was her own child, Julia. To the little girl growing up in early Gig Harbor, Indians were people who were familiar neighbors and friends.
Her father set her an example, Barbara Pearson, local historian, writes, “The Goodman girls’ father made them return beads (they had found) to the east Gig Harbor site, because he felt they had taken something that was not theirs, and was important to the Indians living at the head of the bay.”
When Lillian became Mrs. Erwin Rust, her home continued to be in Gig Harbor. The important things in her adult life included her membership in the Amateur Garden Club and her writing. One of her poems suggests first hand knowledge of an even in an Indian child’s life. One of her stories reads strongly like an eye witness recollection. In it she speaks of an Indian woman she must have known.
“…At dusk on Crescent Bay a boat with young folks left the north shore, gay voices and laughter in its wake…a tiny breeze no stronger than a breath of air conveyed a strain of strange music. In hushed voices they asked each other, “What was that!
“…With one accord…the oarsmen turned their course westward to follow the eerie music, guiding their boat through a narrow lagoon ‘till they came within the shadows of a sparse hedge of wild roses.
“There beyond the thorny hedge, lighted by the flames of an open wood fire, was the Indian village. On the beach were canoes, hewn from logs of cedar; in the background stood cabins of driftwood with chimneys of round limbs and clay.
“In the doorway of her cabin sat old Hosanna, wife of their leader, Buckshot (Quickshot). Around her stooped shoulders was wrapped the plaid shawl worn by her kind; across her forehead a gay kerchief was found. Her face twisted into contortions of suffering…Hosanna was in great distress. A headache, an annual ailment, announced the presence of an evil spirit within her, wracking her very being, and it must be cast out.
“Within the circle of light the Indians stood in duplication, their heads bowed, chanting in cadence, while one kept perfect rhythmic beats on a crude drum made by the use of a hide drawn tightly over the mouth of a large iron kettle: ‘Tum-tum-tum.’ Buckshot held out his hand for silence, then, lifting his scarred old face toward heaven, raised a prayer with such entreaty that surely the pleading tones could not go unanswered.
“The drum took up its measured beat, but faster” ’Te-tum-te-tum, te-tum.’ The voices started a joyful chant blending in unison, until at last, long-drawn high note ascended the tree-fringed hills…raised heavenward and was heard no more.
“Old Hosanna, relieved of suffering, stood up, her face with trans…. looked upward…The Evil spirit had departed. Turning, she entered the cabin door.
“Released,…the oarsmen….their homeward course…the strain of music remained with them, leaving impressions that endure too a lifetime.”
I found in an article written in 1948 for The Tacoma Times by local resident, Mrs. John H. Insel, the following information which adds a bit more to the story of the first school in Gig Harbor. The article was based upon a personal interview by Mrs. Insel with Mrs. J. A. Wheeler aka known as Anna Goodman.
“Sixty-two years ago in January, 1886, the first school was started in Gig Harbor.
Miss Anna Goodman, now Mrs. J. A. Wheeler of Crescent Valley, was the first teacher.
She doesn’t remember the exact date on which the school opened, but recalls ‘It was shortly after the beginning of the new year.’
The school was the “potlatch house” belonging to the Indians who donated the building for use by the white man. It stood near the Indian village on what is now the site of the Galbraith mill (formerly the Austin Mill) and the Peninsula Light Company’s office.
ROUGH BENCHES SEATS: There was a fireplace at one end of the room with the chimney made of alternate layers of flat sticks and clay. Rough board benches were placed against the wall for seats and a blackboard improvised from a piece of cardboard painted black completed the school’s equipment. In order to write, pupils held their slates braced against their knees and books, when not in use, were laid on the bench.
The first pupils to attend the pioneer school were John, Mike, Sam, Melissa, and Catherine Jeresich, children of the late Samuel Jeresich, the first white settler who founded Gig Harbor in 1867, and the late Mrs. Jeresich; Lee, Cora, and May Goodman, brother and sisters of the teacher, whose parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Goodman came to Gig Harbor in July 1883; Peter St. Louis, and William Peterson.
$30 MONTHLY SALARY: Mrs. Wheeler was 17 years of age when she began teaching school, receiving a salary of $30 a month for the 4-month term. …
…She was one of the first three pupils graduating from Tacoma public schools to receive a diploma.
The other two members of her class — June 1887, were Lizzie Hazard and Walter Harvey.
She recalls the title of her graduation “essay” was “What Science Has Done”. Principal of the school was Edmond Young. She attended the old Central school in Tacoma, when it was located on So. 11th St. across from the courthouse. She received her teacher’s certificate by “passing” the county’s teacher’s examination.”