Pacific Northwest Steamboat Ephemera


Steamer IDAHO on Coeur d'Alene Lake in Idaho

Reprinted from Leslie's Weekly, August 3, 1916.
Passengers board the sidewheel steamboat IDAHO at Couer d'Alene, Idaho on Couer d'Alene Lake.
The caption under the photo contains more information.


Columbia River historic items

Photo of Columbia River historic items I took in October, 2006

Megaphone, Spyglass, Captain's cap, Block & Tackle on display in the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, 5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles, OREGON 97058



Waybill and Stock certificate Oregon Steam Navigation Co.
Oregon Steam Navigation Co.
1880 waybill and 1874 stock certificate

Edited from the wikipedia article: Wikipedia

The Oregon Steam Navigation Company (O.S.N.) was an American company incorporated in 1860 in the state of Washington.

The company operated steamships between San Francisco and ports along the Columbia River at Astoria, Portland and The Dalles, serving the lumber and salmon fishing industries. A railroad was built to serve the steamship industry.

In 1862, the railroad was sold to the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company for $155,000.

Soon afterwards, the O.S.N. acquired most of the steamboats on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and in 1863 and 1864, the company added the Nez Perce Chief, the Webfoot, the Owyhee and the Yakima, all built at Celilo on the upper Columbia, and the Mississippi-style sidewheeler Oneonta on the middle river. O.S.N. also purchased the side-wheeler New World to work the lower Columbia.

By 1878, OSN had added to its fleet the sternwheelers Harvest Queen, John Gates, Spokane, Annie Faxon, Mountain Queen, R.R. Thompson, and Wide West.

The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company purchased the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1879.

On the lower Columbia, the company's boats included Senorita, Fashion (ex-James P. Flint), Julia (Barclay), Belle (of Oregon City), Mountain Buck, and Carrie Ladd. On the middle Columbia, the boats were Mary, Hassaloe, Wasco, and Idaho. On the upper Columbia, the company ran the Tenino and the Colonel Wright.

Wreck of the Evelyn


Wreck of the EVELYN Shipyard Island, Yukon River, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Derelict sternwheel steamboat EVELYN in the wilderness of Shipyard Island next to historic Hootalinqua on the Yukon River in Yukon Territory, Canada.

Photo by Stephan Pietzko
ID 98659930 © Stephan Pietzko |


Dramatic hi contrast 8 x 10 press release photo with the following caption on the back:
September 9, 1941

The sternwheeler UMATILLA, the last of the Columbia river craft which participated in the wheat run from The Dalles and Umatilla to Portland, quietly sank at her Shaver Transportation company moorage Sunday night.

Engines, boilers, etc., had been removed last autumn when she was retired. The UMATILLA was last used for a quarter boat for feeding workmen on conversion of the U. S. S. NEVILL, navy transport, last spring.

She was built at Celilo 33 years ago for government dredging in the upper Columbia river."
footnote from
Report of the Chief of Engineers U.S. Army

By United States Army Corps of Engineers
Government Printing Office
excerpted from page 2213:

"The steamboat UMATILLA , which was 50 per cent completed at the beginning of the fiscal year, was finished and accepted from the contractors in the latter part of November. She was at first put to work raking shoals at Biggs Rapids, and on December 23 proceeded to Homly Rapids, 117 miles above Celilo, where she was employed during the rest of the season, when the conditions permitted, blasting rocks, raking shoals, and removing boulders. High water finally put a stop to operations, and she proceeded to Lewiston, where she arrived May 9, and was laid up for the freshet season. The UMATILLA traveled 1,600 miles, acting as tender to scows, making inspection trips, etc."


On the marge of Lake Lebarge, a derelict there lay . . . it was called the ALICE MAY

Enjoy the classic 1897 Robert Service poem of "The Frozen North" that takes place during Gold Rush days in Yukon Territory. Great illustration by InkEtch on Deviant Art of the "derelict steamboat ALICE MAY" where the narrator of the rhyming tale decides to fulfill the last wish of his cold-phobic friend Sam McGee to be cremated. Don't worry about being grossed out by the story which has a satisfactory resolution where McGee gets "thawed out" instead of burned up. Johnny Cash recorded the best reading of the poem which is on the YouTube link below.

The abandoned steamboat ALICE MAY is introduced with these lines:

"I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay; It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the 'Alice May.' "

Johnny Cash - The Cremation Of Sam McGee


Published on Mar 15, 2012
From Johnny Cash - 2006 - Personal File

The Cremation of Sam McGee

By Robert W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who toil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."
On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.

Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked" . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who toil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

August 19, 2006
Heard on Weekend Edition
Scott Simon

Robert Service's poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee," tells the tale of two gold miners in the Yukon and one man's "last request." The poem, which was originally published in 1907, was later transformed into a children's book with colorful illustrations by Ted Harrison, in 1986. Now, a 20th-anniversary edition has been released by Kids Can Press, with new cover art and heavy paper stock.


Steamboats Still Chug On Klamath Lake

This is just about the nicest short film devoted to steam launches that I've ever seen with beautiful scenery and plenty of characters: enthusiastic "folks." Lots of care was taken by the director and camera operators - first rate job.

Steamboats Still Chug On Klamath Lake

Published on Apr 27, 2019
Every year, a group of boating enthusiasts come to Klamath Lake to blow off steam and build community.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*

All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.