The S.S. Moyie was built in Nelson for the Canadian Pacific Railway and launched in October 1898.
In 1958 it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada and later added to the BC Register of Historic Places.
The Kootenay Lake Historical Society (KLHS) is the custodian of the S.S. Moyie and oversees thousands of artifacts and operates the Kootenay Lake Archives. Keeping the old ship intact requires constant attention, proper fire protection and regular maintenance. KLHS is seeking donations from local supporters to secure the site's future.
Gillian Froese is the Chair of the KLHS. She is passionate about history and dedicated to preserving the S.S. Moyie, which she says is very meaningful to our local culture.
"Canadian Pacific built all these ships with a lifetime of 25 years," Froese explains.
"To build the Moyie at the time was $42,000. So, here we are 125 years later, we figure we will get it fixed, replace the canvas, make it weatherproof, paint it. We hope that this effort that we're putting out will serve the area. What drives us is we want it preserved."
In 1898, the steamer began carrying railway passengers from the newly completed Crowsnest line's western terminus at Kootenay Landing to Nelson and Procter.
"From a historical perspective, it represents the opening up of Western Canada by rail and ship as people came through. There were no roads. There was a ship, and they were building railroads. It connected Kaslo," says Froese.
The ship, known as the 'Crow boat', ran a passenger service until 1906 when the S.S. Kuskanook took over the boat. Thus the S.S. Moyie began a long tenure of carrying freight, excursions and other endeavors.
With lake traffic much reduced and a significant overhaul due in 1957, the S.S. Moyie was retired and docked in Procter. The ship was sold to the then City of Kaslo for one dollar and towed to Kaslo Bay. In 1958, the boat was pulled ashore, becoming a historic site and museum.
To the folks at KLHS, the S.S. Moyie is a monument to those who designed, built, sailed, maintained and travelled on the boat. Physical evidence of this unique moment in history is exciting for visitors, who come from all over the world, to witness, says Froese.
"Behind the ship, you see the old Kaslo shipyard where the rail was. That was the rail that loaded ore and other things. They delivered things to Kaslo — pots, pans, cars — but they also took things out. The Moyie is representative of a bigger picture."
More recently, the boat plays another vital role in our region, says Froese.
"It plays an economic development role for the Village of Kaslo and an important one. We had 13,000 visitors at our visitor centre last year, and about half of them go on the ship itself."
KLHS has applied for over $600,000 for a two-year project to rehabilitate the weather envelope on the ship. They received a $10,000 Community Development grant from the Village of Kaslo which accompanies the close to $200,000 they’ve applied for or received from the Columbia Basin Trust, Heritage BC, and Parks Canada.
In addition, KLHS is trying to raise $100,000 from public donations.
"Most funding bodies need to see that there is community support for a large project like this one,” says Froese.
Thanks to a generous donation from a local individual, the team is edging closer to their goal.
"We are getting quite a lot of donations from all over the place: Kamloops, Nelson, Calgary, even one from Hong Kong from someone who visited the ship. I'm happy with the response."
Froese is hoping to secure even more donations from locals.
"People in Nelson feel a sense of ownership. Don't forget (the S.S. Moyie) was launched in Nelson. There's a close connection with Nelson."
Froese is proud of the phenomenal team of volunteers who work on the ship and archives year-round. The best way to donate is to go to the Kootenay Lake Historical Society website and click the "Donate" button.
The Kootenay Lake Historical Society is trying to raise $100,000 from public donations.