Henry Bailey

Captain Bailey was a captain for one of the White Pass & Yukon Route Steamships. Born in 1865 in Wisconsin, he died on this day, October 27, 1919 in Mayo, Yukon Territory of stomach ulcers. His body was sent to Seattle for burial. He came to Skagway in 1897 and worked as a laborer for White Pass and continued to work until his death.

Sternwheelers were an ideal vessel for the Yukon River’s shallow, narrow waters. The stern mount made for a narrow vessel, and protected the paddle wheel itself from snags and sweepers. The flat bottom gull allowed for little draft, even with heavy cargoes. The paddlewheel helped grounded vessels off sandbars by reversing and washing sand away from the hull: a vessel could also approach shallow waters stern-first and dredge a channel for itself. The sternwheeler could land practically anywhere since docks were not necessary.

Just after the railway reached Whitehorse in 1900, WP&YR set up a marine division called British Yukon Navigation. BYN built a shipyard in Whitehorse and a repair yard in Dawson City. Among the first vessels built was the Whitehorse, seen above, the “old grey mare” which served for 53 years – the longest continuous service of any vessel on the Yukon River.

As the primary means of transportation and communication in the Yukon for the first part of this century, the paddle-wheeler was an integral part of the life of Yukon people. When the last of the boats were pulled from the river in 1955, a way of life ended.

1900 Skagway census; Canadian Navy website; Minter fonds at Yukon Archives.



5 Replies to “Henry Bailey”

  1. Captain Henry Bailey was actually born August 5th,1855 on a farm in Island Co., WA. I know this because I have in front of me a copy of his Petition for Naturalization that was signed, by him, on March 1, 1909. Also, below, are two obituaries that appeared in the Seattle Daily Times. He left a widow and four children.

    Bailey – Funeral services for Capt. Henry Bailey, a member of Masters, Mates and Pilots’ Association and Artic Club, will take place Sunday, the 21st at 2:00 pm from the chapel of Butterworth & Sons. All friends and members of above societies are invited. Internment Mount Pleasant
    Source: Seattle Daily Times, December 19, 1919, p 41

    Bailey – At Dawson, Y. T. October 27, 1919. Capt Henry Bailey of this city. A member of Masters, Mates and pilots’ Association and Arctic Club. Body at private reception room, Butterworth & Sons, morticians.
    Source: Seattle Daily Times, December 16, 1919, p 31

    1. I would love to know more about capt henry bailey. He is my 3rd great grandfather. I have been doing some digging around on the bailey family side. Any info or pics would be amazing

      1. Hi Susie,
        I know it it’s like 5 years since you posted this. I just noticed this while researching Captain Henry Bailey. I live in Whitehorse Yukon and am a long time collector of all things Yukon and Klondike gold rush. I have in my collection a 5 page hand written letter by Capt. Bailey written to his wife in Seattle while he was at the wheel of the steamboat “Eldorado” on route to White Horse on July 14, 1899. I would love it if you had any info or a handwriting sample for Capt. Bailey.
        Brian Beasley

  2. Hi there! Thank you for the feedback. I’m delighted that this story has found a reader with specific information. Every detail fills in part of the puzzle of the Gold Rush! Great sleuthing, if you have any other stories please share!

    1. It’s a quite a few years later, but I have a 5 page hand written letter by Captain Henry Bailey written while on the bridge when he was the Pilot for the steamer Eldorado on a trip from Dawson to White Horse in 1899.

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