Mission Boat “William H. Pierce”

Mission Boat “William H. Pierce”

– as told to me by Mike Gallagher – deckhand and acting skipper “W. H. Pierce” and mate on the “Thomas Crosby IV”.

The following guestbook entry was received by Ron Ammundsen, webmaster of the BC Lighthouse web pages and forwarded to me. It was signed by Michael Gallagher.

Between 1952-56 in the summers, I was aboard the “William H. Pierce” with Dr. George Darby out of Bella Bella (now Waglisla). We went ashore at most lighthouses from Boat Bluff south to Egg Island , sometimes for medical reasons, sometimes to take magazines, have tea and talk . . . mainly listen.

WH Pierce at pointer island c. 1953 - photo Mike Gallagher

After Ron forwarded the entry to me I contacted Mike and asked if he had any stories for my Lighthouse Memories webpage. He said:

I probably have too many stories of my four summers with Dr. Darby, so I’ll mention a couple as they relate to lighthouses.

Dr. Darby set up a first aid station at Wadhams on Rivers Inlet and staffed it with a medical student. We’d go there almost weekly with supplies and assistance. Keep in mind that Dr. Darby was a physician/surgeon, a minister for the United Church of Canada, a Justice of the Peace, a counsellor and believe it or not, the game warden.

WH Pierce loading up for a Rivers Inlet trip at the dock at Campbell Island, Bella Bella - photo Mike Gallagher

We visited logging camps, fish camps, canneries, native villages, and lighthouses.We went ashore at all the lights from Butedale to the north to Margaret Bay in the south. As I’m sure you know, that included Boat Bluff , Ivory Island , Dryad Point , Pointer Island (now automated) , Addenbroke , and Egg Island . Egg Island was my favorite to visit. We’d anchor in the lee cove and take magazines and news and have long talks with the isolated couple there. I took their old dog at their request to put him down before burying at sea.

I remember there being oodles of children at the Boat Bluff station.

Lastly, I nearly hit Pointer Island in the fog one time. There was no radar in those days, and oftentimes the good Doctor couldn’t wait on the fog to lift, and on that day there was some emergency at Namu. We were headed south from Bella Bella copying the course and speed at twelve (12) knots from the log book. Must have been a little off that day because suddenly the cliff at Pointer Island appeared out of the fog. Hard to port we went and missed her. These memories are rich. Thanks for listening.

Having a few more questions I wrote again. One of my queries was why he had not mentioned McInnes Island (my last station). His reply:

WH Pierce tied alongside the "Thomas Crosby IV", probably at Margaret Bay. That's Dr. Darby on the stern of the "Pierce" with his grandson. On the stern of the "Crosby" is the engineer/skipper . . . I think his name was John . . . he had his aged mother aboard that trip. - photo Mike Gallagher

Yes, we were Inside Passage folks . . . Butedale south to Margaret Bay on Smith’s Inlet. As most of the folks from Bella Bella left for the fishing grounds (primarily Rivers Inlet ) Dr. Darby followed them . . . Namu , Wadhams , R.I.C.(Rivers Inlet Cannery), Duncanby Landing , etc.

Another query I had was why there was no mention of the “William H. Pierce” on the United Church website and he replied:

The “William H. Pierce” probably went with the hospital [at Bella Bella], and not the Coastal Church Mission.

She was only 41 ft. . . . a bridge-deck cruiser,1 who went about twelve (12) knots with her Buda diesel. I found three pictures, which are attached.[photos on the left side panel] As a bit of extra news he said:

Incidentally, one summer I saved the Union Steamship fare to Vancouver by taking the wheel of the “Thomas Crosby IV” from Bella Bella to Menshen’s Boatworks in North Vancouver .

WH Pierce photo from Godships by Oliver R. Howard, © 1984 United Church Observer

Also incidentally, I was so moved by Dr. Darby’s mentorship, I finished college and became a physician myself.

His words say it better than I could ever write it. These were some of the people we welcomed as visitors to our lighthouses. – retlkpr




1 “Wiliam H. Pierce A 45-foot diesel-powered cabin cruiser purchased by the United Church hospital at Bella Bella about 1947 and used by Dr. George Darby” . . . [the name] “honoured a Tsimshean worker”. (quotations from Godships by Oliver R. Howard, © 1984 United Church Observer)

For more information on William Henry Pierce, see this Wikipedia article on the man.

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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