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Iroquois Disaster

Iroquois Disaster

Ian Edwards (View posts)
Posted: 1127416825000
Classification: Query
Can someonegive me some information about the 'Iroquois Disaster" please (in Victoria BC??)

I've spent a lot of time searching the net but come up with very little.


Re: Iroquois Disaster

Bette (View posts)
Posted: 1127445458000
Classification: Query
Can you be more specific - I currently live in Victoria and maybe I'm way off base but I would doubt there was an Iroiquois Disaster in Victoria - at least not if you are talking about First Nations. The Iroquois were from Ontario and area, not BC. Did I misunderstand? Then again, there's a lot of history here I don't know.

Re: Iroquois Disaster

Posted: 1127513311000
Classification: Query
I've done a bit more searching and found the answer!

The SS Iroquois was a small steamer measuring 72 feet in length which provided a regular ferry service between the islands off the coast of Vancouver.
On April 11, 1911 the Iroquois sailed out of Sidney, Vancouver Island, heading for the smaller islands off the coast. Soon after it left Sidney the cargo began to shift and the ship started to list. It capsized and sank in a squall west of Ker Island. No passenger list
existed but it was estimated that about 22 people were killed, including (possibly) one of my ancesters.
Many of the other victims were buried in the historic Ross
Bay Cemetery in Victoria on Vancouver Island.


SS Iroquois sinking, Canoe Pass off Sidney, BC, April 1911

Rocky (View posts)
Posted: 1127565760000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675259000
Hello Ian...

There are some websites on “Google” to check out. I just typed in “SS Iroquois” and the word “Sidney” all on one search line.
SS Iroquois picture and details
Images of the SS Iroquois from the Salt Spring Island Archives.

I recall my maternal grandmother’s story of this tragic event. She was just a girl but knew many on board. I know there was never a full list of the victims who drown, and I know every single Gulf Island had it’s horrid story of an “Islander” drowning that day. Every island was affected by loss of some family member or members.

There will be a more accurate list somewhere. Try the BC Archives. I know I have seen this query before and I may have even answered it. I recall digging some information on this a few years ago, but I can’t readily find anything I wrote or anything I collected. Seems I forgot what website I was on…. Must be my old age…LOL. I know the ship sank off Sidney in Canoe Pass, and it was within a mile or so of the government wharf, as onlookers saw it all happen as the little ship fought the storm then listed to her side and rolled over and disappeared beneath the waves.

A partial list of those who drown on the SS Iroquois off Sidney were as follows, this is not an official list. I gathered this off the BC Archives website and a few books I have in my small library:

John Bathenas……………..age 35
John Brayson………..…….age 30
Stanley A. Clarke……….….age?
Isabel Fenwick………….....age 30
Yet Sam Fong…………..…age 18
Suey Hos Foon…………….age 28
Herbert Locke hartnell….…age 24
Evan Francis Hooson………age 2
Fanny (Lawson) Hooson…...age?
(mother to Evan F. Hooson) both from Pender Island.
Arbuthnot Dallas Monroe….age 50
Anderson Oleson…………..age 26
Mesach Phillips…………….age 27
Chan Long Tom…………….age 45

Monroe (ships Purser)……… age?

There were about 21 to 22 lives lost that day on board the SS Iroquois. Not all are recorded deaths in the BC Archives as the bodies must never have been found. This small ship carried human passengers, the mail, supplies and cargo, lumber, live animals and hay throughout all the Gulf Islands.

I (assume, not a good thing) most of the Chinese names may have been labourers and deckhands for the Steamer as all but the Captain Sears and his mate drown. Captain Sears and one mate were the only ones to escape the fate of the other 21 to 22 people by using the only row boat that made it ashore in the storm. It is noted that the sinking of this ship changed how BC handled passenger lists on ships in that era…. Meaning a more accurate way of knowing how many passengers were on board came of this tragedy.

Bea Hamilton, author of SALT SPRING ISLAND, Mitchell Press Ltd, Vancouver, Copyright 1969, gives an unfavourable account of Captain Sears in her book (pp 86 to 89). Note there is no ISBN for her book, but it is in major libraries in BC.

Richard Mouat Toynbee author of SNAPSHOTS of SALT SPRING and other Favoured Islands, Morris Printing Company Ltd, Victoria, BC, Copyright 1978 (no ISBN)… gives numerous images and small stories between pages; 54 & 57.

Note: The SS Iroquois had previously capsized off Jack Point, Nanaimo. The little ship was salvaged and repaired for service until it’s fateful doom in April of 1911.

Note: T.W. Patterson (Lieutenant Governor of BC, 1909) was a shareholder in the SS Iroquois, He owned and lived on Moresby Island, which at that time had a government wharf. The SS Iroquois called to this port twice a week.

I will try digging around the next few days… looking for any old postings from here or other sites. As I said earlier I have seen this, or it may have been in an old Times Colonist story (from the “Islander” section). I recall the story of how Captain Sears had an awful time after this tragedy and his survival amongst all the deaths. This was a very big trial in court during those days and will have a large amount of information in the BC Archives at Victoria. You may also want to check out the Victoria City Archives as they will have obituaries listed from newspapers of the day. I do not have access to Victoria at the moment so you may want a volunteer if you are not close to the city.

Try the Sidney Museum website.

Also check the Salt Spring Island Archives-Museum website, they may have more information.

I also have a question for you... was your ancestor from the Gulf Islands? If he was Hugh Armstrong's website may help. You would have to dig in his 1901 and 1911 Census information but he may have made important vital statistic notations as he has done for many of my ancestors in the Gulf Islands. Simply type "Hugh Armstrong Victoria Census" into a Google Search. You will have to dig about his incredible amount of information but it is worth the effort.

Kind regards; Rocky Sampson

Re: SS Iroquois sinking

Posted: 1127567885000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675399000
Excellent Rocky!!!

This is exactly what I was looking for. I had already found the Sidney Museum site but the rest of the information is new to me!

The list is something I really wanted!!! I was looking for Mesach Phillips, of Rhosllannerchrugog in north-east Wales, and there he is! I believe the Hooson's may also have been Welsh?

I have already started looking through the 1911 census but with no success so far (in 1901 Mesach was still in Wales).

Thanks for your valuable help. If you find anything else please let me know!


Re: SS Iroquois sinking

Diane (View posts)
Posted: 1127576234000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675317000
I once did research for someone looking for the Fenwick name. I do remember there was quite a lengthy article on it in the papers.
If you need help to retrieve the article just let me know. I can take a look next time I visit the Library.


Re: SS Iroquois sinking

Rocky (View posts)
Posted: 1127586912000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675338000
Hi Diane and Ian....

I am so happy to see you found the name you were looking for. It is great when all the information pulls together... books, internet and memory and people.

It was my grandmother who used to tell me the story about the Iroquois when it sank as she was just a girl of 10 years of age. She and her family knew many of the people who lost their lives that day. My grandmother's father had a contract to deliver mail on Salt Spring Island so they knew many people from that ship.


If you could dig up that article from the "Times Colonist" newspaper, I would love it and I am sure Ian would too, as there was a lot of information there. I am also sure that the "Victoria Daily Times" and the "Colonist" newspaper of the day would have had great stories. I also know the city of Victoria Archives will hold the obituaries in their alphabetical and indexed collection. I will dig in my small library as I usually clip those articles and slip them into the appropriate book (between the pages). But it may be in my old library which the ex now owns....grrrr oh well.

Take care all...and have a great day. It is a beautiful Autumn day here... warm, leaves are golden and the sun shines bright in a sky of deep blue.

Kind regards... Rocky Sampson

Re: SS Iroquois sinking

Diane (View posts)
Posted: 1127589330000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675350000
Sure no problem Rocky, I may not make it down there this week but I will hopefully the next week. I'll let you know when I get it and then I'll send you off a copy, if I remember correctly there was an investigation into this accident.

Re: SS Iroquois sinking

Posted: 1127654730000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1127675376000
Thanks Rocky and Diane!

Any additional information you can find would be more than welcome.


Captain Blustered as Winds Wailed; "Victoria Times Colonist" story. Islander section, Sunday March 31, 1991; B3

Rocky (View posts)
Posted: 1127689435000
Classification: Query
Ian and Diane...

Thank the Creator for "Pack Rats". Where would history be without us! All know is my basement and library would be cleaner...LOL.

I have found the article of the SS Iroquois... for EASTER Monday, 1911. No wonder the ship's sinking hit hard... Easter was a very big celebration of picnic’s and family gatherings during that era. Some islands still have celebrations and some even celebrate the "May Pole" dance... old traditions still alive in old communities.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I will transcribe Peter Murray's article... I should have known I had it still as it was tucked between the pages of his book;

"Homesteads and Snug Harbours; The Gulf Islands", Copyright 1991, Horsdal & Shubart Publishers, Box 1, Ganges, BC, V0S 1E0, (ISBN: 0-920663-14-1)

It will take a day or so before I transcribe the story Peter wrote.

It is a good article, well written by Peter. I really miss the old "Islander" section of the paper... we lost so much when the "Times Colonist" modernized it. Every week (Sunday paper) we recieved an eclectic wealth of history, natural history and island life. Progress is not a good thing... when we loose valuable work.

Note: Salt Spring Island is one of BC's oldest communities (that was not a "HBCo Fort", so the Iroquois sinking hit the community hard as by 1911 Salt Spring and many of the other islands were established for some 50 years. As compared to many other communities in the Province who were established on or near HBCo. lands. Small ships like the Iroquois were vital life forces that connected small islands together to form a major tie that fed communities like Victoria, Nanaimo and the sort. Salt Spring lamb and mutton is as famous today as it was then... so the Iroquois and her likes were vital life lines for island farmers who formed the backbone of the islands in those days. Salt Spring butter was world famous even in those days. Apples, fruit and vegetables, beef cattle, sheep and chicken and eggs left the islands so often that a railway connected Sidney to the city of Victoria (not only for people to have access, but more important food for a thriving city).

By 1911 many new people had arrived to the islands and the population was growing at an alarming rate. many of the islands original farmers were dieing off and new blood was coming in to replace old farms with modern machinery and technology. People like your ancestor were coming to look and maybe buy up old and established farms.

I will also find notes from my library that tell the tale of the Iroquois, as the more I find paragraphs from my books I see that Captain Sears was not a very well liked man from day one. He was disliked by many in his day, yet he was in charge of peoples lives! He was part owner of the ship he was captain on... so we may see that his pushing into the wind and waves of that April day in 1911, may have had a monetary calling rather than a "safety first" call. Just like today, around the world, when Mother Nature warns us not to push our luck, we ignore her and "batten down the hatches" and head into the gale with blinders on.

I hope I have shed a little light on what your ancestor may have been up to. He may very well have had relations or friends who wrote to him... telling him to join them in the Gulf Islands... so many wrote to their family back in the "Old Country" telling tales of riches to be made "Yonder West". Canada being of "English Colony" origin many British Islanders came by the droves. Even today many islanders speak their own "British accent" several generations later.

I will be back with Peter Murray's story, soon; as for now... kind regards to you and yours.

Rocky Sampson
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