British Columbia, Canada

Sternwheelers on the Skeena River

I don't want to repeat written history of the sternwheelers as there is many books written about the subject.
This is a reminder page they existed, and for a few years before the GTP railroad was finished,
they supplied materials for Prospectors, Ranchers, Farmers, etc

Just some pictures of the Sternwheelers to view

SS Port Simpson
Sternwheeler at Hazelton
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Mines and Resources / Library and Archives Canada / PA-021441

SS Port Simpson
Shooting Big Canyon backwards at Kitselas
Credit: Fred Button/Library and Archives Canada/C-021045

SS Inlander
Lining the Big Canyon at Kitselas
Credit: Fred Button/Library and Archives Canada/C-021048

SS Omineca
Shooting the Big Canyon, ca 1911
Credit: Fred Button/Library and Archives Canada/C-021049

Sternwheeler History
Photos from Historical Info stands on Terrace Grand Trunk Pathway
SS Hazelton in middle photo

SS Mount Royal
Genealogy record of Survivors and Deceased of the sinking of the HBC SS Mount Royal

Sternwheeler at Telegraph Creek, May 1898

(ca 1898-1899)

These 2 sternwheelers, were joining the HBC's, SS Port Simpson,
R. Cunningham and Son's, SS Hazelton, which was chartered to the HBC,
and the Caledonia Trading Company of Victoria and Prince Rupert,
had the SS Caledonia, which they bought from the HBC.
All on the Skeena River.

SS Distributor

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart
  • John Doddridge- Master (see bio below)
  • Daniel Martin- Chief Engineer
  • Ernest Jordan- Mate
  • William A. Thompson- Purser

SS Skeena

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart
  • George Magar- Master (see below)
  • Robert Ryder- Chief Engineer
  • James A. Woods- Mate
  • A. E. Johnston- Purser

SS Omineca

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart
  • John Shannon- Master
  • Edward Hicks- Mate
  • J. T. Henley- Chief Engineer
  • B. Ackland- Purser

SS Conveyor

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart

SS Operator

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart

Elk (Launch)

  • Owners- Foley, Welch & Stewart
  • Rex Holland- Master
  • found a Launch “Elk” on the Fraser River, 30 ft long, 7 ft 6“ beam with 4 cy 4 cyl 24 hp Lamb engine

SS Port Simpson

  • Owner- Hudson's Bay Company
  • John Jackman- Master
  • Richard Dennison- Chief Engineer
  • John Knox- Steward
  • Percy Patmore- Purser

SS Hazelton

  • Owner- Hudson's Bay Company
  • John Bucey- Master (see Bio below)
  • Patrick Hickey-Chief Engineer
  • Thomas Hickey- Purser


SS Northwest
Friday, Sept 13, 1907 the sternwheeler SS Northwest wrecked between Graveyard Point and Telegraph Point, after only 4 months in service on the Skeena.
Caused by the weight of all the freight, and the sand being washed away underneath, where a hidden snag was laying,
while she was hung up on what became Graveyard Bar, 5 miles below Graveyard Point,
Captain Bonser worked the lines and steam capstan and almost pulled the boat over, when night came.
By the time morning came the river level fell, and this caused the heavy load to break up the boat.
Most of the freight was taken to shore in native canoes.
The ship left Port Essington on Thursday Morning with 100 tons of freight, and a full load of passengers to Kitsalas canyon only as the water level was too low to go beyond.
All passengers and crew survived. the Ship was owned by the Northern British Columbia Transportation Company, and was valued at $40,000.
Captain John Henry Bonser was in command at the time.
captain_john_bonser_2.jpg Mrs John Bonser
His wife was on board at the time of the accident. she lived on the boats he operated, and would take over as captain if he had to go below.
It's 15 ton boiler was removed and brought to Vancouver on the SS Vadso and possibly installed in another new ship.
The Northwest was 134 ft long, and had a 28 ft beam
She ran on the columbia river for 18 years before Captain Bonser bought her and took her north to the Skeena.
The same time the SS Hazelton had a serious accident on Oliver's Riffle, just north of the mouth of Oliver Creek, between Old Hazelton and Kitselas Canyon. It hit a rock, and had a 25 ft gash. It was in serious condition Sept 17, 1907. Oct 7 it arrived at Port Washington and was repaired in a few short weeks, with carpenters working day and night on her. Oct 21, 1907 she arrived back at Hazelton on her first trip after the accident.

John Henry Bonser
b- Jan 18, 1855 Multnomah, Oregon Territory, USA
d- Dec 26, 1913 St. Vincents Hospital, Columbia Co, Oregon, USA, from Paralysis, age 58. He was sick for over a year.
buried in Kinder Cemetery, Deer Island, Columbia Co., Oregon
The First Man to take a Steamer up the Skeena, and last one to come down.
Came on the skeena in 1892, in charge of the HBC SS Caledonia.(see below)
He operated it until 1900 then transferred to the Monte Cristo, which he partly owned.
He went to the Fraser in 1907, probably after this accident.
He returned in 1911 to operate the SS Inlander, which was his last command. In his early years, He operated many ships on the Columbia river and Lewis river, and Portland Harbour he was seen many times.
Before the Skeena he operated on the Fraser river.
As well as the Skeena, he operated up the Stikine as well.
He was also involved in the Hard Scrabble hydraulic mine at Lorne Creek, ca 1903.
He was using his boat the “Hamlin” at that time to haul pipe and materials for the mine.
It was a flat bottomed Sternwheeler that had a draw of only 18 inches of water.
50 head of cattle was just one item of freight it could haul.
In 1903 he had served 11 years on the Skeena and Stikine Rivers.
Father: James Halstead Bonser (1832-1909)
Mother- Jane Bonser, nee ? b- Ohio age 35 in 1870
His Grandfather John Bonser family were early settlers of Sauvies Island, Columbia river, near Portland OR
Spouse: Ida Bell Bonser nee English (b- Mar 22, 1861 in CA, USA-d- Jan 4, 1947 in Vancouver BC, age 85)
daughter of Charles Henry English and Jane Nausley
2 Children:

  • Francisco “Francis” A. Bonser 1883-1894)
  • Viroqua English Bonser, who became Mrs. Henry R. Godfrey, lived in Vancouver BC in 1913 (1884-1977)

He had 4 brothers:

  • Lewis W. Bonser, of Portland OR, in 1913 (1856-1935)
  • Thomas “Albert” Bonser, (1857-1880)
  • Samuel C. Bonser (1861-1869)
  • Ewell Lee Bonser (1863-1885)

and 4 sisters

  • Minerva Jane Bonser (1854-1903)
  • Lillian Annette Bonser, Mrs J. M. Akins, Santa Ana CA. in 1913 (1859-1922)
  • Cora Ann Bonser, Mrs. H. S. Godshell, Portland OR. in 1913, (1865-1919)
  • Hannah Abigail Bonser, Mrs C. W. Knowles, Vancouver WA in 1913 (1867-1941)

Interesting story with this family, his grandfather's daughter, Abigail M. Bonser, sister to James, aunt to John, was murdered by 2 Snohomish Natives in their cabin.
Her and her husband William Casto were killed Nov 7, 1864, at Squak Valley WA. With them a friend John Holstead who was also killed. Where his dad got the Holstead middle name from.

1907 Captain Bonser was using the SS Pheasant to ply the Skeena River. It was owned by the Skeena River Navigation Company. It was lost in 1906.

Foley, Welch and Stewart

Paddlewheel photo from Grant Walker, unknown location

ca 1907- The companies paid #3 a cord for cord wood for the boilers. A good man could cut a cord a day.

Sternwheeler distance and fares from Port Essington or Aberdeen Cannery to stops east to Old Hazelton

Captain John Doddridge
b- ? unknown
d- May 11, 1914 in Whitehorse, Yukon
buried in Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse, Yukon, (name shown as Capt Doddgredge in Yukon records, no headstone)
A Captain John Doddridge lived in Wenatchee, Chelan Co., WA when he applied to marry Miss Reta Ward from Portland OR, who he married in Nov 1, 1906 at Everett WA. same guy?

Captain George Magar
b- ca 1862, in Quebec age 54 in 1916 (In 1921 census his daughter says he was born in Ontario?)
d- 1916 at West Peace River, AB, (after the 1916 census since he is shown in there.)
Married Flora Georgina Dudoward, b- age 32 in 1916, in BC
daughter of Alfred and Kate Dudoward from Port Simpson.
A widow she remarried in 1929
They had a daughter Estelle Katharina “Stella” Magar, b- ca 1907, in BC.
His daughter Stella married James H. Comer, June 14, 1927 in Hyder AK.
Oct 15, 1907 Capt Magar was operating the SS Caledonia between Port Essington and Kitselas Canyon
It was built in New Westminster and entered service in 1891 for the HBC
Taken north by Capt George Odin, and Chief Engineer, Thomas Hatherly
Capt Bonser (see above) took her over and operated her for many seasons, until taking over the Northwest.
It sat on skids on the beach at Port Simpson in 1902 until fall of 1907. when it was bought by a syndicate, overhauled and put into service on the Skeena.
It was 100 ft long, 24.6 ft beam, hold was 5 ft deep.
Water had to be ft deep min for it to operate.
Dec 1909 he was operating the steamer SS Skeena for Foley, Welch and Stewart. 1916 he was living in West Peace River area, shown as a Master Mariner.

Captain Rex Holland
b- ?
d- ?

Captain John Jackman
b- ?
d- ?
Mount Jackman in BC named after this man
Jan 1912 he was taking the SS Distibutor down to the Fraser River to be used on the Thompson River to be used by the Canadian Northern Railway contractors.
he was the Captain of steamers in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.
I know he was married but no name.
I know he was a long time resident of Nanaimo.
I also read where was was one of the earliest residents of Vancouver, before 1890.

Captain Joseph “John” Parker Bucey
Joseph Bucey in 1921 census
b- May 15, 1858 in Marietta, Washington, Ohio, USA
d- Jan 22, 1934, Tacoma, Pierce Co, WA, USA, age 75
He Immigrated in 1901 per 1921 census, and wife and 2 daughters came in 1905
1893 he was a US Post Master in Marietta, Ohio, wuite a change to mariner.
Son of Walter Bucey, mother- Mary Groves or Graves
2nd marriage to Emma Etta Bucey, nee Truitt, Nov 1, 1893, Buenna, King, Washington, USA
b- Nov, 1864 in Summerset, Iowa, USA
d- ?
daughter of George Truitt, and Melvina Byrum
3 daughters in 1921 all living in Victoria
son- Walter T. Bucey, b- Sept 24, 1894, Buenna, WA., USA
Etta Lucy Bucey b- Dec, 1904, age 17 in 1921, in USA
Francis Virginia Bucey, b- ca 1902, age 19 in 1921, in USA
Virginia Bucey, b- ca 1920, age 1 in 1921, in BC
son Loyal P. Bucey b- Aug 1900 in USA
possibly? Sarah J. Bucey


  • Last modified: 2023/04/07 11:05
  • by dlgent