Part of Our Past - Coastal Steamships & the "SS Princess Maquinna"

The Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum is hosting a travelling exhibit from the Maritime Museum of British Columbia on the wreck of the SS Princess Sophia. While the sinking of The Sophia (the largest recorded maritime disaster on the Pacific Northwest Coast) occurred off of the coast of Alaska, there are numerous links to Vancouver Island and Clayoquot Sound history. One of these links is the role of Canadian Pacific Railway coastal steamers. The Sophia, built in 1911, was a crucial link for miners, soldiers, travellers, etc. between Skagway, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia. Likewise, the SS Princess Maquinna, Princess Norah (1929-1941), Tees (1907-1913), Willapa, Queen City (1901-1907), and Maude, linked Victoria to Clayoquot Sound.

"CPR SS Tees at Bamfield". Couresty of Ken Gibson Collection. 

From 1858-1863 in what would later be called British Columbia, gold rush fever was running in the veins of thousands of hopefuls. New rough roads were built for prospectors to travel between sites. It wasn’t much longer before the ‘new western frontier’ would become the 6th Canadian Province, British Columbia. Precluding the incorporation of BC, representatives negotiated terms, include the requirement that a railway would extend to the province.

"In the mine." Ca. early 1900s. Courtesy of Drader Collection. 

BC joined Confederation in 1871, the railway was begun in 1878 and finished in 1885. The Canadian Pacific Railway continued the transportation line from the BC mainland to Vancouver Island and then from the provincial capital of Victoria up the coast to Port Alice. In 1901 the CPR had bought controlling interest in the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company which had originally overseen the routes and operations of Willapa, Tees, Queen City, and Maude. 

One of the most famous steamers, though not the first to service Clayoquot Sound, was the SS Princess Maquinna. In the early 1900s there were 12 CPR steamships in operation. Built in 1913, and serving the coast until 1953, the Princess Maquinna was named after the daughter of a famous Mowachat/Muchalat chief (tyee ha’wilth). There have been and will be many who bear the name Maquinna, though the most famous Chief Maquinna's in present historic records lived at Yuquot, Nootka Sound in the later 18th, early 19th centuries. Written accounts of the chief and his life were recorded by John Jewitt who lived as a slave in the area for 3 years from 1803-1806. Previously Maquinna had also met Captain Cook in 1778.

The SS Maquinna had a double bottom as an extra precaution for navigating the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. Edward Gillam captained the ship from 1914 until the late 1920s. It had 54 state rooms and ample cargo space. There were eight 22-ft lifeboats, fire safety equipment, steel siding, 4 bulkheads. She was 1, 777 tons, sported schooner rigging, and stretched 245 ft in length.

"Maquinna Lifeboat Practice". 1949. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

The steamships had over 40 stops to make along the coast and radio broadcasters would announce the ships’ progress, alerting locals to its arrival. “Boat Day” was a major event.

"Maquinna Ladies." Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

The steamship’s whistle usually blew around mid-morning as it passed Lennard Island Lighthouse, drawing flocks to the first street dock in Tofino (built 1908). Folks would paddle over from Opitsat. The steamships would become crucial for enabling the cannery businesses up and down the coast. Post offices and general stores relied on the for bringing in supplies and mail from the capital. It returned to Victoria with pulp from the sawmills, canned salmon from the canneries, pickled herring, ore, and passengers. Some of the earliest tourists to Clayoquot Sound would arrive on the ships. Main attractions were St. Columba Church on Main Street, Capt. Thompson’s flower garden, lilies above the Coast Guard Station, scenic views for artists to paint, weavings and carvings by Nuu-chah-nulth locals. Towler & Mitchell’s store was also a stop.

"Towler & Mitchell's Wharf". Ca. 1930s. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

The next stop would be Clayoquot. Sometimes the ship would linger in the sound for occasions such as dances, concerts, weddings, which were sometimes hosted on the ship.

 

"Ahousaht". 1919. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. It would arrive at Ahosuaht around 6pm.

Only a couple years into service, in 1915, the Princess Maquinna assisted the Carelmapu, wrecked on the Gowlland Rocks.

Carelmapu. November 26, 1919. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Tragically both lifeboats the Maquinna lowered were smashed in the rolling seas, though 5 crew were able to reach shore. The steamship hit ground herself on Maud Island in Seymour Narrows, but was later re-launched. Nicknames for the ship were “The Good Ship Maquinna” and “Old Faithful”.

"Maquinna - Round Island". Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. Round Island is also known as Felice Island. Often onlookerswould look down from Monk's Point to see steamers coming through Templar Channel. 

During the Second World War the SS Maquinna was the ship that was used to transport Nikkei (Canadians of Japanese descent) to Nanaimo leading up to internment. There are various accounts of that day in Clayoquot Sound that site impressions of how surreal the experience was. 

In the 1950s the SS Maquinna was converted into a barge. In 1962 the ship was disassembled for salvage. The bell went to the Missions to Seamen Museum in Vancouver and the binnacle to Ucluelet Sea Cadets (G. Gudbranson, Group Chairman) in 1953 (later moved to Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communicatio and Traffic Services building at Amphitrite Point). The steamship was replaced by the Veta C which ran for only a couple years. In the 1950s, more roads were being built on the coast, making the steamships less vital.

Sources

Greene, Ruth. “The ‘Good Ship’ Princess Maquinna – Old Faithful: 1912-1962.” Personality Ships of BC. West Vancouver, BC: Marine Tapestry Publications Ltd., 1969.

Hardy (nee MacLeod), Mary. “Maritime Musings: Boat Day at Tofino.” Islander. December 6, 1998.

Horsfield, Margaret. Voices from the Sound: Chronicles of Clayoquot and Tofino 1899-1929. Nanaimo, BC: Salal Books, 2008.

Moore, Bill. “The Good Ship Maquinna.” British Columbia Lumberman. June 1977.

Musk, George. Canadian Pacific: The Story of the Famous Shipping Line. Toronto: Holt Rinehart and Winston of Canada Ltd., 1981.

Tate, Brian. “Maquinna and Jewitt families reunite”. Ha-Shilth-Sa. Vol. 30, No. 16, August 14, 2003.

Turner, Robert D. The Pacific Princesses: An Illustrated History of Canadian Pacific Railway's Princess Fleet on the Northwest Coast. Winlaw, BC: Sono Nis Press, 1977. 

Westerly Staff. “The Princess Maquinna’s many links to Ucluelet and the West Coast.” The Westerly News. Thurs, February 28, 2008.

 

Part of Our Past - Clayoquot Days

In May of 1896 Stubb's Island's first of what would be many May long weekend celebrations took place. Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated with a sports day on Stubbs Island, organized by Filip Jacobsen who was store manager and postmaster at the village of Clayoquot (an Anglicization of the word Tla-o-qui-aht) at the time.

"Clayoquot Store." 1905. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

This was the first of what would be many “Clayoquot Days”, a tradition that carries on to this day, thanks to the current owners of Clayoquot Island who open access to the gardens and beaches every year and to local boat operators who shuttle people to and from the island.

"Sports Day". Ca. Early 1930s. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Some of the activities were canoe racing, sack races, three-legged races, high jump, pole vaulting, relay races, tug-of-war, skiff races, picnics, and other sports. Tennis became one of the sports when George Nicholson convinced Walter Dawley to set up tennis courts and rent tennis equipment.

Clayoquot Days was one of the events when folks who didn’t usually socialize with each other came together for a few days of fun and friendly competition. Clayoquot Days was initially a May 24th event, but later Dominion Day or Canada Day was also celebrated at Clayoquot. People would come from “the reduction plants, sawmills, the hatcheries, from Hot Springs Cove, Ahousaht, Nootka,” (Ian MacLeod, Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History). Students from the Christie and Ahousaht Residential schools visited and the Christie School band often played.

"Pole Vaulting". Ca. 1930s. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. Vaulter is thought to be Chris Charlie. 

In the 1920s, Dawley attempted to maintain the cohesion of the sand by planting a dune grass that was not native to the area. The grass spread and diminished the amount of sand on the beach and by the 1940s the general store on the spit was dangerously close to the waters edge.

"Dawley's Place". Ca. 1900-1925. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection.

Over the decades other major events would be celebrated with sports days or picnics at beaches on Vargas or Mackenzie Beach.

"Vargas Island Picnic". MacLeod. Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Betty Farmer and Ruth and Bill White operated the Clayoquot Hotel, store, and post office from until the mid-1900s. Ruth was post-mistress from 1947-1964. Her sister Jo Brydges came to live with her in 1949 and they both applied their love of gardening to the landscape there. She is behind the wide variety of rhododendrons. In the 1960s, Ken Gibson followed suit and planted rhodos as well and every spring Wickaninnish Community School students and staff can be seen assembled in front of the blossoms for the school photo. 

 

Sources

 Horsfield, Margaret and Ian Kennedy. Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014.

Mason, Adrienne, ill. Marion Syme, ed. Ros Penty. Historic Walking Tour. Tofino, BC: Postelsia Press, 2011. 

Part of our Past - Brewster Cannery

Thomas Earle, owner of the Clayoquot general store at the time (1893) opened up a saltery where fish would be salted in barrels, and  the first cannery in the Clayoquot Sound, at Kennfalls Creek, Cannery Bay (Ookmen), in 1895.

 

 

Brewster's Cannery ca. 1920s, courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

 

He had experience from working at the Alert Bay Canning Company, and in 1893 he also engaged in the local fishing and hunting economy by forming Tofino Fishing and Trading Co. Ltd. with Norwegian Alfred Magnesen. He got to know the sealers and fishermen and quickly employed many European settlers. Magnesen recruited Norwegian fishermen who had previously worked at on the Fraser River and many Nuu-chah-nulth fishermen as well. They didn’t have to travel far to catch the salmon, as Cannery Bay was next to the Kennedy River; abundant during the salmon run. Chinese workers, many of whom had been part of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (completed in 1885) cleaned and diced the fish. Nuu-chah-nulth women were usually employed in packing the salmon into tins. At a time when the sealing industry was dwindling, the canneries employed increasing numbers of Clayoquot Sound residents.

Most workers and their families stayed at the Cannery, if not at Ookmen, a Tla-o-qui-aht summer village. Sometimes dances were held in the net loft of the cannery, and occasionally the cannery hosted friends of workers, steamship passengers, and even honeymooners. The cannery was connected to surrounding mining camps by a telegraph line as early as 1902. The line was serviced by Garrard. Many of the Chinese employees prospected for gold and other valuable ores in their spare time.

SS Willapa at Cannery Bay ca. 1920s, Courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

The cannery was serviced by the steamships Willipa and Tees which transported food and supplies to the workers, exporting cans of salmon. Most of the cans went to Britain where it was cheaper than beef. In 1897 $3 million worth of salmon was shipped to Britain.

The cannery tried to expand capacity by placing an independent commercial fish trap at Ginnard Creek, Meares Island (which is now an additional reservoir providing Tofino with fresh water through a sub marine pipeline). Some fishermen used dugout canoes, some used seine netters.

MV Kennfalls, 1929, courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection.

Harold Monks and friend aboard the Annie H., 1921, Courtesy of Monks Family Collection. 

In 1925, with a mysterious influx of pilchard (also referred to as sardines) encouraged canneries to experiment with processing the oily fish. At the time there were also canneries at Nootka (est. 1896), Ahousaht (1897), Uchuklesit (1903), and Quatsino (1911). By 1927 26 canneries along the west coast of Vancouver Island were processing pilchard. The fish proved to be more desirable for their oil than for their taste.

In 1901 Earle had sold the Clayoquot Cannery to Harlan Brewster who hailed from New Brunswick, but had worked on the Willapa as a purser. In 1899 he also worked as store manager and postmaster at the Clayoquot settlement on Stubbs Island. Harlan’s family was involved with the business as well and eventually his youngest daughter, Nan, owned and ran the Kennfalls operation.

Brewster, Townsend, and Brewster, courtesy of Monks Family Collection. 

Harlan is also known for being British Columbia’s first liberal premier in 1916. He was simultaneously involved with running the cannery until his death in 1918. He left behind his wife Annie, two daughters Nan and Marjorie, though his son Raymond had died while in a training camp in England, 15 months after enlisting in the army in 1916.

The cannery was a main component of fishing industry. In the 1920s, while Nikkei men (Canadians of Japanese descent) trolled for salmon, Nikkei women worked in the canneries. In the 1930s and 1940s the seine fleet would become even more active.

Sources                                                                                                                                      Abrahm, Dorothy. Lone Cone: Life on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.                                      Enno Tamm, Eric. Beyond the Outer Shores: The untold story of Ed Ricketts, the pioneering ecologist who inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell.                                                          Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 2004.                                                                                    Horsfield, Margaret and Ian Kennedy. Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014. 

 

Clayoquot Sound Heritage Book of the Month - As Far As I Know

As Far As I Know was published by Campbell River Museum and Archives in 1983. Peter Webster’s compact book tells vivid tales from his childhood, growing up in Ahousaht. Similarly, to Chief Earl George Maquinna’s book Living on the Edge, Webster gives an important account of life on the west coast, through the 20th century. Often heavy, always poignant, the read takes you will certainly take you on a journey.   

As a child, attending residential school in Ahousaht, Webster would be punished for speaking his language. Later in life Webster was incredibly devoted to teaching the Nuu-chah-nulth language and participated in the creation of a dictionary in the 1970s.

The book was illustrated by Kwayatsapalth, Webster’s nephew.

Some resources for learning Nuu-chah-nulth: http://www.firstvoices.com/en/Nuu-chah-nulth/word/aa85f75ded7fce14/grandfather, http://www.nuuchahnulth.org/language/language.html, http://maps.fphlcc.ca/node/40/resources, http://www.hesquiahtlanguage.org/uploads/6/8/7/0/6870919/2dictionarymar19.pdf, https://www.nedc.info/language/ , http://web.uvic.ca/~werle/nuk/181/index.html

People of the Sound - John Grice

John Grice first came to Tofino in 1891 with his son Arthur. He was not one of the earliest European settlers to homestead in Clayoquot Sound, though he was the first pioneers to buy pre-emptions on the Esowista Peninsula, before the town of Tofino was established.

Photo courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

He traveled to the area from Newcastle-upon-Tyne (a.k.a. Newcastle) England. He pre-empted land that encompassed the present day Monks property, which was formerly Načiks. In 1912 his wife Jane joined them. By then, he had built a house where the Whaler’s on the Point International Hostel is presently. He and Jacob Arnet developed the first town plan for the end of the Peninsula. Grice Road, downtown, is named after him.

Photo courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. 

Grice was fluent in Chinook Jargon, a trade language that combined many different languages throughout the Pacific Northwest as well as first languages of settlers. This made him qualified for an especially qualified candidate for facilitating communication between sealing schooner captains and Nuu-chah-nulth hunters.

Grice bought many other properties over the years, including areas on the mudflats side of the peninsula, just south of the Cox Bay info center. He rented it to some of the first Nikkei (Japanese Canadian) families that arrived in the 1920s.

Grice died in 1934 and his Jane died three days later.

Sources: Margaret Horsfield and Ian Kennedy, Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History, Madiera Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014.

Adrienne Mason and Marion Syme, Historic Tofino: A Walking Tour, Tofino, BC: Postelsia Press.