D.A. Thomas – blank card
5″x7″ historical card and envelope
The S.S. D.A. Thomas passing under the railway bridge at Peace River Crossing, Circa 1919.
Photos from Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre Collection
Story on the back:
David Alfred Thomas (a.k.a. Lord Rhondda) was a wealthy Welshman who wanted to explore business opportunities in the upper Peace River region, having heard of the vast resources in the area, so he established the Peace River Development Corporation. He knew he needed river transportation to follow his dream, so Rhondda hired George Askew, a famous boat designer and builder in Vancouver, to create the S.S. D.A. Thomas.
The design of this 161-foot long, $119,000 stern-wheel paddle boat was remarkable, with a gross tonnage of 2,000 tons, capacity for up to 300 people, 30 staterooms, berths and dining halls, electricity throughout, and hot and cold running water. It even had hinged smokestacks to allow the boat to fit under the train trestle at the Peace River Crossing.
The luxurious steamboat was built at the West Peace Shipyard by Askew and a large crew of men. The engines, boilers and other equipment had to be shipped and then brought across the frozen river to the building site.
The S.S. D.A. Thomas was launched on May 31, 1916 and chronicled in the local paper as “The Largest Inland Steamboat from the Great Lakes to Pacific Coast…Built for Oil Trade and Equipped with Oil Storage and Fuel Tanks and Oil Burning Boilers…Sharp at eight o’clock the last prop was knocked from the ways and the steamer D.A. Thomas…slid gracefully into the waters of the Peace River.” (Source: Peace River Record Volume 11, No. 42, June 2, 1916)
In addition to carrying passengers between Hudson’s Hope and Fort Vermilion (over 800 km), it was the main vessel to carry supplies, including tractors, cars, cattle, horses, wheat, oil, wood, flour, cream and, of course, the mail. Wood was cut and piled at strategic places along the river by teams in order to make sure there was enough fuel for the boat.
Among the passengers who travelled on this boat were homesteaders, entrepreneurs, missionaries and visionaries who infused the upper Peace region with their tenacious pioneer spirit.
The Hudson’s Bay Company acquired the S.S. D.A. Thomas in 1924. This beloved boat of many voyages was retired in 1930. In the 1980s the wheel-shaft of the boat was recovered and moved onto the grounds of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre where it sometimes appears in the wedding photos of couples starting out on an adventure of their own.
Photos from the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre Collection.