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The Fairy Queen of Fraser River

November 17, 2015

The stern-wheel steamer Fairy Queen was launched in the spring of 1888 at New Westminster. She was built by Captain George H Cooper at a wharf on the Fraser River, foot of Douglas Street (8th Street).

The Fairy Queen had a gross tonnage of 25 tons and was permitted to carry 40 passengers.

The vessel first ran on the waters of Harrison Lake.

Captain George Herbert CooperIn March 1888 the Columbian newspaper reported that Captain Cooper had saved the life of a young man who had slipped while clambering from the boat to the wharf, had fallen into the cold waters of the Fraser and sank, unable to swim.

“Capt Cooper, who was on the deck of the Fairy Queen at the time, saw the accident, and, without a moment’s hesitation, plunged in after Crandall, brought him to the surface and kept his head above the water until Mr Ed Port came to their assistance with a plank, when both were got on board.”

The news report went on to state that:

“This is the third man Capt Cooper has saved from drowning, and it will be no small recommendation to the Fairy Queen to be commanded by such a courageous man.”

In February 1889 Cooper sold the Fairy Queen to “Young & Terhune,” to be used on the run from New Westminster to the North Arm settlements. (These would include Lulu Island and what is now Marpole in Vancouver.) “She will be thoroughly overhauled and good passenger accommodation provided.”

1890 directory - Fraser River steamboats
The Fairy Queen‘s run started at the Stanley Docks at the city, where she connected with the Rainbow, from Victoria, and with the Gladys, serving the upriver run to Chilliwack. The Fairy Queen, on the shortest run, returned to the city each day.

Apparently the Fairy Queen also proved good accommodation for salmon fry.
Max Mowat of the Dominion hatchery at Bon Accord (Port Mann) took on board “300,000 spring and sockeye salmon” for release at Pitt Lake.


First Nations Rowers Best River Steamer Over Two Miles

In April, the Fairy Queen was engaged in a challenge by six First Nations rowers. It was normal for the pride of steamers, and the egos of their captains, egged on by a cheering crowd of passengers, to undertake “trying conclusions” with any vessel heading the same way. However, to be challenged by a human-powered craft spoke much of the capabilities of the Fairy Queen, or of her ardent competitors.

“An exciting race took place yesterday afternoon on the North Arm between the steamer Fairy Queen and six Indians in a racing skiff.
For two miles the plucky Siwashes held the lead, pulling like heroes and straining every muscle to widen the distance between them and the Fairy Queen.
The steamer was urged to its best, but it was not till the race had lasted two miles that the superior staying powers of steam were made manifest, and she gradually forged ahead of the craft propelled by man power.”


Later in the year, the Fairy Queen was challenged by the North Arm bridge, coming out the loser, “her upper works being badly stove in and smashed.”

“The night was very dark, and there were no lights indicating the approach to the draw.”

In 1892 the Fairy Queen was serving Ladners on the South Arm.

In June 1893 the stern-wheeler was chartered by DJ Munn of the Bon Accord Cannery for service during the packing season.

The Fairy Queen had a rather short career: her registry closed in March 1900.


Besides Captain GH Cooper and Captain MG Terhune, one of the masters of the Fairy Queen was Captain James L Card, who also served on the Surrey ferry from the city to South Westminster.

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