James Whitby “Flatboat” MacLane (1839-1889)

Finished the *very* rough first draft of the first-chapter-long bio of Mary MacLane’s dad last night for the Mary MacLane biography-in-process. 17,597 words, 125 citations – now to refine. Felt an elegiac sense of farewell to this amazing guy who since about 1902 never got more than a few sentences here and there but for some newspaper mini-profiles back in the early 1970s in the hometown paper. But what a figure of vitality and adventure, living on the edge of civilization and making things better for all. His was a huge life force and it’s been an adventure in itself to bring his story back together. From farm kid in Ontario to gold miner in British Columbia to one of the earliest developers of Edmonton, Alberta to successively a flatboat-fleet magnate in Winnipeg (who helped save the Red River Colony when there was a plague of grasshoppers followed by a tornado), a steamboat builder (who came up with a 100+ ton steamer with a draft of only 12 inches), ferry builder/operator, builder of the best and largest grain mill west of St. Paul, Minnesota in either country, transporter of the mails, timber businessman, cattleman … “Flatboat” MacLane, they said you made money and friends fast. I wish you were here to shake hands with.


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