It’s always great to get a letter from people like Alex Van Bibber, an old friend, who really knows and has lived our history of the recent past. Alex, who lives in Champagne, Yukon, is one of the territory’s most interesting personalities, so far as I am concerned. His account of the sinking of the steamer Thistle follows:
I remember the steamer Thistle, Taylor and Drury’s boat. It used to stop at our home at Mica Creek two miles upstream on the Pelly River. Bishop Stringer would come ashore and baptize a newborn in our family.
This boat hauled freight to the T&D trading posts at Carmacks, Selkirk, Mayo, Ross River and Teslin. They also had a large store in Whitehorse.
When they lost their steamer, they used a gas-driven boat called the Yukon Rose.
The deck hands really worked hard on this boat (the Thistle); they’d land at a good stand of dry wood, cut a bunch, load up as much as possible, full-length, then saw it up in four-foot lengths for the boiler. No chainsaws in those days, they used cross-cut saws. There was no watching the scenery.
I knew the captain, Captain Jackson, a short native guy from the Whitehorse area.
Dave Silas from Selkirk was a deckhand on this boat; he told me this story:
They were crossing Lake Laberge on a downriver trip; the lake was very rough. Well, one of the hog lines broke causing a big crack that took in water. As luck would have it, the whole crew piled on the barge and cut it loose. They were tossed around all night, then were washed ashore. They all walked to Lower Laberge, to the telegraph station to report the sinking of the steamer Thistle. All of the crew survived.
Alex Van Bibber