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The Yukon River Sternwheeler James Domville

by Murray Lundberg

Northern Ships and Shipping

The information on the James Domville that follows is simply a cut-and-paste from my database, compiled from a wide variety of sources, primarily newspapers including the Dawson Daily News (DDN) and the Klondike Nugget (KN).
  • Canadian Shipping Registry #107154

  • wooden sternwheeler; 121.6 feet long, with 25.8 foot beam and 4.7 foot hold. Gross tonnage 485.96, registered as 293.5 tons. She had electric lighting and cabin accommodation for 100 people.

  • powered by a pair of horizontal high-pressure steam engines built in 1898 by Polson Iron Works; the cylinders had 15 inch diameter and 60 inch stroke, rated at 5 NHP.

  • built at False Creek in Vancouver in 1898 by Alfred A. Wallace, later the founder of Burrard Drydock Co. Ltd. She was built for Colonel James Domville, a prominent banker and Member of Parliament for New Brunswick; he was also a principal in the company which owned the boat, the Klondike, Yukon & Stewart Pioneer Company of London, which owned "several" Yukon boats (KN, Aug.24, 1898). Domville had recently been relieved of his command of the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) militia regiment, due to "a poor army record and a reputation for drunkenness and questionable business practices" (Messamore, 1987).

  • designed for the Klondike, she was towed to St. Michael by the Manauense, which had left Liverpool with Klondike hopefuls on February 22, 1898, under Captain T. T. Edwards. They arrived at St. Michael July 9, and the James Domville, under Captain Ferris and Captain Archie McLean, and travelling with a houseboat and two 39-foot steam launches that had been carried on the Manauense, arrived at Dawson August 22, with 240 tons of freight. Liverpool to Dawson, all by water, in 5 months, 13 days. She had left her barge on the Flats in order to tow up the small sternwheeler Burpee (KN, Aug.24). One of the firemen for the trip was James Domville Richards, who became famous in Whitehorse as wood-sawing expert "Buzz Saw Jimmy".

  • August 1898, Colonel Domville had brought a complete sawmill to set up at Dawson; he already had a mill operating at the mouth of the Pelly River (Knutson).

  • 1899, running from Dawson to Whitehorse every six days, connecting with the Clifford Sifton to Bennett.

  • June 12, 1899, wrecked in Thirty Mile River while under command of Captain Syd C. Barrington; a total loss. The riffle was known for years as the Domville Bar. Photo of twisted boat in Cohen, p.74. The Bonanza King was the first boat to arrive after the wreck, and took off the 28 passengers, 70 tons of freight and 500 sheep (KN,June 17). The NWMP Annual Report says that it was wrecked on June 8.

  • June 24, 1899, the sternwheeler W. H. Rideout hit the wreckage of the James Domville. The NWMP Annual Report notes "considerable damage to boat. No lives lost."
  • May 1902, the Department of Public Works is preparing to remove the wreckage, which has blocked one side of the channel for 3 years, and to cut through the bar that has formed above the wreck (DDN, May 23).

  • 1988, wreckage has been located (Easton).

A photo of the Yukon River sternwheeler James Domville, 1899.
The James Domville at Dawson with the barge Seattle No. 4, by Asahel Curtis, 1899 (YA #1329)

Ad for the Yukon River sternwheeler James Domville, 1899.
Ad in The Klondike Nugget, May 31, 1899.

A photo of the Yukon River sternwheeler James Domville, 1899.
The James Domville wrecked on the Thirty Mile River, 1899
(BC Archives, Item I-22507, captioned as the Fraser River)