Albert J. Goddard

Albert J. Goddard was an engine designer from Iowa who saw an opportunity to cash in on the gold rush. With the help of his wife, Clara, Goddard planned to take two steamboats into the Yukon over the White Pass during the winter of 1897 so that they could take the first cargo down the river in the spring. The little “A.J. Goddard” was prefabricated in San Francisco and Seattle. But Goddard discovered that moving the boats over the pass was not as easy as he thought. He and his wife were forced to move the vessels in bits and pieces across the steep White Pass, a job that took the entire winter, forcing them to endure deathly cold and physical exhaustion. The Goddards’ determination paid out in the end, as they established the first steamboat link between the gold fields and the Pacific coast. After building the boats at Lake Bennett, they plied the Yukon River in 1898, and then left the Yukon in 1901 when the A.J. Goddard sank.

In 2008 a Yukon River Survey team discovered the A.J.Goddard in 40 feet of water on Lake Laberge. It had foundered in a fall storm in 1901, sinking at the north end of the lake and killing three men.

While diving on the boat, they saw two axes lying on the deck at the bow where they were dropped after the crew apparently cut away a barge in tow. One firebox door is open and stuffed with unburned wood, suggesting the crew tried to restart the boiler fire as the ship was foundering.

Goddard died in 1958 at the age of 94. Clara the faithful wife died in 1953 at the age of 89. I guess hard work did not kill them. I am reminded of a ghost story I heard about ten years ago. A friend who was staying at Sheep Camp at the ranger cabin was getting ready to retire one night when she heard people outside. She heard a man saying to his wife, “Come on Clara, it’s not much further, we’re almost there…” My friend opened the door expecting to see them on the trail, but to her surprise, there was no one there, she looked up and down the trail. This story is true, my friend is a very sensible person who would not make up a story. Of course that was the Chilkoot Trail and the Goddards used the White Pass trail, still…..

Pierre Berton; Daily Alaskan 1898; familysearch; online obit; Explorenorth.



4 Replies to “Albert J. Goddard”

  1. Excellent write-up. There is much more online about the A.J. Goddard since the discovery of the wreck site in 2008. Please visit the following web sites to read more about this exciting find:

    And there is more to come…..Speigel TV will release a docu-drama sometime soon in 2011….new information from the family of Capt. MacDonald….and a new Exhibit is in the works at the Yukon Transportation Museum in Whitehorse.

    1. This was very insightful for Myself and my sons as we watched this story unfold, very well done!!

      Thank You very much for this small piece of family history!!

      Kim M Goddard

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