Ramona (sternwheeler 1892)

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Ramona is the larger vessel on the left. Gypsy is shown in part on the right.
Ramona moored at Salem, Oregon, during flood, sometime between 1895 and 1898, with smaller sternwheeler Gypsy alongside.
Name: Ramona
Route: Willamette River; Columbia River; Fraser River
Launched: 1892, Portland, Oregon; rebuilt, 1896[1]
Out of service: 1920[1]
Identification: US #110964 (as launched); 111130 (as rebuilt)[1]
Fate: Sank on Fraser River, April 22, 1908[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: riverine steamboat, passenger/freighter
Tonnage: 177 gross (as launched); 250.79 (as rebuilt)[2] / 114 registered (as launched); 208.76 (as rebuilt)[3][1]
Length: 100 ft (30.48 m) (as launched); 118.2 ft (36.03 m) (as rebuilt)[1]
Beam: 18 ft (5.49 m)(as launched); 25 ft (7.62 m) (as rebuilt)[1]
Depth: 5 ft (1.52 m)(as launched); 4.4 ft (1.34 m) (as rebuilt)[1]
Installed power: Twin single-cylinder horizontally mounted steam engines, 11.25" bore by 36" stroke.[1]
Propulsion: sternwheeler

The river sternwheeler Ramona operated from 1892 to 1908 on the Willamette River in Oregon, on the Stikine River running from Wrangell, Alaska into British Columbia, and the Fraser River, in British Columbia. This vessel should not be confused with the coastal steamship Ramona which also ran in Alaskan waters.


Ramona was built at Portland, Oregon in 1892, and was reconstructed and enlarged in 1896.[1] The vessel was built for the Graham steamboat line, formally called the Oregon City Transportation Company, but also known as the “Yellow Stack Line”. All the steamers of the line had names that ended in -ona: Latona, Ramona, Altona, Leona, Pomona, Oregona, and Grahamona.[4][5]

Ramona was specially fitted for passenger service, and was reported to have the best cabin of any steamer operating on the Willamette.[6]

Willamette river service

From 1892 to 1898 Ramona was worked on the Willamette River. [1] Until 1894, the vessel was run on the lower Willamette from Portland to Oregon City. After 1894 Ramona was transferred to service on the upper Willamette, that is, the portion of the river above Willamette Falls. For most of the first three years of operation, Captain A.J. Sprong was in command, with Horace Campbell serving as chief engineer and E. Wynkoop as purser.[6]

One important landing on the Willamette was the Trade Street dock at Salem, Oregon, which was used by Ramona and other steamboats.[7] By the late 1890s however the once-booming steamboat business at Salem was falling off, as railroads began carrying the agricultural product that had once been shipped on the river.[7]

Stikine river operations

File:Booster map Stikine River route to Klondike.jpg
Booster map of 1898 showing claimed proximity of the "Gold Belt" to the Stikine river steamboat terminus.

In 1898, with the coming of the Alaska Gold Rush, Ramona was sent north to Alaska to run on the Stikine River, where there was an effort being made to develop an alternative "All-Canadian" route to the Klondike gold fields.[1][8] [9] Ramona went aground on the Stikine and had to be towed off by the Canadian Pacific Railway 's sternwheeler Ogilvie. This was a common type of experience on the Stikine, which was a difficult river to navigate.[8] By the summer of 1898, the Stikine route had failed due to the extreme difficulty of reaching gold fields overland from the steamboat terminus.[8][10]

Fraser river service

Ramona was transferred to the Fraser River to replace the steamer Edgar.[1] On April 17, 1901, while in service on the Fraser River, Ramona 's boiler exploded, killing at least four people. The incident occurred at Fort Langley. Two were mothers who had gone on deck for fresh air. They were blown off the boat into the river where they presumably drowned. They had both left their babies in the main cabin; these infants were unharmed. Two deckhands were killed by flying pieces of the boiler. Contemporaneous reports stated that seven additional people suffered what appeared to be fatal injuries.[11]


File:Ramona (sternwheeler) aground c1909.jpg
Ramona aground at McKay's Landing on the Fraser River. A barge is alongside, apparently either transferring cargo or assisting in salvage.[12]

Ramona was repaired following the boiler explosion and returned to service. In October 1903 Ramona struck the Mission railway bridge, but was again repaired and returned to service. Ramona sank on April 22, 1908 at Wharton's Landing near the mouth of the Harrison River.[1] The report of the Canadian steamboat inspectot summarized the incident:

April 22, 1909. Steamship Ramona, plying on Fraser river, while returning to New Westminster, when near Wharton's landing, ran on a snag, striking her amidship on port side. She immediately sank becoming a total loss.[13]

Historian Affleck stated that Ramona was "an accident-prone steamer."[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Affleck, Century of Paddlewheelers, at 23.
  2. Gross tonnage is a general measure of carrying capacity reckoned at 100 cubic feet per ton. Affleck, Century of Paddlewheelers, at 1.
  3. Registered tonnage is the theoretical maximum volume of the vessel which can be used to generate revenue. Affleck, Century of Paddlewheelers, at 1.
  4. Mills, Sternwheelers up Columbia, at 89.
  5. Timmen, Blow for the Landing, at 108.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Wright, ed., Lewis and Dryden Marine History, at 400.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Green, Virginia, Salem 's Steamboats, Salem History On-line, Salem Public Library.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Turner, Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs, at 69 to 97.
  9. Another source states that Ramona was sent north in 1896. Newell, ed., McCurdy Marine History, at 4.
  10. Newell, ed., McCurdy Marine History, at 37.
  11. New York Times, Explosion on River Steamer, April 18, 1901.
  12. Available sources are not sufficient to state whether this sinking is the same one that resulted in the total loss of the vessel.
  13. Department of Marine and Fisheries, Steamboat Inspection Report, Ottawa 1908, at 5.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Steamboats of the Willamette River

| Steamboats of the Willamette River

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Steamboats of the Stikine River

| Steamboats of the Stikine River

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:Steamboats of the Fraser River

| Steamboats of the Fraser River

  • Affleck, Edward L., A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska, Alexander Nicholls Press, Vancouver, BC 2000 ISBN 0-920034-08-X
  • Mills, Randall V., Sternwheelers up Columbia, Univ. of Nebraska (1947; 1977 printing) ISBN 0-8032-5874-7
  • Newell, Gordon R., ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA 1966
  • Timmen, Fritz Blow for the Landing -- A Hundred Years of Steam Navigation on the Waters of the West, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, ID 1973 ISBN 0-87004-221-0
  • Turner, Robert D., Sternwheelers and Steam Tugs -- An Illustrated History of the Canadian Pacific Railway 's British Columbia Lake and River Service, Soni Nis Press, Victoria BC 1984 ISBN 0-919203-15-9
  • Wright, E.W., ed., Lewis and Dryden Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, Lewis and Dryden Publishing Co., Portland, OR 1895.

Further reading

  • Corning, Howard McKinley, Willamette Landings, Oregon Historical Society (2d Ed. 1973) ISBN 87595-042-6

External links