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The USS Shubrick in Early British Columbia History

October 17, 2016

uss-shubrickThe United States government vessel Shubrick brought economic theorist Henry George to the west coast in 1858.  In 1859,  Shubrick was in the service of US Boundary Commissioner and present at San Juan Island during the military stand off. In 1865 Shubrick brought telegraph construction officials to New Westminster.

USS Shubrick 1859 –  Midnight Mission to Langley

An hour before midnight on September 10, 1859,  the graceful black silhouette of the USS Shubrick,was observed gliding up the Fraser River  opposite New Westminster. Propelled by the slap of her bright red wheels, she was a beautiful sight, and her progress past the military camp aroused excitement among the officers and men

Nominally a Light-House tender, she was now at the service of US Boundary Commissioner Archibald Campbell. Her presence at San Juan Island during its recent invasion by US forces had aroused suspicion as to her diplomatic neutrality. Now she was slipping by British Military Headquarters without paying the customary compliments.

Captain Parsons, the senior officer, penned a hasty report to his absent Commander, Colonel RC Moody, and followed up with a dispatch to Governor James Douglas at Victoria.

“RE Camp, New Westminster

11 September 1859

Sir, I have the honor to inform you that the United States steamer ‘Shubrick’ passed this camp at 11 o’clock last night, proceeding up the Fraser.

Mr Boundary Commissioner Campbell is reported to have been on board.

The ‘Shubrick’ passed the Head Quarters Camp without making any communication.  

I have sent a report of the circumstance to Col Moody, Commander of the Forces, but as it may pass him returning to British Columbia, I think it right also to communicate with your Excellency.”

Nothing became of this incident, as the vessel was proceeding to Fort Langley while on a diplomatic mission.

USS Shubrick 1865 –  Western Union Telegraph Extension

When the Shubrick returned to Fraser River in March 1865, her crew and passengers were welcomed most warmly by Governor Seymour at New Westminster. Shubrick was now in the service of Telegraph Company officials, working to build a telegraph line around the world. It was an enterprise heartily endorsed locally as it would bring New Westminster into telegraphic communication for the first time.

USS Shubrick 1858 –  Henry George A Crew Member on Maiden Voyage

The Shubrick has another connection with local history, in that on her maiden voyage to the west coast in 1858,  an 18-year old typesetter from Philadelphia, Henry George, was a member of her crew.

Henry George deserted the vessel in San Francisco and joined in the rush for Fraser River gold.

Arriving in Victoria in August 1858, Henry George observed conditions which formed the genesis of his economic theories that would garner worldwide acclaim. (See following posts.)


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