Steamship Willamette


On page 66 of The Inside Passage to Alaska, Anderson says that the S.S. Willamette left Tacoma on August ¬†7, 1897 with 800 passengers and 300 horses and bales of hay stacked so high on deck that forward view from the bridge was obstructed. In Tacoma 7500 people watched her leave and almost miraculously she arrived in Skagway and was photographed by Winter and Pond unloading, seen above. J.M. Houghton was the ship’s engineer, and H.W. Skinner was the purser, along with a crew of 22. Eighteen men deserted the ship when they arrived in Dyea. The ship had to pay a $50 dockage fee and $1 a head for the horses and cattle to dock there. The ship stayed for 9 days while the Captain and Engineer tried to find a crew to head south. ¬†Apparently Robert Bonine shot a film of the Willamette leaving Tacoma in 1897 which is saved somewhere:

“The Oregon Improvement Company’s old steam collier Willamette was quickly converted to carry 600 passengers in temporary berths erected in her coal holds, and she made her first voyage to Skagway and Dyea on August 3. The best that can be said of her as a passenger liner is that she carried a lot of passengers; but the stampeders of 1897 were not fussy about accommodations. Among the first passengers was Capt. Everett B. Coffin of the side-wheeler Idaho, who went north with Fred Fickeff as representatives of a Port Gamble grubstake pool.” Gordon Newell, Maritime events of 1897, H.W. McCurdy, Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: Superior, 1966, p. 15.

In 1903 The Pacific Coast Company renamed her the S.S. Montara or Montana which later ran aground in 1920 near Nova Scotia.

Horses onboard

These poor horses thought they had it bad onboard the steamship – assuming they even made it off the ship at Dyea or Skagway without breaking a leg, the worst was still to come.
This drawing was made from an early photo by Tappan Adney in 1898.

Harriet arrives in Skagway

Although we have covered Harriet Pullen before, it was on this day, September 8, 1897 that she arrived in Skagway full of hope for a new life. She left behind a bankrupt farm and four children to join her husband here to scratch out a living. Starting a restaurant in a tent and cooking meals, her husband ran a string of horses across White Pass. After earning enough money, she bought a log cabin and then sent for her boys to help her.
Soon after, she and her husband split and sold the packing business. She told people that she was a widow. She purchased a large frame house from Captain Moore and named it the Pullen House. All that is left today is the chimney, which is now more clearly seen since the city has cut down all the trees in the area in the past month. Nasty trees, who needs them?

from Alaska: Saga of a Born Land by Borneman