Those That Fished

© Photographed February 28, 2014
Port Washington, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin
43° 23.228′ N, 87° 52.071′ W

Those that Fished
The Indians who spent their summers where Sauk Creek and Lake Michigan meet were Port Washington's first fishermen. They used rocks or clubs to kill fish in shallow water. Later, spears were used. Then, crude hooks were fashioned out of bone. With the coming of the white settlers, in 1835, barbed hooks and seine nets were introduced. Port Washington's first commercial fishermen were Sam Curray and Frank Delles. Curray was the first to use pound nets, in 1870. John Everson followed in 1872, along with Driscoll and his sons, the first to use gill nets. Newman and Peterson entered the growing business in 1873 and George Rathbun and his son began commercial fishing a year later.

William Smith brought his family to Amsterdam, Wisconsin, just 15 miles north of Port, in 1848. He and his son Gilbert used a 100 foot seine net to catch whitefish. Gilbert's sons, Delos and Herbert, the "original" Smith Brothers, struck out on their own, moving sough, first to Blakesville, then Sucker Brook and finally Port Washington in 1896. Their brother Roy joined them in 1900. Delos' sons Lester and Oliver, followed by their sons carried on the Smith fishing operations until 1988. By then the family's large fleet of fish tugs had been reduced to one boat, the OLIVER H. SMITH. This tug was to become the last fishing boat based in Port Washington's harbor. In its heyday, the Smith family expanded its business ventures to include restaurants in Wisconsin and California, fish wholesale and retail outlets, and a motel in Port Washington.

Henry, George and Jacob Van Ells emigrated from Holland to Jones Island, Milwaukee, in the mid 1850's and worked for other commercial fishermen until they bought the MARIAH B.M. in 1880. George and the MARIAH B.M. came to Port Washington in the late 1880's and the rest of the Van Ells settled here in 1890. A land dispute on Jones Island was the catalyst for the families' move. The Van Ells business was located at the west end of the west slip. Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews worked side by side for 40 years. The last to actively fish, Captain Andrew Van Ells laid up his boat and rig in 1930.

August and Berth Ewig emigrated to Jones Island in 1882. Soon thereafter he was joined by his brother Herman, his wife and five children. They settled among the German and Kashubian (Polish) immigrants, most of whom had come from the Baltic area and were people of the sea; sailors, ship wrights and fishermen. Herman and August brought with them fishing skills learned on the Baltic, joining forces, their first steam tug was the HANNAH SULLIVAN. The two families fished and lived together in the insular community unti l894 when they made the move to Port Washington. Sons Gustav and Emil carried on the fishing tradition and formed Ewig Brothers. Emil's son Oscar became a licensed captain and was master of the steel fishing tug H. EWIG, at the time one of the largest on Lake Michigan. The Ewig fleet moved to Sheboygan in the 1930's. Generations have passed and the family no longer engages in commercial fishing. Eugene Ewig and his sons operate a retail fish outlet located near the west slip.

John "J.T." Bossler was born in Port Washington in 1860. Son of a butcher and later sheriff, J.T. became interested in fishing and learned his trade by working for many of our city's pioneer fishermen. He then set out on his own and formed J.T. Bossler and Sons Fish Company. J.T. and his wife, Susanna, had five sons and a daughter who assisted on shore and aboard their first tug, the OVER THE TOP. They later had the steam tug J.T. BOSSLER built, followed by the BOSSLER BROS. The sons and grandsons of J.T. carried on the family name through the decades, finally leaving the lake around 1950. Dan Bossler and Arthur Reiter bought the BOSSLER BROS. in 1951, but the venture was short lived.
The marker is part of the Commercial Fisherman's Memorial located at Rotary Park at the farthest east end of West Grand Avenue / Wisconsin Highway 32, Port Washington, Wisconsin 53074.

The marker is located at Rotary Park.

 The marker is located in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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