J.D. Farrell (sternwheeler)

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J.D. Farrell circa 1900, in winter storage at Jennings, Montana, with North Star in background on left
Name: J.D. Farrell (US #77280[1]}
Owner: Kootenay River Navigation Co., A. Guthrie & Co.
Route: Kootenay River in Montana and British Columbia
Launched: 1897, at Jennings, Montana
Out of service: 1899-1901
Fate: Dismantled 1903, engines and other components to sternwheeler Spokane operating on the Pend Oreille River.
Notes: Wrecked June 4, 1898, raised and returned to service.
General characteristics
Type: inland passenger/freighter
Tonnage: 359 gross tons; 226 registered tons
Length: 130 ft (40 m)
Beam: 26 ft (8 m)
Depth: 4.5 ft (1 m) depth of hold
Installed power: twin steam engines, horizontally mounted
Propulsion: sternwheel

J.D. Farrell was a sternwheel steamer that operated on the Kootenay River in western Montana and southeastern British Columbia from 1898 to 1902.

Design and Construction

J.D. Farrell was designed and built by Captain M.L. McCormack, who had commanded steamboats on the Mississippi, St. Croix and Red rivers. He formed the Kootenay River Navigation Company to build and operate the vessel, which he named after J.D. Farrell, a wealthy mining backer from Spokane, Washington. Farrell was equipped with electric lights and bathrooms, then considered innovations in river transport in the region. In contrast to some of the other vessels built in the region, Farrell was competently designed and constructed by skilled shipbuilders brought out from Stillwater, Minnesota.[2]


J.D. Farrell was launched in November 1897 at Jennings, Montana.[1] At that time the only competitor on this route was the Upper Columbia Navigation & Tramway Company, under Capt. Frank P. Armstrong. Construction of Farrell prompted Armstrong to hire veteran shipwright Louis Pacquet from Portland, Oregon to build a comparable vessel, the sternwheeler North Star.[2]

Captain M.L. McCormack commanded Farrell on the vessel's first trip up the Kootenay River to Fort Steele, BC. Farrell worked on the route from Jennings to Fort Steele during 1898. During 1898, Captain Armstrong and Captain McCormack combined their efforts on the upper Kootenay, with the Armstrong boats North Star and Gwendoline receiving 60% of the freight receipts, with the balance to McCormack's single boat Farrell. James D. Miller (1830-1914) one of the Northwest's most experienced steamboat captains, commanded Farrell during this time.[2]

On June 4, 1898 with Captain McCormack in command on the seventh trip, Farrell was wrecked in Jennings Canyon when hurricane-force winds blew the vessel off course into a rock.[3] Farrell sank with only her bow and capstan showing above the water.[4] While Farrell was later raised and repaired, and repaired, business declined sharply on the route as traffic shifted over to newly-completed railways, causing Farrell to be laid up at Jennings from 1899 to 1901. In 1901 A. Guthrie & Co. bought Farrell for $6,000 use in construction of the Great Northern Railway to Fernie, BC. In the fall of 1901, the railway construction was complete, and Farrell was laid up again.[1][2][4]


In 1903 Farrell was dismantled. The machinery, fittings and much of the upper works were taken by train to Newport, Washingoton to become part of the sternwheeler Spokane.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Affleck, Edward L., A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska, at 25 and 53, Alexander Nicholls Press, Vancouver, BC 2000 ISBN 0-920034-08-X
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Newell, Gordon R., ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, at 22, 39, 42, 67, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA 1966
  3. Marshall, Don, Oregon Shipwrecks, at 297, Binford and Mort, Portland, OR 1984 ISBN 0-8323-0430-1
  4. 4.0 4.1 Downs, Art, Paddlewheels on the Frontier -- The Story of British Columbia and Yukon Sternwheel Steamers, at 108-09, Superior Publishing, Seattle WA 1972

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Steamboats of the East Kootenay region

| Steamboats of the East Kootenay region

  • Faber, Jim, Steamer's Wake—Voyaging down the old marine highways of Puget Sound, British Columbia, and the Columbia River, Enetai Press, Seattle, WA 1985 ISBN 0-9615811-0-7
  • Timmen, Fritz, Blow for the Landing, 75-78, 134, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, ID 1972 ISBN 0-87004-221-1

External links