The steamship Beaver left the London docks on August 27, 1835, and reached Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, on April 10, 1836. The log itself has been lost in time, but excerpts from this journal were published in a book titled Lewis & Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, published by Edgar Wilson Wright in 1895.
At the beginning of the published journal, the publisher says this: “Through the kindness of Mr. Harry [Henry] Glide, a Victoria pioneer, we were enabled to secure a copy of the original log of the old steamer, which is here given, the dates omitted being unimportant in a work of this character. The historical value of this document cannot be overestimated, and we give the same in as complete a form as our space will admit.” True: you probably wouldn’t publish every word if you were going to publish the journal at all, but one likes to do one’s own editing of information given. When did they cross the equator and what happened there? I would also briefly explain what the weather was doing outside: they were after all passing through some of the heaviest and most interesting weather, wind, and waves this planet can offer — the trade winds. And they were also rounding Cape Horn — in the Southern Hemisphere’s summertime, of course. But, still, Cape Horn!
But all the London Ships for the Pacific Coast took this route, and it was a carefully timed journey. The London ships left Gravesend in the Northern Hemisphere’s summertime, and also reached the west coast in summertime, one full year later. But as they rounded the Horn, it was also summer, tho’ a relatively unfriendly summer, even in comparison to the winter that was then happening in London, and at Fort Vancouver.
Fortunately for me, I have already tracked the route of a London Ship on its way to Fort Vancouver from Gravesend: In 1841 and 1842, Thomas Lowe came out to the Sandwich Islands and, eventually, Fort Tako, on the northwest coast, in the London ship, Vancouver. I think I can marry everything that a very young Thomas Lowe experienced on his journey to the Pacific Northwest, into the 1835-1836 journal of the Steamship Beaver, and tell you what the transcriber missed. Well, much of it anyway: they might have travelled by a slightly different route.
But first we should know who Harry [Henry] Glide is. Born in Chizzelhurst, England about 1835, Glide worked on the HBC steamship, Otter, and came with that steamship to the Pacific coast in 1852. On August 4 the Otter arrived in Victoria Harbour, and he worked on the ship until June 1858, when he retired to become Victoria’s first pilot. If he had stayed longer on the Otter, he would have perhaps met my great grandfather, A.C. Anderson, who was leading a party of gold-miners to the extreme far end of Harrison Lake. The gold-miners were employed by the HBC to build the now-historic Harrison-Lillooet Trail into the goldfields (the miners actually paid to work on opening the trail, and received payment in provisions when the trail was finished). The Company was using the Otter to transport the road-building miners to the end of the lake.
So here goes: the Log of the Steamship Beaver, 1835, as it is published in Lewis & Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest.
Log of the steamship Beaver, from Gravesend for the Columbia River, August 27, 1835. Crew list on leaving Gravesend: D. Home, commander; W.C. Hamilton, first mate; Charles Dodd, second mate; Peter Arthur, chief engineer; John Donald, second engineer; Henry Barrett, carpenter; William Wilson; George Gordon; William Phillips; James Dick; George Holland; James McIntyre; William Burns, abs. [Able-seamen].
So, the crew (from Bruce McIntyre Watson’s Lives Lived West of the Divide):
D. Home, Commander, was David Home. He joined the HBC in 1836 and arrived in the Columbia — well, clearly Bruce Watson did not find this 1835-6 journal when he researched his book. As we all now know, or will soon know, David Home was the captain of the steamship Beaver, and this confident and knowledgeable sailor brought the Beaver, under sail, all the way across the oceans from London to Cape Horn to Fort Vancouver. Afterward he was put in charge of the London ship, Nereide. He drowned in the Columbia River in January 1838, according to Bruce Watson. This is probably the correct date [it wasn’t, I had written 1836, which was even before he reached the Columbia], but the writer of the Fort Nisqually Journals, William Kittson, heard that Captain Home and four sailors had been drowned in the Columbia River going from Fort Vancouver to Baker’s Bay in a boat under sail.
W.C. Hamilton, First Mate, is not mentioned in Bruce Watson’s book.
Charles Dodd, Second Mate: Born in Norfolk in 1808, Charles Dodd spent almost his entire career in the Company’s sailing vessels, acting as second mate on the Nereide in 1833-35, before even boarding the steamship Beaver for its 1835 departure from London! For a short while he acted as clerk-in-charge of Fort Stikine after John McLoughlin Jr’s death (by murder) at the fort. He purchased land in Victoria, and died in one of the houses he owned near St. John’s Church. A long time Victoria resident and employee of the HBC, he has several coastal landmarks named for him.
Peter Arthur, Chief Engineer. He spent five years in coastal waters and was the man who found the coal on Vancouver’s Island, near Fort Rupert. However, two years later he organized a mutiny against Captain William Henry McNeill of the steamship Beaver, although because of the essential nature of his job he escaped punishment, and even asked for a pay raise. In 1840, he sailed for England on the Columbia, where he disappeared from the Company records.
John Donald, Second Engineer. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Donald signed on with the HBC and came to the Columbia in the steamer Beaver. He remained for five years on the steamship Beaver, and his return to Fort Vancouver from Fort Stikine was delayed when the Vancouver ran aground between Forts Stikine and Tako, on the northwest coast.
Henry Barrett, Carpenter. Born near Norfolk, England, he acted as carpenter aboard the schooner Cadboro after his arrival on the coast, and the London ship, Neride, as well. He left the coast for England on the barque Columbia on November 7, 1838, before the end of his contract. This probably means he jumped ship once he was back in England.
William Wilson, Able Seaman. Born [maybe] in Devon, England. Bruce Watson has him listed as an able seaman aboard the Columbia, but we know he was on the steamship Beaver, and that in Hawaii he gave the captain a little trouble by taking unauthorized shore leave. I see by this entry that Bruce Watson did find the Lewis & Dryden journal, so all is not lost! Wilson later gave more trouble at Fort Simpson, refusing to store the wood on the steamship Beaver as it wasn’t the duty of an able seaman. John Work called him “a great forecastle lawyer,” and put him in irons. Aha! “1837-1838. The Beaver was laid up at Fort Simpson for the winter, and there was a mutiny on board.” And William Wilson was the leading mutineer! [Tell enough stories, and everything comes together]. Wilson was later caned for drunken influence in 1838, and obviously he left for England on the barque, Columbia, on November 1, 1838 — an unhappy man.
George Gordon, Able Seaman. He joined the HBC for five years, and came to the coast on the Steamship Beaver, as we know. Apparently, George had a short temper and a sharp tongue, according to his father. In May 1837, he joined William Wilson and William Phillips at Fort Simpson in refusing to load wood, and later became a mutineer aboard the steamship Beaver. He left the coast aboard the barque Columbia in November 1838. Once in England he appealed for the six months of pay he had lost because of his activity, but it is not known whether or not he received it.
William Phillips, Able Seaman. From the records above, we already know that Phillips took part in the refusal to load wood aboard the Beaver, and in the later mutiny at Fort Simpson. He was probably born near Southhampton, and like his accomplices he joined the HBC for five years and sailed aboard the steamship Beaver to Fort Vancouver. He worked on the Steamer to the end of his contract in 1840, and returned to England on the barque Vancouver shortly afterwards.
James Dick, Able Seaman. Born in Scotland in 1807, he joined the HBC and worked on the Beaver in 1835, the Llama in 1836, the Columbia in 1836-37, and was a steerage passenger aboard the Vancouver when she returned to England in 1837.
George Holland, Able Seaman. Born near St. Pancras, London, he had a varied career in the HBC after joining in August, 1835, and coming across with the steamship Beaver. After working in coastal shipping, he became a schoolteacher at Fort Vancouver, replacing the Reverend Herbert Beaver. He rose quickly through the HBC ranks, becoming post master at Fort Langley, and later post master at Fort Victoria. A post-master manages a post, and so in this case he is part of the management team, but is not educated enough to read and write, and can never be a clerk. I am actually finding him mentioned in the Fort Victoria Journals, which I am reading right now! Holland served the Company for twelve years and had an unblemished record when he returned to England on the barque, Columbia, in 1847. A few years later, he returned to the coast with the Norman Morison — the most fabulous ship that ever reached this coast (Yes, even more fabulous than the steamer Beaver!) Holland Point, off Dallas Road (in Victoria), is named for him.
James McIntyre, Able Seaman. Born St. John, New Brunswick, he was the cook aboard the steamship Beaver when it left London in August 1835. He worked on ships on the west coast until he is listed as leaving the Columbia district on the barque Vancouver in fall of 1840, at the end of his five year contract.
William Burns, Able Seaman. There is no record for William Burns in Bruce Watson’s Lives Lived. but there is a William Burris, and this seems to be the man who sailed in the steamship Beaver (a transcription error). If so, he was born in Gloucestor, England, and he joined the HBC in London in 1835, just like his fellow mariners did. He participated in the mutiny in the Beaver but did not appear to suffer any consequences. “Finding the Pacific Northwest to his liking,” Bruce Watson says, “he returned to England on the Vancouver,” and brought back his wife. [Governor Simpson found this move extremely extravagant]. But his story goes downhill fast — He worked at Fort Vancouver and then settled on the Tualatin Plains, in Oregon, where he slowly lost his mind. In 1857 he murdered his wife and children “so that they could go to heaven in their relative youth.” He spent the rest of his life insane, in a Portland prison.
This last story is a little sobering: this kind of thing did not often happen in the HBC’s fur trade.
So lets cheer ourselves up with the next section of the Log of the Steamship Beaver:
Thursday, August 27, 1835. 3pm., pilot came on board, hauled the vessel out of docks and proceeded down the river toward Gravesend. 8 pm. Came to anchor with light winds from the southward.
Gravesend was, and still is, an ancient town on the south bank of the Thames River, 21 miles east of central London. It stands almost directly across the river from the Tilbury Docks, and Tilbury itself. Tilbury was an ancient military fort, first built on this spot by Henry VIII. In spite of the fact that this fort protected the mouth of the Thames from invaders, it seems to have been a peaceful spot: Its bloodiest battle took place in 1776, with two deaths that followed a cricket match. If you want to learn more about these places along the river’s estuary, there is an impressive website with loads of maps, stories and images, at http://thames.me.uk/ I discovered this site years ago, and it is still here!
So, here is the next journal entry for the steamship Beaver, as the ship actually reaches Gravesend.
August 28, 4 am. Weighed anchor and proceeded toward Gravesend. 7 am. Anchored off Gravesend. People employed the rest of the day fitting steering halyards, blocks, and gear.
This journal will continue, of course, with the steamship Beaver’s departure from Gravesend and its discovery of a lost stock, a part of the anchor I believe. When the next post of this series is written, it will appear here: https://nancymargueriteanderson.com/steamer-beaver/
Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, all rights reserved.
This has been so much fun to write! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing and researching it.
- Robert Clouston
- Log of the Steamer Beaver 2