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Yukon River Sternwheelers: the Clara Monarch

by Murray Lundberg

To the Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers

    While some of the ships that ran the Yukon River and her tributaries became famous in the region and are well documented, the Clara Monarch has been virtually forgotten and few facts are known about her. What you see in the photos below provides a stark contrast to the S.S. Klondike, which sits in restored glory on the bank of the river just a mile or so upstream. The fate of the Clara Monarch, though, was the fate of most of the boats. At Carcross (a 45-minute drive south), the Gleaner can be seen in a similar state.

    There are some inconsistencies in my notes below that perhaps some day I'll be able to clarify. If you have any information about this boat, please drop me a line.

  • possible former Monarch, C.S.Reg.#107863
  • sternwheeler, 284 tons
  • 1898, built at San Francisco by Mr.Turner.
  • 1900, owned by Captain Alexander McLean and Charles Edwin Miller. Operated mainly on the upper river by Captain Alex McLean.
  • known locally as the "Pirate Ship", although it is not clear why.
  • she was the ship "Sea Wolf" in Jack London's novel of that name, and Captain McLean was Wolf Larsen.
  • September 10, 1900, Charles Edwin Miller sells his 1/2 share to his son, Edwin Charles Miller, for $1.00. The bill of sale is now (2005) in the possession of Edwin Miller's grandson, Robert Miller.
  • 1906-1907, most of her machinery was removed and put into the Tana, and in February 1907, the hull was abandoned in the slough below Whitehorse which used to known as the Clara Monarch Slough. The remains have been studied by the Yukon Underwater Diving Association.

  • there seems to have been two boats named Clara Monarch. In the summer of 1901, the machinery and furniture was taken from the steamboat Clara and installed on the barge Monarch. The receiving vessel was then renamed the Clara Monarch. The Clara had reportedly been sold by the Sheriff before she was stripped by the previous owners, and the creditors of both of the original vessels laid claim to the hybrid; a lengthy court battle ensued, with 5 lawyers involved. The Clara Monarch was ordered sold by auction, but an injunction halted the sale, and in the meantime she got hung up badly a bar near Whitehorse (Dawson Daily News, May 23, 1902).
  • One of the boats was owned by F. DeJournel; sold to Dominick Burns of Whitehorse, then to George S. Wilson of Dawson.

The remains of the Clara Monarch in 2002 - the paddlewheel shaft on the left and the hull on the right. Click on each photo to enlarge it.

The remains of the Yukon River steamboat 'Clara Monarch'
The remains of the Yukon River steamboat 'Clara Monarch'

Northern Ships and Shipping