Northern Prairie Ships: Millie Howell

Laid down at Selkirk in 1885 by Daniel “Dan” Daly, the Millie Howell measured 36 feet stem to stern, 10 feet in beam, displaced 19 gross (and 12 net tons), and was powered by an 8 by 8 powerplant of the Doty Engine Works. The wood-hull steamer was commissioned by Daly and Captain John Andrew Howell and christened by Howell’s one-year old infant daughter Mildred Monica Mabel “Millie” Howell (1884-1971), for whom he named the vessel.

Millie was born at Selkirk on 5 March 1884, the daughter of Mary Jane Scarry (1862-1946) and J. A. Howell. She attended Selkirk School locally and, on 26 December 1906, married Homestead Inspector Lawrence Henry Duggan (1878-1927, half-brother of Martin Joseph O'Donohoe) at St. Michael’s Church in Selkirk. They took up residence at Winnipeg. They resided at Humbolt, Saskatchewan by 1911 but had returned to Winnipeg by the time of Lawrence’s enlistment with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in March 1916. Several months after Lawrence died, she remarried to William Raymond “Toby”Sexsmith at Winnipeg on 19 November 1927. Widowed again following Toby’s death, she moved to British Columbia around 1949 and took up residence at Vancouver. She died there at Kensington Private Hospital on 1 September 1971 and was buried in Ocean View Burial Park at Burnaby.

The original Millie Howell that Millie cristened lasted less than a year before undergoing a major overhaul. It was completely rebuilt the following year in 1886, improved to 50.3 feet stem to stern, 11.1 feet in beam, and a draught of 4.4 feet. Tonnage respectively also increased, up to 24 gross tons and 16 net tons. Its machinery was also upgraded, with the powerplant being replaced by a 10 by 12 engine of the Waterous Engineering Works (Brantford, Ontario). It was operated by a crew of six (1888) and saw freighter and tugboat duties along the Red River and Lake Winnipeg both hauling lumber and supplies between Manigotagan and Selkirk, as well as in service of the Selkirk Fish Company into the 1890s. She was later acquired by William Robinson (1898), in which year the deck was replaced, and later the Dominion Fish Company (1901).

The ship’s demise was reportedly brought about by a spring ice jam along the Red River by Selkirk with Millie Howell caught in the ice at Sugar Island. Overturned by the runoff and river flow, her superstructure and cabin were cleaved off. Once finally reached, all that remained topside was a battered hull. What internal machinery could be salvaged was allegedly reused on the Frank Burton. When precisely this occured is not determined.


1891 Canada censuses, Library and Archives Canada.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

1911 Canada census, Ancestry.

Birth [Mildred Mabel Howell], marriage [Mildred Mabel Howell], and death [Lawrence Duggan] registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

Death registrations [Mildred Monica Sexsmith], British Columbia Vital Statistics.

Attestation papers [Lawrence Henry Duggan], Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.

“Lost on Lake Winnipeg,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 21 August 1890, page 1.

“Almost a watery grave,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 21 August 1890, page 1.

“The Red River all right,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 25 August 1890, page 1.

“Lots of fish,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 18 June 1894, page 1.

“Selkirk’s fleet,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 29 March 1898, page 7.

“Surprise in Selkirk,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 October 1904, page 1.

“Duggan - Howell,” Manitoba Free Press, 2 January 1907, page 18.

“Mr. O’Donohue [sic] passes away,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 April 1909, page 4.

Obituary [William Reid Duggan], Winnipeg Tribune, 19 July 1910, page 5.

“Lawrence Duggan is found dead in bed,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 July 1927, page 4.

Death notice [Lawrence Duggan], Manitoba Free Press, 4 July 1927, page 21.

“Record of J. Howell, Selkirk pioneer unequalled in excitement, variety,” Selkirk Record, 23 March 1960, page 1.

“The tug that never made the front page,” by Captain Ed Nelson, Winnipeg Free Press, 31 August 1963, page 21.

Annual Report of the Department of Fisheries - Dominion of Canda for the year 1888, Appendix No. 7 - Manitoba and the North-West Territories, page 220.

The New Mills’ List - Registered Canadian Steamships 1817-1930 over 75 feet, Millie Howell (Official Number 90448), Queen’s University.

Ship Registrations 1787-1966, Millie Howell, Library and Archives Canada.

Millie Howell, The Nauticapedia Project.

We thank John MacFarlane (Nauticapedia) for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 12 February 2022