William Moore (steamship Captain) - British Columbia - Revisit To Fraser River

Revisit To Fraser River

In 1877, Moore returned yet again to the Fraser River and ran the Gertrude against John Irving's Reliance, but in 1878 he returned to the Stikine in time to fight off more new competition there, the Nellie owned by John Calbreath, the packer and storekeeper who'd been responsible for bringing the infamous Cariboo camels to the Cariboo in 1862. Now that there was competition in the Cassiar, his thoughts returned to the Fraser again and the idea of running against Irving on the route from New Westminster to Yale.

So, in 1879, Moore built another new sternwheeler, the Western Slope, which was launched at Victoria on May 8. The old rivalry ran hot as Moore's and Irving's sternwheelers raced up and down the Fraser, competing for passengers. To compete with Moore, Irving built a new sternwheeler in 1881, the $80,000 Elizabeth J Irving, which on its second trip to Yale, raced Moore's Western Slope and, midway through the race, caught on fire and was soon reduced to a charred wreck, resulting in the deaths of four First Nations crewmen, two horses and two cows. The loss was a tremendous blow to John Irving, who had just allowed the vessel's insurance to expire a week earlier.


In 1882, Moore sold the Gertrude and built the Pacific Slope, but by the end of the year, he had fallen on hard times again and sold the Pacific Slope to Andrew Onderdonk and declared bankruptcy again, losing not only his sternwheelers, but also his home and properties in Victoria. John Irving purchased the Western Slope at auction, and being a man of great honor, hired Billie to be her captain, Henry her mate and John her purser, thus helping his rival's family remain solvent. William Moore, now 60, was hardly ready to become an employee of his old rival's 28-year-old son, so he built another sternwheeler, the Teaser, which was eventually seized by creditors (despite Billie's attempt to hide her in Alaska), and sold and renamed the Rainbow.

Meanwhile, Moore built the Alaskan and took her up to the Stikine, which he now had to himself for the 1885 season of navigation. In 1886, Moore heard the call of gold again and went up to the Yukon River. Henry was to meet him there, but was tragically murdered on Vancouver Island on his schooner along with three companions. He left behind a wife and four children.

By 1887, Moore joined the government survey party headed by William Ogilvie and showed them how to build and navigate a barge up the Yukon River. Once the party got to the Chilkoot Pass, Moore heard tales of another route to the Yukon and, with Skookum Jim, started up the Skagway River and went over the 45-mile (72 km) long pass, meeting up with the Oglivie party at Bennett Lake. When Oglivie heard of this new route, he named it White Pass, after Thomas White, the Minister of the Interior. Moore then told Ogilvie of his belief that the Yukon Valley would be the site of the next gold rush and that the White Pass would be a major route to it.

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