Jarvis Island is discovered by the crew of the ship, Eliza Frances.
The island’s first known sighting by Europeans was on August 21, 1821 by the British ship Eliza Francis or Eliza Frances owned by Edward, Thomas and William Jarvis and commanded by Captain Brown.
The US Exploring Expedition surveyed the island in 1841. In March 1857 the island was claimed for the United States under the Guano Islands Act and formally annexed on February 27, 1858.
Jarvis Island was reclaimed by the United States government and colonized from March 26, 1935 onwards, under the American Equatorial Islands Colonization Project see also Howland Island and Baker Island. President Franklin D. Roosevelt assigned administration of the island to the U.S. Department of the Interior on May 13, 1936. Starting out as a cluster of large, open tents pitched next to the still-standing white wooden day beacon, the Millersville settlement on the island’s western shore was named after a bureaucrat with the United States Department of Air Commerce. The settlement grew into a group of shacks built mostly with wreckage from the Amaranth lumber from which was also used by the young Hawaiian colonists to build surfboards, but later, stone and wood dwellings were built and equipped with refrigeration, radio equipment, and a weather station. A crude aircraft landing area was cleared on the northeast side of the island, and a T-shaped marker which was intended to be seen from the air was made from gathered stones, but no airplane is known to have ever landed there.
At the beginning of World War II, an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine surfaced off the west coast of the Island. Believing that it was a U.S. Navy submarine which had come to fetch them, the four young colonists rushed down the steep western beach in front of Millersville towards the shore. The submarine answered their waves with fire from its deck gun, but no one was hurt in the attack. On February 7, 1942, the USCGC Taney evacuated the colonists, then shelled and burned the dwellings. The roughly cleared landing area on the island’s northeast end was later shelled by the Japanese, leaving crater holes.