Inducted in 2017
Captain Minnie (Mossman) Hill (1856-1946) was the first female licensed steamboat pilot on the Columbia River and the second licensed female pilot in America. Born in Albany, Oregon, Minnie Mossman met and ultimately married Charley Hill in Portland and joined him on the steamer Toledo. In 1885 together they purchased a one-masted sloop, cut it in half, added ten feet to its hull and installed an engine, a sternwheel, a cabin, and a pilothouse. Charlie taught Minnie the intricacies of piloting the various channels, the light positions, the sandbar locations, and the rocks and snags of the challenging Columbia River.
But when she asked for an application to take the master’s exam, the inspectors did not know if it was allowed. She applied to the district’s supervising inspector in San Francisco and was finally allowed to take the test, which she passed in 1887. She earned the Master’s license to operate any steamer on the waters of the Columbia and the Willamette Rivers. A crowd gathered at the Willamette River to see 23 year old Captain Minnie Mossman Hill take full command of the steamer that now bore her name.
Business grew and they bought the Clatsop Chief and The Governor Newell on which she spent most of her time. Over the years, the Hills also owned and operated the Paloma, the Tahoma, and the Glenola.
Captain Minnie held a combined captain’s and engineer’s license, known as a doubleheader, and the crew often consisted of two deckhands, two firemen, two engineers and a cook, all of whom worked round the clock when they were towing barges or log rafts. She was a working mother and had two children during her 16 years as a steamboat captain. In 1893, the Chicago World’s Fair invited Captain Minnie to be their guest at the Women’s Building exhibition featuring noted American female artists and craftsmen. When she retired, she became a member of the veteran steamboat men’s association.