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Yukon River Sternwheeler Bellingham

by Murray Lundberg

Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers

Northern Ships and Shipping

Please note that, at present, this is merely an accumulation of data, part of a 700-page database of material on all Yukon-Alaska steamboats compiled by Murray Lundberg. See "Notes" at the bottom for information about sources, etc. Additions, corrections or comments are always welcome - just drop Murray a note.

  • wooden sternwheeler; 35 feet long, 8 foot beam, 18 inch hold.

  • 1897, built at Whatcom, near Bellingham, by Lenn Springer, for Dignan, Stinger (Affleck says Sterzer) & Willock of New Whatcom. She was dismantled and shipped to Skagway on the bark THEOBOLD, then skidded over the White Pass at a cost of $2,000 and reassembled at Lake Bennett (KN, June 16, 1898 - see article reproduced below).

  • powered by 2 marine engines and a Roberts boiler.

  • although apparently never intended as a common carrier, and never registered (Affleck), she left Bennett June 5, 1898 with 40 sacks of mail, 32 for Dawson and 8 for intermediate points (KN, June 16).

  • ca. June 9, 1898, run through Miles Canyon by pilot M. L. Foster, for $200. The trip took 40 minutes. She was towing a scow (for $1100) carrying most of the staff, cash, safes and other equipment to open two branches of the Canadian Bank of Commerce at Dawson, one Uptown, one on First Ave. Because of the value of the cargo, the NWMP refused to allow the scow through the Rapids loaded; everything had to go around on the tramway (Hamilton, p.110). Although she has been credited as the first steamer through Miles Canyon (ie.Berton), it seems likely that the KALAMAZOO was the first, having left Windy Arm on June 4 and gone through the Canyon on June 8, 1898 (YA: Campbell diary, MSS122, #81/129).

  • during the trip, she went aground, but the scow kept going and drug her into deep water; on another occasion, the boat and scow went down different sides of an island, the crew just managing to throw the lines before hitting the rocks (Downs, p.71).

  • June 13, 1898, at 4:30 PM, arrived at Dawson with 18 passengers (KN, June 16).

  • ca. 1898, started a ferry service from Dawson to Klondike City (Knutson). This service would presumably include West Dawson.

  • ca. 1898, the BELLINGHAM was hired to bring "a large double decked scow" across the river. Lines were made fast, but "hardly did they get out into the current when the line tightened and the Bellingham turned on her side. The water rushed through the doors and just for one minute it was an open question whether she would go clean over or right herself again. The scow was turned loose and the ferry boat turned up straight again but with two feet of water in her. All hands went to bailing and then the scow was shoved ashore again." Another attempt was not made. (Knutson).

Klondike Nugget, Dawson City, June 16, 1898

    The steamer Bellingham, owned by Messrs. Dignan, Stinger and Willock, formerly of Whatcom, Wash., and which was built on Bellingham bay for the Yukon trade, arrived June 13 at 4:30 p. m. She brought 32 sacks of mail through from Bennett and distributed eight at various points on the upper river. The Bellingham was freighted from the Sound to Skaguay on the deck of the bark Theobald, and in knock-down shape was sleded over White pass at a cost to the owners of $2000. She is a stern-wheeler, 35 feet in depth, 8-foot beam and draws 18 inches when loaded. Her power is furnished from a Roberts boiler and two marine engines.

    In addition to the mail, 18 passengers arrived on the Bellingham, among whom were representatives of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, who brought with them supplies, etc., for the bank.

    The passenger list was as follows:
Thomas McMullen, the assistant manager of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Dawson City; O. J. K. Nourse, of the bank staff; W. H. McKay, barrister, formerly of Ottawa; H. H. Cameron, of the large lumber firm of W. C. Edwards & Co., Ottawa; Thomas Heney and Wm. Helman, Ottawa; Messrs. Chas. and M. Eschwege, of London, representing French and English syndicates; James McNamee, John Tierney, C. Lathrop, J. P. McNamee, J. Wilkenson, Sr., J. Wilkenson, Jr., Thos McNamee, Jack Ross, Ed Ross, L. Dignan.

    The Bellingham will be operated on the Yukon wherever business may justify, and it is reported that she may be chartered by parties contemplating a trip to St. Michaels.


The newspaper article above is reproduced as printed, with spelling errors ("Theobald" and "sleded").

- "KN" is the Klondike Nugget newspaper of Dawson City, Yukon.
- "Affleck" is Affleck, Edward L. - Affleck's List of Sternwheelers Plying the Yukon Waterways. Vancouver: Affleck, September 1995.
- "Hamilton" is Hamilton, Walter R. - The Yukon Story. Vancouver: Mitchell, 1964.
- "Downs" is Downs, Art - Paddlewheels on the Frontier, Vol. 2. Surrey, BC: Foremost, 1971.
- "Knutson" is Knutson, Arthur E. - Gung Ho! the Klondike. Kirkland, WA: Knutson, 1992.
- "YA" is the Yukon Archives.