Port Essington

Port Essington, BC, Canada

Alt Name- Natives call this area, Spokshute, Spok-sut

With so many history books written about Port Essington, I decided to add just a small limited page, just to list it here, so folks don't think I forgot about it.

Named Port Essington in 1793 by Captain Vancouver, after his friend Captain William Essington, RN, b- 1753 (see Ext Essington's bio Link below)

Unincorporated area

Cannery Town on the south bank of the Skeena River, 12 miles from the mouth, Located at the mouth of the Ecstall River (Note 1) 550 miles from Victoria

note 1- Ecstall has many different spellings, It is taken from the Tsimshian dialect,
alt spellings: Eckstall, Exstall, Ucstall, Oxtall, Hocsall, Hockstall, Huckstall, and Huxstall

Range 5, Coast Land District

Lat- 54º 9' 33“ N
Long- 129º 57' 51” W

It was a planned Terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, but moved to Prince Rupert by Charles Hays

It was founded in 1871 by Robert Cunningham and Thomas Hankin, They first set up a trading store at Woodcock's Landing in 1870, then moved to this location

Robert Cunningham
Considered the Founder of Port Essington
b- 1837 County of Tyrone, Ireland
d- Apr 8, 1905, Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital, age 68
He is buried in a Native Cemetery, on Digby Island
2nd son of George Cunningham
1862 he was sent to BC as a lay Teacher, after attending Islington College in London.
Married Elizabeth Ryan, Sept 16, 1864 in St Paul's Church, Metlakatla BC

Thomas “Tom” Hankin
b- May 11, 1843 in Stanstead, Ware, Hertfordshire, England
d- Mar 15, 1885 at Inverness BC (aka: Woodcock's Landing), age 40
Buried in Victoria BC
son of Daniel Hankin (age 43 in 1841),
b- Stanstead, Hertsfordshire, England,
and Elizabeth Dorothy Potter (age 35 in 1841)
b- Middlesex, London
Arrived in BC via Cape Horn ca 1858
Tom married a Tlingit Alaskan Native, Margaret McCauly (Mccauley) June 20, 1871
they had 7 children
daughter Charlotte Seymour Hankin married John Charles Boyd, May 11, 1905 in Hazelton BC
b- Sept 27, 1880, Inverness BC, age 20 when she married
see Telegraph Creek and Port Simpson pages for Boyd history

Younger brother of Commander Philip James Hankin, Royal Navy,
b- 1836 (see below) (age 5 in 1841)
other siblings of Tom,
sister- Constance Hankin, age 8 in 1841
brother- Henry Hankin, age 7 months in 1841
brother- Christian Hankin, age 3 in 1841
brother- Daniel Hankin, age 16 in 1851
sister- Alice Hankin, age 6 in 1851
brother- Graham Hankin, age 5 in 1851
daughter- Lucy Hankin, age 3 in 1851
sister of Daniel, aunt to Tom, Maria Hankin, age 45 in 1851

Port Essington near Prince Rupert
Credit: H.N. Topley / Library and Archives Canada /

Mar 28, 1909 Postcard of Port Essington Wharf area
Photo by P. E. Fisher
See Postcard Photographers

Writing is Norwegian
Postcard contributed by Grant Walker CA, Feb 2016

Tid Bits of History as I find them

Balmoral Cannery located near here
Fire Insurance map link below shows them all

Rev. D. Jennings was the Methodist missionary here for 5 years, He took over again in 1891

Rev. G. F. Hopkins was the Methodist Missionary here until 1891

Episcopal Church, Salvation Army
Methodist Church, and Mission House.
Sawmill, Canneries and Stores

After fires and weather, today it is a ghost town.

Street Map of Port Essington, ca Jan 15, 1914
sent courtesy Cyril Nabess, from the Kitselas Archives, with Thanks
His Grandfather was born here, and his Grandfather's Grandfather as well.

Street names, etc, that I can read

Indian Reserve Land in middle
Indian Methodist Church

Kitselas Street, runs along Cunningham Bay, Skeena River
Front St. (Left side)
Aveling St (Right side)
Lorne St.
Stanley St.
Landsdowne St.
Aberdeen St.
Cemetery on extreme bottom right
Hazel St (on right side)
Aveling St.
Watson St.

Hazel Street
Wellington St
Germanson St
Vinell? St.
Cascade St.
Hazelton St.
Omineca St.
Dufferin St.
Adelaide St.
Amy St.
McKenzie St.
McCauley St.
Sommerville St- to FinnTown

Hocsal River on left
Anglican Church and Graveyard on left

Frizzell Dock, right side

Skeena Commercial Cannery

Anglo British Columbia Packing Company

Boston Cannery

Can't read St in far left top- R_ _ _et St.

Jail off East end of Dufferin St, on North end of Lorne St.

School west end of Omineca St

To Sawmill, right bottom of map, by Cemetery
Star marks spot Islander Sternwheeler on ways

Unknown Native Marriage, ca 1900
Photo sent by Cyril Nabess, From the Kitselas Methodist Church Archives

Post Office History

Name of Office: Skeena
Federal Electoral District: Skeena Cariboo (BC)
Office Opened Prior to July 1, 1823
Office name changed to Port Essington- May 1, 1898

Postmaster Information:

Name of Postmaster Date of Appointment Date of Vacancy Cause of Vacancy
Thomas Hankin (PM in 1873) 1875
James Cunningham 1875 1877 Change of site
W. M. Neil 1877-10-01 1880
James E. White 1880-10-01 1886
Robert George Cunningham 1887

Name of Office: Port Essington
Federal Electoral District: Cariboo / Skeena (BC)
Office Opened prior to July 1, 1873
Closed Aug 31, 1944
Reopened Oct 3, 1944
Closed for good, July 20, 1955
Former name Skeena, changed May 1, 1898

Postmaster Information:

Name of Postmaster Date of Appointment Date of Vacancy Cause of Vacancy
Robert George Cunningham 1887 1901-02-26 Dismissal, political partisanship
Peter Herman 1901-04-01 1905-11-24 Resignation
Robert Leck McIntosh 1906-01-01 1906-12-13 Resignation
Hector McKenzie 1907-02-22 1907-04-15 Resignation
William Cameron 1908-01-01 1910-08-26 Resignation
George Alec Taylor 1910-11-01 1930-01-27 Death
John McMillan Smith 1930-06-23 1935-10-15 *
Charles Derwent Pogson 1935-10-16 Acting -
“ ” 1935-12-12 1944-04-25 Death
Mrs. Mary Anne Bell
(actually May Anne Bell, nee Muir)
1944-05-01 Acting -
Henry James Reid 1944-10-03 1948-10-15 Resignation
Miss Wilma Colleen Reid 1948-12-01 Acting -
“ ” 1949-02-21 1949-06-29 Resignation
Mrs. Martha Annie Ellen Ingram 1949-10-01 Acting -
Henry James Reid 1950-04-01 Acting -
“ ” 1950-09-22 1951-04 Resignation
Mrs. Elizabeth L. Spalding 1951-10-01 Acting -
“ ” 1951-12-19 1955-07-20 * Closed

This reproduction is NOT represented as an official version of the materials reproduced, nor as having been made in affiliation with,
or with the endorsement of the National Archives of Canada. The source of this material is the National Archives of Canada

Post Master Genealogy

First Post Master
Thomas “Tom” Hankin
see above

James Cunningham

All I can find is James Cunningham in New Westminster, Merchant, age 46, born in Ireland, in 1881 census
married to Maryanne, age 36, b- in ON
they had a son Herbert, (Hebert?) b- age 5 in BC
undoubtedly a relative of Robert Cunningham, but how?
I am thinking he was his brother.
Robert Cunningham's funeral was attended by his brother, but no name shown.
Sept 29, 1885 he was on the steamer Boscowitz, arriving in Victoria, from Port Essington.

W. M. Neil
Mr Neil is one of those that hide from me, no info found.
was this Wiggs O'Neil? he was here
In 1880 a Mr. Neal started up the Inverness Cannery
1882 he operated a Government meteorological station at Inverness, shown as W. M. Neil

James E. White
b-ca 1857, in USA, (age 24 in 1881 Census)
d- ?
Shown as a manager in Inverness Cannery in 1881
Oct 1880- Mr. James E. White
Manager of the Inverness Cannery, was appointed Post Master at “Skeena” (Port Essington)
1884 he was still Manager there.
a James White died Sept 23, 1912 in Prince Rupert, age 58
was this him?

Robert George Cunningham
b- Nov 20, 1865 in Metlakatla BC
d- Mar 28, 1949, Prince Rupert General Hospital, Prince Rupert
son of Robert Cunningham,
b- Northern Ireland (see above)
and Elizabeth Ryan,
b- Metlakatla BC

Peter Herman
b- Apr 4, 1864 in Saxony Germany
(1862 in another source, see below)
d- 1907, drowned on Ecstall River, age 44
1901 census shows him as a Canner
Immigrated in 1882
son of George Herman
married to a native lady named Katheline “Kate” Spence, May 5, 1894 in Port Essington
age 24 when married
b- 1872 in Victoria BC
d- 1926 in Haysport
daughter of a Chief they had 6 children, I think
source below says 5, but I did find 6:

son- William “Willie” “Bill” Lawrence Herman,
b- Apr 12, 1891 in Port Essington BC
d- Oct 11, 1967 in Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Nanaimo BC
widow when he died

son- Walter Philip Herman,
b- June 25, 1893 in Port Essington, BC
d- Jan 12, 1979 Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Nanaimo BC
Steam Engineer
married to Rose Leona Hudson

son- Roy Joseph Herman,
b- 1896 in BC
d- July 30, 1938 in Haysport BC, age 41

daughter- Hilda Theresa Herman,
b- July 3, 1898 in Port Essington, BC
d- Apr 7, 1988 in Prince Rupert
she married Llewellyn James North, June 5, 1924 in Haysport

daughter- Mary Elizabeth Herman,
b- Prince Rupert BC
age 22 when she married Roy Braden Riches, Aug 16, 1931

son- Peter Alexander Herman,
b- ca 1908
d- Mar 6, 1915 in Port Essington, age 7

Peter Herman Family photo from his Great Grand-Daughter, Suzanne
Peter Herman, My G,G Kate Spence, Her mother, Mary Spence,
Bill Herman, Roy Valpy, Walter (baby) in Mary Spence's lap

Peter Herman was the Chief Rival to Cunningham, with his own store and cannery at Port Essington. Came north to Port Essington in 1885.
He had business's in Terrace and Prince Rupert, Herman Mountain near Lakelse Lake, named after him

Correction Dec 2014 on Peter and Kate's family
from Dorothy Cauchie, granddaughter of Margaret
“I just read your information on the Herman family of Port Essington back in the early 1900's. In the information regarding the children of Peter and Kate I noticed that one of the children's names was missing. It was my grandmother, Margaret Katherine, born in 1902 in Port Essington and died in Nanaimo in 1970. She married Richard Kelday of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands around 1920 and they lived in Prince Rupert till 1963.
The siblings would have been William Valpy (born 1892), Walter Utley (born 1893) both sons of Katherine and then she and Peter had Roy (1896), Hilda (1898), Margaret (grandma) (1902) and Mary (1909). Also Peter (1907) who drowned at age 7.” \\

Nov 21, 2019- another email on this family,
With corrections, and additional info. from a Debra North-
We are contacting you as we are descendants of Peter Herman through his daughter Hilda and her son Peter North.
In regards to his children William was Katherine's but not Peter's biological son. Peter adopted him. I have an original document to prove this.
In addition, though I have pictures of Mary I have yet to find her birth registration. However if she was born in 1909 as you state on your website then her father was not Peter as he died in Oct 1907. However, I have requested her birth registration from BC Vital statistics and hope to have this cleared up.
As well, the BC Museum in Victoria has an eight page interview that was made of Hilda talking mostly about her father. It contains numerous interesting details including the fact that Peter was pivotal in the choice of Prince Rupert as the end terminal of the railroad.
I should clarify the first child was William Lawrence but not Valpy.
Kate's sister Jane was who married Henry George Valpy by whom she had five children. Henry was a business partner of Peter Herman. I have deeds of sale for property between these two men.
Kate’s 2nd child Walter was Peter’s son, I have the birth registration. He was born a year before Katherine and Peter married.
I should also add that the Hai Lake- Mount Herman Provincial Park was named after Peter Herman.
It is also interesting to note that Robert Cunningham’s first wife Elizabeth Ryan was Katherine’s aunt. Elizabeth was Kate’s mother (Mary Webster)’s half sister.”
Note- Debra will share pics and documents with known family members. Will forward emails on if contacted.

Aug 26, 2017 received an email from Bill Philippson, Nanaimo BC, who has a vast collection of Early Skeena Cannery And Port Essington History, and he shared this letter from Peter Herman to Robert Cunningham, written in 1901
Note- Bill is also interested in contacting Dorothy Cauchie above, whose email I seem to have misplaced.

Robert Leck McIntosh
b- Apr 30, 1865 York, ON
d- Aug 24, 1945 in Prince Rupert, age 80
Attended Upper Canada College 1878-79
He was hired by Peter Herman to be the Post Master at Port Essington
In 1910 he was the First Post Master,
First Stipendary Magistrate, First Notary Public, and 30 years, Warden of the First Church, all in Prince Rupert
son of William David McIntosh and Maria Leck
Married Amy Dorrity June 20, 1894, Toronto, York, ON

Hector McKenzie
b- July 14, 1870 in ON
d- Jan 17, 1909, Port Essington, age 40
Bookkeeper at the Inverness Cannery in 1901
He worked at a Hotel in Victoria before that
ca Dec 1901, Hector McKenzie married one of Capt. William Francis Madden's daughters, in Vancouver, He was Manager of the Balmoral Cannery on the Skeena River
witness to Peter Herman's marriage in 1894 in Port Essington

William Caverhill Cameron (Sr.)
b- Nov 13, 1876, Pembroke, Renfrew, ON, which I think is correct
in Sherbrooke Quebec per another source
d- Aug 29, 1927 in Stewart BC
1911 he was Post Master in Stewart
married Dorothy Ada Cameron, nee Thompson
b- Aug 1882 in London England
Immigrated in 1889
3 children I know of:

son- Eric Caverhill Cameron
b- Nov 7, 1902 in Vancouver BC

daughter- Phillis (alt: Phyllis) Caverhill Cameron
b- Feb 1904 in Vancouver BC
she married Jack Mansell Grey, July 21, 1924, Church of England, Stewart BC
He was a Merchant in Stewart, age 23, b- Hamiota MB
She was Post Office Assistant in Stewart, when she was married

son- William Caverhill Cameron (Jr.)
b- ca 1920
d- Dec 15, 1942, in Singapore, age 22
Enlisted in WWII
Svc No- R/92252, Royal Canadian Air Force
Flight Sergeant, RAF Sqdn 194
Father and Mother were living in Prince Rupert at this time

George Alec Taylor
b- Nov 1880 in England
d- Jan 27, 1930 in Port Essington
Immigrated in 1907/8
Port Master in Port Essington in 1921
married Maria Augusta Taylor, nee Dincen, Feb 4, 1915 in Prince Rupert BC
b- in England age 39 in 1921
son- John Dincen Taylor
b-ca 1921
daughter- Margaret Devin Taylor
b- ca 1916
sister- Grace B. Taylor
b- Feb 1886
Immigrated in 1910

John McMillan Smith
b- 1892/1893 in Scotland
d- May 9, 1963 in Prince Rupert, age 70
Immigrated in 1900
He enlisted in WWI, can't find any info though.
shown in 1921 census, age 29, in Port Essington

Charles Derwent Pogson
b- May 25, 1877 in Waterloo ON
d- Apr 25, 1944 in Port Essington, age 66
son of William Pogson and Annie Ruler
He married Elizabeth Close
b- June 15, 1882
d- 1963
She was shown as a School Teacher in Port Essington in 1946
They had a daughter- Dorothy Pogson

Mrs. Mary (May?) Anne Bell
b- May 25, 1906 in England
d- Nov 9, 1952 in St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, age 45
Her husband, Edwin Wallace Bell
was a BC Prov. Constable in Port Essington in 1944
b- ca 1868 in NB
d- Nov 10, 1961 in Vancouver BC
1949 they were in Port Alice, husband still a Constable
when Edwin died his wife is shown as Catherine Anne Stewart
I did find an Edwin Wallace Bell that married May Anne Muir Dec 24, 1928 on Lulu Island (Richmond BC).
My bet this is Mary
she is shown age 22, a school teacher, b-in England
daughter of Thomas Muir and Isabelle Harrison
They had a son Edwin Wallace Bell (Jr.) in 1930, that was the son of a police officer, so pretty sure I have the right person.

Henry James Reid
b- Sept 23, 1900 in Port Simpson, BC
d- Mar 18, 1986 in Nanaimo BC, age 85
baptized Dec 10, 1902 in Port Simpson
son of Ambrose James Reid and Mary Brentzen
married Charolette Fleuir, who died before him
they had a daughter Wilma Reid

Others on list get into privacy issues, and will not research them

Photos below Copyright and Courtesy Glenn Boychuk, Prince Rupert

Old wooden bridge holding stave water line from Cunningham Lake to Port Essington

Port Essington Wharf Pilings

Port Essington Store

Photos above courtesy Glenn Boychuk, Prince Rupert

Email from Kevin Noel, Feb 22, 2016 “My grandfather, Walter Noel, had a store in Port Essington, for some years, during the period 1905-1915 (approx.) and I was looking for information about his life there.
William H Noel, like my grandfather, was born in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. The family came to Victoria in 1890.”
Nov 1900 Walter Noel worked for R. Cunningham in his store. On Good Friday 1911 Walter's Grocery Store, and Mrs. Frizzell's Millinery,
were destroyed by a fire, caused by a badly placed stove pipe. Loss was $18,000 partially covered by insurance.
1915- Walter Noel was appointed Deputy Mining Recorder for the Omineca district, with his office in Smithers.

Captain William Henry Noel, one of the earliest pioneers of Port Essington, was reported dead, at the age of 74, in the Mar 27, 1912 Victoria paper
b- ca 1838 per age
b- Mar 1, 1874 per headstone, Port Essington Cemetery
d- Mar 1, 1912 at Digby Island. per death reg.
d- Mar 4, 1912 per headstone

Dec 18, 2014 Adrian de Groot from Smithers sent me this photo of what remains of an old elevated stave water pipeline from Port Essington to Cunningham Lake.
Sorry it took me so long to get it on here.

Ext links- Not my sites
Links may or may not work in the future

Fire Insurance Maps ca June 1915
Go to Library and archives Canada site for link if this one does not work

Hankin Bio and place names

Essington bio

Skeena River of Destiny book

Peter Harmon Story

Philip James Hankin

Find a grave, Port Essington Cemetery

An Internet Google search will bring up numerous sites and info on this village.


  • Last modified: 2019/11/21 17:41
  • by dlgent