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The Yukon Sternwheeler Flora

by Murray Lundberg

Northern Ships and Shipping

The information on the Flora that follows is simply a cut-and-paste from my database, compiled from a wide variety of sources, primarily government records and the White Pass & Yukon Route corporate records (COR 722) at the Yukon Archives, and newspapers.
  • Canadian Shipping Registry #103916, registered at Victoria.

  • wooden sternwheeler; 79.5 feet long, with 16.0 foot beam and 4.3 foot hold. Gross tonnage 100.93, registered as 63.59 tons. Licenced for 75 passengers (COR 724).

  • powered by a pair of horizontal high-pressure steam engines built in 1898 by Albion Iron Works of Victoria; the cylinders had 7 inch diameter and 42 inch stroke, rated at 3.3 NHP (Affleck). The boilers operated at 150 pounds pressure (COR 724).

  • 1898, built at Lake Bennett by Bert Fowler, for the Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Co., Otto Partridge, manager. The Dawson Daily News reported that the FLORA, NORA and Ora "were constructed at Wheaton river, ...from lumber sawed in the woods by the company's sawmill. The machinery, which was manufactured by the Albion Iron Works of Victoria, was brought over the pass at a great cost."

  • named after Florence Eleanor Nunn, later the first wife of BL&KN Co. principal, Francis Rattenbury.

  • first Captain was M. Martineau, formerly on the Great Lakes with Canadian Pacific (Skagway Daily Alaskan, Aug. 3, 1898).

  • offered running water, which was "a zinc bucket which one lowered over the side of the steamer" (Downs, p.72)

  • fall 1898, "first steamer to follow water route from Bennett City to Tagish Lake along Taku Arm and Graham Inlet to Taku City, from which point miners were required to portage to Atlin Lake then on improvised ferries to cross Atlin Lake to reach the trail to the Atlin mining claims." (Affleck).

  • 1898, taken through Miles Canyon, to run from Whitehorse to Five Fingers; the NORA remained on the upper lakes, while the Ora worked from Five Fingers to Dawson (Klondike Nugget, Oct. 1).

  • July 1898, when the Klondike's first upper-class tourists, Mrs. Mary E. Hitchcock and Miss Edith Van Buren, left Dawson, they were not impressed with their "primitive stateroom" on the Flora. "There was only a one-foot space to turn around in between the double bunks and the wall and it was quite impractical to undress save for the removal of an overcoat or two" (Berton).

  • May 23, 1899, first steamer of the year at Dawson; brought 30 passengers, 29 bags of mail and 12 tons of oranges, lemons, onions and other fruits and vegetables. She left Lower Lebarge on May 7, and had a harrowing trip, with the ice smashing her wheel on the 14th, and then punching a hole in her side on the 20th; in both case, repairs were made on the riverbank. While she was on the beach, a passenger, George Roache, broke a rib when he fell into a hole cut in the hold to inspect the damage. At Five Fingers, she went through the dangerous left channel (Klondike Nugget, May 24; May 31).

  • ca. April 1900, with the NORA and Ora, the B.L.& K.N.Co. was reorganized as the Klondike Corporation, with head office in Victoria, and Mr. Lewis as Yukon manager. The registered transfer of the FLORA took place on November 10.

  • May 16 1900, the first boat to Dawson; had an all-out race with the Florence S. for the honour; the Florence S. arrived just ahead, but the shore crew missed her thrown line, and lost her the race. The trip took 8 days from Lower Lebarge (Klondike Sun, May 22).

  • 1900 season crew: Captain Martineau; purser, A.D. Lewis; Chief Engineer, Bill Somers; Second Engineer, A. Townsley; steward, J.W. Tully.

  • 1901, all 3 boats leased by R.W. Calderhead (White Horse Star, May 15).

  • May 24, 1901, the Flora was among the first boats to arrive at Dawson. The Dawson Weekly News reported:
        Steamer Flora, the noted little boat of the Klondike Corporation, arrived at noon with three barges in tow. In 1899 and 1900 the Flora was the first boat to reach Dawson und with Captain Martineau at the wheel many people thought she would score a victory again this year. The barges she brought down, however, prevented any chance she might have otherwise had of winning. The Flora also brought 15 tons of freight and 23 passengers, as follows: W. T. Longdon, H. Jimmett, J. B. Bell, J. F. Lynch, Mrs. J. Lynch, A. Gandolfo, A. DeGraff, W. O. Bowman, S. Kasopsky, A. Kasopsky, J. R. Clark, Mrs. Nat Cummings, J. McCalvan, R. E. Nixon, C. A. Harrington, J. O. Binet, N. A. Toller, R. A. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. C. Bartsch, H. J. Miller, J. W. Miller and Mr. Whitmore. The barges were loaded with livestock, including cattle, sheep, horses and hogs. Two of the barges belong to Chris Bartsch and one to the Miller brothers. They were beached in front of the old postoffice and unloaded of their live freight. The Flora's officers for the present season are: Captain McDougall; pilot, Captain Martineau; purser, Pat Kilbourne; chief engineer, Mr. Fay."

  • October 16, 1901, Klondike Nugget:
    Ad for the Sternwheeler Flora in October 1901

  • October 30, 1901, Dawson Daily News:
    Ad for the Sternwheeler Flora in October 1901

  • ca. May 18, 1902, wrecked by ice; raised by block and tackle, with two scows on each side and a rope running under the hull.

  • June 1902, bought by the Five Fingers Coal Co. The house was to be removed, and the hull converted to a barge (Star,June 18).

  • summer 1905, the hulls of the Ora and Flora were used to build a dredge for the Canadian Fortymile Dredging Company; built on the Dawson waterfront, it was used on the Fortymile in 1905-1906 (Dawson Daily News, May 3, 1906).

Sternwheeler Flora ca. 1899
Flora ca. 1899. Photo by H. C. Barley. Yukon Archives #5196.

Sternwheeler Flora in Five Finger Rapids in August 1900
The Flora in Five Finger Rapids in August 1900. Yukon Archives, William C. Peter collection, PHO 232, 83/77.

Sternwheeler Flora in the ice at Dawson in 1901
Flora attempting to land at Dawson on November 1, 1901. Photo by Goetzman. Yukon Archives #3088.