William Moore was born in Hanover, Germany. By the age of seven he was sailing on North Sea schooners. By 24 his adventures brought him to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked in the Mississippi steamboat trade. He married there in 1846. In 1848 he served in the Mexican-American War aboard the USS Lawrence. He moved his family to San Francisco in 1851, arriving too late to participate in the California Gold Rush.
Moore and family left San Francisco on the brig Tepic for the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1852, where gold had been discovered on Moresby Island. After a month of fruitless prospecting, the family returned to San Francisco where Moore became intrigued by the wealth of the Incas. The family embarked to Peru where Moore purchased a schooner, trading along the Peruvian coast. The family returned to San Francisco in 1856.
In 1858, William Moore heard the news of the gold discoveries on the Fraser River. The family embarked for Victoria on his schooner, as 30,000 gold seekers from around the world would shortly do. Upon arriving, Moore built a family home and commissioned a 15-ton barge he named Blue Bird. Moore made his first fortune with Blue Bird providing transportation for miners and their supplies from Victoria up the Fraser River to Fort Hope.
In 1859, he replaced the Blue Bird with the sternwheeler Henrietta, built by James Trahey at Victoria. Moore hired Captain John Deighton, known as “Gassy Jack” to pilot her. Gassy Jack would later become renowned as the first resident of Granville, later to become the city of Vancouver.
In the early 1870’s Moore convinced the Government of the newly formed Province of British Columbia a pack trail was required between Telegraph Creek and Dease Lake. He was subsequently awarded the contract and, in partnership with Victoria merchant, Morris Lenz, constructed the trail. He then operated mule team transportation over the trail. By the fall of 1874, the Cassiar Gold Rush was in full swing and Moore made $100,000 from his claims. Moore invested the money in a new sternwheeler, Gertrude, launched at Victoria in March 22, 1875.[/pullquote]
That fall, Moore took Gertrude back to his old stomping grounds on the Fraser River where he ran her against fellow Victorian John Irving’s steamship Royal City. The competition sparked a rate war lowering the fare between New Westminster and Yale to one dollar. With no profit potential Moore abandoned the Fraser River enterprise and set up the Victoria to the Telegraph Creek gold rush route by purchasing the surplus Royal Navy gunboat Grappler, five Victoria harbour front lots, and the sternwheeler Glenora. The route flourished as Grappler transported miners and supplies from Victoria up the coast to Fort Wrangell. Their passengers and cargo were trans-shipped to Gertrude, piloted by Moore, and Glenora, piloted by his son Billie, for the final leg up the Stikine to Telegraph Creek. As the rush petered out, Moore pulled his vessels back to Victoria and sold his claims to a Chinese miners syndicate.
Along his succession of steamboat ownership and commissions, Moore had the sternwheeler Pacific Slope built in Victoria in 1879. She served as a scheduled ferry from Victoria to New Westminster under contract from the Hudson’s Bay Company. This reignited his old rivalry with John Irving. Their sternwheelers raced up and down the Fraser, competing for passengers. Raising the stakes in 1881, Irving built a new sternwheeler, the $80,000 Elizabeth J Irving. On her second trip to Yale ,while racing Moore’s Western Slope, she caught fire and was reduced to a charred wreck. The loss was a tremendous blow to Irving, who, a week earlier, had allowed the vessel’s insurance to expire. Moore fell into bankruptcy in 1882. In 1883 his old rival John Irving, son of his old competitor William Irving, and partners filled the transportation void with the establishment of the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company.
In 1887, guided by First Nation’s explorer Skookum Jim, who later co-discovered the Klondike Goldfields, Moore explored the White Pass route that would become famous to the Klondike Gold Rush. He then purchased the land that later became the site of the famous gold rush town of Skagway.
In 1900, Moore made his final prospecting trip, this time to Nome, Alaska. Upon his return to Skagway he built a house with a room on the top floor fashioned in the style of a pilothouse from which he could look out at the ships in Skagway bay.
His friends and rivals would give him many nicknames, among them, William “Buddy” Moore and “The Flying Dutchman”. William Moore died nine years later, in Victoria on 29 March 1909 at the venerable age of 87.
Click the Webliography links to learn more about the life and adventures of William Moore.