Washington (steamboat 1851)

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Name: Washington
Owner: known: 1) A.S. Murray; 2) S.D. Hinsdale.[1]
Route: Sacramento River, Willamette River, Umpqua River, Coos Bay, Coquille River
In service: 1851
General characteristics
Type: iron-hulled inland/coastal steamboat.[2][3]
Installed power: steam engine
Propulsion: propeller[2][3]
Notes: Career terminated 1857 with boiler explosion.

Washington was one of the first steamboats to operate in the states of California and Oregon.

Operations in California

Washington operated in California on the Sacramento River. The vessel was purchased in California in 1851 by pioneer steamboat captain Alexander Sinclair Murray (b.1828). [1]

Willamette River service

Murray arranged to have Washington transported to Oregon on board the bark Success. Once in Oregon, Murray had Washington launched above Willamette Falls at Canemah and worked on the Willamette River to the Yamhill River.[4] Washington 's first run up the Yamhill was on June 6, 1851.[5] Washington was run on this route for several months, seeking cargoes from the nearby wheat farms.[5] The main competition on the Yamhill route at this time was another early steamer, the Hoosier.[5] Washington was advertised as running from Canemah to Champoeg, where the boat would meet a connecting stage coach line for travellers bound for Salem, Oregon.

Washington under Captain Murray was the first steamboat to reach Eola, Oregon, (then known as Cincinnati), a small community on the Rickreal River about 3 miles west of Salem in Polk County.[5] It was hoped that Washington could go as far up the Willamette as Corvallis, then known as Marysville, but the river proved to be too shallow for the vessel, and freight could otherwise be found for the vessel. Consequently the vessel was hauled around the falls to the lower Willamette river. Washington then ran between Portland, Oregon, and Oregon City, joining a small flotilla of steamboats which included Eagle, Blackhawk, Major Redding, Allan and Columbia. With very few people living in either Portland and Oregon City, competition was fierce.[2]

Oregon coast service

File:William H. Troup (steamboat captain).jpg
William H. Troup, engineer on Washington.

In spring 1853, Washington was taken above the falls again?but only remained a few months until summer 1853, when the vessel was purchased by Capt. Sylvester Hinsdale (1824-1870), a former seaman and a merchant at Gardiner, Oregon, on the Umpqua River. Before the legal organization of the Oregon Territory, the Hudson's Bay Company had established an outpost at the head of navigation on the Umpqua, which later came to be called Scottsburg. The population in this area was increasing due to incoming settlers and mining activity. William H. Troup (1828-1882), the father of steamboat captains James and Claud Troup, went with Washington as the vessel's engineer. Washington is further reported to have operated on Coos Bay, again with Wm. H. Troup as engineer, and for a short time on the Coquille River.[1][6][2]


Washington's career terminated with a boiler explosion in December 1857 which occurred just downriver from Scottsburg.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wright, Lewis & Dryden 's Marine History, at 33-34, 43 and 45..
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Mills, Sternwheelers up Columbia, at 21, 95, 130, and 203
  3. 3.0 3.1 Another source states this vessel was built of wood and was a sternwheeler. Affleck, Century of Paddlewheelers, at 28. There was a sternwheeler operating on the Sacramento River in 1849 called the Lady Washington, but this does not appear to have been the same vessel. MacMullen, Paddle-Wheel Days, at 11.
  4. <Affleck, Century of Paddlwheelers, at 28.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Corning, Willamette Landings, at 62, 132, and 181.
  6. Timmen, Blow for the Landing, at 200.


  • Affleck, Edward L., A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska, Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, BC 2000 ISBN 0-920034-08-X
  • Corning, Howard McKinley, Willamette Landings -- Ghost Towns of the River, Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon (2nd Ed. 1973) ISBN 0-87595-042-6
  • Mills, Randall V., Sternwheelers up the Columbia -- A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE (1977 reprint of 1947 edition) ISBN 0-8032-5874-7
  • Timmen, Fritz, Blow for the Landing -- A Hundred Years of Steam Navigation on the Waters of the West, Caxton Press, Caldwell, ID 1973 ISBN 0-87004-221-1
  • MacMullen, Jerry, Paddle-Wheel Days in California, Stanford Press, Palo Alto, CA 1944
  • Wright, E.W., ed., Lewis & Dryden 's Marine History of the Northwest, Lewis & Dryden Printing Co., Portland, OR 1895, available on-line at the Washington Secretary of State Historical Section

Further reading

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 Oregon Coast

| Steamboats of the Oregon Coast

  • 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
  • Newell, Gordon R., and Williamson, Joe, Pacific Steamboats Bonanza Press, New York, NY 1958