SS Mary Victoria Greenhow

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SS Mary Victoria Greenhow
NamesakeMary Victoria Greenhow
Launched21 April 1886
General characteristics
Length32 ft (9.8 m)
Beam5 ft (1.5 m)
Installed power2 hp (1.5 kW)
Capacity5 passengers

SS Mary Victoria Greenhow (MVG) was the first steamboat on Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada.[1] She was built by Captain Thomas Shorts and Thomas Greenhow and although she was not perfect, she was the harbinger of a long and significant line of steamships in the Okanagan.


Shorts had begun the boating service on the lake with his rowboat Ruth Shorts in 1883 and three years later, he decided to venture into steam. He convinced the pioneer and rancher Thomas Ellis that it would be cheaper to transport freight by water than by packtrain from Hope, British Columbia, so with financial assistance from the cattle rancher Thomas Greenhow, Shorts was able to begin steamboating. Mary Victoria Greenhow was the first powered vessel on the lake and Shorts launched her on April 21, 1886 at the shipyard at Okanagan Landing.[2] She was 32 feet (9.8 m) long by 5 feet (1.5 m) in beam and could carry five passengers and five tons of freight, with a two horsepower engine and a kerosene-burning boiler manufactured in Rochester, New York.[3] Mary Victoria Greenhow was named after the only daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Greenhow.[4][5]

First trip[edit]

Mary Victoria Greenhow was clumsy and Shorts ran out of fuel halfway on her first trip. He had to borrow kerosene from the settlers along the lake, leaving a series of darkened cabins behind him as he went up, as there was no longer oil to light candles.[6] On his return trip, while Shorts was borrowing more kerosene from the Lequime brothers at Okanagan Mission, Mary Victoria Greenhow was damaged by fire. Shorts managed to get her to Okanagan Landing, where he attempted and failed to convert her to a wood-burner.[7]


Shorts ordered a new boiler for Mary Victoria Greenhow, hoping to repair her, but he and carpenter John Hamilton began work on a new ship in the meantime. By the time the boiler arrived in July 1887, they had already built SS Jubilee. Shorts decided to put the boiler in his new steamship instead and transferred the engine from Mary Victoria Greenhow to Jubilee, which was launched in September. The engine later powered several other ships, including City of Vernon, Mud Hen, SS Wanderer, and Violet, but Mary Victoria Greenhow was the only one registered on official records, so they would all be considered the same ship, strictly speaking. The engine was eventually used at Trinity Valley for a shingle mill and wood-cutting starting in 1906 before Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Worth of Vernon, British Columbia, whose family had owned it for many years, donated it to the Vernon Museum and Archives in November, 1957.[8]


  1. ^ Hatfield, Harley R. (1992). "Commercial Boats of the Okanagan". Okanagan history. Fifty-sixth report of the Okanagan Historical Society. pp. 20–33. Retrieved 2 Aug 2015.
  2. ^ Pooley, Ian (30 September 2013). "Getting across the Lake: Sinking Scows and Panicked Passengers". The Daily Courier. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  3. ^ Norris, Leonard (1935). "The First Steamboat of Okanagan Lake". The sixth report of the Okanagan Historical Society. pp. 260–261. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  4. ^ Weeks, Joseph Burrow (1935). "Steamboating on Okanagan Lake". The sixth report of the Okanagan Historical Society. p. 224. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  5. ^ Weeks, Joseph Burrow (1931). "The Mary Victoria Greenhow". Fifth annual report of the Okanagan Historical and Natural History Society. p. 5. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  6. ^ McDougall, J. R. (1955). "Early Shipping on Okanagan Lake". The nineteenth report of the Okanagan Historical Society. pp. 133–135. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  7. ^ Sismey, Eric (1965). "Thomas Dolman Shorts". The twenty-ninth report of the Okanagan Historical Society. pp. 145–149. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  8. ^ "First Boat's Engine Home to Rest". The twenty-second report of the Okanagan Historical Society. 1958. p. 29. Retrieved 18 August 2015.