The Extraordinary Life of Captain William Soule
By Bill Soles
The story of a sailor turned entrepreneur
William Soule: sea captain, adventurer and gold prospector; born 16th March l83l in Eastington, Gloucestershire; died 14 June 1916 in Vancouver, Canada. He was the great-great-uncle of Sole Society member Ron Souls of Walsall. It appears that Captain Soule had a great-grandson, a great-granddaughter and step-great-grandchildren. Ron is searching for the descendants of Captain Soule in the Vancouver area and would welcome any information.
Captain Soule sailed the seven seas for 30 years and then spent many years with the Hastings Mill Company of Vancouver. As a boy of fifteen, he sailed from Gloucester on his first ship, the barque Carolina, making two trips annually between Gloucester and Quebec. He next went as a seaman on the barque Resolution of Liverpool, carrying cotton from southern United States. In 1855 he was a member of the crew of the Edward Bilton taking coal to Constantinople and bringing wheat from Odessa. That year he spent Christmas Day on the Black Sea. Captain Soule then shipped on an American vessel, the Massachusetts, which after loading metal at Newport, Wales, sprang a leak. The captain had to beach her at Barrv Island to save her from going down.
Captain Soule then went to Barcelona and subsequently shipped on a new vessel bound for Hong Kong. He next changed to an American ship that loaded at the tea ports of the Orient, and on the Albatross went to Calcutta and back to Boston. He next sailed on the Ganges to Calcutta, where the vessel remained during the mutiny.
Not long afterwards, Captain Soule became mate on a barque that put out from Singapore for Bangkok and Siam for rice, with a Chinese crew and a supercargo of three boxes, each containing ten thousand Mexican silver dollars. The skipper and mate were the only white men on board. A day and a half out, the vessel sprang a serious leak and at once all the Chinese crew wanted to take to the boats and make for land. Mr Soule had to threaten them with pistols to make them pump to keep the vessel afloat long enough to reach Singapore. In August 1862, he sailed from Liverpool on the Wild Hunter of Boston. This proved to be the most momentous voyage of his life because it took him to San Francisco where he became a passenger on the Brother Jonathan bound for Victoria, British Columbia.
From that city, Captain Soule went on the Old Enterprise to New Westminster and met John McLennan, who was purser on the boat and the first man he knew in this country. After one night in New Westminster, the Captain continued on to the gold fields, traveling by steamer to Fort Yale and then on foot to Spuzzum Bridge where he spent the night on a bed of poles and boughs. The following day, they plodded on toward Williams Creek, a distance of four hundred miles, walking most of the way.
Captain Soule and his companion, Mr McLennan found walking difficult for they each started with a pack of one hundred and ten pounds. They saw many men going in, and met others coming out, each with varying stories of success or failure. Captain Soule was not successful in his search for gold. Although he had a number of claims, he had no more money than when he started; his ambition was to make enough money to buy a ship for use in the cotton trade. Captain Soule now joined with John Wheeler to work a claim at Boston Bar on the old river bottom of the Fraser. They felled trees, cut timber and sunk a shaft some forty feet deep. They were taking out gold in small quantities, just enough to make the work worth while.
Captain Soule returned to Vancouver and sailed to Honolulu with timber. Then with several others he contracted to build a wagon road over Donald Hiqhland but they worked so fast that the contract was cancelled because they were making too much money. In 1871, when he returned to Vancouver, he established himself in business as a stevedore until his retirement. Under his management the business grew so rapidly that he soon had agents in the U.S.A. and in Europe. On the 17 January 1878, Captain Soule married Mrs Theresa Patterson. Mrs Soule was born in Manchester, England but was educated and grew up in New York. They had two children, Alfred Hastings and Estelle Budding.
The Captain and his family were of Episcopal faith. He assisted in the erection of the first three churches in Vancouver and hung the bell in the first. He was a member of the Commercial Club and the Progress Club of Vancouver. Captain and Mrs Soule were well known for their hospitality and high standards.
The above information was found in the British Columbia Pictorial and Biographical (I9I4) where Captain Soules exploits are recorded in much greater detail. I have to thank Ron Soule of Victoria B. C. for sending this information.
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