It wasn't a river that separated the early settlers of the Peninsula region
from the rest of the world. It was an inland sea over 160 miles long called Puget Sound.
The settlers soon discovered that instead of being a barrier the Sound could be an avenue for transportation and communication, if they could find the right means. The steamboat, in its many shapes and sizes, was the answer.
The steamboat era began in 1836 when the Hudson Bay Company's steamer, Beaver, began moving freight and passengers along the waterway. During the 65 years that followed, steamboats carried pioneer families, household goods, and animals to the remote bays, inlets, and islands along the Sound. Steamers carried goods and produce to market. They towed almost anything that could float: booms of logs; rafts of lumber; a floating
dry dock; and entire lumber camps. Steamboats towed sailing vessels
and even each other when one broke down.
At the height of the steamboat era, vessels comprising the Puget
Sound Mosquito Fleet numbered in the hundreds. Steamers could be sternwheelers, sidewheelers, or propeller driven. Some boats had been
in operation elsewhere. Others were designed and built locally.
Every community on the Gig Harbor Peninsula had a dock for the steamers. A community's social life centered around the arrival and departure of the local steamer. Everyone gathered at the landing when the steamer was
due, to pick up mail and provisions, and to gossip with neighbors.
The automobile eventually forced the steamboats out of business.
Overland transportation had become faster and cheaper. Neighborhoods, who considered their local steamer a family friend, were unhappy when it was taken off their run. By the end of the 1920s, most steamers had been phased out, and a way of life ended.
Meet the Hunt brothers and learn about their contribution to transportation on south Puget Sound. Click the link below.