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Step back in time and meet the Tacoma area’s first non-native settler, Job Carr

Turn off the smartphone Saturday and travel 150 years into Tacoma’s past at Pioneer Days Festival in Tacoma’s Old Town Park.

In 1864, 51-year-old U.S. Civil War veteran Job Carr became the first non-native settler in what would one day become the city of Tacoma.

Carr came to the shore of Commencement Bay in the hope that it would be the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway. He soon staked his claim on 168 acres of forested land. By 1865 Carr had completed a cabin – the first non-native residence – in what is now known as Old Town Tacoma.

However, the railroad instead chose today’s downtown Tacoma as its terminus, two miles to the south. Unfazed, Carr went on to become Tacoma's first mayor and postmaster.

On Saturday, the free Pioneer Days Festival will be held in and around the Job Carr Cabin Museum, a replica of Carr’s first house. It was built in 2000 in Old Town Park, about a block away from the original site. The space is intended to look as it would have in the late 1800s.

“It was an accomplishment to come and stay here even though their hopes of becoming the terminus were dashed,” said Mary Bowlby, executive director of the nonprofit Job Carr Museum.

On Saturday, the park will be filled with demonstrations of heritage crafts and hands-on activities. “It invites people, especially young people, to try their hands at something the pioneers would have done,” Bowlby said.

Visitors will be able to watch quilters, weavers and other demonstrators. They’ll also be able to grind corn, make bracelets, wash clothes with a washboard, and pan for (fake) gold in a sluice box. Non-electronic games will include three-legged races, tug of war, ring toss and checkers. Music will consist of stringed instruments and folk dancing.

Mel Carr, the great-great grandson of Job Carr, will be present to discuss family history, Bowlby said. Nearby Treos restaurant and Ice Cream Social will be selling food in the park.

During the year, docents keep regular afternoon hours at the cabin Wednesdays through Saturdays. The museum also hosts private tours for schools, civic organizations and other groups.

The nonprofit, which has a $90,000 annual budget and is supported by donations and grants, does not charge for any of its services. The group is about to begin a year-long observance of the 150th anniversary of Carr’s arrival in Puget Sound.

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