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Yukon River sternwheeler Portus B. Weare

by Murray Lundberg

Northern Ships and Shipping

    Please note that, at present, much of the information below is merely an accumulation of data, part of a 700-page database of material on all Yukon-Alaska boats compiled by Murray Lundberg. Additions, corrections or comments are always welcome - just drop Murray a note. Some of the information is from corporate and government records at the Yukon Archives, referenced as COR and GOV file numbers).

  • U.S.Reg. #150646

  • wooden sternwheeler; 175 feet long, 28 foot beam, 4 foot 6 inch hold. Gross tonnage 400.32, registered as 200 tons.

  • powered by steam engines developing 230 IHP (Affleck).

  • the NAT&T Company's first boat, more than twice the tonnage of the next largest, the Alaska Commercial Company's Arctic, was named for the company's president (L&D).

  • freight capacity of 300 tons.

  • June 22, 1892: "A Steamer for Alaska's Great River- Big Enterprise Begun.
        John J. Haley, who, with his wife, has been stopping at the Hotel Northern for some time past looking after the construction of a steamboat here to be taken to the Yukon river in Alaska, expects to have everything ready to start north early next week. He last evening said to a POST-INTELLIGENCER reporter regarding the project in which he is interested:
        I have lived in Alaska now for seven years, having kept store within a few miles of the headwaters of the Yukon river the past six years. It has been costing 15 cents a pound to pack freight across the mountains, but by carrying it around by boat up the Yukon it can be gotten there for half that amount. That country has been hidden from the world, and no man knows its possibilities. What we propose doing is going in there, opening it up and letting the world know something about it. We have organized a company known as the North American Transportation and Trading Company. The men interested in it are chiefly Chicago capitalists. P. B. Weare, of that city, is the principal backer, and he, with his son, has just arrived here to go up with us. Mr. Weare does not say much, but he means business when he moves. I have always been a pioneer. I lived twenty-five years in Montana, and also in Portland for a time I was in Portland thirty-two years ago.
        Now as to what we propose doing. We have gotten together out here all the timbers, machinery, boiler, and everything complete for a steamer about the size of the State of Washington. She is a stern wheeler, 175 feet long and 29 feet beam. We have chartered the steamer Alice Blanchard at Tacoma and expect her here by Saturday to carry our boat up to the mouth of the Yukon, where we will put it together. We are also taking up mill machinery, mining pumps and a general stock of supplies and, if everything goes as I feel it will, we will establish headquarters in Seattle after a time and run a regular line of boats. I have been avoiding giving publicity to our plans and don't care to say much now, but you may expect to hear further from us.
        Our steamer will be named the P. B. Weare. We expect to run her up the Yukon at least 1,600 miles. Mr. Weare and his son propose to go clear up to the head of the river and explore it thoroughly. This will be the first time the river was ever ascended to its headwaters. I myself have made the trip down the river and I have some knowledge of the possibilities of the country through which it flows.
        While the big boiler for the steamer was being hauled on a truck from the Washington Iron Works to the Yesler wharf yesterday morning one of the truck wheels went through the planking on Pioneer place. An hour or two was occupied in raising it. At the point where it broke through the street had not been filled in below the planking." (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • On July 2, 1892, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a lengthy report on the start of the North American Trading & Transportation Company and the construction of the Portus B. Weare. We have reproduced it on a separate page.

  • August 24, 1892: "The North American Transportation & Trading Company party left Seattle on the Alice Blanchard on July 6. The ship had on board nearly 800 tons of freight, which consisted mainly of provisions that were to be used for trading purposes after the Yukon river had been reached. On the deck of the Alice Blanchard were the parts of a steamboat, which was to be put together after the party had landed at St. Michael's. In addition to the regular crew there were on board P. B. Weare, the president of the company, and his son Fred, fifteen carpenters, one blacksmith and several other mechanics, whose services were to be used in putting the steamboat together. It was the intention of the company to put the new steamer on the Yukon river in order to divide the business which the Alaska Commercial Company is already doing with two small steamboats.
        At the time of our departure on August 24, considerable work had been done in the way of getting the parts of the boat together and it was the expectation at that time that by September 15 everything would be in readiness for the first trip of the company up the river, that is, if something does not happen to prevent. I don't believe that the men who were taken up are altogether satisfied with the way they have been treated and I don't say there will be, but there may be trouble." (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sept. 28). The preceding quote is in much longer article which can be read here.

  • When P. B. Weare returned to San Francisco, he said "When we left our supply of provisions was being loaded on the steamer, as was the framework for a post trading building to be erected at a place called Upper Ramparts, 2000 miles from the mouth of the river. We will sell flour to the miners at $3 a sack, and everything else in proportion. Many miners have decided to spend the winter up there, who otherwise would have been compelled to come out and return home." (San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 1892)

  • November 4, 1892: "Charles H. Hamilton left Seattle July 6, 1892, on the steamer Alice Blanchard in company with P. B. Weare of Chicago, Captain John Healy and Mrs. Healy, of Chilcat, Alaska, and a party of workmen to build the steamer P. B. Weare, which was taken up on the Blanchard in sections. As the Blanchard has no licenso to carry passengers, Weare went as a deckhand and Mrs. Healy as chambermaid. A full cargo for Weare was taken, including forty barrels of whisky, which sells at $40 a gallon at Forty Mile creek.
        The boat was built at St. Michael's, at the mouth of the Yukon, and on September 24th started up the river. She only steamed by day through the shallows of the lower course.
        By October 2d the boat had gone about 500 miles, when floating ice began to obstruct progress, and by the 5th was so thick that the steamer was tied up for the winter at Nagooleykket, at the mouth of the Nagooley river, to resume her journey to Forty Mile when the ice goes out in May. Then a large trading-post will be established at Forty Mile. The weather continued to grow colder and the ice thicker till November 4th, when the river was entirely closed over." (The Examiner, San Francisco, April 3, 1893). The preceding quote is in much longer article which can be read here.

  • 1892, the framework was built at Captain J. J. Holland's shipyard at Ballard, Washington. The machinery, equipment and even ways were then put on the steam schooner Alice Blanchard, under Captain Frank Worth, leaving for St. Michael on July 6, 1892. On the ship were P. B. Weare and John J. Healey of the NAT&TCo., Captain J. C. Barr, who was to take command of the boat, and Captain Holland and his ship carpenters Joseph Pickard, William Kehal, Edward Holsworth, J. Harrigan, Samuel Crosset, A. Trudell, William Forrester, John McMullin, J. Grant, O. Nelson, William McConnell and 4 others. The machinery of the Alice Blanchard "became disabled" on the trip, and the trip took 27 days. On arriving at St. Michael's Island, the Alaska Commercial Company, which had a trading station there, refused to give the NAT&T group a site on which to finish the steamer, or even to unload; they found a landing spot on the east side of St. Michael's Island, 4 miles offshore, and were forced to build a 40-foot scow to land the machinery and materials. A camp named Fort Git There was established, and work on the steamer started on August 11, and she was launched on September 15. The work was progressing more slowly than expected, and it was looking like she would not be completed before the river froze. This would threaten the survival of the 300 miners at Fort Cudahy, so men from the Revenue Cutter Bear, in command of Captain Michael Healy, were put to work to complete her. Following the launch of the steamer on September 15, the Bear took 16 members of the group to Unalaska, where they transferred to the barque Majestic to return to Puget Sound. The bill to the NAT&T was for $24, for rations for 5 days for the men transferred to Unalaska (The Alaskan (Sitka), March 4, 1893).

  • "In 1892 a Chicago man, P. B. Weare, went to St. Michaels with a boat in sections in which to ascend the Yukon. His men struck, and he feared he would be unable to put her together. Just at that time the cutter Bear steamed into the river's mouth. Captain Healey was told of the trouble. He not only sent a gang of his men ashore to help Weare, but threatened to hang every mechanic who refused to work. In two weeks the boat was completed and steamed up the Yukon." (The Examiner, San Francisco, September 5, 1897)

  • late September 1892, left for Fortymile, relying on driftwood gathered by the Indians for fuel (L&D). Got frozen in at Nulato (Affleck) on the way, and did not reach Fortymile until 1893.

  • On January 19, 1893, several newspapers published a report stating that the Portus B. Weare would soon be built, largely from information in the June 22, 1892, article in the Seattle P-I.

  • September 28, 1895: "Seven Alaska miners who came to Seattle on the steamer Morrill to-day from Bering Sea bring particulars of a collision late in August on the Yukon, 300 miles up, between the Alaska Commercial Company's steamer Arctic and the P. B. Weare of the Northern American Transportation and Trading Company's line. The former was sunk, and but for the fact that the Arctic was close to the shore, the miners say, every human being aboard would have been drowned.
        It is alleged that no bells were rung or lights displayed, everything indicating that the collision resulted from carelessness.
        The Weare was ascending the stream while the Arctic proceeded down the river. The boats crashed together at 10 o'clock at night on the left hand side of the stream. The Arctic attempted to pull in to shore. The Weare bore down, cutting across her course, being also apparently bent upon making a landing. The Weare struck the Arctic forward amidships on the starboard side and cut through her hull, displaced timbers and demolished steam pipes. Fortunately there was no explosion.
        Some days later the Arctic was raised and repaired sufficiently to carry her passengers down to St. Michaels." (San Francisco Call, September 29)

  • March 18, 1896: "Captain Healy of the steamer P. B. Weare, which was reported in a dangerous position in the ice at the mouth of Porcupine River and liable to be broken up with the spring thaw, says she could not be in a safer position and will again be in the service during the coming summer." (San Francisco Call)

  • March 21, 1896: "On her last trip up the river with a load of supplies, the steamer P. B. Weare was frozen in at the mouth of Porcupine river, where she still lies, stuck fast in the ice. Miners from Circle City went down to her about 100 miles, and took the supplies back on sleighs. The steamer lies in a dangerous position, for spring thaws are very apt to break up the Porcupine first, in which event great ice jams will float down stream and crush the steamer." (The Examiner)

  • October 7, 1896: "Nine horny-handed miners from the Yukon walked into the Hotel Butler last night, registered and deposited 125 pounds of gold dust with the clerk for safe-keeping. They were of the steam schooner Lakme's passengers, numbering, ail told, 150. The Lakme was thirteen days out from St. Michaels. The passengers, all of whom are from the Yukon, came down the river to St. Michaels on the North American Transportation and Trading Company's steamer P. B. Weare.
        Fifty of these miners were successful in their efforts at gold-hunting, securing from $3000 to $15,000 each; in fact, a conservative estimate places the Lakme's cargo of gold dust at $250,000. Nearly all was taken from Mastodon, Deadwood, Eagle and Cloendyke creeks, around Circle City." (San Francisco Call)

  • February 8, 1897: "Work on the steamer Portland (late the Haytian Republic) is being rushed, and in a few days the new cabins and all the woodwork will be finished. New boilers are to be put in position, and the old vessel will be as good as new. When all the changes are made the Portland will be put on the Alaska route in opposition to the steamers Queen and City of Topeka. She will connect with the stern-wheel steamer P. B. Weare at St. Michaels, the latter carrying freight and passengers up the Yukon River." (San Francisco Call)

  • May 30, 1897: the Portus B. Weare wintered at Circle City, and was to starrt service on May 30th.

  • June 1897, took the first Klondike miners outside with their gold; 60 men with $1,000,000 in gold. The Alice had left with 25 men and $500,000 two days earlier, and at St. Michael the men from the 2 boats transferred to the Exelsior or Portland.

  • August 16, 1897: "The Weare left St. Michael on July 3 for Dawson City with passengers and provisions. The last heard of her was on July 20, when the Alaska Commercial Company's steamer Bella passed her at Circle City. She should have reacted St. Michael on August 1 and contributed her quota of passengers to the Portiand's list, but had not appeared when that vessel left on August 16." (San Francisco Call, September 1)

  • August 30, 1897: "Anxiety as to the fate of the Yukon River steamer P. B. Weare is set at rest by Traffic Manager Charles H. Hamilton of the North American Transportation Company, who stated today that he had advices that the Weare was tied up near Circle City, repairing her boiler flues. 'Shortly after leaving Circle City,' he said today, 'the flues began to leak badly, and the Weare was at once tied up. A new set of flues is being put in, and in two weeks the Weare will resume her voyage down the river. I am sending north a complete new set of boilers for the Weare next spring, as the ones she has are worn out.'" (Los Angeles Times)

  • September 8, 1897: "Interesting information was brought concerning the Yukon River steamer P. B. Weare, long overdue and supposed to have met with some disaster. While going down the river the steamer Healy found the Weare fast on a sand bar, sixty miles below Circle City. All the gold aboard the Weare, which is reported to amount to nearly $2,000,000, was transferred to the Healy and taken to St. Michael. This treasure is the property of 150 returning miners, who were expected to depart from St. Michael on the Cleveland or Excelsior.
        Passengers Lamb and Leonard, who were on board the Weare when she struck, say it was due to nothing but incompetency. Captain Thielen of the Weare did not understand the channel. The Indian pilot who was on board at the time protested with Captain Thielen for taking the course that he did, but to no avail. The Indian left the pilot-house and Captain Thielen ran her ashore with his own hands.
        President Weare of the North American Trading and Transportation Company was on board the ill-fated boat. He showed the passengers whom his incompetent captain ran ashore no favors." (San Francisco Call)

  • September 11, 1897: "The following steamers have gone up the Yukon this summer with provisions and stores: J. J. Healy, two trips, 450 tons; P. B. Weare, one trip, 250 tons; Bella, two trips, 550 tons; Marguerite, one trip, 380 tons; barges, 750 tons; C. H. Hamilton, one trip, 140 tons. Total, 2520 tons." (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • fall 1897, held up by armed men at Circle, and had supplies enough to last Circle for the winter (20 tons) removed; the Bella, the next boat in, had 37 tons removed.

  • November 12, 1897: "Advices from Circle City as late as November 12th stated that the steamers P. B. Weare and Bella on their way down were frozen in there. The steamer Victoria, from the mouth of the river, is also there. Two or three hundred people who started from Dawson for Fort Yukon were stranded there, but most of them procured sleds and continued on their way to Fort Yukon, which is ninety miles distant. Circle City, owing to the unexpected increase of population from Dawson, was almost devoid of grub. Of the 127 residents of that camp nearly all were calculating on sending to Fort Yukon for supplies." (San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 1898)

  • 1897-1898, wintered at Fort Yukon. Arrived at Dawson on June 13, 1898 with 105 cabin passengers, "most of whom wintered at Circle City and Fort Yukon". The acting Purser was Murray S. Eads, later owner of several hotels at Dawson (KN,June 16).

  • January 21, 1898: "F. Harmon McConnell left San Francisco on the steamer Portland on June 1st of last year. He had been engaged as purser of the steamer P. B. Weare, but left the boat at Dawson and went to the mines. He returns a full partner in nine paying claims and has interests in two others. He sold several mines to an English syndicate in Seattle." (The Examiner)

  • 1898, within 2 weeks of opening, the Canadian Bank of Commerce, which had brought in assay equipment, was able to send out $750,000 in gold on the Portus B. Weare (Berton).

  • July 18, 1898: "The North American Trading and Transportation Company's steamer Hamilton left Dawson June 24 and the P. B. Weare June 25, arriving at St. Michael July 5, the Hamilton in tow of the P. B. Weare, she having broken her log chains coming down the river. The Hamilton had 109 passengers and the P. B. Weare about seventy-five." Some passengers were taken aboard from the Bella, which is stuck fast on a bar between Circle City and Yukon Flats. A robbery took place on the P. B. Weare on their way down the river, but no details were given (details were published in The Victoria Daily Times on July 23rd). The boats connected with the Roanoke, which sailed from St. Michael with nearly $8,000,000 worth of gold aboard. (San Francisco Call)

  • October 20, 1898: "A large fall of snow occurred at Rampart City on the 19th September and the two thousand people of that city at once began their preparations to withstand the winter's siege. The river steamers rushed towards the mouth of the river, crowding all steam on to reach their destination before they were locked in by the ice. The rush was disastrous to one of the steamers, the P. B. Weare, which piled up on one of the bars, and the passengers who passed her believe she will be lost. The bar on which she is fast is 50 miles below Andrieofski. Her Indian pilot left her at that point and the wheel was given over to her captain, who, it seems, was not as familiar with the bars as was the native. She ran ashore while endeavoring to make a landing during a high wind. The day after she struck, the river steamer Pilgrim hove in sight, and she was hailed for assistance. The Pilgrim resumed its pilgrimage down, however, as her officers were afraid if they lost any time they would be caught by the ice. The day following the steamer Powers, of the Moran fleet, came along, and spent a day endeavoring to pull the Weare from the sandy vise which held her. She was, however, unsuccessful and continued her rush downward, leaving the Weare to winter ice-bound on the bar. It is thought the Powers will be the last steamer down, as the river had begun to freeze some time before her voyage was ended." (Victoria Daily Times)

  • March 15, 1899: "A letter from Capt. W. B. Parker, master of the barge Admiral, which is in winter quarters five miles off St. Michaels, says six men have arrived from the North American Transportation and Trading Company's steamer P. B. Weare, which is icebound in the Yukon near Holy Cross Mission. The men do not think they will be able to save her in the spring. Seven men left the steamer, but one got lost coming down and the others think he was frozen to death." (Evening Express, Los Angeles)

  • March 22, 1901: "The N. A. T. & T. fleet is distributed as follows: Dawson Steamers J. C. Barr and Chas. H. Hamilton and barges Michigan and New York. St. Michael - J. J. Healey T. C. Power, John Cudahy, P. B. Weare and four or five barges." (Dawson Weekly News)

  • August 26, 1902: "The P. B. Weare will leave St. Michael in a few days with a large stock for Belt & Hendrick's store at Deakyme. The Weare will land the goods at the mouth of Baker." (Dawson Daily News)

  • March 17, 1911: "The Merchants-Yukon Transportation company is the successor to the river business of the N. A. T. & T. company, which latter company sold its steamers after the death of its late president, Michael Cudahy, the meat packer king, who died during the winter at his home in Chicago.

  • 19813, sold to the Northern Navigation Company.

  • April 1914, the assets of the Northern Navigation Company, including the Portus B. Weare and 29 other steamers, were bought by the American Yukon Navigation Company, a division of the White Pass & Yukon Route established to run steamers on the American section of the Yukon River and its tributaries.

  • 1914-1917, on the NAT&TCo. ways at St. Michael (COR722).

  • abandoned at St. Michael.

Yukon River sternwheeler Portus B. Weare
Portus B. Weare. Yukon Archives: Coutts collection, PHO 259, 86/15, #366.

Yukon River steamboat Portus B. Weare, 1897
The Examiner, San Francisco, September 5, 1897

Yukon River steamboat Portus B. Weare, 1897
The Examiner, San Francisco, December 4, 1897