Beaver, SS, First Steamship in Pacific Northwest

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 2/21/2003
  • Essay 5260

The first steamship to operate in the eastern Pacific Ocean was the HMS Beaver, a stout little craft commissioned by the Hudson's Bay Company. She saw continuous service from 1835 until July 26, 1888, when she ran aground at the entrance to Vancouver, B.C., harbor.

The Beaver was launched in England on May 5, 1835, and made her way under sail across the Atlantic, around Cape Horn, and up the South and North American coasts. The 101-foot vessel arrived in late 1835 at Fort Vancouver, near present-day Portland, Oregon, where her 13-foot-diameter paddlewheels were then installed.

Unfortunately, Beaver proved under-powered for the powerful currents of the Columbia River. Hudson's Bay Company Chief Factor John McLaughlin (1784-1857) dispatched the vessel to Fort Nisqually, on southern Puget Sound, and the ship went to work carrying passengers and cargo throughout Puget Sound and as far north as Russia's Alaskan settlements.

She met her end on July 26, 1888, by running up on rocks at the entrance to Vancouver, B.C. By then, Puget Sound swarmed with hundreds of steamers belonging to its informally dubbed "Mosquito Fleet."


Jim Faber, Steamer's Wake (Seattle: Enetai Press, 1985); M. S. Kline and G. A. Bayless, Ferryboats, A Legend on Puget Sound (Seattle: Bayless Books, 1883); Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound, A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979).

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