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Historical Vignettes of the North

Dateline: February 11, 2006.

The Weekly Star

Whitehorse, Y.T.     Friday, May 26, 1911

Headline - 'Yukon River Disasters Very Numerous'

Steamer Lafrance, Owned By Captain Syd Barrington, Burned to Waters Edge After Striking Rock In Thirtymile River - - Two Barges Wrecked Below Hootalinqua - - Slight Accident to Steamer Pauline - - Other Craft Reaches Dawson Safely - - Ice On Lake Labarge Holds Solid.

    Of the five Steamers, York Barrington, Lafrance, Pauline, Evelyn and White Seal, which left Lower Lebarge last Sunday, the Lafrance was the only one that failed to reach Dawson. Her hull now rests on the bottom of the treacherous Thirtymile river, charred and forever ruined.

    The five steamers above mentioned left the foot of the lake within a few minutes of each other last Sunday morning but before being out to exceed an hour, the Lafrance, commanded by one of the most experienced men of the entire river fleet, Captain "Steve" Martin, struck a rock near Twelvemile Point in Thirtymile, punctured her hull and sank, lying with a portion of her lower deck about two feet under water.

    All the passengers were safely taken off and later all the cargo was unloaded on the adjoining bank. Efforts to raise the steamer were at once began and it looked for a time as though it would be successfully accomplished, but at about 1 o'clock Tuesday morning fire broke out in the boiler room which was still free from water and in a few minutes the fine little boat was burned to the water's edge.

    Not satisfied with the loss of the Lafrance, the demon of hard luck pursued one of her two barges which were properly manned and were floating down the river, with the result that it was wrecked a short distance below Hootalinqua. It is reported that nearly all the cargo on the barge, about 75 tons, was lost.

    Another barge, laden with the property of the Boundary Survey corps and in charge of Captain Henry Henderson, another experienced river man, was lost between Hootalinqua and Big Salmon.

    The little steamer, Pauline, owned by Captain N. B. Raymond and son John of this place, experienced a touch of hard luck on the journey down the river, striking a rock near Big Salmon and being delayed several hours while repairs were being made, but reaching Dawson in good shape.

    The White Seal was the first steamer of the Lebarge fleet to reach Dawson, the York Barrington being a close second. The Evelyn, the largest steamer and conveying the largest barge, reached Dawson safely.

    The ice in Lake Lebarge is still solid for several miles according to Chief Jim Boss who arrived from there Wednesday. He says it will not open even for small boats before the 5th or 8th of June.

    The water at this point is slowly rising but Supt. Taylor does not think he will dispatch any steamers for Dawson before the 5th of June and possibly a few days later. The nights remain cold and snow in the hills and mountains is melting very slowly, the rise in the river being correspondingly slow.

    It is said the Lafrance was insured in which event the loss will be practically covered.

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