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Pictures and Illustrations.


E. W. Gould.

Fitch's First Successful Steamboat.

Clermont As Originally Built.

Steamer Washington.

Steamer Tecumseh.

Anchor Line Steamer City of Monroe.

Captain Charles S. Rogers.

Capt. Henry A. Jones, Cincinnati.

Steamer J. M. White, No. 2, or The White of 1844.

Steamer J. M. White No. 3.

Captain William Dean of Pittsburgh.

Captain James Howard.

Ewd. F. Howard.

Captain Samuel Rider.

Commodore W. J. Kountz.

Captain R. C. Gray.

Captain Gray's Iron Line of Barges.

L. T. Belt.

Claiborne Greene Wolff.

Steamer George C. Wolff.

Captain James Dozier.

Henry A. Ealer.

Captain James Ward.

Burris D. Wood.

Captain T. P. Leathers.

New Orleans and Vicksburg Packet Natchez.

Captain Joseph Brown.

Captain John N. Bofinger.

Capt. Russel Blakely.

Captain Isaac L. Fisher.

Captain Isaac M. Mason.

Charles C. Keener.

St. Louis & Peoria Co.'s Steamer Calhoun.

Captain Joseph S. Nanson.

John W. Bryant.

Captain B. R. Pegram.

Henry C. Haarstick.

Mississippi Valley Transportation Company — Tow-Boat and Barges.

John G. Prather.

Capt. O. P. Shinkle.

Captain John P. Keiser.

L. M. Chipley.

St. Louis

Captain William F. Davidson.

Captain C. W. Batchelor.

Captain Z. M. Sherley.

Captain Joseph Swagar.

New Orleans and Vicksburg Steamer Robt. E. Lee.



To the memory of those who, after struggling for years to overcome the embarrassments and dangers incident in the life of a boatman, have been wrecked on the shoals of time, and wafted into a haven of rest on the shores of the beautiful river, where they await the arrival of their friends and cotemporaries, who are still contending with the adversities of this life before crossing the river that ferries but one way, this work is dedicated.

The Author.



In compiling the following pages, the author is largely indebted to individual friends, newspapers, periodicals and historical works.

Notably J. W. Barker, H. H. Devinney, D. F. Barker, of Cincinnati; J. W. Bryant, of New Orleans Times-Democrat; James Kerr, New Orleans Daily States; Austin R. Moore, Thomas H. Griffith, Joseph LaBarge, of St. Louis; Missouri Gazette, 1808, its successors, Missouri Republican and the St. Louis Republic; Louisiana Gazette, 1812; Memphis Avalanche;Louisville Courier-Journal; Cincinnati Commercial-Gazette; Cincinnati Enquirer; Pittsburgh Dispatch; New Orleans Picayune; Memphis Appeal; De Bow's Review; Hall's West; Internal Commerce of the United States, by Wm. F. Switzler; Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi; Commodore Treble's History of Steam Navigation; Floyd's Steamboat Directory; St. Louis Scrap-Book; Sharf's History of St. Louis; Niles' Register; Potter's American Monthly; Columbia Magazine, and libraries in Washington, New York, Cincinnati, and St. Louis — also to Mr. T. Kytka, the artist who has furnished the illustrations, among which will be seen some fine pen and ink sketches from portraits.


Gould's History of River Navigation.
Chapter I. Introductory Remarks.

In writing a history of navigation on the rivers of the Mississippi valley, it is so intimately connected with the settlement of the country, the character and habits of the early navigators — the modes of early transportation, the invention of steam — its application to navigation — the names and the peculiarities of its inventors and promoters, its effect upon the development of the valley, morally and physically, that to write intelligently of the one necessarily involves that of the others.

Therefore all will be considered as nearly in chronological order as the nature of the various subjects will permit.

While the writer can only speak from his own personal observations and experience from 1835 to the present time (1889), he has through the public records and the courtesy of friends secured reliable data sufficient to warrant an interesting book for the general reader and a valuable one as a book of reference to those more intimately connected with navigation.

It will not be necessary to remind those who are acquainted with the cares and duties of a practical boatman that but little time and less inclination to cultivate the faculty of book making or book writing remains.

Consequently this class of readers will expect but little beyond the careful compilation of facts, collected from the


perfect accounts in the newspapers of the day, and the few books that have been preserved that refer to the history and the incidents which the author proposes to perpetuate in this condensed form.

Those who would criticize the work for its errors or omissions should remember how great the difficulty to collate facts and reliable data, extending through a period of seventy-five years, and over a sparsely settled country like that of the Valley of the Mississippi.

But it is due to the memory of the pioneers of this great industry, and to those that succeeded them, as well as to the history of the country that a more condensed history of the important and interesting events should be written and it is hoped this brief and desultory review will fill a long neglected demand.

With fourteen thousand miles of navigable rivers it will be interesting to note the various methods that have been adapted from time to time to navigate them, the character of the navigators and the effect the various modes of navigation has had on the development of the country since its discovery in 1492.

Chapter II. Different Modes of Navigation.

Immediately succeeding the universal canoe of the aborigines came the flat-boat, the pirogue, the mackanaw boat, the keel-boat, the barge, the horse-boat and last, but not least, the "broadhorn" or produce boat, used in floating the products of the Valley down the water-courses, and especially to New Orleans where they found egress to the markets of the world.

So long as the current of the rivers could be made available, but little embarrassment was felt, as the demand was light and labor cheap. But when it became necessary to ascend the streams and overcome the strong currents various devices were resorted to. When it was not possible to use the sail, the cheapest of all motive power, sweeps, poles and cordells were always at hand. While the broadhorns from the Ohio and its tributaries were never returned from their destination, the principal supplies of the Valley were imported via New


Orleans in keel boats and barges with a capacity of some fifty to one hundred tons. A voyage from New Orleans to the Falls of the Ohio, the head of navigation at that period, often consumed four months.

The fur trade on the Missouri river and its tributaries was carried on in a smaller craft known as a pirogue and the mackanaw boat, and was navigated by a class of Canadians principally, known as "voyagers," whose habits and semi-civilization adapted them particularly to that kind of life. These pirogues or boats were built at the trading houses, or forts at different points and loaded with furs and peltries and floated down the rivers on the spring floods. But comparatively few of them were ever taken back. Although what supplies were required for the forts and the Indian trade was carried on these boats, and while they came down very rapidly, the whole navigable season was often consumed in making the round trip.

The little commerce on the upper Mississippi was confined principally to supplying the miners in the Galena Lead Mines and the Government forts, and in the transportation of the lead to St. Louis, and was carried by keel boats of about one hundred tons capacity.

These mines were opened in 1826, and the shipments of lead increased rapidly, which called into use a large number of keel boats, and although the steamboat Virginia (the first boat that went above the Des Moines Rapids), arrived at Galena in 1823, it was several years before steamboats were employed in the transportation of lead, and then for a long time they were used for towing the keel boats, as the water on the rapids was too shoal to admit of its being carried on the kind of boats then in use.

In order to fully appreciate the value of steamboat navigation, as a prominent feature in the settlement of this Valley, it may be interesting to look a little into the history of the invention of steam and its application to navigation. It has generally been understood that Robert Fulton was the inventor and the prime mover in the introduction of steam in navigation. So far as the waters of the Mississippi Valley are concerned, that is true. But as early as 1780 John Fitch introduced a steamboat on the Delaware River at Philadelphia.

Barnwell R. Grant in Potters American Monthly, Vol. IV., page 173, gives this account: — "The first steam vessel ever moved by steam in the United States (and there is reason to believe in the world) was a small skiff. The experiment was made by John Fitch, assisted by Henry Voight, upon the Delaware


river, at Philadelphia, about the 20th of July, 1786. These trials were made with a steam engine of three-inch cylinder which moved a screw paddle — an endless chain having paddles fixed upon it, and placed on the sides of the boat; and they tested one or two other modes of propulsion. The skiff was moved by the power of steam, but not so swiftly as to satisfy the hopes of the inventors. They changed the method of working by the employment of oars in the side of the skiff, which were moved by cranks and beams. This skiff was then propelled at the rate of seven miles per hour on the 27th of July, 1786.

"The second vessel ever moved by steam was forty-five feet long with twelve feet beam. The engine was a twelve-inch cylinder.

"Six oars or paddles working perpendicularly were on each side of the boat. Of this boat we give a copy of an engraving which appeared in the Columbia Magazine for December, 1786.

"In the same periodical appeared. Fitch's account of this steamboat, as follows:

"‘PHILADELPHIA, December 8, 1786. Sir. — The reason for my so long deferring to give you a description of my steam boat has been in some measure owing to the complication of the works and an apprehension that a number of drafts would be necessary in order to show the powers of the machine as clearly as you could wish.’ ‘But as I have not been able to


hand you herewith such drafts, I can only give you the general principals.’" "‘It is in several parts similar to the late improved steam engines in Europe, though there are some alterations. Our cylinder is too horizontal to work with equal force at each end.’

"‘The mode by which we obtain (what I take the liberty of terming) a vacuum is, we believe, entirely new; as is also the method of letting the water into it, and throwing it off against the atmosphere without any friction. It is expected that the engine, which is a twelve-inch cylinder, will move with a clear force of eleven or twelve cwt., after the friction is deducted.’

"‘This force is to work against a wheel of eighteen inches diameter. The piston is to move about three feet and each vibration of the piston gives the axis about forty evolutions. Each evolution of the axis moves twelve oars or paddles five and a half feet, which work perpendicularly, and are represented by the stroke of the paddle of a canoe. As six of the paddles are raised from the water, six more are entered. And the two sets of paddles make two strokes of about eleven feet in each evolution.’

"‘The cranks of axis act upon the paddles about one-third of their length from the lower end on which part of the oar the whole force of the axis is applied.’

"‘Our engine is placed on the boat about one-third from the stern, and with the action and reaction, turn the wheel the same way.’

"‘With the most perfect respect, sir, I beg leave to subscribe myself your very humble servant,"

"This Steam Boat was finished and tried upon the Delaware at Philadelphia, August 27th, 1787, in the presence of a large number of members of the convention to frame the Federal Constitution.

"They were all satisfied with the trip, and special certificates ware given to Fitch by Governor Randolph of Virginia, David Rittenhouse, Dr. John Emering, provost of the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Andrew Elliott, of the same Institution, and many others.

"The third boat propelled by steam in the United States, was built by James Rurnsey, of Virginia, and tried Dec. 3, 1787, at Shepardstown, Virginia.

"This boat was propelled by sucking in water at the bow and ejecting it at the stern. It moved at the rate of four miles per hour, but only made one trip, and probably did not go a half mile in distance.


"About the close of 1788 John Fitch organized a company in Philadelphia under whose auspices he built a small Steam Packet sixty feet long, and eight feet beam.

"This was the fourth steam boat. The oars or paddles on this boat were located in the stern and pushed against the water.

"The engine was of the same size as the one previously built by Fitch.

"Towards the end of July a trip was made to Burlington, New Jersey, it being probably the longest trip hitherto made by any steamboat.

"In October of the same year another trip was made to Burlington with thirty passengers, the time occupied being three hours and ten minutes.

"The average rate of this boat was about four miles per hour, which the company did not consider fast enough. They therefore determined to build another.

"This fifth boat was finished in 1789 and had an 18-inch cylinder. The rate of speed attained was eight miles per hour. During 1790 it was run regularly on the Delaware for the conveyance of both passengers and freight. But the company failed that year and the boat was withdrawn. About this time experiments were conducted on the Connecticut river by Samuel Morey, who built the sixth steamboat in the United States, which he propelled from Hartford to New York in 1794 at the rate of speed of five miles per hour.

"At the same time John Fitch tried his steamboat projects in France without success, the times being unpropitious on account of the excesses of the French Revolution.

"In 1796 he returned to New York where he built a yawl which was propelled by a screw propeller, at the stern. It was tried upon a fresh water pond called the Collect, under the patronage of Robert R. Livingston.

"In the following year Samuel Morey of Connecticut constructed at Bodentown, New Jersey, a steamboat with paddle-wheels at the sides, which was propelled to Philadelphia the same year and publicly exhibited.

"During subsequent years, other steamboats were built by Fitch, Oliver Evens and John Fox Stephenson, there being eleven in all previous to the year 1807."


Chapter III.

Then came Robert Fulton with the twelfth steamboat, which was twenty-one years after Fitch's first experiments. So, contrary to the common impression, Fulton, instead of being the inventor of steamboats, was only the successful adopter of the discoveries and ideas of others who preceded him. We must not, however, underestimate the real service he has rendered to the science of steam navigation nor the value of his original experiments. While in Birmingham, England, he familiarized himself with the steam engine, then first improved by Watt. He had in September, 1793, addressed a letter to Lord Stanhope respecting the moving of vessels by the means of steam, and had been aided in France by Chancellor Livingston, who had procured an act by the New York legislature, giving to Fulton and himself the exclusive privilege of navigating the waters of that State by steam. In 1807 the "Clermont" was built and traversed the Hudson River at the rate of five miles per hour. That vessel was very unlike any of its successors, and even dissimilar in shape from which it appeared a few months afterwards. With a model like a Long Island skiff, it was decked for a short distance at the stem and stern. The engine was open to view, and from the engine aft, a house like that of a canal boat was raised to cover the boilers and the apartments for the officers.

In these, by the addition of a few berths, the passengers were accommodated. There were no wheel-guards or covers. The rudder was like that used by sailing vessels, and worked by a tiller. The boiler was in form like that used in Watt's engines, and was set in masonry. The condenser was the size used on land engines, and stood in a large cold water cistern. The weight of the masonry and the great capacity of the cold water cistern diminished very materially the buoyancy of the vessel. At this point, Fulton's ingenuity and versatility of invention were called into play. To the eye of the world the experiment was successful, and yet was so imperfect as to be liable to continual accident and annoyance.

The rudder had so little power that the vessel could hardly be managed and could not be made to veer around even in the whole breadth of the Hudson River at New York. The spray from the wheels dashed over the passengers, and the skippers of the river craft, taking advantage of the unwieldiness of the vessel, did not fail to run afoul of her as often as


they thought they had the law on their side. Thus in several instances the steamboat reached one termini or the other of its route with but a single wheel. Before the season closed, the wheel was surrounded by a frame of strong beams, and the paddles were covered in. The rudder had taken the shape of a rectangle, of large iron of horizontal dimensions.

This rudder was worked by a wheel, the ropes of which were attached to the end next distant from the pivotals. The vessel of the last mentioned arrangement became so navigable as to be capable of veering at Albany, and was more likely to inflict than to receive injury, by an encounter with sailing vessels. During the winter of 1807-8 the Clermont was almost entirely rebuilt. The hull was considerably lengthened and covered from stem to stern with a flush deck. Beneath this two cabins were formed, and surrounded by double ranges of berths, fitted up in a manner then unexampled for comfort. The vessel was then advertised to run at stated periods, between New York and Albany, as a packet. The time of her first departure being the first Wednesday in May, 1808. On that day Fulton himself was on board. The first marked incident was leaving several passengers who had ventured to trust to the want of punctuality then usual in the departure of vessels.

The rule of starting at the exact hour was then enforced for the first time, and from that rule there was no deviation thereafter. The whole passage on this trip was made in less than forty hours, including a delay of two hours at Chancellor Livingston's seat — "Clermont." Symptoms of difficulty were manifested, however, on the upward passage. Mr. Fulton appeared anxious and abstracted. Finally steam began to make its appearance in very minute jets through the joints of a wooden trunk, that was at first considered by the passengers as the case of the boiler. It was at last found to be the boiler itself, and it was whispered that Fulton had been overruled by his associates and that a cylinder of wooden staves, containing fire place and flues of copper had been substituted for the boiler of Watt, instead of replacing by a new boiler of copper. This form of boiler had been proposed, but as far as we can learn had never been used by Watt. On the return voyage the leaks in the boiler continued to increase. The speed of the vessel, although aided by a flood in the river, became less and less, and after fifty-seven hours of struggling the engine ceased to work.

The vessel was then at the foot of Christopher street, New York City. The flood tide made itself felt in opposition to


its progress, and the passengers considered it better to make a landing, and find their way on foot to peopled parts of the city. On the upward passage the officer in command was Captain Jenkins. During the downward passage Captain Wesswell came on board and assumed command, replacing Captain Jenkins. As the vessel approached upper Red Hood, while Wesswell was trying his best to appear to advantage before his owners, the boat grounded. Blame was laid by him on the pilot, which led after a torrent of vituperation on each side, to blows, in which one of the parties was knocked down, and one received a black eye. This was the first and last act of insubordination in that line. It took some weeks to secure a new boiler, after the expiration of which the Clermont resumed her proper trips.

In the month of September, in 1809, there occurred the exciting scene then first enacted of a steamboat race. A company had been formed at Albany for the purpose of competing with Fulton. The first vessel of the rival line was advertised to leave at the same time with Fulton. Party feeling ran high at Albany in the hotels and in all public places. The partisans of Fulton were enrolled under Professor Kemp of the Columbia College — those of the opposition under Captain Jacob Stout.

The victory was long in suspense, and it was not until after the thirteenth hour of a hard struggle that the result was proclaimed by Dr. Kemp standing on the taffrail of Fulton's vessel, and holding out in derision a coil of rope to Captain Scott, for the purpose, as he informed him, of towing him into port.

Fulton's second large boat on the Hudson was the "Car of Neptune," which was also built in 1809. In 1809 he obtained his first patent from the United States, and in 1811 took out a second patent for some improvement in his boats and machinery. They were limited to the simple means of adapting paddle wheels to the axle of the crank of Watt's engine.

In addition to the two vessels already mentioned, Fulton constructed ferry boats, to run between New York and New Jersey, a boat for the navigation of Long Island Sound, five for the Hudson River, and several for different parts of the United States, including a number for the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers.


Chapter IV.

In the Missouri Gazette, published in St. Louis, in 1808, art article appears by which it may be seen something of the feeling then pervading the public mind on the subject of Steamboat Navigation.

"The steamboat is certainly an interesting curiosity to strangers. To see this large and apparently unwieldy machine without oars or sails propelled through the element by invisible agency at the rate of four miles an hour would be a novelty in any quarter of the globe. As we understand there is none in Europe upon the plan upon which this is constructed. The length of the boat is one hundred and ninety feet, and her width in proportion."

The machine which moves her wheels is called, we believe, a twenty-four horse machine. Or equal to the power of twenty-four horses, and is kept in motion by steam from a copper boiler of eight or ten feet in length. The wheels are on each side similar to those on water mills and under cover. They are moved backward separately or together, at pleasure.

"Her principle advantage is in calms or against head-winds. When the wind is fair, light square sails, etc., are employed to increase her speed. Her accommodations are fifty-two berths, besides sofas, etc., and are said to be equal to any vessel that floats on the river, as all the space occupied by the machinery is fitted in the most convenient way.

"Between New York and Albany is a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, which she performs regularly twice a week; sometimes in the short space of time of thirty-two hours, exclusive of detention in taking in and landing passengers.

"On her passage last week she left New York with over a hundred passengers and Albany with eighty or ninety. Indeed this aquatic stage from Albany, with the excitement, bids fair to attract the greatest part of the travelers which pass the Hudson, and afford them accommodations not exceeded in any other part of the world."

The following letters will be read with interest in this connection, showing the character and confidence of Mr. Fulton in this important motive power, then for the first time being practically applied in developing the great resources of the then almost unknown country.

The first letter was written on the return of the steamboat.


"Clermont" from Albany, in August, 1807, and published in a New York paper. On this voyage Mr. Fulton had been a passenger on the boat. Rewrites:


"Sir: — I arrived this afternoon at four o'clock, in the steamboat from Albany. As the success of my experiments gives me great hopes that such boats may be rendered of great importance to my country, to prevent envious opinions, and to give some satisfaction to the friends of useful improvements, you will have the goodness to publish the following letter:"

"‘I left New York on Monday at one o'clock, and arrived at Clermont, the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at one o'clock on Tuesday. Time, twenty-four hours; distance, one hundred and ten miles.’

‘On Wednesday I departed from the Chancellor's at nine in the morning, and arrived at Albany at five in the afternoon. Distance, forty miles; time, eight hours. The total is one hundred and fifty miles, in thirty-two hours — equal to near five miles an hour.’

‘On Thursday, at nine o'clock in the morning, I left Albany, and arrived at the Chancellor's at six in the evening. I started from there at seven, and arrived in New York at four in the evening. Time, thirty hours; space run through, one hundred and fifty miles, equal to five miles an hour.’

‘Throughout my whole way, both going and returning, the wind was ahead. No advantage could be derived from sails. The whole has therefore been performed by the power of the steam engine.’"

I am, your obedient servant,

Life of Robert Fulton, by C. D. Golden, 1317.

The second letter was addressed to Joel Barlow, a personal friend, living in Philadelphia:

"‘NEW YORK, August, 2, 1807.’

‘MY DEAR FRIEND: — My steamboat voyage to Albany and back has turned out rather more favorably than I had calculated.’

‘The distance from New York is one hundred and fifty miles. I ran it up in thirty-two hours and down in thirty hours. The latter is just five miles an hour.’


‘I had a light breeze against me going and coming, so no use was made of my sails and the voyage has been performed wholly by the use of my engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners, beating to windward, and passed them as if they had been at anchor.’

‘The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved. The morning I left New York there was not perhaps thirty persons in the city who believed the boat would ever be moved one mile an hour, or be of the least utility, and while we were putting off from the wharf, which was crowded with spectators, I heard a number of sarcastic remarks. This is the way, you know, in which ignorant men compliment what they call philosophers and projectors.’

‘Having employed much time, money and zeal, in accomplishing this work, it gives me, as it will you, great pleasure to see it so fully answer my expectations.’

‘It will give a cheap and quick conveyance on the Mississippi and Missouri, and other great rivers, which are now laying open their treasures to the enterprise of our countrymen, and although the prospects of personal emoluments has been some inducement to me, yet I feel infinitely more pleasure in reflecting with you, on the immense advantage my country will derive from the invention.’

‘However, I will not admit that it is half as important as the torpedo defense and attack. For out of this will grow the liberty of the seas, an object of infinite importance to the welfare of America and every civilized country.’

‘But thousands of witnesses have now seen the steamboat in rapid movement, and they believe. They have not seen a ship of war destroyed by a torpedo, and they do not believe.’

‘We cannot expect people in general, will have a knowledge of physics, or power of mind sufficient to combine ideas, and reason from causes to effects. But in case we have war, and the enemies ships come into our waters, if the government will give me reasonable cause of action, I will even convince the world that we have surer and cheaper modes of defense than they are aware of.’

‘Yours, etc.,

Niles Register, vol. 33, 1822.

As an illustration of the fear and surprise manifested by those that were navigating the Hudson River, and the citizens living upon its banks, at the time the Clermont made her first trip, the following graphic account is found among the papers


published at that time, and brings to mind a similar experience of the early boatmen on the waters of the Mississippi valley a few years later.

"The Clermont, on her first voyage, excited the astonishment of the inhabitants on the shores of the Hudson, many of whom had not even heard of an engine, much less of a steamboat.

There were many descriptions of the effects of her first appearance upon the people on the banks of the river. Some of them were ridiculous. But some of them were of such a character as nothing but an object of real grandeur could have excited.

She was described by some who had indistinctly seen her passing in the night, to those who had not had a view of her, as a monster moving on the waters, defying the winds and the tide, and breathing flames and smoke. She had the most terrific appearance from other vessels which were navigating the river when she was making this passage.

The first steamboats, as others still do, used dry pine wood for fuel, which sends forth a volume of ignited vapor many feet above the flue, and whenever the lire is stirred a galaxy of sparks fly off, and in the night have a very brilliant and beautiful appearance.

This uncommon light first attracted the crews of other vessels.

Notwithstanding the winds and tides were adverse to its approach, they saw, with astonishment, that it was rapidly coming towards them. And when it came so near that the noise of the machinery and paddle wheels were heard, the crews (if what was said by the newspapers was true), in some instances, sank beneath their decks, from the terrific sight, and left their vessels to go on shore, while others prostrated themselves, and besought Providence to protect them from the approach of the horrible monster which was marching on the tides, and lighting its path by its fire, which it was vomiting."

While it cannot be claimed that Mr. Fulton was the inventor or the first to apply steam to navigation, no one can deny that he is entitled to far more credit than any one else for its practical application for purposes of navigation, as well as for railroads and other modern inventions.

In fact, history gives no account of any other so brilliant and practical a genius as Robert Fulton, and posterity can never appreciate the loss of such a benefactor to the race.

He passed away in the zenith of his usefulness, in the city of New York, February 24th, 1815, in the fiftieth year of his age.


It seems surprising that so important and powerful an agent as steam should have lain dormant for so many centuries awaiting the advent of a mind with sufficient force and genius to control and utilize it.

While Watt, Fitch, Evens, Stephens, Morey, Ramsey, and others anticipated Fulton by several years in the application of steam, even in navigation, yet it remained for him to develop its wonderful power and utility not only as a motive agent in navigation, but in all branches of industry.

And hence it is that Robert Fulton's name is prominently associated with everything connected with the discovery and application of steam as a motive power.

It is claimed with some degree of probability, that a Spaniard by the name of Blasco de Gary, constructed in Spain, in 1543, a steamboat, under the patronage of King Charles the Fifth, and successfully tried her in the harbor of Barcelona.

From the fact that nothing further ever resulted from that experiment, so far as the record goes, it is hardly probable that it proved satisfactory.

At that period Spain was in position, and her commerce and enterprise was such that it seems strange an invention so important to her prosperity should have failed to attract the attention of the government or of her enterprising citizens.

Chapter V. John Fitch.

IT IS shown by the most irrefragable testimony that John Fitch was the first man, in America at least, and probably in the world, who ever carried this idea of applying steam power to the propulsion of vessels to any determinate result. A certificate from Dr. Thornton, of the Patent Office at Washington, states that Fitch took out a patent for the application of steam to navigation in the year 1788, before which time no similar patent had been issued in this country. The earliest ascertained experiments of Mr. Fulton in steam navigation took place about the year 1798, ten years after the date of John Fitch's patent. Oliver Evans, in 1804, propelled a mud scow by steam on the Schuylkill river. Mr. Fulton's first experimental boat was built at Paris, in 1803. His first American steamboat was launched in the spring of 1807.


Fitch brought his plan to the test of experiment on the Delaware River a short time after he took out his patent. The following description is given of the machinery as contrived by Fitch: "The cylinder is horizontal, the steam working with equal force at both ends. The piston moves about three feet, and each vibration of it gives the axis forty revolutions. Each revolution of the axis moves twelve oars or paddles five and a half feet; they work perpendicularly and are represented by the strokes of a paddle of a canoe. As six of the paddles are raised from the water, six more are entered, and the two sets of paddles make their strokes of about eleven feet in each revolution. The crank of the axis acts upon the paddles about one-third of their length from the lower ends, to which part of the oar the whole force of the axis is applied. The engine is placed in the bottom of the boat, about one-third from the stern, and both the action and reaction turn the wheel the same way."

This description was written by the inventor himself, and was first published in Philadelphia Columbian Magazine, vol. I, for December, 1786.

Fitch's boat was tried, as previously stated, on the Delaware River, in front of Philadelphia. The boat was ordered under way at slack water, and, by the most accurate measurement, was found to go at the rate of eight miles per hour, or one mile in six minutes and a half. It afterwards went eighty miles in a day.

The Governor and Council of Pennsylvania expressed their satisfaction with the result of this experiment by presenting to the proprietors of the boat a superb silk flag, emblazoned with the arms of the State. But, after all this magnificent demonstration the most glorious achievement of American ingenuity was permitted to fall into utter neglect.

Dr. Thornton states that the company which had been formed under the Fitch patents to give the plan a proper trial — now, when the trial has been made, and when all reasonable doubts respecting the practicability and utility of the invention should have vanished — refused to advance any more money. It seems that those noble-spirited gentlemen, who constituted the first steamboat company ever organized, disbanded themselves because they were afraid to meet the "unceasing ridicule" which this project had excited. Not even the practical realization of the plan could prevent fools from laughing at it as an insane speculation; nor could the sight of a veritable steamboat, paddling along the Delaware, enable wise men to treat this idiotic merriment with contempt.


The company was dissolved, the boat was laid up in the docks, and the whole matter was abandoned, and John Fitch was fated to descend to the tomb without seeing the great object of his life accomplished, or the importance and value of his invention duly appreciated by his countrymen.

Justice to the memory of John Fitch forbids the admission of one particular incident of his life, which establishes beyond all cavil his claim to the invention of the steamboat. Before the dissolution of the company just referred to, Aaron Vail, Esq., one of the members who was then the American consul at L'Orient, sent over a request for Mr. Fitch to visit France, in order to have the steamboat experiment tried in that country. Fitch went over, accordingly, but on his arrival, owing to a scarcity of shipwrights, and other causes incident to the French Revolution, the enterprise failed, and Fitch returned to his own country, leaving his draughts and documents relating to his invention in the hands of Mr. Vail. These papers were exhibited by Mr. Vail to Robert Fulton, when that gentleman visited France several years afterwards and Mr. Fulton took copies, notes and memoranda which enabled him subsequently (he being more fortunate than John Fitch in finding assistance and resources) to complete the great work of which so considerable a part had already been executed by the ill-starred Fitch.

To the very end of his life John Fitch had unwavering confidence in his neglected and despised contrivance. He struggled manfully to bring it once more into the scope of public observation; but the public, when it had kindness to refrain from mockery, merely made an exclamation of sorrow and pity, like that of Ophelia —

"Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!"

Once, when he had been explaining the benefits of steam navigation to a party of gentlemen who heard his glowing description with significant smiles, one of the auditors remarked, after he had retired, "What a pity that the poor fellow is crazy!" When the experimental boat had been finally laid up, as aforesaid, Fitch, in a letter to Mr. Rittenhouse, wrote: "It would be much easier to carry a first-rate man-of-war by steam than a boat, as we would not be cramped for room, nor would the weight of the machinery be felt. This, sir, will be the mode of crossing the Atlantic in time, whether I bring it to perfection or not."

Fitch returned from Europe to his own country, destitute


and heartbroken. For two years he was obliged to depend for his daily bread on the kindness of a relation, Colonel George King, of Sharon, Connecticut. But having purchased some cheap lands in Kentucky, while he was surveying there in 1796, he now went thither to take possession of this little property in the wilderness. But even this gratification was not allowed him, for having been thrown into a fever by fatigue and exposure; he died two or three days after his arrival. According to his request, John Fitch was buried on the shores of the Ohio, where (to use his own enthusiastic language), "the song of the boatman would enliven the stillness of his resting place, and the music of the steam engine soothes his spirit." His manuscript journal contains the following prophetic exclamation: — "The day will come when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention, but nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do anything worthy of attention!"

"I know of nothing so perplexing and vexatious to a man of feelings, as a turbulent wife and steamboat building. I experienced the former and quit in season, and had I been in my right senses I should undoubtedly have treated the latter in the same manner, but for one man to be teased with both, he must be looked upon as the most unfortunate man of this world."

The theory of steam navigation on water had been evolved and considered for more than 200 years before it actually took shape.

James Rumsey was engaged in experiments from 1784 to 1786, when he tried a boat on the Potomac, which made four miles an hour, propelled by a jet of water forced from the stern.

In the same year the paddle steamer, shown in the illustration, was invented and built in Philadelphia, Pa., by John Fitch, of Windsor, Conn. After many disappointments and misfortunes in applying steam to the propulsion of vessels, Mr. Fitch finally triumphed over repeated failures. Successful experiments on the Delaware River, at Philadelphia, were made in 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, and in 1790 he ran a regular packet by steam for passengers and freight on the Delaware which, for more than three months, made regular trips between Philadelphia and certain towns on said river with ease and safety, and without material stoppage, accident or delay.

The propelling instruments used by Fitch were paddles suspended by the upper ends of their shafts and moved by cranks. The boat shown in the cut was sixty feet long, very lightly built.


The second steamboat in the world was invented by Mr. Symington in England.

It was tried in 1788, but only practically succeeded in 1801.

The third steamboat in the world was invented by Robert Fulton, and his first experiments were made in Plombieres in 1803, whilst his triumphs on the Hudson were delayed until 1807, twenty-one years after Fitch propelled his first skiff steamboat on the Delaware.

Patent-right granted to John Fitch. From G. H. Preble's "History of Steam Navigation."

‘On the 26th of August, 1791, John Fitch obtained a U. S. patent for his invention which is signed by George Washington, president. Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, who also testifies that the patent was delivered to him August 30th.’

‘The patent recites, "he having invented the following useful devices not before known or used, viz.," for applying the force of steam to a trunk or trunks, for drawing water in to the bow of a boat or vessel, and forcing the same out at the stern, in order to propel the boat or vessel through the water, for forcing a column of air through a trunk or trunks filled with water by the force of steam, and for applying the force of steam to cranks, paddles, for propelling a boat or vessel through the water.’

‘The said John Fitch, his heirs, etc., were granted for the time of fourteen years the sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, using and vending to others the said inventions.’


The remains of John Fitch were interred in the village graveyard of Bardstown, Nelson County, Ky., in the rear of the court house and county jail, in 1798. Not a pebble of all the fine stone in the land marks his last resting place. But his last will and testament are on record, as copied by a correspondent of the Philadelphia Evening Telegram, viz.:

"I, John Fitch, of the county of Nelson, do make this, my last will and testament:
To Wm. Rowan, Esquire, my trusty friend, my beaver hat, shoe, knee and stock buckles, walking stick and spectacles.

To Dr. William Thornton, of Washington, D. C., to Eliza Vail, daughter of Aaron Vail, Council of the W. S. at L'Orient, to John Rowan, Esquire, of Bardstown, son of said William, and to James Nourse of said town, I bequeath all the rest of my estate, real and personal, to be divided among them share and share alike. And I appoint the said


John Rowan, Esquire, and James Nourse, Esquire, my executors, and the legacies hereby bequeathed to them, my said executors is in consideration of their accepting the executor-ship and bringing to a final close all suits at law and attending to the business of estate hereby bequeathed. Hereby declaring this to be my last will and testament, this the 20th day of June, 1798 — witnesses my hand and seal.

Acknowledged, signed and sealed in presence of
SUSANAH McCOWN (Her mark.)

On the 10th of July, following, the will was passed by the executors and ordered to be recorded."

Chapter VI. Robert Fulton.

WHILE we accord to John Fitch the credit which is justly due to him as the true and original contriver of the steamboat, with equal justice we will make the acknowledgment, that the subject of the present sketch, by his firmness of purpose and energy of character, no less than by his brilliant genius and correct judgment, carried the enterprise through to a successful and glorious termination. Robert Fulton was born in the town of Little Britain, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (A. D. 1765). His father, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, was in very moderate circumstances, which may explain the fact that Robert's early education was somewhat neglected. His earliest tastes inclined him to observe the operations of different mechanics, in whose shops he passed most of his leisure hours. Having a natural talent for the use of the pencil he began at the age of twelve years to cultivate this gift, and before he had reached his fifteenth year, he became, in the estimation of his rural neighbors, quite an expert artist. Two years later he practiced portrait and landscape painting in Philadelphia. Here he soon acquired money enough to purchase a small farm in Washington County, where he provided his widowed mother with a comfortable home, while he made preparations for a voyage to


England, according to the advice of some of his friends, for the purpose of exhibiting some of his paintings to his countryman, Benjamin West. Mr. West, at this time, enjoyed the favor and patronage of the British government, and his reputation as one of the first painters of the age was already established. He received young Fulton with much kindness, gave him all possible encouragement, and offered him a home in his own house, where he remained for two years. At the end of that time Mr. Fulton traveled through different parts of England, and became acquainted with several distinguished men of science.

It is supposed that at this period of his life he began to devote his attention exclusively to mechanical inventions. In his twenty-fifth year (A. D. 1793), he was actively engaged in a project to improve inland navigation, and one year later he obtained from the British government a patent for a double inclined plane, to be used for transportation. We have no particular account of his transactions during several years following, though in 1794 he submitted to the British Society for the Promotion of Arts and Commerce, an improvement in his invention of mills for sawing marble. His patents for two machines, one for spinning flax, and the other for making ropes, are dated 1795. In the next year he published at London his treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation. In this work he expresses his preference for small canals, and boats of light burden, and contends for the use of inclined planes instead of locks. His plans were highly approved by the British Board of Agriculture.

Mr. Fulton was now engaged in the profession of a civil engineer, and employed the pencil merely to execute plans and draughts of machinery in connection with his professional duties. He now visited France, for the purpose of introducing his canal improvements into that country. In the year 1797 he became acquainted with the celebrated Joel Barlow, who then resided at Paris. In the family of this distinguished American, Mr. Fulton took up his abode for several years, during which time he studied the French, Italian and German languages, and perfected himself in the high mathematics, chemistry and natural philosophy.

In 1797 Messrs. Fulton and Barlow made experiments on the river Seine with a machine which the former had constructed on the torpedo principle, the object of which was to destroy an enemy's ships by submarine explosions. These experiments proved unsuccessful. But not at all discouraged by his first failure, Mr. Fulton pursued this object until his


plan for propelling and steering a boat under water was brought to perfection. When this satisfactory result was attained, he applied to the French Directory for pecuniary assistance, but that body did not appreciate the invention. He then applied to the British government, but met with similar discouragement in that quarter. In the meantime, Bonaparte had placed himself at the head of public affairs in France, and he, not being one of the "old fogy" school, promptly responded to Mr. Fulton's application by appointing a commission to examine the new war-like machine. The examining committee having made a favorable report, Mr. Fulton was supplied by Napoleon with a sufficiency of funds to bring some of his plans to the test of experiment. He first made a trial of the "plunging boat" at Brest, in 1801. Notwithstanding many imperfections in the machinery, and other disadvantages incident to a first experiment, he demonstrated that, by means of this contrivance, a sufficiency of light and air could be obtained under water; that the boat could be made to descend to any depth, or rise to the surface with perfect facility, and that she would tack or veer as rapidly as any common sailing boat. On the 7th of August Mr. Fulton descended with a store of air compressed in a copper globe, and was thus enabled to remain under water nearly four hours and a half. He next attempted to put this invention to its proper use by blowing up English vessels cruising near the harbor of Brest; for this purpose he provided his plunging boat with a torpedo, or submarine bomb, and approaching a small British vessel within a distance of two hundred yards, he blew her to atoms. A similar attempt was made on an English seventy-four, which saved herself at the critical moment by an accidental change of position.

The advantages of a submarine warfare were not fully estimated in Europe, and Mr. Fulton having become disgusted with the tardy action of several European governments in relation to this subject, returned to his own country in 1806. He found the American government very propitious to his undertakings, and a grant of sufficient funds was made to enable him to put the capabilities of his torpedo to a fair trial. By means of one of these Jewels of Belona, he blew up, and totally annihilated, a large hulk brig, which had been prepared for the purpose in the harbor of New York. In 1810 Congress granted $5,000 to meet the expenses of additional experiments with Fulton's explosive apparatus, and a committee was appointed to superintend these trials. The old sloop-of-war Argus, under the direction of Commodore


Rogers, was prepared for defense against the torpedoes, and that skillful commander did his best to make them ineffective. In these circumstances, Mr. Fulton did not succeed in his main design of blowing up the vessel, but he approached in his submarine boat near enough to cut off a fourteen inch cable attached to the Argus. He himself did not consider this experiment on the Argus a failure, attributing his want of success to various defects in the explosive machinery, for which it was easy to find remedies.

But the thoughts of Fulton now reverted to the subject of steam navigation, a subject upon which he had bestowed considerable study during his residence in Paris. In this enterprise he possessed one grand advantage over all who had preceded him, being enabled to avail himself of the great improvements which Watt and others had made in steam machinery. But for certain adaptations of the machinery to the object required, he was obliged to depend on his own inventive powers, in the absence of all precedent to direct his course. The paddle-wheel now used in steamboats appears to have been originally devised by Mr. Fulton. It should have been mentioned, by the way, that Messrs. Fulton and Livingston made an actual experiment with steam propulsion in France, in 1803. This experiment, however, was on a very small scale, and the result being not quite satisfactory, and as other objects demanded Mr. Fulton's attention, this project was temporarily set aside, nor was it resumed until sometime after his return to this country.

Mr. Fulton took out his first patent for improvements in steam navigation on the 11th day of February, 1809, and on the 9th day of February, 1811, he obtained supplementary patents for further improvements in his bouts and machinery. The pecuniary means required for carrying out these great designs were supplied by Mr. Livingston, a gentleman of great wealth and equal liberality, who had assisted Mr. Fulton in his steamboat experiments at Paris, and never at any time withheld his aid when the enterprise required it. The legislature of New York having passed an act which secured to Messrs. Fulton and Livingston the exclusive benefits of steam navigation on the waters of that State for the term of twenty years, the last named gentleman caused a boat of about thirty tons to be built, but her dimensions being found insufficient, she was soon abandoned. In 1807 a steam engine was ordered from the manufactory of Watt & Bolton, of Birmingham, England; it was constructed according to the specifications furnished by Mr. Fulton, who did not permit the manufacturers


to know for what purpose it was intended. A suitable boat for the reception of this engine had been built at the ship-yard of Charles Brown, on the East river. The engine was put on board, and the boat was soon after moved by her machinery to the Jersey shore. This experimental trip was witnessed by a number of the principal citizens, including several men of science, whom Messrs. Fulton and Livingston had invited to be present on the occasion.

At this time it is difficult to believe that a great majority of the people of that day had no faith in this undertaking. The common belief was that the boat could not be made to move a foot from the wharf, and the crowd of spectators now assembled to behold the result very freely indulged in sarcastic remarks, aimed at what they were pleased to call the folly or insanity of the projectors. When, therefore, the boat actually left the shore, and began to plough her way through the still waters, the multitude for a while stood gazing in mute astonishment, mingled with awe, at what they considered a miracle of art. But when the boat, having reached the center of the river, turned her head down the stream and began to rush forward with increased velocity, the whole concourse, as if moved by one spirit, uttered a deafening and prolonged shout of applause and congratulation. Who can imagine the feelings of Robert Fulton at that moment? The day of recompense had arrived; his toils, travels, severe studies and frequent disappointments were unrequited no longer. He knew then that he had achieved a triumph which the world would acknowledge in all time to come. Here, then, for once, a public benefactor received, while living, the homage which his genius and his services to the cause of human progress had deserved.

This first boat, whose performance so electrified the spectators, was called the Clermont. When some errors in the construction of the machinery had been corrected she made a trial trip to Albany, and performed that voyage of one hundred and fifty miles in about thirty hours, against the wind. Soon after the Clermont became a regular passage boat between New York and Albany. Certain Quixotic persons conceived about these times that "pendulum power" might be made to rival steam as a propelling force, and a boat was actually built on that principle. As many had foreseen, however, the momentum of the pendulum could not overcome the resistance of the water, and this boat remained as stationary as the dock itself.

The exclusive right to steam navigation on the rivers of


New York, which the legislature had granted to Livingston and Fulton, was not duly respected, for several opposition boats were soon started. These were slightly varied from Fulton's mode of construction, in order to avoid an obvious infringement on his patent. Fulton and Livingston attempted to assert their rights by recourse to the law, and applied to the Circuit Court of the United States for an injunction; but this court decided that it had no jurisdiction in the case. The application was renewed in the Chancery of the State, but after hearing the argument, the chancellor refused to grant an injunction. The Supreme Court, however, reversed the chancellor's decision, and ordered a perpetual injunction on the opposition boats.

In the year 1812, two steam ferryboats for crossing the Hudson River, and one for the East river, were built under Mr. Fulton's directions. Thenceforth steamboats began to increase and multiply, and improvements were gradually introduced by Mr. Fulton up to the time of his death. It has been remarked in commendation of his progressive skill and judgment, that the last boat built by him was always the best, the swiftest and the most convenient.

About the beginning of the last war with England, Mr. Fulton exhibited to a committee of citizens of New York the model of a steam man-of-war, provided with a strong battery, furnaces for red hot shot, etc. Several distinguished naval commanders had already pointed out the advantages which must result from the employment of steam in propelling war vessels, and Mr. Fulton's plan so well received, that in the spring of 1814 Congress passed a law authorizing the President to cause to be built, equipped and employed one or more floating batteries, for the defense of the ports and waters of the United States. In conforming with this law, the steam frigate Fulton the First, was built at New York, and on the 4th of July, 1815, she made her first trip to the ocean and back, a distance of fifty-three miles in eight hours and twenty minutes. Henry Rutgers, Samuel L. Mitchell, Thomas Morris, and Oliver Walcott, Esqs., commissioners of the navy, were present. Mr. Stoudinger, successor to Robert Fulton was engineer.

Before this vessel was completed Robert Fulton had ceased to exist. While superintending the works on board of the steam frigate, he exposed himself too long on deck, on a wet and stormy day; an attack of pleurisy followed, which terminated his valuable life on the 24th day of February, 1815. Mr. Fulton was married, in the year 1806, to Miss Harriet


Livingston, a relative of Chancellor Livingston, his friend and associate in the steam navigation enterprise. He left four children, one son, Robert Barlow Fulton, and three daughters.

Capt. Samuel J. Morey of Connecticut, is claimed to be the inventor of the first practical steamboat ever built.

Rev. Cyrus Mann, of Oxford, New Hampshire, published in 1864 some account of Capt. Morey and of his steamboat.

Mr. Mann was a scholar and a man of integrity and spent a month's time with Morey in investigating the claims of Fulton, Morey and others.

The following is an extract from his book: —

"The credit of the invention of the steamboat is commonly awarded to Robert Fulton, but it belongs primarily and chiefly, it is believed, to a more obscure individual. So far as is known the first steamboat ever seen on the waters of America was invented by Capt. Samuel Morey, of Oxford, New Hampshire.

The astonishing sight of this man ascending the Connecticut River, between Oxford and Fairlee, in a little boat just large enough to contain himself and the rude machinery connected with the steam boiler and a handful of wood for a fire, was witnessed by the writer in his boyhood, and by others who still survive. This was as early as 1793 or earlier and before Fulton's name had been mentioned in connection with steam navigation."

Writing to William A. Drier, in October of 1818, Morey says: "As near as I can recollect it was as early as 1790, that I turned my attention to improving the steam engine, and to applying it to the purpose of propelling boats. In June, 1797, I went to Bordentown, on the Delaware, and there constructed a steamboat and devised the plan of propelling by means of wheels, one on each side.

The shafts ran across the boat with a crank in the middle worked from the beam of the engine with a shackle bar.

The boat was openly exhibited in Philadelphia and I took out patents for my improvements."

He accused Fulton of adopting his models and if he had had the means would probably have prosecuted Livingston and Fulton for an infringement of his patents. As he insisted, he was "fully entitled to them for the application of the side wheels."

It is difficult at this late date to determine who, if any one man, is entitled to the credit of first applying steam to navigation.

So far as the record goes, John Fitch is certainly entitled to a large share of credit and if he had been encouraged by men with pecuniary ability he would undoubtedly have secured the credit that finally was accredited to Robert Fulton.


Chapter VII. Discovery of the Upper Mississippi, by Father Hennepin, in 1680.

This account is from his own narrative: —

"He set out from Fort Crevecoeur, the 29th February, 1680. His party consisted of two Frenchmen and a few Indians, with two large canoes. They embarked upon the Illinois River and on the 8th of March reached the river (Colbert) i.e. the Mississippi. The ice which floated down from the north delayed the expedition several days. We commenced to ascend the great river in April. The first river we come to is Rock River or Des Moines. Sixty leagues up we reach the Puntos, fifty leagues above we reach the Lake of Tears, (Lake Pepin), which we so named because some Indians who had taken us, wished to kill us wept the whole night to induce the others to consent to our death. Forty leagues above is the river St. Croix by which striking northwest you can reach Lake Conde (Superior). Continuing to ascend the Colbert (Mississippi) twelve leagues more the navigation is interrupted by a fall, which I called St. Anthony of Padua's, whom we had chosen patron and protector of all our enterprises. Eight leagues above St. Anthony to the right we found the river Issati, which you can ascend to the north for about seventy leagues to Lake Issati where it rises. This last lake spreads out into greater marshes and is probably the source of the Colbert, i.e. Mississippi. We had considered the river Colbert with great pleasure, and so far, without hindrance, to know how far it was navigable up and down.

"On the 11th of April, 1680, we suddenly perceived thirty-three bark canoes manned by a hundred and twenty Indians, coming towards us. They soon surrounded us and took us prisoners. After remaining captive for several months we made our escape and descended the river one hundred and twenty leagues distant from the country of the Indians who had taken us. We met the Sieur de Luth, who came to the river by the land route, with five French soldiers. Towards the end of September we resolved to return to the French settlements. We chose the route by the way of the Ouisconsin (Wisconsin). After sailing up sixty leagues we came to a portage. After sailing one hundred leagues we arrived at the bay of Fetid (Green Bay). We then sailed a hundred leagues and reached


Miseilimackinac. After many months we reached Montreal in May, 1681."

Notes, Colbert is Mississippi river.

Notes, Issati is Itasca Lake.

Notes, Ouisconsin is Wisconsin river.

Notes, Fetid bay, Green bay.

Fort Creve Coeur was a frontier fort of Canada.


"The name of the Mississippi river is of itself worthy of note.

If France ever had sufficient title to the Mississippi Valley to convey ownership she undoubtedly had authority to name the principle river. If this follows then the technically correct name of the great river is St. Louis, for in 1712 the King of France ordered in letters-patent to Crozat that the river ‘heretofore called Mississippi be called River Saint Louis.’

But the people on its banks and on the western continent gave no heed to the royal decree, though geographers, like d'Auville, adhered for years to the name of St. Louis.

Mississippi is from the Ojibbeway tongue and signifies, according to Bishop Baraga, great river or rivers of water from all sides, or by a liberal translation it may be interpreted as the savage vernacular for the national motto, E Pluribus Unum."

The first commercial use of the stream was to carry the skin-laden skiff, and from that to the row boat and barge the transition was easy to the boatmen. But little, however, is known of the quantity or the character of traffic early in the century. Before the time of steam the barge afforded the principle means of river transportation, and the methods of its management were primitive, slow, and dangerous. The boats were from twenty-five to a hundred feet long Breadth of beam from fifteen to twenty feet, and the capacity from six to one hundred tons. The receptacle for the freight was a large covered coffer, called a cargo box, which occupied considerable portion of the bulk. Near the stern was a small, straightened apartment six or eight feet in length, in which the captain and steersman, or patron were quartered at night. Upon the elevated roof of this cabin the steersman stood to direct the course of the craft. There were usually two masts, sometimes one served the purpose. The main reliance was a large, square sail forward, which when the wind was favorable, accelerated the progress of the boat and relieved the


hands, who at other times were compelled to use the most laborious methods.

Going down stream required watchfulness and some ingenuity, and a full knowledge of the fitfulness of the navigable currents, but no exhaustive exertion. Up stream, sometimes against the wind, through a land of savages, pirates and freebooters, the lot of a Mississippi navigator in modern phraseology was not a happy one.

About fifty men were employed. Sometimes all were rowing, sometimes they towed the boat, after the fashion of the old canal boat. But when the banks made this impracticable the "warp" was adopted. This was accomplished by sending a coil of rope forward to some tree on the shore, or snag in the river, toward which the hands on board pulled the boat. Then another tree or snag was selected, and so on to the end.

There was little poling on the Mississippi, though it was sometimes done on account of the depth of the water, the strength of the stream, and the yielding nature of the bottom. It was pole and warp, and tow and row, and row and tow, and pole and warp for months before a cargo from New Orleans reached St. Louis.

Buccaneers invested the mouths of rivers, and the bays, creeks and caves afforded places of concealment for them and their spoils till the close of the War of 1812, and every owner carried his own insurance against flood, robber and fire.

But it is recorded that the boatmen were scrupulous of their trusts, and would fight to protect the consignment, and seldom failed to account satisfactorily for everything entrusted to their care. For policy, perhaps, which had as much to do then with business rectitude as now.

The fates and fortunes of the traveler, however, who had that about him which excited the cupidity of fearless and unscrupulous men, who knew no law but their own wild wishes, and who recognized no higher consideration than expediency, were not so secure, and many an untold tale of murder and mysterious disappearance lies at the bottom of the Mississippi. Waves never babble or gossip. One, of many instances, must suffice: Cotton Wood Creek and Grand Tower were well known places of rendezvous for pirates who would attack voyagers from some such place, drive them off, and then appropriate their valuables.

Early in 1787 an event occurred which inaugurated severe measures by the Spanish government, resulting in dispersing the pirates.


One, Beausoliel, a New Orleans merchant, started for St. Louis with a richly laden barge. A strong breeze arose as she approached Cotton Wood Creek. The pirates were ready for an attack, but the rapid progress under a strong breeze frustrated their design, and they sent a body of men to head off the prize.

The point selected for an attack was an island since known as Beausoliel's Island, and was reached in about two days. The barge had landed and was easily captured and the crew disarmed. When the captors turned the boat down stream, soon after which a happy deliverance came from an unexpected source.

Casotta, a negro, who had effected great pleasure at the capture, was used by the freebooters as a cook. He kept up a secret understanding with Beausoleil, and at a given signal, and an opportune moment the captured became the captors and all the pirates were killed or secured. Vigorous measures followed. Trips were made in fleets, well armed for fight, and within a short time the robber haunts were vacated.

In those days of flat boats and barges and endless time, the freight from New Orleans to St. Louis was on an average about $6.75 per one hundred pounds.

After the establishment of military posts on the Ohio river, by Congress, no regular intercourse was kept with them by the government. Mail routes could not be contracted beyond Pittsburg. All communications of importance was made through expresses, either on land through the wilderness, by way of Virginia, and Kentucky, or by transient boats on the Ohio River.

As this mode was slow, expensive and uncertain, Colonel Timothy Pickering, the Postmaster-General, deemed it advisable to establish a more regular and certain mode of communication with General Wayne and the army on the Western frontier. The first mail route across the Alleghany Mountains was ordered by Congress in 1786, from Alexandria, in Virginia, to Pittsburg, in Pennsylvania, by way of Lewisburg, Winchester, Fort Cumberland and Bedford, also, from Philadelphia to the town of Bedford, and thence to Pittsburg.

On the 20th of May, 1788, Congress resolved that the Postmaster-General be directed to employ posts for the regular transport of the mail between the city of Philadelphia and the town of Pittsburg, by the way of Lancaster, York, Carlisle, Chambersburg and Bedford, and that the mail be dispatched once in each fortnight from the post-offices respectively.


Chapter VIII. First United States Mail Service on the Ohio by Boat.

IN April, 1794, with the aid and advice of Colonel O'Harra, army contractor, and Mayor Isaac Craig, of Pittsburg, a plan was devised of transporting the mail in light, strong boats on the Ohio river, and put into operation early in the following June.

These boats were about twenty-four feet in length, made after the style of whale boats, and steered with a rudder. They were manned by five boatmen, viz.: a coxswain and four oarsmen. The men were all armed and their pieces kept dry in snug boxes along side of their seats. The whole could be covered with a tarpaulin in wet weather, which each boat carried for that purpose. For cooking and sleeping they generally landed on the beach at the head of an island, where they would be less liable to a surprise or an attack from the Indians.

In ascending, as well as descending, the boat was kept nearly in the middle of the river. The distance traveled against the current averaged about thirty miles a day, and double that down stream.

There were tour relays between Wheeling and Cincinnati. The mail was carried by land from Pittsburg and Wheeling. The station where the boats met and exchanged mails, were Marietta, Gallipolis and Limestone, the distance between which was made in seven days both up and down; thus requiring about twelve days from Cincinnati to Wheeling, and about half that time from Wheeling to Cincinnati.

The transport by land only required one day and two fast riders who exchanged mails at Washington, Pennsylvania. Postmasters were appointed at each of these towns so that the citizens could have the advantage of the establishment as well as the military. The postmaster at Marietta was Captain Joseph Munroe, an old soldier in the "continental line," during the war.

This mode of carrying the mail was kept up until 1798. After the treaty with the Indians in 1798, the mail was landed at Graham's Station, a few miles above Limestone, and transported to Cincinnati on horseback. So cautious were the conductors of these boats generally that only one attack was made upon them by the Indians. This happened in 1794 to a boat commanded by Capt. Diegan, but at that time commanded


by another man, employed for that trip. The packet was ascending the Ohio, and happened to have several passengers on board, as they sometimes did, and had reached within a few miles of the mouth of the Scioto, on the Indian shore. The man at the helm saw, as he thought, a deer in the bushes, and heard it rustling in the leaves. With the intention of killing it the boat had approached within a few rods of the bank, and the man at the bow had risen up with his gun to fire, when they received a whole volley from the Indians who lay in ambush, and had made these signs to entice them to the shore. One man was killed, and another desperately wounded. Several of the row-locks were shot off, and their oars for the time rendered useless. The Indians rushed down the bank and into the water, endeavoring to get hold of the boat and drag it to the shore. The steersman turned the bow into the current and one or two oars forced her into the stream, beyond the reach of their shot. One of the hands who had been a drummer in St. Clair's army, and had probably witnessed the effect of the Indian yell, became so alarmed that he jumped into the river as the boat was turning from the shore. A stout Indian dashed into the river and swam after him, with his drawn knife in his teeth. Wilbur's pantaloons, being thick and heavy, impeded his swimming so much that the Indian gained rapidly upon him. He made an attempt to pull them off and got one leg free, but sank under the water while doing it. He was now worse off than before, as they dragged behind and nearly paralyzed all his efforts. The Indian was within a few yards of him, and escape seemed hopeless, when making another desperate effort he succeeded in freeing himself from the encumbrance. In accomplishing this last struggle he again sank entirely beneath the surface, and came up greatly exhausted, with the Indian within striking distance of him. As the enemy slackened his exertions to draw his knife from his teeth and give the fatal stab, Wilbur now having his legs free, and quickened by the sight of the gleaming blade upraised in the hand of the Indian, threw all his remaining strength into one convulsive effort, and forced himself beyond the reach of the descending knife, which plunged harmless into the water, within a few inches of his body. Before his enemy could repeat the blow he was several feet ahead of him and nearly in the middle of the river. The Indian now gave up the pursuit, and retreated to the shore. Nearly exhausted by fear and fatigue, and chilled by the coldness of the water, Wilbur reached the opposite bank with great difficulty.


In the meantime the boatmen, thinking him killed or drowned, pushed down stream and did not land until they reached the next station, some fifty miles below. Wilbur, however, made himself a raft, and descended to Graham's in safety. By this disaster, the line of communication was interrupted for a trip or two; but was soon after resumed and not broken again except by the ice in winter, when the boats were laid up for a few weeks until the system was abandoned in 1798, for the more feasible one by land.

Chapter IX. The First Vessel to Enter the Mississippi River from the Sea.

January 6, 1700, M. d'Iberville, in command of the French frigate Rénommée, and the Gironde, anchored off Ship Island. In a few days he determined to enter the mouth of the Mississippi on an exploring expedition. He left the ships in three long boats, manned by sixty men, and after coasting along for thirty leagues entered the mouth of the river, the 15th. On February 19 we arrived at a large village of the Bayou Goula Indians, whom we found to be very friendly. They supplied us with Indian meal, fish and meats. After three days' rest we commenced the ascent against a strong current. About five leagues above, on the right hand side, came to the Manchac; five leagues above this stream we came to where the banks of the river are very high, called "Scores," and in the Indian language "Istrouma," which signifies Baton Rouge, because at that place there is a post painted red, which the Indians have placed there to mark the boundary line of the territory of the two nations. About fifteen leagues from this place, we arrived at a large river called Sabloniere (Red River). On March 10 arrived at the great Natchez bluffs, where M. d'lberville made a treaty of peace with this tribe of Indians. On April 12 left Natchez and, after hard rowing and cordelling, we arrived on April 16 at the Tensas.

As the period of M. d'Iberville's return to France was rapidly approaching, he resolved to descend the river. We set off the next morning. We progressed rapidly with the strong


current of the river, and in a few days arrived at the Bayou Goulas, where we found a gunboat which M. De Bienville had brought from Biloxi with material for the construction of a fort. M. De Bienville in descending from Natchez on his route to Biloxi met, on the 16th of September, a small English frigate careened in a bend of the river about three leagues in circuit. He demanded of the captain what he was doing in the Mississippi, and if he was not aware the French had already established themselves in this country. The Englishman was much astonished, and replied that he was ignorant of the fact and soon after retraced his steps to the sea. It was from this circumstance that the bend of the river was afterward called the English Turn. This frigate was commanded by Capt. Barr, and was fitted out in 1698 by the English with instructions to take possession of Louisiana and establish a colony on the banks of the Mississippi.

M. d'Iberville commenced at this place the building of a fort, and placing his brother, M. de Bienville, in command, he returned to Biloxi, followed by two of our long boats and five French Canadians, who, hearing of our establishment at Biloxi, had come to trade with us. He made us row night and day until we reached the ships. He set sail for France on May 3, 1700. But before his departure he recommended M. de Sauvol to place twenty men under the command of M. le Sueur to go to the copper mines in the country of the Sioux about nine hundred leagues from the mouth of the river, and above the Fall of St. Anthony. It was at the village Bayou Goulas that Iberville found the following letter from Tonti to La Salle, dated April 20, 1685, which the Indian chiefs had carefully preserved:

"Sir — Having found the column on which you placed the arms of France thrown down, I caused a new one to be erected about seven leagues from the sea. All nations have sung the Calumet. These people fear us extremely since your attack on their village. I close by saying that it gives me great uneasiness to be obliged to return under the misfortune of not having found you."

Two canoes have examined the coast thirty leagues toward Mexico and twenty-five toward Florida. This chief of the Bayou Goulas had also some engravings, a New Testament, a gun and a letter which were given to him by M. de Tonti, all of which he had preserved with great care during these years from 1685 to 1700.



The following is given as an authentic account of the first vessel built upon the banks of the Mississippi River by white men: —

"Hernando DeSoto, in his expedition from Florida in 1541, discovered the Mississippi in this same year. He had with him 620 men and 223 horses. Upon his arrival at the great river he desired to cross to the western shore, and for this purpose he commanded his officers to have constructed four large pirogues, capable of carrying seventy or eighty men each and five or six horses. With these vessels he made the passage of the great river. DeSoto now determined to seek new Spain by traveling west, but after many months of great hardships he retraced his steps toward the great river, arriving at a point near the mouth of the Arkansas. Here, on May 21, 1542, he died. As soon as he was dead, Lays de Moscosa, his Captain General, commanded his body to be wound up in mantels, wherein he was carried in a canoe and thrown into the midst of the river. After the burial of DeSoto Lays de Moscosa de Alvarado called together his followers and they determined to seek the sea by way of the great river and find the coast of Mexico.

"The General then commanded them to commence building brigantines. He ordered them to gather all the chains together, which every one had to lead Indians in, and to gather all the iron which they had in the camp, and to set up a forge and make nails, and commanding them to cut down timber for the brigantines. A Portuguese of Centa had learned to saw timber with a long saw, which for such purposes they had carried with them, and he did teach others, which helped him to saw the timber. And a Geneves, who had learned to build ships, with four or five Biscayan carpenters, who hewed the planks and other timbers, made the brigantines. And two caulkers, the one of Geneva, the other of Sardinia, did caulk them with a tow of an herb like hemp, and because there was not enough of it, they caulked them with the flax of the country. A cooper they had among them made for every brigantine two hogsheads, to hold water. The provision of the vessels was maize, the flesh of horses and hogs, which they dried for the voyages. On the 2nd day of July they departed from the Arkansas with seven brigantines and Spaniards.

After twenty days descending the river they reached the


sea, or Gulf of Mexico. The 18th of July, 1543, they went forth to sea. From the time that they put out of the Rio Grande or Mississippi until they arrived in the River of Panuco, or Mexico, was fifty-two days. They came into the River Panuco the 10th of September, 1543. They went up the river, and in four days arrived at the town of Panuco; all of them were appareled in deer skins, tanned and dyed a dark color. After remaining at Panuco for some days the Viceroy of Mexico, Don Antonio de Mendoco, sent an order that they should be brought to the City of Mexico; upon their arrival at the city every provision was made for them by the Viceroy, and those that desired it were sent home to Spain.

"This is a narrative by a gentleman of Elvas in 1557.


A correspondent of the Savannah (Ga.) Recorder writes as follows: —

"ATLANTA, GA., Sept. 1.

"In looking over some of the letters on file in the archives of the State, I find one from Wm. Longstreet, the grandfather of Judge Longstreet, which I copy and send you. It will be seen by this letter that Wm. Longstreet, on the 25th day of September, 1790, proposed and was running a steamboat on the Savannah River, near Augusta, Ga., and this date was seven years before Fulton had his steamboat.

"If this be true, Georgia, and not New York, is entitled to the credit of having the first steamboat in her waters: —

‘"AUGUSTA, GA., Sept. 26, 1790.’

"‘SIR — I make no doubt but you have often heard of my steamboat, and as often heard it laughed at. But in this I have only shared the fate of all other projectors, for it has uniformly been the custom of every country to ridicule even the greatest inventions until use had proved their utility.’

"‘In not reducing my scheme to practice has been a little unfortunate for me. I confess (and perhaps the people in general), but until very lately I did not think that either artists or materials could be had in this place sufficient.’

"‘However, necessity — that grand source of invention — has furnished me with an idea of perfecting my plan, almost entirely with wooden materials, and by such workmen as may be got here; and, from a thorough confidence of its success, I propose to ask your assistance and patronage.’


"‘Should it succeed agreeably to my expectation, I hope I shall discover that sense of duty which such favors always merit, and should it not succeed, your reward must lay with other unlucky adventurers.’

"‘For me to mention to you all the advantages arising from such a machine would be tedious, and, indeed, unnecessary. Therefore I have taken the liberty just to state in this plain, humble manner, my wish and opinion, which I hope you will excuse, and I shall remain, either with or without your approbation, your Excellency's most obedient and very humble servant. WM. LONGSTREET.’

"‘To his Excellency Edward Telfair.’"



Under the above head Gath wrote in the Cincinnati Enquirer of a recent date as follows:

"The first boats we suppose to have been hollow logs and rafts, and the ingenious Mr. Lindsay, who has made a long history of merchant shipping and ancient commerce, thinks that the Ark, if it ever existed, was simply a raft of stupendous size, roofed with a big warehouse, and, as described by Scripture, no bigger than the ordinary sailing vessels on the North Atlantic at the present time. The registered tonnage of the Ark was less than 15,000 tons, and therefore the Great Eastern was a colossus in comparison.

"The old Assyrian monuments show people crossing rivers on inflated skins. The early Britians appear to have used basket-work, around which they had flannel wrapped, or leather. It is said that bitumen from the Babylon region was exported to Egypt in vessels 1500 years before Jesus. Among the earliest vessels known here was one called the Balza, on the west coast of South America, a raft of logs which carried twenty tons.

"The Homeric vessels were only large open boats, with a kind of a half-deck inside to shelter some people.

"Pounded sea-shells were first introduced into the seams and chinks of boats, and afterward pounded seeds, and finally pitch and wax. An old ship of Trajan, pulled up from a Roman lake, shows that the Romans also sheathed their ships. The names of punt and galley, skiff, etc., have a very high antiquity. The first vessels which carried horses were called Hipagogi. A picture of St. Paul's ship by Mr. Smith who


was both a believer and a boat builder, shows that she was something like a life-boat or batteau, with a sort of railing around her top, and two masts; she carried a cargo of grain and 276 people; she probably had two decks besides a high poop and forecastle.

"They steered vessels for a long time by means of oars, and the first vessels had square sails. The first anchors were big stones, but St. Paul's ship carried four anchors. In the time of Alexander the Great they had chain cables for these anchors. The first important grain ships were built to carry Egyptian grain to Italy for the supply of the Romans.

"Ancient mariners used the gnomen to get the length of the sun's shadow at noon.

"The Phoenician galleys often had fifty oars in them, rower sitting above rower, with oars longer and longer, so that they all could pull at once; and they sometimes rowed twenty-six days without going ashore. * * * The river Nile has but few branches but many mouths; hence the mouths were worked out to make canals of them, and one of these canals was about 350 miles long, or about the size of the Erie Canal. The Egyptian sailors were Nile boatmen, and Herodotus says that there was 700,000 of these employed at one time, and they lived on the boats and held fairs and markets there.

"The habit the Egyptians had of using the double yard to keep the sail flat was unconsciously adopted by the Americans, who by the same process beat the English with the yacht America.

"The Egyptians put houses on their decks like American steamboats. After Alexander conquered Egypt the City of Alexandria became the New York of the Old World, and, like New York, a great lighthouse was put up, called Pharos, at Alexandria, which cost 800 talents. It had fires lighted in its top stories at night to guide ships. The port of Berenice was made on the Red Sea to facilitate shipments across to Alexandria on the Mediterranean.

"Though the Egyptians were poor sailors, they built some good vessels, and one of these, owned by Ptolemy, is said to have been 420 feet long, 57 feet beam and 72 feet in depth of hold, or about as big as the largest steamships of our day. A picture of this vessel represents her as steered by oars, with a straight gunwale, two or three decks on her poop and her bow rising high and elaborately carved. These figures are believed to be wrong, at least as far as the depth of hold is concerned.

"A fine galley was built by one of the Ptolemy's, which


contained their bed-chamber, and this vessel was 300 feet long, luxurious as a North river steamboat and contained colonnades, marble stairs and gardens."


"About 280 years B. C., Hero, of Alexandria, formed a toy which exhibited some of the powers of steam, and was moved by its power.

A. D. 540 an architect arranged several cauldrons of water, each covered with the wide bottom of a leather tube, which rose to a narrow top, with the pipes extending to the rafters of the adjoining building. A fire was kindled beneath the cauldron, and the house was shaken with the effects of the steam ascending the tubes. This is the first notice of the power of steam recorded.

In 1543, June 17, Basca de Garay tried a steamboat of 200 tons with tolerable success at Barcelona, Spain. It consisted of a cauldron of boiling water and a movable wheel on each side of the ship. It was laid aside as impracticable. A present, however, was made to Garay.

In 1630 the first railroad was constructed at Newcastle-on-the-Tyne.

The first idea of a steam engine in England was in the Marquis of Worcester's "History of Invention," A. D. 1603.

In 1701 Newermann made the first steam engine in England.

In 1764 James Watt made the first perfect steam engine in England.

In 1766 Jonathan Hulls first set forth the idea of steam navigation.

In 1778 Thomas Payne first proposed the application in America.

In 1781 Marquis Jouffrey constructed a steamboat on the Saone.

In 1785 two Americans published a work upon it.

In 1789 William Symington made a voyage in one on the Forth and Clyde canal.

In 1802 this experiment was repeated.

In 1782 Ramsey propelled a boat by steam at New York.

In 1789 John Fitch, of Connecticut, navigated a boat by steam on the Delaware."


In 1784 Robert Fulton first began to apply his attention to steam.

In 1783 Oliver Evans, a native of Philadelphia, constructed a steam engine to travel a turnpike road.

The first steam vessel that crossed the Atlantic was the Savannah, in the month of June, from Charleston, S. C., to Liverpool.

In the New Orleans Gazette of July 23, 1807, may be found the following advertisement: —

"For Louisville, Kentucky.

"She is completely fitted for the voyage. For freight of a few tons only (having the greater part of her cargo engaged), apply to the master on board or to

The trip was begun but never completed. Before arriving at Natchez some twelve or twenty horses were used up on the tread wheel, and the voyage was abandoned near that city. We republish this as an illustration of the expedients to which the earlier settlers of the Mississippi Valley were compelled to resort in carrying on commerce with the interior. It was easy enough to get from Louisville to New Orleans, and carry produce there, but getting the productions of the tropics to Louisville quite another matter.

"VIRGINIA CITY, September 19.


"Dear Sir — Will you please inform me through the columns of your valuable paper when and whereabouts the steamboat "Sultana," used for transporting of troops, was blown up.

"By so doing you will oblige yours, very respectfully,

"Virginia City, Nevada."

In the early part of the spring of 1864 (it was about the 12th of March we believe), the steamer Sultana left Memphis late at night, with upwards of 2,400 souls aboard. When she had proceeded to a point just above a group of little islands called Paddy's Hen and Chickens, about seven miles above that city, it is believed the whole battery of five boilers exploded at the same time. Subsequently the boat took fire and was burned to the surface of the water, and the hull sank


on a bar close to Bradley's Landing. By this terrible catastrophe more than two thousand lives were lost. It was the most destructive marine disaster that ever occurred since rivers and oceans have been sailed over by men.

Chapter X. Col. Plug, Mike Fink and Others.

IN a book published at Louisville in 1852, "The History of Louisville," by Ben. Cassaday, may be found some interesting matter relating to the early navigation of the Ohio by barges and other primitive modes.

"In the winter of this year (1780) commenced the first of anything like intercourse between this part of the Ohio and New Orleans.

"Messrs. Tardinen and Honore, the latter of whom resided in this city until within a few years, made the earliest trip from Brownville to New Orleans and subsequently continued to make regular trips from Louisville to the French and Spanish posts on the Mississippi.

"Even previous to this, Col. Richard Taylor and his brother Hancock Taylor, had descended from Pittsburg to the mouth of the Yazoo, and Messrs. Gibson and Linn, in 1776, had made a trip from Pittsburg to New Orleans with a view of procuring military stores for the troops stationed at the former place. These gentlemen succeeded in their expectations, having obtained 156 kegs of powder, which arrived at the falls in 1777, was carried around them by hand and finally delivered at Pittsburg.

"These early attempts at navigation were soon succeeded by the constant and regular trips of the barges. Perhaps the most exciting and stirring scenes of Western adventure were connected with these peculiar craft."

The bargemen were a distinct class of people, whose fearlessness of character, recklessness of habits and laxity of morals, rendered them a marked people. Their history will hereafter form the ground-work of many a heroic romance or epic poem. In the earlier stages of this sort of navigation, the trips were dangerous not only on account of the Indians, whose hunting grounds bounded their track on either side, but


also because the shores of both rivers were infested with organized bands of banditti, who sought every occasion to rob and murder the owners of these boats. Besides all this, the Spanish government had forbidden the navigation of the lower Mississippi by the Americans.

And thus hedged in every way by danger, it became these boatmen to cultivate all the hardihood and wildness of the pioneer, while it also led them into the possession of that recklessness and independent freedom of manner which, even after the causes that produced it had ceased, still clung to, and formed an integral part of the Western bargeman.

It is a matter of no little surprise that something like an authentic history of these wonderful men has never been written. Certainly it is desirable to preserve such history, and no book could have been undertaken which would be likely to produce more both of pleasure and profit to the writer, and none which would meet with a larger circle of delighted readers. The traditions on the subject are, even at this recent period, so vague and contradictory that it would be difficult to procure anything like reliable or authentic data in regard to them. No story in which the bargemen figure is too improbable to be narrated. Nor can one determine what particular person is the hero of an incident which is in turn laid at the door of each distinguished member of the whole fraternity. Some of these incidents, however, will serve so well to give an idea of the peculiar characters of the bargemen, and possess so much merit in themselves, that they cannot be omitted here.

Previous to referring to any of these anecdotes it may be interesting to introduce the following excellent description of the manner of navigating the Ohio and Mississippi prior to the introduction of steamboats. It is from the pen of Audubon, the celebrated ornithologist, whose death has caused a deep feeling of regret in all who know how to admire that union of simple goodness of character with greatness of mind and untiring energy of study, which he, perhaps more than any other American, possessed.

The keel boats and barges were employed, says this extract, in conveying produce of different kinds, such as lead, flour, pork and other articles. These returned laden with sugar, coffee and dry goods suited for the markets of Genevieve and St. Louis on the Upper Mississippi, or branched off and ascended the Ohio to the foot of the falls at Louisville. A keel boat was generally manned by a crew of ten hands, principally Canadian French, and a patroon or master. These


boats seldom carried more than from twenty to thirty tons. The barges had frequently from forty to fifty men, with a patroon, and carried fifty or sixty tons.

Both these kind of vessels were provided with a mast, a, square sail, and coils of cordage known by the name of "cordeiles." Each boat or barge carried its own provisions. We shall suppose one of these boats under way, and having passed Natchez, entering upon what was called the difficulties of their ascent. Wherever a point projected so as to render the course or bend below it of some magnitude, there was an eddy, the returning current of which was sometimes as strong as that of the middle of the great stream. The barge, therefore, rowed up pretty close under the bank and had merely to keep watch in the bow, lest the boat should run against a planter or sawyer. But the boat has reached the point, and the current is there, to all appearance, double strength, and right against it. The men, who have rested a few minutes, are ordered to take their station and lay hold of their oars, for the river must be crossed, it being seldom possible that such a point can be doubled and proceed along the same shore.

The boat is crossing, its head slanting to the current which is, however, too strong for the rowers, and when the other side of the river has been reached, it has drifted perhaps a quarter of a mile.

The men are by this time exhausted, and as we suppose it to be twelve o'clock, fasten the boat to a tree on shore.

A small glass of whisky is given to each when they cook and eat their dinner, and after resting from their fatigue for an hour, recommence their labors.

The boat is seen again slowly advancing against the stream.

It has reached the lower end of a sandbar, along the edge of which it is propelled by means of long poles, if the bottom be hard. Two men, called bowsmen, remain at the bow, to assist, in concert with the steersman, in managing the boat, and keeping the head right against the current. The rest place themselves on the land side of the foot-way of the vessel, put one end of their poles on the ground, and the other against their shoulders, and push with all their might.

As each of the men reaches the stern, he crosses to the other side, runs along it and comes to the landward side of the bow, when he recommences the operation. The barge, in the meantime, is ascending at the rate not exceeding one mile the hour.

The bar is at length passed, and as the shore is straight in sight on both sides, and the current uniformly strong; the


poles are laid aside and the men being equally divided, those on the riverside take to the oars while those on the other side lay hold of branches of willows or other trees, and thus slowly propel the boat.

Here and there, however, the trunk of a fallen tree, laying partly on the bank and partly in the water, impedes their progress, and requires to be doubled. This is performed by striking into it with the iron points of the poles and gaff hooks, and propelling around it. The sun is now quite low and the barge is again secured in the best harbor within reach for the night, after having accomplished a distance of perhaps fifteen miles. The next day the wind proves favorable, the sails are set and the boat takes all the advantages, and meeting with no accidents has ascended thirty miles — perhaps double that distance.

The next day comes with a very different aspect. The wind is right ahead, the shores without trees of any kind, and the cane on the bank so thick and stout that not even the cordelles can be used. This occasions a halt. The time is not altogether lost, as most of the men being provided with rifles take to the woods and search for the deer, the turkey or the bear which are generally abundant. Three days may pass before the wind changes, and the advantages gained on the previous five days are forgotten.

Again the boat advances, but in passing over a shallow place runs on a log and swings with the current, but hangs fast, with her lea side almost under the water. Now for the poles; all hands are on deck, bristling and pushing. At length, towards sunset, the boat is once more afloat and is again taken to the shore where the weary crew passes another night.

I could tell you of the crew abandoning the boat, and of numberless accidents and perils. But enough to say advancing in this tardy manner, the boat that left New Orleans on the first of March often did not reach the falls of the Ohio until the month of July — sometimes not until October — and after all this immense trouble it brought only a few bags of coffee, and at most one hundred hogsheads of sugar. Such was the state of things as late as 1808. The number of barges at that period did not amount to more than twenty or thirty, and the largest probably did not exceed one hundred tons burden.

To make the best of this fatiguing navigation, I may conclude by saying a barge that came up in three months had done wonders, for, I believe very few voyages were made in that time.


Chapter XI.

IN this little history Mr. Audubon has said nothing of what was by far the most "dangerous danger," to which the crews of these crafts were exposed. This was the attack, open and fearless, as well as sneaking and treacherous, to the boatmen.

The country on both sides of the river from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio was almost an unpeopled wilderness. On the north side of the river from Fort Massac there lay a gang of these desperadoes, whose exploits need only the genius of a Schiller to render them the wonder of the world and the admiration of those who love to gloat over tales of blood. There was an independence and a recklessness of life and of danger connected with these fellows, with a dash of spirit and humor, that would render them excellent material in the hands of a skillful novelist. But they lacked that high sense of honor, and that gentlemanly bearing, which made heroes of the robbers of the Rhine, of Venice, or of Mexico. Their plan of action was to induce the crew of the passing "broad-horn" to land to play a game of cards (the favorite pastime of the boatmen), and to cheat them unmercifully. If this scheme failed they would pilot the boats into a difficult place, or, in pretended friendship give them from the shore such direction as would not fail to run them on a snag or dash them to pieces on some hidden obstruction.

If they were outwitted in all this, they would creep into the boats when they were tied up at night, and bore holes in the bottom, or scrape out the caulking. When the boat was sinking they would get out skiffs and crafts of all kinds and in the most philanthropic manner, come to save the goods from wreck; and save them they did, for they would row them up small creeks that led from swamps into the interior and no trace of them could afterwards be found; or, if some hardy fellow dared to go in pursuit of his saved cargo, he was sure to find an unknown grave in the morasses.

One of the most famous of these boatwreckers was Col. Fluger, of New Hampshire, who is better known in the West as "Col. Plug."

This worthy gentleman long held undisputed sway over the quiet wreckers about the mouth of Cash Creek. He was supposed to possess the keys to every warehouse between the place and Louisville, and to have them for his own private


purposes on many occasions. He was a married man and became the father of a family. His wife's soubriquet was Pluggy, and like many others of her sex, her charms were a sore affliction to the Colonel's peace of mind. Plug's lieutenant was suspected of making familiarity with Mrs. Colonel Plug.

The Colonel's wise sense of honor was outraged, his family pride aroused.

He called Lieutenant Nine-eyes to the field. "Dern your soul, do you think this sort of candlestick ammer (clandestine amour, he meant) will pass? If you do, by gosh, I will put it to you, or you shall to me."

They used rifles. The ground was measured; the affair was settled in the most approved style. And they did put it to each other.

Each received a ball in some fleshy part, and each admitted that he was satisfied.

"You are all grit," said Col. Plug.

"And you waded in like a real Kentuck," rejoined Nine-eyes.

Col. Plug's son and heir, who was, very possibly, the subject matter of dispute, and who was upon the ground, was ordered to place a bottle of whisky midway between the disputants.

Up to this they limped, and over it they embraced, swearing they were too well used to these things to be plugged by a little cold lead. And Pluggy's virtue having been thus proved immaculate, the duel as well as the animosities of the parties ceased.

Col. Plug, man of honor as he was, sometimes met with very rough treatment from the boatmen, whose half savage natures could ill appreciate a gentleman of his birth and breeding.

An instance of this is recorded by the same historian, upon whom we have drawn for the greater part of the account of the duel. A broadhorn from Louisville had received rough usage from Plug's men the year before, and, accordingly, on their next descent, they laid their scheme of revenge. Several of the crew left the boat before they arrived at Plugs' domain, and quietly stole down the bank at its place of landing.

The boat with its small crew was quietly landed. The men hospitably received, and invited to sit down to a game of cards.

They were scarcely seated and placed their money before them, when Plug's signal whistle sounded in their ears for an


attack. The reserve corps of boatmen also heard it, knew its import and rushed to the rescue. The battle was quickly over.

Three of Plug's men were thrown into the river and the rest fled, leaving their brave commander on the field.

Resistance did not avail him.

Those worthless boatmen stripped him to the skin, and forced him to embrace a sapling about the size of his Pluggy's waist, they bound him immovable to this.

Then seizing the cowhide, each applied it until he was tired, and so they left him alone with his troublesome thoughts and with a yet more troublesome host of mosquitoes, which they could now get access to with ease.

Pluggy, finding her lord besieged with those troublesome little fellows, sought to relieve and sympathize with him, but the only response she received was a curse.

Not long after this Plug came to his untimely end. Just as a squall was coming up he was in a boat, whose crew had left it for an hour or two, engaged in the exercise of his profession, that is he was digging the caulking out of the bottom, when the storm came on rather prematurely, and broke the fastnings of the boat. It began to sink, and after several vain efforts to reach the shore the valiant Colonel sank with the boat and was seen no more.

This sketch of the character of the boatwreckers will prepare the reader for forming some idea of the boatmen who were their prey.

Among the most celebrated of those every reader of western history will remember Mike Fink, the hero of his class.

So many and so marvelous are the stories told of this man that numbers of persons are inclined altogether to disbelieve his existence. That he did live, however, does not admit of a doubt. Many are yet living who knew him personally.

As it is to him that all remarkable stories of western river adventures are attributed, his history will form the only example here given to illustrate the character of the Western bargeman.

It is necessary, however, to observe that while Mike possessed all the characteristics of his class, a history of all the adventures attributed to him would present these characteristics in an exaggerated degree. Even the slight sketch here drawn cannot pretend to authenticity.

For aside from the fact that, like other heroes, Mike has suffered from the exuberant fancy of his historians.

He has also had in his own person to atone to posterity for many acts which never came from under his hand seal.


As the representative, however, of an extinct class of men his ashes will not rise in indignation, even if he is again made the hero of "fields his valor never more."

Mike Fink was born in or near Pittsburg, where certain of his relatives still reside. In his earlier capacity he acted as an Indian spy and won great renown for himself by the wonderful facility by which, while still a boy, he gained knowledge of every moment and act of the foe.

But while in the exercise of this calling the free, wild and adventurous life of the boatman attracted his youthful fancy. And the enchanting music of the broadhorn soon allured him away from Pittsburg to try his fortune on the broad Ohio.

He had learned to mimic all the tones of the boatman's horn, and he longed to go to New Orleans, where he learned the people spoke French, and wore their Sunday clothes every day. He went, and from a humble pupil in his profession, soon became a glorious master.

When the river was too low to be navigable, Mike spent his time in rifle-shooting, then so eminently useful and desirable an accomplishment. And in this, as in all his serious undertakings, he soon compassed his compeers. His skill with the rifle was so universally acknowledged that whenever Mike was present at a shooting-match for beef, which was then a common occurrence all over the country, he was allowed the fifth quarter, i.e. the hide and the tallow, without a shot. This was a perquisite for Mike's skill, and one he always claimed, always attained and always sold for whisky with which to treat the crowd. His capacity as a drinker was enormous. He could drink a gallon in twenty-four hours without its effect being perceptible in his language or demeanor. Mike was a bit of a wag, too, and had a singular way of enforcing his jests. He used to say he told his jokes on purpose to be laughed at, and no man should make light of them. The consequence was that whoever had the temerity to refuse a laugh when Mike intended to raise one, received a sound drubbing and an admonition for the future, which was seldom neglected.

His practical jokes, for so he and his associates called their predations on the inhabitants on the shores along which they passed, were always characterized by a boldness of design, and a sagacity of execution that showed no mean talent on Mike's part. One of the most ingenious of these tricks and one which affords a fair idea of the spirit of them all, is told as follows: Passing slowly down the river Mike observed a large and beautiful flock of sheep grazing on the shore, and being


in want of provisions, but scorning to buy them, Mike hit upon the following expedient:

He noticed there was an eddy near the shore, and as it was now dark he moved his boat into the eddy and tied her fast. In his cargo there were some bladders of Scotch snuff. Mike opened one of these, and taking a handful of the contents he went ashore and catching five or six of the sheep, rubbed their noses very thoroughly with the snuff. He then returned to his boat and sent one of his men in a great hurry to the sheep owner's home to tell him he had better come down and see what was the matter with his sheep. In going down hastily in answer to Mike's summons, the gentleman saw a portion of his flock very singularly affected. Floating, bleating and rubbing their noses againt the ground and against each other, and performing all manner of undignified antics.

The gentleman was very sorely puzzled and demanded of Mike if he knew what was the matter with his sheep.

"You don't know?" answered Mike very gravely.

"I do not," replied the gentleman.

"Did you ever hear of the black murrain?" asked Mike in a confidential whisper.

"Yes," said the sheep owner in a terrified reply.

"Well that is it," replied Mike. "All the sheep up the river has got it dreadful. Dyin' like rotten dogs, hundreds a day."

"You don't say so," said the victim. "And is there no cure for it?"

"Only one as I knows of," was the reply. "You see the murrain is dreadful catchen', and if you don't get them away as is got it, they will kill the whole flock. Better shoot them right off, they has got to die any way."

"But no man could single out the infected sheep and shoot them from among the flock," said the man.

"My name is Mike Fink," was the curt reply. And it was answer enough.

The gentleman begged him to shoot the infected sheep and throw them in the river. This was exactly what Mike wanted, but he pretended to resist. "It might be a mistake," he said.

"They will, maybe, get well. He did not like to shoot many sheep on his own say so. He had better go and ask some of his neighbors if it was the murrian sure 'nuf." The gentleman insisted and Mike modestly resisted until he was finally promised two gallons of old peach brandy if he would comply.

His scruples, finally thus overcome, Mike shot the sheep, and threw them into the eddy, and got the brandy.


After dark the men jumped into the water and hauled the sheep on board, and by daylight had them packed away and were gliding merrily down the stream.

(This incident is by some accredited to Wm. Creasy, a bargeman of the James River.)

Chapter XII.

Another story is told of rather a different character of this resolute man. It occurred on the Mississippi river. A negro had come down to the bank to gaze at the passing boat, who had the singularly projecting heel, peculiar to some races of Africans. This peculiarity caught Mike's eye, and so far outraged his idea of symmetry that he determined to correct it. Accordingly he raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired, carrying away the offensive projection. The negro fell, crying murder, believing himself to be mortally wounded. Mike was apprehended for this trick at St. Louis, and found guilty. But we do not hear of the infliction of any punishment.

A writer in the Western Monthly Review, for July, 1829, in a letter to the editor of that magazine, asserts that he himself has seen the records of this case in the books of the court, and Mike's only defense was, that the fellow could not wear a genteel boot, and he wanted to fix it so that he could.

One of the feats with his rifle, of which he used to boast of, occurred somewhere in Indiana.

Mike's boat was laying to, from some cause, and he had gone ashore in pursuit of game. As he was creeping along with the stealthy tread of a cat, his eye fell upon a fine buck, browsing on the edge of a barren spot, a little distance off. Repriming his rifle and picking the flint, he made his approach in his usual noiseless manner.

At the moment he reached the spot at which he went to take aim, he spied a large Indian intent upon the same object, approaching from a direction little different from his own. Mike shrank behind a tree with the quickness of thought, and keeping his eye upon the hunter waited the result with patience. In a few moments the Indian halted within fifty paces and leveled his piece at the deer. Instantly Mike presented his rifle at the body of the savage, and at the moment smoke issued from the gun of the latter the bullet of Fink


passed through the red man's breast. He fell dead, uttering a yell at the same instant the deer fell. Mike reloaded his rifle and remained in cover some minutes to ascertain whether any more enemies were at hand.

He ascertained that the Indian and the deer were both dead, when he took the choice parts of the latter and returned to his boat, always thereafter claiming he had "killed two birds with one stone."

After the introduction of steamboats on the western waters Mike's occupation was gone. He could not consent, however, altogether to quit his free, wild life of adventure, and accordingly, in 1822, he, together with Carpenter and Tolbert, who were his firmest friends, joined "Henry and Ashley's" company of Missouri trappers, and with this company they proceeded, the same year, to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. Here a fort was built and from this point parties of hunters were sent out in all directions. Mike, with his two friends and nine others, formed one of these parties, and preferring to live to themselves, they dug a hole in the river bluff, and here spent the winter. While here Mike and Carpenter had a fierce quarrel, caused, probably by rivalry in the favors of a certain squaw.

Previous to this time the friendship of these two had been unbounded. Carpenter was equally as good a shot as Mike, and it had been their custom to place a tin cup of whisky on each other's head and shoot it off at a distance of seventy yards with their rifles. This feat they had often performed and always successfully. After the quarrel and the spring had returned, they revisited the fort, and over a cup whisky they talked over their difficulty, and renewed their vows of amity, which was to be ratified by the usual trial of shooting at the tin cup. They skyed a copper for the first shot and Mike won it. Carpenter, who knew Mike thoroughly, declared he was going to be killed, but scorned to refuse the test. He prepared himself for the worst. He bequeathed his gun, pistols, wages, etc., to Talbot in case he should be killed. They went to the field and while Mike loaded his gun and prepared for the shot, Carpenter filled a tin cup to the brim, and without moving a feature, placed it on his devoted head. At the target Mike leveled his piece. After fixing his arm, he took down his gun and laughingly cried. Then raising the gun again he pulled the trigger and in an instant Carpenter fell and expired without a groan.

The ball had entered at the center of the forehead, about an inch and a half above the eyes. Mike coolly set down his


rifle and blew the smoke out of it, keeping his eye fixed upon the prostrate body of his quondam friend. "Carpenter," said he, "have you spilt the whisky?" He was told that he had killed Carpenter. "It's all an accident," said he, "I took as fair a bead on the black spot on the cup as ever I took on squirrel's eye. How could it happen?" and he fell to cursing gun, powder, bullet and himself.

In the wild country where they were the hand of justice could not reach Mike and he went unmolested. But Talbot had determined to revenge Carpenter, and one day, after several months had elapsed, when Mike, in a drunken fit, boasting in Talbot's presence that he had killed Carpenter intentionally, and that he was glad of it, Talbot drew out one of the pistols which had been left him by the murdered man, and shot Mike through the heart. In less than four months after this Talbot was himself drowned in attempting to swim the Titan river, and with him perished "the last of the bargemen."

Mike Fink's person is described by the writer in the Western Monthly, before referred to: His weight was about one hundred and eighty pounds, height about five feet nine inches, broad round face, pleasant features, brown skin, tanned by sun and rain, blue but very expressive eyes, inclining to gray, broad white teeth, square brawny form, well proportioned, every muscle of the arms, thighs and legs perfectly developed, indicating the greatest strength and activity. His person, taken altogether, was a model for a Hercules, except as to size. Of his character, Mike himself has given the best epitome. He used to say: "I can out run, out hop, out jump, thrown down, drag out, and lick any man in the country. I am a Salt River roarer, I love the wimen, and am chock full of fight."


Chapter XIII. [From Sharf's History of St. Louis and County.]

Referring to the character of the vogageurs or boatmen on the western rivers before the introduction of steamboats, is the following: —

"The boatmen were a class by themselves, a hardy, adventurous, muscular set of men, inured to constant peril and privation, and accustomed to severe and unremitting toil. For weeks, and even months at a time they saw no faces but their companions among the crew, or on some passing craft, and their days from daylight until dark were spent in constant toil at the oars, or poles, or tugging at the rope, either on the boat, or on shore, as they were employed, either at warping or cordelling.

At night, after "tying up" their time was spent either in gaming, carousing, story telling, etc. — the amusement of the evening being varied not infrequently by a fisticuff encounter.

The labor performed in their occupation was of the severest kind, and the constant and arduous exercise produced in most of them extraordinary physical development.

So intense was the exertion usually required to propel and guide the boat, that a rest was necessary every hour, and from 14 to 20 miles was all that could be made against the current.

The sense of physical power, which naturally accompanied the steady exercise of the muscles inspired the average boatman, not merely with insensibility of danger, but a bellicoseness of disposition, which seems to have been characteristic of his class.

The champion pugilist of a boat was entitled to wear a red feather in his cap, and this badge of pre-eminence was universally regarded as a challenge to all rivals.

In summer the boatmen were usually stripped to the waist, and their bodies exposed to the sun were turned to the swarthy hues of the Indian. In winter they were clothed in buckskin breeches and blankets (capots), a grotesque combination of French and Indian styles, which gave their attire a wild and peculiar appearance.

Their food was of the simplest character. After a seven days' toil, says "Moneth," at night they took their "fillie," or ration of whisky, swallowed their homely supper of meat


half burned and bread half baked, retiring to sleep they stretched themselves upon the open deck without covering, under the open canopy of heaven, or probably enveloped in a blanket until the steersman's horn called them to their morning fillie and their toil.

Hard and fatiguing was the life of the boatman, yet it was rare that any of them changed their occupation. There was a charm in the excesses, in their frolics, and in the fightings which they anticipated at the end of the voyage which cheered them on.

Of weariness, none would complain, but rising from his bed at the dawn of day, and reanimated by his morning draught, he was prepared to hear the wonted order, "stand to your poles and set off."

The boatmen were masters of the winding horn and the fiddle, and as the boat moved off from her moorings, some, to cheer their labors, or "scare off the devil and secure good luck," would wind the animating blast of the horn, which, mingling with the sweet music of the fiddle and reverberating along the shores, greeted the solitary dwellers along the banks with news from New Orleans.

Levity and volubility were conspicuous traits of the boatman's character, and while he was willing to perform long and continued labor, he would render such service only to a "patroon" whom he respected. In fine, the average keel-boatman was cool, reckless, even to the verge of rashness, and pugnacious, but, notwithstanding certain grave shortcomings, an unmitigated hater of all darker shades of sin and wrong-doing, such as robbing, murdering for plunder, crimes in his day that were frequently and boldly perpetrated along the sparsely settled banks and lonely islands on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The departure of a boat was an important event in the uneventful life of the inhabitants of Western towns.

On such occasions it was customary for the friends to assemble on the banks to bid adieu to the voyageurs. Sometimes half the population of the village was present to tender their wishes for a prosperous trip."

For years it was believed that no keel-boat could ascend the Missouri River. The rapidity of the current was supposed to present an insuperable obstacle to the navigation with such a craft.

The doubt was settled by the energy of George Sarpy, who sent a keel-boat under Capt. La Brosse to try the difficult experiment of ascending the Missouri. The success of the


undertaking marked a signal advance in Western river navigation, and supplied the merchants of St. Louis with new facilities for the transportation of goods, while it greatly extended the operations of boatmen and increased their numbers.

Of the keel-boatmen, when classed by nativity, the Kentuckians bore the most unenviable reputation, on account of the fact that they were generally characterized by excessive recklessness and bellicoseness, and we are told that so gloomy was the reputation of the Kentuckians, that travelers were liable at every place (except at the miserable wayside taverns) to have the door shut in their faces on applying for refreshments or a night's lodging. Nor would any plea or circumstance alter the decided refusal of a matron or mistress, unless it might be the uncommonly genteel appearance or equipage of the traveler. For a similar reason, perhaps, badly built boats, with poor or injured plank in their bottoms, which had been sold to unsuspecting parties, were known as "Kentucky boats."

"In 1802," says a writer on "Early Navigators," in a St. Louis paper, "A Mr. Winchester's boat struck a rock in the Ohio river, below Pittsburg a short distance, and one of her bottom plank being badly stove in, she sank immediately, having on board a valuable cargo of dry goods.

The proprietor, not being on board at the time, conceived, when informed of the disaster, that it had been caused by the carelessness of the person to whom he had entrusted the care of the boat and cargo, and brought suit against him for damages. Indeed it was somewhat evident, from all that could be learned, that the patroon had no business in the neighborhood of the rock which sunk the boat, and could and should have avoided it.

The defendant's position was somewhat gloomy, but his resources were equal to the emergency. The suit was before (Dr.) Justice Richardson, of Pittsburg, who himself had had some sad experience with "Kentucky boats." The defendant knowing, or having been informed of this, hired two men, went down to the boat and procured some pieces of the plank that had given way. On the day of the trial, after the plaintiff had, as every one thought, fully established his charges and demands, the justice asked the defendant if he had any rebutting evidence to offer. "Yes, your Honor, I have;" and reaching down under the seat, he drew out the pieces of plank above mentioned, and said: "I have no evidence, your Honor, except these pieces of plank which I can prove to your Honor are a part of the same plank the breaking


of which caused the sinking of the boat, which I say would not have occurred if the plank had been reasonably sound. Look at them; your Honor will find that it was my misfortune to have been placed in charge of one of these damned Kentucky boats."

Without in any way noticing the blasphemous expression, the justice examined the pieces, which proved to be thoroughly rotten and defective, unfit to be put anywhere, much less in the bottom of a boat. After hearing from the defendant's helpers, that those pieces were taken from the boat in question, and the identical place where she had broken, the court delivered its mind as follows: —

"This court had the misfortune once to place a valuable cargo on a Kentucky boat, not knowing it to be such; which sunk and went down in 17 feet of water, this court believed by coming in contact with a yellow bellied catfish, there being no snag, or rock, or other obstruction near her at the time. And this court being satisfied with the premises in this case doth order that the same be dismissed at the plaintiff's cost — to have included therein the expenses of the plaintiff's costs, in going to and returning from the wreck, for the purpose of obtaining such damnable and irrefutable evidence as this bottom plank has furnished." The bottom plank was deemed proof so conclusive and the prejudice against Kentucky boats in the minds of the public, and it was so extended and settled that it was thought inadvisable to urge the suit any further."

Whatever may have been the law and the practice in those days, all modern decisions in similar cases would have exonerated the defendant, as the boat in question was undoubtedly unseaworthy, although it would have been necessary, in the case cited by Justice Richardson, of the Pittsburg court, to have introduced some testimony to satisfy any court or jury as to the size and character of the yellow bellied catfish of that day.


Chapter XIV.

Besides the ordinary dangers of the treacherous currents, "cave-ins," shoals and snags of the Mississippi, and occasional assaults from prowling savages, the early boatmen were often called upon to face the more serious attacks of river pirates. Many a boat load of costly merchandise intended for the warehouses of St. Louis never reached its destination. The misdeeds of the robbers were not always limited to the seizure of goods. The proof of rapine was often extinguished by the murder of the witnesses.

The caves of the pirates were often rich with the spoils of a plundered commerce, and the depredations became more frequent in proportion to the impunity with which they were committed. At last the interruption of trade became so gross and the danger to life so eminent that the Governor-General of Louisiana was constrained to take more effective steps for the suppression of the bandits. An official order excluding single boats from the Mississippi granted the privilege of navigation only to flotillas, that were strong enough to repel their assailants. The plan succeeded; the pirates were ultimately driven from their haunts.

The arrival at St. Louis in 1788 of a flotilla of ten boats was a memorable occasion in the annals of the village. It was the last year of Don Francisco Cruzat's second administration.

In the year before, M. Beausoliel, a New Orleans merchant had been captured by pirates, near the island that still bears his name, and subsequently escaping, killed the pirates and recaptured his boat. He then returned to New Orleans and reported his experience to the governor, who thereupon issued the order that all boats bound for St. Louis the following spring should sail together for mutual protection. This was carried out and the flotilla des dix baledux made the voyage, capturing at Cotton Creek the camp and supplies of the pirates, with a valuable assortment of miscellaneous plunder which had been taken from many boats on previous occasions.

In an advertisement published in 1794, the patrons of an especial line of boats were assured of their safety. The statements which were made to allay apprehension, showed that the fear of the pirates was not then groundless. A large crew, skillful in the use of arms, a plentiful supply of muskets and ammunition, equipment on each boat of six one-pound cannon,


and a loop-hole rifle-proof cabin for the passengers, were the means of defense which were provided, on which were based the hopes of security.

So formidable an array of weapons was not well calculated to inspire timid natures with confidence in the safety of the voyage. The boatmen were very active in rooting out the nests of pirates, and not infrequently administered lynch law, in summary fashion. One of the most sanguinary incidents of this character was that which occurred in 1809. Island 94, or Stack Island, or, as it is sometimes called, "Crow's Nest," 170 miles above Natchez, was notorious for many years as a den for the rendezvous of horse thieves, counterfeiters, robbers and murderers. It was a small island in the middle of "Nine Mile Reach." From thence they would sally forth, stop passing boats, murder the crew, or, if this seemed impracticable, would buy their horses, flour, whisky, etc., and pay for them.

Their villainies became notorious, and several years pursuit by the civil officer's of the law failed to produce any result in the way of punishment or eradication. But they were at length made to disappear by the application of lynch law, from several keel boat crews. The full history of this affair has never been unfolded, and perhaps never will be. But for terrible retribution and complete annihilation outside of any authorized decrees, it never had its equal in any administration of lynch law, the recitals of which cast so many shadows on the West and South.

The autumn of 1809 had been marked by many atrocities on the part of the bandits of the "Crow's Nest." Several boats and their entire crews had disappeared at that point, and no traces could be found of them afterwards. The country around and up and down the river, had been victimized and robbed in almost every conceivable form, by depredators, whose movements could be traced satisfactorily towards the Crow's Nest. At one time it occurred that several keel boats were concentrated at the head of Nine Mile Reach, within speaking distance of each other, being detained by heavy contrary winds.

The crews of these boats were well informed as to the villainies of those who harbored on the little island a few miles below them. Many of them had friends and comrades on the boats that had been among the missing ones. By what means it was brought about, or at whose suggestion or influence, it was never known. But one dark night, a few hours before daylight, eighty or ninety men from


these wind-bound crafts, well armed, descended in their small boats to the Crow's Nest and surprised its occupants, whom they secured after a short encounter, in which two of the boatmen were wounded and several of the robbers killed. Nineteen men, a boy of fifteen, and two women were thus captured. Shortly after sunrise, the boy, on account of his extreme youth, and the two women, were allowed to depart. What was the punishment meted out to the men, whether shot or hanged, was never ascertained with any degree of certainty.

None but the boy, the boatmen and the two women, however, ever left the island alive, and by twelve o'clock noon, the crews were back to their boats, and, the wind having calmed the night before, they shoved out, and by sunset they were far down the river and away from the scene of the indisputably just, although unlawful retribution. Two years afterward came the terrible earthquake, which, with the floods of 1811 and '13, destroyed every vestige of the Crow's Nest, leaving nothing of it to be seen but a low sand-bar, and with it passed away from public sight and mind all signs of the bandits, their crimes, and the awful doom that awaited them.

Some years later a new type of desperadoes appeared who, if history and tradition do not greatly believe them, were not much more exemplary in their conduct than the pirates and buccaneers that preceded them.

Mike Fink, in particular, was the model hero of the Mississippi boatmen, who has figured on the pages of popular romance, was a ruffian of surpassing strength and courage.

His rifle was unerring, and his conscience was as easy and accommodating as a man in his line of business could wish. His earliest vocation was that of a boatman, but he belonged to a company of government spies or scouts, whose duty it was to watch the movements of the Indians on the frontier. At that time Pittsburgh was on the extreme verge of the white population, and the spies who were constantly employed generally extended their reconnaissance forty or fifty miles west of that place. Going out singly, and living in Indian style, they assimilated themselves to the habits, tastes and feelings of the Indians.

In their border warfare, the scalp of a Shawnee was considered about as valuable as the skin of a panther. Mike Fink, tiring of this, after awhile returned to the water life, and engrafting several other occupations on that of a boatman, put all mankind, except that of his employer, to whom he was honest and faithful, under contribution and became


came nothing more nor less than a freebooter. "Mike, having murdered Joe Stephens, was killed by one of Joe's brothers." — (See history of Mike in another chapter.)

Chapter XV.

James Girty, another or the famous Mississippi boatmen, was represented as a natural prodigy, not constructed like other men, for instead of ribs, nature had provided him with a solid bony covering on both sides, without any interstices through which a knife, dirk or bullet could penetrate.

He possessed amazing muscular power, and courage in proportion, and his great boast was that he had never been whipped. The trade conducted by these boats was of considerable importance.

As early as 1802 the annual exports of the Mississippi Valley amounted to $2,160,000, and the imports to $2,500,000. Up to 1804 the annual value of the fur trade of Upper Louisiana amounted to $203,750. The Province then exported lead, salt, beef and pork, and received Indian goods from Canada, domestics from Philadelphia and Baltimore, groceries from New Orleans, and hardware from the Ohio River.

Short notices in the newspapers of the day, announcing, "Wanted to freight from this place to Louisville about 1,600 weight. Apply at the printing office."

"Thirteen boatmen are wanted to navigate a fur boat to New Orleans, to start about the 15th of next month. Customary wages will be given."

"The barge Scott will start from St. Louis on the first of March, and will take freight for Louisville or Frankfort in Kentucky, on reasonable terms. Apply to John Steele."


We doubt whether so unique or so old a bill of lading can be found in the Valley of the Mississippi as that which follows. It is a translation from a bill of sale executed the 18th of May, 1741, by Barois, a notary in Kuskaskia, Ills.

"And it has been further agreed that said Mettazer promises to deliver to said Bienvena, at the landing place of this town of Kaskaskia, at his own risks, the fortunes of war excepted, an iron kettle, weighing about 290 pounds, used for the


manufacture of salt, and which said Bienvena owns in New Orleans, and said Bienvena promises to pay to said Mettazer, for his salary and freight, after the delivery of said kettle, a steer in good order, three bushels of salt, two hundred pounds of bacon, and twenty bushels of Indian corn under the penalty of all costs, etc."

[From St. Louis Republican.]

"Shipped by Peter Provenchere, of the town of St. Louis, merchant, on board the boat ‘Jas. Maddison,’ whereof Charles Quivey is master, now laying at the landing before the town of St. Louis, and ready immediately to depart for Louisville, Ky.

"F. T. Six packs of deer skins marked and numbered as per margin. And a barrel of bear oil, containing about thirty-two gallons, all in good order and well condition, which I promise to deliver in like good order and condition, unavoidable accidents excepted, unto Mr. Francis Tarriscon or to his assignees. And, moreover, I acknowledge to have of the said Peter Provenchere a note of Peter Menard on Louis Lorimer, inhabitant of Cape Girardeau, four thousand pounds of receiptable deer skins, the said note transferred to my order, and I bind and engage myself to ask of the said Louis Lorimer the payment of the said note, and if I reclaim it to deliver to the said Francis Tarriscon, or assign the one thousand pounds of deer skins, together with the six packs and the barrel now received, and in case of no payment to return the note to Mr. Tarriscon, he or they paying freight.

"In witness whereof I have set my hand to three bills of lading, all of the same tenor and date, one being accomplished, the others null and void. CHARLES QUIVY.

"Test. WM. C. CARR, ST. LOUIS, 8th, A. D., 1809."


Chapter XVI. "The West." Published in Cincinnati, 1848, by James Hall.

The French, who first explored our Northern frontier, ascended the great chain of lakes to Huron and Michigan, and afterwards penetrated through Lake Superior, to that remote wilderness, where the head branches of the St. Lawrence interlock with those of the Mississippi. Adopting, and probably improving the bark canoe of the natives, they were enabled to traverse immeasurable wilds, which nature had seemed to have rendered inaccessible to man by floods of water at one season and masses of ice and snow at another, by the wide-spread lakes, and ponds, and morasses, which in every direction intercepted the journey by land, and by the cataracts and rapids, which cut off the communication by water. All difficulties vanished before the efficiency of this little vessel; its wonderful buoyancy enabled it, though heavily freighted, to ride safely over the waves of the lakes, even in boisterous weather; its slender form and lightness of draught permitted it to navigate the smallest streams, and pass the narrowest channels; while its weight was so little, that it was easily carried on the shoulders of men from one stream to another. Thus when these intrepid navigators found the river channel closed by an impassable barrier, the boat was unloaded, the freight, which had previously been formed into suitable packages for that purpose, was carried round the obstruction by the boatmen, the boat itself performed the same journey, and then was again launched in its proper element. So, also, when a river had been traced up to its sources, and no longer furnished sufficient water for navigation, the accommodating bark canoe, like some amphibious monster, forsook the nearly exhausted channel and traveled across the land to the nearest navigable stream. By this simple but admirable contrivance, the fur trade was secured, the great continent of North America was penetrated to its center through thousand of miles of wilderness, and a valuable staple brought to the marts of commerce. If we regard that little boat as the means of bringing to market this great mass of the treasures of the wilderness, we may well remark that never was an important object affected by means so insignificant.


But the human labor, and peril, and exposure — the courage, the enterprise, and the skill employed, were far from insignificant. The results were great. Besides the vast trade which was developed, the interior of a great continent was explored, the boundaries between two empires were traced out and incidentally established, an intercourse with the Indian tribes was opened, and valuable facts were added to the treasures of science. And all this was accomplished, not by the power of an empire, not by the march of a conqueror impelled by military ambition or the lust of conquest — not by a lavish expenditure of money, or the shedding of human blood — but by the action of humble individuals acting under the great stimulus of commercial enterprise.

Turning our attention to another part of the great theater of early adventure, we see the bold explorers crossing from the lakes to the Mississippi, passing up and down that river, tracing its gigantic course from the Gulf of Mexico to the Falls of St. Anthony — erecting forts, planting settlements, and, in short, establishing a chain of posts and colonies, extending from the mouth of the Mississippi, westward of the British Colonies, to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. The adventurers to Louisiana sought the precious metals; imaginary mines of gold and silver allured them across the ocean, led them to brave the terrors of the climate and the wilderness, and sustained them under the greatest extremes of toil and privation. Though disappointed in the object of their search, they became the founders of an empire, they explored and developed the resources of the country, they led the way to that flood of emigration which had been gradually filling up the land, and scattered the germs of that prosperity which we see blooming around us, and promising harvests too great to be estimated.

"When the sagacious eye of Washington first beheld the country lying about the head-waters of the Ohio, he saw and pointed out the military and commercial advantages which might be secured by its occupation. Had the annexation of this country to the American colonies, or at a later period to the States, been a political question, how various would have been the opinions, how deliberate the discussion, how slow the action, how uncertain the result. But this splendid example of national aggrandizement was not achieved by the wisdom of statesmen, nor by the valor of armies. No sooner had a few daring pioneers settled in the wilderness, than the eager spirit of trade, ever on the watch for new fields of adventure, discovered the rich promise of gain offered by a region so wide and so fertile. Commerce did not then, nor in


any instance, in the settlement of our country, wait until ‘grim visaged war had smoothed his wrinkled front,’ as is supposed to be her usual custom. However specific in her tendencies, she did not shrink from a full participation of the perils of this glorious adventure. Following the footsteps of the pioneers, she came with the advance of the army of population.

"The first settlements in the West were made by the backwoodsmen from Virginia and North Carolina, who were soon after followed by those of Pennsylvania and Maryland. New Jersey came next in the order of population; and from these sources originated that gallant band of pioneers who explored the country, drove back the savage, and opened the way for civilization. They were a daring, a simple, and an honest people, whose history is full of romance — but it is not with the romance of history we have now to do. Simple and frugal as they were in their habits, they were still civilized men — branches of the great social circle whose center glowed with the brightest refinements of life — and they had some artificial wants beyond the mere fruits of the earth and the products of the chase, while the country abounded in the crude materials which promised an abundant supply of articles of barter.

"Wherever there is a prospect of gain, there will the adventurous feet of commerce to thread their way, however dreary the path, however difficult or dangerous the road, While the whole Alleghany ridge was still an unbroken mass of wilderness, trains of pack-horses might be seen climbing the mountain sides, by the winding bridle-path, threading the meanders of the valleys and gorges, trembling on the brinks of precipices, and sliding down the declivities, which scarcely afforded a secure footing to man or beast. They were laden with merchandise for traffic. The conductors were men inured to all the hardships which beset the traveler in the wilderness — men who united the craft of the hunter to the courage and discipline of the soldier. For the road they traveled was the war-path of the Indian — it was the track that had been beaten smooth by the feet of them that sought the blood of the white man, and who still lurked in the way, bent on plunder and carnage. There was no resting place, no accommodation, and no shelter. Throughout the day they plodded on, through the forest, scaling steep acclivities, fording rivers, enduring all the toils of an arduous march, and encamping at night in the wilderness; observing the precaution and the discipline of a military party in a hostile country. These are merchants, carrying their wares to the forts and settlements of the West;


they were the pioneers of that commerce which now employs the wealth and controls the resources of an empire. They deserve a high place among the founders of Western settlements, as they furnished the supplies of arms, ammunition, clothing, and other necessaries, which enabled the inhabitants of the frontier to sustain themselves against the hostilities of numerous tribes of Indians, incited to war by British influence, and supplied with the implements and appliances of savage warfare, by the agents of the same humane and enlightened people.

"The first boats used in the navigation of the Western rivers, were the flat-boat, the keel, and the barge, the first of which was only used in descending with the current, while the two latter ascended the streams, propelled laboriously by poles. Navigating long rivers whose shores were still infested by hostile savages, the boatmen were armed, and depended for safety upon their caution and their manhood. Mike Fink, the last of the boatmen, was an excellent marksman, and was as proud of his ability to defend his boat as of his skill to conduct it through the rapids and windings of the navigation. The Indians, lurking along the shore, used many stratagems to decoy the passengers and crews of the boat to land, and those who were unsuspicious enough to be thus deceived fell an easy prey to the marauder. Under the best circumstances these boats were slow, and difficult to manage, the cost of freight was enormous, and the means of communication uncertain.

"The application of steam power to the purposes of navigation forms the brightest era in the history of this country. It is that which has contributed more than any other event or cause to the rapid growth of our population, and the almost miraculous development of our resources. We need not pause to inquire whether the honor of the invention is due to Fitch, to Rumsey, or to Fulton, — for that inquiry is not involved in the discussion in which we are now engaged. But if we seek for the efficient patron of this all-powerful agent in the West — for the power that adopted, fostered, improved, and developed it —from an unpromising beginning, through discouragement, failure, disappointment — through peril of life, vast expenditure of money, and ruinous loss, to the most complete and brilliant success — we are again referred to the liberal spirit of commercial enterprise. Science pointed the way, but she did no more; it was the wealth of the Western merchant, and the skill of the Western mechanic, that wrought out the experiment to a successful issue. The first fruits of


the enterprise were far from encouraging; failure after failure attested the numerous and embarrassing difficulties by which it was surrounded. For although all the early boats were capable of being propelled through the water, and although the last was usually better than those which preceded it, it was long a doubtful question, whether the invention could be made practically useful upon our Western rivers; and it was not until five years of experiment, and the building of nine expensive steamboats, that the public mind was convinced by the brilliant exploit of the Washington, which made the trip from Louisville to New Orleans and back in forty-five days.

"The improvements in this mode of navigation since then have been surprising. The voyage from New Orleans to Louisville has been made in less than six days. The trip from Cincinnati to New Orleans and back is made easily in two weeks. During the high water, in the spring of 1846, the trip from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati was made in twenty-seven hours, and the packet boats between these places have now regular days and hours for departure.

"Explosions and other destructive casualties have become rare, and the navigation is now safe, except only from obstructions existing in the channels of the rivers. All that skill, enterprise, and public spirit could do, to bring this navigation to perfection, has been done by the liberal proprietors of steamboats. The wealth of individuals has been freely contributed, while that of the government has been withheld with a degree of injustice which has scarcely a parallel in the annals of civilized legislation, The history of man does not exhibit a spectacle of such rapid advancement in population, wealth, industry, and refinement, such energy, perseverance, and enlightened public spirit on the part of individuals, as is exhibited in the progress of the Western people — nor of so parsimonious and sluggish a spirit as that evinced toward us by the government. All that we have, and are, are our own, created by ourselves, unaided by a government to whose resources and power we are now the largest contributors. We build and maintain a fleet of five hundred steamboats, bearing annually a freightage of more than two hundred million dollars — while we are subjected to an immense yearly loss of life and property, from the narrow and unwise refusal of the government to make a comparatively small expenditure to remove obstructions from the channels of rivers, over which it has the sole jurisdiction.

"By our own unaided exertions we have now actively employed in the transportation of passengers and merchandise


more than five hundred steamboats, worth ten million of dollars, having the capacity of one hundred thousand tons, and plying upon a connected chain of river navigation of twelve thousand miles in extent.

"The value of the exports and imports, floating on the Western waters annually, has been estimated at two hundred and twenty millions of dollars, consisting of the products of our soil and manufacturers on one hand, and of the fabrics of foreign countries upon the other, all bought with the money of our merchants, and by them thrown into the channels of trade.

"If the mercantile class had rendered no other service to our country, than that of introducing and fostering the agency of steam, in navigation and manufactures, they would have entitled themselves to more lasting gratitude and honor, than the most illustrious statesman or hero has ever earned from the justice and enthusiasm of his country."

Chapter XVII.

Previous to the year 1817, the whole commerce from New Orleans to the upper country was carried in about twenty barges, averaging one hundred tons each, and making but one trip in the year, so that the importations from New Orleans in one year could not have exceeded the freight brought up by one of our largest steamboats in the course of a season. On the upper Ohio, there were about one hundred and fifty keel-bouts, of about thirty tons each, which made the voyage from Pittsburgh to Louisville and back in two months, or about three such trips in the year. That was about thirty years ago, and need I pause to inquire what would have been the probable condition of our country, at this time, had our commerce continued to be dependent upon such insufficient means of conveyance?

"The pioneers were a noble race, and well did they discharge the part assigned them. They led the way into the wilderness. They scaled the ramparts of the Alleghany Mountains that seemed to have been erected as barriers against the footsteps of civilized men. They beat back the savage and possessed the country. Their lives were full of peril and daring; their deeds are replete with romance.

"The farmers who have subdued the wilderness are hardy and laborious men, who have been well designated as the bone


and muscle of the country. They have cheerfully encountered obstacles from which a less resolute body of men would have shrunk in despair, and have won the fruitful fields which they possess through toils and dangers such as rarely fall to the lot of husbandmen.

"But without detracting from the merits of either of these classes, what would this country have been now, without commerce? Suppose its rural population had been left to struggle with the wilderness without the aid of the numberless appliances which have been brought to their doors by the spirit of trade, to what point would their population and their prosperity have risen? Without money, without steamboats, canals, railroads, turnpikes, and other facilities for transportation, what would have been the destiny of our broad and fertile plains? Desert and blooming, they would have sustained a scattered population, rich in flocks and herds — a roaming, pastoral people, whose numbers would have grown by the natural increase; while the country would have remained unimproved, and its rich resources locked in the bosom of the earth. But commerce came, bringing them a market for their products, offering rich rewards to industry, and stimulating labor to the highest point of exertion. She brought with her money, and the various representatives of money, established credit, confidence, commercial intercourse, united action and mutuality of interest. Through her influence the forests were penetrated by roads, bridges were thrown over rivers, and highways constructed through dreary morasses. Traveling was rendered easy and transportation cheap. Through this influence the earth was made to yield its mineral treasures; iron, lead, copper, coal, salt, saltpeter, and various other products of the mine, have been taken from our soil, and brought into common use. Our agricultural products have increased, and are daily and hourly increasing in variety and value; while in every village is seen the smoke of the manufactory, and heard the cheerful sounds of the engine and hammer.

"Such have been the trophies of commerce; and still the same salutary spirit is abroad in our land. There is no page in the history of our country more surprising, or richer in the romance of real life, than that which depicts the adventures and the perils of the traders and trappers in the wilderness beyond our Western frontier. Leaving St. Louis in large parties, well mounted and armed, they go forth with the cheerfulness of men in pursuit of pleasure. Yet their whole lives are full of danger, privation and hardship. Crossing the wide prairies, and directing their steps to the Rocky Mountains,


they remain months and even years in those savage wilds, living in the open air, without shelter, with no food but such game as the wilderness affords, eaten without bread or salt, setting their traps for beaver and otter in the mountain streams, and fighting continually with the grizzly bear and the Indian — their lives are a long series of warfare and watching, of privation and danger. These daring men secure to us the fur trade, while they explore the unknown regions beyond our borders, and are the pioneers in the expansion of our territory.

"So, too, of the caravans which annually pass from St. Louis across the great plains to Santa Fe. Their purpose is trade. They carry large amounts of valuable merchandise to the Mexican dominions, and bring back rich returns. But like the trapper, they go armed for battle, and prepared to encounter all the dangers of the wilderness. And here, too, we see the spirit of trade animated by an intelligent enterprise, and sustained by a daring courage and an invincible perseverance.

"There are many persons still living who bear in their memories the records of the last fifty years, so fraught with those momentous events, which have disturbed the repose of the world, or advanced the progress of man. The rise of Napoleon, the expansion of that gigantic military power, which had nearly conquered Europe, the lavish expenditure of blood and treasure, by that mighty conqueror, that man of brilliant genius and stubborn will, are still recent events. Within that period, kingdoms were overthrown, nations conquered, crowns transferred; — and who can forget the pomp, the circumstances, the terror, the dreadful carnage, that attended those great national changes?

"Within the same period the great plain of the Mississippi was a wilderness, embracing a few feeble and widely scattered colonies. Here also arose a mighty conqueror, more powerful than an army with banners. A vast region has been overrun and subdued. The mountains have been scaled — the hills have been leveled, and the valleys filled up, and the rough ways made smooth, to admit the ingress of the invaders. The land has been taken. A broad expanse extending over twelve degrees from north to south, and ten degrees from east to west, has been rescued from the dominion of nature, and from the hand of the savage, and brought under subjection to the laws of social subordination. A population of seven millions has been planted upon the soil. Cities have grown up on the plains, the fields are rich with harvests, and


the rivers bear the rich freights of commerce. This has nearly all been effected without the horrors of war, without national violence, without the domestic afflictions usually attendant on the train of conquest. The conquests of the war-like emperor have vanished, and his greatness perished like an airy fabric; while a commercial people, using only pacific means, have gained an empire whose breadth and wealth might easily satisfy the ambition of even a Napoleon. They have gained it by labor, by money, and by credit — by the muscular exertion of the farmer and mechanic, aided by mercantile enterprise and fiscal ability.

"The great West has now commerce within its own limits, as valuable as that which floats on the ocean between the United States and Europe. In that wide land, where so lately the beaver and honey bee were the only representatives of labor, and a painted savage the type of manhood, we manufacture all the necessaries of life, letters and the fine arts are cultivated, and beauty and fashion bloom around us.

"We have, in the West and Southwest, an incorporated banking capital of fifty millions of dollars, affording, with its circulation of notes, a capital of about one hundred millions of dollars for business; and however the demagogue may rail against these institutions, there can be no question, that their capital is so much actual power, wielded by the commercial class, for the benefit of the whole country. The poor may envy the rich the possession of that of which they feel the want, the demagogue may decry credit, for the same reason, but the truth is that this country has grown rich through the money of banks and the enterprise of merchants. The farmer has been the greatest gainer from the general prosperity. Commerce has supplied money to purchase his products; the building of mills, the creation of roads, canals, and steamboats are due to the enterprise of commerce, but they bring a market to the farmer. The agricultural products, which but a few years ago were not worth the labor of production, are now sources of wealth to the farmer — of vast aggregated wealth to the State.

"In 1795, when the troops of Wayne triumphed over a numerous Indian force, the whole territory of Ohio was a wilderness; now we have a population of two millions, actively engaged in the various pursuits of industry, a country rich in resources, highly improved, and intersected in every direction by turnpike roads, railroads and canals; the aggregate extent of the artificial communications made by the State being over fifteen hundred miles, and their cost more than


fourteen millions of dollars. And these are not military roads, constructed by the patronage of the government, neither are they the highways of a rural people, required for the purposes of social intercourse — they are the avenues of commercial system, through which wealth and property circulate throughout the broad land, nourishing its prosperity into healthful and lusty vigor — created by the wants, the influence, and the wealth of commerce.

"The introduction of steamboats upon the Western waters deserves a separate mention, because it has contributed more than any other single cause, perhaps more than all other causes which have grown out of human skill, combined, to advance the prosperity of the West. The striking natural features of this country are, its magnitude — its fertility — its mineral wealth — the number and extent of its rivers. Its peculiar adaptation to commercial purposes is evident. The richness of the soil, and the abundance of all the useful minerals combine to render agricultural labors easy, cheap and greatly productive. The amount of produce raised for consumption, and for export, is great; and the people are therefore not only able, but liberally disposed to purchase foreign products. They do, in fact, live more freely, and purchase more amply, than the farmers of any other country. The amount, therefore, of commercial capital employed, as compared with the amount of population, is great; and the vast superficial extent of country, over which these operations may be extended with safety and facility, and whose products may be exchanged, concentrated, or distributed, is unexampled. There is nothing, in the topography of any other country, to compare with the Western rivers. The Mississippi and her tributaries may be navigated in various directions, to the distance of two thousand miles from the ocean; and every portion of this immense plain is intersected by these natural canals. In these respects nature has been prodigal; it was left to human skill and energy to turn her gifts to the best advantage, and never was the intellect of man more usefully employed than in the discovery and successful introduction of steam navigation. It was all that the Western country needed; and the name of Fulton should be cherished here with that of Washington; if the one conducted us to liberty, the other has given us prosperity — the one broke the chains which bound us to a foreign country; the other has extended the channels of intercourse, and multiplied the ties which bind us to each other.

"The rapidity with which new channels of trade have been


opened, and are now daily becoming developed, is astonishing; but the improvements in navigation, and in the facilities for transporting merchandise by land and water, have been infinitely greater and more remarkable.

"It is needless to do more than mention the Indian canoe, the smallest and rudest of boats, but which, at a period but little beyond the memory of living witnesses, was the only vessel that navigated our western rivers. For the purpose of commerce they were entirely inadequate, and were never used in any regular branch of trade.

"Previous to their intercourse with the whites, the canoes of the Indians must have been much more unwieldy, and imperfect, than any that are now in use. They had no tools except the clumsy axes made of stone, of which we see specimens in our museums, and their canoes were made of solid logs by burning away the part intended to be removed. Some of the most distant tribes, who have little trade with our people, still pursue the same laborious and unsatisfactory process. When iron tools were introduced, the canoe assumed the present shape.

"The birch canoe is peculiar to the northern regions, where the tree which supplies the bark is found. These also were probably of the most crude and awkward construction, previous to the visits of the French traders, under whose directions they acquired the lightness, strength, and beauty, which have given them their celebrity.

"The earliest improvement upon the canoe was the pirogue, an invention of the whites. Like the canoe, this boat is hewed out of solid log; the difference is, that the pirogue has greater width and capacity, and is composed of several pieces of timber as if the canoe was sawed lengthwise into two equal sections, and a broad flat piece of timber inserted in the middle, so as to give greater breadth of beam to the vessel. This was probably the identical process by which the Europeans, unable to procure planks to build boats, began in the first instance to enlarge canoes to suit their purposes. They were often used as ferry boats, to transport horses across our rivers, and we have frequently seen them in operation, of a sufficient size to affect their object in perfect safety.

"These were succeeded by the barge, the keel, and the flat-boat. Of the two first, the barge was the largest, had the greatest breadth, and the best accommodations for passengers; the keel was longer, has less depth, and was better fitted to run in shallow channels. They were navigated by a rude and lawless class of men, who became distinguished as well for


their drolleries, as for their predatory and ferocious habits. In the then thinly scattered state of the population, their numbers rendered them formidable, as there were few villages on the rivers, and still fewer settlements, which contained a sufficient number of able-bodied men to cope with the crew of a barge, consisting usually of thirty or forty hands; while the arrival of several of these boats together made them completely masters of the place. Their mode of life, and the facilities they possessed of evading the law, were such as would naturally make them reckless. Much of the distance through which they traveled in their voyages was entire wilderness, where they neither witnessed the courtesies of life, nor felt any of the restraints of law; and where for days, perhaps weeks, together, they associated only with each other. The large rivers whose meanders they pursued formed the boundaries of States, so that living continually on the lines which divided different civil jurisdictions, they could pass with ease from one to the other, and never be made responsible to any.

"One of the earliest attempts at an intercourse with New Orleans, by the river, is so remarkable as to deserve a separate mention. In 1776, Messrs. Gibson and Linn, the grandfather of Dr. Linn, now a Senator in Congress from Missouri, descended by water from Pittsburgh to New Orleans to procure military stores for the troops stationed at the former place. They completely succeeded in their hazardous enterprise, and brought back a cargo of one hundred and thirty-six kegs of gunpowder. On reaching the falls of the Ohio, on their return in the spring of 1777, they were obliged to unload their boats, and carry the cargo round the rapids, each of their men carrying three kegs at a time on his back. The powder was delivered at Wheeling, and afterwards transported to Fort Pitt.

"The character of Mike Fink, ‘the last of the boatmen,’ has been rendered familiar to most readers, by the pen of one of our best writers. He was a leader of the men of his own class; and was famous for his Herculean strength, his contempt of danger, his frolics, and his depredations. He was a coarse, vulgar, desperate man — yet possessed a degree of humor, hilarity, and openness that made him remarkable, and conciliated for him a sort of popularity, which caused him to he universally known, and still preserves his name in tradition. In his calling, as a master of a boat, he was faithful — a quality which seems to have belonged to most of his class; for it is a singular fact, that lawless and wild as these men were, the valuable cargoes of


merchandise committed to their care, and secured by no other bond than their integrity, were always carried safely to their places of destination and the traveler, however weak, or however richly freighted, relied securely on their protection.

"In the earlier periods of this navigation, the boats employed in it were liable to attacks from the Indians, who employed a variety of artifices to decoy the crews into their power. Sometimes a single individual, disguised in the apparel of some unhappy white man, who had fallen into their hands, appeared on the shore making signals of distress, and counterfeiting the motions of a wounded man. The crew, supposing him to be one of their countrymen who had escaped from the Indians, would draw near the shore for the purpose of taking him on board; nor would they discover the deception until, on touching the bank, a fierce band of painted warriors would rush upon them from an artfully contrived ambuscade. Sometimes the savages crawled to the water's edge, wrapped in the skins of bears, and thus allured the boatmen, who were ever ready to exchange the oar for the rifle. But the red warriors were often sufficiently numerous to attempt, by open violence, that which they found difficult to accomplish by artifice, against men as wary, and as expert in border warfare as themselves, and boldly pursued the boats in their canoes, or rushed upon the boatmen, when the incidents or the perils of the navigation drove them to the shore.

"These boats, but rarely using sails, and receiving only an occasional impulse from their oars, descended the stream with a speed but little superior, at anytime, to that of the current; while they met with many accidents and delays to lengthen the voyage. A month was usually consumed in the passage from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, while the return voyage was not affected in less than four months, nor without a degree of toil and exposure to which nothing but the hardiest frames, and the most indomitable spirits, would have been equal. The heavily laden boats were propelled against the strong current by poles, or, where the stream was too deep to admit the use of those, drawn by ropes. The former process required the exertion of great strength and activity, but the latter was even more difficult and discouraging — as the laborer, obliged by the heat of the climate to throw aside his clothing, and expose to the burning rays of the sun, was forced to travel on the heated sand, to wade through mire, to climb precipitous banks, to push his way through brush, and often to tread along


the undermined shore, which giving away under his feet precipitated him into the eddying torrent of the Mississippi. After a day spent in toils which strained every muscle to its utmost power of exertion, he threw himself down to sleep, perhaps in the open air, exposed to the cold damps and noxious exhalation of the Lower Mississippi, and the ferocious attacks of millions of mosquitoes, and reposed as unconscious of danger, or inconvenience, as the native alligator which bellowed in the surrounding swamps.

"The flat-boat was introduced a little later than the others. It is a strong boat, with a perfectly flat bottom, and perpendicular sides; and covered throughout its whole length. Being constructed to float only with the current, it never returns after descending the river. These boats were formerly used much by emigrating families, to transport themselves down the Ohio, are still built in great numbers on the various tributary streams, and floated out in high water, with produce for New Orleans.

"The French, who navigated the northern lakes, the Mississippi and its tributaries, adopted, in their trade, the use of the Indian birch canoe. McKenny, in his "Tour to the Lakes," thus describes one of those boats.

"Its length was thirty feet, its breadth across the widest part, about four feet. It is about two and one-half feet deep in the center, but only about two feet near the bow and stern, bottom is rounded, and has no keel.

"The materials of which this canoe are built are birch bark and red cedar, the whole fastened together with wattap and gum, without a nail, or bit of iron of any sort, to confine the parts. The entire outside is bark — the bark of the birch tree — and where the edges join at the bottom or along the sides they are sewn with this wattap, and then along the seam it is gummed. Next to the bark are pieces of cedar, shaven thin, not thicker than a blade of a knife — these run horizontally, and are pressed against the bark by means of these ribs of cedar, which fit the shape of the canoe, bottom and sides, and coming up to the edges are pointed and let into a rim of cedar about an inch and a half wide, and an inch thick, that forms the gunwale of the canoe, and to these, by means of the wattap, the bark and ribs are all sewed; the wattap being wrapped over the gunwale of the canoe, and to these, by means of the wattap the bark and ribs are all sewed; the wattap being wrapped over the gunwale, and passed through the bark and ribs. Across the canoe are bars, some five or six, to keep it in shape. These are fastened by bringing their ends


against the gunwale, or edge, and fastening them to it with wattap. The seats of the voyageurs are alongside of, but below the bars, and are of plank, some four inches wide, which are swung by means of two pieces of rope, passed through each end, from the gunwale."

"These boats are so light, and so easily damaged, that precautions were necessary to be taken in loading them, yet the one described above carried not less than two thousand pounds. With these frail vessels the French navigated the Western rivers, and crossed the largest lakes, carrying on a most extensive traffic. The great peculiarity of this navigation is that these light canoes are carried with facility from one river to another, or around the rapids and cascades, over which they cannot float. Their lading is accordingly made up into packages, each of which may be carried by one man, and these are transported over the portages, on the backs of the engages, by means of straps passed over the forehead. These boats are still used in the fur trade.

"As a curious illustration of the rapid improvement of our Western vessels, and the growth of our trade, I copy the following advertisement from a newspaper called The Sentinel of the Northwestern Territory, under date of Saturday, January 11, 1794, by which it will be seen that at that time four keel boats, carrying probably not more than twenty tons each, were supposed to be sufficient for the trade between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and that these were prepared to defend themselves against enemies."


Chapter XVIII. The First Passenger Boats on the Ohio.

TWO boats for the present will start from Cincinnati for Pittsburgh, and return to Cincinnati in the following manner, viz.: —

"First boat leaves Cincinnati this morning at eight o'clock, and return to Cincinnati, so as to be ready to sail again in four weeks from this date.

"Second boat will leave Cincinnati on Saturday, the 30th inst., and return to Cincinnati in four weeks as above.

"And so regularly, each boat performing the voyage to and from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh once in every four weeks.

"Two boats, in addition to the above, will shortly be completed and regulated in such a manner that one boat of the four will set out weekly from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, and return in like manner.

"The proprietor of these boats, has naturally considered the many inconveniences and dangers incident to the common method hitherto adopted by navigating the Ohio, and being influenced by a love of philanthropy and a desire of being serviceable to the public, has taken great pains to render the accommodation on board the boats as agreeable and convenient as they could possibly be made.

"No danger need be apprehended from the enemy, as every person on board will be under cover made proof against rifle or musket balls, and convenient port-holes for firing out of. Each of the boats are armed with six pieces carrying a pound ball; also a number of good muskets, and amply supplied with plenty of ammunition; strongly manned with choice hands, and the masters of approved knowledge.

"A separate cabin from that designed for the men is partitioned off in each boat, for accommodating ladies on their passage. Conveniences are constructed on board each boat, so as to render landing unnecessary, as it might, at times, be attended with danger.

"Rules and regulations for maintaining order on board, and for the good management of the boats and tables accurately calculated for the rates of freightage, for passengers and carriage of letters to and from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh; also a table of the exact time of the arrival and departure to and from the different places on the Ohio, between Cincinnati and


Pittsburgh, may be seen on board each boat, and at the printing office in Cincinnati. Passengers will be supplied with provisions and liquors of all kinds of the first quality, at the most reasonable rates possible. Persons desirous of working their passage will be admitted on finding themselves; subject, however, to the same order and directions from the master of the boats as the rest of the working hands of the boat's crew.

"An Office of Insurance will be kept at Cincinnati, Limestone, and Pittsburgh, where persons, desirous of having their property insured, may apply. The rates of insurance will be moderate."

Such were the vessels in which the whole trade of the Western rivers was carried on, previous to the year 1811. Nor was the transportation by land farther advanced in improvement. The few roads that crossed the mountains were so wretchedly bad that wagons toiled over them with great difficulty, and a large portion of the merchandise was carried on the backs of horses. Even that was considered a triumphant result of enterprise, and a rapid advance in improvement; for a few years only had then advanced, since Mr. Brown, a delegate from Kentucky, in Congress, had been smiled at as a visionary, by the members of that august body, for asking the establishment of a mail to Pittsburgh, to be carried on horseback once in two weeks. He was told that such a mail was not needed, that it would probably never be required, and that the obstacles of the road were insuperable. That venerable patriot has lived to see the establishment of two daily mails on the same route; while the canals, the railways, and the turnpikes that lead to the West, have rendered it accessible with ease and safety, to every species of vehicle.

We proceed now to give some account of the steamboat navigation of these rivers, and shall first speak of borne early attempts towards the accomplishment of this object.

Mr. James Rumsey, of Berkely County, Virginia, invented a plan for propelling boats by steam as early as 1782, and in 1784 obtained from the Legislature of Virginia the exclusive right of navigating her waters with such boats. In 1788, he published his project, in general terms, together with numerous certificates from the most respectable characters in Virginia, among whom was General Washington, all of which assert, that a steamboat was actually constructed which moved, with her burden on board, at the rate of three or four miles an hour, against the current of the Potomac, although the machinery was in a very imperfect state. In 1819, his brother, Dr. Rumsey, of Kentucky, built a boat after this model; and at


that time it was said that the Rumsey plan united simplicity, strength, economy, and lightness in a degree, far superior to any other. The more complex machinery of Bolton and West, Fulton and Evans, has, however, been more successful.

In 1785, John Fitch, a watchmaker in Philadelphia, conceived the design of propelling a boat by steam. He was both poor and illiterate, and many difficulties occurred to frustrate every attempt he made, to try the practicability of his invention. He applied to Congress for assistance, but was refused; and then offered his invention to the Spanish government, to be used in the navigation of the Mississippi, but without any better success. At length a company was formed, and funds subscribed for the building of a steamboat, and in the year 1788, his vessel was launched on the Delaware. Many crowded to see and ridicule the novel, and, as they supposed, the chimerical experiment.

It seems that the idea of wheels had not occurred to Mr. Fitch; but instead of them, oars were used, which worked in frames. He was confident of success; and when the boat was ready for the trial, she started off in good style for Burlington. Those who had sneered began to stare, and they who had smiled in derision looked grave. Away went the boat, and the happy inventor triumphed over the skepticism of an unbelieving public. The boat performed her trip to Burlington, a distance of twenty miles; but unfortunately burst her boiler in rounding to the wharf at that place, and the next tide floated her back to the city. Fitch persevered, and with great difficulty procured another boiler. After some time, the boat performed another trip to Burlington and Trenton, and returned in the same day. She is said to have moved at the rate of eight miles an hour; but something was continually breaking, and the unhappy projector only conquered one difficulty to encounter another. Perhaps this was not owing to any defects in his plans, but to the low state of the arts at that time, and the difficulty of getting such complex machinery made with proper exactness. Fitch became embarrassed with debt, and was obliged to abandon the invention, after having satisfied himself of its practicability.

This ingenious man, who was probably the first inventor of the steamboat, wrote three volumes, which he deposited in manuscript, sealed up, in the Philadelphia library, to be opened thirty years after his death. When, or why, he came to the West we have not learned; but it is recorded of him, that he died and was buried near the Ohio. His three volumes were opened about five years ago, and were found to contain his


speculations on mechanics. He details his embarrassments and disappointments, with a feeling which shows how ardently he desired success, and which wins for him the sympathy of those who have heart enough to mourn over the blighted prospects of genius. He confidently predicts the future success of the plan, which, in his hands, failed only for the want of pecuniary means. He prophesies that, in less than a century, we shall see our Western rivers swarming with steamboats; and expresses a wish to be buried on the shores of the Ohio, where the song of the boatmen may enliven the stillness of his resting place, and the music of the steam engine sooth his spirit. What an idea! Yet how natural to the mind of an ardent projector whose whole life had been devoted to the one darling object, which it was not his destiny to accomplish! And how touching is the sentiment found in one of his journals: "The day will come when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention; but nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do any thing worthy of attention." In less than thirty years after his death, his predictions were verified. He must have died about the year 1799.

"The first steamboat built on the Western waters," says a writer in the Western Monthly Magazine, "was the Orleans, built at Pittsburg in 1811; there is no account of more than seven or eight, built previously to 1817; from that period they have been rapidly increasing in number, character, model, and style of workmanship, until 1825, when two or three boats built about that period were declared by common consent to be the finest in the world. Since that time, we are informed, some of the New York and Chesapeake boats rival and probably surpass us, in richness and beauty of internal decoration. As late as 1816, the practicability of navigating the Ohio with steamboats was esteemed doubtful; none but the most sanguine argued favorably. The writer of this well remembers that in 1816, observing, that in company with a number of gentlemen, the long struggles of a stern-wheel boat to ascend Horse-tail ripple (five miles below Pittsburgh), it was the unanimous opinion, that "such a contrivance" might conquer the difficulties of the Mississippi as high as Natchez, but that we of the Ohio must wait for "some more happy century of invention."

We can add another anecdote to that of our friend which we have quoted. About the time that Fulton was building his first boat at Pittsburgh, he traveled across the mountains in a stage, in company with several young gentlemen from


Kentucky. His mind was teeming with those projects, the successful accomplishment of which has since rendered his name illustrious — and his conversation turned chiefly upon steam, steamboats, and facilities for transportation. Upon these subjects he spoke frankly, and his incredulous companions, much as they respected the genius of the projector, were greatly amused at what they considered the extravagance of his expectations. As the journey lasted several days, and the party grew familiar with each other, they ventured to jest with Mr. Fulton, by asking him if he could do this, and that, by steam; and a hearty laugh succeeded whenever the single-minded and direct inventor asserted the power of his favorite element. At length, in the course of some conversation on the almost impassable nature of the mountains, over which they were dragged with great toil, upon roads scarcely practicable, for wheels, Mr. Fulton remarked, "the day will come, gentlemen — I may not live to see it, but some of you, who are younger, probably will — when carriages will be drawn over these mountains by steam engines, at a rate more rapid than that of a stage upon the smoothest turnpike." The apparent absurdity of this prediction, together with the gravity with which it was uttered, excited the most obstreperous mirth in this laughter-loving company, who roared, shouted, and clapped their hands, in the excess of their merry excitement. This anecdote was repeated to us by one of the party; who, two years ago, on finding himself rapidly receding from Baltimore in a railroad car, recollected the prediction of Fulton, made twenty years before.


Chapter XIX.

IN a small book published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1811, called the "Navigator," is found about the first connected account of the intention and purpose of Fulton and Livingston to introduce steamboats on to the inland waters of the West. It says:

"There is now on foot a new method of navigating our Western waters, particularly the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This is by boats propelled by the power of steam. This plan has been carried into successful operation on the Hudson River, in New York, and on the Delaware between New Castle and Burlington. It has been stated the one on the Hudson goes at the rate of four miles an hour against wind and tide, on her route between New York and Albany, and with five hundred passengers on board frequently. From these successful experiments there can be but little doubt of the plan succeeding on the Western waters, and proving of immense advantage to the commerce of our country."

A Mr. Roosevelt, of enterprise and who is acting, it is said in connection with Messrs. Fulton and Livingston, of New York, has a boat of this kind on the stocks at Pittsburgh, of 138 feet keel, calculated for 300 or 400 tons burden. And there is one building at Frankfort, Kentucky, by citizens, who will no doubt push the enterprise. It will prove a novel sight, and as pleasing as novel, to see a large boat working its way up the windings of the Ohio, without the appearance of sail, oar, or pole, or any manual labor about her, moving within the secrets of her own wonderful machinery, and propelled by a power undiscoverable."


[From I. H. B. Latrobe's address before the Maryland Historical Society, 1882.]

"Prior to the introduction of steamboats on Western waters, the means of transportation thereon consisted of keel-boats, barges and flat-boats. The two former ascended as well as descended the stream. The flat-boat, or "broad horn," was broken up for its lumber on arrival at its place of destination. Whether steam could be employed on Western rivers was a question. Its success between New York and Albany was not considered as having been solved satisfactorily, and after the idea had been suggested of building a boat at Pittsburgh, to


ply between Natchez and New Orleans, it was considered necessary, investigations should be made, as to the currents of the rivers to be navigated. These investigations were undertaken by Nicholas J. Roosevelt, with the understanding that if the report was favorable, Chancellor Livingston, Robert Fulton, and himself were to be equally interested in the undertaking. Livingston and Fulton were to supply the capital, and Roosevelt was to superintend the building of the boat and engine.

"He accordingly repaired to Pittsburg in 1809, accompanied by his bride, where he built a flat boat, which was to contain all the comforts for himself and wife to float them with the current from Pittsburg to New Orleans, and this boat was the home of the young couple for six months. He reached New Orleans about the first of December, 1809, and returned home to New York by the first vessel. Mr. Roosevelt had made up his mind that steam was to do the work and his visit was to ascertain how it could best be done upon the Western streams. He gauged them and measured them at different seasons and obtained all the statistical information within his reach. Finding coal on the banks of the Ohio, he purchased them and opened mines of that mineral, and so confident was he of the success of his project that he caused piles of fresh fuel to be heaped up on the shore in anticipation of the wants of steamboats whose keels had not yet been laid and whose existence depended upon the reports he should make to capitalists, without whose aid the plan would have temporarily at least to be abandoned. Mr. Roosevelt's report so impressed Fulton and Livingston, that in the spring of 1810 he was sent to Pittsburgh to superintend the building of the first steamboat that was launched on the Western waters.

"On the Alleghany side, close by the creek and immediately under a bluff called Boyd's hill, the keel of Roosevelt's vessel was laid. The railroad depot of the Pittsburgh and Connelsville road now occupies the ground (1882). The size and plan of this steamboat was furnished by Robert Fulton. It was to be one hundred and sixteen feet in length and twenty feet beam. The engine was to have a thirty-four inch cylinder and the boiler, etc., was to be in proportion. To obtain the timber men were sent into the forest to obtain, the ribs, knees and beams, transport them to the Monongahela, and raft them to the ship yard. The ship builders, mechanics, etc., for the machinery department, had to be brought from New York.

"A rise in the river set all the buoyant materials afloat, and at one time it seemed as if the vessel would be lifted


from its ways and be launched before its time. At length the boat was launched, at a cost of near thirty-eight thousand dollars and was named "New Orleans," after the place of her permanent destination. As the New Orleans approached completion and it became known that Mrs. Roosevelt intended to accompany her husband, friends endeavored to disuade her from the utter folly, if not absolute madness of the voyage. Her husband was told he had no right to peril her life, however reckless he might be of his own. The wife, however believed in her husband, and after a short experimental trip in September, the New Orleans commenced her voyage. There were two cabins; one aft for ladies and a larger one forward, for gentlemen. In the former there were four berths. Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt took possession of the cabin, as they were the only passengers. There was a captain, an engineer, named Baker, Andrew Sack, the pilot, six hands, two female servants, a man waiter, a cook and an immense Newfoundland dog, named "Tiger." Thus equipped and manned the New Orleans began the voyage which changed the relations of the West and the East and which may almost be said to have changed its destiny. The people of Pittsburgh turned out en masse, and lined the banks of the Monongahela to witness the departure of the steamboat, and shout after shout rent the air, handkerchiefs were waved and hats thrown up in "God speed" when the anchor was weighed and when she disappeared behind the first headlands, on the right bank of the Ohio.

"Too much excited to sleep, Mr. Roosevelt and his wife passed the greater part of the first night on deck and watched the shore, then almost covered with a dense forest, as beach after beach, and bend after bend, were passed with a speed of from eight to ten miles per hour. On the second night after leaving Pittsburg the New Orleans rounded to opposite Cincinnati and cast anchor in the stream. Levees and wharf-boats were things then unknown in 1811. Here, as in Pittsburg, the whole town seemed to have assembled on the bank, and many of their former acquaintances came out in small boats to welcome them. ‘Well, you are as good as your word, you have visited us with a steamboat,’ they said; ‘but we see you for the last time. Your boat may go down the river, but as to coming up, the idea is an absurd one.’ The keel-boat men crowded around the strange visitor and shook their heads and bandied river wit with the crew that had been selected from their own calling for the first voyage. Some flat-boatmen, whose arks had been passed a short distance


above town, who now floated by with the current, seemed to have a better opinion and proposed a tow in case they were again overtaken. But as to the boats returning, all agreed that that could never be.

"The stay at Cincinnati was brief, only long enough to take a supply of wood for the voyage to Louisville, which was reached on the night of the fourth day after leaving Pittsburgh.

"It was midnight on the first of October, 1811, that the New Orleans dropped anchor opposite the town. There was a brilliant moon. It was almost as light as day and no one on board had retired. The roar of the escaping steam, then heard for the first time, roused the population, and as late as it was came rushing to the bank of the river to learn the cause of the unwonted uproar. A letter written by one on board records the fact that these were people who insisted that the comet of 1811 had fallen into the Ohio and produced the hubbub. A public dinner was given Mr. Roosevelt a few days after arrival, complimentary toasts were drunk, and the usual amount of good feeling on such occasions was manifested. The success of the steamboat in navigating down stream was acknowledged. But her return up stream was deemed impossible, and it was regretted that it was the first and the last time a steamboat would be seen above the falls of the Ohio.

"Not to be outdone in hospitality, Mr. Roosevelt invited his hosts to dine on board the New Orleans, which still lay anchored opposite the town. The company met in the forward or gentlemen's cabin, and the feast was at its height, when suddenly was heard rumblings, accompanied by a very perceptible motion of the vessel. The company had but one idea — the New Orleans had escaped from her anchor, and was drifting towards the falls, to the certain destruction of all on board. There was an instant rush to the upper deck when the company found, instead of drifting towards the falls of the Ohio, the New Orleans was making good headway up the river, and would soon leave Louisville in the distance down stream. As the engine warmed to its work and the steam blew off at the safety valve the speed increased.

"Mr. Roosevelt had, of course, provided this mode of convincing his incredulous, and their surprise and delight may be readily imagined.

"After going up the river a few miles the New Orleans returned to the anchorage. On leaving Pittsburgh it was determined to proceed as rapidly as possible to New Orleans and to place the boat on the route for which she was designed between


that city and Natchez. It was found, however, on reaching Louisville there was not sufficient depth of water on the falls of the Ohio to permit the vessel to pass over them with safety. The New Orleans therefore returned to Cincinnati convincing the most incredulous of her power to steam the current of the river.

"The waters having risen, the boat returned to Louisville and safely passed through the rapids, crowds collecting to see her departure. Instinctively each one on board grasped the nearest object, and with baited breath waited the result. Black ledges of rock appeared only to disappear as the boat flashed by them. The waters whirled and eddied and threw their spray upon the deck, as a more rapid descent caused the vessel to pitch forward to what at times seemed certain destruction. Not a word was spoken. The pilot directed the men at the helm by motion of the hands. Even the great Newfoundland dog seemed affected by the apprehension of danger, and crouched at Mr. Roosevelt's feet. The tension on the nervous system was too great to be long sustained. Fortunately the passage was soon made and with feelings of profound gratitude to the Almighty at the successful issue of the adventure on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt, the New Orleans rounded to in safety at the foot of the falls. Hitherto the voyage had been one of exclusive pleasure, but now were to come, in the words of the letter referred to, ‘those days of horror. —’

"The comet had disappeared and the earthquake of that year which accompanied the New Orleans far on her way down the Mississippi, the first shock of which was felt while she lay at anchor, after passing the falls. On one occasion a large canoe, fully manned, came out of the woods abreast of the steamboat and paddled after it. There was at once a race, but the steam had the advantage of endurance, and the Indians with wild shouts soon gave up the chase.

"One night there was an alarm of fire. The servant had placed some green wood too near the stove in the forward cabin, which caught fire and communicated to the joiner work of the cabin, when the servant, half suffocated, rushed on deck and gave the alarm. By great exertion the fire was extinguished.

"At New Madrid, a greater portion of which had been engulfed, terror-stricken people begged to be taken on board, while others, dreading the steamboat more than the earthquake, hid themselves as she approached. Having an insufficient supply of provisions for any large increase of passengers, the


requests to be taken on board had to be denied. The earthquake had so changed the channel of the river that the pilots guided the boat more by luck than knowledge. As the steamboat passed out of the region of the earthquake, the principal inconvenience was the number of shoals, snags and sawyers. These were safely passed and the vessel came in sight of Natchez and rounded to opposite the landing place.

"Expecting to remain here a day or two the engineer had allowed his fires to go down so that when the boat turned her head up stream it lost headway altogether, and was being carried by the current far below the intended landing. Thousands were assembled on the bluff and at the foot of it, and for a moment it seemed that the New Orleans had achieved what she had done so far that she might be overcome at last. Fresh fuel, however, was added, the engine was stopped, that steam might accumulate. Presently the safety valve was lifted, a few turns of the wheel steadied the boat, a few more gave her headway, and overcoming the Mississippi she gained the shore amidst shouts of exultation and applause. The romance of the voyage ended at Natchez, where the same hospitalities were extended to Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt that were enjoyed at Louisville. From thence to New Orleans there was no occurrence worthy of note.

"Although forming no part of the story of the voyage proper, says Mr. Latrobe, as this has been called a romance, and all romances end, or should end in marriage, the incident is not wanting here. For the captain of the boat falling in love with Mrs. Roosevelt's maid, prosecuted his suit so successfully as to find himself an accepted lover when the New Orleans reached Natchez. A clergyman being sent for a wedding marked the arrival of the boat at the chief city of the Mississippi."

(Mrs. Roosevelt was a sister of Mr. Latrobe, who seems to have been a passenger on the New Orleans during this, her first trip.)

The following reference to the voyage of exploration contained in a recent letter from Mrs. Roosevelt to the writer may not be uninteresting: —

"The journey in the flat-boat commenced at Pittsburgh, where Mr. Roosevelt had it built; a huge box containing a comfortable bed-room, dining-room, pantry, and a room in front for the crew, with a fire-place, where the cooking was done. The top of the boat was flat, with seats and an awning. We had on board a pilot, three hands and a man cook. We always stopped at night, lashing the boat to the shore. The


row boat was a large one, in which Mr. Roosevelt went out constantly with two or three of the men to ascertain the rapidity of the ripples or current. It was in this row boat we went from Natchez to New Orleans with the same crew." * * *

"We reached New Orleans about the 1st of December, 1809, and took passage for New York in the first vessel we found ready to sail. We had a terrible voyage of a month, with a sick captain. The yellow fever was on board. A passenger, a nephew of General Wilkinson, died with it. Mr. Roosevelt and myself were taken off the ship by a pilot boat and landed at Old Point Comfort. From thence we went to New York by stage, reaching there the middle of January, 1810, after an absence of nine months.

"Once, while in the flat-boat, on the Mississippi, Mr. Roosevelt was aroused in the night by seeing two Indians in our sleeping room, calling for whisky, when Mr. Roosevelt had to get up and give it to them before he could induce them to leave the boat."

The exploring voyage proper ended with the arrival of the flat-boat at Natchez, but Mrs. Roosevelt's account of the subsequent boat voyage to New Orleans is, perhaps, worth adding, if only for the sake of the comparison that it suggests: —

"By placing," says Mrs. Roosevelt, "a large traveling trunk between the stern of the boat and the first seat, it made a large level place on which we could spread a buffalo robe to sleep on. Our pilot, who had lived all his life as a boatman on these waters, assured us that there would be no difficulty in finding lodgings for the few nights we should be out. But it appeared that the inhabitants on the river had been so often imposed on by travelers whom they had received into their houses, that they refused all applications. A pouring rain came up one evening, and we tried to reach Baton Rouge, which we did at nine at night. It was a miserable place at that time, with one wretched public house; yet we felt thankful that we had found a shelter from the storm. But when I was shown into our sleeping room I wished myself on board the boat. It was a forlorn little place opening out of the bar room, which was filled with tipsy men looking like cut-throats. The room had one window opening into a stable-yard, but which had neither shutters nor fastenings. Its furniture was a single chair and a dirty bed. We threw our cloaks on the bed and laid down to rest, but not to sleep, for the fighting and the noise in the bar-room prevented that. We rose at the dawn of day, and reached the boat, feeling thankful we had not been murdered in the night. It is many, many years ago;


but I can still recall that night of fright. Our second night on shore was passed with an old French couple, who allowed us to spread our buffalo robes on the floor before a fine large fire, where we felt safe, though disturbed once or twice during the night by the people coming into the room we occupied, and kneeling before a crucifix which stood upon a shelf. They were Roman Catholics.

"The time actually occupied by the voyage from Natchez to New Orleans in the row-boat was nine days. Two of these nights were passed as above described, under a roof; four in the boat, partly drawn out of the water, and hearing the alligators scratch on the sides, taking it for a log; when a knock with a cane would alarm them, and they would splash down into the water; the remaining three nights were passed on a buffalo robe on the sand beach, feeling every moment, that something terrible might happen before morning."

In the language of a very intelligent traveler of those days: "Many things conspired to make the year 1811 the annus mirabilis of the West. During the earlier months the waters of many of the great rivers overflowed their banks to a vast extent, and the whole country was in many parts covered from bluff to bluff. Unprecedented sickness followed. A spirit of change and recklessness seemed to pervade the very inhabitants of the forest. A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the North, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and solid phalanx to the South. No obstacles seemed to check their extraordinary and concerted movement. The word had been given them to go forth, and they obeyed it, though multitudes perished in the broad Ohio which lay in their path. The splendid comet of that year long continued to shed its twilight over the forests, and as the autumn drew to a close, the whole valley of the Mississippi, from the Missouri to the Gulf, was shaken to its center by continued earthquakes." — C. J. Latrobe's Rambles in North America.


Chapter XX.

Extract of a letter to the editors of the National Intelligencer, dated Pittsburg, April 22, 1814: —

"Messrs. Gale & Seaton, Washington:
"This morning the steamboat Vesuvius, intended as a regular trader between New Orleans and the Falls of the Ohio, left Pittsburg. A considerable fresh in the river rendered it probable that notwithstanding the great size and draft of the vessel, she will pass the falls without difficulty, after which she will meet with no obstruction in the rest of the passage.

There is now on the stocks here, just ready to be launched, a boat adapted to the navigation of the Ohio above the falls, which will be finished in time to meet the Vesuvius, on her return from New Orleans, at the falls.

The boats are built by Fulton, under the agency of Messrs. Livingston & Latrobe, for companies who have vested very large capital in the establishment. The departure of the Vesuvius is a very important event, not only for this place, but for the whole Western part of the Union, and its influence will be felt over the whole United States.

In describing it it is not necessary to use the inflated language, which unfortunately for the credit of our trade too often renders real facts incredible, or at least lowers their importance by the manner in which they are puffed into notice.

It does not require the ornament of metaphor to impress upon the public mind the incalculable advantage of an intercourse by water, affected in large vessels which move with certainty and rapidity through an extent of internal navigation, embracing a space almost as large as the whole continent of Europe, and comprising in it the productions of almost every climate.

This intercourse, although now almost in its infancy, must in a few years become of immense magnitude.

About three years ago a steamboat of 400 tons burthen was built here, and now navigates the Mississippi between New Orleans and Natchez.

The Vesuvius, which, with another boat of the same size and construction now building, is intended to form the second link in this chain of navigation, is of 480 tons burthen, carpenter's measurement. She has 160 feet keel, and 28.6 inches


beam, but will, when loaded, draw from 5 to 6 feet of water. The whole of her hold below deck, excepting a neat cabin for ladies, and the space occupied for machinery, is appropriated to the cargo.

On her deck is built what is known in a ship, and is called a Round house, extending half her length, and elegantly fitted up as a cabin, having twenty-eight double berths on a side. Previously to her departure she had been several times tried in going up and down the Monongahela and Ohio for four or five miles and performed very satisfactorily.

This morning (Saturday, April 23), everything being in perfect order, at ten o'clock she passed up the Monongahela, in front of the town, to its eastern limits, and returning down the opposite shore, went down the Ohio, firing a salute. Most of the citizens were assembled on the bank when she passed.

In order to witness and ascertain her speed, I crossed the Alleghany and mounted a very elegant horse I endeavored to keep pace with her along the road which skirts the river. But she moved so rapidly that after riding three miles and a half in nineteen minutes I gave up the attempt.

In one hour and thirty seconds she was at Middletown, twelve miles below Pittsburgh, where several gentlemen, who had proceeded on her thus far, came on shore. If, therefore, the current of the Ohio be rated at four miles an hour in the fresh, she has gone at the rate of eight miles an hour in still water.

In coming up the rapids of the Ohio below the town, on Monday last, she passed the shore at the rate of four miles in an hour, a speed that would exactly agree with her descent this morning.

The extent of the growing commerce of this town is, I believe, very inadequately understood to the eastward of the mountains.

I am informed by one of the most respectable merchants of this place that the amount of freight only of his consignments, to and from New Orleans and the States below Penn, will be this year $60,000 and every day adds to the extent and the facilities of the business carried on through Pittsburgh.

The great difficulty which has rendered the transportation by sea in time of peace from New Orleans to Philadelphia and Baltimore and thence by land to the immense country west of the mountains, preferable to a voyage up the Mississippi and Ohio, has been the slowness of the keel boats and barges necessarily employed in the trade. The navigation by steamboats


proves an end to that only objection to this course of trade, a course which in a few years will become the principal, if not the only one.

Situated as I am at present, on the spot where the advantages which the public will reap from the introduction of steam navigation will be very sensibly felt, it is difficult to suppress the expression of feelings which arise towards the person to whom we owe it, that this mode of navigation, so often before attempted and laid aside in despair, has become practicable, and its principles reduced to mathematical certainty. But it is unnecessary in giving them vent. The obligation which the nation, I had almost said the whole world, owes to him will be fully acknowledged by history, when the envy and cupidity of his detractors will be remembered with disgust and reprobation.

It is worthy your attention in Washington and Georgetown to consider that between New Orleans and Washington there will be, when the road from Cumberland to Brownsville is completed, only seventy-two miles of land carriage, and that over a capital turnpike road.

When the late Chancellor Livingston applied for his grant for the exclusive navigation by steam on the North River to the Legislature of the State of New York, for thirty years, on condition that he should actually accomplish it, a very sensible member of the Legislature told me he could very easily have had a grant of any further extent, as the navigation by steam was thought to be much on a footing, as to practicability, with the navigation of the reindeer in the Chancellor's park. The case has altered since then, for many people have found out that it is an old invention, open to every body who can read Mr. Fulton's specifications or look at his boats. — Niles Weekly Register, Vol. 6, 1814.


Chapter XXI. Steamboat Buffalo.

OF 285 tons has been launched at Pittsburgh. She is designed to ply regularly between that place and Louisville once a month. And as she will draw when all her machinery is on board but two feet six inches, it is expected she will run all summer. If, however, she is found too large, other boats less bulky will be built, and she taken to a station below the falls, in the line to New Orleans.

The steamboat Enterprise, built at Bridgeport, on the Monongahela, arrived at Pittsburgh on the 8th, designed as a packet between that place and the falls of the Ohio. Her power was highly approved. She was tried against the current of the Monongahela, which was unusually high and rapid at that season, and made three miles and a half per hour. She returned with the stream that distance in ten minutes.


The steamboat Vesuvius made the following passage from Pittsburgh to New Orleans: —

From Pittsburgh to Shippingport, 67 hours and a half; from Shippingport to Natchez, 125 hours and a half; from Natchez to New Orleans, 33 hours. Total from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, 227 hours." — Niles' Weekly Register, Vol. 6, 1814.

"The steamboat Vesuvius went from Pittsburgh to Louisville, 767 miles, in 62 hours and 25 minutes, equal to 10 1-2 miles an hour.

"The city of New York is enjoying immense advantage from those vessels as packets and ferryboats. Loaded wagons are hourly seen in that city from Long Island and New Jersey."

"John L. Sullivan, of Boston, has obtained a patent for the use of steam engine power in towing luggage boats, being a new and useful application of steam engines, and put in practice by him on the Merimack River. — Niles' Weekly Register, Vol. 6, 1814.

The steamboat Enterprise worked up from New Orleans to Bardstown, nearly 1,500 miles, in twenty-five days.

It is calculated that the voyage by steamboats from New


Orleans to Pittsburgh, about 2,300 miles, will be made in 36 days.

"How do the rivers and canals of the old world dwindle into insignificance compared with this, and what a prospect of commerce is held out to the immense regions of the West by the means of these boats. It is thought that the freight from New Orleans to Louisville (at the falls of the Ohio) will soon, be reduced to $3.50 per hundred weight." — Niles' Register, Vol. 8, 1815.


"Lord Sheffield, if I mistake not, is now nicknamed the ‘earl of Liverpool,’ declared that the western part of the United States never could become commercial. Let his lordship take a map and trace the course of rivers from New Orleans to Brownsville and then read the following from a late newspaper published at the latter called the Brownsville Telegraph" —

"Arrived at this port (my lord-port), on Monday last the steamboat Enterprise, Shrieve, of Bridgeport, from New Orleans in ballast, having discharged her cargo at Pittsburgh.

She is the first steamboat that ever made the voyage to the mouth of the Mississippi and back. She made the trip from New Orleans to this port in fifty-four days, twenty days of which were employed in loading and unloading freight at the different towns on the Ohio and Mississippi. So she was only thirty-four days in actual service in making her voyage, which our readers will remember must be performed against powerful currents, and is upwards of 2,200 miles in length." Niles' Register, Vol. 8.

"Last Saturday evening steam was first tried on the steamboat ‘Dispatch,’ another steamboat lately built at Bridgeport, and owned, as well as the Enterprise, by the Monongahela and Ohio Steamboat Company. We are happy to learn she is likely to answer the most sanguine expectations of the ingenious, Mr. French, the engineer, on whose plan she is constructed."

It is expected when her works are in complete operation, she will pass through the water at the rate of nine miles an hour. — Niles' Register, Vol. 8.

Whatever may be said of the wonderful achievements obtained by steam at that early date, judging from the above and other records made at that time, no practical man at the present period will fail to notice that there has been quite as much improvement in the facilities for handling freight or in


the time consumed in handling it on a trip, as there has been in the speed of steamboats.

The idea of spending twenty days in taking in and putting out freight on a trip from New Orleans to Pittsburgh, and that with a boat of but 400 tons capacity, will hardly do justice to the well known reputation of Capt. H. M. Shreve, although he probably done more than any other individual in improving and developing the steamboat interests of the South and West.

Chapter XXII. Ohio Falls Pilot.

IN 1792, the office of Falls Pilot was created by law in consonance with the following preamble to the act, "Whereas great inconveniences have been experienced and many boats lost in attempting to pass the rapids of the Ohio, for the want of a pilot, and from persons offering their services to strangers to act as pilots, by no means qualified for this business.

The office was appointed at Louisville, Kentucky, by the Jefferson County Court, and the rate of pilotage fixed by the act, was two dollars for each boat, while all other persons were forbidden to attempt to perform this service under a penalty of ten dollars.

In McMurtrie's Sketches of Louisville, published in 1819, an interesting and valuable account is given of the introduction of steam navigation and its effect upon commerce and the settlement of the Mississippi Valley.

In chapter 8, page 193, on the subject of navigation and commerce, he says: —

"The increase of the navigation and commerce of Louisville and Shippingport since the year of 1806 is, perhaps, unparalleled in the history of nations. At that time six keel-boats and two barges — the one of thirty tons, belonging to Reed, of Cincinnati; the other of forty, belonging to Instom, of Frankfort, sufficed for the carrying trade of the two places. Whereas, at the present moment there are, exclusive of barges, keel-boats, etc., upwards of twenty-five steamboats employed in that business, whose united burthen is equal to six thousand and fifty tons.

This is a flattering and unequivocal proof of their prosperity, and gives us a glimpse of what they will be fifty years


hence. The application of steam for purposes of navigation constitutes a brilliant and important era in the annals of our country, and although Fulton was not the original inventor (for it had been repeatedly essayed before his time in England, France, and in this country, but without success), yet is his merit not the less on that account, as it requires more courage to persevere in effecting an object, which, from the constant failure of others seems to be impracticable, than to try a new experiment.

Why has he not a statue?

Next to Fulton, the country owes a vast debt of gratitude to Capt. H. M. Shreve, of Portland. It is to his exertions, his example, and let me add, to his integrity and patriotic purity of principle, that we are indebted for the present flourishing state of navigation.

Having been long convinced that the overpowering patent of Fulton and Livingston, which granted them the exclusive privilege of navigating by steamboats all the rivers of the United States for fourteen years, no matter in what manner the steam operated, was illegal, and consequently of no effect, he determined to bring the point to issue. Accordingly on the first of December in 1814, he embarked on the Enterprise for New Orleans, where he arrived on the 14th of the same month.

Immediately on landing he applied to counsel and procured


bail, in case of seizure, which took place the next day. Bail was entered and a suit commenced against the vessel and owners in an inferior court, where a verdict was found for the defendants. The case was now removed by a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States, at which time the Enterprise left New Orleans and arrived at Shippingport. Before the question was decided by this tribunal, Capt. Shreve, returned to New Orleans with the Washington, a beautiful boat of 400 tons, which, as was expected, was also seized by the company to whom she was abandoned without any difficulty. Upon application, however, to the court, an order was obtained to hold the company to bail, to answer to the damages that might be sustained by the detention of the vessel.

To this it demurred, and began to feel the weakness of its case, and foreseeing the downfall of its colossal patent, it repeatedly offered through its counsel and individual members of the company to admit Capt. Shreve to an equal share with itself in all the privileges of the patent-right, providing he should instruct his counsel so to arrange the business that a verdict might be found against him. In vain this tempting bait, I had almost said bribe, was proffered.

It was rejected with scorn and indignation, and the affair left to justice, whose sword, with; one blow, forever severed the links of that chain which had enthralled the commerce of Western waters.

Had Captain Shreve been weak enough to have accepted of this offer the result is obvious. No one would have dared to embark his fortune in vain endeavors to promote the best interests of his country by adding the wings of commerce to the feet of agriculture, because ruin would have been the inevitable consequence. The carrying business would have remained in the hands of the company, who would have continued just so many and no more boats in the trade as was necessary to keep up the price of freight, and consequently instead of paying two and half cents per pound for every article imported, the merchant, and ultimately the consumer (for upon his shoulders such things always bear at last), would nave been compelled to have paid six, seven or eight, as best suited the convenience of the company.

Among the many advantages steamboats are to the community, is the extraordinary demand they create for provisions and fuel. With respect to fuel, that wood which heretofore cost the owners large sums of money to destroy will now bring from two and half to three dollars per cord, delivered


anywhere on the banks of the river. As to provisions, anywhere in the vicinity of Louisville, the demand can hardly be supplied in consequence of the increasing population of the town.

Each steamboat employed in the trade of this place is obliged to disburse $600 per trip, at least three times in a year, or $1,800, which multiplied by the number of boats, gives us $45,000, a sum annually expended among owners of land at this place and along the river below.

But these are not only the advantages derived to the Western country by the introduction of steamboats. Their production has created good turnpike roads across the mountains as well as canals, thus diminishing the price of freight from Eastern cities, whose inhabitants, fearing the entire loss of their trade with the Western country, have been stimulated to counteract these effects by the means just mentioned."

Chapter XXIII.

The Navigator, an old and rare book printed in Pittsburgh in the early part of this century, records many interesting facts concerning the early navigators.

From this source we learn something of the expense and profits of the "New Orleans" when running as a packet between Natchez and New Orleans.

This old chronicle says "her accommodations are good, and her passengers numerous, generally not less than from ten to twenty from Natchez at $18.00 each, and when she starts from New Orleans, generally from thirty to fifty and sometimes as many as eighty, at $25.00 each to Natchez.

According to the observation of Capt. Morris, of New Orleans, who attended her as a pilot several trips, the boat's receipts for freight upwards, have averaged the last year $700, the passenger receipts $900. Downward $300 for freight, $500 for passengers.

She performs thirteen trips in the year, which at $2,400 per trip amounts to $31,200. Her expenses are, 12 hands, at $20 per month, $4,320; captain, $1,000; seventy cords of wood each trip, at $1.75, which amounts to $1,586, in all $6,906, It is presumed that the boat's extra trip for


pleasure or otherwise, out of her usual trade, have paid for all her repairs, and with the bar-room, for the boat's provisions, in which case there will remain a net gain of $24,294 for the first year.

The owners estimate the boat's value at $40,000, which gives an interest of $2,400, and by giving $1,894 more for furniture, etc., we have the clear gain of $20,000 for the first year's labor for the steamboat "New Orleans." She goes up in seven or eight days, and descends in two or three, stopping several times for freight and passengers. She stays at the extreme of her journey, Natchez and New Orleans, about four or five days to discharge or to take in loading."

"The first sea vessel on the Western waters was a brig built at Marietta, Ohio, called the "St. Clair," 120 tons burden. She was built by Commodore Preble in 1798 or '99, who went down the river on her to New Orleans, from thence to Havana, and to Philadelphia, and at the latter port he sold her.

From 1799 to 1805, there was built at Pittsburgh four ships, three brigs, and several schooners, but misfortunes happening to most of them in going down the rivers to the gulf, ship-building on the Ohio went into a decline until revived some years after in the shape of steamboat architecture.

One of these took out papers for Leghorn, Italy, and in illustrating the commercial habits and enterprise of the American people, Henry Clav, in a speech in Congress, related the following anecdote about her.

"When the vessel arrived at Leghorn, the captain presented his papers to the custom officer there, but he would not credit them, and said to the master, ‘sir, your papers are forged, there is no such place as Pittsburgh in the world, your vessel must be confiscated.’

The trembling captain asked if he had a map of the United States, which he fortunately happened to have, and produced. The captain, taking the officer's finger, put it down at the mouth of the Mississippi, then led it a 1,000 miles up the river, thence another 1,000 to Pittsburgh, and said, ‘there, sir, is the port whence my vessel cleared from.’

The astonished officer, who before he saw the map would have as soon believed the vessel had been navigated from the moon, exclaimed, ‘I knew America could show many wonderful things, but a fresh water sea port is something I never dreamed of.’"

"The ‘New Orleans’ was the first steamboat ever constructed on the western waters. She was 116 feet long, 20 feet beam. Her cylinder was 34 inches diameter, with boiler


and other parts in proportion. She was about 400 tons burthen and cost in the neighborhood of ($38,000) thirty-eight thousand dollars. There were two cabins, one aft for ladies, and a larger one forward for gentlemen. The ladies' cabin, which was comfortably furnished, contained four berths. The ‘New Orleans’ was launched in March, 1811. She left Pittsburg October of the same year — passed Cincinnati Oct. 27th, and reached Louisville the next day in 64 hours' running time from Pittsburgh.

The water was too low for her to cross the falls, and while waiting at Louisville for sufficient water, she made several short excursions. She also made one trip to Cincinnati, arriving there in 45 hours' running time from Louisville, Nov. 27th, 1811. While here she made one excursion trip to Columbia, charging one dollar per head. Shortly after this, the river rising, she left this place for New Orleans, December, 1811.

Her voyage down the river was perilous in the extreme, as shortly after leaving Louisville the great earthquakes began. [See full account in another chapter.] She ran between Natchez and New Orleans, her trips averaging about three weeks. July 13, 1814, she landed on her upward trip two miles below Baton Rouge, on the opposite side, and spent the night in taking on wood, the night being too dark to run with safety. At daylight the next morning she got up steam, and on starting the engine, it was found she would not move ahead, but kept swinging around. The water had fallen during the night and the captain found she was resting on a stump. An anchor was put out on her starboard quarter, and by the aid of her capstan she was soon hove off. But on clearing, it was soon discovered she had sprung a leak, and was sinking rapidly. She was immediately run into the bank and tied fast, but sunk so rapidly her passengers barely had time to get ashore with baggage."


Chapter XXIV. From Sharfs' History of St. Louis.

"The early history of steamboats following the New Orleans will be found interesting, as showing how quickly the innovation was felt, and how speedily the new system obliterated the old."

The second boat was the "Comet," of 25 tons, owned by Saml. Smith, built at Pittsburg by Daniel French, stern wheel and vibrating cylinders. French patent granted in 1809.

The "Comet" made a voyage to Louisville in 1813 and to New Orleans in the spring, 1814. Made two trips to Natchez and was sold and her engine put into a plantation and used to drive a cotton-gin. Third boat, the Vesuvius, 340 tons, built at Pittsburgh, by Robert Fulton and owned by a company belonging to New York and New Orleans. Left Pittsburgh in the spring of 1814, commanded by Capt. Frank Ogden. She started from New Orleans, bound for Louisville, first of June, 1814 and grounded on a bar 700 miles up the Mississippi, where she lay until December, when the river rose and floated her off. She returned to New Orleans, where she grounded a second time on the bature, where she lay until the first of March, when the river rose and floated her off. She was then employed several months between New Orleans and Natchez, under the command of Capt. Clemment, who was succeeded by Capt. John De Hart. Shortly afterwards she took fire near New Orleans and burned to the water's edge, having a valuable cargo on board.

The fire was supposed to have been communicated from the boiler, which was in the hold. The bottom was raised and built upon at New Orleans and she went into the Louisville trade, but was soon after sold to a company in Natchez.

On examination subsequent to the sale she was pronounced unfit for use, was libeled by her commander and sold at public auction.

Fourth boat, the Enterprise, forty-five tons. Built at Brownsville, Penn., by Daniel French, under his patent, and owned by a company at that place. Made two trips to Louisville in the summer of 1814, under command of Capt. J. Gregg. On the first of December, she took a load of ordinance stores at Pittsburgh, and left for New Orleans under command of Capt. Henry M. Shreve, and arrived at New Orleans on the 14th same month. She was then dispatched


up the river in search of two keel-boats, laden with small arms, which had been delayed on the river. She got twelve miles above Natchez, where she met the keels, took their cargoes and masters on board and returned to New Orleans, having been but six and a half days absent, in which she ran 624 miles.

She was there for some time employed entirely in transporting troops. She made one trip to the Gulf of Mexico as a cartel, and one trip to the rapids of the Red River, with troops, and nine voyages to Natchez. She left New Orleans for Pittsburgh on the 6th of May, and arrived at Shippingport on the 30th, twenty-five days out, being the first steamboat that ever arrived at that port from New Orleans.

She then proceeded on to Pittsburgh and the command was given to D. Worley, who lost her in Rock harbor, at Shippingport.

Fifth boat, the "Aetna," 340 tons, built at Pittsburgh and owned by the same company as the Vesuvius, left Pittsburgh for New Orleans March, 1815, under charge of Capt. A. Gale, and arrived at that port in April following; was placed in the Natchez trade. Was then placed under the command of Capt. Robinson De Hart, who made six trips on her to Louisville.

The sixth boat was the "Zebulon M. Pike," built by Mr. Prentice, of Henderson, Kentucky, on the Ohio River in 1815. The Pike deserves especial mention, as she was the first boat to ascend the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio, and the first to touch at St. Louis.

Her first trip was made in the spring of 1815 to Louisville, Ky., two hundred and fifty miles in sixty-seven hours, making 3 1/4 miles per hour against the current. On her voyage to St. Louis she was commanded by Capt. Jacob Read.

The hull, says Professor Waterhouse, was built on the model of a barge. (That is presumed to mean that she was built on a barge.) The cabin was built on the lower deck inside of the "running boards."

The boat was driven by what was called a low pressure engine, with a walking beam. The wheels had no wheel houses and she had but one smoke stack.

In rapid current the crew reinforced steam with the impulse of their own strength. They used the poles and running boards just as in the push boat, navigation of barges. The boat only ran in daylight, and was six weeks in making the trip from Louisville to St. Louis. It landed at the foot of Market Street August 2nd, 1817.


The inhabitants of the village gathered on the bank to welcome the novel visitor. Among them was a group of Indians. As the boat approached, the glare from the furnace, and the volume of murky smoke filled the Indians with dismay. They fled to the high ground in the rear of the village, and no assurances of safety could induce them to go nearer the object of their fears. They ascribed supernatural to a boat that could ascend a rapid stream without the aid of sail or oar. Their superstitious imaginations beheld a monster breathing flame and threatening the extinction of the red man. In a symbolic sense their fancy was prophetic, the progress and civilization of which the steamboat may be taken as a type, is fast sweeping the Indian race into the grave of buried nations.

The first notice we have of the expected arrival of the "Pike" at St. Louis is the following announcement in the Missouri Gazette of 14th of July, 1817: —

"A steamboat is expected here to-morrow from Louisville. There is no doubt but what we shall have, regular communication, or at least with the mouth of the Ohio by a steam packet."

On the 2nd of August the Gazette published this notice: —

The steamboat Pike will be ready to take in freight tomorrow for Louisville, or any town of the Ohio. She will sail for Louisville on Monday morning, the 4th of August, from 10 to 12 o'clock. For freight or passage apply to the master on board.

The return trip of the Pike is also mentioned in the Gazette of September 2nd as follows: The steamboat Pike will arrive in a day or two from Louisville. This vessel will ply regularly between that place and this, and will take in her return cargo shortly after her arrival.

Persons who may have freight, or want passage for Louisville, or any of the towns on the Ohio, will do well to make early application to the master on board. On her passage from this to Louisville, she will stop at Herculaneum where Mr. M. Austin will act as agent. Also at Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau, at the former place Mr. Le Macellieu, and at the latter Mr. Steinbeck will act as agents, with whom freight may be deposited and shipped. Persons waiting passage on this vessel may apply as above. She will perform her present passage to and from Louisville in about four weeks and will always afford a safe and expeditious passage for the transportation of freight and passengers."


Again on the 22nd of November, the Gazette announced that the steamboat "Pike," with passengers and freight, arrived here from Louisville.

The Pike had capacity for thirty-seven tons old government tonnage. She made a trip to New Orleans and several between Louisville and Pittsburgh, after which she was engaged in the Red River trade and snagged in March, 1818.

The seventh boat on the Mississippi was the "Dispatch," twenty-five tons. She was built at Brownsville, Pa., by the same company that owned the Enterprise and under French's patent. She made several trips from Pittsburgh to Louisville, and one to New Orleans and back to Shippingport, where she was wrecked and her engine taken out. She was commanded by Captain J. Gregg.

The eighth boat was the "Buffalo," 300 tons, built at Pittsburgh by Benjamin H. Latrobe, Sr., the distinguished architect of the Capitol at Washington. She was afterwards sold at sheriff's sale, at Louisville, for $800.

We find in the American Weekly Messenger, published in Philadelphia, July 2nd, 1814, the following letter which relates to the circumstances of the launch of the steamboat "Buffalo:" —

PITTSBURGH, June 3, 1814.

We omitted to mention that the steamboat "Buffalo" was safely launched on the 13th from the yard of Mr. Latrobe.

This boat, which was intended to complete the line of steamboats from New Orleans to Pittsburgh, is a fine and uncommonly well built vessel, of two hundred and eighty-five tons burden, carpenter's measurement, and is intended to trade regularly between Louisville and Pittsburgh, once a month, as long as the water will admit. She has two cabins and four state-rooms for private families and will conveniently accommodate 100 passengers with beds.

Should it be found that her draught of water, which will be about thirty inches, when her machinery is on board, is too great for the summer months, it is intended immediately to put on the stocks another boat, or boats of smaller draught and less bulky construction. It is expected the "Buffalo" will be finished in time to bring up the cargo of the "Vesuvius" from New Orleans.

A succeeding number of the Weekly American Magazine, contains the following items from St. Louis: —

ST. LOUIS ( I. T.), July 2nd, 1814.

"On Sunday last an armed boat arrived from Prairie du Chien, under command of Capt. John Sulivan, with his company


of militia and thirty-two men from the gunboat ‘Governor Clark,’ their terms of service (sixty days), having expired, Capt. Zeizer, who commands on board the ‘Governor Clark,’ off Prairie du Chien, reports that his vessel is completely manned, that the fort is finished, christened ‘Fort Shelby,’ and occupied by the regulars, and that all are anxious for a visit from Dickson and his red troops.

The Indians are hovering around the village, stealing horses, and have been successful in obtaining a prisoner, a Frenchman, who had gone out to look for his horses.

Ninth boat, the "James Monroe," one hundred and twenty tons, built at Pittsburgh, by Mr. Latrobe, and owned by a company at Bayou Sara, and run in the Natchez trade.

Tenth boat, the "Washington," 400 tons, a two decker, built at Wheeling, constructed and partly owned by Capt. Henry M. Shreve. The engine of the Washington was built at Brownsville, Pa., under the immediate direction of Capt. Shreve. Her boilers were on the upper deck, being the first boat on that plan, a valuable improvement by Capt. Shreve, which is still in general use.

The Washington crossed the falls of the Ohio in September, 1816, under the command of Capt. Shreve, bound for New Orleans, and returned to Louisville during the following winter.

In the month of March, 1817, she left Shippingport a second time and proceeded to New Orleans and returned to Shippingport, being absent only forty-five days.

This was the trip that convinced the despairing public that steamboat navigation would succeed on Western waters.

Eleventh boat, the "Franklin," 125 tons. Built at Pittsburgh by Messrs Shiras & Cromwell, engine by George Evens; left Pittsburgh in December, 1816, was sold in New Orleans and was subsequently employed in the Louisville and St. Louis trade.

She was sunk in the Mississippi, near St. Genevieve, in 1819, on her way to St. Louis, commanded by Capt. Revels.

Twelfth boat, the "Oliver Evans" (afterwards the Constitution), built at Pittsburgh by George Evans. The engines of his patent. She was but seventy tons burden. She left Pittsburgh for New Orleans December, 1816. She burst one of her boilers in 1817, off Point Coupee, by which eleven men lost their lives, principally passengers. Owned by George Sultan and others of Pittsburgh.

Thirteenth boat, the "Harriot," forty tons. Built at Pittsburgh, constructed and owned by Mr. Armstrong, of Williamsport, Pa. She left Pittsburgh October, 1816, and


crossed the falls in March, 1871, made one trip to New Orleans and subsequently ran between that place and Mussel Shoals, Tennessee river.

Fourteenth boat, the "Kentucky," eighty tons. Built at Frankfort, Ky. Owned by Hanson & Beswell. Was engaged in the Louisville trade.

Fifteenth boat, the "Governor Shelby," ninety tons. Built at Louisville. Engines by Bolton & Ebolt, of England. In 1819 she was running very successfully in the Louisville trade.

Sixteenth boat, the "New Orleans," 300 tons. Built at Pittsburgh by Fulton & Livingston in 1817, for the Natchez trade. Sunk near Baton Rouge, but was raised, and sunk again near New Orleans in February, 1819, about two months after her first sinking.

Seventeenth boat, the "Vesta," 100 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1817, and owned by Messrs Bosson, Cowdin & Co. She plied regularly between Cincinnati and Louisville.

Eighteenth boat, the "George Madison," 200 tons. Built at Pittsburgh in 1818, by Messrs Voories, Mitchel, Rodgers & Todd, of Frankfort, Ky. Was engaged in the Louisville trade in 1819.

Nineteenth boat, the "Ohio" 443 tons. Built in New Albany, Ind., in 1818, by Messrs. Shreve & Blair, in the Louisville trade.

Twentieth boat, the "Napoleon," 322 tons. Built in Shippingport, 1818, by Messrs. Shreve, Miller & Breckenridge, of Louisville. Engaged in the Louisville trade.

Twenty-first boat, the "Volcano," 250 tons. Built at New Albany by Messrs. John & Robinson de Hart in 1818. She was purchased in 1819 by a company at Natchez, and run from that port to New Orleans.

Twenty-second boat, the "General Jackson," 150 tons. Built at Pittsburgh in 1818, and owned by R. Whiting of that place, and General Carroll, of Tennessee; in the Northern trade.

Twenty-third boat, the "Eagle," 70 tons. Built in Cincinnati in 1818, and owned by James Berthoud & Son, of Shippingport, Kentucky, in the Natchez trade.

Twenty-fourth boat, the " Hecla," 70 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1818, and owned by Messrs. Honorus & Barbaror, of Louisville, Kentucky; in the Louisville trade.

Twenty-fifth boat, "Henderson," 85 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1818, and owned by Messrs. Bowers, of Henderson, Kentucky, and run in the Louisville and Henderson trade.


Twenty-sixth boat, the "Johnston," 80 tons. Built at Wheeling, Va., in 1818, and in 1819 engaged in the Yellowstone expedition.

Twenty-seventh boat, the "Cincinnati," 120 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1818, and owned by Messrs. Paxton & Co., of New Albany, Indiana, in the Louisville trade.

Twenty-eighth boat, the "Exchange," 200 tons. Built at Louisville in 1818, and owned by David S. Wood, of Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the Louisville trade.

Twenty-ninth boat, the "Louisiana," 45 tons. Built at New Orleans in 1818, and owned by Mr. Duplesa, of New Orleans, in the Natchez trade.

Thirtieth boat, the "James Ross," 330 tons. Built in 1818 at Pittsburgh, and owned by Messrs. Whiting & Stackpole, of that place, and engaged in the Louisville trade.

Thirty-first boat, the "Frankfort," 320 tons. Built at Pittsburgh in 1818, and owned by Messrs. Vorrhies & Mitchel, of Frankfort, Kentucky, in the Louisville trade.

Thirty-second boat, the "Tamolane," 320 tons. Built at Pittsburgh in 1818, and owned by Bogart & Co., of New York, engaged in the Louisville trade.

Thirty-third boat, the "Perseverance," 40 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1818, and owned at that place.

Thirty-fourth boat, the "St. Louis," 220 tons. Built at Shippingport, Kentucky, in 1818, and owned by Messrs. Herres, Douglass, Johnston and others; in the Louisville trade.

Thirty-fifth boat, the "General Pike," built at Cincinnati in 1818, intended to ply between Louisville, Cincinnati and Maysville as passenger packet, and owned by a company in Cincinnati.

She was the first steamboat built on Western waters for the exclusive conveyance of passengers. Her accommodations were ample. Her apartments spacious and convenient. She measured 100 feet keel, 25 feet beam, and drew only 39 inches of water. Her cabin was forty feet in length, and in breadth 25 feet. At one end was six state rooms, at the other end eight. Between the two state rooms was a saloon forty by eighteen feet, sufficiently large to accommodate 100 passengers.

The "Pike" was built as an opposition boat to the "Vesta," which was built in 1817.

The rivalry of these boats gave rise to a slang phrase, which held its place with the boys at that period, and outlived the career of both boats. There are old citizens of Cincinnati now living, if they will carry their memories back to the "twenties,"


will remember the boys in the streets and through the commons crying, "go ahead, Vesta, the Pike is coming."

Thirty-sixth boat, the "Alabama," 25 tons. Built on Lake Ponchartrain in 1818 for the Red River trade.

Thirty-seventh boat, the "Calhoun," 80 tons. Built in 1818, at Frankfort, Kentucky, and afterwards employed in the Yellow Stone expedition.

Thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth boats, the "Expedition," 120 tons, and the "Independence," 50 tons, built at Pittsburgh. Both of which were intended for the Yellow-stone expedition.

The Independence was the first steamboat that undertook to stern the strong current of the Missouri. They both arrived at Franklin ( Boons Lick ), Howard County, 200 miles up the river from its mouth, in the month of June, 1819.

Fortieth boat, the "Maid of Orleans," 100 tons. Built at Philadelphia in 1818, and owned by a company in New Orleans, and afterwards ( in 1819 ), engaged in the St. Louis trade. She was constructed both for river and sea navigation, the latter by sails, and the former by steam power. She arrived at New Orleans schooner rigged, ascended the Mississippi by steam and was the first vessel that ever reached St. Louis from an Atlantic port.

Forty-first boat, the "Ramapo" 60 tons, built in New York in 1818, and in 1819 was employed in the Natchez trade.

Forty-second boat, the "Mobile" 150 tons, built in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1818, owned in Mobile, and in 1819 was engaged in the New Orleans and Louisville trade.

Forty-third boat, the "Mississippi," 400 tons, built in New Orleans in 1818, arrived at Havana in February, 1819. She was intended to ply between Havana and Matanzas.

Forty-fourth boat, the "Western Engineer," built on the Monongahela river in 1818-19, descended the Ohio river about the first of May, 1819, and afterwards ascended the Missouri river in connection with the government exploring expedition. The object of this expedition was principally to make a correct military survey of the river and to fix upon a site for the establishment of a military post at, or near the junction of the Yellow-stone and the Missouri, and to ascertain the point where the Rocky Mountains are intersected by the 49th degree of latitude, which formed the western boundary between the possessions of Great Britain and the United States, and to inquire into the "trading capacity and genius of the various tribes through which it may pass."

The officers employed on this duty were Major S. H. Long,


of the United States Engineers, Major Thomas Biddle, of the United States Corps of Artillery and Messrs. Graham & Swift.

The boat was completely equipped for defense and was manned by a few troops.

The "Western Engineer" drew only thirty inches of water. She was well built and the bottom was fastened with copper and had a serpent's head on her bow through which the steam passed, presenting a novel appearance.

This expedition was organized for the purpose of exploring the country on the Missouri river, and had a full complement of scientific officers of the government, among which were topographical engineers, mineralogists, botanists, geologists, ornithologists, landscape painters, etc. The "Western Engineer" was only 75 feet long, and 13 feet beam, and stern wheel.

Forty-fifth boat, the "Rifleman" 250 tons. Built at Louisville in 1819, owned by Butler & Bamers, and ran in the Louisville trade.

Forty-sixth boat, the "Car of Commerce" 150 tons. Built at Pittsburgh in 1819, owned by W. F. Patterson & Co., of Louisville, and engaged in the trade of that place.

Forty-seventh boat, the "Paragon," 376 tons. Built at Cincinnati in 1819, by Wm. Parsons, and owned by Wm. Noble and Robert Neilson, engaged in the Louisville trade.

Forty-eighth boat, the "Maysville," 150 tons. Built in 1819, and owned by citizens of Washington, Kentucky, and Maysville.

Forty-ninth boat, the "Columbus," 460 tons. Built at New Orleans in 1819, and owned there. She was employed in the Loaisville trade.

Fiftieth boat, the "General Clark," 150 tons. Built and owned by a company in Louisville.

Fifty-first boat, the "Vulcan," 300 tons. Built at Cincinnati, 1819, for the New Orleans trade; owned by citizens of Cincinnati.

Fifty-second boat, the "Missouri," 175 tons. Built at Newport, Kentucky, 1819; owned by the Messrs. Yeatmans, and designed for the St. Louis trade.

Fifty-third boat, the "New Comet," 100 tons. Altered from a barge, owned at Cincinnati and intended for the New Orleans trade.

Fifty-fourth boat, the "Newport," 50 tons. Built at that place and owned in New Orleans in 1819, and engaged in the Red River trade.

Fifty-fifth boat, the "Tennessee," 400 tons. Built at


Cincinnati in 1819; owned by a company in New Orleans and Nashville and employed in the Louisville trade. She was sunk in 1823, in the Mississippi River, by which sixty odd persons were lost, some of them people of distinction.

This disaster caused great excitement through the country and deterred many from traveling on steamboats for a long time.

Fifty-sixth boat, the "General Robinson," 250 tons. Built at Newport, Ky., in 1819, for a company in Nashville, and run in that trade.

Fifty-seventh boat, the "United States," 700 tons. Built at Jeffersonville, Ind., for the Natchez trade in 1819, owned by Hart and others. She was the largest steamboat that had ever been built up to that time for Western waters.

Fifty-eighth boat, the "Post Boy," 200 tons. Built at New Albany, Ind., in 1819, owned by H. M. Shreve and others, and run from Louisville to New Orleans. She was one of the packets employed by the post-office department to carry the mail between those places according to an Act of Congress, passed March 1819. By this Act the expense was not to exceed that of carrying it by land.

Fifty-ninth boat, the "Elizabeth," 150 tons. Built at Salt River, Ky., in 1819, owned by a company at Elizabeth, Ky., and engaged in the New Orleans trade.

Sixtieth boat, the "Fayette," 150 tons. Built in 1819, owned by John Grey and others and engaged in the Louisville trade."

From the numerous lists of boats published by as many historians, I have selected the foregoing from "Sharf's History of St. Louis," as being more extended and probably quite as correct as that of any other, although it lacks detail in specifications; but it is sufficiently so for all practical purposes, I presume, at this late period.

A noticeable feature in this long list of pioneer steamboats is the numerous points that were selected to build them and the great number of persons that were ready to embark in the new enterprise.

Hardly any owners named, appear as such in any two boats. Even Fulton and Livingston who built the first boat, the "New Orleans," subsided very soon after the courts refused to legalize the authority they claimed, under some State enactments for the exclusive right to navigate the Mississippi, for the term of twenty-five years.

The same result occurred to them, in the claim they set up for the exclusive right to navigate with steam, the waters of the State of New York.


Chapter XXV.

Capt. H. M. Shreve seems to have been about the only one who figured in the different boats named, in the sixty heretofore mentioned.

The St. Louis Republican of March 7, 1851, thus notes the death of this eminent steamboatman:

"This worthy citizen died at the residence of his son-in-law in this city yesterday. He was for nearly forty years closely identified with the commerce of the West, either in flat-boat or steamboat navigation.

During the administration of Adams, Jackson and Van Buren, he filled the post of United States Superintendent of Western River Improvements and by the steam snag-boat, of which he was the inventor, contributed largely to the safety of Western commerce. To him belongs the honor of demonstrating the practicability of navigating the Mississippi with steam-boats. He commanded the first steamboat that ever ascended that river, and made several valuable improvements, both of the steam-engine and of the hull and cabins of Western steamboats.

While the British were threatening New Orleans in 1814-15 he was employed by Gen. Jackson in several hazardous enterprises, and during the battle on the 8th of January, served one of the field-pieces which destroyed the advancing column of Gen. Keane.

His name has become historically connected with Western river navigation, and will long be cherished by his numerous friends throughout this valley."

Up to 1817 there seems to have been but few boats built. But little confidence was felt by the public in the practicability of navigating these rivers by the use of steam, until Capt. Shreve made the trip from New Orleans to Louisville with the "Washington" in twenty-five days, in 1817, and the round trip from Louisville to New Orleans and back in forty-five days.

From that time forward there seemed no doubt of the result, and boats multiplied rapidly. Every town on the Ohio River, and some on the tributaries, were ready, and even anxious to establish a "boat yard." Many succeeded, and built one or more boats and the supply was soon greater than the demand. The result was as might have been expected and only the "fittest survived," and many of them were short lived. Still,


with few exceptions, there has never been a time when a con tract could not be made at a reasonable price and for any character of a steamboat and in a very short time. Neither has there ever been a time on Western waters, when sufficient capital could not be obtained to build more boats than the commerce of the valley required.

The supply has always exceeded the demand, and, of course, the natural result has followed with few exceptions. The exceptions are about enough to establish the rule.

Some boats and some trades have proved largely remunerative, at some period of their existence, and some boats have even been successful to the end of their career; but that has only stimulated their owners and others to duplicate them, and the result has generally been disastrous in the end.

The same result has generally been realized by boat builders as by the owners, and very few of either class have ever retired from the business rich men.

And where that has been the case, investigation shows that the money made during prosperous periods has been with drawn from the business and invested in something else.

The next vessel to arrive in St. Louis after the "Pike," was the "Constitution," Capt. Guzard, which arrived Oct. 2, 1817. The steamboat ceased to be a novelty on the Mississippi in 1818, and became a recognized agent of the commerce of the valley.

The arrival and departure of vessels about this time were noticed by the Gazette as follows: —

"On Saturday last the steamboat ‘Franklin,’ of about 140 tons burden, arrived here from New Orleans in thirty-two days, with passengers and assorted cargo.

The ‘Franklin’ is admirably calculated for a regular passenger packet to ply between St. Louis and New Orleans. Her stowage is capacious, and her passenger accommodations elegant." — Gazette, June 12, 1818.

"The steamboat ‘Franklin’ left this place yesterday with freight and passengers for New Orleans. The master expects to arrive there in about eight days. Our common barges take from twenty-five to thirty days to perform the voyage. — Gazette, June 19, 1818.

"List of boats trading to New Orleans:

"‘Franklin,’ 131 tons; ‘Eagle,’ ‘Pike’ (sunk); ‘James Monroe’ (sunk, now repairing)." — Gazette, Sept. 5, 1818.

"The new steamboat ‘Johnston,’ of Kentucky, passed Shawneetown the first of this month bound for New Orleans.


She is intended as a regular trader from Kentucky on the Mississippi, and the Missouri as high up as the Yellowstone River." — Gazette, Nov. 6, 1818.

"The arrival about March 1st, 1819, of the large and elegant steamboat ‘Washington,’ from New Orleans, which city she left on the first of February, was announced in the Gazette of March 3rd. The steamboat ‘Harriet’ arrived from the same port early in April.

"The ‘Sea Horse,’ which arrived at New Orleans from New York, and the ‘Maid of Orleans,’ from Philadelphia, early in 1819, were probably the first steamboats that ever performed a voyage of any length on the ocean.

"The ‘Maid of Orleans’ continued her voyage to St. Louis, where she arrived about the 1st of May. On the same day the steamboat ‘Independence,’ Capt. Nelson, arrived from Louisville."

The Missouri Gazette of 19th May, 1819, has the following steamboat memorandum: —

"The Expedition, Capt. Craig, arrived here on Wednesday last, destined for the Yellowstone.

The Maid of Orleans, Capt. Turner, sailed for New Orleans, and the Independence, Capt. Nelson, for Franklin, on the Missouri, on Sunday last. The Exchange, Capt. Whips, arrived here on Monday and will return to Louisville in a few days for a new set of boilers, she having burst her boiler in ascending the Mississippi.

The "St. Louis," Capt. Hewes; the "James Monroe," and the "Hamlet," were advertised to sail for St. Louis from New Orleans about the middle of last month."

"In 1817, less than two years ago, the first steamboat arrived at St. Louis.

We hailed it as the day of small things, but the glorious consummation of all our wishes is daily arriving. Already we have seen during the present season at our shores five steamboats, and several more expected. Who would, or could have dared conjecture, that in 1819, we would witness the arrival of a steamboat from Philadelphia or New York? And yet, such is the fact."

"The Mississippi has become familiar to this great American invention, and another new arena is open."

"A steamboat owned by individuals, has started from St. Louis for Franklin, two hundred miles up the Missouri, and two others are here, destined for the Yellowstone. The time is fast approaching when a journey to the Pacific will become as familiar, and indeed more so, than it was twenty years ago,


to Kentucky or Ohio. ‘Illustrious Nation,’ said a foreigner of distinction, speaking of the New York canal. "Illustrious nation, whose conceptions are only equaled by her achievements."

The "Independence" was the first steamboat that entered the Missouri River. Sailing from St. Louis, May, 1819, she reached Franklin, on the Missouri, after a voyage of thirteen days, of which four days were spent at different landings. Her voyage extended up the river to Old Chariton, from whence she returned to St. Louis."

The following announcement shows the appreciation of the citizens on the Missouri for the advent of steam navigation. FRANKLIN, BOONSLICK, May 10, 1819.


"With no ordinary sensation of pride and pleasure we announce this morning the arrival at this place of the elegant steamboat, ‘Independence,’ Capt. Nelson, in seven sailing days, but thirteen from the time of her departure from St. Louis, with passengers and cargo of flour, whisky, sugar, nails, castings, etc., being the first steamboat that ever attempted to ascend the Missouri river. She was joyfully met by the inhabitants of Franklin, and saluted by the firing of cannon, which was returned by the Independence. The grand desideratum, the important fact, is now ascertained that steamboats can safely navigate the Missouri."

"She was absent from St. Louis 21 days. This trip proves a proud event in the history of Missouri."

The Missouri river has heretofore almost effectually resisted all attempts at navigation. She has imposed every obstacle she could to the tide of navigation which was rolling up her banks and dispossessing her dear red children. But her white children, although children by adoption, have become numerous, and are increasing so rapidly that she is at last obliged to yield them her favor." — Gazette, June 9th, 1819.

In the same paper and the same date is the following announcement: —

"The United States Government having determined to explore the Missouri river up to the Yellowstone, and for the purpose as elsewhere stated, Major H. S. Long had built at Pittsburgh the steamboat "Western Engineer." To Col. Atkinson had been entrusted the command of this expedition, and starting from Plattsburgh, New York, in the latter part of 1818, he arrived at Pittsburgh in the spring of 1819. The Western Engineer was completed soon after, and arrived at St. Louis, June 8, 1819. On the 21st the expedition started


for the Missouri. It was accompanied by three other United States steamers and nine keel boats, bearing a detachment of government troops.

The names of the steamboats and of their commanders were "Thomas Jefferson," Capt. Offord; "R. M. Johnston," Capt. Coalfax, and the "Expedition," Capt. Craig.

The little fleet entered the Missouri with martial music, display of flags and firing of cannon. In honor of the statesman who acquired the territory of Louisiana for the United States, the precedence was accorded to the "Thomas Jefferson."

But some disarrangement of her machinery prevented this boat from taking the lead, and the "Expedition" secured the position of being the first steamer in the flotilla to enter the Missouri.

The Jefferson was doomed to a worse mishap still, for not long after she ran upon a snag and sunk.

"The steam escape of the Western Engineer was shaped like a great serpent, coiled on the bow of the boat in the attitude of springing, and the steam hissing from the fiery mouth (which was painted red), filled the Indians with terror. They thought the wrath of the great spirit had sent this monster for their chastisement." — (Professor Waterhouse.)

The Gazette of June 2d, 1819, contains the following: —

"Arrived at this place on the first, the fast sailing and elegant steamboat "St. Louis," Capt. Hewes, 28 days from New Orleans. The captain has politely favored us with the following from his log book: —

On the 5th of May left New Orleans at 3 p. m. passed steamer "Volcano" bound down; on the 10th passed steamer James Ross; at 11 p. m. passed steamboat "Rifleman" at anchor, with shaft broken.

On 15th passed steamboat "Madison,"

Six days from the falls of the Ohio.

Twentieth passed steamboat "Governor Shelby" bound for New Orleans; 22nd ran on a sand bar, and was detained until next day.

Twenty-sixth at the grand turn below Island No. 60 passed nine keel boats, with the sixth regiment, United States Infantry, commanded by Col. Atkinson, destined for the Missouri.

At quarter past 11 o'clock ran aground and lost anchor and part of cable.

Twenty-second steamboat "Harriet" passed; while at anchor 28th, at 3 p. m., passed steamboat "Jefferson," with


United States troops, having broken her piston. At 4 p. m. repassed steamer "Harriet."


The same paper on 9th of June announced that "Capt. Hewes, of the "St. Louis," had gratified the citizens of St. Louis with a sail to the mouth of the Missouri, and that the company on board was large and genteel, and the entertainment very elegant.

The return of the "Maid of Orleans," 28th July, and the departure of the "Yankee," early in December, for New Orleans, complete the record of steamboating for 1819."

The first steamboat that ascended the upper Mississippi was the "Virginia," which arrived at Fort Snelling in May, 1823.

The Missouri and upper Mississippi had now been opened to regular navigation, and the steamboat traffic of the great river and its tributaries developed rapidly.

On the 22d of August, 1825, the Republican announced that two steamboats, the "Brown" and the "Magnet," now laying here for the purpose of repairing, and added:

"We believe this is the first instance of steamboats remaining here during the season of low water."

On April 19th, 1822, the Republican remarks: —

"During the past week our wharf has exhibited a greater show of business than we recollect ever before to have seen, and the number of steam and other boats arriving and departing has been unprecedented. The immense trade, which has opened between this place and Fever River at the present time, employs, besides a number of keel boats, six steamboats, to wit: the "Indiana," "Shamrock," "Hamilton," " Muskingum," and "Mechanic." The Indiana and Shamrock on their return trip have been deeply freighted with lead, and several keel boats likewise have arrived with the same article. Judging from the thousands of people who have gone to make their fortunes at the lead mines this spring, we should suppose that the quantity of lead produced this year would be tenfold greater than heretofore."

Again, on the 12th of July, same year, the same paper remarks: —

"It must be gratifying to every citizen of St. Louis to witness the steady advancement of the town, the number of steamboats that have arrived and departed during the spring being cited as the best evidence of the increase of business."


Chapter XXVI.

The following quotations are from "Hall's West," published in 1848 at Cincinnati, and are interesting as well as instructive, which fully justifies their insertion in these compilations: "The General Pike, built at Cincinnati, in 1818, and intended to ply as a packet between Maysville, Cincinnati and Louisville, is said to have been the first steamboat constructed on the Western waters for the exclusive convenience of passengers. Her accommodations were ample, her apartments spacious and superbly furnished, and her machinery of superior mechanism. She measured one hundred feet keel, twenty feet beam, and drew only three feet three inches water.

The length of her cabin was forty feet, the breadth twenty five feet, in addition to which were fourteen state rooms. The boats previously built had been intended solely for the transportation of merchandise: these objects have subsequently been successfully united.

The Calhoun, eighty tons, built at Frankfort in 1818, the Expedition, one hundred and twenty tons — the two last built at Pittsburgh — were constructed for the exploration of the Missouri river, in what was popularly termed the Yellow Stone Expedition, projected by Mr. Calhoun, while Secretary of War. The Independence was the first steamboat that ascended the powerful current of the Missouri.

The Post Boy, two hundred tons, built at New Albany, by Captain Shreve and others, in 1819, was intended for the conveyance of the mail between Louisville and New Orleans, under an act of Congress, passed in March, 1819. This was the first attempt on the Western waters to carry the mail on steamboats.

The Western Engineer was built near Pittsburgh, in 1818, under the direction of Major S. H. Long, of the United States topographical engineers, for the expedition of discovery to the sources of the Missouri, and the Rocky Mountains, which was afterwards so honorably accomplished by himself and his companions. This boat ascended as high as the Council Bluffs, about six hundred and fifty miles above St. Louis, and was the first steamboat that reached that point.

The following remarks are from the pen of Morgan Neville, Esq., and were written in 1829.

"The average cost of a steamboat is estimated at $100 per ton; the repairs made during the existence of a boat amount


to one half the first cost. The average duration of a boat has hitherto been about four years; of those built of locust, lately, the period will probably be two years longer. The amount of expenditure in this branch of business on the Western waters, then, for the last ten years, will in some measure be shown by the following calculation:

56,000 tons, costing $100 per ton, amount to $5,600,000
Repairs on the same 2,800,000
Expending in building and repairing in ten years $8,400,000

The annual expenditure of steamboats is very difficult to be arrived at; the importance of this expenditure, however, to the towns on our rivers, and to the whole extent of country running along their shores, may be estimated from the following calculation of the item of fuel alone, for one year — take the present year, 1829. We have now in operation about two hundred boats, the tonnage of which may be stated at thirty-five thousand tons.

It is calculated that the business of each year lasts eight months; deduct one-fourth for the time lost in port, and we have six months, or one hundred and eighty days, of running time. Each boat is presumed to consume one cord of wood, for every twelve tons, every twenty-four hours.

The 35,000 tons then consume, per day 2,917 cords
Or, during the six months 525,060 cords

"The price of wood varies from $1.50 to $5 per cord; a fair average would place it at $2.25 per cord. This makes the expenditure for fuel alone, on the banks of our rivers, $1,181,385 for this year. The other expenditures, while running are calculated, by the most experienced and intelligent owners, to be equal to $1,300,000, which gives the total expenditure for 1829, at $2,488,385.

"This calculation and estimate, then, which are both made lower than the facts justify, presents these results:

The amount of first cost of steamboats, since 1817 $5,600,000
Repairs on the same 2,800,000
Total amount of expenditure, produced by the introduction of steamboats, for building and repairs $8,400,000

We cannot better illustrate the magnitude of the change in every thing connected with eastern commerce and navigation, than by contrasting the foregoing statement, with the situation of things at the adoptation of steam transportation say in 1817. About twenty barges, averaging one hundred tons each, comprised the whole of the commercial facilities for


transporting merchandise from New Orleans to the "Upper Country," each of these performed one trip down and up to Louisville and Cincinnati within the year. The number of keelboats employed in the upper Ohio cannot be ascertained, but it is presumed that one hundred and fifty is a sufficiently large calculation to embrace the whole number. These averaged thirty tons each, and employed one month to make the voyage from Louisville to Pittsburgh, while the more dignified barge of the Mississippi made her trip in the space of one hundred days, if no extraordinary accident happened, to check her progress. Not a dollar was expended for wood, in a distance of two thousand miles, and the dweller on the banks of the Ohio thought himself lucky if the reckless boatman would give the smallest trifle for the eggs and chickens which formed almost the only saleable articles on a soil whose only fault is its too great fertility. Such was the case twelve years since. The Mississippi boats now make five or six trips within the year, and are enabled, if necessary, within that period, to afford to that trade one hundred and thirty-five thousand tons. Eight or nine days are sufficient, on the upper Ohio, to perform the trip from Louisville to Pittsburgh and back. In short if steam has not realized the hyperbole of the poet in "annihilating time and space," it has produced results scarcely surpassed by the introduction of the art of printing."

From another valuable article of the same gentleman, we copy the following very interesting remarks: —

"On the first day of January, 1834, an official list of steamboats, from an authentic source, gives the whole number of two hundred and thirty, then in existence, whose aggregate amount of tonnage is equal to about thirty-nine thousand tons.

Allowing the cost of building at a rate much lower than the rule adopted three years since, the capital now invested in this stock will exceed $3,000,000. The expense of running may be put down nearly as contained in the following scale: —

60 boats over 200 tons, 180 days at $140 per day $1,512,000 00
70 boats from 120 tons to 200,240 running days, $90 per day 1,512,000 00
100 boats under 120 tons, 280 running days, $60 per day 1,620,000 00
Total yearly expenses $4,644,000 00

"This sum may be reduced to the different items producing it in the following proportions, viz.: —

For wages 36 per cent, equal to $1,671,840 00
For wood 30 per cent, equal to 1,393,200 00
For provisions, 18 per cent, equal to 835,920 00
For contingencies 16 per cent, equal to 743,040 00


"This result is truly striking to those who were accustomed to the state of things on our rivers within twenty years. The difference in the amount of wages paid is in itself very considerable; but the item of fuel is one created exclusively by steamboats; and when it is considered that nearly $1,500,000 is expended every year, at a few points on the Mississippi valley, it presents a vast field for speculation. The immense forests of beech and other timber, unfit for agricultural purposes, were, before, not only useless, but an obstacle to the rugged farmer, who had to remove them before he could sow and reap. The steamboat, with something like magical influence, has converted them into objects of rapidly increasing value. He no longer looks with despondence on the denseness of trees, and only regrets that so many have already been given to the flames, or cast on the bosom of the stream before him.

"At the present period, 1848, the steamboats may be considered as plying as follows, viz.: —

25 over 200 tons, between Louisville, New Orleans and Cincinnati, measuring 8484 tons.
7 between Nashville and New Orleans, measuring 2,585 tons
4 between Florence and New Orleans 1,617 tons
4 in the St. Louis trade 1,002 tons
7 in the cotton trade 2,016 tons
57 boats not in established trades from 120 to 200 tons 8,641 tons
The balance under 120 tons in various trades 14,655 tons
  39,000 tons.

"In the New Orleans and Louisville trade, the boats over two hundred tons make about one hundred and fifty trips in prosperous seasons; those of smaller size make from fifty to sixty trips. But to go into an estimate of the number of voyages made by the boats in the different trades is impossible, because no regular dates are furnished, and the result depends upon a variety of contingencies."

Previous to 1817, about twenty barges afforded the only facilities for transporting merchandise from New Orleans to Louisville and Cincinnati. These, making but one trip in the year, gave the means of bringing up only two thousand tons. The present tonnage in this trade exclusively having been stated to be eight thousand eight hundred and eighty-four tons, gives the amount employed calculating one hundred and fifty trips in the season, to be fifty thousand nine hundred and four tons; a cause capable of producing a revolution in sixteen years hardly equaled in the annals of history. The effects upon Western commerce have been immense. The moral


changes alone which are felt throughout the West on price are almost incalculable; the imported article has fallen in a ratio equal to the increased price of Western products. In looking back at the old means of transportation, we cannot conceive how the present demand and consumption could have been supplied by them.

To those who have been acquainted with the early merchantile history of our country, when it was no uncommon thing for a party of merchants to be detained in Pittsburgh from six weeks to two months, by low water, or ice, the existing state of things is truly gratifying. The old price of carriage of goods, from the Atlantic seaboard to Pittsburgh, was long estimated at from $5 to $8 per hundred pounds. We have an instance in the last five years, of merchandise being delivered at the wharf of Cincinnati for $1 per hundred pounds, from Philadelphia, by way of New Orleans.

It may not be useless, or uninteresting to give an idea of the mortality among the steamboats in a given time. It is not pretended that any decided inference can be drawn from this statement, or that the facts go to establish any fixed rule. But under the present situation of steamboat discipline and regulation a tolerably fair conclusion can be drawn from it. Taking the period then of two years, from the fall of 1831 till that of 1833, we have a list of boats gone out of service of sixty-six; of these fifteen were abandoned as unfit for service; seven were lost by ice; fifteen were burnt; twenty-four snagged; and five destroyed by being struck by other boats. Deducting the fifteen boats abandoned as unseaworthy, we have fifty-one lost by accidents peculiar to the trade. In number this proportion is over twelve per cent, per annum; in tonnage the loss is upward of ten per cent. Amount snagged, three thousand three hundred and thirty tons.

A curious fact was ascertained by a committee of gentlemen, who were appointed a few years ago, by a number of steamboat owners, to investigate the whole subject. They satisfied themselves that although the benefits conferred on our country, by steam navigation, were incalculable, the stock invested in boats was, as a general rule, a losing investment. In few cases, owing to fortuitous events, or to the exercise of more than usual prudence, money has been made; but the instances are so few as not to effect the rule. One gentleman, who has been engaged for years in the ownership of steamboats and has been peculiarly fortunate, in not meeting with any loss by accident, assured the writer, that his aggregate gain, during the whole series of years, was only about six per


cent per year, on the capital invested. These facts go towards accounting for the enormous proportion of accidents and losses which occur upon our rivers. A few instances, in which large profits were realized, induced a great number of individuals to embark in this business, and the tonnage had always been greater than the trade demanded. The accidents, which are almost wholly the result of bad management, were set down as among the unavoidable chances of the navigation, and instead of adopting measures to prevent them, they were deliberately subtracted from the supposed profits, as matters of course. As the boat, was not expected to last more than five or six years, at best, and would probably be burned up, or sunk within that period, it was considered good economy to reduce the expenditures, and to make money by any means, during the brief existence of the vessel. Boats were hastily and slightly built, furnished with cheap engines, and placed under the charge of wholly incompetent persons; the most inexcusable devices were resorted to, to get freight and passengers, and the most criminal indifference to the safety of the boat and those on board, observable during the trip.

The writer was once hurried from Louisville to Shippingport, two miles below, without his breakfast, and in the rain, to get board a boat which was advertised to start at eight o'clock on that morning. During the whole day, passengers continued to come on board, puffing and blowing — in the most eager haste to secure a passage — each having been assured by the captain or agent, that the boat would start in, less than an hour. The next day presented the same scene; the rain continued to fall; we were two miles from the city, lying against a miry bank which prevented any one from leaving the boat — the fires were burning, the steam hissing and the boat only waiting for the captain, who would be on board in a few minutes. By and by the captain came — but then we must wait a few minutes for the clerk, and when the clerk came, the captain found that he must go up to town. In the meantime, passengers continued to accumulate, each decoyed alike by the assurance that the boat was about to depart. Thus we were detained until the third day, when the cabin and deck being crowded with a collection nearly as miscellaneous as the crew of Noah's ark, the captain thought, proper to proceed on his voyage. It was afterwards understood that when the captain began to collect passengers, a part of his engine was on shore, undergoing repairs which could not be completed in less than two days, yet during the whole


of those two days fires were kept up, and gentlemen and ladies inveigled on board, in the manner related.

We mention this to show the kind of deception which has been practiced. This, it is true, was an extreme case, but although the detention is not usually so great, nor the deceit so gross, it is not uncommon for steamboat captains and agents to deceive passengers by the most egregious misrepresentations.

The fact is important, not merely as showing the inconveniences to which travelers are exposed, but as explaining one of the causes of the numerous accidents on the Western waters — which is, bad faith. The man who will do one dishonest act, will do another. The agent or officer, who will deliberately kidnap men, by the assurance that he will start to-day, when he knows that he will not start till to-morrow, and the owner who will permit such conduct, will not shrink at any act by which he may think his interest likely to be promoted — and, having insured the boat, will risk the lives of the passengers by running at improper seasons, and other hazards, by which time may be saved and the expenses of the trip diminished.

The great danger to boats from snags has now become greatly diminished on the Mississippi, and has almost entirely ceased in the Ohio, in consequences of the measures adopted for the removal of these obstacles.

The burning of boats must be the result of carelessness; and the dreadful consequences arising from the collision are produced by negligence and design. There is scarcely a conceivable case in which boats may not avoid running against each other in the night; and there are many instances in which the officers of steamboats have been induced, by a ferocious spirit of rivalry, or some other unworthy motive, to run against weaker boats in such a manner as to sink them instantly.

It is proper however, to state, that the accidents occurring on steamboats have been greatly magnified by premature and inaccurate newspaper reports, and that they have been much fewer and less fatal than has generally been supposed.

It is also true, that much of the evil alluded to is attributed to the precipitancy and culpable negligence with regard to their own safety and comfort of the passengers. The accidents are almost wholly confined to insufficient or badly managed boats, and the traveler who would be cautious in embarking only in those of the more respectable class would almost uniformly insure himself against danger. A choice of boats, embracing every variety, from the best to those that are wholly unseaworthy,


is presented at all of our principal places of embarkation. Yet such is the feverish impatience of delay, evinced by most travelers in our country, that the great majority hasten on board the first boat which offers, regardless of her character, and only anxious to the moving forward, under any discomfort, and at every hazard. The bad boats receive undue patronage, the best do not meet the preference to which they are entitled, and are not compensated for the extra expenditure bestowed upon their outfit and management; and the inducements to accommodate the public well being weakened, neither the owners or officers of their boats, nor the same degree of responsibility, which would occur if the public patronage was more judiciously bestowed.

The following remarks occur in a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, from Mr. William C. Reffield, agent of the steam navigation company at New York, and are considered as embracing the steam navigation of the whole Union.

"The contest for speed, or practice of racing, between rival steamboats, has been the cause, and perhaps justly, of considerable alarm in the community. It is remarkable, however, that as far as the information of the writer extends, there has no accident occured to any boiler which can be charged to a contest of this sort. The close and uniform attention which is necessarily given to the action and state of the boiler and engines, in such contests, may have had a tendency to prevent disaster. But this hazard, as well as the general danger of generating an excess of steam, is greatly lessened by the known fact, that in most steamboats the furnaces and boilers are not competent to furnish a greater supply of steam than can be used with safety, with an ordinary degree of attention on the part of the engineers.

"The magnitude and extent of the danger to which passengers in steamboats are exposed, though sufficiently appalling, is comparatively much less than in other modes of transit with which the public have been long familiar. The accidents of which, if not so astounding, are of almost every day occurence. It will be understood that I allude to the dangers of ordinary navigation, and land conveyances by animal power of wheel carriages. In the former case, the whole or greater part of both passengers and crew are frequently lost, and sometimes by the culpable ignorance or folly of the officers in charge, while no one thinks of urging a legislative remedy for this too common catastrophe. In the latter class of cases, should inquiry be made for the number of casualties occuring in various districts in a given number of years, and


the results fairly applied to our whole population and travel, the comparitively small number injured or destroyed in steamboats would be matter of great surprise to those not accustomed to make such estimates upon passing events. It is also worthy of notice, that if the annual average loss of life by the electric stroke were ascertained in the manner above proposed, the results would probably show a loss of life by this rare casualty far exceeding that which is occasioned by accidents in steamboats."

In the year 1832 it was estimated that, besides the steamboats, there were four thousand flatboats annually descending the Mississippi, whose aggregate measure would be one hundred and sixty thousand tons. As these do not return, the loss on them would amount to $420,000, and the expense of loading, navigating and unloading them $960,000 — making the whole annual expenditure upon this class of boats, $1,380,000.

In the same year the aggregate cost of steamboats, the expenses of running them, interest, wear and tear, wood, wages and subsistence of crews and passengers, was estimated at $5,906,000.

The total expenditure on steam and flatboats was, according to this calculation, $7,286,000.

The value of produce exported in these boats, together with the labor expended in and about them, was estimated at $26,000,000.

The different descriptions of boats navigated on the Western rivers, in that year, were supposed to give employment to sixteen thousand nine hundred men, namely:—

To mechanics and laborers employed in building 20 steamboats, and repairing others $1,700
Wood cutters 4,400
Crews of steamboats 4,800
Building flatboats 2,000
Navigating flatboats to New Orleans 4,000
Total $16,900

But adding to those who are directly engaged the much larger number who are indirectly employed in making engines and in furnishing, supplying, loading and discharging boats, the whole number of persons deriving subsistence from this navigation, in 1832, was supposed to be ninety thousand. That number has since been greatly increased. During the last season there was built at Pittsburgh and the neighboring towns


about twenty-five steamboats, at Cincinnati and its neighborhood about twenty-five.

From 1822 to 1827 the loss of property on the Ohio and Mississippi, by snags, including steam and flatboats, and their cargoes amounted to $1,362,500. Loss in the same items from the same cause, from 1827 to 1832, $381,000.

Chapter XXVII.

We close this part of our subject with the following extracts from two very interesting articles published in the Wheeling Gazette, since our table of steamboats was compiled:

"We are informed on good authority that the number of boats built the present year between Louisville and Pittsburgh, including those places, will not fall short of fifty. About thirty-five of these are for distant parts of the country — for the southern and westernmost states: the remaining fifteen will be added to our river trade, increasing the number of boats thus employed to about sixty. Supposing the amount of freight conveyed in each boat to be forty tons down and twenty up, some opinion may be formed of the amount of merchandise transported yearly upon the Ohio. The river may be estimated to be navigable from six to eight months in the year, and each boat to perform twelve trips from Wheeling to Louisville and back. Each boat then transports twelve times forty tons down, and half this quantity up, equal to seven hundred and twenty tons. This multiplied by sixty, the number of boats, gives forty-three thousand two hundred tons as the gross amount of merchandise transported yearly in steamboats upon the Ohio.

To fix the value of this merchandise is not so easy. Yet something like accuracy may be obtained. It is said that a wagon load of dry goods, weighing two tons, will cost about $4,000, and that western merchants that purchase $8,000 worth receive them generally in two wagon loads. This would make a ton of dry goods worth $2,000. As grosser and heavier articles, however, are sent down the river in large quantities, the value per ton may be rated at $500. Forty times five hundred gives $20,000 as the value of each cargo; this, multiplied by twelve gives $240,000 as the amount conveyed by each


boat during the season; and this multiplied by sixty, the number of boats, gives the sum of $14,800,000 as the value of the down freight in a single year. This is independent of the merchandise conveyed in keel and flatboats, and the immense amount of lumber which almost covers the face of the river in the spring season. The value of the merchandise transported up the river may be estimated at $1,500,000. Making the total value of merchandise transported in steamboats yearly on the Ohio, upwards of $16,000,000.

The number of steamboats employed in 1842, in navigating the Mississippi and its tributaries, was four hundred and fifty. The average burden of these boats was two hundred ton's each, making an aggregate of ninety-thousand tons, and their aggregate value at $80 per ton, $7,200,000. Many of these were fine vessels, affording the most elegant accommodations for passengers, and comparing favorably, in beauty of model, completeness of finish, and all other particulars, with the best packets in any part of the world.

The number of persons engaged in navigating our steamboats varies from twenty to fifty to each boat. The average is about thirty-five persons, which will give a total of thirty-five thousand seven hundred and fifty persons embarked in this navigation.

It appears, from the reports of the Louisville and Portland canal, that more than seven hundred flatboats have passed that canal in one year. At this rate there cannot be less than four thousand descending the Mississippi, and allowing five men to each boat, there are twenty thousand persons engaged in this branch of the navigation. The cost of these boats is $420,000, which, as they do not return, is an annual expense, and the expense of loading, navigating and unloading them is $960,000, making the whole annual expenditure upon this class of boats $1,380,000.

In 1834, the number of steamboats in existence, on the Western waters, was two hundred and thirty, and they were estimated to carry thirty nine thousand tons.

Previous to the adoptation of steamboat navigation, say in 1817, the whole commerce, from New Orleans to the upper country, was carried in about twenty barges, averaging one hundred tons each, and making but one trip a year. The number of keel boats employed on the Upper Ohio could not have exceeded one hundred and fifty, carrying thirty tons each, and making the trip from Pittsburg to Louisville and back in two months, or about three voyages in a season. The tonnage of


all the boats ascending the, Ohio and Lower Mississippi was then about six thousand five hundred.

In 1834, the number of steamboats was two hundred and thirty, and the tonnage equal to about thirty-nine thousand tons; and in 1842, the number of boats was four hundred and fifty, and their burden ninety thousand tons.

In 1832, it was calculated that the whole number of persons deriving subsistence from this navigation, including the crews of steam and flatboats, mechanics and laborers employed in building and repairing boats, was ninety thousand. As the number of boats had doubled since that time, the number of people directly engaged in and about this navigation in 1842, was not less than one hundred and eighty thousand; but who shall place a limit to the numbers who are beneficially interested, in a business which distributes its millions of dollars for wood, its millions for wages, its millions for provisions, its millions for machinery and the labor of mechanics, and which transports a commerce whose value can only be computed by hundreds of millions?

The cost of building and of running boats has not changed essentially within the last few years. The price of some items have risen, but others have been reduced, so as to leave but little difference in the general results.

In the construction of the boats there has been a progressive and very decided improvement. Their models have been changed to suit the exigencies of the navigation. The great objects have been to obtain speed and capacity for carrying freight, with power to stem the heavy currents of our rivers, and the less possible draught of water. In all these respects our boats have been improved from year to year, and are still improving. The most marked changes consist in a great increase in the length and decrease in the depth of the boats, adding to their speed and lightness of draught.

Boats are constructed now more than formerly for particular trades, and are specially adapted for the purposes for which they are intended. Lines of packets have been established, between all the more important places, which run regularly, and which have attained a commendable degree of punctuality in their departures and arrivals. All these are comfortable, many of them very fine, and a few of them very superior. The large passenger boats, running between New Orleans and Vicksburgh, St. Louis and Louisville, are inferior to nothing of the kind in any part of the world. The cabins are spacious and elegant, the state rooms commodious, and the tables equal to the ordinaries of the best hotels and far superior to those


of any but the very best. The officers are not only accommodating, but generally kind and hospitable, treating the passengers as their guests, and taking pains to render the voyage agreeable. The company on board these boats is usually good, and it is an admirable peculiarity in our Western traveling, that fellow travelers avoid the exclusive and selfish, deportment which is seen elsewhere, and mingle freely together, seeking the acquaintance and society of each other, and all contributing to the common comfort and amusement. A trip to New Orleans in one of our best boats often resembles a party of pleasure, and combines in its incidents much variety, and no small degree of luxury.

The men of business in the West, and all who are in easy circumstances, travel often and very extensively, and are thus very decidedly acquainted with each other. Besides the crowds who go annually to New Orleans upon business, there are other crowds who seek to while away a few of the weeks or months of the winter, in festivity, amid the gay and novel scenes of that busy metropolis, large and cheerful parties thus meet on board the steamboats, and, as they must necessarily be several days together, they endeavor to accommodate themselves to each other, and to pass the time agreeably; and it often happens that the greater portion of the cabin passengers form one circle, in which affability and freedom from constraint are chastened by perfect decorum and good breeding. Music and dancing are the chief amusements; and at night, when the spacious cabin of one of our Leviathan boats is lighted up, enlivened by the merry notes of the violin, and filled with well dressed persons, it seems more like a floating palace than a mere conveyance for wayfarers. These fine boats are safe as well as speedy, making the trip from Louisville or St. Louis to New Orleans in four or five days, and the upward voyage in six or seven days.

The mailboats between Louisville and Cincinnati are also very fine boats. Messrs. Strader & Gorman, the original proprietors of this line, have the merit not only of having been the first to establish a regular line of packets in the West, but of carrying out their plan with eminent success, with profit to themselves, and with great advantage to the public. They were the first to have fixed hours of departure, and to adhere to them with punctuality. Their boats have always been of the first class, the accommodations excellent, and the officials skillful and obliging; and it is with pleasure that we record the fact, so creditable to all concerned, that in more than twenty years, during which this line has been in existence, no accident


has occurred by which the life or limb of a passenger has been endangered. This line has lately passed into the hands of other owners who run a morning and evening line, and under whose management the boats have maintained, and we have no doubt will continue to maintain, their high character.

There is also a daily line of packets between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, deserving of the highest commendation. There are few boats anywhere finer than the most of those engaged in this line. They are large vessels, with fine accommodations and are well managed. The proprietors, in a recent advertisement, assert that in the last six years they have carried two millions of people annually. The character of the persons who make this statement, and the acknowledged excellence of their boats, leave no room to doubt its correctness, and from our own observation, we feel no hesitation in giving implicit faith in it. The New York Courier and Enquirer, commenting on this fact, has this pointed remark: —

What a movement is here of human beings, each intent upon his own well being, and acting in obedience to his own views of self interest! — what a future is unfolded for such a country, so replenished, and with such safe and rapid means of inter-communication!

"When, too, it is considered that there are various other avenues to the Western paradise, each crowded by its thousands, and its tens of thousands, one can hardly exaggerate the growth of such a country, or the responsibilities which devolve upon its general government to provide, by all adequate and constitutional means, for adding to the security of the great avenues and ports which are thus annually thronged by emigrants and travelers.

"The fact that two millions of persons, to say nothing of property, have been transported on the waters that connect Pittsburgh with Cincinnati, should be conclusive with the general government in favor of the exercise of all its legitimate power to improve the harbors of these cities, and the channels of the far-descended rivers which connect them."

St. Louis is one of the oldest places in the West, having been settled by the French in 1763; Pierre Chouteau and other Frenchmen were very successful in conciliating the confidence of the Indians, and extended the barter of merchandise for furs and peltry, throughout most of the Western tribes. The whole of the Indian trade of the country lying upon the Mississippi and its tributaries, centered at that point; at which was also the depot for all the military posts on the Western frontier, and the headquarters for most of the officers


and agents of the government having transactions in the far West. The lead mines in Missouri and the inexhaustible beds of the mineral more recently discovered in Illinois and Wisconsin render this the principle market for that article, of which immense quantities are annually exported. Wheat, corn, pork, tobacco and hemp, are largely produced in the vast region of fertile land lying around, of which St. Louis is, and must ever be, the emporium.

St. Louis has, therefore, always been a place of great resort, and of remarkable activity in business; and its geographical position seems to insure for it a continuance of that preeminence. Its central position in relation to New Orleans on the one hand, and the vast expanse of country on the other, gives its natural advantages, as a commercial place, which are unrivaled, and these advantages are well appreciated and improved by a sound and enterprising population. St. Louis holds the same rank in respect to the region of the Upper Mississippi that Cincinnati occupies in relation to that of the Ohio — east of them is the mart and commercial metropolis of a wide area, in which they are each unrivaled.

We have before us a valuable report, "prepared by authority of the delegates from the City of St. Louis, for the use of Chicago convention of July 5, 1847," from which we select the following passages:

"At the first census (1790), the population of the Valley of the Mississippi did not exceed two hundred thousand. In 1800, it had increased to about five hundred and sixty thousand; in 1810, to one million three hundred and seventy thousand; in 1820, to two millions five hundred and eighty thousand; in 1830, to four millions one hundred and ninety thousand; in 1840, to six millions three hundred and seventy thousand; and in 1847, according to the present average ratio of increase, it exceeds ten millions five hundred and twenty thousand. In the year 1850, according to such ratio, it will exceed twelve millions, and be about equal to the population of all the Atlantic States.

The history of Missouri alone, however, exhibits a still more extraordinary increase. In 1771, the population was seven hundred and forty-three; in 1799, it was six thousand and five; in 1810, it was twenty thousand eight hundred and forty-five; in 1820, it was sixty-six thousand five hundred and eighty-six; in 1830, it was one hundred and forty thousand four hundred and forty-five; in 1840, it was three hundred and eighty-three thousand seven hundred and two; and according to the same ratio of increase (one hundred and


seventy-three per cent decenially), it is, 1847, eight hundred and twenty-five thousand and seventy-four, being an increase of sixteen per cent per annum. But while the decenial increase of Missouri was one hundred and seventy-three per cent, that of Illinois was two hundred and two, Mississippi, one hundred and seventy-five, and Arkansas, two hundred and twenty-one per cent.

The commerce and agriculture of this valley exhibits a growth as surprising as that of its population.

The first schooner of the northern lakes, the "Griffin," in 1679, was freighted with the first commercial enterprise and settlement that reached the Valley of the Mississippi. Thus, the rivers of the valley owe to the Great Lakes the introduction of commerce and population.

From that period up to the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, and even later, the fur trade of the French emigrants with the Indians constituted a leading pursuit of the inhabitants, especially of the upper half of the Valley of the Mississippi. These immense rivers and lakes were navigated from Quebec, on the St. Lawrence, to the Yellow Stone, on the Missouri, by bark canoes, and the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, connecting the lakes with the Mississippi, were a chief thoroughfare of the trade.

Next to the canoe came the Mackinaw boat carrying fifteen hundred weight to three tons, and then the keel boat or barge of thirty to forty tons. The first appearance of the keel boat in the Mississippi, above the mouth of the Ohio, of which we have any account, was in 1751, when a fleet of boats, commanded by Bossu, a captain of French marines, ascended as far as Fort Chartres. This enterprise, also, was the first to ascertain, by experience, something of the nature of the navigation of the Mississippi. One of the boats, the "St. Louis," struck a sand bar above the mouth of the Ohio, was unladen and detained two days. Three days after, says the Traveler, "my boat ran against a tree, of which the Mississippi is full; the shock burst the boat, and such a quantity of water got into it that it sunk in less than an hour's time." This was probably the first boat snagged on the Mississippi. From three to four months was the time consumed at this period, and for many years afterwards, in a voyage from New Orleans to the settlements in the vicinity of St. Louis; a voyage occupying a steamboat, in 1819, twenty-seven days; but which of late has been accomplished in less than four days.

The city of St. Louis is the base of the navigation of all the Upper Mississippi and its tributaries, and the head of


navigation for the larger boats of the Ohio and Lower Mississippi. Here is concentrated all the trade of the Upper Mississippi, Missouri, and the Illinois rivers, and a large portion of the Ohio, and the Lower Mississippi. Hence is exhibited as busy and as crowded a wharf as can any where be seen, upon which are commingled people of many nations, and products of every clime, and every species of industry. The city was built upon a limestone bluff, of moderate elevation, fronting on the Mississippi, whose waters washed its base with a convenient depth. From the condition of a fur trader's post, it has grown to the quality of a city, promising soon to be of the first class. From a mere boat load of traders, its population has gone on multiplying until it has reached the number of fifty thousand. From a trade of a few thousand dollars in furs and peltries, a commerce has arisen which counts its millions. It has grown to be the greatest steam boat port, next to New Orleans, in the world." Its enrolled and licensed tonnage was, in

1844 16,664
1845 20,424
1846 23,800

At $65 per ton, its tonnage, for 1846, was worth $1,547,000. But this tonnage of its own is not all that is required by its trade. The total number of steamboat arrivals at St. Louis was: —

In 1839, 1,476 with 213,193 tons.

In 1840, 1,721 with 244,185 tons.

In 1841, 2,105 with 371,691 tons.

In 1842, 2,412 with 467,824 tons.

Besides eight hundred and one flatboats, and is exclusive of the daily packets to Alton. During the month of May, 1846, there were twelve steamboat arrivals per day."


Chapter XXVIII. The First War Steamboat.

[From Prebles' Steam Navigation.]

"NEAR the close of 1813, Robert Fulton exhibited to the President of the United States the drawing of a proposed war steamer or floating battery, named by him the Demologus. He contemplated in addition to the proposed armament on deck, she should have four submarine guns. Two suspended at each bow, to discharge a hundred-pound ball into an enemy ten or twelve feet below her water line, and that she should have an engine for throwing an immense column of hot water upon the decks or through ports of an opponent. Her estimated cost was $300,000, which was about the cost of a first-class sailing frigate.

Fulton's project was favorably received, and in March, 1813, a law authorizing the President to cause to be equipped one or more floating batteries, for the defense of the waters of the United States. The construction of the vessel was committed by the Coast and Harbor Defense Association, to a sub-committee of five gentlemen appointed by William Jones, Secretary of the Navy. Robert Fulton, whose soul animated the enterprise, was appointed the engineer, and on the 20th of June, 1814, the keels of this novel steamer were laid, at the ship yard of Adam and Noah Brown in the city of New York.

The blockade of our coast by the enemy enhanced the price of timber and rendered the importation of lead, iron and copper and the supply of coal from Richmond and Liverpool difficult. These obstacles, however, were surmounted, and the enemies blockade only increased the expense of her construction.

With reference to the mechanics and laborers there was no difficulty. Shipwrights had repaired to the lakes in such numbers that comparatively few were left on the seaboard. Besides, large numbers had enlisted as soldiers. By an increase of wages, however, a sufficient number of laborers were obtained and the vessel was launched on the 20th of October, 1814, amidst the hurrahs of assembled thousands.

The river and bay was filled with steamers and vessels of war, in compliment to the occasion. In the midst of these was the floating mass of the Demologus, or Fulton, as she was


afterwards named, whose bulk and unwieldy form seemed to render her as unfit for motion as were the land batteries that were saluting her.

Captain David Porter, writing to the Secretary of the Navy, under date of the 14th October, 1818, says, "I have the pleasure to inform you that the "Fulton the First," was this morning safely launched. No one yet has ventured to suggest any improvement that could be made in the vessel, and to use the words of the projector, ‘I would not alter her if it was in my power to do so.’

She promises fair to answer our most sanguine expectations, and I do not despair in being able to navigate in her from one extreme end of the coast to the other. Her buoyancy astonishes every one. She now draws only eight feet three inches of water, and her draft will be ten feet when her guns, machinery stores and crew are all on board. The ease by which she can now be towed by a single steamboat, renders it certain that her relaxity will be sufficiently great to answer every purpose, and the manner it is intended to secure her machinery from the gunners' shot, leaves no apprehension for its safety. I shall use every exertion to prepare her for immediate service. Her guns will soon be mounted, and I am assured by Mr. Fulton that her machinery will be in operation in about six weeks."

On the 21st of November, 1814, the "Fulton" was moved from the wharf of Mess. Brown on the East River to the works of Robert Fulton on the North River to receive her machinery. The steamboat Car of Neptune made fast to her port and the "Fulton" to her starboard side, towed her to her destination at the rate of three and half miles an hour.

The dimensions of this the first war steamer were: Length, 150 feet, breadth, 56 feet, depth, 20 feet, water-wheel, 16 feet diameter, length of bucket, 14 feet, dip, 4 feet, engine, 48 inch cylinder, 5 feet stroke; boiler 22 feet length, breadth 12 feet, and depth 8 feet. Tonnage 2,475. She was the largest steamer by many hundreds of tons that had been built at the date of her launch."

The commissioners to examine her in their report say: "She is a structure resting on two boats, keels separated from end to end by a canal 15 feet wide and 60 feet long. One boat contains the cauldrons of copper to prepare her steam. The vast cylinder of iron with its pistons, levers and wheels occupies a part of its fellow. The great water-wheel revolves in the space between them. The main or gun deck, supporting her armament is protected by a bulwark four feet


ten inches thick, of solid timber. This is pierced by thirty port holes to enable as many as thirty-two pounders to fire red hot balls. Her upper or spar deck, upon which several thousand men might parade, is encompassed by a bulwark which affords safe quarters. She is rigged by two short masts, each of which supports a large lateen yawl and sails. She has two bowsprits and gibs and four rudders, two at each extremity of the boat so that she can be steered either end foremost. Her machinery is calculated for the addition of an engine which will discharge an immense column of hot water, which is intended to throw upon the decks and all through the ports of an enemy. If in addition to all this we suppose her to be furnished according to Mr. Fulton's intention, with one hundred pounder Columbiads, two suspended from each bow, so as to discharge a ball of that size into an enemy's ship, ten or twelve feet below the water line, it must be allowed that she has the appearance at least of being the most formidable engine of warfare that human ingenuity has contrived."

Such is a correct description of this sea monster of 1814. But exaggerated and fabulous accounts of her got into circulation. Among others the following was published in a Scotch newspaper, the writer stating that he had taken great care to procure full and accurate information.

Her length, he writes, on deck is three hundred feet, thickness of sides thirteen feet, of alternate oak and cork plank, carries 44 guns. Four of which are 100 pounders. And further to annoy an enemy attempting to board, can discharge 100 gallons of boiling water, in a minute, and by mechanism brandishes three hundred cutlasses with the uttermost regularity over the gunwales. Works also an equal number of iron pikes of great length, darting through from her sides with prodigious force every quarter of a minute.

The War having terminated, after many trials of speed, and to improve the ordinance and machinery on board of her, "Fulton the First," was taken to the navy yard at Brooklyn, and moored at the flats abreast of that station, where she was used as a receiving ship, until the 4th of June, 1829, fifteen years after the laying of her keels, when she was accidentally or purposely blown up."

By this explosion 24 men and women were killed, 19 wounded, and five missing and probably killed."

As there was but little powder on board (only two and half pounds and that damaged) it was evidently the work of incendiarism.

Thus ignominiously ended the first steam vessel of war ever


constructed for that purpose. But from that crude and unwieldy mass of wood and iron, the finest specimens of naval architecture sprang rapidly into existence — and the great inventive mind that gave it life has long since ceased to be remembered with the admiration due to his great genius.

Chapter XXIX. First Towns on the Ohio and Mississippi. Reminiscences of Manuel White, Esq., of New Orleans.

IN the year 1801, Louisville, or Falls of Ohio, was a small village of 500 or 600 inhabitants. Small as the place was, it witnessed the arrival and departure of great numbers of barges, keel-boats and flat-boats, as, every boat whether bound to New Orleans or down the river, was obliged to stop here in order to be piloted through the rapids. Wonderful were the tales told by the Western boatmen of hairbreadth escapes from flood and field, and the prowling Indians who infested the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi. Early in the month of May, 1800, the keel of a large brig was laid, which in the course of the year was launched, but did not arrive in New Orleans for a considerable time after. The writer, then a youth, employed by Wilson and Eastin, assisted in loading thirteen flat-boats with tobacco, flour, etc., and in company with one of the owners, set out about the first of June, 1801, for New Orleans. The fleet did not land in New Orleans until about the first of August, having been upon the voyage sixty days. The population of New Orleans was rated at that time about six thousand, including blacks and colored. There was not to be seen on the banks of the Ohio from the foot of the Falls to the mouth but a small settlement called Red Banks, another called Yellow banks. Fort Massac, and a cabin below the cave in rock. From the mouth of the Ohio to Bayou Sara, there were only two inhabited places, on the right bank, New Madrid and Point Chicot.

On the left side all the human habitants that were seen until we arrived at Point Coupee were Brownsburg, Natchez, and Fort Adams. All the rest was a dreary waste, over which the bear and the crocodile held their sway, unless interrupted by the occasional sojourn of an Indian tribe. Upon our arrival at New Orleans, the men composing the crew of those


thirteen flat-boats, commenced to make preparations for a journey homeward. They crossed lake Ponchatrain upon schooners and small boats, and striking the Natchez Trace, commenced their long walk of a thousand miles through the wilderness infected by savage Indians. It was seldom that they were attacked, as they were always in large bodies and well armed. At the time of my landing here, the country was under Spanish rule and remained so until 1803. — Ex De Bows. Review, 1846.


"We find that a contract was made by the Mr. Fulton with the U. S. Government to put the steamboats Vesuvius, Etna and Buffalo in operation for the purpose of transporting troops and munitions of war on the Mississippi river. Three days after this contract was made, the steamboat Vesuvius was impressed, and taken into service at New Orleans when that city was threatened with invasion from the British forces, for which Mr. Fulton claimed remuneration. According to the testimony of Capt. John De Hart who commanded the Vesuvius in the year 1813, 1814 and 1815, says that as the Vesuvius, was the only steamboat between Louisville, Ky., and New Orleans during the great alarm occasioned by the appearance of the British army before the city, her services were worth $900 per day, and for the whole time she was in the service of the U. S. Government she should be awarded the sum of $50,000.

This claim occupied the courts and Congress of the U. S. many years, and it was 32 years afterward when the government made a handsome appropriation for the heirs of Robert Fulton. The bill passed Congress in 1846, awarding $76,300.

The Vesuvius was seized by order of Genl. Jackson at the time he proclaimed martial law in New Orleans, December, 1814.

We therefore suppose she must have been here at the time the battle of New Orleans was fought."



[Louisiana Gazette, Oct. 11th, 1814.]

Information having been received in August that Lafitte and his piratical band had taken a number of valuable prizes; and there being no doubt that the goods on board would, in violation of the law, be smuggled into the city, his Excellency, Governor Claiborn, requested Commodore Patterson of the U. S. Navy to make an expedition against this band of pirates, who had so long established themselves at Barrataria, on the Islands of Grand Isle and Grand Terre, and infested the adjacent waters. About the 11th of September, Commodore Patterson descended the Mississippi and met his gunboats at the Balize and without delay proceeded on the expedition. On the 16th, being near the point of attack, the Commodore formed the line of battle and stood for the Harbor of Grand Terre, which he entered. As the U. S. squadron approached the Island of Grand Terre, the pirates were observed forming their vessels in line and making preparation for battle, but they could not long stand before the long guns of the squadron, fled in dismay.

They set fire to two of their best vessels. Before sunset the Commodore was in complete possession of the piratical vessels. The U. S. squadron consisted of the schooner Carolina and six gunboats. From the number of the pirates' vessels, and their advantageous position, a sharp and spirited defense was anticipated; their force of all nations and colors was estimated at not less than 500 men. All their buildings at Grand Terre, Grand Isle and Cheniere Caminada were destroyed. Twelve vessels fell into the power of the captors. A number of prisoners with a large quantity of merchandise was captured. On the 30th the squadron with the prizes approached the city of New Orleans. The prizes brought up consisted of ten sails, seven of which were cruisers of Lafitte, and the other three, armed schooners under Carthagenian colors.

Lafitte made his escape, but subsequently in the month of December, 1814, just before the battle of New Orleans, Governor Claiborn offered him pardon if he would surrender, which he did, and at the battle of New Orleans he had charge of the water batteries below the city, to prevent the British gunboats from passing. This service he performed, and was complimented by the Governor. He disappeared shortly after this, and we know not what became of him.



New Orleans 1812 Jan. 12 J. Baker.
Vesuvius 1814 May 16 R. De Hart.
Enterprise " Dec. 14 H. M. Shreve.
Etna 1815 April 24 John De Hart.
Dispatch 1816 Feb. 13  
Gen'l Pike " Oct. 2 Benj. Booth.
Washington " Oct. 7 Henry M. Shreve.
Franklin " Feb. 10 E. Younge.
Constitution 1817 April 17 R. P. Guird.
Harriett " May 6 J. Armitage.
Buffalo " May 10 S. Claugh.
Kentucky " Nov. 12 B. Bosworth.
James Monroe " Nov. 26 J. A. Paulfrey.
George Madison 1818 Jan. 1 J. A. Holton.
Vesta " Jan. 24 J. Shackelford.
Governor Shelby " Mch 23 John T. Gray.
Gen'l Jackson " April 1 B. Hopkins.
Cincinnati " May 23 C. Paxon.
Ohio " Jan. 9 H. M. Shreve.
Napoleon " Jan. 19 I. Gregg.
Eagle " July 19 Nicolas Berthoud.
Louisiana " August 6 F. Duplises.
Newport " August 26 Benj. Booth.
Johnson " Oct. 25 Silas Craig.
Henderson " Dec. 30 Jonah Winters.
Volcano 1819 Jan. 4 Robinson De Hart.
Alabama " Jan. 7 George Hauxhurst.
Hecla " Jan. 17 Francis Honorle.
Exchange " Jan. 20 Thos. Sturges.
James Ross " Feb 6 John Paulfrey.
Maid of Orleans " Feb 12 Wm. Morris.
Maysville " Feb 18 John Campbell
Tamerlain " Feb. 26 Stephen Vail.
Frankfort " Mch. 1 J. G. Voohries.
Rifleman " Mch. 2 S. M. Barner.
Rising States " Mch. 31 Jas. Pierce.
St. Louis " April 14 T. W. Hews.
Ramapo " May 4 H. Reed.
Paragon " May 14 S. Cummings.
Mobile " May 29 D. Paul.
Gen'l Clark " July 6 John Sowers.
Yankee " Dec. 10 P. A. Oliver.
Feliciana 1820 Feb. 9 P. A. Oliver.
Fayette " Feb. 20 Wm. Anderson.
Car of Commerce " Feb. 21 Jas. Pierce.
Beaver " Feb. 21 D. Prentis
Gen'l Robertson " Feb. 26 Luke Douglas.
Tennessee " Feb. 26 Jos. Smith.
Rifleman " Feb. 27 S M. Barner.
Comet " Mch. 1 J.M. Byrne.


United States 1820 Mch. 17 S. Hart.
Columbus of New Orleans. " Mch. 25 J. Forsyth
Gen'l Green " Mch. 26 G.M. Towers
Missouri " Mch. 26 A. Gross.
Manhattan 1819 Nov. 27 D. Jenkins.
Rapids " Nov. 29 Thos. Sturges.
Columbus of Kentucky " April 4 L. Stephens.
Cumberland " April 16 Wm. Walker.
Vulcan " April 28 A. Ruter.
Fayett " April 29 John Mills.
Telegraph " May 16 J. Armitage.
Independence " Oct. 22 J. Jenkins.
Arkansas " Oct. 22 G. Rearick.
Mississippi " Nov. 7 Daniel McMeal.
Velocipede " Nov. 29 Jacob Beckwith.
Hornet 1821 Jan. 1 S. Brandenberg.
Osage " Jan. 13 N. Bliss.
Thos. Jefferson " Jan. 22 H.J. Offut.
Olive Branch " Jan. 23 J. Sanders.
Hero " Feb. 12 B. Land.
Alexandria " April 10 Wm. Waters
Gen'l Clark " May 7 J. W. Byrne.
Post Boy " May 22 H. N. Breckenridge.
Courier " Jan. 6 J. Beckwith.
Elizabeth " Jan 9 J. B. Enlow.
Dolphin " Jan. 24 C. Whiting.
Providence " Dec 4 J. Lousdale.
Henry Clay " Dec. 21 John Shalcross
Rocket " Dec. 28 W. H. Keer.
Eliza " Dec. 28 B. Booth.
Mandan. " Dec. 28 Wm. Lynn.
Gen'l Green " Dec. 29 Theophilas Minor.


Chapter XXX. Embargo on the Navigation of the Mississippi.

There were three periods in the history of the Mississippi River, when the free navigation of this river was prohibited.

First in 1785. During the Spanish occupation under Governor Miro an active trade from the population on the Ohio had forced itself down the Mississippi to every part of Louisiana, and the people of the Western settlements claimed the natural right to the use of the river through the province of Louisiana, although in the eyes of Spain they were unquestionably citizens of foreign power. It had early become a matter of great interest to the Spanish authorities to derive a large revenue from the trade by the importation of transit and port duties. A revenue officer, with a suitable guard, and a military post, was established at New Madrid, Chickasaw Bluffs, and other points, at which all boats were required to make land and comply with the revenue laws; which were enforced with vigor, even to the seizure and confiscation of the cargo.

The Western people believed these duties exorbitant and unjust towards those who possessed a natural right to navigate the river free of all such impositions. The whole people of the West determined to resist this unjust taxation and a military invasion of Louisiana was devised for redressing the wrongs of the Western people and seizing the port of New Orleans.

At the same time the Western people, indignant at the neglect of the Federal Government in not securing them the free use of the Mississippi, were strongly tempted to separate from the Atlantic States and to secure for themselves an independent government. The Spanish authorities, becoming alarmed at this threatened invasion, and knowing the power of the Western people, agreed to make the necessary concession of the free navigation of the river. It was under these circumstances that Col. James Wilkinson, of Kentucky, made an arrangement with the Spanish authorities to descend to New Orleans with several barges and flat-boats loaded with flour and other articles of Western produce. Having reached New Orleans, he obtained an interview with the Governor and at length succeeded in securing for himself and the people of the West permission to trade with the city and to introduce free of duties many articles of Western produce adapted to the Louisiana market.


From this time forward the free navigation of the Mississippi was opened until 1812. — Monett's History of the Valley of the Mississippi.


In 1812, Livingston and Fulton obtained a grant from the Legislature of Louisiana for the exclusive right to navigate the waters of this State with steamboats belonging to their company. The first steamboat coming to the port of New Orleans that did not belong to the company of Livingston & Fulton, was the Enterprise, Captain H. M. Shreve, in December, 1814; immediately upon her arrival she was seized at the instigation of Livingston and Fulton, for infringing upon their rights to the exclusive navigation of the river within the boundaries of Louisiana; Captain Shreve, as agent of the owners of the Enterprise, gave bond in the suit, and proposed to test the legality of any such law, or grant. The next independent steamboat that appeared at this port was the Dispatch, in 1815; she was also seized while, loading with a cargo of sugar and molasses for the Ohio, the cargo was forcibly taken out of her, and she was ordered to leave the waters of this State and not return, under threats of confiscation. The captain not being prepared with bail was compelled to obey this unjust order, and departed without cargo for the Ohio, glad to save his boat. The next boat seized for trespassing upon the waters of Louisiana was the steamboat Constitution that arrived at this port in 1816. She, like the Dispatch, was compelled to depart from the waters of Louisiana without cargo. The people of the West hearing of these outrageous proceedings of the authorities of Louisiana, held meetings at Cincinnati and Louisville and denounced the authorities of Louisiana for making any such grant to Livingston and Fulton, and demanded from the Congress of the United States that they should immediately abrogate and set aside any such grant to the free navigation of the Mississippi River, and if it was not done they would send an armed expedition to open up the river. Whilst this excitement was progressing, Captain H. M. Shreve arrived at this port in 1816, with the steamer Washington, a large and fine steamboat of her time. She also was immediately seized at the instigation of Livingston and Fulton for trespassing upon their waters. Captain Shreve this time had the case placed in the United States court, and after waiting some months it was finally decided that the State of Louisiana had no right to grant to


Livingston and Fulton the exclusive right of navigating the waters within her territory, and that all the rivers, lakes and bayous of the United States shall be free and open to all citizens of the United States, who might wish to navigate them with any kind of vessel. Thus ended the second attempt to prohibit the free navigation of the Mississippi. The third period when the free navigation of the Mississippi was interrupted was in 1861, shortly after the Civil War broke out between the United States and the Confederacy. A fort was established at Columbus, Kentucky, and no vessels of any kind were permitted to pass up or down. This blockade continued until 1862, when Columbus was evacuated, also Memphis, Tenn., when the navigation was opened as far down as Vicksburg, and after the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, was again opened to New Orleans


Among the amusing relics that have been preserved from the result of the late Civil War, none will afford coming generations of Western boatmen more amusement than to read the following order issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, — C. G. Memminger.

As the Confederate line was drawn at Norfolk, on the Mississippi, a point just below Cairo, all floating craft of every description were required to land there, and report to the Confederate officer, who was always prepared to enforce the order. And as all masters of vessels were soon convinced that resistance to Confederate authority, when they got below the line, was not only useless but dangerous, Norfolk soon became a point of great importance, although before the war and the location of the revenue officer there, it was hardly known even to river men as anything more than a wood-yard and a warehouse.

The requirements, although much condensed, were as follows:

"Masters of flat-boats with coal in bulk intended for points as above, must give, under oath, to the collector at Norfolk, a schedule in duplicate, setting forth name of boat, master, owner, where from, quality, quantity and value, and the fact of its being intended to be landed at places other than ports of entry or delivery. On these schedules the collector will estimate the duties payable; and on payment of the duties at Norfolk, will endorse on the original schedule (to be returned


to the master) a certificate of payment, and a permit to land the goods. Should any portion of the goods arriving, as aforesaid, composed of dutiable or free articles, be destined to ports of entry or delivery, other than the port of final destination, permission may be given to land the same under the following regulations:

"The master shall present to the revenue officer at Norfolk a schedule in triplicate of the goods, describing them by their marks and numbers, number of packages and contents corresponding with the description in the general manifest of the vessel. Also stating the name of consignor and name of port of destination of the merchandise."

"On the arrival of the vessel at an intermediate port, the master or commander is to present to the revenue officer the original schedule and will receive a general permit to land the goods upon their being duly entered and special landing permits issued, as now provided by law, for the landing of imported merchandise.

Should the vessel out of business hours, or should circumstances compel it, the master is permitted to deposit the goods either in a bonded warehouse or the custody of a revenue officer, and shall receive a receipt containing all the particulars of the schedule and the original schedule shall be delivered to the person with whom the merchandise is deposited and by him delivered over to the collector or chief revenue officer as soon as the opening of the custom house will permit."

On the arrival of the vessel at the port of final destination the master or commander shall make due entry at the custom house by delivering his original manifest together with all schedules enclosed, with the permits to land at intermediate ports, and the receipts of officers to whom any goods may have been delivered or any other document showing the disposition of any portion of the cargo, and the residue of the cargo shall be delivered on permits similar to those provided by law for the landing of imported merchandise. And the total cargo as shown by the original manifest, shall be delivered at this port, with the exception of such as shall be shown by documents presented at the time of entry to have been landed elsewhere, under) the penalties now provided by law, for discrepancies existing in the cargo of vessels arriving from foreign ports."

In order to relieve vessels in this branch of importing trade from embarrassments, all goods imported therein, remaining unclaimed, or for which no entry shall be made or permit granted, within twenty-four hours after arrival, may be taken


possession of by the collector, and deposited in a bonded warehouse on a general permit issued by him for that purpose." To afford further facilities in the event of vessels in this trade arriving at the port of final destination before the opening, or after the closing of the custom house for the day and a necessity exists for discharging the cargo, it shall be lawful to deposit same, or any part of it, at the risk and expense of the vessel, on the levee, in charge of the inspection service, of the customs, or in any bonded warehouse in the port, such portion of said cargo as may be practicable.

The master or commander of said vessel obtaining for the goods so deposited, a receipt from the inspection officer, on the levee, or the custom officer, in charge of the warehouse, which receipt shall be delivered to the collector of customs as soon thereafter as the business hours of the custom house of said port will permit.

"Any goods, wares or merchandise imported as aforesaid may be entered at the port of destination, on presentation to the collector of the bill or bills of lading, together with the other documents now required by law, on the entry of imported merchandise, before and in anticipation of the arrival of the importing vessel, and the necessary permits for the landing shall issue on the completion of these entries.

And on the presentation of these permits to the surveyor, it shall be his duty and is hereby required of him (if the vessel by which the goods are imported has arrived at the port), to detail an inspector of the customs to superintend the landing of the merchandise as described therein, and such landing is authorized before entry has been made by the importing vessel at the custom house when the interest of commerce or circumstances attending such arrival, shall render it necessary.

It must, however, be distinctly understood that it is unlawful to discharge any portion of the cargoes of these vessels, except under the inspection and supervision of the custom officer.


Before the departure of any vessel navigating the Mississippi or others rivers, destined to a foreign port or place beyond the southern limits of the Confederate States of America, the master or person having the charge thereof, shall deliver to the collector or chief officer of the customs at the port from which the vessel is about to depart, a manifest of the cargo on board the same, in the form and verified in


the manner now provided by law for vessels to a foreign port, and obtain from said collector a clearance as follows:" —


Here follows the usual clearance certificate of vessels bound to a foreign port and then follows: —

"It shall be permitted to vessels engaged in navigation and commerce provided for by those regulations, after clearance, to take on board at the port of original departure, or any other place within the limits of the Confederacy, any goods, wares or merchandise, and to proceed therewith to a destination beyond the Confederate limits on delivering to the collector or chief revenue officer at the port of Norfolk, on the Mississippi, or at the port nearest the frontier of the Confederacy, or any other river, a schedule describing all the goods on board — the quality, the value and destination, not declared in the manifest delivered at the time of clearance at the custom house of the original port of departure. The schedule thus received to be forwarded to the port from which the vessel may have originally cleared."

Lastly, it is made the duty of the collector at the port of Norfolk, or at the other frontier ports, at which masters of outward-bound vessels are required to deliver schedules, to board all vessels bound to places beyond the Confederacy, in the same manner and at the hours heretofore provided for inward-bound vessels."

It will be observed that these requirements are addressed to flat-boat masters with coal in bulk, etc. But there was no distinction made between flat-boats, steamboats, or any other craft. All were required to land and to conform to the regulations. But no great embarrassment or inconvenience was felt by the "regulations." For until Memphis was taken there was no business transacted by the river after the blockade was established at Cairo. Even before that was officially announced, the Confederates established a sort of guerrilla blockade at points along the river where they had troops stationed and provisions were not very plenty.

The writer calls to mind a case in point. In the early spring of 1861, returning from New Orleans with the steamer Empress, and passing "Fort Wright," a temporary fortification a few miles above Memphis, we were brought to about daylight one morning by a shot across our bows from a cannon on shore, entirely obscured from view. As we were not at that early period accustomed to that kind of "hails" but


little time was lost in responding to the hail. It was a cold, wet morning, and the officer and file of soldiers that stepped on board as soon as the boat landed looked as if they had been on duty all night and that the easiest way to a compromise would be through the bar-room. I fortunately struck the key-note the first time, and sent for the barkeeper, and while it was a little early for me, I saw I was on the right road to an early release, and insisted that soldiers exposed to the inclemency of such nights were entitled to more than one drink, in which they freely concurred. Looking through our cargo, they saw nothing contraband or that would be useful to the Confederacy, except some hogsheads of sugar, marked Chicago. Nothing could have been more opportune; rye or corn coffee without sugar was an abomination to a soldier of the Confederacy, and although, later on, it was often a luxury, but at that early date, with hogsheads of "Yankee" sugar in sight it was no use talking, remonstrance was in vain, and the Chicago sugar rolled on shore and the Empress and her crew were permitted to pursue their winding way north, realizing for the first time that they were in the "enemy's country" and hostilities had already commenced. We felt that we were fortunate in getting "through the lines," even with the loss of a few hogsheads of sugar. Other steamboats a day or two behind the Empress, were less fortunate and never returned to their home ports. Later on, the Empress made many narrow escapes from masked batteries and guerrilla attacks.


Chapter XXXI. The Watt & Bolton Engine.

[Written for the N. O. Democrat.]

THE Watt & Bolton engine as originally used carried steam at a pressure very little above the boiling point. The difference between them and the high pressure was in the use of a condenser. On the Western waters the early low-pressure boats carried steam very seldom exceeding 10 pounds to the inch, but gradually, by the introduction of stronger boilers, this amount was increased to 30 and 40 pounds. The first boat — the New Orleans — had but one cylinder, 34 inches in diameter, and without a walking beam. The engine was what is known as a steeple engine, vertical, with the piston attached to a cross iron beam, something on the order of a saw mill engine. Many of the early boats had horizontal engines, low pressure, but single. The Caravan and Mechanic of 1820 had high pressure engines with cross-heads. In 1824 the Hibernia and Philadelphia had also high pressure engines on the cross-head principle, but they were horizontal, and the pitmans and cross-heads ran under the boilers. All the early boats had their cabins on deck, and it was of importance for the engine to occupy as little space as possible. The steeple engine took up but little more than the diameter of the cylinder. None of the low pressure boats had two engines up to 1823 except the United States, whose cylinders built in England on the Watt & Bolton principle had walking beams. French's engine was the oscillating; the Comet had one of these engines. She was sold at Natchez, in 1813, and her machinery put in a saw mill. After the Comet, came the Enterprise, a larger boat, in 1814, and then the Dispatch. These three boats were built at Brownsville, Pa., by the Monongahela Steam Navigation Company, and had the oscillating engine. The Washington, built by Capt. H. M. Shreve, in 1816, had high pressure engine and four single flue boilers. Trevithick invented the high pressure engine, and inasmuch as there was a saving in the use of a condenser, and as high steam and expansion were also found good qualities, Wolf conceived the idea of combining the two qualities in the same engine and introduced the compound engine, the principle upon which the Hartupee engine is built. Oliver Evans never built any engines for Western boats, but his son George established a shop at Pittsburgh and built a few high-pressure engines.



"A friend has favored the Times-Democrat of New Orleans with a copy of a letter that appeared in the Louisiana Gazette of the twentieth of October, 1810, from which it would appear that this city can claim the proud distinction of having built the first steamboat, and that, too, three years before Fulton built the Clermont for the Hudson River. The letter was written by Oliver Evans, of Philadelphia, the man who built and patented the first high pressure engine, and read as follows: —

"In the year 1802 or 1803 Capt. Jas. McKeaver and Louis Valcourt, having been in Kentucky, saw a letter which I had written to a gentleman there explaining how my improvements would apply to steamboats in the water, and agreed to construct a steamboat to ply between New Orleans and Natchez. The captain superintended the building of the boat, and Mr. Valcourt came to Philadelphia in the fall of 1803 and had the engine built at my shop, while I was in Washington, and they met at New Orleans, fitted the engine to the boat, ready for experiment, but the water had left them high and dry, and not likely to rise again to float the boat in less than six months. They having expended about $15,000, their money was exhausted and they were left in a sad dilemma. Mr. Wm. Donaldson, of New Orleans, furnished them with money on condition they would take the engine out of the boat and apply it to drive a saw mill. This they did and began to saw 2,000 feet of boards in twelve hours, when incendiaries set fire to the mill and reduced it to ashes. They have both written to me frequently, that they were confident that the power of the engine was quite sufficient to have insured success in propelling the boat. The engine for this boat was only nine inches in diameter, the stroke of the piston three feet. I believe my principle is the only one suitable for propelling boats up the Mississippi. This engine is ten times more powerful than the best English engine of equal dimensions. It has no equal, excepting the one I have since erected at Pittsburgh for Mr. Owen Evans; the cylinder is 9 feet 2-10 inches in diameter and 3 feet 2 inches stroke, and will grind 480 bushels of wheat in twenty-four hours. OLIVER EVANS.

NOTE. — This engine was the first one used in the territory of Louisiana. The boiler consisted of cylinders of sheet iron, 3 feet 6 inches in diameter, 8 feet long, with flues.



[From Niles' Register, Vol. 13, 1817.]

"Citizens attend. Surely the sum of death and misery, occasioned by the explosion of the boilers of steam engines on the boats is now enough to arrest your attention, if you ever intend to travel on steamboats. This discovery has recently been so openly attacked, that the inventor is compelled to defend it.

Therefore, I announce that more than forty years ago, I discovered the principles and afterwards the means of applying the great and advantageous principle in nature of the rapid increase of the elastic power of steam, by geometrical progression and by the small increase of heat in the water by arithmetical progression, and thereby lessen the consumption of fuel, the size and weight of the steam engine to suit for steamboats.

For double heat in the water produces 128 times the power, and double force consumed produces sixteen times the effect. I have since got into operation seventy or eighty steam engines constructed on the unimitable and eternal principles and laws of nature, so combined and arranged that it is nearly beyond the art of man, either by neglect, design, ignorance or malice, to explode them by the elastic power of steam. He can only make them yield to the inevitable power, in a small degree, so as to let the power escape until the steam extinguishes the fire, and the danger ceases, by the regular operation of the engine itself. No accident has ever happened with any of my engines to do any injury."

I published in 1805 a laborious and difficult work (produced by long intense study) on this new and abtruse subject, describing and demonstrating those principles and directing their application to mills, and also to boats, by means of the very paddle wheels, since adopted, which mode of application I had conceived, or understood well, for about thirty years before.

To this book I now refer, "The Young Steam Engineer's Guide." It is to be seen in the Philadelphia library.

My cylindric boilers, 15 inches in diameter with the ends closed, with half globes, will hold about 1,300 pressure to the inch area of its inner surface.

If twenty inches diameter, about 1,000 lbs., if thirty inches about 700, and if sixty inches diameter, they will bear about 350 lbs. when constructed with wrought iron sheets one quarter


of an inch thick, thoroughly riveted together, and that with as much safety as any other form will bear, ten pounds to the inch. Double diameters will hold but half the power. But, further in my cylindric boilers the stress to make them yield, is equal in every part, and because it is impossible for any workmen to construct any boiler to be equal in strength, in all its parts, but that some part, or rivet, of a thousand, will be weaker than the rest, and yield first by a small opening, to let the power escape inside the furnace, and steam enough to extinguish the fire. Thus the operation of the engine itself stops all danger."

"Then we may safely conclude, and say, that it has been proved in practice that these boilers cannot be exploded to do any serious injury. Not in such a degree, as to force through the furnace wall of a mill, and much less to force through the sheet iron covering of the boiler in the steamboat Aetna, by the elastic power of them. I defy contradiction or any person to explode one of my boilers by steam."


theory of non-explosion of the cylinder steam boiler.

While he is very positive that his boilers can not be exploded by the elastic power of steam, later experiences show that he was sadly mistaken.

Without knowing the kind or character of his furnace it is impossible to say what would be the effect of a leak in the boiler. The assertion he makes that a leak would extinguish the fire and thus make an explosion impossible would not hold good in more modern experience. If a weak place in the boiler sheet, or an imperfect rivet was always on the bottom of the boiler, or on the part exposed directly to the fire, what he anticipated would sometimes occur. But unfortunately for his theory, and for our experience, cylinder boilers have not been so considerate as to give timely warning before exploding in many instances.

Still the name of Oliver Evans will long be remembered among the foremost of the enterprising and practical engineers of the age in which he lived, and probably no one did more to develop the power of steam and make it practical than did Oliver Evans. No inventor in any age excelled Mr. Evans in his efforts before Congress and the public at large, to secure recognition and pecuniary assistance to enable him to extend his experiments and to advance the cause and promote the science of steam engineering.


He predicted in 1794, that steam wagons would travel from Philadelphia to Boston in one day, and that the man was then living that would see the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers crossed with steamboats.

Chapter XXXII.

[ Niles' Register, Vol. 16, 1819.]

The Yellow Stone Expedition is to be one of the most respectable and imposing character.

It seems probable that 900 or 1,000 men will be stationed at the upper posts on the Missouri. A large steamboat has been launched to supply them with stores, etc., and a small boat called the "Western Engineer," built by the United States, to draw only nineteen inches water with all her machinery, etc., on board, is ready at Pittsburgh, if not already left, to take out Maj Long and an exploring party consisting of several learned gentlemen whose business is to collect information of all things relating to the great river Missouri, and the parts adjacent.


As described in Niles' Register, Vol. 16, while laying at the landing in St. Louis, previous to her departure on the "Yellowstone Expedition," 1819: —

"The Western Engineer is moored at the landing at the upper part of the city of St. Louis, where she lies waiting for orders. In passing the Independence and the St. Louis, then at anchor before the town, she was saluted by these vessels.

The bow of this vessel exhibits the form of a huge serpent, black and scaly, rising out of the water from under the boat, his head as high as the deck, darting forward, his mouth open, vomiting smoke, and apparently carrying the boat on his back. From under the boat at its stern issues a stream of foaming water, dashing violently along. All the machinery is hid. Three small brass field-pieces mounted on wheel carriages stand on the deck. The boat is ascending the rapid stream at the rate of three miles an hour. Neither wind nor human hands are seen to help her and to the eye of ignorance the illusion is complete that a monster carries on his back smoking


with fatigue and lashing the waves with violent motion. Her equipment is at once calculated to awe and to attract the savage. Objects pleasing and terrifying are at once before him — artillery, the flag of the Republic, portraits of white men and an Indian shaking hands, the calumet of peace, the sword through the apparent monster with a painted vessel on his back, the sides gaping with port-holes and bristling with guns — taken altogether and without intelligence of her composition or design, it would require a daring savage to approach and accost her with Hamlet's speech: —
"Be them a spirit of health, or goblin damned,
Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell?
Be thy intents wicked, or charitable?
Thou comest in such questionable shape,
That I will speak with thee."


Probably no steamboat owned at St. Louis has ever created more curiosity in the minds of its citizens than did the "Big Missouri" on her arrival at the wharf in April 1841. Her size was phenomenal and her fame had so far preceded her arrival, that everybody was on the qui vive to see her. She was 233 feet long, which was longer than any previous boat, 30 feet beam, 8 1-2 feet hold, 59 feet over all. She drew 5 1-2 feet light, wheels 32 feet diameter with 12 feet buckets, cylinders 26 inches, 12 feet stroke, two engines and seven 42 inch boilers, her capacity was 600 tons. She was built at Pittsburgh under the direction of Capt. J. C. Swan, her commander, and cost $45,000. There is no public record of her performance, as she was burned at the wharf in August of the same year. But there is no doubt if she had been given a fair chance, she would have made the trip from New Orleans to St. Louis about as soon as it was made by the "J. M. White" three years later.


The following extract taken from the New Orleans Times-Democrat will show the difference in views between now and then: —


The steamboat United States was built at Jeffersonville, Ind., 1819; sole owner, Edmund Forstall of New Orleans; Samuel Hart, master; measures 645 82-95 tons; enrolled at


New Orleans, January, 1821. Mr. Vandusen, a ship builder of New York, contracted to build this boat, and he brought out from New York fifty mechanics and ship carpenters to do the work, as there were very few ship carpenters in the West at that period. After finishing the hull and upper works she was floated or worked by sweeps to New Orleans for the purpose of receiving her machinery in 1820. The engine was built in England upon the Watt and Boulton plan of low pressure engine with walking beam. Her planking and timbers were of immense thickness, twenty inches of solid wall so as to make her snag proof. She made several voyages between New Orleans and Louisville, but was of so heavy draft and slow speed that she did not prove a success. In 1823, while lying up at Withers' saw mill, just above the city, the batture caved in and sunk her. There is only one steamboat man living in this city, Capt. Louis Choat, who remembers this boat, as he was here at the time she was lost; he says she was the wonder of the Western world, and was thought to be the largest steamboat in the world. Thirteen years time elapsed before another steamboat of so great a tonnage was built in 1832: OLD TIMER.


The Enterprise was the fourth boat built, and though only a small boat of 75 tons was a very remarkable one in many respects. She made two trips in the summer of 1814 between Brownsville and Louisville, and in December of that year came to New Orleans with a load of ordnance stores, and on arrival was pressed into service by Gen. Jackson. She afterwards made five trips to the Balize towing vessels, made a trip to the rapids of Red River, and ran to Natchez. The distance to Natchez was then called 313 miles; this distance she used to make without the use of sails in four days. In August of 1815 she went to Pittsburgh in 54 days, 20 days of which time was consumed in handling freight, all of which was considered a very remarkable trip. In 1812 Livingston and Fulton obtained from the authorities of this State a grant or charter for the exclusive navigation of the waters of the Mississippi River for a period of 20 years. As the Enterprise was built by other parties, she was seized while here at the instance of Livingston and Fulton, who claimed that they alone had the right to navigate the Mississippi River by steam and that she was infringing on their rights and violating the law. She was bonded out and the case carried to the Supreme Court. After


a delay of three years the court decided that in accordance with the constitution of the United States the navigation of the Mississippi river was open and free to all the people of the United States and for all time to come, and declared that the granting of exclusive privileges was of no effect and null and void. We have said that the Enterprise was a remarkable boat; so she was, for the reason that she was the first boat to discard the use of sails and depend upon steam alone. She was the first steamer that went to the mouth of the river, the first to engage in the towage business, the first that ever went to Red River, the first to be seized by process of law and to give bond, and last but not least, was the first steamboat commanded by Capt. H. M. Shreve, a man whose name will be remembered as long as Fulton's, who built the first high pressure engine, who used cranks, who invented the cam shutoff, suggested flues in boilers, planned and built the first snagboat, removed the great Red River raft and opened that river to navigation, and after whom the town of Shreveport is named. By way of coincidence it is worthy of remark that the first boat to go up Red River after the removal of the raft was a boat called the Enterprise. Previous to that date keel-boats were the means of transportation, passing round the raft by the way of Loggy bayou into Lake Bisteneau, Willow chute and Red chute, crossing into Twelve-Mile bayou, from thence into Soda lake and Black and Red bayous to Fort Towson, the then head of navigation.

During the year 1821 the following amount of tonnage from foreign countries was entered: American, 51,458 tons; British, 16,216; French, 1,186; Spanish, 551; Dutch, 363; Hanseatic, 2,139; Danish, 1,962; Swedish, 552; Hanoverian, 288; a total of 74,742 tons.

In the year ending October 1, 1817, 1,500 flat-boats and 500 barges came down the Mississippi to this city loaded with produce.

During the year 1821, 287 steamboats arrived, 174 barges and keel-boats, and 441 flat-boats; the levee duty on which amounted to $8,272. Each loaded flat-boat paid a duty of $6; boats or barges, 70 feet or more in length, $10; less than 70 feet, $3. Steamboats pay levee duty according to their tonnage, viz: 100 tons and under, $6; from 100 to 150, $9; 150 to 200, $12; 200 to 250, $15; 250 to 300, $18; 300 to 350, $20; 350 to 400, $22; 400 to 450, $24; 450 to 500, $26; 500 to 550, $28; and above 600 tons, $30.

Up to 1822, 83 steam vessels had arrived at the landing, the smallest of which was the General Harrison, 28 tons; the largest,


the United States, 645 tons. Among this number is included the steam schooner Fidelity, of 139 tons, and the steamship Robert Fulton, of 530 tons.

The receipts of cotton for the year 1821 amounted to 191,216 bales, molasses 1,000,000 gallons, sugar 20,000 hogsheads, rice 12,000 barrels, tobacco 28,000 hogsheads.

New Levee street was the front street in 1822, and the inside edge of the wharf was 60 feet from the stores, erected on the swamp side of the street. Below Canal street this same street was called Levee street.

The population of the city in 1822 was 40,000.

The width of the river opposite this city was placed at 2,880 feet; depth 26 fathoms.

The descent of the land from the river to the lake was 7 1/2 feet.

The garrison where Fort St. Philip now stands was founded May 28, 1700; 17 years later this city was laid out and named. In 1788 the city contained 1,100 houses, but a fire in March of that year consumed 900 of them.


In the Louisiana Gazette of April 7, 1816, is this reference to the old and new steamers New Orleans, or number one and two.

"The new steamboat New Orleans, lately built at Pittsburgh to replace a steamboat of the same name sunk and destroyed in 1814." She has the machinery of the old boat, and it will be considerable time before she can be fit for service."

In the same paper, of July 26, 1816, is this notice, "Yesterday morning the new steamboat New Orleans, Captain Gale, went off from the levee very handsomely on her first trip to Natchez, a great number of lady passengers on board. The New Orleans is a very handsome boat."


The Louisiana Gazette of June 12, 1812, contains this advertisement.


"The elegant new steamboat Vesuvius will be ready to receive freight for shipping port in a few days and will sail with all possible dispatch. The gentlemen who have already left their names will please call and secure their berths, as none will be retained after Sunday 22nd. — By order of the Directors Peter F. Ogdon, President."


In an issue of that paper of July 1816, is the following announcement:

"The steamboat ‘Vesuvius’ burned at Natchez. She was to have set out for her place of destination on Sunday morning.

In the afternoon of Saturday Captain De Hart raised steam and started up the river.

The machinery did not work well, and while examining the cause she was discovered to be on fire, and the crew had to abandon her. She floated down the current in a majestic blaze. This is an immense public calamity.

The estimated loss of boat and cargo is $200,000."


While these desultory scraps of history are by no means satisfactory, they are undoubtedly reliable as far as they go, and serve to illustrate to some extent the situation and the feeling created by the introduction of steam in navigation.

By collating the items, or scraps of history as they are interspersed through these pages, a general knowledge may be arrived at, although if chronologically arranged would be more enjoyable, but that seems difficult to do with the meager records there is to draw from. This will be apparent from the discrepancy in the records often; and without reflection, may look like tautology, and might be obviated to some extent by slight changes in the text. But as it is not important it is thought best to preserve the text in the main, and quote the history as found.


[From a New Orleans paper.]


"In 1804 the amount of tonnage to this city was very small. Commerce was carried only by means of flat-boats and barges. There seems to have been no record kept of these arrivals until the year 1812. From 1812 to 1824 the record gives the number of arrivals but not the tonnage. They increased rapidly, however, as quantities of sugar and molasses were shipped to the Ohio. This was along and tedious voyage indeed, as the boats were propelled almost entirely by hand. As a general thing, though, these boats were sold here for their lumber, and the owners, with the proceeds of their venture in their pockets, would cross the lake, and, striking the Natchez


trail, would start a-foot for their homes 1,000 miles away. In 1812 a new era in transportation appeared. This year the first steamboat, the New Orleans, arrived at our landing. She was a low pressure boat of 371 tons.

In 1814 the second boat, the Vesuvius, of 340 tons, arrived and in 1815 the Enterprise, of 100 tons, the first boat to make the return trip to Pittsburgh, and which took her fifty-four days to accomplish. The Vesuvius also made a trip to Louisville this year. The fourth boat, the Etna, of 360 tons, arrived here in 1815. In 1816 there arrived the Dispatch of 90 tons, the Washington of 412 tons, the Franklin of 131 tons, and the Constitution of 112 tons. The Washington was the first boat to be called fast. In 1817 there arrived the Harriet of 54 tons, Buffalo of 249 tons, Kentucky of 112 tons, James Monroe 140 tons, James Madison 148 tons, Vesta 203 tons, and the Gov. Shelby 106 tons.

In 1818 the Gen. Jackson 142 tons, Pike 51 tons, Cincinnati 157 tons, Napoleon 315 tons, Eagle 118 tons, Newport 59 tons, Heclal24 tons, Johnson 140 tons, Exchange 212 tons, James Ross 269 tons, Ramapo 146 tons, Tammarlane 214 tons, Maysville 209tons, Maid of Orleans 193tons, a total for the year of 14 new boats, with an aggregate tonnage of 2,347 tons. In 1819 there arrived the Ohio, Volcano, Alabama, Rifleman, Rising States, St. Louis, Paragon, Mobile, Gen. Clark. Yankee, averaging 150 tons each. In 1820 the Feliciana, Frankfort, Car of Commerce, Vulcan, Gen. Roberts, Tennessee, Comet, Hornet, United States, Columbus, Gen. Green, Missouri, Elizabeth, Beaver Rapids, Fayette, Cumberland, Arkansas, and the Independence, nineteen boats, whose tonnage aggregated 2,850 tons. In 1821 there arrived the Manhattan, Mars, Velocipede, Olive Branch, Hero, Dolphin, Osage, Telegraph, Rapides, Post Boy, Alexandria, Courier, Columbus, President, Rocket, Gen. Green, Elizabeth, seventeen boats, tonnage 2,550 tons. In 1822, Henry Clay, Rifleman, Neptune, Favorite, Expedition, Mandan, Nashville, Providence, Teche, Robt. Thompson, Indiana, eleven boats, 1,540 tons; and in 1822, the Leonard, Calhoun, Gen. Pike, Congress, Hope, Fidelity and the Robt. Ray, 7 boats with a total tonnage of 1,050 tons.

Colonel Aaron Burr's Expedition with a fleet of Flat-boats down the Mississippi River in 1807, with the intention of invading Mexico, as he had a large force of armed men with him.

1807. Early in January one of the coldest winters ever known in Mississippi, Col. Burr, with nine boats arrived at the mouth of Bayou Pierre and tied up on the western or


Louisiana shore. The Governor issued an order to the military authorities to arrest Col. Burr, and his fleet, as he was charged with high treason. Lieutenant Patterson, of the militia, immediately marched to the point where Colonel Burr's fleet was moored and demanded a surrender of men and boats. The terms were accepted and he surrendered to the civil authorities of Mississippi. In addition to the military force the Governor had induced Commander Shaw, in command of the naval forces at New Orleans, to concentrate the most of his vessels at Natchez to oppose the tremendous flotilla of Col. Burr reported to be coming down the river.

The following armed vessels were anchored in the Mississippi opposite Natchez, January, 1807.

Schooner Revenge, 12 guns. Ketch Etna, 14 guns.

Ketch Vesuvius, 14 guns. Gunboat No. 11, 2 guns.

Gunboat 12, 2 guns. Gunboat 13, 2 guns.

Gunboat 14, 2 guns. Gun Barge Victory, 2 guns.

NOTE. — This was probably the first fleet of United States war vessels that ever ascended the Mississippi River as high up as Natchez.



"An account of the great earthquake at New Madrid on the Mississippi River. By Capt. John Davis, of Natchez, Mississippi. We arrived at night on the 15th December, 1811, at Island 25, and on the 16th at 2 a. m., we were surprised by the greatest commotion of the boat, which I could compare to nothing more than of a team of horses running away with a wagon over the most rocky road in our part of the country. There were forty flat-boats, barges and keel-boats in the company, and each thought his boat adrift and running over the sawyers; but a man on board a boat lashed to us hinted it to be an earthquake. An old navigator of the river just above, hailed us and said it was occasioned by the banks falling in. We were under a bluff bank which immediately cast off and fell in about a quarter of a mile, which drew us into the current on the right side of the island, where we staid till day; but in the meantime, we experienced fifty partial shocks, which shook our boat with great agitation. At 7 o'clock we heard a tremendous distant noise, and in a few seconds the boats, island and main land became perfectly convulsed, the trees twisted and lashed together, the earth in all quarters


was sinking, and the water issued from the center of Island 25, just on our left, and came rushing down its side in torrents. The shocks at this time became more frequent, one every fifteen minutes. The water rose from the first shock till about 8 o'clock that day eight feet perpendicular, and the current ran seven or eight miles an hour, as we ran from Island 25 and landed on Flower Island, a distance of thirty-five miles in five hours and twenty-five minutes. The logs, which had sprung up from the bottom of the river, were so thick that it appeared almost impossible for a boat to find a passage. There were a large number of boats sunk and destroyed, among them two boats of Mr. Jas. Atwell, of Kentucky. The logs and roots we passed had the sand and mud on them, which probably for many years lay in the bottom of the river, and which gave the appearance of timbered fields. We experienced shocks of earthquake for eight days. The whole country from the mouth of the Ohio to the White River country felt the terrible effects of this earthquake for many years — as many persons, houses and cattle were drowned or swallowed up by the opening of the earth. There were also several islands that disappeared, and many flat-boats and barges were wrecked. The town of New Madrid was a complete wreck and many of the people lost their lives. Our barge escaped and we arrived at Natchez, Jan. 5th, 1812.

NOTE. — This was the same earthquake that the first steamboat New Orleans encountered on her first voyage down the Mississippi."


Chapter XXXIII.

[From Floyd's S. B. Directory, 1856.]

From the year 1786 to 1811, the only regular mode of transportation on the Western rivers was such as we have described in the preceding article. The entire commerce of those rivers was transacted by means of those clumsy contrivances called barges and flat-boats, which consumed three or four months in making the trip from New Orleans to Louisville, a trip which is now made by steam power in five or six days, and has been made in a little over four. The price of passage from New Orleans to Pittsburgh was then $160; freight $6.75 per hundred pounds. The introduction of steam has reduced the price of passage between these two cities to thirty dollars, and merchandise is carried the whole distance for a price which may be regarded as merely nominal. Besides this great saving of time and money effected by steam navigation on these waters, the comparative safety of steam conveyance is an item which especially deserves our notice. Before the steam dispensation began, travelers and merchants were obliged to trust their lives or property to the bargemen, many of whom were suspected, with very good reason, to be in confederacy with the land robbers who infested the shores of the Ohio, and the pirates who resorted to the islands of the Mississippi. These particulars being understood, we are prepared to estimate the value and importance of the services which the steam-engine has rendered to the commerce and prosperity of the Western States.

The earliest account we have of the navigation of the Mississippi, refers to a period more than three hundred years ago, when Ferdinand De Soto, the first discoverer of that mighty stream, was engaged in his famous and fantastic exploring expedition in search of "the fountain of youth." About one hundred years later, Father Joliet, a Jesuit ambassador and envoy from France, again disturbed these waters, by launching on their bosom a bark canoe which had been transported by his fellow adventurers on their shoulders across the territory between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.

The first vessel ever built on the waters of the West was the brig Dean, which derived her name from her builder and original proprietor. She was launched at the present site of Alleghany city, near Pittsburgh, in 1806. She afterwards made a voyage from Pittsburgh to the Mediterranean.


After the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon, in 1803, some Eastern capitalists sent out mechanics, and built several ships on the Ohio. In 1805, Jonas Spoir built the ship "Scott" on the Kentucky River, twenty miles above Frankfort, and near the residence of that celebrated Western pioneer, General Charles Scott. This ship was the first that ever made a successful trip to the falls of the Ohio. She remained there for several months before the occurrence of a rise in the river sufficient to float her over. In the meantime, two other vessels from Pittsburgh, built by James Berthone & Co., had arrived at the Falls, and in the attempt to get over, the longest one was sunk, and soon after torn to pieces by the violence of the current. This accident was so discouraging that no further attempts at ship-building were made on the Ohio.

In 1811, Messrs. Fulton and Livingston, having established a ship-yard at Pittsburgh for the purpose of introducing steam navigation on the Western waters, built an experimental boat for this service; and this was the first steamboat that ever floated on the Western rivers. It was furnished with a propelling wheel at the stern, and two masts; for Mr. Fulton believed, at that time, that the occasional use of sails would be indispensable. This first Western steamboat was called the Orleans. Her capacity was one hundred tons. In the winter of 1812, she made her first trip from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 14 days. She continued to make regular trips between New Orleans and Natchez, until the fourteenth day of July, 1814, when she was wrecked near Baton Rouge, on her upward-bound passage by striking a snag."

"The first appearance of the vessel on the Ohio River produced, as the reader may suppose, not a little excitement and admiration. A steamboat, at that day, was to common observers, almost as great a wonder as a flying angel would be at present. The banks of the river, in some places, were thronged with spectators, gazing in speechless astonishment at the puffing and smoking phenomenon. The average speed of this boat was only about three miles per hour. Before her ability to move through the waters without the assistance of sails or oars had been fully exemplified, comparatively few persons believed that she could possibly be made to answer any purpose of real utility. In fact, she made several voyages before the general prejudice began to subside, and for some months, many of the river merchants preferred the old mode of transportation, with all its risks, delays, and extra expense, rather than make use of such a contrivance as a steamboat, which to their apprehension, appeared too marvelous and


miraculous for the business of every-day life. How slow are the masses of mankind to adopt improvement, even when they appear to be most obvious and unquestionable.

The second steamboat of the West was a diminutive vessel called the "Comet." She was rated at twenty-five tons. Her machinery was on a plan for which French had obtained a patent in 1809. She went to Louisville in the summer of 1813, and descended to New Orleans in the spring of 1814. She afterwards made two voyages to Natchez, and was then sold, taken to pieces, and the engine was put up in a cotton factory.

The Vesuvius is the next in this record. She was built by Mr. Fulton, at Pittsburgh, for a company, the several members of which resided at New York, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. She sailed under the command of Capt. Frank Ogden, for New Orleans, in the spring of 1814. From New Orleans she started for Louisville in July of the same year, but was grounded on a sand-bar, seven hundred miles up the Mississippi, where she remained until the 3rd of December following, when, being floated off by the tide, she returned to New Orleans. In 1815-16, she made regular trips for several months, from New Orleans to Natchez, under the command of Captain Clement. This gentleman was soon after succeeded by Capt. John de Hart, and while approaching New Orleans with a valuable cargo on board, she took fire and burned to the water's edge. After being submerged for several months, her hulk was raised and refitted. She was afterwards in the Louisville trade, and was condemned in 1819.

The Enterprise was No. 4 of the Western steamboat series. She was built at Brownsville, Pa., by D. French, under his patent, and was owned by several residents of that place. The Enterprise was a small boat of seventy-five tons. She made two voyages to Louisville in the summer of 1814, under the command of Captain J. Gregg. On the first of December, in the same year, she conveyed a cargo of ordnance stores from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. While at the last named port, she was pressed into service by General Jackson. Her owners were afterwards remunerated by the United States government. When engaged in the public service, she was eminently useful in transporting troops, arms and ammunition to the seat of war. She left New Orleans for Pittsburgh on the 6th of May, 1815, and reached Louisville after a passage of twenty-five days, thus completing the first steamboat voyage ever made from New Orleans to Louisville. But at the time;


the Enterprise made this trip, the water was so high that the banks in many places were overflowed; consequently there was no current. The Enterprise was enabled to make her way up without much difficulty, by running through the "cut-offs," and over inundated fields, in still water. In view of these favorable circumstances, the experiment was not satisfactory, the public being still in doubt whether a steamboat could ascend the Mississippi when that river was confined within its banks, and the current as rapid as it generally is.

Such was the state of public opinion when the steamboat Washington commenced her career. This vessel, the fourth in the catalogue of Western steamboats, was constructed under the personal superintendence and direction of Capt. Henry M. Shreve. The hull was built at Wheeling, Va., and the engines were made at Brownsville, Pa. The entire construction of the boat comprised various innovations, which were suggested by the ingenuity and experience of Capt. Shreve. The Washington was the first "two-decker" on the Western waters. The cabin was placed between the decks. It had been the general practice for steamboats to carry their boilers in the hold; in this particular Capt. Shreve made a new arrangement by placing the boilers of the Washington on deck; and this plan was such an obvious improvement, that all the steamboats on those waters retain it to the present day. The engines constructed under Fulton's patent had upright and stationary cylinders. In French's engines vibrating cylinders were used. Shreve caused the cylinders of the Washington to be placed in a horizontal position, and gave the vibration to the pitman. Fulton and French used single low-pressure engines, with cranks at right angles; and this was the first engine of that kind ever used on Western waters. Mr. David Prentice had previously used cam wheels for working the valves of the cylinder; Capt. Shreve added his great invention to the cam cut-off, with flues to the boilers, by which three-fifths of the fuel were saved. These improvements originated with Capt. Shreve.

On the 24th day of September, 1816, the Washington passed over the Falls of Ohio, on her first trip to New Orleans and returned to Louisville, in November following. While at New Orleans the ingenuity of her construction excited the admiration of the most intelligent citizens of that place. Edward Livingston, after a critical examination of the boat and her machinery, remarked to Capt. Shreve, "You deserve well of your country, young man; but we (referring to Fulton


and Livingston monopoly) shall be compelled to beat you (in the courts), if we can."

An accumulation of ice in the Ohio compelled the Washington to remain at the falls until March 12th, 1817. On that day she commenced her second voyage to New Orleans. She accomplished this trip and returned to Shippingport, at the foot of the falls, in forty-one days. The ascending voyage was made in twenty-five days, and from this voyage all historians date the commencement of steam navigation in the Mississippi valley. It was now practically demonstrated to the satisfaction of the public in general, that steamboats could ascend this river in less than one-fourth the time which the barges and keel-boats had required for the same purpose. This feat of the Washington produced almost as much popular excitement and exultation in that region as the battle of New Orleans. The citizens of Louisville gave a public dinner to Capt. Shreve, at which he predicted that the time would come when the trip from New Orleans to Louisville would be made in ten days. Although this may have been regarded as a boastful declaration at that time, the prediction has been more than fulfilled; for in 1853 the trip was made in four days and nine hours.

After that memorable voyage of the Washington all doubts and prejudices in reference to steam navigation were removed. Ship-yards began to be established in every locality, and the business of steamboat building was vigorously prosecuted. But a new obstacle now presented itself, which, for a time, threatened to give an effectual check to the spirit of enterprise and progression which had just been developed. We refer to the claims made by Mr. Fulton and Livingston to the exclusive right of steamboat navigation on the rivers of the United States. This claim being resisted by Capt. Shreve, the Washington was attached at New Orleans, and taken possession of by the sheriff. When the case came for adjudication before the District Court of Louisiana, that tribunal promptly negatived the exclusive privileges claimed by Livingston and Fulton, which were decided to be unconstitutional. The monopoly claims of Livingston and Fulton were finally withdrawn in 1819, and the last restraint on the steamboat navigation of the Western rivers was thus removed, leaving Western enterprise and energy at full liberty to carry on the great work of improvement. This work has been so progressive that, at the present time, no less than eight hundred steamboats are in constant operation on the Ohio and Mississippi and their tributaries, and this mode of navigation has


there been carried to a degree of perfection unrivaled in any other part of the world."


By Old-timer.

[Compiled for the Times-Democrat.]

"Almost all of the first boats upon the Western waters were designated as "low pressure." This was a misnomer, they had merely non-condensing engines, exhausting the steam into the air, although they were provided with condensers. Very few of the boats built for the Mississippi river had walking beams. They had what is called steeple engines, the cylinder being placed vertical; the piston was attached to a beam of iron running crosswise, something on the style of an old sawmill engine. Some of the boats were provided with horizontal cylinders, like those of the low-pressure Richmond; these engines seldom made more than fifteen or twenty pounds of steam, from the fact that they could obtain only a partial vacuum. All of these original engines were built on the Watt & Bolton plan, several were imported from England. The United States had two walking beam engines, and was probably the first steamboat to have two engines. The New Orleans, Vesuvius, Etna, Buffalo, Ramapo, Fanny, Feliciana, and the Natchez, had the Watt & Bolton engine. The first high pressure engine was built in 1813 by French, at Brownsville, Pa., and was placed on the Comet. It was an oscillating engine, but not working well, was taken out and placed in a saw mill at Natchez in 1814. Afterwards French put his engines on the Enterprise, Capt. H. M. Shreve, the first boat to enter Red River, and the Dispatch. The first regular high pressure boat was the Washington, built for Capt. Shreve in 1816, at Wheeling. She had one horizontal cylinder twenty-four inches in diameter, six-foot stroke, four single flue boilers. The cut-off cam invented by Capt. Shreve was first used on this boat. French and George Evans built many high-pressure engines, also the Stackhouse family, who succeeded them, and after them the Longs, who became celebrated as engine builders. It has been stated that the originator of the high pressure engine was Trevithick, but Oliver Evans, the father of George, claimed that distinction, the one that he placed upon a dredging machine in the Delaware river, and which was propelled by steam years before Robert Fulton built and ran his Clermont on the Hudson River. The


improvements made to these engines were due to an engineer named Wolf. He conceived the idea of combining the two systems in the same engine, which gave us the compound engine. Hartupee followed the plan of Wolf. These compound engines are now in use on some of the most powerful tow-boats on the river, and it is claimed for them a saving of fuel and an increase of power. The first engineers came from England, New York and Philadelphia. Very few of them had a theoretical idea of steam; about the only thing they knew was that they had a safety valve with a weight upon it, indicating so many pounds pressure of steam. They also knew that the water should be kept at a certain depth in the boilers. When any of these boats raced the engineers placed extra weights on the safety valves, and really couldn't tell in many instances within a hundred pounds of the amount of steam they were carrying. Within the last thirty years all this has changed, as engineers then commenced to receive both a theoretical and practical education of their calling. The first invention to guard against explosion was the Evans' safety guard. This invention has so been improved upon that an explosion has become a rare exception. The pilots of those days were the keel and bargemen. They knew from a hard-earned experience the sandbars, islands, and many of the worst obstructions in the river. In those days they did not run the river much at night, the danger from snags and sawyers being too great. They were a hardy, fearless set of men, whose former life had forced them to face every danger, and to stand up against fatigue. The captains were chosen mostly from the seafaring class, because they were thought to have greater command of the men under them. All of the first boats had their cabins on deck aft of the engine: the ladies' cabin was in the hold aft. They also had a bow-sprit and figure-head, like a ship. It is worthy of remark that the first steamboat, the New Orleans, on her first trip carried a lady passenger, Mrs. Roosevelt, the wife of the captain, and one of the owners of the New Orleans."


[Louisville Courier, March 21.]

"The Louisville and Portland Canal will be opened as a great free water-way on the 1st of July, and the commerce of the loveliest valley of the world will steam through it without toll. For sixty years the canal has been one of the most important improvements on the Western rivers. It was conceived when


steamboats were conceived, and the two have considerable history in common. There were some stirring events in those days, and in search of reminiscences a reporter called upon Capt. Joseph Swager. Capt. Swager is in his eighty-eighth year, but he is blessed with good health, a vigorous mind, and a memory which enables him to review the men and incidents of sixty or seventy years ago with the most graphic particularity.

"The first boat," said Capt. Swager, "which descended the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, was the New Orleans in 1811. She was built by the Fulton Company of New Orleans and had an experience in the earthquake of that year, which caused the water in the river to run up stream. The Fulton Company built two other boats after that, the Etna and Vesuvius, and were endowed by the Legislature of Louisiana with the exclusive right to navigate by steam the waters of the State. In 1814 a company at Brownsville, Pa., with Capt. Henry M. Shreve as manager, built two boats, the Enterprise and the Dispatch, which made in all five boats west of the Alleghany Mountains.

"When the Enterprise reached the Falls at Louisville on her return from her first down trip her machinery proved too weak to bring her over. There were quite a number of us watching her make the attempt, and when she failed we volunteered to warp her over. We sank the anchor at the head of the Falls and connected it by a two-inch cable, with the capstan on the front, and wound her over by hand. Both of Captain Shreve's boats were at New Orleans in 1815, and were pressed into Government service by General Jackson. After the fight they were released, but the Fulton Company brought suit against Capt. Shreve for infringement on their exclusive right to navigate the waters of that State by steam. Shreve gave bond, and his boats were released, but the battle was long and fierce over the infringement of the Fulton Company's rights. Capt. Shreve finally won the fight. In 1815 he built another boat at Brownsville, and called her the George Washington. In coming down the river she got aground ten miles below Maysville, and in the effort to get her off the bar the boilers blew up and killed ten or twelve men. This, however, did not discourage the Captain. He repaired the boilers and came on down the river. He was a man of great ability and perseverance, and accomplished so much for navigation that in 1817, when he reached Louisville from New Orleans, having made the run in twenty-one days, a public dinner was given him, at which he said in his address that he had no doubt


the day would come when the run would be made in half the time.

"John T. Gray and George Gretsinger built the Governor Shelby, the first boat that was launched at Louisville. They commenced in 1815, but did not complete her until 1817, owing to the failure of the engines, which were built by Dr. Ruble. The work was delayed until engines could be brought from New York. Steamboats continued to increase in number, and in a few years the risk incurred in going over the falls and the impossibility of getting over at all when the water was low led to the agitation of a proposition to construct a canal around the falls. The agitation developed a division in the sentiment of the people on the subject, many thinking that it would work a great injury to the prosperity of Louisville.

"The first charter for a canal was granted by the Legislature January 30, 1818, to the Kentucky Ohio Canal Company, and on February 10, 1820, an amended charter was granted them, more liberal than the first, but nothing was done under either. The time in which the canal was to be completed was extended from time to time by the Legislature, until the matter was taken up by two gentlemen from Philadelphia, named Ronaldson and Hulme, and Captain Shackelford of St. Louis. [From the published proceedings of the Legislature it seems that those men secured the franchise of the old company and applied for an amendment, which was granted them December 20, 1825. The name of the company was changed to the Louisville and Portland Canal Company, and on January 20, 1826, they purchased from John Rowan ninety acres of land, extending from the foot of Ninth street to Portland. — REP.]

"Great opposition was encountered when it became evident that a determined effort was to be made to build the canal. Petitions were circulated for signatures, praying the Legislature not to grant the new or amended charter. I was running a packet between Louisville and St. Louis at the time, and when I got into port they came to me with the petition for my signature, but I told them I couldn't sign it.

"They expressed great surprise at my refusal, and asked me if I, a citizen of Louisville, interested in her prosperity, was willing for them to build the canal around the falls, and make Louisville a way landing. I told them that what the city wanted was men and capital, and the way to bring them is to inaugurate public enterprises; that a million dollars invested in the canal was safe — it couldn't be taken away, and would bring men with more money.

"It took them four or five years to get the canal so boats


could pass through, and even then it was a very difficult undertaking. The sharp rocks stuck out from both banks and cut the boats up terribly, and it was necessary to hold a boat well in hand and go very slow to keep from tearing her sides to pieces.

"I don't remember who took the first boat through. The first one I saw go through I had charge of myself. It was in 1829 or 1830. I was in port with the Don Juan, and Capt. D. S. Benedict was running the first Diana, of which I was part owner, and he was not willing to run the risk of going through the canal. I told him to get everything ready and I would take the risk and run her through, which I did; but I don't remember whether that was the first boat that went through or not. But it was a dangerous piece of business for ten or fifteen years to take a boat through. The engineer made a mistake in the depth of the ditch, and gave only six feet in the canal, when there was nine feet on the falls. This mistake rendered necessary the construction of the lock and dams.

"Mr. Ronaldson, the prime mover in the canal project, was a bachelor, rich and philanthropic, and was very kind to the men working on the canal. Those digging in the ground began to sicken and die from the unhealthy nature of the work. Mr. Ronaldson bought heavy flannel, and employed the wives of the workmen to make it up into shirts, which he gave to them to keep them from getting sick. He was very particular, too, about the way the shirts were made, and examined them very closely. When he found one badly made, he would not accept it. When he returned them on account of the sewing, the women asked him what made him so particular, he was going to give them away, anyhow. This enraged him, and he scolded them terribly, saying, ‘it's none of your business what I'm going to do with them; I pay you to make them, and you must make them right.’ That was sixty years ago, however."

[From Louisiana Gazette.]


Nov. 27, 1819. A portion of the manifest of the cargo of steamboat Manhattan from New York to Louisville, Ky. (Falls of Ohio).

10 boxes dry goods and clothing to Ramsey & Holmes, Natchez; 32 packages dry goods to H. Postlewaith, Natchez; 18 packages merchandise to I. G. Gates, Shawneetown, Ill.; 35 packages of merchandise to W. Foster, Evansville, Ind.;


24 casks of iron-mongery to M. Dewitt, Louisville, Ky.; 2 cases merchandise to W. C. Barker & Co., Louisville, Ky.; 13 cases merchandise to T. Jones, Louisville, Ky.; 2 pipes of wine and 81 bars iron to T. Jones, Louisville, Ky.

NEW YORK, Nov. 4th, 1819. — The elegant and powerful steam vessel Manhattan, Capt. Jenkins, started at 10 o'clock yesterday for New Orleans and Louisville, Ky. (Falls of Ohio), and in less than two hours after leaving the wharf, she discharged her pilot, having run 28 miles in one hour and 50 minutes.

The steamboat Manhattan, Capt. Jenkins, arrived at this port yesterday from New York. She is on a voyage to Louisville, Ky. She passed the town in handsome style, giving a gratifying specimen of her speed and power of her engine. We are informed by Capt. Jenkins, that he experienced a violent gale of wind on the second day out, attended with heavy cross sea, and during the whole of its continuance her engine was kept going. She proved herself a good sea boat. She is intended as a regular trader from this port to Louisville.

SATURDAY, March 24th, 1820. — Arrived from Louisville, Ky., the steamboat Manhattan. — Log: —

Passed, on the 19th, near the mouth of Cumberland, steamboats Car of Commerce and James Ross. On the 22d, at Grand Cut Off, steamboat Vulcan, 10 days out. The Manhattan has run the distance from Louisville to New Orleans in 142 hours and 10 minutes. This we believe has not been surpassed or equaled by any steam boat. She was detained 35 days on her voyage up on account of low water and ice. Manifest of cargo, 330 hogsheads tobacco, 100 barrels pork, 150 barrels flour, 30 barrels beans, 100 kegs lard, 50 kegs tobacco, 50 barrels apples.


1742. About this time a cotton gin, invented by M. Dubreuil, which facilitated the operation of separating the cotton fiber from the seed, created an epoch in the cultivation of cotton in Louisiana, and it began to enter largely into the products of the plantation. — Extract De Bow's Review.

1783. The first arrival of American cotton at Liverpool was witnessed by Mr. Maury, the first American consul at Liverpool, whose death recently took place at New York, witnessed the first importation at Liverpool of American cotton, and which was seized under the impression that it had been grown in India. — Extract from Hazard's Register, 1840.



[Extract from United States Gazette, Philadelphia, 1828.]

An idea generally prevails that the cultivation of cotton in this country, as an article of export, commenced subsequently to the establishment of the Federal Constitution. This is an error. It appears from the following extract taken from an old work now in the city library, entitled "Present State of Great Britain and North America," London, 1766, that it was cultivated in Virginia as early as 1746.

PHILADELPHIA, April 14th, 1828.

"Some of the cotton from Virginia was sent to Manchester in the year 1746, where it sold for 18 pence per pound, and the workmen who had it on trial, reported to the merchants, who sent it to them, that it was as good as any they had, and that they would take any quantity of it."

"Upon this, several trials were made to plant cotton, both there and in the Carolinas as a standard commodity to send to Britain."


The first notice of cotton growing in Mississippi is by Charlevoix, who states that he saw some planted at Natchez in 1722, in the garden of M. de Noir.

Bienville wrote, in 1735, that it grew well on the Mississippi, and Vandreuil in 1746 informed the French government that cotton had been received at New Orleans from the Illinois.

It began to be cultivated as a crop in Louisiana in 1760, from St. Domingo seed and Maurepas, the French minister, recommended the importation of machinery from the East Indies for the separation of the seed and lint. In 1722, Captain Roman, of the British army, was at East Pascagoula and saw the black seed cotton growing on the farm of Mr. Krebs, with a machine of his own invention for its conversion into lint. This was the Roller gin and no doubt the first ever in operation in this country.

In 1796, David Greenleaf, a very ingenious mechanic, was constructing gins in the vicinity of Natchez. He built the first public or toll gin on the land of Mr. Richard Curtis, at Selsertown, conducted for many years afterwards by Edmund Andrews. 1807, Eleazer Carver commenced building gins at the


town of Washington, where he erected the first saw mill to supply his shop with materials. He commenced in a primitive style but did good work. He removed to Bridgwater, Mass., and to this day his gins maintain their reputation.

1801. The first screw press was made in Philadelphia for Sir Wm. Dunbar, after a model sent by him in 1799 to Mr. John Ross. On its receipt, he wrote to his correspondent: I shall endeavor to indemnify myself for the cost by making cotton seed oil. This is the first suggestion of that product which has now become a great article of commerce.

1711. The planters around Natchez turned their attention to raising cotton on a larger scale, the seed having been procured from Jamaica and other West India islands. It was a black seed, of fine fiber and good staple, and was the only variety planted in this quarter until 1811. After this date, what is known as the Petit Gulf seed were introduced, it was commonly said from Mexico, by Dr. Rush Nutt, a distinguished planter and scientist. The variety was very prolific, with a long, fine and strong staple.


An illustration of the adaptability of the West to populate the country rapidly is found in Kramer's Navigator, published in Pittsburgh in 1818, tenth edition.

"Mr. Charles Wells, Sen., resident on the Ohio River fifty miles below Wheeling, related to me while at his home, in October 1812, the following circumstances: —

That he has had two wives (the last of which still lives, and is a smart, hale-looking woman), had twenty-two children, sixteen of whom are still living, healthy, and many of them married and have already pretty large families. That a tenant of his, a Mr. Scott, a Marylander, has had twenty-two, the last now being at the breast of its mother who is yet a gay Irishwoman, being Scott's second wife. That a Mr. Gordon, an American-German, formerly a neighbor of Mr. Wells, now residing on the Muskingum, State of Ohio, has had by two wives twenty-eight children. Mr. Gordon is eighty years old, active and in hale health. These three worthy families have


had born to them seventy-two children — a number, perhaps, unexampled in any other country in the world, and such as would make Buffon stare, when he generously asserts as well as several writers of Europe — "that animal life degenerates in America." Mr. Wells further states, that a tenant of his son Charles, has a family of fifteen children. The last year, 1811, within a circuit of ten miles around him, ten women had born to them twenty children, each having had twins.

The banks of the Ohio seem peculiarly grateful to the propagation of the human species, and perhaps stronger evidences could not be produced than the anecdotes just related. Indeed, an observation to this effect can hardly be missed by any person descending that river and calling frequently at the cabins on its banks. Children are the first object that strikes the eye on mounting the bank, and the last thing he hears on leaving the not unfrequently ragged-looking premises."

The following just observations were addressed to the Earl of Hillsborough in 1770, when Secretary of State for the North American Department: —

"No part of America will need less encouragement for the production of naval stores and raw materials for the manufacturers of Europe, and for supplying the West India Islands with lumber, provisions, etc., than the country of the Ohio, and for the following reasons: —

1st. The lands are excellent, the climate is temperate. The native grapes, silk worms and mulberry trees abound everywhere — hemp, hops and rye grow spontaneously in the valleys and lowlands. Lead and iron are plenty in the hills.

Salt springs are innumerable, and no soil is better adapted to the culture of tobacco, flax and cotton than the Ohio.

The river Ohio is navigable at all seasons of the year for large boats, like the West country, barges, rowed only by four or five men.

And from the month of February to April large ships may be built on the Ohio, and sent to sea laden with hemp, iron, flax, silk, cotton, tobacco, pot-ash, etc.

All the articles may be sent down the river Ohio to the sea at least fifty per cent, cheaper than they are carried only sixty miles by land carriage in Pennsylvania, where wagoning is cheaper than in any other part of North America.

Whenever the farmers and merchants shall properly understand the business of transportation, they will build schooners, sloops, etc., on the Ohio suitable for the West India, or European markets, or by having cherry, black walnut, oak, etc., properly sawed for foreign markets and formed into


rafts in the manner it is now being done by settlers near the upper parts of the Delaware, and in Pennsylvania, and thereon stow their hemp, iron, tobacco, etc., and proceed with them to New Orleans. The river Ohio seems kindly designed by nature as the channel through which the two Floridas can be supplied with flour, not only for their own consumption, but also for the carrying on an extensive trade with Jamaica and the Spanish settlements on the bay of Mexico.

Mill stones in abundance can be found in the hills near the Ohio, and the country is supplied with abundance of water power for grist mills, etc.

The passage is seldom made from Philadelphia to Pensacola in less than a month, and sixty shillings per ton freight (consisting of sixteen barrels), is usually paid for flour, etc., thither.

Boats carrying 800 to 1,000 barrels of flour may go from Pittsburgh in about the same time as from Philadelphia to Pensacola, and for half the amount of freight and arrive there in much better order.

This is not mere speculation, for it is a fact that about the year 1746 there was a great scarcity of provisions at New Orleans, and the French settlements at the Illinois, small as they then were, sent thither in one winter upwards of eight hundred thousand weight of flour." — From "Internal Commerce of the United States."

Chapter XXXIV.

[From Carnegie's "Triumphant Democracy."]

"Nature has done much for America as regards facilities for transportation. Her inland seas, containing one-third of all the fresh water in the world, and her great rivers lie ready at hand awaiting only an application of steam to vessels to render them magnificent highways. A vessel sailing round the edges of these American lakes traverses a greater distance than from New York to Liverpool.

The rivers of America are also the largest in the world. After the Amazon and the LaPlata comes the Mississippi, with an outflow of over 2,000,000 cubic feet per hour. This mighty river, which the Indians called, in their picturesque language, Father of Waters, is equal in bulk to all the rivers of Europe combined, exclusive of the Volga. It is equal to three Ganges, nine Rhones, twenty-seven Seines, or eighty Tibers. "The mighty Tiber chafing with its flood," says the master. How


would he have described the Mississippi on the rampage after a spring flood, when it pours clown its mighty volume of water and overflows the adjacent lowlands? Eighty Tibers in one! Burns' picture of the pretty little Ayr in flood has been extolled, where the foaming waters come down "an acre braid." What think you of a tumbling sea 20 miles "braid" instead of your "acre," dear Robin? The length of the Mississippi is 2,250 miles, while its navigable tributaries exceed 20,000 miles. The Father of Waters collects his substance from water-sheds covering an area of more than 2,500,000 square miles.

"The early history of navigation in America presents as many curious contrasts and interesting facts as do other divisions of the history of American progress. From the beginnings which to us seem ludicrously small and crude, the greatest results have come. At the beginning of the century a successful steamboat had not been built. For twenty or thirty years inventors in France, Scotland, England, and America had been working and planning to apply a principle which they saw was perfectly applicable; but lacking knowledge of one or two little essentials, they only passed from failure to failure, yet constantly getting nearer and nearer to success. John Fitch and Oliver Evans are the names of the earliest representatives of America in this great struggle.

"After each experimenter had contributed some new light, an American engineer, Robert Fulton by name, gathered, in 1807, the multiplicity of lights into one great flame, and made practicable by the help of all what each had tried in vain to achieve by himself. Fulton's Clermont was the first commercially successful steamboat ever built. A boat of 160 tons burden, she was launched on the Hudson in 1807, and ran over a year as a passenger boat between New York and Albany. The first steamboat of the Mississippi Valley was built by Fulton in 1811, and was called the Orleans. She had a stern wheel, and went from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, more than 2,000 miles, in fourteen days. The next year Henry Bell, of Scotland, built the Comet, of 30 tons, which plied, between Glasgow and Greenoch, and in 1813 sailed around the coasts of the British Isles. In 1819 the Savannah, 380 tons burden, crossed the Atlantic from America, visited Liverpool, St. Petersburg, and Copenhagen, and returned."

"The traffic floated upon these Western rivers will surprise many. Take the Ohio, for instance; a competent authority has stated that the total of its trade from its head at Pittsburgh to its mouth at New Cairo, about 1,000 miles, exceeded in 1874


$800,000,000, or Ł160,000,000, a sum greater than the total exports of the nation about which we hear so much. It is upon the Ohio that the cheapest transportation in the world exists. Coal, coke, and other bulky articles are transported at the rate of one-twentieth of a cent, one-fortieth of a penny, per ton per mile. This is made possible by means of barges, many of which are lashed together and pushed ahead by a steam tug. The current, of course, carries along the floating mass. The steamer has little to do but to guide while descending and to tow the empty barges back. The records of 1884 show that there were owned in the one city of Pittsburgh for use on the river 4,323 vessels, including barges, with a tonnage of 1,700,000 tons. One hundred and sixty-three of these were steamboats. Twenty-thousand miles of navigable water-ways lie before these Pittsburgh craft, and many thousand miles more are ready to be opened by easily constructed improvements in the lesser streams. This work the General Government is steadily performing year after year, as well as improving the existing navigation. Even to-day, a boat can start from Pittsburgh for a port 4,300 miles distant, as far as from New York to Queenstown and half way back, or as far away as the Baltic ports are from New York."


There are several eras, somewhat vaguely divided from each other in the commercial history of the Lower Mississippi.

1. The French and Spanish dominion, when the mouths of the river and a large portion of its course was controlled by France or Spain. It is only in the last few years of the Spanish dominion, when the American settlers had poured over into the Ohio valley, that the river trade attained any importance whatever.

2. The period of flat-boats and barges, extending from 1803, the year of the purchase of Louisiana, to 1816, when the steamboat was an acknowledged success, not only in going down, but up stream against the current.

3. The early steamboat period, 1816 to 1840, when the river found its first competitor for the traffic of the Mississippi Valley in the canals built westward from the Atlantic seaboard.

4. From 1840 to 1860, when the river route came into competition with railroads.

5. The war period of almost total suspension in river traffic.


6. The post-bellum period of active rivalry between river and rail.

These different eras are marked by changes in trade lines, and means of transportation, and by the vessels used in navigating the river; first, bark canoes, then pirogues, bateaus, barges, flat-boats, keels, and finally steamboats.


Although the early French settlements were made altogether on the Mississippi or its chief tributaries, like Red River and Bayou Lafourche, and travel from point to point was by the river, the Mississippi was of no importance whatever as a commercial factor. The great valley which to-day clothes and feeds so large a proportion of the world, was actually not self-supporting. The imports were larger than the exports, and but for the assistance given by the original grantee of Louisiana, Crozat, and afterwards by the French government itself, the colony would have died out from actual starvation, the records noting no less than three serious famines.

The early mode of traveling on the river is described by Bienville in his exploration in 1699, which ascended nearly as high as Natchez. The Frenchmen used the ships' boats of the fleet, and canoes made of bark or hollowed from the trunks of trees, almost similar in style and build to those of the Indians.

He left a fair record of the topography of the river at the time, and has thus enabled the engineers of later days to note what changes have taken place in the channel of the river in the past two centuries. He himself was a witness of the beginning of the Pointe Coupée cut-off, and notices in his account of his first trip there, the river was trickling around a point just below the mouth of Red River.

At that day the Indians along the Lower Mississippi, the Houmas, Bayagoulas, Natchez, and Tensas, were dying off as fast as they could — they are all extinct to-day — and the river was as dead commercially as it is possible to conceive. The Indians carried on no business or commerce whatever with each other; indeed on account of the overflowing of the banks, the settlements directly on the Mississippi were few, the aborigines seeking the highlands or mounds which are to be found here and there some miles back of the river. M. Bienville went for miles and days without seeing an Indian, but notices that the eastern bank of the river near the Baton Rouge was crowded with buffaloes.

The subsequent explorations of the Mississippi and the


selection of New Orleans as a location for the future capital of the colony were made in French men-of-war and yawls. The early colonists adopted the Indian bark canoe, which was exceedingly light and, even when freighted, easily handled. When any difficulty was encountered in the river, either in snags or on account of the current, or when it was found shorter to cut across a point rather than take the long circuitous trip around it, these boats were hauled out of the water, just as Bienville had done, and carried by the Indian or negro slaves until the river was reached again.

The settlement of Lower Louisiana, however, and the increasing demands of trade required vessels of a different character and greater carrying capacity than these canoes, and the pirogue — a vessel peculiar to Lower Louisiana — came into play to supply the need. The pirogue is simply a log canoe — a solid log of cypress or live-oak which has been cut out in the center, and is propelled by paddles rather than oars, worked first on one side and then on the other. It is astonishing how long this primitive boat continued in use. Pirogues, indeed, exist to this day in Louisiana, but only for hunting, never for commercial purposes. The modern pirogue is small and holds at best two men. The propeller of the vessel stands erect, using his paddle with skill and agility, for it requires but the slightest tilting of the boat to overturn it. The commercial pirogue of early Louisiana was generally somewhat larger, from 2 to 5 tons, and propelled by negro slaves, a mast and sail being occasionally used when the wind was favorable. In one of these as many as 20 bales of cotton or 30 barrels of molasses could be floated down to New Orleans, the light vessel being entirely paddled back to the plantation. Although of the most primitive character, and the first craft used on the Mississippi, unless we except the bark canoe of the Indians, the pirogue survived in river commerce for over a century, and as late as 1830 a considerable amount of the produce of Louisiana reached the market in these log canoes.

Besides these pirogues, the river craft in use in these early days were the bateaux (French for boats,) and various nondescripts. The bateaux were generally in use in the upper country, and meant for longer voyages than the pirogues. They were of rough plank, long in proportion to their breadth, and something in the shape of a coffin. They were never very popular on the Lower Mississippi, and died an early death, although even as late as 1825 an occasional bateaux reached New Orleans from some extreme point in the wild Indian country west of the Mississippi.


The French settled the Mississippi Valley both at its head and at its mouth about the same time. After Bienville had made his exploration of the Mississippi, but before New Orleans had been founded, or indeed dreamt of, they had made several settlements within the limits of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.


The first shipment down the Mississippi was made in 1705, when the French voyageurs in the Indian country around the Wabash collected from the several hunting posts in the neighborhood some 10,000 deer and 5,000 bear skins and shipped them down the river. The experiment was a success, although the cargo had a long and dangerous voyage to make. The voyageurs traveled in their boats 1,400 miles without seeing a white man, through a country the population of which was mainly hostile. The trip was successfully made down the Ohio and Mississippi to the mouth of Bayou Manchac, which then opened into the river some 15 miles below Baton Rouge, but which has been closed to navigation since Jackson's day. Instead of going down the Mississippi to the mouth — there was no settlement below and no point at which the cargo could be loaded on ocean-going vessels — these early merchants went down Bayou Manchac and the Iberville River (now the Amite), thence through lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain to the French settlements on Mississippi Sound at Biloxi (now Ocean Springs). From there the produce of the chase in Ohio and Indiana was sent to Mobile, whence it was shipped to France. It arrived there safely and the transaction proved a profitable one.

The voyageurs, however, who had made the long trip down the river never returned home, but settled in Louisiana. From the forests in Central Ohio these hides had been conveyed, mainly in open boats, some 1,400 miles by river and lake and 4,500 by sea, it taking more than half a year for them to reach their destination. This is the first reported commercial transaction on the Mississippi, and it is gratifying to know that it was a successful one to all those interested. It was the beginning of a trade that grew with years, and which, indeed, was the largest item of commerce at New Orleans for many decades of its early history. By 1720, when the Illinois country, both on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, was settled by the pioneers from French Canada, the shipments down the river


included some other articles besides those of the chase, and agricultural products were shipped by the Mississippi, mainly for use on the Gulf coast, which did not produce, enough food for its support during the first half century of the colony's existence. A small amount of these food products was shipped to the West Indies.

The French Western Company, under Crozat, had been granted a monopoly of the trade of the Mississippi for twenty-five years, but this was so unprofitable that the company, after holding it for fifteen years and sinking a large amount in the experiment, surrendered its monopoly, and Louisiana, which then included the entire Mississippi Valley, became a crown, colony. The total exports from the valley amounted at that time to $62,000, of which 65 per cent, were skins shipped from the upper river country. Under the French crown there was little improvement, and the colony was never self-supporting while in French possession, the Government being compelled to make good a large deficit each year.


In 1763, when Louisiana was transferred to Spain, the total export trade of the colony was estimated as follows: —

Indigo $100,000
Deer skins 80,000
Lumber 50,000
Naval stores 12,000
Rice, peas, and beans 4,000
Tallow 4,000
Smuggled trade 54,000
Total 304,000

The deer-skins and tallow came from the upper country; the indigo was mainly from Louisiana; the naval stores were produced in the Mississippi Sound country, which, although a part of Louisiana at the time, is not within the limits of the Mississippi Valley.

Under the Spanish rule Louisiana rapidly advanced commercially. The importance of the Mississippi was beginning to be recognized, and the great powers of Europe soon became involved in a game of intrigue for its possession. The population of the Lower Mississippi country — what is now Louisiana — advanced rapidly and the commerce doubled every few years. For the first time in the history of the Mississippi large shipments were made up the river, and it was through


New Orleans and by the river route that the struggling American colonies received through the connivance of the Spanish Government the arms and gunpowder they needed so sorely in the Revolutionary war. The fur trade of New Orleans had reached a high figure by this time, some $100,000 a year, nearly all of it the produce of the trappers in the Northwestern forests. It was from the Mississippi Valley also that Cuba got much of its lumber and a majority of the boxes in which the sugar crop of the island was packed. By 1770 the commerce of New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley had increased to exports of $631,000 a year — mainly furs, skins, indigo, and lumber. New Orleans, which had possessed no commerce worth speaking about before and no merchants — the articles consumed in the colony being obtained mainly from the Government vessels and only so many ships being allowed to enter the river each year — begun to talk of trade and to complain that the British were engrossing the commerce of the Mississippi Valley. In 1778 the merchants of New Orleans, who had grown to be of some importance, were granted special privileges by the Spanish Government on account of the loyalty and courage shown by the Louisiana troops, who had, under Governor Galvez, captured Baton Rouge, Pensacola, and other important points, and driven the British out of West Florida. In return for their courage and loyalty, New Orleans was granted the privilege of sending each year so many ship-loads of goods to France instead of being compelled to ship all its products to Spanish ports.

This marks the opening of the Mississippi to the commerce of the world. Previous to this grant there was no freedom whatever. Under Crozat, under the French and afterwards under the Spanish, the trade was regulated and controlled by the government; the people were not allowed to ship where they wanted to or what they wanted, and no vessel of a foreign power, whether friendly or not, was allowed to enter the river for commercial purposes.

In the meanwhile a settlement was growing up on the Ohio and its tributaries that soon changed the future of the entire Mississippi Valley. When the United States became possessor of the Ohio basin, as the legatee of Great Britain, the total white population of the vast region was only a few thousand, almost wholly of the French origin, and engaged more in hunting than in agriculture. About the time the Revolutionary war opened a new immigration set in from the English colonies on the Atlantic, over the Alleghanies into the Valley of the Ohio. The story of Daniel Boone and the settlement of Kentucky,


Tennessee, and Ohio has been told already in full. Within twenty years after the first white American was settled in the basin of the Ohio, its population was producing large surplus crops of all kinds and seeking for an outlet by which they could be shipped to market. During the Revolutionary war the United States had stationed an agent in New Orleans for the purchase of guns and ammunition for the Continental forces and their shipment up the river to Pittsburgh and thence overland to Philadelphia. In 1788 the settlers in Kentucky and Tennessee were shipping a large quantity of produce down the Mississippi; and several Philadelphia merchants found it profitable to establish themselves in New Orleans for the purpose of handling this trade, which amounted at that time to some $225,000 a year.


One of the first diplomatic acts of the young Republic was to secure greater facilities for its citizens settled in the Mississippi Valley in the shipment of their surplus crops. Nearly half the country lay in the basin of the Ohio or the Mississippi and dependent upon "the Father of Waters" to reach the seaboard. No one at that time, save Washington and a few others, dreamed of sending goods over the Alleghanies by canals or other means; and it was deemed absolutely necessary for the prosperity of the great region lying between the Blue Ridge and the Mississippi that the river should be neutralized as the Suez Canal is to-day and the settlers on its upper tributaries allowed to ship their produce through it without paying toll to the country of Spain, which happened, to own its mouth, just as has been done with the Danube. Negotiations to this end were begun with Spain, and in 1795 the treaty of peace between that power and the United States made the Mississippi free to the commerce of the Western people, who were given for three years the right of deposit for their produce at New Orleans. If, at the end of three years, Spain desired to fix another place of deposit it was at liberty to do so.

The result of this treaty opening the Mississippi to the commerce of the Western Territories had the effect that might have been expected; and the river trade suddenly sprang forward with startling rapidity, and reached what was deemed in those days an immense figure.

It is interesting to note the traffic on it then, so as to see what advance there has been in the past hundred years.


The exports of New Orleans at that time were estimated by an expert, who made a careful examination of the matter, as: —

Cotton (200,000 pounds) $50,000
Furs 100,000
Boxes (for sugar, 200,000) 225,000
Sugar (40,000,000 pounds) 320,000
Indigo (100,000 pounds) 100,000
Tobacco (200,000 pounds) 16,000
Timber 50,000
Rice (2,000 barrels) 50,000
Western produce (flour, tobacco, etc.) 500,000
Total $1,421,000

The furs came from the upper country; so did some of the cotton; the sugar, indigo, rice, and timber from the Spanish possessions in Louisiana; the rest from Kentucky and Ohio. In 1798 the receipts of produce from the American settlements on the Ohio reached $975,000, and were increasing some $300,000 a year with the new population pouring into the country. The three years during which New Orleans had been agreed on as the depot for Western produce, according to the treaty between Spain and the United States had elapsed. The attention of the Spanish Government was called to this, and it was urged by the Kentuckians that if Spain desired to make a change, another point be selected; but nothing was done. It remained for the Spanish intendant, Morales, to interpret the treaty as meaning that with the lapse of these three years the Americans lost all right of deposit at New Orleans or any other point in the Spanish possessions, and that the Lower Mississippi was thus virtually closed to them. It was a fatal decision for Spain, and if Senor Morales had seen the consequence or understood the feeling that his action aroused in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, he would never have been guilty of it, for his decision lost Louisiana to his government. The neutrality and freedom of the Mississippi became at once the aim of American diplomacy, and the United States was convinced that the stability of the Government and the commercial necessities of the West required the possession and control of the Mississippi. For the next four years the Mississippi problem and the purchase of Louisiana were the chief subjects of discussion in Congress, and American statesmen at home and abroad worked and intrigued zealously to prevent the Mississippi falling from the hands of a weak power like Spain into those of a strong one like England or France, both of whom had their eyes on


this rich, fertile, and productive valley, whose wealth was just beginning to be recognized.

As for the Western people, the Kentuckians and Tennesseeans, they were wild with fury when they heard that their only outlet to market was closed to them by Morales's order. An expedition to New Orleans to capture the city and drive the Spanish out of the Mississippi Valley was seriously discussed. An account was taken of the men available for military service, who were estimated at 20,000, and the preliminary organization begun, when the President sent three regiments to the Ohio to prevent such a filibustering expedition, and assured the people that the matter would be settled by diplomacy. Petitions poured into Congress demanding that it take some action to open the Mississippi to the commerce of the Western Territories. The following, which is one of the petitions presented at the time, gives an idea of the Western sentiment on this subject: —


"The Mississippi is ours by the law of nature; it belongs to us by our numbers and by the labor which we have bestowed upon these spots, which before our arrival were desert and barren. Our innumerable rivers swell it and flow with it into the Gulf of Mexico. Its mouth is the only issue which nature has given to our waters, and we wish to use it for our vessels. We do not prevent the Spanish and French from ascending the river to our towns and villages. We wish, in our turn, to descend it without any interruption to its mouth, to ascend it again, and to exercise our privilege of trading on it and navigating it at our pleasure. If our most entire liberty in this matter is disputed, nothing will prevent our taking possession of the capital (of Louisiana,) and when we are once masters of it, we will know how to maintain ourselves there. If Congress refuses us effectual protection, if it forsakes us, we will adopt the measures which our safety requires, even if they endanger the peace of the Union and our connection with the other States. No protection, no allegiance."

There is no doubt that this threat of secession was very popular among some of the pioneers of the West. It must be remembered that the Federal Union was less than ten years old; that the settlers along the Ohio were cut off from the Atlantic sea-coast by mountains through which no roads of any kind ran; that their sole dependence was the Mississippi, and their crops were of no value without the use of that stream.


The Government recognized the justice of these plaints, and Mr. Madison himself, while Secretary of State, in writing to the American minister at Madrid, said of the Western people:

"The Mississippi River to them is everything — it is the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable waters of the Atlantic States formed into one stream."

In the meanwhile this embargo had caused considerable trouble in New Orleans, where it threatened to create a famine. The lower river country, as to-day, raised articles like indigo, sugar, and cotton, mainly for export, and not enough provisions for the supply of the population. As a consequence of the stoppage of the shipments from the Ohio, there was a dearth of flour and other Western produce in New Orleans.

The discussion over the trade of the Mississippi found its way into Congress, and served as the chief subject of debate.

Mr. Ross, of Pennsylvania, representing the Western element, offered the following resolution: —

"Resolved, That we have an indisputable right to the free navigation of the river Mississippi and to a convenient place of deposit for the produce of the country and its merchandise in the island of Orleans.

"Resolved, That the President be authorized to take immediate possession of the country and to call into service the militia of the Western States."

The difficulty was finally definitely settled by the action of President Jefferson in purchasing Louisiana; and in 1803 the people of the Western States were satisfied by having the Mississippi not only thrown open to them, but actually belonging to the United States of America.


The increase that had taken place in the population of the Upper Mississippi Valley in two decades is well shown in the shipments from that region to New Orleans during this period of contention.

These shipments were, for 1801, for the districts of Kentucky and Mississippi alone, $1,626,672, and for all the American possessions $2,111,672.

In 1802 the shipments from Kentucky alone were $1,182,864, and for the Ohio Valley and that portion of the Mississippi basin possessed by the United States — all from Bayou Manchac up — including all Mississippi and portions of Louisiana and Tennessee, $2,637,564.

Adding what is known of the products of Louisiana, the


commerce of the Lower Mississippi Valley, that is the shipments down the Mississippi toward New Orleans, either for consumption in the lower river country or for export, was in the first two years of the present century as follows: —

  1801. 1802.
American territories:
Pennsylvania and territory northwest of Ohio $485,000 $700,000
Kentucky and Tennessee and Mississippi 1,626,072 1,522,064
Mississippi territory   412,500
Spanish possessions:
Upper Louisiana 115,000 120,000
Lower Louisiana 1,422,050 1,720,800
Total $3,649,322 $4,475,364

There are no records of the shipments up the river, but they were small as compared with the down trade, except for the country immediately around New Orleans. The imports at that city about equaled the exports of the Spanish possessions, and included such manufactured articles as could not be obtained in the colony. These were brought to New Orleans from France and Spain, and distributed among the towns and planters by barges, pirogues and plantation bouts. Less than 10 per cent of the imports found their way above Red River.

The shipments from New Orleans consisted of the following articles: 34,500 bales of cotton of an average weight of 300 pounds each, a much smaller bale than to-day; 4,500 hogsheads of sugar of 1,000 pounds each; 800 casks of molasses of 125 gallons each, equal to 2,000 of the barrels used to-day in shipping molasses; 4,000 casks of tafia or rum made from Louisiana molasses, each of 50 gallons; 3,000 pounds of indigo, the cultivation of which had proved a failure in Louisiana, and which was rapidly giving place to sugar; lumber and boxes to the value of $300,000; peltries and skins to the value of $120,000; rice and other miscellaneous products to the value of $80,000.

These were the products of Louisiana.

Among the chief articles of Western produce received from the American territory were: 50,000 barrels of flour; 2,000 barrels of pork; 1,200 barrels of beef; 2,400 hogsheads of tobacco; 25,000 bushels of corn. Besides, there were butter, hams, meal, lard, beans, hides, staves and cordage.

From Pennsylvania, and, indeed, from some portions of Western New York, the woodsman or pioneer of that era loaded his flat-boat with the products of the season and began his voyage down the river to New Orleans. It was a trip of


months of danger and exposure, for at least nine-tenths of the distance was wholly uninhabited by whites, and the Indians through all the river country were sullen and hostile. The Ohio Falls were passed with difficulty — generally during the high water — pilots being specially employed for this portion of the route. In the Mississippi itself were snags and dangers innumerable. When New Orleans was reached the produce was sold for, say, $2,000 to $3,000, which was about the average value of a cargo. In the earlier days the land route was seldom followed home, as the Indians held all northern Mississippi; but later this trail was popular, and the flat-boatman returned home across Lake Ponchartrain and thence northward through Nashville — a trail marked to this day. In the first years of the century, however, he generally went by sea to some of the American cities on the Atlantic coast, Baltimore and Philadelphia being the favorites, laid in a supply of calicoes and other manufactured goods there, and got home six months after his departure, just in time to plant another crop.


The vessels employed in the river trade had changed considerably during this period of development, and the rude pirogues and bateaux of the early French settlers had given place to the flat-boat or Kentucky boat and barge, and afterward to the keel-boats of the Americans. The flat-boat of that day was a small affair, not one-tenth the size it attained half a century later. It averaged nearly 30 tons, and made the trip from Louisville or Cincinnati to New Orleans in 60 days. The professional flat-boat men made but three trips a year, selling not only their produce in New Orleans, but their boats as well, when they were broken up for lumber. The cheapness of this means of transportation — for the building of one of these boats cost but $20 — made it admirably adapted to the condition of the country at the time. The flat-boat man, after selling out his cargo and boat in New Orleans, and probably having a spree there, returned home by way of Philadelphia, or, at a later day, tramped overland with what money he had left strapped around his waist.

The first boats were built in the Mississippi Valley in 1787 near Pittsburgh, when 30 bateaux, 40 feet long by 9 wide, were constructed for the Government for the transportation of troops and provisions.

The trade of the Lower Mississippi, as will be seen, went almost wholly down stream. There were some few light shipments


up the river from New Orleans, but the bulk of the manufactured goods and supplies needed by the settlers on the Ohio were obtained, not through New Orleans, but in the American cities on the Atlantic.

To carry the produce brought from the Western States away from New Orleans, there arrived at that port during the year 1802, the last but one of Spanish Dominion, 265 vessels of an aggregate of 31,241 tons. These vessels, it is needless to say, were generally small sloops and schooners, the average being under 118 tons each, which would be looked on with contempt to-day. Yet it is gratifying to note that, although the government of Louisiana, was in the hands of a European power, alien to the population, not only the Kentuckians, but the Louisiana creoles as well, the outward trade of New Orleans was in the hands of the American merchant marine. Of the vessels arriving there 158 were American, 104 Spanish, and 3 French. The departures for the same year were 258 vessels of 23,725 tons, of which 170 were American, 97 Spanish, and 1 French.

The next year, during which French and Spanish rule came to an end in the Mississippi Valley, saw still greater improvement, the total tonnage entering New Orleans being 42,817 tons, and all of the vessels being tilled with Western and Louisiana produce.

The down commerce of the Mississippi during the three first years of the century and the last of European control over the mouth of the great river, was as follows:—

Year. Freight received. Value of products received.
1801 38,325 $3,649,322
1802 45,906 4,475,364
1803 49,660 4,720,015

In the latter part of 1803 an event occurred which was destined to completely change the political and commercial future of the Mississippi Valley, and with it the whole history of the river changes.


On Monday, December 20, 1803 Mr. Laussat, the French commissioner, turned over the province of Louisiana to the American representatives; and the United States became the owner of the entire Mississippi Valley, of which it had formerly possessed barely a third. The news brought satisfaction


everywhere in America. At the last moment the European powers recognized the importance of Louisiana, and the possession of the Mississippi. Napoleon, who arranged the sale for France, expressed great regret that he had to surrender its possession, and predicted that it would make the United States one of the leading powers of the world.

In this country the sentiment which seemed strongest was rejoicing, not over the possession of the land so much as of the Mississippi, the control of its navigation and its outlet. To the Western people it was everything. With the millions of acres of public land then owned by the Government, there was no need, and indeed no desire for additional territory. What the people of the West wanted was the Mississippi. Without its possession the settlement and advance of the great interior country must have been slow until some outlet was found to the Atlantic sea-board. With it there was no limit to its development.

President Jefferson himself took the Western view of the importance of the Mississippi, and thought its control would change the industrial and commercial condition of this country if not of the whole world. His prediction as to New Orleans as the port of the Mississippi Valley was credited by the merchants of that city for years; and indeed it might have proved true but for the discovery of railroads. Writing to his newly appointed Governor of Louisiana, Claiborne, the President prophesied as follows: —

"New Orleans will be forever, as it is now, the mighty mart of the merchandise brought from more than a thousand rivers, unless prevented by some accident in human affairs. This rapidly increasing city will, in no distant time, leave the emporia of the Eastern World far behind. With Boston, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia on the left, Mexico on the right, Havana in front, and the immense valley of the Mississippi in the rear, no such position for the accumulation and perpetuity of wealth and power ever existed."

If this prediction has not been fully realized in the eighty-odd years that have since passed it must be attributed to that accident which Mr. Jefferson foresaw.

The receipts of produce by the river showed less increase during the first four years of the American dominion than was to be expected.

1804 $4,275,000
1805 4,371,545
1806 4,937,323
1807 5,370,555


The arrivals of sea-going vessels during the latter year were 314, and the departures 350, with a tonnage of 43,220. The keel-boats and barges arriving numbered 340, and the departures 11. The flat-boat arrivals were estimated at 1,500, but this is probably an exaggeration. Besides these there were in use on the river ocean scows, pirogues, skiffs and floating lumber rafts.


The Kentucky boat of that day, in which much of the produce was carried to market, was nicknamed an ark, and the title was most appropriate, as in shape it was much like the ark seen in children's toys. Large oars or paddles were used, not to control or propel the boat, but to partially direct its course. These arks encountered many dangers and difficulties in their trips down the river, and the calculation is that at least one-fourth of them were lost en route. Above the mouth of the Arkansas, where the navigation of the river was worst, and where snags were plentiful, the arks were tied to the shore each night. In the lower river, however, where it was free from obstructions, they floated down as well by night as by day. The large oars were used mainly to keep them clear of the snags and sawyers.

For the transportation of freight up stream various kinds of boats were used, but none of them can be said to have proved successful, and the tonnage up was barely 10 percent of that floating down. The system of rowing up the river and against the current was tried. It was slow, tedious and expensive. The boats coasted along the shore so as to avoid the full force of the current, but it required one oarsman for every 3,000 pounds of freight, and the work was so tiresome that the men rested every hour. To travel from 14 to 30 miles a day was considered very good work. The river was crossed at the lower end of each bend, and in the crossing the current carried the boat down a half a mile or so. It is said by old boatmen that they were compelled to cross the Mississippi 390 times between New Orleans and Saint Louis. On some of the tributaries of the Mississippi, however, where the current was not so strong, as, for instance, the Ohio, a considerable traffic was carried on up-stream, no less than fifty boats of a tonnage of thirty tons each trafficking between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and making six trips a year.

The keel-boat was of a long, slender and elegant form, and generally carried from 15 to 30 tons. Its advantage lay in its


small draught of water and in the lightness of its construction. Its propelling power was by oar, sail, setting poles, the cordelle; and when the water was high and the boats ran on the margin of the river, "bushwhacking," or pulling upstream by the bushes.

The scow was used as a boat of descent for families traveling down the river for settlement, and had a roof or a covering for it. These boats were frequently known as "sheds" in the vernacular. The Alleghany or Mackinaw skiff was a covered skiff carrying from 6 to 10 tons, and much used in the Illinois trade and the upper Mississippi and Missouri. Pirogues were sometimes hollowed from one very large tree or made from the trunks of two trees united and fitted with a plank run. They carried from 1 to 5 tons. There were common skiffs, canoes and dug-outs for the convenience of crossing the rivers, and a select company of a few travelers often descended in them to New Orleans. Besides these were a number of anomalous water craft that can scarcely be reduced to any class, used as boats of passage or descent, such as flat-boats worked by a wheel driven by cattle being conveyed to the New Orleans market. There were horse-boats of various constructions, used for the most part for ferry-boats, but sometimes as boats of ascent. Two keel-boats were connected by a platform. A pen in the center held the horses, which by a circular movement propelled the wheel. The United States troops frequently ascended the river by boats propelled by tread-wheel, and more than once a boat moved rapidly up-stream by wheel, after steamboat construction, propelled by a man turning a crank.

But the boats of passage and conveyance most in fashion were the keel-boats and the flats. The flat-boats were called, in the vernacular, Kentucky flats or broad-beams. They were simply an oblong ark, with a roof slightly curved to shed the rain, about 15 feet wide and from 50 to 100 feet long. The timbers of the bottom were massive beams, and they were intended to be of great strength and to carry from 200 to 400 barrels. Great numbers of horses, hogs and cattle were conveyed to market in them. Family boats of this description, for the descent of families to the lower country, were fitted up comfortably with apartments, and in them ladies, servants, cattle, horses, sheep, dogs and poultry, all floating in the same bottom and under the same roof, were carried down the river. The largest barges, which were the best boats of these days, resembled a modern canal boat in appearance. At the stern, was the poop-deck, which covered the cabin, and a stand for


the patron or captain at the tiller-head. There were two high masts and either hermaphrodite brig or schooner sail rigging. When the barge traveled up river it carried a large crew of from 30 to 40 men, who propelled it against the current, by the use of warnifs, anchors and cordelles, at the rate of 15 miles a day, using canvas when the wind was fair. The 1,200 miles from New Orleans to the mouth of the Ohio were made in 100 days, and when a barge made it in 96 days it was regarded as very quick time. The price of up-freight was 6 and afterwards 5 cents a pound, and there was not much profit in it at these figures. These barges were owned at the Ohio River towns, mainly at Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Marietta, Maysville, Cincinnati and Louisville. At Marietta several sea-going vessels were built and floated down the river to the Gulf of Mexico.

The flat-boat men were generally Kentuckians or Tennesseeans, and they became to the Louisiana Creoles the type of an American, so that "Kaintuck" (Kentuckian) was used as a synonym for American among the native population. They were a sturdy race of men, of splendid physique, indomitable energy and courage, somewhat wild, and ready for a spree when they reached New Orleans.

In those days just above the corporation limits of the town of New Orleans, where land has since formed, and where the wholesale trade of the city is principally carried on, the fleets of barges and flat-boats from the West moored and unloaded or retailed their contents at the water's edge. Farther down and immediately abreast of the town, between the upper limits and the Place d' Armes (now Jackson Square), at what is the sugar and ship landings of to-day, lay the shipping, averaging some 20 or more vessels of from 100 to 200 tons each.


The Western people who shipped their produce down the river via New Orleans had many complaints to make against the tolls and charges at that city, and found that they did not enjoy all those advantages from the possession of the Mississippi which they had expected.

The matter found its way into Congress, where Mr. Poindexter, of the Committee on Ways and Means, inquired into the expediency of prohibiting by law in "the corporation of the City of New Orleans from exacting any tax or duty on vessels, boats or other craft descending the river Mississippi having on board articles the growth or manufacture of the


United States, or such articles of foreign growth or manufacture as have been regularly imported into the United States." The resolution was carried and the City of New Orleans prohibited from exacting these tolls. A couple of years afterward the Legislature of Louisiana, with the same idea that the State had some control of the Mississippi because it lay within Louisiana territory, attempted to give a monopoly of the steam transportation of the river to a company, in which it also was defeated by a ruling of the Supreme Court.

The Western produce trade had grown each year to be a large proportion of the total commerce of New Orleans.

Between October 5, 1810, and May 5, 1811, there passed the Ohio Falls bound down stream to New Orleans, 847 vessels of one kind and another, mainly flat-boats, and the number passing during the season is calculated at 1,200, with the following cargoes: —

Articles.   Quantity
Flour barrels, 206,855
Bacon pounds, 1,008,026
Whisky barrels, 15,797
Cider do 4,193
Pork do 22,602
Apples do 4,200
Oats do 6,700
Corn bushels, 79,795
Merchandise   $592,640
Cheese boxes, 8,569
Beans barrels, 1,010
Lumber feet, 2,325,210
Live hogs number 1,513
Cider, royal barrels 2,250
Butter pounds 41,151
Lard do 775,692
Onions barrels, 364
Potatoes do 3,019
Hemp cwt. 1,050,492
Dried fruit barrels 442
Yarn and cordage pounds 189,020
Fowls number 2,012,224
Shoe thread pounds 4,320
Country linen do 13,066
Horses   489
Beer barrels, 459
Tobacco hogsheads, 3,891

These statistics, which were taken by the pilots engaged in piloting the vessels over the Ohio Falls, for three-fifths of the vessels passing that point of danger, and estimated for the remainder, which went over the falls during extreme high water without a pilot, are in some respects more complete than many made afterwards when statistics of the river trade were much more carefully collected, for the later figures kept no


record of the number of fowls, horses, etc., sent down the river.

The list of articles now sent to market gives some idea of the advance and development that has taken place on the Lower Mississippi with the advent of American rule.

Chapter XXXV. The Steamboat.

The result of the transfer of Louisiana to the United States has been to greatly increase the population of the Mississippi Valley, as well as its trade; it was destined to still further change its condition by that great invention of American genius, the use of steam as a means of moving vessels in water. Fulton had tried this with success on the Hudson, and aimed to experiment with it on that greater river, the Mississippi. Great doubts were expressed as to the possibility of navigating it, on account of the velocity of the current, the many eddies and whirlpools, the danger from snags and other obstructions. An agent, Nicholas Roosevelt, was accordingly sent ahead to make a preliminary survey of the river between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, to find whether the obstructions were of a serious character, such as were likely to prevent the passage of a small steamer. He reported that there was nothing to prevent the trip. The Orleans, or New Orleans, which was under construction at Pittsburgh, was accordingly completed and made ready for the trip in the latter part of 1811. In this first steamboat the idea of marine architecture was preserved. She was built after the model of a ship, with port-holes on the side, had a long bowsprit, and was painted sky-blue. Her cabin was in the hold.

The steamboatmen of the Mississippi still delight to tell the story of this first cruise of a steamer down the "Father of Waters." The New Orleans was built at Pittsburgh in 1811, at a cost of $38,000; was 116 feet long and 20 feet beam, with a 34-inch cylinder, and was a stern-wheeler. The trip commenced in September, with Roosevelt as superintendent, Mrs. Roosevelt — it was regarded as a very hazardous journey for a woman — the captain, engineer, pilot, and a crew of six. All Pittsburgh turned out to bid the boat bon voyage, and when it reached Cincinnati on the second night and cast anchor there — for there were no regular wharf-boats or regular landings then — she was welcomed by the entire population. The New Orleans reached Louisville, October 1, when it was found that she could not safely descend the Ohio Falls, as the water was too low She accordingly


returned to Cincinnati, thereby proving that she could go up stream as well as down. In November, the river having risen, the New Orleans safely crossed the falls. She entered the Mississippi just about the time of the New Madrid earthquake, and arrived at Natchez in December, where she took on her first freight and passengers — she had been built for the Natchez and New Orleans trade — and arrived at New Orleans on the day before Christmas, 1811. The New Orleans at once regularly entered the Natchez trade, and until she was sunk by striking a snag in the winter of 1814, ran regularly between the two places, making a great deal of money for her owners. On her first year's business she cleared $20,000 net — not bad on an investment of $38,000. Natchez at that time was the great depot on the Mississippi for the overland trade from the North and East.

In Kramer's Almanac in 1813 is given a letter describing a trip up the river on the New Orleans, in which it is said: —

"The present boat does business to real advantage, and is owned by Fulton & Livingston, of New York. She performs a regular route from Natchez to New Orleans in three days, and returns in four. The passage descending is $18, and ascending $25. I descended in the boat in March, 1812, in thirty-two hours."

The first experiment with steam in the navigation of the Western rivers created surprise and excitement, but it did not give complete satisfaction. The truth is that it was neither a perfect success, nor yet a failure. The growing commerce of the river demanded something better than the flat-boats and barges, and the merchants and mechanics of the valley having the necessary means and animated by the spirit of enterprise, did not hesitate to continue to experiment in the hope of finally solving the problem of steam navigation, the Mississippi and its tributaries. The experimental period lasted for five years. In that time nine expensive steamboats were built, and while each succeeding boat was a decided advance on that which preceded it, defects and improvements being suggested by practical experience, steam navigation was not regarded as an assured success until 1817, when the steamboat Washington made the trip from New Orleans to Louisville in twenty-five days. The trouble all along had been to stem the current successfully, and this trouble the indomitable pluck and energy of the merchants and the skill of the mechanics finally accomplished. With 1817, therefore, may be said to begin the era of successful steam navigation on the Mississippi.

The difficulty of vessels stemming the current of the river


induced those who were interested in steam navigation to suggest a system of relays such as Fulton and Livingston had originally designed, the river being divided up into sections. Then one boat was to run from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, another from Cincinnati to Louisville, a third from Louisville to Smithland, a fourth from Smithland to Natchez, and another from Natchez to New Orleans, the passengers and freight to be transferred at each point. This ingenious plan of continually loading and unloading was never carried out, for before it had been perfected the problem of stemming the current was solved. The Washington, to which this solution is due, was the sixth boat built on the Mississippi River. She was a high-pressure steamer, with four single-flue boilers, and was built at Wheeling, in 1816. She left there July 5 and arrived in New Orleans October 17, 1816. It was on her return trip to Louisville that she demonstrated very clearly the possibility of ascending the river with steam. The trip of the Washington to Louisville was by far the most rapid made, up to that day. The following is her record: Left New Orleans, March 24; reached Natchez, March 29; reached mouth of Arkansas River, April 5; reached Chickasaw Bluff (Memphis), April 7; reached New Madrid, April 10; reached mouth of Ohio River, April 11; reached Falls of Ohio (Louisville), April 17.

The trip of the Washington established another point of the very greatest advantage to the river country — that the Mississippi was the heritage of the people and could not be monopolized by any one. A company had been formed, at the head of which were Fulton and Livingston, who had made the first experiments with steam on the Ohio and Mississippi. This company obtained from the Louisiana legislature an act giving them the exclusive right of navigating the waters of Louisiana with steam-vessels for fourteen years, with the privilege of renewing their charter at the end of that time. Any one violating this monopoly was subject to a fine of $500. The company owned the Aetna, Vesuvius, and Orleans, and had arranged for a system of transfers at Louisville. The trip of the Washington to New Orleans was in defiance of this law, and that steamboat was accordingly seized when she arrived at "the Crescent City." The United States court swept away the monopoly, declared that the river was the heritage of the whole people, that the State of Louisiana could not control it and give its navigation to any company or monopoly. This decision naturally gave a great impetus to steamboat building,


and the next few years saw all the Ohio towns turning out steamboats.

At the end of 1813, there were, according to Kramer's Almanac, eleven steamboats in the whole country, three building about Pittsburgh to complete the line between that town and New Orleans, and one small boat to carry wheat and corn on the Monongahela. The closing career of the New Orleans was in carrying reinforcements and munitions to Jackson's army, just before the battle of New Orleans. In 1814, three years after her construction, the New Orleans was sunk by a snag. She was tied to the bank at night. The river fell, and in the morning, it was found that the boat was snagged.

Following the Comet came the Vesuvius built at Pittsburgh in April, 1814, by Robert Fulton. She was of 480 tons burden, and made the trip to Louisville, 767 miles, in sixty-seven hours, from Louisville to Natchez in one hundred and twenty five hours, and from Natchez to New Orleans in thirty-three, making the whole distance in two hundred and twenty-seven hours, or 9 1/2 miles an hour, not bad speed when the circumstances are considered. The Vesuvius also figured at the battle of New Orleans.

In 1814 the fourth steamboat on the Mississippi, the Enterprise, was built at Brownsville, reaching New Orleans the latter part of December, just in time to be pressed into service at the battle of New Orleans. The Enterprise was the first boat to reach Cincinnati from New Orleans, getting there in 1815, in twenty-eight days. She was a small vessel of only 35 tons. Some idea of the times is given by the fact, that the price of passage on this boat from New Orleans to Cincinnati was $130, and from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, $30.


The river traffic of 1814 shows that the steamboats had so far made but little impression. Transportation by steamboat was still an experiment. There arrived at New Orleans that year: —

  Number. Tonnage.
Flatboats 598 }88,350
Barges 324
Steamboats 21 2,098

These steamboats were three in number, the New Orleans, Vesuvius, and Enterprise. The steamboat tonnage of New Orleans was but little over 2 percent of the total.


The sea-going vessels, leaving New Orleans that year, numbered 351, of 81,180 tons, as follows: Ships, 188; brigs, 95; schooners, 52.

The principal products received from the interior were as follows: —

Articles   Quantity
Cotton bales 58,220
Corn bushels 116,872
Flour barrels 73,820
Sugar hogsheads 11,640
Molasses gallons 482,500
Pork barrels 7,226
Rice do 7,500
Tafla gallons 142,800
Tobacco hogsheads 6,210
Whisky barrels 16,200

In 1815 still another steamer, the Buffalo, was built at Pittsburgh, which Livingston and Fulton proposed to run to the Falls of the Ohio, where she could connect with their large steamer Vesuvius, from New Orleans.

A curious fact, in regard to the river and its tributaries at this time, is, that the navigable streams are estimated as of so much greater extent than to-day. Notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Government has been at work improving many of them, the mileage considered opened to navigation in the year 1816 was much greater then, than now. In a book published at this time the total extent of rivers tributary to the Mississippi, entirely within the area of Louisiana, is estimated at 5,762 miles, double what it is to-day. Indiana is put down for 2,487 miles of tributary streams, Illinois, 3,094; Kentucky, 2,487, and Mississippi 2,902, a total of these five States of 13,732 miles of navigation, whereas, they are estimated to-day, as possessing only 7,650 miles. Streams never used by vessels now were then regarded as navigable because, during certain seasons of high water they were able to float flat-boats out to the main river, the produce being thus carried to market.

The return trade, that is a supply of the articles of European make, still came principally by way of the East from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore overland from Pittsburgh. Nor did the discovery of steam as a motive power for river boats cause much change. New Orleans increased its shipments up the river when a better means of stemming the current was discovered, but the bulk of its shipments were cheap and heavy products. The Southern States received supplies of Western produce, pork, grain, flour, etc.; the Western


towns, like Cincinnati and Saint Louis, coffee, sugar, etc. The trade in dress goods, and the finer manufactured articles was mainly with the East. Thanks to steamboats, however, the business of New Orleans in this direction, although much less than it ought to be, considering its receipts of produce, showed great increase, and one singular fact is observable in this trade, showing how much influence the origin of a people will have upon their commerce. With the exception of some Philadelphians, who established themselves in New Orleans just before the purchase of Louisiana, a majority of its merchants, particularly the importers, were Creole or French, who preferred to get their goods from France rather than from England. As a result, the Kentuckians and Tennesseans of seventy years ago were supplied from New Orleans, mainly, with French print, broadcloths, and other dress goods, whereas the bulk of the people on the Atlantic wore almost wholly the produce of British looms. The early French influence made itself felt throughout the Lower Mississippi Valley until about the time of the outbreak of the war, and in many portions of the river country the demand was for French rather than English goods.


Chapter XXXVI. Immigration into the Mississippi Valley.

IT was just about the time of the discovery of steam as a motive power for steamboats that a new tide of immigration started from the Atlantic coast to the river country. There had been a rapid growth of the population of the valley from the date of the purchase of Louisiana, but between 1810 and 1820 that movement received a new impetus — probably due to the war of 1812. This movement went down the Ohio and into all the region tributary to it and to the Mississippi, both the upper and the lower portions. The immigrant guide-books of those days — of which there were many — declare the river route preferable, as being cheaper, more rapid, and more satisfactory than traveling across the country where there were few, if any roads. The river bottoms both of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were then regarded as very unhealthy and dangerous sections, and the immigrant was advised not to start on his trip until in the fall, after the frosts had killed the malaria. The guide-books describe the rivers as being very unpleasant during the summer season, with offensive odors coming from the shores. The immigrants were also warned against drinking river water before filtering or boiling it. On flat-boats and pine rafts, the latter being deemed the better plan, thousands of settlers drifted down the rivers each year, and in the short space of a decade the population of the Mississippi Valley doubled.


The receipts of New Orleans during the first year of successful steam navigation, 1816, amounted in value to $8,062,540. The character of produce received will furnish an excellent comparison for subsequent years by showing the lines of goods in which a trade was developed.

Articles.   Quantity
Apples barrels 4,253
Beef do 2,459
Beans do 439
Bagging pieces 2,579
Bacon and hams cwts 1,300
Butter pounds 509
Candles boxes 358


Articles.   Quantity
Cheese cwts 30
Cider barrels 646
Cordage cwts 400
Cordage baling coils 4,798
Corn bushels 13,775
Corn-meal barrels 1,075
Cotton bales 37,371
Flaxseed oil barrels 85
Flour do 97,419
Ginseng do 957
Hair bundles 356
Hemp-yarn reels 1,095
Hides number 5,000
Horses number 375
Hogs do 500
Lead cwts 5,500
White lead barrels 188
Linens, coarse pieces 2,500
Lard barrels 2,458
Oats bushels 4,065
Paper reams 750
Peltries packages 2,450
Pork barrels 9,725
Potatoes do 3,750
Powder do 294
Saltpeter cwts 175
Soap boxes 1,538
Tallow cwts 160
Tobacco hhds 7,282
Manufactured barrels 711
Tobacco carrots 8,200
Whisky gallons 320,000
Bear-skins number 2,000

Besides horned cattle, indigo, muskets, grindstones, pecan nuts, and beans.

This is independent of the produce raised in Louisiana, such as cotton, corn, indigo, molasses, rice, sugar, tafia or rum, and lumber. These were brought to the market in the planters' crafts, and often taken from the plantation direct in foreign-bound vessels, a ship loading directly with sugar and molasses, which thus never went through New Orleans. But little account was taken of this system in the commercial reports of the time, although sea-going vessels ascended the river as far as Natchez for cargoes. They were, of course, of small size, of but little more tonnage and draught than the steamboats themselves.

The value of receipts shows to what extent the produce of the West passed through New Orleans, Cotton, which in later days rose to be 60 and even 75 per cent, in value of all the receipts, was then barely 12 per cent. At least 80 percent of the articles came from the West, that is, from the Ohio and the Upper Mississippi, above the Ohio. They represented


the surplus products of the Mississippi Valley, for but little found any other exit to market. Much of the produce shipped from the West to New Orleans was lost en route. A rough estimate places the loss from disasters, snags, etc., at 20 per cent. Many boats, moreover, stopped along the river on their way down to sell supplies to the planters. Thus, at Natchez, flour, grain, and pork were purchased from the Kentucky boats.

From these losses and sales the shipments down the river in 1816, including the products of Louisiana, may be estimated at $13,875,000.

The river traffic required 6 steamboats, 594 barges, and 1,287 flat-boats, of a total tonnage of 87,670.

The effect of the use of steamboats in the river trade was soon seen in a large increase in the shipments of produce. The value of the receipts at New Orleans shows the following advance in the next half-dozen years: —

Years. Amount.
1815-16 $9,749,253
1816-17 8,773,379
1817-18 13,501,036
1818-19 10,771,711
1819-20 12,637,079
1820-21 11,967,067

From 1802 the down commerce of the lower river had grown in 1818, sixteen years, more than fourfold. The trade up the river during the same period had been multiplied threefold.

The year succeeding the introduction of steamboats, 1817, New Orleans chronicled a large increase in its receipts of produce, as follows: —

Articles.   Quantity.
Cotton bales 59,826
Sugar hogsheads 10,642
Molasses gallons 486,320
Tobacco hogsheads 7,412
Do carrots 9,862
Flour barrels 95,325
Rice do 9,320
Beans do 3,896
Beef do 5,122
Pork do 4,382
Bacon pounds 713,382
Bagging pieces 9,825
Whisky gallons 262,328
Gin do 50,250
Tafla (rum) gallons 18,600
Beer barrels 826


Articles.   Quantity.
Cider barrels 925
Apples do 662
Potatoes do 5,642
Lard pounds 256,600
Soap boxes 9,860
Candles do 2,200
Castings kettles, etc. 226,000
Lead cwts 6,213
Bark cords 4,000
Tar barrels 6,580
Pitch do 3,263
Hogs number 1,227

The receipts for the following year show an improvement in nearly all lines, and a greater variety in the class of articles received, or at least noticed, for in these first commercial reports many products were altogether overlooked: —

Articles   Quantity.
Beans barrels 3,643
Cotton bales 65,223
Sugar hogsheads 21,115
Bacon cwts 18,620
Pork hogsheads 813
Do barrels 22,225
Bark cords 4,000
Beef barrels 6,142
Beer do 306
Butter kegs 1,825
Candles boxes 2,150
Cider barrels 520
Corn bushels 145,200
Cordage cwts 4,350
Flour barrels 197,620
Gin gallons 60,250
Ginseng barrels 1,200
Hay tons 40
Hides sides 6,200
Hogs   1,200
Lard barrels 412
Lard cwts 6,738
Molasses gallons 1,126,500
Oil barrels 4,200
Onions barrels 4,220
Paper reams 426
Peltries packages 3,550
Pitch barrels 3,200
Rice do 9,265
Skins, bear's number 3,000
Soap boxes 2,576
Starch do 125
Tafia gallons 42,026
Tallow cwts 206
Tar barrels 837
Tobacco hogsheads 8,642
Do carrots 1,600
Tobacco, manufactured boxes 154
Wax, bee's cwts 320
Wheat bushels 95,650
Whisky gallons 256,610


This includes, it will be seen, the produce of Louisiana as well as that of the upper country. The Louisiana products amount in value to 28 per cent of the whole. Of the remainder, fully 61 per cent, come from what is known as the West. In the last few days of Spanish rule in Louisiana over 40 per cent, in value of the receipts at New Orleans had come from that colony. The West was rapidly increasing in population, and New Orleans was securing all the new trade thus opened. It was as much a Western as a Southern city.

The commerce of the upper States was monopolized by the Americans. Indeed, before the colony was purchased by the United States a large proportion of the merchants of New Orleans were citizens of that country. The first American merchants had come from Philadelphia, and the commercial interests of New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley were in consequence more closely allied for years with "the Quaker City."


From the day that the problem of successful steam navigation not only down the stream with the current, but up stream, was solved by the Washington, steamboat building was actively carried on, and new steamers were added each year to the river fleet.

The steamer Ramapo was built in New York in 1820. She was originally a schooner of 146 tons burden. She had a low-pressure engine, and was the first boat to run between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The Manhattan, of 426 tons, was built also in New York, and had low-pressure engines. She ran for several years between New Orleans and Louisville. The Feliciana, 407 tons, low-pressure, was built in Philadelphia, and was the first regular packet to Bayou Sara. In 1821 the Mobile, 145 tons, low-pressure, was built at Amesbury, Mass., to run between New Orleans and Mobile. The United States, 645 tons, was built at New Albany. She was floated to this city for her machinery, which had been received from England. She was the wonder of her day, and was called The Mammoth. She was not a paying investment, owing to her complicated machinery. The Car of Commerce, 221 tons, was built at Freeport, Pa. She was considered remarkable in her day, having made the run to Shawneetown in twelve days. The Henry Clay, built at Newport, Ky., and the Paragon, built at Cincinnati, were also fast, making Louisville in sixteen days. The Mississippi, 372 tons, was built at Blakely, Ala., in 1820. Capt. H. S. Buckner was her


commander. Finding her too heavy and unwieldy for the lake trade, Captain Buckner brought her around and ran her to points on the Mississippi.

Besides the above boats mentioned there was built the Eclipse, Phoenix, Florence, Scioto, Pennsylvania, Andrew Jackson, Fanny, Caledonia, Fidelity, Mars, Leopard, Bell Creole, Swan, Superior, Venture, Natchez, Robert Fulton, Balize, Spartan, Magnet, Steubenville, Missouri, Rambler, General Pike, Fayette, Rob Roy, Paul Chase, Robert Emmet, Belvidere, George Washington, William Penn, Bolivar, Congress, General Wayne, Tecumseh, Paul Jones, Tuscumbia, Philadelphia, Hibernia, Hercules, Commerce, Aerial, Liberator, Planter, Helen McGregor, Post Boy, Marietta, Louisville, Columbia, Huntress, General Coffee, Virginia, Ontario, Decatur, Lexington, Messenger, Governor Hamilton, Dolphin, Patriot, Emerald. The Fanny was a schooner propelled by steam. The Natchez was built at New York. Capt. H. S. Buckner bought and run her to Natchez. She made the run there in three days. The Hercules and Post Boy were tow boats between New Orleans and the Balize.

The three packet-boats were the Paul Jones, Tecumseh, and Philadelphia. They were single-engine boats, and their time to Louisville was twelve days.

In 1821 there arrived at New Orleans —

287 steamboats of a tonnage of 54,120
And flat-boats, barges, etc., of a tonnage of 52,750

This made the total river tonnage 106,870. The barges and flat-boats had fallen off both in numbers and tonnage, and the steamboats were in a lead that they have since kept.

Within a decade the steamboat had firmly established itself on the river, and was an acknowledged success.

The Louisiana Advertiser speaks as follows on the subject in 1823: —

"It is now nine years since the first steamboat was evolved at the port of New Orleans, since which period up to the present time eighty-nine different steamboats have been evolved at this port. The first boat was lost in 1814, and up to the present time there have been twenty-three other boats lost, either by sinking, destroyed by fire, decayed or condemned, forming in the aggregate about 4,000 tons, and leaving a balance, say, of 14,000 tons. This 14,000 tons does not employ more than 1,000 men and can do more in a given time than 50,000 tons could have done in barges, keel-boats, or any other kind of vessels employed ten years ago with 20,000


hands. The rapid increase of steamboats had very soon the natural tendency of reducing freights, and, although the owners suffer severely from this cause in the consequent diminution in the value of the vessels, yet the country at large has been greatly benefited by their introduction, and it is to be hoped the number in existence can be more beneficially employed."

The amount of products that descended the Ohio during this time was estimated at 68,932 tons.

Of the goods that went down the Lower Mississippi, one-half came from the Ohio and its tributaries. Indeed, up to this time the settlements in the West and South had been restricted mainly to the Ohio basin, and comparatively few persons had yet established themselves on the Lower or Upper Mississippi, or on the Missouri, Arkansas, White, or other tributaries on the west.

It cannot, however, be said that they were a success or proved themselves equal to the emergencies of the river. There was a decided disposition in the early days of the river navigation to follow too closely the habit of the sea, and to pretend that the Mississippi was an interior ocean. The captains, for instance, having been accustomed when at sea to issue their orders through a trumpet, necessary there, to make them heard in the roar of the waves and the storm, still insisted upon using the trumpet upon the quiet waters of the Mississippi, and shouted stentoriously through the trumpet at their mates but a few feet distant, with all the worst nautical oaths and expressions. It was not until years afterwards that the simple process of giving orders by means of bells was adopted.

The boats were small compared to those which now do the carrying trade of Western rivers. Indeed, there does not seem to have been a very great increase in their size for many years. It is mentioned by reliable authority that as late as 1846 the smallest boats were about 120 tons burden, and the largest, not more than 500 tons. The largest boats now are from 2,500 to 3,000 tons burden. Although the increase in the size of boats was slow, great pains were taken to make them attractive to passengers. The travel on the river was then very large and profitable, and it became necessary to cater to the wants of the traveling public. The saloons were elegantly furnished, and the table was provided with every delicacy which the season and the market afforded.

The accommodations and comforts of the boats of a quarter a century and more ago are still remembered and spoken of


in glowing terms. They were no doubt very superior for those times, but they were hardly equal to those of the boats of the present day. The wants of the traveling public are greater now than then and their tastes more luxurious.

It is somewhat strange to hear the papers talk of the great cheapening of freights caused by the first steamboats, when we learn the rates from points above to New Orleans in 1819 was 3 cents a pound; a few years previous they had ranged from 4 to 6 cents. Passage by steamboat from Louisville to New Orleans was $100 when money was worth twice what it is to-day. Deck passage was $18, but the economical passenger could make it less by helping to wood the boat at the wood-yards scattered along the bank.

The flat-boats on the river increased in size with the steamboats. About four-fifths of them reached New Orleans, the others being lost en route or selling out at some way town. The hay flat-boats of Indiana of 1820-26 were 50 feet long, 16 feet wide, and carried about 30 tons of hay, ranging in price from $15 to $30. In 1832-33 the size of these boats began to increase; one 90 feet long and 18 wide, carrying 102 tons, cost $170 to build. They finally reached the size of 150 feet long by 24 wide, carrying 300 tons of produce. Flat-boats, when run to New Orleans for years, were broken up and houses built of them, the gunwales being cut up, and the streets and sidewalks paved with them. Some time between 1855 and 1860 the boats began to be towed back from all the ports along the river, especially the coal-boats and coal barges. The empty boats sold in New Orleans for from $30 to $200, increasing in price from $30 up to $200 in 1861, when the war stopped flat-boating. The price of hands to go down on flat-boats from Aurora to New Orleans was $10 to $30 per trip, the pilots usually receiving from $50 to $200. This was the price from the commencement of boating to the commencement of the war.

In the early days of boating, boatmen received gold and silver for their produce. Later they received gold, silver, and United States paper, and in bringing home their gold and silver, they messed together and put their money in a barrel, and one stood watch over it at a time, day and night, on the deck of a steamboat, as nearly all boatmen traveled "on deck."

Nearly half the cotton, all the tobacco and most of the provisions came through the Ohio. The Upper Mississippi furnished most of the furs and skins, the lead, etc.; the Lower Mississippi cotton, sugar, molasses, etc.

Of these products, the majority came from the Ohio basin,


then the most thickly settled part of the Mississippi Valley Taking the period 1822-26 as a basis, the following would be about the proportion of the traffic enjoyed by the several districts constituting the great valley: —

Ohio basin 49
Upper Mississippi 9
Lower Mississippi 42

These dry statistics tell the story of the settlement of the Mississippi Valley, its civilization, development and advance and the commercial changes that have taken place in it. The deer skins, the venison hams, the bear oil, peltries and furs, which form so important an article in the early receipts, soon disappear to give place to agricultural and afterwards to manufactured products. During the days of the French dominion the most important exports of the valley were the produce of the chase. Next came rough lumber for the manufacture of sugar boxes for Cuba; then raw agricultural products; afterwards articles like pork, flour and others that required some process of treatment. As yet the manufactured articles exported were few, being of the simplest character, such as bagging, rope, twine, candles.


At this date the most important lines of trade — those requiring the most vessels — were with Nashville, Bayou La Fourche, Natchez and Louisville. Natchez was a more important river point than Vicksburg, being the center of a populous district, and gave employment to three times as many steamboats. Nashville, as the center of the rich tobacco country of Tennessee and Kentucky, sent more steamboats to New Orleans than any town in that section. On the Ohio, Louisville was the most important point, very few steamers ascending higher on account of the falls. If a steamer went above Louisville she generally continued up to Pittsburgh.

The Saint Louis and Upper Mississippi River trade with New Orleans was as yet insignificant, but few persons having penetrated into that region. On the Tennessee River boats ran as high as Florence, but when the water rose flat-boats poured out by the hundred, laden with the cotton of north Alabama and the tobacco of Tennessee.

On the Mississippi the other most important shipping points besides Natchez were Bayou Sara and Baton Rouge. Vessels ran up the Ouachita, but no higher up the Red than Natchitoches on account of the raft.


The flat-boats came from all the upper country. The great majority of them were from the Ohio and its tributary. The Cumberland and Tennessee sent out hundreds laden with cotton and tobacco, the Ohio proper with apples, corn, flour, coal, etc. A majority of the flats at this time were from the Southern States, but this soon changed, and Indiana and Ohio were in the lead. The flat-boat traffic, except that of the districts immediately around New Orleans, was confined to a few months of the year. The boats waited for a rise in the river and came down with the high water. During January and February two-thirds of the flats arrived in New Orleans, as many as 75 in a single week. The flat-boats were cheaply made, and were broken up and sold for lumber in the city. Keel-boats were going rapidly out of favor. The up-freight of the river was much smaller than that down, and the steamboats could easily handle all of it; hence the keel-boats were superfluous and were no longer needed to carry freight up the country. A few still ran in the rivers of Arkansas and some of the States west of the Mississippi, but they were disappearing. The bateaux were altogether gone, save in the very wildest and most rugged portions of the Indian country, and but few of these arrived at New Orleans, with their cargoes of deer and bear skins. The market-boats were of the flat-boat order, dropping down the river from point to point, and trading, selling the planters and farmers Western provisions or trading it off for cotton and the products of the country.

The sugar, rice, etc., of the country immediately around New Orleans was brought to the city in pirogues, skiffs or boats made from solid logs. Each planter had his boat, and, although it was small, he could send his crop to market in it — a few hogsheads or bales at a time. But little record was kept of these arrivals at New Orleans, and hence the earlier records, while showing accurately how much corn, beef and other produce of the Upper Mississippi Valley was received, gave no record whatever of the receipts of Louisiana sugar, molasses or rice. A striking incident of the river commerce of those days was the large number of sailing vessels, sloops, schooners, and afterwards luggers, engaged in it. Nearly all the produce of the country below New Orleans was brought to the city in this way; and the sailing vessels ran even as high as Natchez, bringing down cotton and sugar from "the upper coast."

In 1825, nine years after the success of the steamboat, it had passed all competition, and the greater portion of the produce of the lower Mississippi Valley was brought to market


in it. In 1826 57 per cent, of the freight was carried to New Orleans by the steamboats and only 43 per cent, by other means.

The following arrivals during the season 1825-26 (the commercial year then began in New Orleans and throughout the South October 1; it has since been changed to September 1) gives some idea of the variety of crafts employed upon the river: —

ARRIVALS IN 1825-26.
Class. Number.
Steamboats 715
Flat-boats 981
Keel-boats 57
Schooners and sloops 108
Pirogues 101
Market-boats 25
Bateaux 13
Total 2,000

While the steamboats had greatly increased in number — threefold in four years — it will be seen that they had not yet driven out the flat-boat. Quite the contrary. The flat-boats also had increased largely. On the other hand, there was a material falling off in the number of keel-boats in use. The flat-boats were cheap, offered a cheap means of carrying bulky freight to market, and, moreover, they carried out a great deal of produce from the smaller streams where the steamboats could not go or where they did not care to take the risk of snags and sawyers.

The average tonnage of the river vessels in 1831 was 240 tons, and of the sea-going vessels running from New Orleans, 437. The steamboats, however, were constantly and rapidly increasing in size, whereas the sea-going vessels increased more slowly, so that in 1845 the two were about the same tonnage, and a ship could carry away from New Orleans just the cargo that one steamboat could bring there.


From the very start the steamboats had met with many disasters. The sixth boat built for the river traffic, constructed at Brownsville in 1815, ran aground on her way down the river and burst her boiler — a disaster by which ten or twelve lives were lost.

Even more disastrous were the snags with which both the Ohio and the Mississippi were filled. An appeal was made to


Congress in 1820 to remove them, but it declined to take any action.

From 1822 to 1827 the loss in the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers by snags alone, including steam and flat-boats and their cargoes, amounted to $1,362,500. From 1827 to 1832, when quite a number of snags were removed, these losses were greatly reduced, and did not exceed $381,000. In the latter year, 1832, in consequence of the successful working of the snag-boats, not a single boat was lost.

From 1833 to 1838 the Secretary of the Treasury reported that 40 steamboats had been snagged on the Mississippi, and damage inflicted amounting to fully $640,000. This was probably far below the true figures.

In 1839 the total loss of boats in the river was 40, of which 2 were snagged, 7 struck on rocks and other obstructions, the total loss amounting to $448,000.

The first steps taken by the Government to improve the navigation of the river were in 1829, when Captain Shreve, a prominent steamboat man, was employed to remove the snags which had caused such a heavy loss of vessels. The system pursued in their removal was to run down the snags with a double steamboat, the bows of which were protected with heavy beams plated with iron. A heavy head of steam was put on and the snags run down.

Captain Shreve did good work with this improvement, but he followed it up soon afterwards with a very unfortunate improvement that has given trouble ever since. Filled with the idea generally current at the time that it would be well to straighten out the river and shorten navigation, a channel was cut across one of the great bends just above the mouth of Red River, by which a distance of 30 miles was saved. This was known as Shreve's cut-off. Five days afterwards bars were formed at the mouth of Red River, at both entrances of the bend, leaving only 3 feet on one and 3 1/2 on the other. On these bars dredge-boats were brought to work, but the bars have proved troublesome to this day.


Year ending September 30. Arrivals of steam boats. Freight received.Tons. Value of produce.
1818-14 21 67,560
1814-15 40 77,220
1815-16 94,560 $9,749,253
1816-17 80,820 8,773,379
1817-18 100,880 13,501,036
1818-19 191 136,300 16,771,711
1819-20 198 106,706 12,637,079
1820-21 202 99,320 11,967,067
1821-22 287 136,400 15,126,420
1822-23 392 129,500 14,473,725
1823-24 436 136,240 15,063,820
1824-25 502 176,420 19,044,640
1825-26 608 193,300 20,446,320
1826-27 715 235,200 21,730,887
1827-28 698 257,300 22,886,420
1828-29 756 245,700 20,757,265
1829-30 989 260,900 22,065,518
1830-31 778 307,300 26,044,820
1831-32 813 244,600 21,806,763
1832-33 1,280 291,700 28,238,432
1833-34 1,081 327,800 29,820,817
1834-35 1,005 399,900 37,566,842
1835-36 1,272 437,100 39,237,762
1836-37 1,372 401,500 43,515,402
1837-38 1,549 449,600 45,627,720
1838-39 1,551 399,500 42,263,880
1839-40 1,573 537,400 49,763,825
1840-41 1,958 542,500 49,822,115

During all this period, and despite all these difficulties, the number of arrivals at New Orleans and the amount of river business on the Lower Mississippi continued to steadily increase. The growth of the river traffic is well shown in this table.

In regard to the steamboats, it should be remembered that the steady increase in arrivals each year does not fully express the increase in tonnage, because the boats were not only growing more numerous, but were increasing in size each year, and thus while they doubled in number between 1825 and 1833 they more than trebled in their carrying capacity.

In regard to the flat-boats and other craft, there is no sufficiently definite information for most of this period. It should


be said, however, that while the steamboats supplanted the flat-boats in many lines of trade, they did not entirely drive them off the river for fifteen or twenty years afterwards. During all this period when the Western cities were building steamboats, the flat-boats also were increasing in numbers. They were found serviceable in carrying hay, coal, etc., and in reaching the interior streams. The Mississippi counted some hundreds of tributaries. On some of these the settlements were sparse, and the surplus products afforded at best one or two cargoes a year, and these were sent much more conveniently and cheaply in flat-boats than in steamers. The steamers had passed the flats between 1820 and 1830 in the business transacted and the freight handled, and from this time they increased the lead steadily. The number of flats, however, arriving at New Orleans kept but little, if any, behind the steamers, and as late as 1840 nearly a fifth of the freight handled in the Lower Mississippi went by flat-boat, keel, or barge. The early flat-boats had depended altogether on the current of the river to carry them down. The system of towing was tried in 1829, and a small steamer, which would be called a tug to-day, was successfully used in towing keel-boats up and down stream. The idea did not seem, however, to meet with much favor, the flat-boat men having a superstition that their conjunction with a steamer was not favorable to them, and it was reserved for a later generation to definitely try in the barge the system of towing freight up and down stream.

In but little more than a quarter of a century the steamboat had secured a practical monopoly of the traffic of the Mississippi, and developed an interior commerce of immense proportions. It was during this period that the river country fared its best. Between 1830 and 1840 the river cities increased rapidly in population, wealth, and trade, and New Orleans, the port of the valley, advanced more rapidly than any city in America. The commerce of the river — and all its commerce was carried on the Mississippi, except an infinitesimal amount that came through Lake Pontchartrain and the Carondelet Canal.


From the very first day that steamboats had begun to navigate the Mississippi they had met with accidents during their


first forty years. The following total of losses are counted against them: —

1810 to 1820 3
1820 to 1830 37
1830 to 1840 184
1840 to 1850 272
Boats, the dates of whose loss is unknown 576
Total in forty years 1,070
Tonnage 85,256
Cost $7,113,940
Killed at accidents 2,299
Wounded 1,881
Killed and wounded 4,180

Of the accidents, 166 boats were destroyed by fire, 209 by explosion, 45 by collision.

In 1840 the number of boats snagged was 21, valued at $330,000. In 1841 the number snagged was 29; loss, $464,000; in 1842, 68. In one month of that year 11 vessels were lost between Saint Louis and the mouth of the Ohio, a distance of only 175 miles, the loss being $234,000. In the seventeen months succeeding 72 boats were lost, valued at $1,200,000. In 1846 36 vessels were lost, of which 24 were by snags, sunken rocks, or logs; damage, $697,500; lives lost, 166. In consequence of these many accidents the cost of running a vessel on the river was estimated at three times that on the lakes. In his report to the Memphis convention, in 1845, Mr. Calhoun estimated the loss of steamers on the Western water ways at 11 per cent, of the entire number, the average life of a vessel being only nine years. In the six years between 1840 and 1846 no less than 225 steamboats were lost on the Western water ways, an average of 56 per year. The record of 1846 is bad enough.

Steamboats lost, 1846 120
Snagged 46
Sunk 38
Burst boilers 16
Collision 15
Destroyed by fire 13
Shipwreck 10
Cut down by ice 7

The following gives the actual losses in life of two average seasons of river business: —

Years. Number of accidents. Number of killed. Number of wounded.
1853 31 319 158
1854 48 587 228


The most active year in steamboat business and the one chronicling the heaviest losses was that immediately preceding the war.

The following is the record for 1860:

Number steamboats destroyed and damaged 299
Number canal-boats and barges 48
Coal and flat-boats 208
Steamboats totally destroyed 120

Causes of Disasters: —

Sunk 111
Burned 31
Exploded 19
Collisions 24
Snagged and damaged 44


While the Mississippi Valley was listening at the Memphis convention to the story of its glories to come, and river men were calculating on the immense traffic that was assured the future, New Orleans was confident of the future. Few of its people anticipated any danger of its future and it was predicted not only in American papers but in the British Quarterly Review that it must ultimately become, on account of the Mississippi, the most important commercial city in America, if not in the world.

That eminent statistical and economical authority, Debow's Review, declared that "no city of the world has ever advanced as a mart of commerce with such gigantic and rapid strides as New Orleans."

It was no idle boast. Between 1830 and 1840 no city of the United States kept pace with it. When the census was taken it was fourth in population, exceeded only by New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, and third in point of commerce of the ports of the world, exceeded only by London, Liverpool, and New York, being indeed, but a short distance behind the latter city, and ahead of it in the export of domestic products. Unfortunately, its imports were out of all proportion with its exports. It shipped coffee, hardware, and other heavy articles like this up the river, but it left the West dependent on New York and the other Atlantic cities for nearly all the finer class of manufactured goods they needed.

Later on, when the West began to go into manufacturing itself, and Cincinnati and Pittsburgh became important manufacturing centers, New Orleans imported their goods and reshipped them to the plantations. Of these shipments upstream over 75 per cent., strange to say, were articles which had previously been sent down-stream. Cincinnati sent its


lard, candles, pork, etc., to New Orleans to be carried up by the coast packets to Bayou Sara and Baton Rouge. From these latter towns were shipped so many hogsheads of sugar and barrels of molasses to New Orleans to be thence sent by the Cincinnati boats to the Ohio metropolis. There was no trade between the Western cities and Southern plantations, very little even with the towns; it all paid tribute to New Orleans.


The upper Mississippi had from 1850 become the center of immigration and production, and New Orleans, which had formerly depended on the Ohio River country almost wholly for its supplies, now largely got them from Saint Louis. About 1850 the traffic with Saint Louis exceeded that with Cincinnati. In 1859, 32 steamboats of 48,726 tons were required for the Saint Louis and 36 of 26,932 tons for the Cincinnati trade.

Next in importance to New Orleans among the lower river towns was Memphis, which had steadily increased its traffic, as follows: —

1851 $ 4,978,000
1853 6,377,000
1854 8,266,500
1857 11,938,959

The boats landing at Memphis the latter year were: Steamboats, 2,279; flat-boats, 379; a total tonnage of 901,214. The shipments were nearly entirely to New Orleans. There were shipped 223,081 bales of cotton, of which 204,281 went south to New Orleans, 786 north to Saint Louis, and 28,014 to the Ohio River. The other shipments were wheat, flour, tobacco, furs, peltries, etc.

Vicksburg had passed Natchez, the levying and settling of the Yazoo delta having made it the point at which the cotton floated down the Tallahatchie, Coldwater, Yalabusha, Sunflower, and Yazoo Rivers on flats was transferred to steamers. The construction of the Southern Railroad to Jackson had made it also the river port for the shipment of the cotton of central Mississippi to market

Natchez continued an important social center and the shipper of cotton in the rich districts of southwestern Mississippi.

Bayou Sara, as the most western point of sugar production on the Mississippi, was the terminus of what is known as the upper coast packets, and has continued so to this day.

Baton Rouge was important as the State capital of Louisiana, but its shipments of produce were small. Below Baton Rouge


the steamboats loaded directly from the plantations; the towns were small and of little commercial importance. During all this period the Mississippi River steamboat had improved in size, in speed, and in appearance. Discarding the idea of making the river craft like those of the sea, a new genus of vessel had developed, especially to the needs of the Mississippi and its tributaries, adapted to both passenger and freight traffic, of light draught and great speed, and good carrying capacity. Changes had been made from time to time in the machinery employed and in the shape and appearance of the boat until finally a standard was reached that has been changed little in the last half century.

The first boat with a saloon and state-rooms was applauded by the press as luxurious in the extreme. These cabins were steadily improved until they became really the equal of the finest ocean steamers on the Atlantic. The passenger business of the steamboats was very large; indeed, they carried all the passengers in the Mississippi Valley, and it was one of the surest sources of profit.

In size there had been a steady advance. In 1839 but 9 steamers on the Mississippi were over 500 tons, and 13 between 400 and 500. The average tonnage of a steamboat was only 164. In 1846 108 steamboats were built a cost of $1,450,000 and of a tonnage of 51,660, an average of 479. One of these was a steamer of 887 tons, another of 750. They were built almost wholly on the Ohio River. Of the first 418 there, were built at —

Pittsburgh 112
Cincinnati 70
Louisville, New Albany, and Jeffersonville 55
Wheeling 20

The others were at Brownsville, Marietta, Portsmouth, and other points.


Although not relatively the most prosperous period in the history of river commerce, this period 1840-1860, is in the view of most steamboatmen, the flush time of river commerce. In these twenty years its volume had increased fivefold, and the steamboats had made a wonderful advance in beauty, size and ornamentation. If the railroads and canals had carried off some of the produce of the valley, the river towns still kept up a large traffic, and New Orleans, Cincinnati and Saint Louis competed with each other as to who should stand at the head of the list.

While the two latter sometimes passed New Orleans in the



number of arrivals of steam vessels, in the tons of freight, and value of produce, the Crescent City was never distanced until war closed it to commerce. It had regular lines to all the important towns, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis, and it controlled, to a great extent, the commerce of the Tennessee, Cumberland, Arkansas, Red, Yazoo and other streams.

In the period 1840-1850 the steamers running between New Orleans and Louisville were the Gen. Brown, William French, Diana, Ed. Shippen, and others. Later on came the Bell Key, Bostona, Grace Darling, Peytona, Atlanta, Niagara, R. J. Ward, Eclipse, and Shotwell, with a tonnage of 1,200 tons.

Between New Orleans and the Tennessee River were the Huntsville, Knoxville, Mohican, Cherokee, Choctaw, Eastport, and others which brought out 180,000 bales of cotton each year and 15,000 hogsheads of tobacco that afterwards found the way by rail to the Atlantic ports.

On the Cumberland were the steamers Old Hickory, Helen Kirkwood, Harry Hill, and Tennessee running to Nashville and bringing to New Orleans each year some 120,000 bales of cotton and 12,000 hogsheads of tobacco.

The Yorktown, Monarch, Duke of Orleans, and ten other vessels ran regularly between New Orleans and Cincinnati.

The lines to St. Louis included the George Collier, Autocrat, Maria, Alex Scott, Hevry of the West, Meteor, Maria Denning, Imperial, E. J. Gay, Charles Chouteau, Illinois, and John Walsh.

The Memphis trade between 1848 and 1861 included the Bulletins No. 1 and No. 2, the John Semond, H. R. W. Hill, Ingomar, Prince of Wales, Ben Franklin, and other steamers, and brought down to the Gulf 325,000 bales of cotton.

The Ouachita river trade between 1850 and 1801 included the Rockaway and D. S. Stacey, Farmer, Paul Jones, Cora, Lizzie Simmons, R. W. Kimball, Frank Pargoud, and others, and brought out of the river and its tributaries 150,000 bales of cotton.

The Red River lines between 1848 and 1861 included the Caddo, Latonia, St. Charles, Compromise, H. M. Wright, R. W. Powell, R. W. Adams, B. L. Hodge, Duke, Grand Duke, and Dubloon. These steamers ran to Shreveport; other packets running above to Jefferson, and above the raft which here impeded navigation.


Another line to Alexandria and Natchitoches included the P. F. Kimball, Peter Dalena, Prota, and Rapides.

These vessels brought annually out of Red River some 250,000 bales of cotton and miscellaneous products of all kinds.

The Arkansas trade included the Gem, the Thirty-fifth Parallel, the Arkansas, which brought out some 150,000 bales of cotton, running as high as Little Rock to Fort Smith in high water, and sometimes even above that point into the Indian Territory when the season was very favorable.


The season before the civil war (1859-60) was inaugurated showed the largest receipts at New Orleans of produce and the heaviest business the lower river has ever handled; indeed it stands on record to this day as the maximum of river prosperity. The number of boats arriving at New Orleans was not as great as in 1846-47, but the boats had in the meanwhile more than doubled in size and the steam tonnage reaching New Orleans was the largest that city ever saw and it has never equaled it since. Nor was the total of value of the produce as high as in one or two subsequent years. On the other hand, the prices of these latter years are the inflated prices of a paper currency. Reduced to a gold basis they will not amount to anything like the business of the year 1859-60, which stands to this day the best on record in the Lower Mississippi. There reached New Orleans that season by river 2,187,560 tons of freight; and the total trade of the city in the receipt and shipment of produce and in the export and import coastwise or to foreign ports was: —

River trade $289,565,000
Ocean trade 183,725,000
Total $473,290,000

Not only in its amount, but in the stretch of its river trade, the season 1859-60 has never since been equaled. The arrivals of steamboats that season at New Orleans shows this, and indicates the change in the river traffic that came in the next quarter of a century: —

Trade in which engaged. Number.
Atchafayla River 29
Arkansas River 30
Barataria Bayou 80
Boeuf Bayou 12
Cairo 12


Trade in which engaged. Number.
Cincinnati 206
Coast: Lower 180
Upper 605
Courtableau Bayou 91
Cumberland River 66
Des Glaises Bayou 16
Evansville 8
Grand River 8
Grosse-Tete Bayou 20
Greenville and Bends 118
La Fourche Bayou 90
Louisville 172
Macon and Tensas 83
Memphis 110
Ouachita River 224
Pittsburgh 526
Paducah 4
Red River 488
Saint Louis 472
Tennessee River 16
Teche Bayou 94
Vermillion Bayou 15
Vicksburg 211
Wheeling 9
White River 4
E. Yazoo 59
Other streams 22


Of this trade, that of the Arkansas, White, Tennessee, and Cumberland may be said to be entirely gone. To-day no vessels run up Bayou Vermillion or Grosse Tete. The Yazoo trade is now transferred at Vicksburg instead of going direct to New Orleans. Evansville, Paducah, and Wheeling are ignorant of special New Orleans lines. The Cincinnati trade has fallen off three-fourths. The Lafourche trade is less, since many of the planters now send their goods by way of the railroad. The same is true of the Teche, along which stream now runs the Southern Pacific Railway. The Red River trade is less than one-fourth what it was then. The Texas and Pacific strikes the Red at Shreveport, Alexandria and other points, and diverts a large traffic from it. The recently completed Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Pacific carries a large amount of cotton across the country to Vicksburg, to be thence distributed by railroad. The Red River is seldom navigated above Shreveport, and whereas in those days vessels ran through to Jefferson, and even to White Oak Shoals, this is rare and almost unknown to-day. From the Ouachita and its tributaries a considerable amount of cotton is taken by the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific at Monroe. The Greenville and Bend trade has dropped one-half in the last few


years. The Memphis trade does not call for one-fourth the vessels then in use. One line of steamers suffices for the traffic of Louisville and Cincinnati with New Orleans.

The only improvement perceptible is in the coal trade with Pittsburgh, which has greatly increased in tonnage and importance, and which defies all railroad competition; in the lower river traffic, which shows a slight advance in consequence of the increased production of the lower parishes; and in the barge and mainly the grain trade with St. Louis, which has been somewhat spasmodic, but which has grown to much larger proportions than it was at any time before the war.

The extent of the commercial area governed by the river traffic of New Orleans in 1860 will show what was lost in the four years of war that followed, and never fully regained.

Chapter XXXVII. How Levees are Built.

(From Internal Commerce of the U. S.)

"THE first advent of the white man into the Mississippi Valley shows the necessity for levees or dikes of earth-work to prevent the low bottoms on both sides of the river from being overflowed. LaSalle found the banks under water at several points when he came down the river in 1684, and Bienville in his exploring expeditions similarly found them overflowed.

At several points on or near the river were mounds erected by the Indians presumably as a refuge from extraordinary high water. One of the highest points encountered by Bienville during his explorations of the Mississippi in 1699-1700 was New Orleans. The Metaerie ridge which runs back of the city rises from 6 to 7 feet higher than the surrounding country, and the front land facing on the river, especially that extending from Bayou St. John forward, is high enough to escape the flood in ordinary years. It is to this fact that the selection of this location as the future capital of Louisiana was due. Seeing that the land here was out of water when nearly all the surrounding country was flooded, Bienville came to the conclusion that it was above overflow and selected it for the city which he had then in view.

The flood that he saw, however, was but a small one, the river not rising its usual height that year.



The water of 1718 was much higher and interfered seriously with the men employed in laying the foundations of New Orleans, they being compelled by it to stop work and devote themselves to the construction of a rude levee in front of the town and for some short distance above it, which sufficed to keep it clear of water. This was the first levee in Louisiana, and was constructed under the auspices of Sieur LeBlonde de la Tour, chief of engineers of the colony and a Knight of St. Louis. This levee was merely a temporary one, but answered its purpose. It was worked on each successive year, raised and strengthened from time to time, being finally completed under Perrier in 1727. It then presented an 18-foot crown and 60-foot base, and was 5,400 feet, or slightly over a mile, in length. This was more than the city front, and was ample protection to it. Above the city for 18 miles a smaller levee was continued, and another extended 14 miles below, both for the protection of farmers and of the city.

The country around New Orleans was settled, levees were constructed, and by 1735 they extended a distance of 42 miles, from English Turn, "Détour des Anglais" to 30 miles above the city. With the exception of the New Orleans levee, however, they were low and weak and fell an easy victim to the great flood of that year, which lasted from the latter part of December to the end of June, 1736. The levees were broken in many places and New Orleans flooded from the crevasses above. The overflow caused great loss and damage and prevented the planting of much of the land, as the water did not go down until so late a day. The levees were patched up, but so little was done towards properly restoring them and crevassses continued so frequent that the government took the matter in hand and issued an edict requiring the owners of land fronting on the river, and all the parties in the colony so fronted to improve their levees and have them in good condition by January 1, 1744, under penalty of confiscation. This stringent law seems to have accomplished its purpose, and for the next half century Louisiana escaped with comparatively little damage from overflow, and the levees were gradually extended and became the basis of the present levee system of the lower Mississippi Valley — indeed, it is possible that some of them exist to this day in those sections where there has been little change in the course of the river.

In 1752 the levees extended along the river front 20 miles


below and 30 above New Orleans, from Concession to near Bonnet Cerre. The levee system was excellent, and no breaks occurred; and however defective the government of the colony may have been in other matters at that time, when it passed through many financial depressions, there could be no doubt of the efficiency with which it guarded the levees. These were constructed by the inhabitants themselves, but the government reserved revisory power, and allowed no planter to neglect his embankment and endanger the safety of his neighbors. All the land protected by levees was under a high state of cultivation, and nearly the entire population of the colony was concentrated in this narrow limit of less than 200 square miles. The cost of levee building was relatively higher than it is now, the planter, having no facilities for this work; this caused the slow settlement of the country, as the expense of protecting new land from overflow was many times greater than the cost of buying and stocking it. The levee, however, continued to advance slowly northward at the rate of a mile a year. In 1782, 1785, and 1796 the river rose to a very great height, but the people escaped any serious damage from overflow. There were slight crevasses, it is true, and in 1780, 1785, 1791 and 1799 New Orleans was flooded from them. The last overflow, which was the worst, being a break in the Macarté Levee, just above the then city limits, but at what is now known as Carrollton, or the seventh municipal district of New Orleans. But little injury was caused by these breaks, as the levees were soon repaired. The districts not protected by levies suffered severely.

The flood of 1782 was the greatest ever encountered during the century in which Louisiana had been settled, and the water from the Mississippi overflowed the entire Attakapas and Opelousas regions, including all the country west of the Mississippi to the central prairies, only a few high points escaping.

In 1785 some of the lower levees were slightly injured, but no great harm done.

This experience firmly convinced the inhabitants of the efficacy of levees, and the work of building them was energetically continued. In 1812 they extended, on the east bank of the river, from Pointe a la Hache to Bayou Manchac, the dividing line between Louisiana and West Florida, a distance of 155 miles; and on the west bank from the lower Plaquemines settlement to Pointe Coupée, a distance of 185 miles. There were also a few levees on the west bank of the river, between the mouths of the Red and Arkansas Rivers, to protect the settlements.


The total length of levees in 1812, therefore, was 340 miles, which at the then cost of labor, most of it being slave labor, must have cost some $6,500,000, a very heavy expense for so young a country


But little had been done in the way of levee building in the neighboring Territory of Mississippi. In 1809, when the river rose, it swept over all the country around Natchez, which section then contained more than half the population of the Territory, and destroyed the crops. Governor Sargent, in his notes, declares that the inhabitants, who could not understand the flood, entertained the belief that the Great Lakes had forced an outlet into the Upper Mississippi and were pouring down on them. In 1813 came the first serious disaster to the Louisiani levees in the breaking of that at Pointe Coupée, since known as the Grand levee, and which protects seven parishes from overflow. This levee, which is the largest, the most important, and the most exposed in the State, has broken several times, each time causing great damage, as it overflows the basins of the Atchafalaya, Bayou Teche, and Grand Lake. In this year (1813) the water in Grand Lake rose from 4 to 5 feet higher than any previous year it had attained since 1780. There were a number of minor breaks in the river embankment from Concordia down, and even New Orleans suffered slightly from a cave in the Kenner levee, 12 miles above the city.

In 1816 followed a notable overflow, restricted however, almost wholly to the city. The Macarté levee which was undermined by the powerful current which there strikes the bank, again broke and four days afterwards the rear portion of the suburbs or faubourgs, as they were called, of Montagu, La Course, Gravier, Trémé, Saint John, and Saint Mary were flooded to a depth of from 3 to 5 feet. Within twenty-five days, however, the water had run off, and all damages had been repaired.

In 1828 the line of levees along the Mississippi was continuous except where they were not needed, from New Orleans to Red River Landing, just below the mouth of Red River, a distance of 195 miles, and for 65 miles below the city. Above Red River they were in an unfinished state to Napoleon. From 1828 to 1844 they were gradually extended on the west bank from Red River to the mouth of the Arkansas. There were also many levees along the Yazoo front, but they were not continuous. Above Napoleon little, if anything, had been done in the way of levee building.



The Memphis river convention of 1845 made an earnest demand on the Federal Government to grant the farmers some assistance in the matter of levee building, without which, it was declared, the settlement of the Lower Mississippi Valley could not go on successfully. The planters had already expended many millions in constructing miles of dikes; and it was pointed out that with more levees millions of acres of fertile lands, then useless and valueless, because subject to overflow, could be reclaimed. The proposition was made that these flooded lands should be given to the States to aid in levee building and in reclaiming them; and this was warmly approved by the convention and recommended to Congress.

The convention was not without its effect. The improvement of the Mississippi received the attention of Congress, and a resolution was adopted authorizing a survey of the Mississippi for the purpose of ascertaining the best method of reclaiming the alluvial lands. The same year Congress gave, for the first time, assistance in the construction of levees. An act was passed in 1849 donating to Louisiana to "aid in constructing the necessary levees and drains to reclaim the swamps and overflowed lands there, the whole of these swamps and overflowed lands which may be, or are found unfit for cultivation."

The General Government, in the spirit of enlarged public policy, conceded this class of inundated lands to aid in the construction of permanent levees, with a view to secure private property, the theory being reclamation of the land through the State and also as a sanitary measure.

Then followed the law of September 28, 1850, extending grant so as to enable "the State of Arkansas to construct the necessary levees and drains to reclaim the swamps and overflowed lands thereon, the fourth and last section of which enlarged the grant so as to embrace in each of the other States in the Union on which such swamps and overflowed lands, known and designated as aforesaid, may he situated." The act provided that "the proceeds of said lands, whether from sale or direct appropriation in kind, shall be applied, exclusively, as far as necessary, to the reclaiming of said lands by means of levees and drains."

Among the largest recipients of this bounty were the three river States of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, which have received 18,545,270 acres of swamp overflowed lands.



The funds from the sale of these lands have been generally turned over to boards of swamp commissioners, to be used by them on levee building. Of the States Louisiana has secured the best results from this donation. It is still possessed of considerable revenue from this source, and the Morganza levee in Pointe Coupée was constructed in 1883 out of the funds derived from the sale of swamp lands.

The assistance thus given by the Federal Government encouraged levee building, and the next ten years were the most active and successful in the Lower Mississippi Valley. At the outbreak of the war, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas had a perfect system of levees. In 1860 there were 2,184 miles of embankments on the Mississippi, with an average height of from 8 to 10 feet and a width, at the base, of from 50 to 75 feet, their width at the top being somewhat less than their height. Some of them were of much greater size. That at Yazoo Pass, cut by the Union forces during the siege of Vicksburg was, for a distance of half a mile, 28 feet high and at some points 38 feet, and in places nearly if not quite 300 feet broad at its base. The levees at Bayou Manchac and the Grand Levee in Pointee Coupée were nearly as large.


Under the French rule, and for a long period afterwards, the levees were built and kept in order by the front proprietors. At a later date the police June, corresponding to the county commissioners in the other States, took charge of the levees in Louisiana; but in times of danger the riparian proprietors, occupying alluvial lands subject to overflow within 7 miles of the river, were compelled to lend a helping hand. When a crevasse was threatened the planters and farmers of the surrounding country met and decided on the line of action to be pursued. Each gave the labor of a number of his slaves. One would give ten slaves for twenty days or less, another thirty slaves for fifteen days, each in accordance with his means. Afterwards districts were formed and taxes levied for levee purposes.

In Mississippi the levees were placed in charge of the board of swamp commissioners, who expended the money derived from the sale of the lands granted by Congress. Here also, however, the bulk of the work was done by the owners of the plantations fronting on the river.


In Arkansas, immediately after the grant of the swamp and overflowed lands by the General Government, a board of commissioners was created to determine the necessary drains and the levees to be erected. This board was abolished in 1856, and in 1857 an act was passed allowing the letting out of contracts for building levees when there was sufficient money in the treasury to pay for it. The funds becoming exhausted, the counties made their own laws respecting these dikes.


In view of the manner in which the work on the levees was done — mainly by slave labor — it is somewhat difficult to arrive at a calculation of the cost of these dikes previous to the war. Various estimates have been made of the number of cubic yards of earth in the levees then constructed, and the cost is calculated on this basis. The State engineer estimated that the levees standing in Louisiana in 1860 cost $12,500,000. This represented their actual value, the number of cubic yards of earth in them, at the price then ruling. Another report places the total cost of levees in all the river States, from the beginning of levee building to 1862, as follows: —

Louisiana $25,600,000
Mississippi 14,750,000
Arkansas 1,200,000
Missouri 1,640,000
Other States 560,000
Total $43,750,000

Work was begun anew. In Arkansas and Mississippi large amounts of bonds were voted for levee purposes. In Louisiana a levee company was formed, to which was confided the absolute control of the construction of all levees in the State until 1892, a tax of 2 mills on the dollar being voted for the purpose of raising the necessary funds. The tax was subsequently increased to 4 mills, and then dropped again to 3. The company was to build at least 3,000,000 cubic yards a year, at 50 and 60 cents per cubic yard, which would have made the annual expense for levees $1,650,000. In 1876 the chief engineer of the State reported that the work done by the company for the previous three years had not been sufficient to replace the wear and tear of the levees, and that they were losing ground every year."


Chapter XXXVIII. First Steamboat Company Formed in New Orleans.

In a newspaper published in New Orleans called Monitor, March 5th, 1812, has this advertisement:

"STEAMBOAT. — The persons who desire to take an interest in the steamboat held under the patent of Messrs. Livingston & Fulton, destined to navigate upon the Mississippi and Ohio and Cumberland, and to the Falls of Ohio, will please address the undersigned at the house of Messrs. Talcot & Bowers, from eleven o'clock until two. The subscription books are open every day until they are filled."

From the Louisiana Gazette and Advertiser January 13th, 1812: "The steamboat New Orleans from Pittsburgh, arrived here Friday evening last. The Captain reports she has been under way not more than 259 hours from Pittsburgh to this place which gives about eight miles an hour. She was built at Pittsburgh by the Ohio Steamboat Company, under the patent granted to Messrs. Livingston & Fulton of New York. She is intended as a regular trader between this and Natchez, and will, it is generally believed, meet the most sanguine expectations of the company."

February 8th, 1812, the same paper remarks: "The steamboat was at Fort Andrews, 50 miles below Natchez on her way up, on Saturday last. She was detained by breaking; one of her wheels."

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1812, the same paper makes this announcement: "The steamboat left Natchez on Thursday afternoon and arrived here on Monday evening last, and will start again we are informed on Saturday next."

In the same paper of Jan. 16, 1812, is this notice: —

"For the English Turn. — The steamboat New Orleans will run from the English Turn and back on Friday next, to start precisely at 10 a. m.

Tickets of admission may be procured at the two coffee houses, at three dollars each. It is expected the boat will return at 3 o'clock. All persons who desire to dine before that hour it is expected will carry their provisions with them."

January 18, 1812. Yesterday the citizens were gratified with


the power of steam in this vessel. She left this place at 11 o'clock, went five leagues down, and returned at 4 o'clock. A number of gentlemen were on board. The day was fine and general satisfaction was given."

New Orleans Daily Gazette, of Jan. 21, 1812, has the following notice: —

"For Natchez, the steamboat New Orleans will leave this port on Thursday, 23d inst.

From a gentleman passenger of correct information we are enabled to state that she can stem the current at the rate of upwards of three miles an hour.

That she went from this city to Houmas, a distance of 25 miles, in twenty-one hours."

In the Louisiana Gazette of July, 1818, the following announcement is made: —

NATCHEZ, July 25, 1818.

"The stockholders of the Natchez Steamboat Company met yesterday. The subscription to stock having been completed amounted to one hundred thousand dollars.

The company in November last purchased the substantial steamboats New Orleans and Vesuvius and propose to keep them engaged in the trade between this place and New Orleans.

These boats were originally built under the sanction of the New York patentees, Messrs. Livingston and Fulton, and will possess whatever advantages may be derived from the establishment of their rights."


(The following list is not claimed to be correct, but the best that could be made out of the obscure records.)

The first regular packet in the Baton Rouge trade was the steamer Ramapo, Capt. Laurant, from 1820 to 1825; then he commanded the steamboat Packet; in 1829 he commanded the Florida, and the Clipper in 1842, when she exploded.

In 1822, Capt. Reed commanded the Feliciana; this was a low pressure boat built at New York. She was a very staunch boat and run for many years.

1823. Capt. Urton, steamer Leopold; Capt. Ward, steamer Telegraph; Capt. Bosworth, steamer Hope.

1824. Capt. Gray, steamer Henry Clay; Capt. Beckwith,



Steamer Courier; Capt. John De Hart, steamer Feliciana; Capt. Mahe, steamer Louisiana.

1826. Capt. Wood, steamer Caravan; Capt. Kimball, steamer Red River.

1827. Capt. Graham, steamer Lady of the Lake.

1828. Capt. Crane, steamer Columbus; Capt. Curry, steamer Attackapas.

The following steamboats and masters comprise the principal names that were engaged in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Bayou Sara trade from 1840 to 1861: —

In 1840. Steamer Brilliant, Capt. Jno. DeHart; steamer Baton Rouge, Capt. Sellock; steamer John Armstrong, Capt. F. M. Streck.

In 1842. Steamer Persian, Capt. Jno. DeHart; steamer Colorado, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Buckeye, Capt. Isaac Hooper; steamer Luda, Capt. Thos. Clark.

In 1843. Steamer Persian, Capt. Jno. DeHart; steamer Belle Air, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Colorado, Capt. James Noe.

In 1844. Steamer Belle Air, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Rainbow, Capt. Sellock; steamer Helen, Capt. James Noe; steamer St. Laundry, Capt. Dugas; steamer Eliska, Capt. Dugas.

In 1845. Steamer Brilliant No. 2, Capt, John DeHart; steamer Music No. 1, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Clinton, Capt. Wm. Baird; steamer F. M. Streck, Capt. Wilson.

In 1846. Steamer Majestic, Capt. Jas. Noe; steamer Eliska; steamer Belle Creole, Capt. Champromere.

In 1848. Steamer Luna, Capt. Wm. Baird; steamer Mary Foley, Capt. Dalfares.

In 1849. Steamer Gipsey, Capt. James Noe; steamer Clinton.

In 1850. Steamer F. M. Streck, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Patrick Henry, Capt. Dugas; steamer Gross Tete, Capt. Hooper; steamer Music, Capt. Streck; steamer Mary T., Capt. Dalfares.

In 1851. Steamer Patrick Henry, Capt. Dugas; steamer Home, Capt. Dugas.

In 1852. Steamer Emperor, Capt. J. A. Cotton; steamer Laurel Hill, Capt. J. A. Cotton; steamer Brilliant No. 3, Capt. Jno. DeHart; steamer Doctor Batey.


In 1853. Steamer Music No. 2, Capt. F. M. Streck: steamer New Latona, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Bella Donna, Capt. I. H. Morrison.

In 1854. Steamers New Latona and Laurel Hill, Capt. Gross.

In 1855. Steamer New Latonia, Capt. J. A. Cotton.

In 1856. Steamer Capital, Capt. Baranco; steamer Silver Heels, Capt. Jno. I. Brown; Steamer Golden Age; Capt. McCombs.

In 1857. Steamer Laurel Hill, Capt. Hooper.

In 1858. Steamer Music No. 3, Capt. F. M. Streck; steamer Laurel Hill, Capt. James Noe; steamer Gen'l Pike, Capt. Jno. I. Brown; steamer Music, Capt. Jno. I. Brown.

In 1859. Steamer Gross Tete, Capt. Hooper.

In 1861. Steamers D. F. Kenner and Laurel Hill; steamer Lafouch, Capt. Jno. I. Brown; steamer Jno. A. Cotton; Capt. Cotton.

The Jno. A. Cotton was converted into a ram or gunboat during the war and lost in Bayou Teche. She was one of the fastest and most powerful boats of her day, and the first and only boat ever built on the Ohio that attempted to supply her boilers with a syphon alone, and while she succeeded in reaching New Orleans, it was found that while the syphon would supply the boilers after steam was raised, a doctor or an auxiliary engine was necessary for convenience and safety.


Among the early organizations to Vicksburg, there was in 1842, steamer Baton Rouge, Capt. Walworth; steamer Vicksburgh, Capt. W. R. Glover; steamer Sultana, Capt. A. W. Tufts; steamer Norma, Capt. W. A. Grice

In 1844, steamer J. M. White, J. M. Converse.

In 1846, Magnolia, Capt. St. Clair Thomasson; steamer Concordia, John Raine.

In 1849, Princess No. 2, T. P. Leathers.

In 1844, Ambassador, C. H. Brenham; Yazoo, Dameron.


1841. Princess No. 1, Capt. C. B. Sanford; Invincible, Capt. James Walworth.

1846. Natchez, Capt. T. P. Leathers; Princess, Capt. Wm. Leathers



1849. Steamer Grant, Capt. E. Connery; Princeton, Capt. H. A. Ealer.


1851. Trenton, Capt. John Kouns; Robt. Whiteman, Capt. Geo. S. Kouns; S. W. Downs, Capt. John Cannon.


1851. Steamer Alabama, Capt. P. Roberts, Jr.; steamer Pearl, Capt. A. P. Boardman; steamer Georgia, Capt. S. F. Scale; steamer Beacon, Capt. D. H. Shaw.


1852. Steamers Grampus, Mentona, and Camanche formed a line from Brazos DeSantiago to Brownsville, owned and managed by Messrs. Kennedy, King and Jas. O'Donnell.


1843. Steamer Republic, Capt. John Good: steamer Yazoo, Capt. R. C. Young; steamer M. B. Homer, Capt. P. C. Wallace: steamer Patriott, Capt. D. F. Rudd.


A Short History of the First Navigation of Red River in 1715.

"In 1715, by order of Bienville, the French commander of the territory of Louisiana, the steamer St. Denis was dispatched to Red River to make the first exploration of that country. He penetrated the valley of that river as far as the country of the Natchitoche Indians, and established a fort, where he left a number of soldiers and colonists. This was the first town established by the French on the banks of Red River. The colonists immediately commenced a trade with the Indians and purchased by barter all the hides, skins, peltries, etc., which they would bring to them.

In 1716 the steamer St. Denis returned to New Orleans with a fleet of bateaux loaded with valuable skins, furs, hides, peltries, etc. For many years this navigation, by means of pirogues and bateaux, was carried on upon Red River.

The second expedition to Red River was made in 1818, by the steamer De la Harp, which ascended also to Natchitoches.


Leaving her bateaux at this place she commenced the exploration of the country to the west of Natchitoches. She penetrated into the country of the Caddo Indians, from whence she retraced her steps; arriving at Natchitoches she concluded to penetrate westward into the territory of Mexico. After passing the Sabine river and penetrating some distance into Mexican territory she again retraced her steps to Natchitoches."


Its Early Navigation.

"Up to 1824 Red River was navigated almost entirely by keel-boats. The first steamboat to enter Red river was the Enterprise, in 1815. She was commanded by Capt. H. M. Shreve, and made two trips to the falls.

The second boat of which there is any record was the Newport, Capt. Wm. Waters, in 1819. The third, the Yankee; fourth, Beaver, and the fifth the Alexandria. Capt. John R. Kimball (uncle of Capt. P. F. Kimball,) and after these the Governor Shelby, Neptune and the Arkansas, all in 1820. They were all pretty much the same class of boats as the Alexandria, which was 106 feet long, drew seventeen inches and carried 100 tons.

In 1821 the Missouri ran to Red River in addition to the above; in 1822 the Venture and the Hope; in 1823 the Experiment, Expedition and the Natchitoches.

In 1824 and 1825 the Florence, Eliza, Louisville, Red River and the Superior.

In 1826 the Planter, Virginia, Miami, Spartan and the Dolphin.

In 1827 and 1828 the Phoenix, Pilot, Cherokee, Robert Burns, Rover, Belle, Creole, Cincinnati and Rapides.

In 1830 and 1831 the Gleaner, Paul Clifford and the Vermillion.

In 1832 and 1834 the Beaver, Planter, Lioness, Bravo, Caspian and the Waverly.

Between 1835 and 1840 thirty-six boats other than those named above ran to Red River; in 1838 Capt. Jesse Wright commanded his first boat in this trade, the Ticher; in 1839, Capt. P. Delma, the Velocipede; in 1840, Capt. Mike Welsh, the Creole and the Bogue Houma, and the same year Capt. Benj. Crooks, the Hunter. These captains all became prominent



men, and of which, with others, an old steamboat clerk, who dates from 1845, will have more to say anon."

"The Ashland, leaving to-day (July, 1882), will be the last boat sent out by the New Orleans and Red River Transportation Company prior to its dissolution. The first boat sent out after its organization (in June, 1875,) was the Col. A. P. Kouns, Capt. Isaac H. Kouns. At that time the following boats comprised the line, viz.: The Col. A. P. Kouns, R. T. Bryarly, La Belle, Texas, Lorts No. 3, Belle Rowland, O. H. Durfee, W. J. Behan and the Maria Louise. All of these boats are things of the past, and no longer float upon the waters, except the W. J. Behan and the Maria Louise, which, together with the Jo Bryarly, Frank Williard Cornie Brandon, Ashland, John D. Scully, Alexandria, Silver City, Yazoo Valley, Jewel, Danube and the Jesse K. Bell, comprise the line to-day, and seven barges besides. The Laura Lee and the Kate Kinney were also in the line, but were withdrawn a short time previous to the election in June last. The dissolution of this company goes into effect next Tuesday at midnight, and then — and then — what! Ever so many people are curious to know.



Under the above head we published in Saturday's Democrat some historical facts in connection with the early settlement of Natchitoches. To-day from the same source we give the discovery of the headwaters of Red River.

In 1806, three years after the cession of Louisiana to the United States an exploring party under Capt. Sparks entered Red River in boats, intending to ascend as far as possible to the Pawnee country, where they would purchase horses and proceed to the tops of the mountains. It was evident from this that they supposed Red River issued from the mountain country. They got as high as the great raft, where they were met by a Spanish force and ordered back, an order which, owing to their numbers, they had to obey.

In 1819 and 1820, Col. Long, of the United States Topo graphical Engineers, on his return from an exploration of the Missouri and the country between that river and the head of the Arkansas, undertook to descend Red River from its source. The Colonel says: We arrived at a creek having a westerly course, which we took to be a tributary of Red River. We


traveled the valley of this stream several hundred miles, when to our disappointment we discovered it to be the Canadian, a tributary of the Arkansas instead of Red River. Our horses and men being exhausted, it was impossible to retrace our steps. Dr. James, who accompanied Col. Long, in his journal of this expedition says: "Several persons have recently arrived at St. Louis from Sante Fe, and among others a brother of Capt. Shreve, who gives information of a large and frequented road which runs nearly due east from this place and strikes one of the branches of the Canadian. That at a considerable distance south of this point is the big plains, which is the principal source of Red River."

The source of Red River remained a mystery for many years, and it was not known until discovered by Capt. Marcy in 1852. He left Fort Belknap May 2, 1852; struck the Little Wichita; descending that stream he entered Red River and ascended it. On the sixteenth he camped near the mouth of Cash Creek, this being the point at which he was directed to commence his exploration. June 26 the expedition reached the Staked Plains. It was very much elevated above the adjoining country with almost vertical sides, covered with a scrubby growth of dwarf cedars, and from the summit the country spread out into a perfectly level plain as far as the eye could see. June 27 he reached the main south fork which he ascended, passing into the gorge of the great Llano Estacado. These lofty escarpments rise to a great height. As they rode along the bed of the stream, so near its source, they found the water very nauseating, owing to its passing through a bed of gypsum, and the men were made quite sick from drinking it. July 1, 1852, they reached the source of Red River. This spring is in the gorge of the Llano Estacado, and bursting out from its cavernous reservoir leaps down over the huge mass of rocks below, and there commences its long journey to the Mississippi. These gigantic escarpments of sand stone rising to the giddy height of eight hundred feet on each side, gradually close until they are only a few yards apart, and finally unite at the top, leaving a long narrow corridor beneath, at the base of which the head spring of the principal or main branch of the Red River takes its rise. The water of this spring is as clear as crystal and perfectly pure. On climbing to the summit of this escarpment they found themselves on the level plains of the Llano Estacado, which spread from there in one uninterrupted descent to the base of the mountains in New Mexico. The geographical position of this point was 34 min. 42 sec. north and longitude



103 deg. 7 min 11 sec. west. The approximate elevation above the sea, as determined by frequent barometric observations, is 2,450 feet.


In 1714 the French, who then held Louisiana, sent an expedition to Red River as high as Natchitoches for the purpose of forming a settlement. They also explored the country westward as far as the Rio Grande, then occupied by the Spaniards, and who claimed jurisdiction east as far as Red River.

In 1730 the French Governor Perriere organized an expedition to drive the Natchez tribe of Indians from the Red and Black River districts. The rendezvous was at Bayou Goula; from there they proceeded to the mouth of Red River, the ship Prince of Conde having been sent ahead with supplies. They ascended Black River, a lake near Trinity, where they met and captured the Indians after a live days' fight, whom they subsequently sent to St. Domingo, where they were sold as slaves.

In 1749 the province of Natchitoches contained sixty whites and 200 negroes, who raised cattle, corn, rice and tobacco.

From 1745 to 1796 Spain held possession of Louisiana. Their settlements did not flourish, though communication with Red River was kept up. Natchitoches then contained a population of 800 white and black.


Chapter XXXIX. Old Time Steamboats — Wharfage Dues, Etc., at the Port of New Orleans.

Through the kindness of Gen. John L. Lewis, I have been permitted to examine a directory of this city published in 1823, of which I hand you extracts. The following statement will show the arrivals of loaded steamboats, barges, keel and flat-boats within the limits of the city in 1821, from the upper country, together with the amount of wharfage or levee duty paid to the city corporation: —

Steamboats, 287; barges and keel-boats, 174; flat-boats, 441. Levee duty, $8,272.

Each loaded flat-boat pays a duty of $6; boats or barges, 70 feet or more in length, $10, and keel boats or rafts, $3. Steamboats pay a levee duty according to their tonnage as follows: 100 tons and under, $6, 150tons, $9; 200 tons, $12; 250 tons, $15; 300 tons, $18; 350 tons, $20; 400 tons, $22; 500 tons, $26; 600 tons, $30.

In the year ending October 1, 1817, 1,500 flat-boats and 500 barges and keel-boats came down the Mississippi to this place loaded with produce.

The batture which was formed by deposits from the river, which has a front of 3,400 feet, and an average depth of 470 feet. This property has been set aside for the purpose of landing all steamboats, barges, keel and flat-boats. This batture, or landing place, extends from Wither's saw-mill to Canal street. In this year New Levee street was laid out in a straight line from Wither's saw-mill to Canal street, having a space of 60 feet between the houses and the edge of the wharf.

One-half the batture next the city is exclusively appropriated for steamboats, of which there are sometimes thirty or forty lying at a time. The activity of this commerce is astonishing, vessels of 645 tons are employed in it, and it is not unusual for the voyage to Louisville and back to be performed in thirty days, formerly forty men with great difficulty navigated a boat of 50 tons the same voyage in six months. All this commerce centers on the batture, and it would be difficult to select in any city in the world a spot in which more extensive business is done in the same space. From the Customhouse down to Esplanade street the levee front is set apart for the landing of ships, brigs and schooners."



"Gen. John L. Lewis says he has a distinct recollection of seeing the first steamboat, the New Orleans, that landed at this port in January, 1812. That the event was so wonderful that the Legislature adjourned for the purpose of giving her a grand reception; he also remembers the Vesuvius, the second steamboat, and that she unfortunately run aground in December, 1814, and therefore could not render any assistance at the time of the battle of New Orleans; he also remembers the Etna, the third steamboat; he also says that the captains of these original boats were sailors or seamen and mentions that Capt. R. De Hart and John De Hart were sent out from New York by Livingston and Fulton to take command of their boats. It was only a few years after this when the barge men became captains of the Western steamboats.

NOTE. — The saw mill of Mr. Withers was situated just in front of where the old Turo infirmary was built.

"The following is an alphabetical list of all the boats that have been in the New Orleans trade. Those marked thus * are either sunk or unfit for service or out of the trade — from 1812 to 1823: —

Car of Commerce.
Gen'l Clark.
Gen'l Green.
*Gen'l Jackson.
Gen'l Roberts.
*Gen'l Harrison.
*Gov. Shelby.
Geo. Madison.
Henry Clay.
James Rose.
*James Monroe.
Maid of Orleans.
*New Orleans.
Olive Branch.
Post Boy.
Robert Fulton.
*St. Louis.
Thos. Jefferson.
United States.


The steamboat United States was the largest, her tonnage being 645 tons. The smallest was the Pike. Her tonnage was only 31 tons. The averaged tonnage of all the boats was about 150 tons each.

NOTE. — You will see that from 1812 to 1823, that is, in eleven years, there were 75 steamboats landed at the port of New Orleans. This will make an average of about 7 new steamboats each year. I am under the impression that the list taken from the directory of 1823 is a perfect one, as the author must have had access to the Custom House records and also to the wharfage book. If you will make the calculation you will find that these 75 steamboats averaging 150 tons each amounted to only 11,250 tons. We have now upon the Mississippi sis steamboats whose tonnage will average 2,440 tons each, or the six boats 12,400 tons."

Chapter XL. Oliver Evans Credited by British Authority. Steam Coaches.

[From Niles' Register, September 22, 1828, vol. 35.]

The following account of steam coaches in Great Britain is of much interest at the present time.

That they will become common things we have long believed.

It was in America that steam was first successfully applied for the ordinary purposes of navigation of rivers.

The first steamboat that ventured on the ocean was American, and the first that crossed the Atlantic, that penetrated the Baltic, and arrived at the capital of Russia was also American. And in noticing the progress of perfection, in the applicability of steam for moving of bodies on land, while yielding all due credit to British ingenuity and talents, we wish to record the fact, that the first application of its powers to this purpose was made by an American, and in the City of Philadelphia, by Oliver Evans, who entertained the project in 1786, and communicated it to several persons as well as petitioned the Legislature of Pennsylvania concerning steam wagons for which he was thought insane. The State of Maryland, however, in 1782 granted him an exclusive right to make and use steam wagons for 14 years.



But Evans was poor and confidence was not placed in his theory, so he obtained no pecuniary assistance, and it was not until 1804, that he was enabled to apply steam to propel bodies on land.

He built a flat, or scow, a mile and half from the water, of the weight of about 20 tons, with a steam engine on board of only five horse power, for the purpose of cleansing docks, and when all was ready, he placed wheels under the flat, and by steam transported it to and launched it into the water, and with a paddle wheel, then navigated it down the Schuylkill to the Delaware and up the Delaware to Philadelphia, beating all the vessels on the river against a head wind. In 1812, Oliver Evans said, "I do verily believe the time will come when carriages propelled by steam will be in general use, as well for the transportation of passengers as goods, traveling at the rate of 15 miles an hour or 300 miles per day."


About the year 1812, Oliver Evans, sent his son, George Evans, to Pittsburgh, for the purpose of establishing an iron foundry, steam engine manufactory, mould makers shop and blacksmith shop with ten or twelve smith's forges and more than fifty workmen for making steam engines and other machinery. This was in all probability the first engine building establishment erected upon the banks of the Western rivers. And most of the first high pressure engines for Western steamboats were built at this establishment. There was also an engine building shop established at Brownsville, or Bridgeport, on the Monongahela river, about the same time.

None of the engines for Fulton & Livingston's first boats were built at Pittsburgh, as follows: New Orleans, 1811; Etna, 1815; Vesuvius, 1816, and Buffalo, 1816, had low pressure engines, built on the Watt & Bolton plan; they were built at New York and transported across the Alleghany Mountains by wagons.


I find any account of at Cincinnati, were Goodloe & Borden. They commenced as early as 1816, as this was the date at which the first steamboat was built at that place. They were succeeded by Mess. Harkness & Co., who for many years built steamboat engines.


The first mention I find of a master ship carpenter at Cincinnati is Mr. William Parsons; he came originally from New York, where he had learned the trade of building ships. He built many of the original steamboats at Cincinnati.

Mr. Crippin was the first ship joiner who built cabins for the original steamboats at Cincinnati; he emigrated from New York and walked from that city to Cincinnati in 1816; He learned his trade at New York, working upon the cabins of ships. Among those he worked upon was the celebrated United States man-of-war Brandywine, which was sent out in 1814 to the Mediterranean Sea to suppress the Algerine and Barbary pirates.

The first master ship carpenter I find an account of at Jeffersonville, Indiana, is a Mr. Vandusen from New York, in 1818. He brought out with him from that city fifty ship carpenters for the purpose of building the first steamboat at that place, which has since become so famous for building magnificent steamboats. The first steamboat was named the United States, owned by Edmund Forestall of New Orleans, measured 645 82-95 tons, and was said to have been the largest steamboat in the world at that date. The next celebrated builder at this place was the ingenious Mr. William French, who was a master ship carpenter and engine builder, who in 1814 constructed two steamboats at Brownsville, Pa. He had the repution of placing the first high pressure engine upon a Western steamboat. He built many magnificent steamers at Jeffersonville from 1820 to 1840.


The First Snagboats Built for the Removal of Snags.

The first appropriation for this purpose was made by Congress in 1828. Capt. Henry M. Shreve was appointed superintendent of the work. He immediately commenced building the two first snagboats at New Albany, Ind., assisted by Capts. Abraham Tyson and John Dillingham. These boats were double hulls, held together by immense cross beams and iron chains. The hulls, Capt. Moffet, inspector, says, were built by Dohrman & Humphries; the engines were built by John Curry, of Louisville, Ky. They had several kinds of appliances on board for pulling snags and cutting them up. Capt. Moffet did the blacksmith work of making chains and fastenings. The boats were named the Heliopolis, Capt. Moorehead, and Archimides, Capt. H. M. Shreve. Col. Long



was the United States engineer in charge of the improvements upon the Mississippi River.

The first account of work done by the snagboats is as follows: 1830 and 1831 — A Western paper states that the agent employed by the government, Capt. Shreve, has perfectly succeeded in rendering about 300 miles of river as harmless as a mill-pond, and will in the course of a short period remove every obstruction from Trinity to Balize. His plan is to rundown the snags with a double steamboat; the bows are connected by tremendous beams, plated with iron; he puts on a heavy head of steam and runs the snag down; they are found uniformly to break off at the point of junction with the bottom of the river, and float away.

1831 — The captains and crews of the snagboats Archimides and Heliopolis, under the superintendence of Capt. Shreve, are progressing rapidly in removing obstructions to the navigation of the Western waters. The Heliopolis, Capt. Moorehead, has ascended the Arkansas River about 20 miles, and after removing all the snags in that distance, on account of low water has returned to the Mississippi, and it will in the course of the week have cleared the channel of the Mississippi between Helena and the mouth of the Arkansas River. The business, as it now progresses, is effectually done. During the year, 1831, Capt. Shreve continued on down the river, and made the cut off at the mouth of Red River. Capt. Moorehead continued during 1831 and 1832 to work down to that river, removing all the snags that presented themselves.

In 1832, Capt. H. M. Shreve was ordered to proceed to Red River for the purpose of removing the great raft. His fleet of boats consisted of the snagboat Eradicator and two tenders, the Pearl and Laurel. The raft commenced at that time about Loggy Bayou and extended to Carolina Bluffs, a distance of 165 miles. It took six years to accomplish the work of removing this raft, so as to give good navigation between the lower and upper Red River.

Official report of Capt. Shreve, June 4, 1838, of the snagboats Eradicator, Pearl and Laurel: On March 1, 1838, the first boat was enabled to force her way through the upper section of the raft, and up to the 29th live merchant steamboats passed up through the raft. On May 1, the navigation through the extent of the raft was considered safe. There were two boats lost near the head of the raft — the Black


Hawk and Revenue. The amount expended in opening the raft has been $311,000.

NOTE. — The town of Trinity, mentioned in this account, was about six miles above the mouth of the Ohio, where the boats from the Ohio and Mississippi exchanged cargoes. It was many years after the establishment of this place, that Cairo was founded and became the port of exchanging freights.

Chapter XLI. Partial Accounts of the Floods in the Mississippi and Ohio.

[From Sharfs' History of St. Louis.]

The first unusual rise in the Mississippi of which we have any account, occurred in 1542.

In March of that year, while De Soto and his followers were at an Indian village on the west side of the "Rio Grande," as the early Spaniards called the Mississippi, which from its elevated position indicates the sight of Helena, in Arkansas, there was a rise in the river which covered all the surrounding country as far as the eye could reach.

In the village (represented to have been on high ground) the water rose from five to six feet above the earth, and the roofs of the Indian cabins were the only places of shelter. The river remained at this height for several days and then subsided rapidly.

The earliest authentic account of the "American Bottom" being submerged is that of the flood in 1724. A document is to be seen in the archives of Kaskaskia, Ill., which consists of a petition to the crown of France in 1725, for a grant of land in which the damage sustained the year before is mentioned. The villagers were driven to the bluffs on the opposite side of the Kaskaskia River. Their gardens and their crops were destroyed, and their buildings and their property much injured. We have no evidence of its exact height, but the whole American Bottom was submerged. This was probably in June.

There was a tradition among the old French people many years since that there was an extraordinary rise of the river between 1740 and 1750, but we find no written or printed account of it.

In the year 1772 another flood came and portions of the American Bottom were again covered. Fort Charter in 1756 stood half a mile from the Mississippi river. In 1776 it was


eighty yards. Two years after Capt. Pittman, who surveyed the Fort in 1768, states: "The bank of the Mississippi River next the Fort is continually falling in, being worn away by the current which has been turned from its course by a sand bank now increased by considerable of an island, covered with willows. Many experiments have been tried to stop this growing evil, but to no purpose. Eight years ago the river was fordable to the island. The channel is now forty feet deep."


About the year 1770, the river made further encroachments. But in 1772, when it inundated portions of the American Bottom, it swept away the land to the Fort, and undermined the wall which tumbled into the river. A large and heavily timbered island now occupies the sand bar of Capt. Pittman's time.

The next high water occurred in 1785, during which Kaskaskia and Cahokia and large portions of the American Bottom were submerged. Concerning this great inundation there is but meager information. This year, however, is known in the annals of Western history as the year of the "great waters."

In 1844 it was contended by some of the old settlers of Kaskaskia and Cahokia, who remembered the great flood of 1785, that the water attained a greater height than in the last mentioned year.

It is certain at Kaskaskia the water attained a greater height in 1844 than was reached in 1785.

This is not predicated upon the mere recollection of individuals, but was ascertained by existing marks of the height of the flood of that year, after the subsidence of the water in 1844. It was then proved that in the last mentioned year, the water rose two feet and five inches above high water of 1785.

The destruction of property by this freshet was comparatively small.

The mighty stream spread over a wilderness tenanted only by wild beasts and birds, and the few inhabitants then residing within the range of its destructive sweep, easily escaped with small loss, to the high lands.

From 1785 to 1811, there were no destructive floods, although an occasional overflow, sufficient to fill the lake and low grounds on the American Bottom.

This was in the year preceding the great "Shakes," as the earthquakes were called. The river commenced rising at St. Louis early in May, and by the 15th had spread over a large


portion of the American Bottom, and by the first of June it was out of its banks only in low places. On the sixth it again commenced to rise and continued to rise until the 14th, when it came to a stand. But the greater part of the bottom, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Prairie Du Pont, Cantine, and nearly all the settlements in the bottom were under water and the inhabitants had fled to the high lands.

The "common fields" at St. Genevieve were entirely submerged, the corn was nearly covered.

A story is still told by the old inhabitants of the village that the panic-stricken people appealed to Father Maxwell, the village priest, to "pray away the water." It is said he gave no encouragement at first, until the water came to a stand. Then he proposed to the people to drive off the water by saying masses. This they did, and as the water fell rapidly, the ground was soon dry and a fine crop of corn was raised, which was divided with the priest in conformity to the agreement for saying the masses.

The flood of 1811 exceeded all others until 1823. In this year the water in the Mississippi commenced rising rapidly about the 8th of May. It continued to rise until 23d of the month, when it came to a stand at St. Louis. It had then entirely covered the American Bottom, and the people from all the towns had sought refuge on the bluffs, or in St. Louis.

The houses in the lower part of the city were entirely surrounded by water, and the store at the foot of Oak street, occupied by John Shackford, had five feet of water on the floor.

The loss of stock and other property on the bottom opposite the city was very large, but no estimate has ever been made of the loss.

Like the flood of 1811, no means are at hand to determine the height of the water, as compared with previous freshets.

In 1826 the American bottom was again submerged and the inhabitants in all the towns were compelled to flee to the bluffs, and St. Genevieve share the same fate as did all the settlers on the Mississippi Bottoms.

The amount of stock and crops lost was immense. By the 25th of June the flood had subsided and the people again sought their homes and anxiously awaited the next freshet, which occurred in 1844.

The winter of 1823 and 1824 was remarkable for the amount of rain-fall in the Northwest. The river began to raise early in 1844, and by the first of May, was nearly bank full. By the 6th the people at St. Louis began to be severely alarmed.


The water had already reached the stores on Front street, and the merchants had removed their stocks of goods to the second stories, and the bank opposite in Illinois and the whole American Bottom was submerged.

The water came to a stand on the 21st of May, and declined gradually until the 7th of June, when it had gotten within its banks.

A succession of violent rain storms commenced on the 3rd of June, and continued until the 10th, and were general throughout the Northwest and all the streams were bank full. By the 12th the river was again breaking over the banks and the people in the bottoms were fleeing for their lives, leaving everything behind.

By the 5th the people of the whole valley were alarmed, and it was asserted an unprecedented flood was inevitable.

On the 12th the water was six inches higher than it had been a month before. On the 18th the steamer Missouri Mail arrived from the Missouri River, and reported the river rising at St. Joseph, at the rate of seven feet in 24 hours. All the tributaries were full and overflowing their banks. The whole country from Western to Glasgow was under water and on the Camden Bottom it was from six to eight feet deep.

In the St. Louis Republican of 19th June is an account of the situation: —

"We have taken some pains to ascertain with certainty the height of the present rise as compared with former freshets. But have been very unsuccessful. Within the memory of many of the oldest inhabitants there has been three extraordinary freshets, one in 1811, one in 1823 and the last one in 1826.

The one in 1811 seems to have been the highest. In that year, boats passed from Ste. Genevieve to Kaskaskia and the water covered the whole American Bottom to the depth of several feet."

On the 20th of June, 1844, the Mississippi at St. Louis was from three to six miles wide and in some places nine miles.

The water was two or three feet deep in the lower part of the city and at the corner or Front and Pine streets it was to the top of the doors on the first floors.

Soulard's addition and St. George were entirely submerged.

On the 23d the water rose fourteen inches and came to a stand, remained stationary until June 28th, when it began to recede, and by the middle of July had reached an ordinary stage.


During this freshet steamboats were employed as ferry boats, at many points in the valley of the Mississippi and Missouri, where ordinarily only horse and flat-boats were used. The rapidity of the current and the increased distance rendered the usual mode entirely inadequate. Frequently trips were made from St. Louis to Belleville a distance of twelve miles, across the American Bottom with small steamboats, and many persons availed themselves of the novelty of the excursions.

There is no evidence to prove the Mississippi or the Missouri have ever been as high since their discovery as in 1844, although some writers claim that in 1785 it exceeded 1844.

The late Dr. B. W. Brooks, of Jonesboro, Ill., in writing of the flood in 1844, says: "This inundation was ten or twelve feet higher than that of 1811, or of 1826, and higher than ever known except in 1785, when it rose thirty feet above the common level and was the greatest flood known for one hundred and fifty years."

Mr. Cerré, the oldest French settler in St. Louis, says the inundation in 1785 was not as high by four or five feet, as in 1844. In which opinion all old settlers in Kaskaskia agree — claiming there was one point in the town that was not covered in 1785, which was five feet under water in 1844.

The steamer Indiana was chartered to take the Nuns from Kaskaskia to St. Louis and received them on board at Col. Menard's door. The boat followed the road the whole distance, leaving the river far to the left. Some two hundred citizens went up on the Indiana, leaving the town from ten to twenty feet under water. Many houses were floated from their foundations and barns, fences and stock were swept off.

The city engineer at St. Louis ascertained on the 22nd of June that the water was three feet four inches over the city directrix. This gave thirty-four feet nine inches plumb water, above low water mark.

The next freshet in the Mississippi of importance occurred in 1851.

On the 30th of May it was fifteen feet below the high water mark of 1844 at St. Louis. The rise continued the most of June and on the 23d of that month it was only four feet nine inches below the high water mark of 1844.

From this date it commenced to fall, after having almost devastated all the bottom lands on the Missouri, Illinois, Wabash and Upper Mississippi.

In 1854 there was another damaging flood in the Mississippi in which an immense amount of loss occurred in Arkansas,


Mississippi and Louisiana, and almost the entire levee at St. Louis was submerged.


In 1858 the Mississippi again was at flood height and reached the flood of 1844 less about two and a half feet. The Ohio being very high at the same time great destruction of property followed. Cairo and many other cities and towns in the valley was overflowed by the breaking of levees, caving of banks, etc.

In 1863 the river at St. Louis was again very high and the water came into stores on the levee.

In 1867, 1871, 1875 were high water years, and while but little damage was done in the upper river valleys great losses occurred in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana in consequence of the combined waters of all the upper rivers coming out at about the same time. As a rule, fortunately, the Ohio and its tributaries throw out their great floods some months earlier than the Mississippi. But when they all come at once there is no escaping an overflow.

[From Internal Commerce of the United States.]

The destructive floods of the Mississippi Valley not only sweep over the alluvial lands of the lower valley between Cairo and the Gulf, but frequently occur in the valleys of the Upper Mississippi, the Missouri, Ohio, Red, Arkansas, Tennessee, Cumberland, Yazoo, and other rivers of this comprehensive system, carrying with them enormous destruction to crops, roads, railroads, postal routes, buildings, live stock, commerce and industries. They are often attended with the loss of life itself.

Mr. Morey, in his report to the House of Representatives during the Forty-second Congress, said of the floods of 1868 and 1871: "The destruction caused by the last two floods above named in the Ouachita Valley is almost incredible. A valley of almost unexampled fertility, capable of raising, beside corn and stock in great abundance, at least 75,000 bales of cotton, worth, at the average price of this season, more than $5,000,000, was inundated, plantations destroyed, buildings washed away, cattle and swine by the thousand starved or drowned," etc.

Another flood in 1874 was still more destructive. Mr. Ellis, in his report to the House in 1876, says of it: "The loss by the flood of 1874 was $13,000,000. This year, so far as it can be ascertained, it is $2,000,000. And this makes the total sum $15,000,000 in actual material wealth within three years."



The great flood throughout the length and breadth of the Mississippi Valley in the spring of 1881 was unusually destructive, the damage amounting to many millions of dollars. As it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the total damage, we will give a few illustrations by extracts from the press dispatches published in leading daily papers of that time: —

"Omaha April 25. — The flood still continues. The river rose 2 inches last night at this point, but it has done no further damage to manufacturing interests on the water front. Much lumber in the yards has been removed to higher ground. The Union Pacific shops and smelting works, Boyd's packing house and distillery are still under water, and 1,600 men are out of employment.

"At Council Bluffs one-half the city is under water, and 600 people are homeless. All passengers from eastern trains are transferred by boat to the Union Pacific depot.

"A dispatch from Sioux City announces a fall of 6 inches at that point.

"This morning high winds set in from the north and stirred up the vast body of water north of the long embankment leading up to the Union Pacific bridge on the east side, and the high waves dashing against it soon washed out the dirt close up to the ties. This was discovered just in time to prevent an accident, and a large force of men were put to work piling sand bags along the north side, thus breaking the force of the waves and saving the embankment. Two hours more and the water would have taken out a section of several hundred feet of the approach to the bridge. The transfer of passengers, baggage, and mails is continued by boat at Council Bluffs. There is no material change in affairs here since yesterday. The Union Pacific road is running regular trains.

"The village of Waterloo, near Elkhorn River, 25 miles west of Omaha, is flooded to a depth of 5 feet.

"The overflow which covers the country for many miles is doing considerable damage to farms in Elkhorn Valley.

"Some citizens of Waterloo claimed their town was flooded owing to the Union Pacific Railroad embankment holding the water back, and they threatened to open a channel through it, but were prevented by the timely appearance of a sheriff and posse of constables from Omaha. Six ice-houses, located in Omaha Bottoms, have been wrecked by high water and rendered a total loss. A large wagon-bridge came down the river to-day, landing on the east side of the smelting works.



"Hannibal, Mo., April 25. — The Sny levee broke at 3 o'clock this morning, at a point about a mile and a half above East Hannibal. The crevasse is 130 feet wide, and the water is still cutting both below and above the break. Near East Hannibal there are several weak points liable to go at any moment. The river is 19 feet and 1 inch above low-water mark, and is still rising, but very slowly.

"Trains from Quincy to Hannibal, via the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, are abandoned, the track between Fall Creek and East Hannibal inside the levee being under water. It is estimated that 30,000 acres of fall wheat had been sown inside the levee, all of which is now a total loss. There are nearer 10,000 acres, the yield of which heretofore had averaged 30 bushels to the acre. This season it stood finer than ever. The loss on wheat alone is placed at $1,000,000. The river is still slowly rising, and has now nearly reached the highest point of last year.

"Saint Louis, April 25. — The river is rising and rapidly approaching the danger line. A rise of another foot and the water will submerge some of the low lands in the northern part of the city, and inundate part of the bottoms on the Illinois side of the river. Much apprehension is felt for property on both sides of the river, and measures are being taken to protect it. Old steamboat men are predicting a flood of unusual magnitude, and say that if the present warm weather continues, and particularly if there is much rainfall in the north, a freshet equal to that of 1844 will probably follow.

"Bismarck, April 25. — One mile of track and thirty pile bridges washed away constitute the extent of damages on the Northern Pacific extension. Night and day forces are at work repairing, and trains to the end of the track are promised in a few days.

"Kansas City, April 25. — The levee which was built to protect the town of Harlem and the broad bottom lands opposite the city from overflowing gave way on Saturday night, and a strong current, 10 feet deep, is now running at the rate of 5 or 6 miles an hour over the tracks of the Hannibal and Saint Joseph, Council Bluffs, Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, and Wabash roads. For nearly a mile all these tracks are supposed to be washed out. The levee gave way about 10 o'clock at night. The water is overflowing a large number of farms to the depth of from 4 to 6 feet.

"Saint Paul, Minn., April 25. — A special from Fergus Falls says the upper country is an unbroken sheet of water,


beginning at a point about 25 miles below Saint Vincent and extending this way to the vicinity of Crookston. Twenty-five miles south of Stevenson the water has swept away the track of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Kailroad, and all railroad travel is suspended.

"Saint Paul, Minn., April 27. — The flood at St. Paul, caused by the coming down of high water in the Minnesota River, continues. The water has now reached 18 feet in the channel — 3 feet higher than during the June rise of last year, and the highest point reached since the great flood of 1867. There is to-day scarcely a foot of uncovered land in the entire country west of St. Paul, flat lands, over which the waters are not now running riot. Old residents there affirm that although they have frequently seen the water cover the low lands, they have never known the current so strong as to sweep over them with such overwhelming velocity as it is doing today. The current carried away the bank on which Fifth Street is built this morning, and there is only a single road remaining uncovered between river and bluff. A visit to the scene to-day found hundreds of houses isolated by water and the occupants busy moving. The sides of the raised embankment were filled in many places with all manner of household effects, which had been brought in boats from the inundated residences, and around which were the owners watching and guarding the same while awaiting the arrival of vehicles to transport the goods to some place of safety.

"Omaha, Neb., April 27. — The river has fallen 10 inches here. A further fall of 18 inches is reported at Sioux City. Information having been received at Nebraska City that many people living on the river north of that city were in great peril, one of the ferry-boats started out yesterday and rescued nearly 200 men, women and children, some of whom had been without food two or three days, and were suffering extremely from hunger. These people were lodged in the opera house, the city hall, churches, and other public buildings. * * *

"East Nebraska, on the Iowa side of the river, is entirely flooded, and all the inhabitants have been compelled to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Nebraska City proper. Thousands of people along the river bottoms in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas are homeless and destitute. Passengers, mail, and baggage trains arrived here same as the last few days, only did it more rapidly than heretofore. It will be at least one week before the railroads get into the same shape as before the flood.

"Saint, Joseph, Mo., April 27. — The river at this point


is 22 feet 6 inches above low-water mark, and rising slowly. Many families have been rescued from their inundated houses in the bottom lands during the day, generally in destitute circumstances. All the available flat-boats have been in use removing people and stock. An old man and his wife, 76 to 80 years of age, were to-day rescued from the Elm wood bottom, where they were living in a small, one-story house, having been two or three days surrounded by the swift current, a mile from land, and the water 2 feet deep in the house. * * *

"Atchison, Kans., April 27. — Contrary to expectations, the river has continued to rise steadily during the past twenty-four hours, and is now 22 feet 5 inches above low-water mark, and at least twenty inches above the level of the great flood of 1844. The Missouri Pacific road continues to afford the only connection with the East, and it has to send its passengers and mails around by way of Topeka.

"Chicago, April 20. — The total loss of property by the flood on the Missouri River and its tributaries between Sioux City and Bismarck is estimated at $2,500,000. Below Sioux City, including the damage done at Omaha, Council Bluffs, Kansas City, and the great overflow on both sides of the Missouri between these cities and St. Louis, the amount of loss is computed at $1,500,000."


"In the spring of 1882 another destructive flood spread over the lower Mississippi Valley. Its damage in the States of Mississippi and Arkansas was described in the following debate in the United States Senate, February 23, 1882: —

"Mr. GEORGE. Mr. President, I should like to be indulged in making a remark or two explanatory of the magnitude of the disaster referred to in the joint resolution.

"The district overflowed from the breaking of the levee embraces all the Mississippi Delta between Memphis and Vicksburg, about, 15 miles in length and about 40 miles in breadth. All of it is either now under water or will be in a short time. I desire also to state, for the information of the Senate, that four-fifths of the population which inhabit that district is composed of colored laborers, who have not the means of support during the time when this overflow will necessarily interrupt labor.

"Mr. INGALLS. What is the estimated number of laborers who have been rendered destitute by this inundation?

"Mr. GEORGE. They inhabit a district about 150 miles


long by about 40 wide. I suppose there must be from 50,000 to 75,000 inhabitants in that district.

"Mr. TELLER. What proportion of them will be rendered destitute?

"Mr. GEORGE. Four-fifths. I desire also to state, for the information of Senators who are not familiar with the length or duration of an overflow in the Mississippi bottoms, that it is not an affair of a day or a week. The overflows in that section of the Mississippi bottoms generally continue from four to six weeks before there is a subsidence of the waters; and during all that time there is a total suspension of all labor; the water gets all over the whole country.

"I have confined my statement to the destitution in Mississippi. There are contiguous districts on the western bank of the Mississippi River, in the State of Arkansas, that suffer from the same overflow. The Senator from Arkansas [Mr. Garland] will make a statement upon that subject.

"I shall ask to have the joint resolution referred to the Committee on the Improvement of the Mississippi River and its Tributaries, in the hope that that committee may act upon it with promptness, as the matter will not admit of delay.

"Mr. GARLAND. The information that the Senator from Mississippi gives in reference to his own State applies exactly to the State of Arkansas, which is in front of the overflowed Mississippi River. The intelligence that I receive from that portion of the State of Arkansas through telegrams, letters and newspapers, represents the destruction there as widespread, and as absolutely appalling and unprecedented. The overflow has taken barns and granaries, and has swept away the last stock the farmers and planters of that country owned and had to live upon.

"I am not prepared in my own mind to say just exactly what relief, or what measure of relief, Congress can or should afford, but certainly there is now a just demand for relief, if it is in the power of Congress to grant it. I hope the joint resolution will be referred to the committee indicated by the Senator from Mississippi, and that that committee may see proper to give it early consideration and report some measure for the relief of those suffering people.

"Mr. HAMPTON. I just came into the Senate when the joint resolution was sent to the Clerk's desk and read, and as I am very familiar with that section of country, having been there a great deal, I wish to make a statement in regard to it.

"The area of land which will be overflowed if the river rises as high as it has done formerly will cover the richest portion


of the Mississippi Valley on the Arkansas side and on the Mississippi side. I am more familiar with it on the Mississippi side than on the Arkansas side; but it will cover the most productive and finest cotton-growing territory in the whole State. I have known the river to be at that point sometimes nearly 150 miles wide, for it covers from the Yazoo hills on the one side to the Arkansas bluffs on the other, and in that whole section of country, if the river is as high as these dispatches say it is, there will be hardly any land at all above overflow. There are only a few spots in that great Mississippi bottom which are above overflow, and the destruction not only of stock, but of the incoming crop will be so great that I have no hesitation in saying the dispatches from the governor of Mississippi give but a faint idea of the destitution, and starvation that will follow there.

"My friend from Mississippi thinks that there are 75,000 people in this area covered. I think he has underestimated the number very much.

"Mr. GEORGE. I spoke of the Mississippi side.

"Mr. HAMPTON. On the Mississippi side I think the numbers would be very much larger than that. Nearly the whole of those people are colored people; they rent the land and the loss will fall upon them. They have made no provisions at all for immediate sustenance, and unless some aid can be given promptly, I have no question that there will be starvation and infinite suffering in that whole country."

In the spring of 1832 an unusually destructive flood in the Ohio River Valley submerged a large portion of the city of Cincinnati which was very forcibly described in the following dispatch from Murat Halstead, February 16, 1883: —

"The loss of life has not been very great, but the destruction of household property is enormous, and clothing, sheltering, and feeding the poor who have fled from their homes will strain all resources. The care of property in the submerged district is a great task, and our military companies are out at night patroling the streets. The school-houses are crowded with fugitives. The coal supply of the city is under water. The water-works are overwhelmed. The gas-works are submerged. Our condition is in many respects critical, but nothing but a sudden and immense rainfall beyond all example can prevent our relief by the fall of the river. There are remarkable coincidences between this monstrous rise in the Ohio and the December overflows of the Rhine and Danube. The parallel between the Rhine especially and the Ohio in the origin, progress, extent, and duration of the floods is very striking,


and the correspondence in the two cases may be traced also in the intelligent compassion and remarkable liberality with which the sufferings of those made homeless, whether on the Rhine or the Ohio, were regarded and relieved by the enlightened and the benevolent."

The above are but illustrations of the frequent and wholesale destruction and desolation caused by the floods throughout the length and breadth of the great valley. But they are sufficient to show that these floods pay no attention to State lines and that they are national in extent and magnitude.



"Despite all this work, however, the Lower Mississippi Valley has suffered severely from floods and crevasses due to defective levees, to crawfish or rat holes, to rotten or defective rice flumes, to caving banks, storms, or other causes. Besides these crevasses already noted in the early history of levees, the following are the more important and destructive of the past half century: —

Flood of 1828. — This flood occurred before the country above Red River Landing was much settled, and it is probable that its marks have been confounded with those of 1815 in many localities. The Saint Francis and Yazoo bottoms were deeply inundated, being entirely unprotected by levees.

Relative to this flood in the Tensas Bottom, it was the highest of which we have even traditions. The whole region was under water. In the western part of the Atchafalaya basin the flood was the greatest of which we have record, there being no levees for several miles below the mouth of Red River. The overflow extended to the extreme western limit of the alluvial formations instead of only 6 to 8 miles from Bayou Atchafalaya as in ordinary floods. The plantations along the upper part of the Teche were not flooded, but the crops were lost on those within the influence of the backwater from the Atchafalaya overflow.

The eastern part of the Atchafalaya basin, indeed, the whole region bordering upon the Mississippi below the head of this basin, seems to have nearly escaped damage, the only exception being the Grosse Tęte region, which was deeply flooded by backwater from the Atchafalaya overflow and by a break in the Grand Levee of the parish of Point Coupée, near Morganza.



Flood of 1844 — A considerable rise occurred in April from a freshet in Arkansas River. In May, however, before the lower river had subsided, another and much greater flood in the Arkansas occurred. Above the mouth of the Red River the country was more or less flooded, but Red River, being fortunately low, the Atchafalaya carried off enough water to protect the plantations below the mouth of that stream from serious damage. This was the condition of the river in June when the great combined flood of the Upper Mississippi and the Missouri, which has rendered this year memorable in river annals, occurred.

The country above the mouth of the Red River was generally flooded. The St. Francis and Yazoo bottoms were nearly unprotected by levees and the water had free entrance. The Tensas bottom was badly inundated through breaks in the levees. Below the Red River Landing the country escaped with but little injury, owing to the very low stage of the Red River, which allowed the Atchafalaya to carry off the greater part of the surplus discharge of the Mississippi.

Flood of 1849. — The gauge at Carrollton indicates that the river rose nearly to highwater mark in the latter part of January, and remained there with occasional oscillations until the middle of May.

Above Red River Landing the ravages occasioned by this flood were comparatively slight.

The St. Francis and Yazoo bottoms were inundated, but to an extent not unusual for great flood years. Below Red River Landing the injury done was so immense that the flood is justly classed among the most destructive ever known. On April 7 a crevasse broke on the west bank, about 15 miles above New Orleans, at Fortier's plantation. This flooded the country between the Mississippi and the Bayou La Fourche to a depth of about 4 feet, and this submerged the rear of many rich sugar plantations. The effect of this crevasse upon the bed of the river has been much discussed. On the left bank a crevasse occurred on May 3, at Sauve's plantation, 17 miles above New Orleans, by which the city was inundated. The break remained open forty-eight days, and did an immense amount of damage.

Flood of 1850. — It appears that there were four principal rises this year, of which the first and second produced very little, if any, damage. The third was the highest, in the latter part of March, and the fourth, in the middle of May. The damage occasioned by this flood was immense. The


Saint Francis and Yazoo bottoms were not protected by levees, and both were deeply flooded. The Tensas bottom was submerged more effectually than in any year subsequent to 1828. The principal breaks were above the Louisiana line, which flooded Bayou Macon.

The water rose steadily until March 15, then declined slowly until early in April, then rose again until the middle of May, when it attained its highest point, and then rapidly subsided. At the mouth of Black River, the flood was 3 feet above that of 1814, and 5 feet below that of 1828. It is needless to add that nearly the whole region was submerged and the crops destroyed. Below Red River Landing the country fared but little better.

The water pouring from Red River exceeded the discharging capacity of Bayou Atchafalaya, and the surplus forced its way into the Mississippi by both of the mouths of Old River. The flood from above, augmented by this new supply, maintained an elevation sufficient to keep the numerous crevasses below Red River Landing actively discharging for more than four months. The basin between Bayou La Fourche and the Mississippi escaped nearly uninjured.

The crops upon the left bank above New Orleans were much injured by the celebrated Bonnet Carre crevasse, which attained width of nearly 7,000 feet, and continued flowing for more than six months.

Flood of 1858. — In the flood of 1858 there were four great rises. The first, caused mainly by a flood in the Ohio, occurred in December, 1857. The second rise occurred in the latter part of March and the first part of April, 1858, and was caused by a general swelling of the lower tributaries of the Missouri, Upper Mississippi, and Ohio. The third great rise occurred in the latter part of April. The Tennessee was unusually high.

The last and greatest rise in the flood of 1858 occurred at the head of the alluvial regions in June. It inundated the city of Cairo. It washed away miles of levees along the Saint Francis front, and poured rapidly into the bottom lands of that river. In the White River swamps the same condition existed. The Yazoo and Tensas bottoms, on the contrary, were comparatively empty. The June rise terminated the flood.

Flood of 1862. — Beyond doubt this was one of the greatest floods which ever occurred on the Mississippi, but the war raging at the time has so obliterated all records that it must always remain classed with the traditional overflows of 1815 and 1825.


FLOODS OF 1867 AND 1874.

We know that there was a great flood in the Ohio River at Cincinnati, and also in the Cumberland some time in the spring of 1862, and a destructive overflow in the Wabash in February. At Cairo the highest water occurred May 2, and was 1.2 feet above the high water of 1858. It is believed that there was no flood in the Yazoo or Red Rivers at the date of the high water in 1862 (except water returning from the swamps), but the records are too defective to render this certain.

Flood of 1867. — In some respect its origin was peculiar. The heavy downfall of snow and rain in the Ohio Valley, a sudden thaw caused moderate floods in the Alleghany and Monongabela Rivers and a great flood in the Wabash, the combined effects of which caused a sudden rise in the Ohio.

At Helena the first rise culminated March 14, standing 1 foot above high water of 1858, and eight-tenths of a foot below that of 1862.

The river then subsided about three-tenths of a foot, but again swelled to the highest point on April 1, being two-tenths of a foot above first rise. There was a moderate freshet in both the Arkansas and White Rivers; the Yazoo discharged a considerable volume; in the Red River there was a considerable flood in June, due chiefly from the Ouachita.

The Atchafalaya basin was deeply flooded through a break in the Grand levee near Morganza. The Teche country was under water. The actual water-mark of 1867 was, in general, a little higher than that of 1858.

Flood of 1874. — In February the rain-fall throughout the alluvial regions was not unusual, and the river was generally about at mid-stage.

In March heavy rains prevailed throughout the lowland below Cairo, thus filling the swamps and swamp-rivers, and rapidly raising the Mississippi. In April these rains became excessive, and extended eastward over the valley of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. In Missouri the breaks were very numerous. Between Commerce, Mo., and the Louisiana line there were 136.5 miles of crevasses and breaks.

The flood of 1874 rose 1.2 feet higher at Helena than in 1858. There was no great flood, properly speaking, in the Arkansas River in 1874. In the White River, there was a destructive overflow. In the Yazoo, there was the largest freshet on record, due to rain-water alone. The combined rain and crevasse water in the Yazoo raised the Mississippi at Vicksburg 3 feet during the last three weeks of April. At Alexandria, the Red River rose 23 feet between February 1 and April 4.


In the Ouachita the greatest flood on record occurred. Bolivar County, Mississippi, suffered severely from a rise in the Arkansas and White Rivers in March. The bottom lands of the Tensas were flooded through the crevasse in Carroll Parish. The overflow of the Atchafalaya basin was extreme in this flood. Bayou Teche was deeply inundated from Saint Martinville down. The Bonnet Carré crevasse raised Lake Pontchartrain suddenly about 2 feet.

The suffering in lower Louisiana this year was great. Hundreds of persons were actually in danger of starvation. Aid was asked for, and large sums of money were raised in New York. Boston and other Northern cities and States for the benefit of those residing in the overflowed region in Louisiana. Boston alone contributed $230,000 to this fund.

Flood of 1882 — In the early part of the winter of 1881-82, the river was unusually high, due to frequent rains that had fallen throughout the valley, but no grave apprehensions then existed of an overflow. At the beginning of the year, however, a series of rains commenced falling, which continued, without cessation, throughout the month, particularly in the valleys of the Ohio, Tennessee, and around Vicksburg. The smaller tributaries, the Clinch and others, in East Tennessee, overflowed their banks about the middle of January, and caused heavy damages to the farmers; the Cumberland rose rapidly at Nashville, flooding a large portion of the town on January 14, and causing much loss, particularly to the lumber interests, and much suffering among the poorer people of the city, 1,000 of whom living near the river were driven from their homes. Floods occurred also at Kosciusko, Miss., overflowing the Chicago, Saint Louis, and New Orleans railroad at Aberdeen, and at various other points. The Ohio also began to boom about this time, flooding the lowlands between Cairo and Evansville, and drowning considerable quantities of stock. The rains continued to fall and the rivers to rise. On the 18th the Big Black was out of its banks, and communication between Memphis and the outside world was nearly severed by the freshets occurring in all the neighboring streams. The Atchafalaya overflowed its banks, causing a suspension of work on the New Orleans Pacific, and at Grenada and Durant, Miss., and on the Tombigbee and Warrior Rivers, in Alabama, serious floods were reported.


The situation now began to look threatening. Heavy rains were falling every day, and the river rising. A thorough inspection was made of the levees, and much work done on


them. But the rain softened and washed away the dirt. On January 28, a break occurred in the levee at Delta, Madison Parish, and another at Tropical Bend, in Plaquemines Parish, below the city; on the 30th another break occurred at Lockport, on Bayou La Fourche. On February 2 Red River rose, flooding the bottom lands below Shreveport. On February 9 the levees in the Yazoo valley broke. From that time forward crevasses occurred daily.

On February 13, the Kempe levee, in Tensas Parish, broke. By the middle of February all the bottom lands in Mississippi, Arkansas, and much of northern Louisiana were under water.

On the 20th all the upper rivers, the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi suddenly rose, with a "boom" beyond all precedent. The lower portions of Cincinnati and Louisville were flooded; Saint Louis was cut off from railroad communication with the rest of the world, and hardly a town on the Mississippi or Ohio escaped without some damage from the flood. The situation grew worse every day, and only a few points on the river between Vicksburg and Cairo were left above water. On March 1 occurred a violent storm, which caused a number of breaks in the Mississippi levees, inundating Bolivar, Issaquena, Sharkey, Leflore, and Washington Counties. At that date there were fifteen crevasses in Louisiana on the Mississippi, Atchafalaya, and La Fourche. Great destitution existed throughout the overflowed region, and appeals were made to the Government for aid from Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, and Mississippi. The number of sufferers by the flood was then estimated at 43,000. On March 8, the Point Coupée levee was broken, and the scene of destruction was changed to Central Louisiana. Through these new breaks the water poured down the Atchafalaya and began overflowing the Attakapas district of Louisiana, and ruining the finest sugar plantations of the State.

The water on the land overflowed by the Mississippi began to run off during the last two week of March, but in lower Louisiana the flood rose and continued through the greater portion of April. Even when this rise stopped, the flood did not entirely subside. It was not until late in June that some of the plantations were free from overflow. The flood may, therefore, be considered to have lasted fully five months. Over a hundred breaks or crevasses were caused by it, and 22,000 square miles, with a population of over 400,000, were overflowed.

Early during the overflow the Government had established relief bureaus in the various inundated States, and several hundred thousand dollars were distributed in rations. This


was supplemented by the State of Louisiana, which organized a relief commission and sent a fleet to upper Louisiana to remove the people in danger of overflow to safe land, and to furnish forage to the stock which was being destroyed in thousands. This fleet rescued many people from starvation and drowning.


An attempt was made to find accurately the losses from the flood in 1882. The police juries of Louisiana were requested by the governor to prepare reports on this subject, showing the land overflowed on the amount of damage done. For Mississippi and Arkansas estimates were made.

In Louisiana, 26 out of 58 parishes were overflowed either wholly or in part. The parishes suffering most were Morehouse, Ouachita, Caldwell, Richland, West Carroll, East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Franklin, Catahoula, Concordia, Avoyelles, Rapides, Saint Landry, Pointe Coup7eacute;e, West Baton Rouge, Saint Martin, Iberia, Iberville, Assumption, Saint Mary, Terre Bonne, La Fourche, Ascension, Saint Bernard and East Baton Rouge.

In Mississippi, the counties suffering most were Tunica, Coahoma, Panola, Tallahatchie, Bolivar, Washington, Sunflower, Leflore, Yazoo, Issaquena, Warren, Claiborne, and Adams.

In Arkansas, Mississippi, Poinsett, Cross, Crittenden, Saint Francis, Woodruff, Monroe, Phillips, Arkansas, Desha, Chi-cot, Drew, Ashley and Bradley counties suffered.

The following estimates were made of the actual damage inflicted by the overflow:

Cotton Bales 171,750 42,280 229,000 32 $2,114,000
Corn Bushels 2,800,000 56,000 140,000 20 504,000
Sugar Hogsheads 73,300 65,970 77,000 90{ 6,286,000
Molasses gallons 4,984,000 4,285,000   2,142,000
Other crops       52,000   362,000
Total $11,408,000
Add to the total above $11,408,000

Damage to —

Stock 1,090,000
Fences, etc 530,000
Houses and household goods 685,000
Levees 561,000
Railroads 730,000
Total loss in Louisiana $15,004,000


FLOOD OF 1884.

The only important crevasse of 1884, but a very serious one, was that at the Davis plantation, 22 miles above New Orleans, one of the largest and most destructive known. A rice flame cut in the old levee had been imperfectly refilled and the great rush of the river washed out the loose earth, and soon cut a gap 1,000 feet wide. Through this immense opening the spare water of the mighty river forced its way, forming a converging stream that ran several miles inland, and pounding out deep gullies and holes here and there along its destructive course.

The railroad tracks of the Texas and Pacific and of the Morgan lines soon became submerged and all traffic stopped. The two railroad companies, in conjunction, undertook to close this tremendous crevasse, but the driftwood and debris of the river, together with the powerful current that was setting in against the work, so impeded, blocked and prevented any available efforts that they were finally compelled to abandon the undertaking. The great gap then grew apace, the water spread out a vast sheet of demolition over the surrounding country, overflowing adjoining parishes, poured into the town of Gretna, submerging the streets, driving families from their homes, causing widespread misery, destruction and suffering. The water poured down on the richest sugar district in the State, causing destruction on the west bank of the river almost to the Gulf, and entailing a loss of over $5,000,000.


What May be Expected Every Ten Years.

The following is the Mississippi River Commission's calculations of floods: —

"At Cairo, between 1862 and 1883, inclusive, four floods have reached or exceeded a reading on the gauge of 50.8 feet, the highest known reading being 52.4 feet, in 1883. A flood of 51.5 feet may then be booked for once in ten years.

At Memphis, between 1858 and 1883, inclusive, the gauge reading has equaled or exceeded 34 feet six times, the highest reading being 35.1 feet in 1882. A flood of 34.5 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At Helena, between 1868 and 1883, inclusive, floods have four times equaled or exceeded a gauge-reading of 45.8 feet,


the maximum being 47.2 feet, in 1882. A flood of 46.5 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At the mouth of White River, between 1862 and 1883, inclusive, the floods have five times given a gauge-reading of 46.6 feet or more, the highest being 48.5 feet, in 1882. A flood of 47.5 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At Vicksburg, between 1858 and 1883, inclusive, floods have four times given gauge-readings of 48.8 feet or more, the highest being 51.1 feet, in 1862. In 1882 the flood only reached 48.8 feet, the maximum since 1867, and may have had its height diminished by the Vicksburg cut-off of 1876. A flood of 49 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At Natchez, between 1858 and 1883, floods reached a gauge-reading of 47.9 feet or more five times, the maximum being 50.3 feet, in 1862. A flood of 48 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At Red River Landing, between 1867 and 1883, the gauge has in three years had a flood reading of 46.3 feet or more, the maximum being 48.6 feet, in 1882. A flood of 47 feet may be expected once in ten years.

At Carrollton floods have reached a gauge-reading of 15.4 or more five times between 1859 and 1883, the highest being 15.9 feet in 1862. A flood of 16.6 feet may be expected once in ten years.

These statements refer to the river as it has been since 1858.


The total losses from overflow in the States south of Memphis since 1866 is estimated at $71,827,000, the worst years being 1867, 1874, 1882 and 1884.

The account of the Lower Mississippi Valley with the river since the war will stand as follows: —

To the building and maintenance of levees $25,704,482 94
To crevasse and losses from flood 71,827,600 00
Total cost of high water in twenty-one years $97,532,082 94

The great flood in the Mississippi in 1881 commenced early in May at St. Louis, and on the 4th the water had reached nearly to the curb-stone on the levee. Great apprehension was felt for East St. Louis, and the inhabitants living in the American Bottom, and only for the railroad embankments near and parallel with the river, was the town saved from entire inundation. As it was, great loss and inconvenience


was realized by the citizens as well as by all the inhabitants in the American Bottom."

These losses must continue in all bottom lands every season of high water, until a more thorough system of leveeing is adopted.

Experience has shown the practicability of this mode of protecting lands on the border of rivers. This, together with the revetting of caving banks, would in a few years reclaim all the bottom lands in the Valley of the Mississippi.


[From Floyd's Steamboat Directory.]

"In the year 1786, the Ohio River rose fifty-nine feet above low-water mark. As the surrounding country was but sparsely inhabited at that time, the damage done by this flood was comparatively trivial. In 1792, the Ohio rose sixty-three feet above low-water mark — four feet higher than the flood of 1786.

On the 11th of November, 1810, there was a great flood at Pittsburgh. A brig which had been built at Plumb Creek, near that city, and which was ready to be launched, was floated off her ways by this freshet, so that the common process of launching was unnecessary. Fortunately the vessel was secured and made fast, or she would probably have made a long voyage down the river without the usual equipments.

July 14, 1828, there was an extraordinary rise in the Ohio River, supposed to be as great as that of 1792. It carried desolation into the lower part of Wheeling, which was covered to a depth of six feet. There was a vast amount of property destroyed along the river.

In 1844 the houses at Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, were nearly submerged. The swollen rivers were fourteen miles wide between the opposite shores of Kentucky and Missouri. Movable property of every kind, fences, cattle, lumber, furniture, and entire houses, (wooden ones, of course), were floated down the Mississippi and other rivers. A building was sent driving down the Mississippi, while several persons from the windows were calling for assistance, which, on account of the torrent-like velocity of the stream, could not be afforded them. Many drowning people and dead bodies floated down the Mississippi. A house, with a whole family inside of it, went over the falls of Ohio. Boats passed over fields and plantations, far beyond the usual limits of the river, and took the frightened inhabitants from the upper stories of their houses, to which they had been driven


for refuge from the waters. The levees or embankments made at different places as defenses against the river, were broken through. Red River was higher in January this year than ever it was before within the recollection of man, and higher than it ever has been since. All the lands in the immediate neighborhood of that river were desolated, and every vestige of cultivation was destroyed. In June of this year, the Mississippi at St. Louis was eleven miles wide, and was on the level with the second story windows of the houses on the levee at that city. Many houses were swept away and great numbers of cattle were drowned. The loss of property was immense. An obelisk about twenty feet high has been erected on the levee below Market Street, St. Louis, to designate the height of the water at the time of this flood.

In March, 1849, the water was ten feet deep in some of the streets of New Orleans. This was the most destructive flood that ever visited that city. The plantations above were overflowed, and the rush of the water over the fields, in some places, was perfectly irresistible, carrying away every thing which opposed the current, which was believed to move at the rate of sixty miles per hour. The damage sustained by planters and others was estimated at $60,000,000.

In April, 1852, the Ohio, at Wheeling and Pittsburgh, rose as high as it did in 1832. There was a great destruction of property along the river, and many lives were lost."

In December of 1847, there was another destructive flood in the Ohio. At Louisville the water was within thirty inches of its extreme height in 1883, which was the highest water ever known in that river. On the 15th of February, 1883, it reached 66 feet 4 inches at Cincinnati, 44 feet 5 inches at Louisville and 52 feet at Cairo. There was said to have been 15,000 people in Cincinnati houseless and homeless. Far greater damage and loss of life occurred on the Ohio this year than ever before or since. Until this year, 1832 was always referred to as the great high-water year on the Ohio, the water at Cincinnati then reached 64 feet 3 inches. While the water at Pittsburgh was not so high as on some previous years, all the lower tributaries were higher from the incessant rains that prevailed.

The loss in 1883 was estimated at ten million dollars at Cincinnati, Covington and Newport alone. Probably a larger amount was lost at other points in the aggregate. There was a large number of lives lost of which no record could of course be kept. As it was early in the season no losses were sustained in the crops, but as the banks and the bottom lands are


much more settled than on the Mississippi, far greater losses occured in stock, houses, and movable property, although the previous year, 1882, the losses in levees and crops, in Louisiana alone, amounted to fifteen million dollars, from the overflow of that year.

Chapter XLII. Tragic Events in the Mississippi Valley. "Murrel" and his Gang.

Since the discovery of America by Columbus in 1492, no country known to civilization has been the theater and the battle-field of more tragic events and blood-curdling incidents than has been this beautiful Valley of the Mississippi.

Succeeding the treachery and massacres from the Indians and the bloody battles that so often followed, encouraged by the French and English authorities, came the outlaw, the pirate, the escaped convict and the desperate highwayman from all parts of the world.

The sparsely settled country rendered arrest and conviction difficult, if not impossible. The numerous water-courses contributed to the escape of all offenders, and to the rapid movement of such as harbored on their borders. The mountain fastnesses of the North, the boundless prairies of the West, and the impenetrable canebrakes of the South made this valley a veritable Elysian field, for the successful operation of all outlaws.

They appeared singly, and in all forms of organizations. Among the earlier ones was Mike Fink, Sam Grity and their associates. A class known as "boat-wreckers" in which "Colonel Plug," figured prominently, on the lower Ohio, in command of a gang of pirates, previous to steamboat navigation, whose headquarters were in or about the mouth of Cash Creek, just above Cairo, together with organized gangs on the Mississippi, which became so destructive to the early commerce of that river that the Spanish government at New Orleans took official notice of them and organized means to suppress them. Later, and after the introduction of steamboats, gangs of horse thieves, negro thieves, murderers and every class of desperadoes continued to infest the South,


making the Mississippi and the bayous their general rendezvous. Among the noted ones, even within the memory of many who still live, was one known as "Murrel's gang."

In the very popular work known as "Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi," is this graphic description of the above gang: —

"There is a tradition that Island 37 was one of the principal abiding places of the once celebrated "Murrel's Gang." This was a colossal combination of robbers, horse thieves, negro stealers and counterfeiters, engaged in business along the river, some fifty or sixty years ago.

While our journey across the country to St. Louis was in progress we had no end to Jesse James and his stirring history, for he had just been assassinated by an agent of the government of Missouri, and in consequence was occupying a good deal of space in the newspapers. Cheap histories of him were for sale by the boys on the train. According to these, he was one of the most marvelous creatures of his kind that had ever existed.

It was a mistake. Murrel was his equal in boldness, in pluck, in rapacity, in cruelty, in brutality, heartlessness, treachery and in general and comprehensive vileness and shamelessness. And very much his superior in some larger aspects.

James was a retail rascal. Murrel wholesale. James' modest genius dreamed of no loftier flight than planning of raids upon cars, coaches, and country banks. Murrel projected negro insurrections and the capture of New Orleans, and furthermore, on occasion, this Murrel could go into the pulpit and edify the congregation. What are James and his half dozen vulgar rascals compared with this stately old-time criminal, with his sermons, his meditated insurrections and city captures and his majestic following of ten hundred men, sworn to do his evil will."

There is a paragraph or two concerning this big operator from a now forgotten book, published half a century ago, as follows: —

"He appears to have been a most dextrous as well as a consummate villain. When he traveled his disguise was that of an itinerant preacher, and it is said his discourses were very soul-stirring, interesting the hearers so much they forgot to look after their horses, which were carried away by his confederates while he was preaching. But the stealing of horses in one State and selling them in another was but a small portion of their business. The most lucrative was stealing


slaves, to run away from their masters that they might sell them in another quarter. This was arranged as follows: —

They would tell a negro if he would run away from his master and allow them to sell him to another, he should secure a portion of the money paid for him, and that upon his return to them a second time, they would send him to a free State where he would be safe. The poor wretches complied with this request, hoping to obtain money and freedom. They would be sold to another master and run away again to their employers. Sometimes they would be sold in this manner three or four times, until they had realized three or four thousand dollars by them. But after this, the fear of detection, the usual custom was to get rid of the only witness, that could be produced against them, which was the negro himself, by murdering him and throwing his body into the Mississippi. Even if it was established that they had stolen a negro, before he was murdered, they were always prepared to evade punishment. For they concealed the negro that had run away, until he was advertised, and a reward offered to any man who would catch him.

An advertisement of this kind warrants the person to take the property, if found, and then the negro becomes their property, in trust. When, therefore, they sold the negro it only becomes a breach of trust, not stealing, and for a breach of trust the owner of the property can only have redress by civil action, which was useless, as the damages were never paid.


It may be inquired how under these circumstances Murrel escaped Lynch law? This will be easily understood when it is stated that he had more than one thousand sworn confederates, all ready at any moment's notice to support any of the gang that were in trouble.

The names of all the principal confederates of Murrel were obtained in a manner which I shall presently explain.

This gang was composed of two classes. The heads or council as they were called, who planned and concerted, but seldom acted. They amounted to about four hundred. The other class acted as agents and were termed strikers, and numbered about six hundred and fifty. These were the tools in the hands of the others. They run all the risk and received but a small portion of the money.

They were in the power of the leaders of the gang who would sacrifice them at any time, by handing them over to justice or sinking their bodies in the Mississippi.

The general rendezvous of this gang of miscreants was on


the Arkansas side of the river, where they concealed their negroes in the morasses and cane-brakes. The depredations of this extensive combination were severely felt, but so well arranged were their plans that although Murrel, who was always active, was every where suspected, there was no proof to be obtained. It so happened, however, that a young man by the name of Stewart, who was looking after two slaves who Murrel had decoyed away, fell in with him and secured his confidence, took the oath, and was admitted into the gang as one of the General Council. By those means all was discovered, for Stewart turned traitor, although he had taken the oath, and having obtained every information, exposed the whole concern, the names of all the parties, and finally succeeded in bringing home sufficient evidence against Murrel to secure his conviction and sentence to the penitentiary. (Murrel was sentenced for fourteen years imprisonment.)

So many people who were supposed to be honest and bore a respectable name in different States were found to be among the list of the Grand Council as published by Stewart, that every attempt was made to throw discredit upon his assertions — his character was vilified, and more than one attempt was made to assassinate him.

He was obliged to quit the Southern States in consequence. It is however now well ascertained to have been all true, and although some blame Mr. Stewart for having violated his oath, they no longer attempt to deny that his revelations were correct. I will quote one or two of Murrel's confessions to Mr. Stewart, made to him when they were journeying together. I ought to have observed that the ultimate intentions of Murrel was on a large scale, as stated by himself. Having no less an object than raising the blacks against the whites, taking possession of New Orleans, plundering the city, and making themselves possessors of the territory. The following are a few extracts: —


"I collected all my friends about New Orleans at one of our friend's houses at that place, and we sat in Council three days before we got all our plans to our notion. We then determined to undertake the rebellion at all hazards, and make as many friends as we could for that purpose, every man's business being assigned to him. I started to Natchez on foot, having sold my horse in New Orleans, with the intention of stealing another after I started. I walked four days with no opportunity for me to get a horse. The fifth day,


about noon, I had tired and stopped at a creek to get some water and rest a little. While I was sitting on a log and looking down the road the way I had come, a man came in sight riding a good looking horse. The moment I saw him I was determined to have his horse if he was in the garb of a traveler. He rode up and I saw from his equipage that he was a traveler. I arose and drew an elegant rifle pistol on him, and ordered him to dismount. He did so, and I took his horse by the bridle and pointed down the creek and ordered him to walk before me.

He went a few hundred yards, and stopped. I hitched his horse and then made him undress himself, all to his shirt and drawers, and ordered him to turn his back to me. He said ‘If you are determined to kill me let me have time to pray before I die.’ I told him I had no time to hear him pray. He turned around and dropped on his knees, and I shot him through the back of the head. I ripped opened his belly and took out his entrails, and sunk him in the creek. I then searched his pockets and found four hundred dollars and thirty-seven cents, and a number of papers that I did not take time to examine. I sunk all his clothing and effects in the creek. His boots were bran new, and fitted me gently, and I put them on and sunk my old ones in the creek to atone for them. I mounted as fine a horse as I ever straddled, and directed my course for Natchez in much better style than I had been for five days. Myself and a fellow by the name of Crenshaw gathered four good horses and started for Georgia. We got in company with a young fellow from South Carolina just before we got to Cumberland mountains and Crenshaw soon knew all about his business. He had been to Tennessee to buy a drove of hogs. But when he got there pork was dearer than he had calculated and he declined purchasing. We concluded he was a prize.

Crenshaw winked at me. I understood his idea. He had traveled the road before, I never had. We had traveled several miles on the mountain road when we passed a great precipice. Just before passing it, Crenshaw asked me for my whip, which had a pound of lead in the butt. I handed it to him. He rode up along side of the Carolinain and gave him a blow on the side of the head which tumbled him from his horse. We lit from our horses and fingered his pockets. We got $1,262.00.

Crenshaw said he knew a place to hide him. He gathered him under his arms and I by his feet, and conveyed him to a deep crevice under the precipice and tumbled him into it and


he went out of sight. We then threw in his saddle, and took his horse with us, which was worth two hundred dollars.

We were detained a few days and during that time our friend went to a little village in the neighborhood and saw the negro advertised (a negro in our possession) and a description of the two men of whom he had been purchased and giving his suspicion of the two men.

It was rather squally times, but any port in a storm. We took the negro that night on the bank of a creek, which runs by the farm of our friend, and Crenshaw shot him through the head. We took out his entrails, and sunk him in the creek. We had sold the other negro the third time, on the Arkansaw river for upwards of $500, and then stole him and delivered him into the hands of his friend and then conducted him to a swamp and veiled the tragic scene, and got the last gleanings and sacred pledge of secrecy, as a game of that kind will not do unless it ends in a mystery to all but the fraternity. We sold that negro first and last for $2,000, and then put him out of reach of all pursuers. They can never find that negro, for his carcass has fed many a cat-fish and the frogs sung many a day to the silent repose of his skeleton."


1802. His band was the terror of every trader. Traders in those days went down the river in flat-boats and sold their produce for dollars or doubloons which they packed on ponies and went through on foot in gangs of five or ten men to their homes in the West. Before leaving Natchez or New Orleans they supplied themselves with arms and ammunition to protect themselves against Mason and his gang, who infested this only great road, the Natchez trace at that time, and preyed upon weak parties of boatmen passing that route. Governor Claiborn issued the following order for the capture of Mason and his gang. I have information that a set of pirates and robbers who infest the river and the road have their rendezvous in the cane-brakes near Walnut Hills. They recently attempted to board the boat of Col. Joshua Baker between the mouth of the Yazoo and the Walnut Hills, but were deterred by his show of arms and preparation for defense. The men must be arrested. The crimes of Mason are many and atrocious.



Shortly after this Mason had a quarrel with two of his men, and on this occasion, when only the chief and these two men were in camp and he was asleep, they shot him, cut off his head, and set out with it to claim the reward. The Circuit Court was in session in the old town of Greenville, Jefferson county, when they arrived. They went before the judge to make their affidavit and get a certificate to the Governor. The head was identified by parties who knew Mason well, but just as he was in the act of making out a certificate, a traveler stepped into the Court house and requested to have the two men arrested. He recognized the horses they rode as belonging to parties who had robbed him and killed one of his companions some two months previously on the Natchez trace; and going into the Court house he identified the two men. They were tried and executed at Greenville. With the death of their chief and the departure of Harp, one of his captains, the gang dispersed and for many years there were no more highway robbers or river pirates in the Territory of Mississippi.

When General Wilkinson was negotiating a treaty with the Choctaws at Fort Adams, 1801, after having permission to have a road opened to the Chickasaw line where it would intersect the road leading by Colbert's ferry on the Tennessee River to Nashville, he proposed that a certain number of white families be allowed to settle there to keep entertainment for travelers. This the Indians refused, but as soon as the road known as the old Natchez trace was opened La Fleurs and other half-cast families moved to it and made lots of money keeping entertainment for travelers. — Claiborne's History of New Orleans.


Chapter XLIII. Tragic Events on Kentucky and Ohio, — Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton.

Among the noted men that came to the front during the early settlement of the Mississippi Valley, they were not all freebooters, pirates or desperadoes.

While General Harmer, General St. Glair, General Wayne and other officers of the government in charge of troops were fighting the British and Indians on the north side of the Ohio, in defense of the new settlements in the neighborhood of Marietta, Chillicothe, Fort Washington (now Cincinnati), and on the Miamas, Daniel Boone with a few adventurous spirits from North Carolina and the east side of the Alleghany Mountains, were fighting their way through Virginia and across into what proved to most of them to be the "dark and bloody ground" — Kentucky, then the home of hostile Indians and every variety of wild beasts. But to men like Boone, Harrod, Kenton, Logan, Ray — McAffee and others no barrier was sufficient to intimidate them or danger to prevent their westward march.

The woods were full of bear, panther, deer, the "openings," of buffalo, and the lakes and water-courses of fish, ducks and geese.

To men who had been raised on the frontier these attractions could not be resisted, though an Indian was found lurking in ambush in every hiding place.

Every reader acquainted with the history and settlement of Kentucky, knows how dearly it was purchased, and the blood that was shed to secure its possession. To no one man is so much due, perhaps as to Daniel Boone, although others sacrificed much, and many, very many, sacrificed all they possessed and their lives included. He was born in 1746, in Bucks County, Penn., near Bristol on the Delaware. At the age of 13 he immigrated with his father to North Carolina, who settled in the valley of South Bodkin.

After remaining there a few years he married, and removed further into the wilderness, where the game was more abundant. That having been his occupation and the only employment he ever fancied. While his opportunities for an education were not good, he never embraced even such as offered, but preferred employing all his leisure time, when


he could be spared from the farm in which his father and brother was engaged, to devote to his favorite pursuit — hunting. In this he excelled even when but a lad. His rifle was his constant companion, and his home in the woods and a dog all the company he desired.


After his marriage he settled on a place of his own and embarked in agricultural pursuits for a few years. But his adventurous spirit and love of solitude soon induced him to abandon his home, family and farm.

In 1769, he, in company with a kindred spirit, by the name of Finley, who had made one trip across the mountains from North Carolina to Kentucky, and who had inspired Boone with his thrilling hair-breadth escapes and wonderful accounts of game and adventures, in company with four others, whose names were Stewart, Holden, Mooney and Cool, all pledged to stand by each other in all emergencies, started for Kentucky leaving their families until they should "spy out the land," make a location and return for them.

Their route lay through trackless wilderness. The slender supply of food was soon exhausted, and a camp for the purpose of hunting was made and as game was abundant, no difficulty was experienced in securing a supply of deer and turkey which was prepared for future use.

Their custom was for two of the party to watch while the others slept, and so they alternated through the nights, by short watches.

They soon reached the foot and began the ascent of the Alleghanies.

Several days were spent in reaching the summit of the Cumberland Mountains, the most Western span of these heights. From this point the descent into the great Western valley began.

The grand view that lay spread out before them inspired them to press forward into the beautiful valleys of the Ohio and its tributaries, with renewed vigor, knowing from Finley's account they were soon to be among vast herds of buffalo, elk, and other wild game. While Boone had followed the occupation of a hunter for many years, he had never before been within the "buffalo range," and his anxiety to reach that long-looked for field may be imagined.

The first large drove came in sight the day the travelers reached the foot of the mountains. The buffalo emerged from a skirt of woods and the plain was soon covered with an immense moving mass of these huge animals. They were moving right in the direction of the travelers, who had not been


observed. Finley knowing something of their habits cried out to the excited party, "They will not turn out for us and if we don't look sharp we will be crushed." The party came to a stand within rifle distance, when Finley shot the file leader. The patriarch of the herd fell, which momentarily checked the moving mass. But borne along by the pressure of the multitudes in the rear those in front separated at the point the leader had fallen. The opening once made the chasm broadened and passed the travelers on either side at a distance of some thirty yards. To prevent the rear from closing in on them, they killed another, which falling in the track, secured their safety until all had passed, leaving Boone and the other members of the party who had just witnessed their first buffalo exhibition in wonder and amazement. After this, buffalo were often seen like herds of domestic cattle, and were so easily captured they were passed without attracting special attention, unless their stock of provisions needed replenishing or their skins were necessary for protection. Once across the mountains they were in the beautiful valleys on the head waters of the streams emptying into the Ohio, and by following the paths of the buffalo, deer, bear and other animals, they discovered the sabines or licks from which the salt was obtained, used by the settlers for many succeeding generations.

Thus surrounded, Boone and his companions had reached what seemed to be the "promised land." The few Indians they met were disposed to be friendly, and they engaged in their favorite occupation of hunting, trapping, etc., with great success for several months, and accumulated a large quantity of skins and furs. But the day of their trials was not long deferred, and what was to this small party, of pioneers an elysian field at first, soon became the "Valley of Himnom, the shadow of death." After numerous hardships and hair-breadth escapes such as would have deterred any less bold and adventurous spirit, Boone returned to North Carolina for his family.

From his representations and persuasive argument, after near two years effort, he succeeded in organizing a small party of emigrants, consisting of some eighty persons, men, women and children, and on the 26th of September, 1773, started across the mountains for the new El Dorado, Kain-tuck-kee.

For a detailed account of this perilous journey and of the subsequent trials and adventures of this wonderful man and not much less wonderful wife, see "Flint's Life of Daniel Boone," published in Cincinnati, in 1858.

In the same work may be found an interesting history of


another remarkable man who was cotemporary with Boone and ought to be reckoned among the patriarchs of Kentucky.


This was Simon Kenton, alias Butler. He was born in Virginia, in 1753. He grew to manhood without learning to read or write.

It is recorded of him at the age of nineteen he had a violent contest with a competitor for the favor of a lady's hand. She refused to make an election, and he, in disgust exiled himself from his native home and located in Kentucky, where he soon became a noted partisan against the Indians.

In 1774 he joined himself to Lord Dunsmore and was appointed one of the spies, where he performed important service in this employment. Subsequently he joined Colonel Clark, in his gallant expedition against Vincennes and Kaskaskia. He passed through the streets of the former place while in possession of the British Indians without discovery. After performing many daring feats in this expedition, he was employed to make a journey to Northern Ohio. He was then captured by the Indians who painted him black, as was their custom with those they intended to torture, and informed him he was to be burned at Chillicothe. In the meantime, for their amusement and as a prelude to his torture, they manacled him hand and foot, and placed him on an unbridled horse and turned the animal loose. After running through the woods and brush in its fright without being able to shake him off, the horse returned to the camp exhausted and worn down, to the great amusement and shouts of the Indians for the suffering and wounds that Butler had endured. Arriving within a mile of Chillicothe, they took him from his horse, tied him to a stake, where he remained 24 hours in one position. He was then taken from the stake to "run the gauntlet." This is the Indian mode for inflicting this torture.

The inhabitants of the tribe, old and young, are placed in parallel lines, armed with clubs and switches. The victim is made to make his way to the convict house through these lines, every one endeavoring to strike him as hard a blow as possible as he passes. If Butler reached the convict house alive he was to be spared. In these lines were near 600 Indians, and the distance was near a mile. He was started with a blow, but soon broke through the lines, and was near the goal when a stout buck Indian knocked him down with a club. After beating him severely he was taken back again into custody and marched through village after village to give all a chance to see his sufferings. He made several unsuccessful attempts to


escape and run the gauntlet thirteen times. It was finally determined to burn him at Lower Sandusky, and but for a remarkable coincident that occurred while on his way to the stake, he would have been burned as proposed.

A notorious renegade by the name of Girty, who had united with the Indians and was a moving spirit among them in all their cruelties and massacres of helpless whites, was then located at or near Lower Sandusky, which was a favorite resort with all Indians. After attacking Butler with the intention of killing him, Butler recognized him as an old acquaintance of his youth and managed to make himself known. Girty at once released him, and prevailed upon the Indians to forego the great pleasure they anticipated in burning him for the present. After five days they relented, and determined to carry out their cruel torture, in spite of all Girty could do.

By a fortunate coincident he met the Indian agent at Sandusky, from Detroit, who from motives of humanity exerted sufficient influence with the Indians to secure his release, and took him to Detroit, where he was paroled by the Governor. He escaped, and being endowed, like Daniel Boone, to be at home in the woods, by a march of thirty days through the wilderness he reached Kentucky, where he continued to devote his indomitable energies to the interest of all in the new settlements.

But it is not the object of this work to dwell at much length on subjects connected with the early settlements of the valley, which is not lacking competent historians. All who desire may find reliable and interesting authorities in every public library.

It is a subject of great regret, however, that so little has been recorded of that which relates to the early history of navigation of the great water-courses in the Valley, as it has been so intimately connected with the settlement of the country.


Chapter XLIV. Early Navigation of the Arkansas.

THE first steamboat that ever ascended the Arkansas was the little old Buzzard, a worn-out rickety old craft that had lost all favor with every insurance company from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Her machinery had been sunk in one boat, blown up in another, and pronounced unsafe and worthless by authorized inspectors, and instead of proceeding as it should have done, towards a junk shop to be sold for old iron.

In face of all these disadvantages, the captain had the audacity to stick hand-bills on the corners and other conspicuous places, announcing that the new, staunch, fast-sailing Buzzard, having splendid accommodations for passengers, etc., would leave for Little Rock, Van Buren and Fort Smith.

The owner of the Buzzard who had no other home was what might be termed an easy, shiftless, no account sort of a chap, fond of sleeping half the time and playing the fiddle the balance of the time.

The captain of the Buzzard was a different character, a wild, harum-scarum rough species of early rivermen. The owner was completely under his thumb, he had beaten him time and again for interfering in the management of the boat. Such was the captain, pilot, engineer; much of the same stripe, ever willing to fight, drink, deal faro, play poker or any other game.

One day the Buzzard entered the lower end of a long reach. The engineer now set his engine and proceeded to the cabin, took a smile of whisky and commenced to deal faro. The pilot lashed his wheel amidships, lit his pipe and proceeded to the cabin to bet against the engineer and captain.

The owner of the boat was seated aft in the cabin consoling himself with a plaintive air on the fiddle, he was great on Virginia hoe-downs.

The Buzzard, left to her own guidance, was going ahead finely on her own account when she entered a chute, took a sudden plunge into the bank with uncommon velocity, crushed in her bow, and knocked a hole in her as large as a hogshead.

"She's sinking," shouted an Arkansas man, "tomahawk me if she ain't, sinking shure." The owner heard it but fiddled away with as little concern as Nero did at the burning of Rome.


"Three feet water in the hold," shouted the captain, "run the d—d old Buzzard ashore, if you can."

The owner heard these startling words, but continued to fiddle away. A passenger ran to him and bawled out, — "Did you know the boat was snagged."

"I suspected something of the kind," coolly answered the owner, as he laid his hand upon the violin.

"She'll be lost in five minutes" shouted the passenger.

"She's been a losing concern for five years," responded the owner, and went on playing his fiddle.

"I wish she would settle with me for what I have lost by her before she goes down, and be d—d to her," was the only answer from the owner as he moved the bow on his fiddle.

"But why don't you speak to the captain, give him some orders what to do in the emergency," said the passenger.

"Interfering with the officers of this boat is a very delicate matter," meekly remarked the owner. The boat careened, the next moment the cabin was half full of water. The Buzzard was a total loss.

The owner swam ashore with his fiddle under his arm, his bow in his mouth."

[From the Missouri Republican, August, 1822.]

"The distance from the mouth of the Arkansas River to Little Rock, the seat of government of the State, says the National Intelligencer, is computed at three hundred miles and the distance thence to the Cherokee Missionary establishment on the Arkansas at 130 miles.

Recently a steamboat, the Eagle, ascended the river the whole distance from the Mississippi River to within twelve miles of the Missionary establishment.

What a country is this where there are rivers navigable for hundreds of miles which we are just beginning to hear of. Surely the Arkansas is just becoming known abroad. If one steamboat trip to within twelve miles of the Cherokee Missionary establishment at Dwight, creates so much surprise among our Eastern brethren, how much more will they stare when they are told the steamboat Robert Thompson has actually made three passages this season to Fort Smith, about one hundred and twenty-five miles above Dwight, and upwards of five hundred miles from the Mississippi, and their astonishment will be considerably heightened undoubtedly, when we assert (and we do it from creditable authority) that she might have gone five hundred miles further without difficulty.



The sight of a steamboat gliding majestically through the waters of the Arkansas, in the very heart of the Osage nation, will be hailed with wonder and surprise by the aborigines of our country. And yet, however incredible it may appear to some, we have no doubt but that the time is not far distant when this sight will become familiar to them.

It is but little more than two years since we witnessed the sight of the first steamboat at the town of Arkansas, and not yet four months since we announced the arrival of the first steamboat that ever ascended the Arkansas to this place. But that which was a novelty to many of our citizens, a few months ago, has become familiar to them. They have already witnessed four passages made a great distance into the interior of our country by steamboats, and in future will look for their return with the same regularity that they look for the return of the seasons." — Gazette, Little Rock.

Chapter XLV. First Steamboat to Ascend the Alleghany.

The subjoined interesting account is from "An Old Boatman" who made the trip from Pittsburgh in 1830: —

It was several years after the introduction of steamboats on to the Ohio and other Western rivers before the commerce on the Alleghany warranted a great effort to navigate it with steam.

The current is strong and the water usually shallow and none but boats or light draft and large power are competent to navigate it successfully. Until the discovery of oil, there was but little for boats to do. The principal product on that stream for export was pine lumber. That was floated down on the spring floods and the lumber men's supplies was about all there was to transport for many years. After the opening of the oil wells an immense business was done on the river until the completion of some of the railroads, when it began rapidly to fall off, and was soon almost entirely monopolized by them, as are all water routes similarly situated.

An old boatman speaks of being on board the first regular stern-wheel boat, built at Pittsburgh in 1830, called the


Alleghany. This boat was 90 feet long and 18 feet wide. She was worked by a double engine, two stern wheels extending 12 feet behind the boat. On May 14th she left Pittsburgh, stemming the current at the rate of four miles an hour. The first trouble she encountered was at Patterson Falls, 115 miles up the river. This is one of the worst rapids upon the river. Here a very useful improvement aided the engine, a poling machine, worked by the capstan or windlass in the bow of the boat, which drew her over with ease. Montgomery's Falls, five miles above, is nearly as bad.

We arrived at Warren, nearly two hundred miles above Pittsburgh on the 19th. It requires from 18 to 25 days for canoes and keel-boats manned in the best manner to perform this trip. On May 19th she departed from Warren for Olean, in the State of New York. Next day she arrived opposite the Indian village of Cornplanter. A deputation of gentlemen waited upon this ancient Indian king or chief and invited him on board this new, and to him, wonderful visitor, a steamboat.

The venerable old chief was a lad in the first French war of 1744 and was then nearly one hundred years old. We found many rapids and generally very strong water. On May 21st we landed at Olean Point, nearly four hundred miles from Pittsburgh.

The boat left Warren on the 23rd and landed at Pittsburgh on the 24th. The time employed in running during the trip was seven days (running by day-light only).


[Items, Niles' Register, vol. 14, 1818.]

"The Great Western mail and stages," says a Brownsville paper of August 10, 1818, "from Washington City to Wheeling, on the National Turnpike, arrived at Brownsville for the first time, on Wednesday last. It will pass three times a week.

A regular line of stages is also established by which passengers will be enabled to reach either extreme — a distance of 270 miles — in five days, in the following manner: —

From Washington to Hagerstown 70 miles
From Hagerstown to Pratts 20 "
From Pratts to Big Crossing 20 "
From Big Crossing to Nichols, 12 miles beyond Brownsville 48 "
From Nichols to Wheeling 44 "

The promptitude with which this contract was undertaken leaves no doubt that this mail route will open facilities for


communication, and these stages will unite pleasure with safety and expedition far superior to any other in this Western country."


The above sketch will awaken early recollections and stirring experiences in the minds of many old travelers, who used annually, and sometimes much oftener, to cross the Alleghanies on business or pleasure, by the world renowned "National Road." From this incipient opening in 1818, by the introduction of a single line of stages to run three times a week, carrying the mail, there are thousands of persons yet living who well remember the time when they crossed this same "National turnpike," with a caravan of from five to fifteen stage coaches in a line, filled with passengers and drawn by four and six horses each. And they will not forget the excitement often caused by the break-neck speed in going down the mountain slope, especially in winter, when the narrow tracks were covered with ice, and the only safety was by putting the horses upon a run to prevent the coach from sliding off the track and down the mountain side. And even that precaution did not always insure safety. Still that route was so great an improvement over all others then available, that it became very popular and was the principal route traveled between the East and the Great West for twenty years.

The opening of the Pennsylvania Canal was the first successful competitor for this old stage route. But while the canal route was much easier, and shorter, and afforded many beautiful landscape and birds-eye views, the time required was much longer, and by business men was generally avoided for the same reason that steamboats at the present day are avoided.

But the canal was the favorite route for families, and thousands still live who remember among the most pleasant reminiscences of their lives, their experience in canal boat traveling. And some of the most cherished acquaintances ever formed was during these long canal-boat voyages.


Steam — A London paper of July 17th, 1819, says: "The Americans have applied the power of steam to supersede that of horses in propelling stage coaches.

In the State of Kentucky a stage coach is now established with a steam engine, which travels at the rate of twelve miles the hour. It can be stopped instantly, and again set in motion with its former velocity, and is so constructed that the


passengers sit within two feet of the ground. The velocity depends upon the size of the wheel."

There is a steamboat in America of 2,200 tons burden. The engine is of 1,000 horse power. It is called "The Fulton the First."

"The Erie Steamboat," from Buffalo, arrived on her first trip to Detroit, 27 August, 1818.

The Detroit Gazette observes: "Nothing could exceed the surprise of the sons of the forests on seeing the Walk in the Water moving majestically and rapidly against a strong current without the assistance of sails or oars. They lined the banks above Waldon and expressed their surprise by repeated shouts Tar-Tok-Nichee.

A report had been circulated among them that a big canoe would soon come among them from "noisy waters," which by the order of the great Father of the Che-mo-komans would be drawn through the great lakes and rivers by sturgeon. Of the truth of the report they are now perfectly satisfied." — Niles' Register, Vol. XVI. 1818.

Chapter XLVI. The Purchase and Settlement of Louisiana.

I. Historical Notes.

[From Internal Commerce of United States.]

In the early days of European discoveries and rivalries in the Mississippi Valley its comprehensive river system played a prominent part on the stage of public affairs. The discovery of the river, in 1541, by DeSoto and his Spanish troops was about a century later followed by explorations by the French under the lead of Marquette, Joliet, La Salle, and others, who entered the valley from the north. La Salle, during the years 1679-1683, explored the river throughout its whole length, took possession of the great valley in the name of France, and called it Louisiana in honor of his king, Louis XIV. Then resulted grand schemes for developing the resources of the valley, which a French writer characterized as "the regions watered by the Mississippi, immense unknown virgin solitudes which the imagination filled with riches." One Crozat, in 1712, secured from the king a charter giving him almost imperial control of the commerce of the whole Mississippi Valley. There was at that date no European rival


to dispute French domination, for the English of New England and the other Atlantic colonies had not extended their settlements westward across the Alleghanies, and the Spanish inhabitants of New Spain or Mexico had not pushed their conquest farther north than New Mexico. Crozat's trading privileges covered an era many times larger than all France, and as fertile as any on the face of the earth. But he was unequal to the opportunity, and, failing in his efforts, soon surrendered the charter.

John Law, a Scotchman, at first a gambler, and subsequently a bold, visionary, but brilliant financier, succeeded Crozat in the privileges of this grand scheme, and secured from the successor of Louis XIV a monopoly of the trade and development of the French possessions in the valley. In order to carry out his wild enterprise he organized a colossal stock company, called "The Western Company," but more generally known in history as "The Mississippi Bubble." According to the historian Monett "it was vested with the exclusive privilege of the entire commerce of Louisiana and New France, and with authority to enforce its rights. It was authorized to monopolize the trade of all the colonies in the provinces, and of all the Indian tribes within the limits of that extensive region, even to the remotest source of every stream tributary in anywise to the Mississippi." So skillful and daring were his manipulations that he bewitched the French people with the fascinations of stock gambling. The excitement in Paris is thus described by Thiers: "It was no longer the professional speculators and creditors of the government who frequented the rue Quincampoix; all classes of society mingled there, cherishing the same illusions — noblemen famous on the field of battle, distinguished in the government, churchmen, traders, quiet citizens, servants whom their suddenly-acquired fortune had filled with the hope of rivaling their masters."

The rue Quincampoix was called the Mississippi.

The month of December was the time of the greatest infatuation. The shares ended by raising to eighteen and twenty thousand francs — thirty-six and forty times the first price.

At the price which they had attained the six hundred thousand shares represented a capital of ten or twelve billions of francs.

But the bubble soon burst and its explosion upset the finances of the whole kingdom.

Some years later, in 1745, a French engineer named Deverges made a report to his government in favor of improving the mouth of the Mississippi, and stated that the bars there existing were a serious injury to commerce.


But France met with too powerful rivalry in the valley and in 1762 and 1763, after supremacy of nearly a hundred years, was crowded out by the English from the Atlantic colonies, and the Spaniards from the southwest, the Mississippi River forming the dividing line between the regions thus acquired by those two nations.

The Spanish officials, for the purpose of promoting colonization, and to aid in establishing trading posts on the Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Red and other rivers in the western half of the valley, granted to certain individuals, pioneers, and settlers, large tracts of land. They made little progress, however, in peopling their new territory.

But whatever progress was made under the successive supremacies of France and Spain, the Mississippi and its navigable tributaries supplied the only highways of communication and commerce.

In the year 1800, soon after Napoleon I became the civil ruler of France, he sought to add to the commercial glory of his country by reacquiring the territory resting upon the Mississippi which his predecessors had parted with in 1763.

To quote the language of a French historian: "The cession that France made of Louisiana to Spain in 1763 had been considered in all our maritime and commercial cities as impolitic and injurious to the interests of our navigation, as well as to the French West Indies, and it was very generally wished that an opportunity might occur of recovering that colony. One of the first cares of Bonaparte was to renew with the court of Madrid a negotiation on that subject." He succeeded in these negotiations, and by the secret treaty of Ildefonso, in 1800, French domination was once more established over the great river.

Two years later the commerce of the river had grown to large proportions. Says Marbois, of that period, "No rivers of Europe are more frequented than the Mississippi and tributaries." A substantially correct idea of their patronage may be obtained from the record of the foreign commerce from the mouth of the Mississippi, for nearly all of the commodities collected there for export had first floated down the river. Of the year 1802, says Martin in his history of Louisiana:

"There sailed from the Mississippi —

  No. Tons
American vessels 158 21,383
Spanish vessels 104 9,753
French vessels 3 105
Total 265 31,241


"The tonnage of vessels that went in ballast, not that of public armed ones, is not included. The latter took off masts, yards, spars, and naval stores."

This growing commercial movement down the river of the products of the valley was checked by a foolish or arbitrary order issued on the 16th of October, 1802, by the Intendant Morales, "suspending the right of deposit" at the port of New Orleans.

Marbois well illustrates the intense indignation at this order on the part of the Western people by attributing to them the following language: "The Mississippi is ours by the law of nature; it belongs to us by our numbers, and by the labor which we bestowed on those spots which before our arrival were desert and barren. Our innumerable rivers swell it and flow with it into the Gulf Sea. Its mouth is the only issue which nature has given to our waters, and we wish to use it for our vessels. No power in the world shall deprive us of this right."

Of Morales's order James Madison, then Secretary of State, wrote to the official representative of the United States at the Court of Spain: "You are aware of the sensibility of our Western citizens to such an occurrence. This sensibility is justified by the interest they have at stake. The Mississippi to them is everything. It is the Hudson, the Deleware, the Potomac, and all the navigable rivers of the Atlantic States formed into one stream."

At this time, Thomas Jefferson was President, and in view of the uneasiness of the Western settlers he hastened to send to France a special ambassador to negotiate for the purchase of Louisiana Territory. The opportunity was a favorable one, for France was then in danger of a conflict with Great Britain. The latter country had become alarmed at and jealous of Bonaparte's commercial conquests, and he, apprehending war and fearing that he could not hold Louisiana, had about determined to do the next best thing — dispose of it to one of England's rivals.

Marbois, the historian of Louisiana, from whom we have above quoted, was chosen by Napoleon to represent France in the negotiations with the representative of the United States sent by Jefferson. His account of the cession — the consultation between Napoleon and his minister — and of his remarks and motives, forms one of the most instructive and interesting chapters of modern history. Napoleon foreshadowed his action by the following remark to one of his counselors: "To emancipate nations from the commercial


tyranny of England it is necessary to balance her influence by a maritime power that may one day become her rival; that power is the United States. The English aspire to dispose of all the riches of the world. I shall be useful to the whole universe if I can prevent their ruling America as they do Asia."

In a subsequent conversation with two of his ministers, on the 10th of April, 1803, on the subject of the proposed cession, be said, in speaking of England: "They shall not have the Mississippi which they covet."

In accordance with this conclusion, on the 30th day of the same month the sale was made to the United States. When informed that his instructions had been carried out and the treaty consummated, he remarked: "This accession of territory strengthens forever the power of the United States, and I have just given to England a maritime rival that will sooner or later humble her pride."

Under the stimulating influence of American enterprise the commerce of the valley rapidly developed. In 1812 it entered upon a new era of progress by the introduction for the first time upon the waters of the Mississippi of steam transportation.

The river trade then grew from year to year, until the total domestic exports of its sole outlet at the seaboard — the port of New Orleans — had during the fiscal year 1855-56, reached the value of over $80,000,000. Its prestige was then eclipsed by railways, the first line reaching the Upper Mississippi, at St. Louis, in 1857. Says Poor: "The line first opened in this State from Chicago to the Mississippi was the Chicago and Rock Island, completed in February, 1854. The completion of this road extended the railway system of the country to the Mississippi, up to this time the great route of commerce of the interior. This work, in connection with the numerous other lines since opened, has almost wholly diverted this commerce from what may be termed its natural to artificial channels, so that no considerable portion of it now floats down the river to New Orleans." The correctness of this assertion may be seen by reference to the statistics of the total domestic exports of New Orleans during the year ending June 30, 1879. They were $63,794,000 in value, or sixteen millions less than in 1856, when the rivalry with railways began.

But since 1879 the river has entered upon a new and important era. The successful completion of the jetties by Capt. James B. Eads inaugurated a new era of river commerce and regained for it some of its lost prestige.


Another step of great importance to the welfare of the Mississippi was taken about the same time. The control of its improvement was transferred by Congress to a board of skilled engineers known as the Mississippi River Commission. The various conflicting theories of improvement which have for years past done much to defeat the grand consummation desired will now be adjusted in a scientific and business-like manner."


In considering this mooted question of river improvement it may not be uninteresting to note some of the arguments and efforts that have been made from time to time during the earliest periods, since the agitation of the subject of "Internal Improvements," in Congress, on the ground of unconstitutionally.

After a partial acknowledgment of the right and duty of the Government to make appropriations for such purposes in the act instructing Capt. H. M. Shreve to remove the Red River Raft, and subsequently the snags and wrecks in navigable rivers, the first damper that was experienced came through a veto of President James K. Polk, of an appropriation bill, involving the question of internal improvements. He, with many others, at that time, taking the ground that the government could not constitutionally make appropriations for such works, and very strangely included that of river improvements, while claiming exclusive jurisdiction over them and the "right to regulate commerce between the States." That put an end to all works of internal improvement by the government, laid the snag-boats to the bank, where they remained until they decayed and were then sold for a trifle.

After the expiration of Mr. Polk's administration and a more thorough discussion of the subject by the people, the conclusion prevailed that the government had the right and it was its duty to make the necessary appropriations to improve rivers, bays, harbors, etc.

From that time to the present the question has been what rivers should be improved, and how best to improve them.

The manner of improvement is still a mooted question, and conflicting opinions prevail. Every year, however, develops the fact that river navigation is not so necessary to the commerce of the valley as it was once supposed to be, and some large rivers are partially ignored, also many small ones, as being of no importance to the general commerce of the country — notably the Missouri, the Arkansas and some other


streams. Later on, when the demand shall have largely increased for transportation, navigable waters will again become important factors, and it would seem a wise policy for the government to abandon for the time being the improvement of such streams, and devote its energies to the improvement of those now requiring it.

At the present time, 1889, there seems to be a general falling off in water transportation at the South as well as at the North, and a feeling pervades the whole Mississippi Valley that the decline is permanent, and never to be recovered.

This conclusion is based upon the observation and experience of the last few years, and has not been arrived at too soon.

It has arisen from natural causes, the result of the progress of the age, and demands a corresponding advance in the system of water transportation to meet it. This may require some years to perfect, but it is not too soon to recognize the necessity.

Fifty years was spent after the application of steam to navigation to arrive at the best mode of adopting it to commercial purposes. Modern science has made available a more expeditious, a more practicable mode of transportation for passengers and many kinds of freight, and it is only a question of time when the same agency will bring about a corresponding system of water transportation.

These great natural water ways in the Mississippi Valley, so convenient and so necessary to its commerce, will never be abandoned or left as mere sanatorians to the country through which they flow forever onward to the ocean.

The rapid development of the country is slowly awakening the government and the people who constitute the government, to a sense of the necessity of so improving these great arteries of commerce that they will be equal to the emergencies as soon as they arise, which will not be long deferred.

To the boatman of the present generation, to a superficial observer, the "good time coming" seems a great way off, and they are ready to exclaim, all is lost! "Othello's occupation is gone."

But when we contrast the situation now with what it was fifty years ago in this valley, what may not be realized five hundred years hence.

The present generation owe something to posterity, and although their occupation may be well nigh gone, their experience is of value and ought not to be lost.

There has long pervaded the minds of many experienced boatmen that the puny efforts of the government to improve


the navigation of Western rivers would prove abortive, that no permanent good would result.

And such theories have not only been entertained, but of ten expressed contrary to the opinions of long experienced government engineers.

This is unwise and damaging, and a little reflection ought to satisfy any one that the only way to make the best, the most permanent improvement is through experiments. Hence, if the government expends fifty million dollars and fifty years, time in determining the best mode of improving the navigable waters of this valley, who can say it was not well expended?

That there should be differences of opinion as to the best mode of improving certain streams, there is no doubt. But to condemn any plan without being able to suggest a better one, is absurd. This is a sectional question and one upon which this valley ought to be agreed, and to act in concert. Otherwise we are liable to be combined against in any Congress and fail altogether.

To doubt the practicability of the plan of improving the Mississippi River, as recommended and adopted by the Mississippi River Commission, would be impolitic, provided the people of the valley stand by them and see that Congress continues the necessary appropriations from year to year. In the year 1872 the following communication appeared in the St. Louis Republican: —


Editor Republican: From recent surveys and estimates made by our present efficient and competent officer in charge of "Western river improvements," Gen. Reynolds, it is satisfactorily determined that a seven-foot stage of water may be obtained from here to Cairo during the lowest stages of the river, at the small cost of $300,000. (Greatly underestimated.)

By the construction of dykes or wing-dams, of piles, brush or rock at twelve different points on the river, it is estimated a permanent channel may be secured and with very little danger of being removed.

No one will doubt the expediency of the expenditure. And if this object could be secured by the outlay of $3,000,000 the merchants, underwriters and steamboat owners of this city could well afford to pay the interest on that sum for all time to come. But it is not necessary for them to pay the interest or principal on any sum to secure the object.


By a concert of action, prompt and decided, an appropriation may be obtained at the approaching session of Congress and the entire work completed within twelve months.

No argument is necessary to show the importance of the work. With a seven foot stage of water, flour was being carried to New Orleans for 40 cents per barrel freight; to-day, with a four-foot stage, freight is $1 per barrel.

The important question to determine is how to secure the appropriation for this specific work.

Since the government has recognized the necessity of resuming the further improvement of Western rivers, so signally interrupted by the veto power of a Western president, James K. Polk, various sums have been appropriated from year to year, to be expended under the direction of the engineer department of the government.

Last year the amount appropriated for the general improvement of the Mississippi was cut down by the manipulation of the committee on appropriations to $90,000, while it should have been at least $250,000, in order to have made available the snag and dredging boats the government had already in service, saying nothing about the iron boats it proposes to build for this particular kind of improvement.

A few thousand dollars expended at the present time between here and Cairo would be of incalculable service by a properly constructed dredging boat. But the meager appropriation is all expended, the government boats all laid up and commerce crippled in consequence. We cannot afford to dispense with the general improvement appropriation. Neither would it be well to suggest it, as every one knows who is at all conversant with congressional legislation, that the appropriation bill, is an "omnibus bill," and subject to be manipulated by all who have any claims for appropriations. And all portions of the Mississippi valley have claims.

If we can secure the appropriation of $500,000 for the Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Red Rivers, including the proposed improvement between here and Cairo, all interests may be pretty well served, and a large influence from all parts of the valley brought to bear upon the committee in making up the general appropriation bill.

It is fair to presume we can rely upon our Western members of Congress interesting themselves and doing what they can to secure this object, consistently with their other duties; but as their time is usually occupied in looking after the general interests of their constituents, it might be advisable to secure the services of some good, efficient man to go to Washington,


and, in connection with our delegations, do what lobbying may be necessary to secure that appropriation.

The object is worthy the effort, and no time should be lost in putting the ball in motion.

A public meeting of those most interested should be called, and the proper plan of proceeding agreed upon, and there cart be but little doubt of the result. E. W. GOULD.

Two years previous to the foregoing communication, or in 1870, the following is an extract from the same paper referring to the necessity of protecting navigation against the encroachment of dangerous bridge piers, and the necessity of larger appropriations for the protection of river commerce:

[For the Republican.]


Mr. Editor: It is a recognized fact that the public press is the medium through which all great enterprises are inaugurated, all reforms introduced, and new ideas promulgated. The all-absorbing public enterprise of the present day seems to be railroad building. One can hardly look into a newspaper, either city or country, without noticing one or more communications upon the importance of extending some railroad already built, or building a new one. Then follows a long editorial, setting forth in glowing terms the great benefits to be derived by the city and country through which it is proposed to run said road, winding up by an earnest appeal to the philanthropy or interest of everybody, to contribute to the great enterprise.

This is all right, and indicates the proper spirit. And whether it is all true or not, we want the railroads to develop the country, and whether those that pay for them derive the benefit or not, is a matter in which the public are not so much interested. But there is a matter in which the public are interested, and to this I wish particularly, Mr. Editor, to call your attention, as well as that of your cotemporaries throughout the West and South. I refer to our river improvement. This may at first thought seem to be a stale subject, one that has already been exhausted, and abandoned to the tender mercies of Congress. But let us see, before giving this matter up, what the facts are, what has been accomplished and what is proposed to be done.

The government, assuming control and jurisdiction over the navigable waters of the country, is the only party to whom we can look to foster and protect the commerce of our rivers.


And what has it done towards improving or protecting these mighty highways that float annually more commerce than our Atlantic ports combined? I apprehend it has done more to destroy the safe navigation of our rivers, by granting to railroads the privilege of erecting bridges over them, than it has ever done to improve them.

Seldom a week passes that we do not hear of the loss of some steamboat, coal boat, raft, or other water craft (saying nothing about the loss of life), while attempting to pass these railroad obstructions. It is contended they are necessary evils and must be endured. Although every man of ordinary intelligence knows they can be constructed just as safely, if not so economically, in a manner that will not materially interfere with navigation. It is only a matter of dollars and cents with the railroad companies. Not satisfied with granting to them subsidies by the million, in the shape of public lands, bonds, etc., Congress seems determined to sacrifice the commerce of the rivers by granting to them any privilege they may ask.

The question is not unfrequently asked by individuals as well as newspapers: Can not something be done to avoid the terrible marine disasters that are so frequently occurring on our rivers? Underwriters say, are we to be broken up, can nothing be done? Travelers hesitate, and often remark they would like to take a trip on one of those fine boats, but so many accidents occur they prefer staying at home, etc., etc.

Shippers complain of the exorbitant rates of freight boats are obliged to charge, in consequence of the dangerous navigation and the high rates of insurance they are compelled to pay, if indeed they can obtain insurance at all. Thus the whole community are directly or indirectly interested in the improvement of our rivers. And what measures of relief is the government proposing? What has it done to accomplish this entirely practical thing? Nothing, comparatively, nothing.

Three years ago Congress made a small appropriation, and ordered three snag-boats built. After much delay and perplexity in consequence of the red tape formality, the officer placed in charge of the work succeeded in completing the boats. Subsequently he was authorized to buy two or three more small boats for dredging, etc. With this little fleet he set to work to remove the snags and other obstructions from a given number of rivers, whose length embrace some 7,000 miles. But notwithstanding the inexperience of the officer in charge, as well as those of his officers and men, great good was accomplished. Thousands of snags and other dangerous obstructions were removed, besides many troublesome sand


bars on the Upper Mississippi were excavated, and navigation much improved. But, unfortunately, about the time the officers and men engaged in the work had become familiar with it, and knew how to prosecute it to advantage, the appropriation of money was exhausted, and the whole fleet have been tied to the shore at Mound City for months, while the officer who had the work in charge has been removed to the Northern lakes, and the men scattered to the four quarters of the globe.

If Congress ever gets through with reconstruction, and should consent to take up the general appropriation bill, we may hope to get another appropriation, provided our Western delegation do not sacrifice us to some railroad scheme. If no appropriation is made, the snag boats will soon become worthless from decay, and will then be sold at auction, as were those built by the government under the direction of Capt. Shreve 35 years ago.

The question that naturally suggests itself here is: Why this neglect? Why are such important maritime interests left so long to suffer, while the government is appropriating millions for railroads and other purposes annually? To be sure, Congress has made two small appropriations for the improvement of the rapids of the Mississippi. But the canal at Louisville has been ten years under contract for enlargement, and not finished yet for want of means, while a railroad bridge has been built across the river at that point in less than three years — a work of greater magnitude than that of the canal — and will do more to obstruct the navigation of the river, than the canal will to improve it, except for the largest class of boats. So much for individual enterprise, and the influence of the press.

Now, Mr. Editor, if you and your cotemporaries through the Mississippi Valley will take up the subject of our river improvement, and ventilate it, and advocate its claims with half the zeal and determination you do that of a railroad or other public enterprises, our delegations in Congress would never presume to return to their constituents until they had secured an appropriation that would render the navigation of our rivers as safe from obstructions as that of the lakes.

This is entirely practicable, as has been abundantly proven, and the appropriation of the insignificant sum of half a million annually, for a few years, will accomplish the object.

Can nothing be done to stimulate our representatives to move unanimously in this matter, and demand their rights? They have the power and ought to exercise it.


From about that time frequent conventions were held in different parts of the valley and the subject of river improvements were freely discussed and many communications were addressed through the papers in the valley. Among others were the following: —


Editor Republican: In a recent number of the Times I notice an article over the signature of "Pilot" in which the writer joins issue with me on the consistency of criticizing the work done at "Horsetail" and other points by government engineers.

I submit whether it is fair or consistent to indulge in any general denunciation without even an attempt at suggesting some better plan.

It is in effect saying the river cannot be improved, and this, coming from practical river men, who are supposed to know of what they speak so often and so confidently, may lead our representatives in Congress to conclude that it is not worth their time to urge so persistently, as they are obliged to (in order to secure anything) the necessity or utility of river improvements.

I am not an advocate of the present system of improving the river, if indeed there is any system. I have been of the opinion that the engineers having the work in charge have estimated from time to time what could be done, with the best results, with the small appropriations made — knowing from past experience that no large amounts need be expected, and have proceeded to make such improvements as in their judgment would most speedily improve navigation at the most difficult points.

That these have been the most judicious or the best that could have been made, I have no disposition to contend. I know of no precedents from which to judge. The character of the Mississippi is unlike that of any stream in this country where experiments have been made. And I doubt whether even our engineers know, except from theory, the effect that any given work will have upon the channel of the river.

They know, as we all do, that by contracting the channel or the river sufficiently, they will secure deeper water. But the cost of building and maintaining works that will secure this result must be for the present a matter of experiment. There is no doubt in my mind of the entire practicability of so improving the Mississippi as to secure a channel depth from St.


Louis to New Orleans of eight feet, except when the upper rivers are closed by ice.

If that were done but little embarrassment would ever be felt from ice below St. Louis, and there would always be water for all practicable purposes unless closed.

The best system to secure this result has never been submitted to my knowledge, or indeed any comprehensive one, except the one proposed by Capt. J. B. Eads. Whether his plan is practicable or not is not my purpose to discuss at present, but rather to urge the adoption of some practicable plan to secure the necessary appropriation for the work.

I cannot agree with "Pilot" that by requiring from "candidates who offer themselves for Congress, a pledge to try and secure justice to this great interest, we should get all we want."

We can get those pledges all the time and without any combined effort.

Experience has shown that something more than a pledge from members of Congress, elected upon a strict party platform, is necessary to secure the time and devotion the importance of this great work demands.

How many railroad subsidies and Credits Mobilier do you think, Mr. Pilot, would ever have been secured by this passive policy, relying upon the justice of the case?

Congress is not a place to look for justice, and if we wait for that our rivers will remain unimproved in the future as they have in the past.

Our claim is certainly just, but in order to have it respected we must send men to Congress not only pledged, but who understand the tricks and are willing to devote their time and influence to the promotion of the work.

We need not expect to effect it in one session. The public mind must be educated up to the importance of the work. Members of Congress from different sections of the country must be secured and made to see that appropriations for this great national work should not hinge upon the amount appropriated for small streams, bayous, inlets and unimportant landings.

General appropriation bills are a kind of omnibus bill and are open for all to ride who can get inside. And hence every member is ready to jump in and load the thing down with unimportant measures, without regard to any general good.

So long as we look to the general appropriation bills for means to improve our rivers, we shall never get enough to amount to anything. That was fully illustrated at the last


session of Congress. The bill was so loaded down with unimportant measures, the president assumes the right, when signing the bill, to cut off a large portion of it. This he very unfairly did by reducing the whole amount of the river and harbor appropriation three-fifths, instead of selecting the less important ones and leaving those he recognized as proper and legitimate to receive the benefit of the sums named in the bill.

But being upon the eve of a presidential election, he had not the moral courage to carry out his own convictions. Even in this case, if we had had the right man in Congress he would have stayed with the bill, and could have brought, in all probability, influence enough to bear upon the President to have induced him to have allowed the amounts appropriated to our rivers to have remained, as passed by Congress.

Now we are left with less than enough to remove the snags that have accumulated in the last six months, saying nothing about completing the works at "Horsetail" and other points.

It is now too late of course to expect to accomplish much in the next Congress. But if all in the river interest will unite upon some consistent plan of operation and push it as persistently as railroad men do their projects there is no doubt of the result.

At one of the early conventions of steamboat men, held at Cincinnati, I think, committees were appointed to confer with the Governors of States bordering upon navigable rivers, asking them to appoint commissioners — two civil engineers and two practical river men — (agreeably to my recollection) — from each State, to confer with two government engineers, as to the proper plan of improving all navigable rivers.

This, that then seemed to be a judicious plan of communing, fell still-born, I suppose, as most other things have, looking to the general good of river interests.

This or some more practical plan may be adopted, to set the ball in motion, and when once in motion it will only require the votes of its friends to keep it moving. Who will vote this ticket? E. W. GOULD. 1876.


Editor Times: I find lying on my desk a marked copy of the Memphis Avalanche, of December 13, 1879, in which he following paragraphs are encircled: —

"It is a popular belief that the Eads jetties are a success."


"There is nothing really very wonderful in this popular policy, when it is considered that the influence of the press has been mainly exerted in behalf of this stupendous jetty fraud."

"The power of the newspapers is sufficiently great to make even the government solid for the jetty business."

"When the cash is all expended, and the contractors can see no prospect for any further subsidies, the dredge-boat will be broken up, the materials sold for old iron and fire wood, and the famous jetty channel will be allowed to fill up with Mississippi mud, unmixed by man's contrivances."

Now, Mr. Editor, if you can tell the object of this unceasing war upon the jetties after everything has been accomplished that was contemplated by the contractor and the government, you will confer a special favor upon our river improvement interests.

While there was yet any reason to doubt the success of this manner of improvement, it was not surprising that the plan, the contractor, and even Congress, should be critcised by those who thought some other mode of improvement preferable, or who felt envious towards Captain Eads.

Among the latter might of course be expected General Humphreys, engineer-in-chief of the corpse of government engineers, and his subalterns who had years previously reported against the jetty plan.

But at this late day, after the work has in the main been finished and the contemplated result secured, why this long continued opposition should be kept up, especially by those newspapers whose interests are so closely identified with everything connected with Southern and Western river navigation, seems passing strange.

The most charitable construction to be placed upon it is, they have said "the horse was sixteen feet high," and are not willing to admit that possibly he was not more than fifteen and a half.

Even if, as the Avalanche man suggests, the contractor breaks up his dredge-boat, and abandons the work when there are no more subsidies to be paid, the government can continue the work and secure the present depth of water, which is six feet more than has ever been in the Southwest pass, with all the dredging it has done, and at one-fourth the cost.

But according to my recollection, the government, by its contract, has agreed to pay $100,000 a year for twenty years, to maintain the present depth of water. And so long as that contract continues there is no reason to suppose the contractor will care to abandon it.


Of this no practical man who is at all acquainted with the character of the Mississippi, and who will take the trouble to go down to the jetties and examine the work, will doubt.

I am, therefore, forced to the conclusion that those who keep up this continued fight against this splendid achievement of Captain Eads are either ignorant of the facts or jealous of the result.

I have none but a common interest in the success of the jetties or in Captain Eads. But I think where a man has accomplished so great a good to navigation as this work has already proven itself to be, under so many embarrassing circumstances, sufficient time should at least be given to determine its value before condemning it or his motives.

But what is most to be deprecated in this connection, is the effect upon the public generally and upon members of Congress particularly.

While vigorous measures are being taken by those interested in river navigation to secure the co-operation of members of Congress, and suitable appropriations to insure the improvement of our great natural highways to the gulf, to have a continued tirade of abuse, suspicion and doubt in regard to what the government has done or is trying to do to improve our navigation, can but embarrass all efforts in that direction and prove to those members of Congress who are always too ready to interpose objections to appropriations for river improvements, that money voted for this object is being squandered and no benefits to navigation derived.

This, to some extent, may be true. But what work has the government ever undertaken that has not cost more than it ought to have done?

The various plans that have been advocated, and in some cases adopted, for the improvement of the Mississippi, are, of course, merely experiments, as there is no other river of its character known to navigation, where improvements have been made to any extent.

If the government should expend a few millions in determining the best mode of improving the navigation of the great rivers of the West and South, after having almost entirely neglected them for fifty years, it would be no great matter. And it comes with a bad grace from us here in the West, who are to be the recipients of the benefits sought, to be continually finding fault.

Let us accept with gratitude what we can get and make the best use of it we can.

If we don't strike the right plan at first, or some contractor


gets away with more than his share of it, or the work proves a failure, we will try again.

The work to be accomplished is worthy of many trials, and the expenditure of many millions. And it can hardly be expected that a system of improvements commensurate with the demands of the commerce of this mighty valley can be successfully carried out without the expenditure of large sums in surveying, in theorizing and in experiments.

ST. Louis, December 17, 1879.

The following communication referring to debates in Congress on the subject of too much appropriation, is suggestive: —


To the Editor of the Republic:

ST. Louis, July 5, 1888. — I see this "omnibus bill" is again under consideration by Congress. But with what probable success of passing, "no fellow can tell." "Its logrolling" characteristics always endanger its passage, and although it has passed the Senate, as it always does, with some changes, it is by no means certain it will become a law.

And yet the friends of the Mississippi river, the main artery of the commerce of this great valley, upon which hinge the benefits accruing to all others in the valley, adhere to the time honored custom of coupling its fate with that of all small streams, creeks, harbors, etc.

The importance of this navigation, and the peculiar character of the soil through which the river runs, from the mouth of the Missouri to the Balize is such that a claim for separate and independent legislation by Congress, ought to be recognized and if the delegations from the valley and the friends of the measure would unite and step boldly to the front, and insist upon this work standing upon its merits, there is but little doubt of its being recognized. If not by the first effort, a determined opposition to include it in the general appropriation bill, for river and harbors, would soon secure the necessary legislation, and insure regular appropriations, as the work progressed. Even should this proposition be rejected for years, but little would be lost to navigation. The meager appropriations that are now being doled out from year to year when any are made, is barely sufficient to show to practical men and to engineers in charge of the work, what could be accomplished by liberal annual appropriations.


The general public only know how little has been done towards permanently improving the navigation in all these years, without knowing why more has not been accomplished and are beginning to look with suspicion upon every appropriation that is asked for and to doubt the practicability of any attempt to improve the navigation of those great national highways.

Senator Plumb struck the keynote to the present system of river improvements in his speech in the Senate last Saturday in discussing Senator Vest's proposition to dissolve the Missouri river commission.

He said "while he had never voted for a river and harbor bill, he would be willing to vote an appropriation of $50,000,000" if there was any guarantee that it would be judiciously expended. But he denounced the system of small and inadequate appropriations that could be of no permanent benefit to navigation.

He said he "was opposed to dumping it into small streams and insignificant harbors."

I think, however, the Senator from Kansas is in error in his estimation of the engineer corps of the government.

If correctly reported in The Republic's special of July 2 from Washington," he (Mr. Plumb) handled the engineer corps without gloves, and declared they knew nothing whatever about civil engineering. They were fancy military men who employed practical engineers to do the work while they went into society," etc., etc.

That is probably true in many instances. But to charge that they know nothing about civil engineering, and employ others to do their work, is not true when applied to the engineers that have been in charge of the river improvements in the Mississippi valley for the last twenty years. The rules of the war department are such that it is necessary for the officials working under it to use a great amount of red tape, and work is often delayed in consequence. But that is not the fault of the engineers. So far as my acquaintance and observation goes the government engineers in charge of the work on the Mississippi river and its tributaries have been good business men, with large practical experience in engineering, and in knowledge of the wants of navigation, with quite the average ability to manage and utilize skilled and unskilled labor, in the prosecution of their work.

Failure on the part of the Congress to make sufficient provision to prosecute a system of works to a successful termination, or to fully test any proposed plan of improvement, should not be charged to the inefficiency of the engineers.


The truth is, the government has undertaken to do too much experimental work at one time. For as still as it is kept, the improvement of such rivers as the Lower Mississippi, the Missouri and the Arkansas, is yet an experiment, so far as the best, the most permanent and most practical method of doing it is concerned.

Although the system adopted by the Mississippi River Commission, so far as it has been fairly tried, seems probable to be entirely successful on such streams.

Senator Vest's proposition to dispense with the services of the Missouri River, Commission is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and another one would be for him to move to strike out of the river and harbor bill the proposed appropriation for the improvement of the navigation of that stream. Although, considering his constituency and his own residence, it is not reasonable to suppose he would feel justified in making that effort now, even though the bill had not passed the Senate. But his observation for the last thirty years, I am satisfied, has been such that he could conscientiously oppose any more small appropriations, unless it was for the protection of the shores of some important cities and towns.

The Senator has seen in the time mentioned the river commerce of that stream fall off from the employment of sixty regular steamboats between St. Louis an Sioux City to none at all at the present time, except two or three small boats yet running at the lower end of the river, while the commerce of the Missouri valley has increased in that time probably 1,000 per cent.

Agreeable to the bureau of statistic at Washington, the government has expended a little less than $3,000,000 all told in its effort to improve and protect the navigation of this river, principally within the time specified above.

It is safe to say, however, that all the benefit that has accrued to navigation from the expenditure of this large amount of money has been counterbalanced by the damage produced by illy-constructed bridges.

It requires no further argument to show the fallacy of continuing the Missouri river Commission, or of the small appropriations that have heretofore been made.

If the experiments that are now being made on the Mississippi from the mouth of the Missouri to New Orleans are successful and secure good, permanent navigation the whole distance, it will establish the practicability of appropriating large and sufficient sums of money to make good and safe navigation on all streams of like character.


Then it may be possible, and even practicable, to secure appropriations sufficient to so improve the Missouri as to make it a competitor for the transportation of bulky freights, with the numerous railroads that are now monopolizing the entire commerce of that valley. But to persist in asking Congress to continue appropriations for the improvement of such rivers before they are absolutely necessary to accommodate the commerce of the country, or a plan has been determined upon by which they can be successfully improved, is unwise, and involves the liability of suspending work indefinitely on the Mississippi and other streams that are of great importance to commerce.

If the friends of the Western river improvements, both in Congress and out of it, would change their tactics to a less "log-rolling," or, as Senator Vest puts it, "a species of agreement," would probably secure in the end more satisfactory results.

"Capt. E. W. Gould is recognized by all as most competent authority upon all matters pertaining to our rivers and their commerce, and the following communication from him possesses much of interest to our merchants, shippers and steamboatmen:" —


Editor Republican: There seems no time so appropriate to awaken public interest, and especially that of business men, as when their business is being seriously embarrassed by any temporary cause.

That such cause now exists in consequence of the ice embargo there can be no doubt. I therefore propose, with your indulgence, to call the attention of shippers particularly to some facts connected with the suspension of navigation between here and Cairo.

It has now been nearly three weeks since navigation has been virtually suspended, and the probability is it will remain so for some weeks to come.

I question if there can be found a man in the city, whose opinion is entitled to consideration, that will not agree that if there were eight feet of water in the channel there would have been no serious interruption of navigation up to the present time.


I leave it to those most interested to determine the amount of damage that has already been sustained by the ice embargo this winter.

It is claimed by many good practical engineers that it is entirely within the possibility of modern science to so deepen the channel from here to Cairo to afford eight feet of water at all seasons.

If this is practicable, as I believe it to be, it would insure good and safe navigation the year round in some years, and but a short suspension in others. By deepening the channel and securing the banks, which must necessarily follow, if made permanent, the places where the ice usually blocks first would be easily removed by straightening the river at those points — thus removing in a great measure the liability of an ice blockade, except in very severe weather.

The principal liability would be in extreme high water in the Ohio, when the Mississippi is backed up and the current checked so that the ice will not run out. But as the water is always high at such times there need be no difficulty in keeping the river open at that point by moving a government snag boat, or any other boat, through it as often as might be found necessary and at small expense.

The only formidable objection that can be raised to this great enterprise is the cost of it, and I submit whether the damage to commerce is not (every winter navigation is suspended for two months) sufficient to pay the entire cost of the improvement — saying nothing of the great benefit to be derived during the usual low-water season.

The government has long since recognized the importance of this work, and has made many small inadequate appropriations to improve the navigation, but in consequence of not having first comprehended the magnitude of the work, and its great importance to commerce, the various appropriations have generally been frittered away without accomplishing much good.

The people of the valley have now so far waked up to the importance of water transportation there is a reasonable expectation that Congress will indorse the recommendations of the "commission" that was appointed by the President on the Mississippi River, and make the appropriation at this session to inaugurate the work.

This will be a great point gained, and will almost insure a continuance of the work to its ultimate completion.

But this proposition is confined to the river below Cairo, and will not be extended above that point for several years


unless active measures are taken by citizens interested in the commerce of the river, living at St. Louis and in the country above.

The present blockade is very suggestive, and there is no doubt that a combined effort by all parties in interest at the present time, would do much to secure the favorable consideration of Congress to our pressing and immediate necessities.

It is only by active and vigorous measures that we can expect special attention to this part of the river in the near future. E. W. GOULD.

ST. Louis, December 10, 1880.


ST. Louis, Nov. 17, 1882.

Editor Republican: There seems to be some apprehension as to what disposition is to be made of the $800,000 appropriated by the last Congress for the improvement of this river. If it is proposed to enter upon a general system of improvement along the whole course of the river, from the mouth to Sioux City, a distance of 800 miles, according to plans submitted by Maj. Suter, leaving the bridges unprotected and other important work at the lower part of the river neglected, it will, in my opinion, be a grave mistake if not a blunder, and will demand an investigating committee from Congress far more than the works or the proposed work of improvement on the Lower Mississippi.

Agreeable to estimates made and submitted to the secretary of war by Maj. Suter, the engineer more especially in charge of this work, it was estimated to cost eight millions of dollars, to secure a minimum depth of water of 10 feet in the channel the whole distance; provided the whole amount was appropriated at one time, and subject to the draft of the engineer in charge of the work whenever called for.

This or any other sum might be considered a prudent estimate, upon that condition, as it is not among even the possibilities that any such sum can ever be secured at one time for this work. And if attempted to be done by appropriations, from time to time, agreeable to the caprice of Congress, it will undoubtedly cost double the amount of the estimate, if indeed it is ever done.

I doubt if there is a man living, whose opinions are valid upon this subject, who will not condemn any plan of improvement involving the probable cost of this


work — between Kansas City and Sioux City — certainly not for many years to come.

A glance at the map will convince any one, who is not blind, that the distance across the country to the lakes or to tide water is so much less than by the meanderings of the river that the commerce of that portion of the country will never seek the river route whatever may be the character of navigation.

HOW TO EXPEND $800,000.

The distance from the mouth of the river to Kansas City, or perhaps St. Joseph, is not so great but that with the bridge piers, properly protected, the removal of snags, wrecks and trees, with an occasional dredging at certain points, the navigation may be made equal to the demands of commerce for a sum, probably consistent with the views of Congress.

There is no need of ten feet of water in that river. If six feet is secured it will be quite sufficient for all practical purposes for twenty years to come.

Such is the competition with railroads even now, that freights are carried as cheaply to and from all points on that river as to most others the same distance to a market.

If the present appropriation of $800,000 is frittered away in surveys, plants and preparations for a general system of improvement, nothing beneficial to the present navigation is likely to result, and if we can judge anything from the present temper of the people, it is fair to presume that the next appropriation for river and harbor improvements will be confined to strictly legitimate works. And there are too many of them in the West and South to jeopardize them by asking for appropriations for improvements not necessary to the commerce of the country for many years to come, if ever.

Would it not be far better and more consistent with the circumstances to economize in the use of the present appropriation and expend it in doing what is known to be practical work, and very necessary too, than to launch out upon an untried and doubtful theory, involving millions of dollars?

It is well known the character of the Missouri and Mississippi, below the mouth of the Missouri, are very similar, and as the system adopted by the "Mississippi River Commission" is yet an experiment, prudence would certainly suggest the wisdom of waiting until the result of these experiments is known.

Members of Congress from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and other Western States, who contributed so largely in securing


the appropriations for river improvements the last session, and who feel the necessity for improved navigation on the Missouri, will recognize the propriety of a judicious expenditure of this $800,000, well knowing that unless satisfactory results are secured, further appropriations will be withheld.

The whole amount of this appropriation can be judiciously expended between the mouth and Fort Benton, in the manner I have intimated, and good results secured for every dollar of it, and involve no risk or experiment.

Chapter XLVII. First Improvement on the Mississippi.

IN 1699 and before any settlements had been made in the Valley, Bienville, the French explorer, found the river partially obstructed at one point by a drift pile which he removed and allowed the water free passage. This was probably the first attempt to improve the navigation of what were termed Western Waters.

In a statistical work recently issued by the Treasury Department under the direction of Colonel Wm. F. Switzler the following interesting statistical account is taken.

The great diversity of opinion on this important subject is sufficient apology for the extended quotations from this valuable work.

While it is principally local, and confined to the Lower Mississippi, it is still national in character and involves the question of river improvements throughout the entire Mississippi Valley.

"It is now recognized by the Mississippi River Commission that levees are an important factor in river improvement, and that whatever is done to restrain the volume of the river within its banks will enable it to cut out its channel and to give deeper water and better navigation. This doctrine was forcibly enunciated by the Commission in its first report, and it has since assisted liberally in the building of levees, recognizing them as important elements in river improvement. On this basis, therefore, the amount expended on levees by the several lower river States may be properly included among the expenditures for the improvement of navigation. They


undoubtedly had that effect, as was well shown by the fact that in Louisiana, where the levees were maintained in the earliest day, the river was always deep and never troubled by bars, whereas above, there were frequent obstructions. As a matter of fact, however, these levees were created with no expectation or intention of deepening the Mississippi, nor, indeed, with any idea that they had that effect. They were constructed wholly for defensive purposes to protect the land from overflow.

The first work of the new settlers on the Mississippi in 1717 was to construct a levee for the purpose of protecting themselves from overflow, but without any idea of improving navigation.


The first regular river improvement was that attempted by the French Government in 1726, for the purpose of removing the bar from the mouth of the Mississippi, deepening its navigation, and allowing the easy entrance of its largest war vessels. At that time the Mississippi afforded a depth of only 6 or 8 feet, and while this was sufficient for the small vessels engaged in the colonial trade, it was not for the men-of-war seeking refuge in the river. The process adopted for removing the bar was one followed for many years afterward. It consisted simply in dragging iron harrows over the shallow places, stirring up the mud, which was carried away by the current. It was successful temporarily. The required depth was obtained, but it was only for a short time, and it had to be done over again repeatedly.

While some records exist of the work done on the levees under the French and Spanish regimes, there is very little said about river improvement. The only works undertaken were the leveeing of the banks, which had the effect of deepening the channel, the dredging at the bar to secure a better depth there, and the removal of snags and logs.

The Spanish Government, which devoted itself very assiduously to developing and improving the material resources of the country, cleared out the mouths of Bayous Manchac and La Fourche, and thus gave better connection between the Mississippi and these streams. As the clearing of the river banks gave a deep, navigable stream along all that portion of the Mississippi then settled (from Bayou Sara down), there was really nothing to be done save to keep the mouth of the river open and to clear it of floating drift. The first was done by the Government, the latter generally by the people,


although once or twice officers assisted in removing a troublesome raft where the logs and timber piled up in large masses, affecting navigation more or less.

The cession of the country to the United States caused no change. Nothing was done for the specific purpose of river improvement, although that was incidentally obtained by the levees constructed. About the time of the battle of New Orleans an important work was performed in the construction, under the order of General Jackson, of a dike over Bayou Manchac. Bayou Manchac connects the Mississippi River with the Amite, or Iberville, and Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf, and is thus a short cut to the sea. It was frequently used for purposes of navigation during the early days of the colony, and it was by this route that Bienville and his men entered the river from the settlements on the Mississippi Sound coast, thus avoiding the danger of a trip through the Gulf and passes and up the river. General Jackson's purpose in closing the bayou was not river improvement, but military defense, as this route offered the British an easy entrance into the Mississippi above New Orleans. The work, however, in the view now taken of river improvements by the Mississippi River Commission was an important one, being the first step towards closing outlets and thus confining the Mississippi to a single channel and forcing it to cut out and deepen that channel.

The large number of people who about this time came pouring down the river from every portion of the upper country, but particularly from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, resulted in some improvement of the river, or rather in the removal of the obstructions in the way of logs, rafts, sawyers, etc., that had previously existed. The work was done altogether by the boatmen. The States did nothing, and the United States Government did not recognize its obligations in this matter until about 1829, when it inaugurated, under Captain Shreve, the snag-boat system. Previous to that time, the boatmen themselves had removed, in their passage down stream, the numerous logs which obstructed and rendered the navigation of the river dangerous. The settlers were everywhere felling the forests along its banks, rafts and logs were being floated down, barges and flat-boats sinking, and, as a consequence, the river was far more dangerous than to-day. When the first steamboat, the New Orleans, contemplated making her trial trip to New Orleans, a special agent was sent ahead to examine the route and see what were the obstructions in the way and to remove them.



The snaggy condition of the Mississippi was such at the time that only three-fourths of the boats going down stream ever reached New Orleans, the others being shoaled or sunk on their way there. The losses were so heavy that the captains, pilots, and owners of river craft united in 1822 in a strong petition to Congress asking for the removal of snags. The petition received no attention for some years, but finally Congress recognized its obligations in the matter, and snag-boats were placed upon the river. Captain Shreve, who commanded the fleet, did good work. He invented a system of butting down the snags, and within a short time had cleared out the river. The work was one, however, that never had an end. New logs are constantly floating down, and the snagging branch of public service has ever since been fighting this danger, save during those few years when Congress failed to make an appropriation for it. Captain Shreve, who was one of the earliest river experts, followed his good work in the way of snag removal by a very unfortunate act. At that time, the general idea of river improvements was to shorten the river — smooth out the wrinkles, as it were. With this idea in view he inaugurated his grand scheme by what is now known as Shreve's Cut-off, cutting off a bend, and thus shortening the Mississippi some 12 or 15 miles. The evil effects of this act are felt to the present day. The State of Louisiana endeavored to offset it soon afterwards by making a second cutoff across Raccourci Point. While these cut-offs did not affect the Mississippi itself seriously, they ruined the entrance to the Red, Ouachita, and Atchafalaya Rivers, and have caused the expenditure since of hundreds of thousands of dollars to set right this ill-advised attempt at river improvement.

Cut-offs became fashionable, and all along the river attempts were made to divert it from its ordinary course. To such an extent was this carried in the mad scheme to improve the river in this way that the legislatures of Arkansas and Louisiana declared it a felony to make an artificial cut-off of this kind.

Within six years of the recognition by the Federal Government of its obligations to the river States in the way of at least removing the snags, Louisiana organized a similar service and assisted in the work, and Mississippi did something towards improving the navigation of those of its streams emptying into the Mississippi. Both States had received donations of lands from Congress for internal improvements, and the


proceeds coming from the sale of these lands were expended equally in the construction of public roads and in river improvement.

This, however, was far from all that the river States desired in the matter, and an agitation was begun in favor of river improvement by the Federal Government. The subject was discussed in the Southern and Western press for some time, and finally culminated in a convention, one of the first of its kind in the country.


In 1845 the great river improvement convention met in the city of Memphis, or rather there were two conventions that year in that city. At the first six States were represented, at the second twelve States, with about 500 delegates, and the president no less a personage than Hon. John C. Calhoun. This was not called specifically in the interest of the Mississippi River, but of internal improvements generally. In 1847 another river and harbor convention assembled at Chicago, at which were present many men who have since become noted in our country's history, as Abraham Lincoln, Charles Hempstead, Tom Corwin, Robert C. Schenck, Dudley Field, John C. Spencer, Horace Greeley, and many others. In 1851 a large convention was assembled at Burlington, Iowa, and was the initiative work in the improvement of the Rock Island and Des Moines Rapids of the Mississippi River. In 1866 another convention met at Dubuque, Iowa, and the following year witnessed another grand convention, and since that time there has scarcely a year passed that conventions have not been held at some of the principal cities in the valley of the Mississippi.

The four principal improvements demanded for the river were: —

(1) The improvement of the passes so as to allow vessels of larger draught to reach New Orleans from the Gulf.

(2) The improvement of the channel of the river so as to make it navigable at all seasons of the year, particularly that portion of the river lying between Saint Louis and New Orleans, for which a depth of 8 feet is demanded.

(3) The removal of obstructions in the river and its tributaries, as, for instance, the Rock Island Rapids, the falls in the Ohio opposite Louisville, the Raft in Red River, and similar obstructions to navigation.

(4) The prevention of overflows by crevasses, floods,


and freshets, whereby the fertile alluvial lands lying on the banks of the river were injured and damaged, and the course of the river itself obstructed with bars, etc.

These demands have all been more or less recognized; indeed, before the convention had met, the Federal Government had already recognized its obligations to the country in the removal of snags and obstructions, and had had its snag-boats at work for some years, and had spent some money in surveys at the mouth of the river and in attempts to remove the bars there.


The necessity for the improvement of the passes was admitted from the earliest days. The French and Spanish Governments had worked at them on the system of stirring up the mud at the bottom. The United States followed with the same system, and the first work on the passes was an ingenious but unsuccessful attempt to secure deeper water by dredging with buckets, a plan recommended by the board of United States engineers.

The Mississippi River, at its mouth, is constantly changing and shifting. This is especially so of the passes. Since La Salle discovered the mouth of the river, two centuries ago, the deepest pass through which vessels plying to and from New Orleans have sailed, has changed no less than four times. In 1750 the Northeast Pass was the one chiefly in use. Since then Pass ŕ Loutre, Southwest, and South Pass have been successively employed.

In 1835 Congress appropriated $250,000 for the work, that being the first sum ever given by it for this improvement. A survey of the work and preparation for the dredging apparatus, however, nearly exhausted the appropriation, and several years elapsed before anything more was attempted.

The deepest mouth of the river at that time was Northeast Pass, which showed a depth of 12 feet of water, a depth whose inadequacy for the commercial needs of a near future was overlooked. Vessels built expressly for the carrying trade between New York and New Orleans did not, at that time, exceed 500 tons register. Surveys and reports of the passes were made in 1829, 1837, 1839, 1849, and 1851. Shortly after the survey of 1837 Northeast Pass, then the chosen commercial channel of New Orleans, shoaled up; but Southwest Pass was found to answer present purposes, being only less convenient of approach, and it continued to be used with tolerable facility until about 1850. Then the increasing


draught of ships brought a new difficulty, and, "owing to pressing memorials of the citizens of New Orleans, Congress ordered an exploration of the region, and appropriated a large sum for the purpose of the deepening of the channel of the river." While various measures were being recommended, vessels of less than 1,000 tons were grounding on the bar.

In 1852 there were no less than forty ships aground on the bar from two days to eight weeks, many of them being compelled to lighter their goods, and some even to throw them overboard in order to get safely off the mud lumps. That year $75,000 was appropriated for the mouth of the river and a board of army officers appointed to suggest a proper plan of operations for increasing the depth of water on the bar.

The system of stirring up the bottom and dredging the river was recommended by the board; and, if that failed, the building of jetties at Southwest Pass 5 miles into the Gulf, and the closing of all the lateral outlets; finally, should this fail, the digging of a ship canal at Fort St. Philip, or some other convenient point, from the river to deep water in the Gulf. The system of dredging, by stirring up the bottom, recommended by the board, was approved by the War Department and a contract was accordingly entered into for deepening the South west Pass to 18 feet. The contract was successfully executed and a depth of 18 feet obtained in 1853. No further appropriation was made until 1856, when no trace of the former deepening of the channel was left. In that year $330,000 was appropriated for opening and keeping open, by contract, ship-channels through the bars at the mouths of Southwest Pass and Pass ŕ Loutre. A contract was awarded to Messrs. Craig & Righter for opening both passes 20 feet deep and 300 feet wide, and for maintaining that channel four and a half years. They constructed on the east side of Southwest Pass a jetty about a mile long, which, with harrowing and dredging, deepened the channel to 18 feet, which depth was maintained during 1859 and 1860. The war then came on and the passes were neglected. In 1868 a system of dredging was again adopted by the government, and a steam-propeller dredge was constructed at a cost of $350,000; a short time afterward a second boat was built. These two boats worked for three years, but in 1873 the army engineers gave their opinion that this dredging could not maintain a depth of 18 feet.

The great loss occasioned by the detention of vessels at the mouth of the river at last called forth such loud demands for the deepening of the passes from the most influential organizations


and men in the South and West that Congress, recognizing its responsibility, invited plans for the improvement of the mouth of the river. The two main plans suggested were: —

(1) The construction of a ship-canal from Fort St. Philip to the Gulf, as recommended by the commission of army engineers that had examined the mouth of the river in 1857, which, it was estimated, would cost $13,000,000.

(2) The building of jetties at the mouth of the river, a system of removing bars that had been tried successfully in Europe in deepening the Danube, Vistula, Oder, Dwina, and other important rivers.


The jetty scheme was strongly advocated by Capt. James B. Eads, the great engineer, who had constructed the Saint Louis bridge, and had been engaged in other important engineering enterprises.


In February, 1874, Mr. Eads made a formal proposition to Congress to open the mouth of the Mississippi River, by making and maintaining a channel 28 feet deep between the Southwest Pass and the Gulf of Mexico for the sum of $10,000,000 at the entire risk of himself and associates; not a dollar was to be paid by the Government until a depth of 20 feet had been secured when he was to receive $1,000,000, and afterward $1,000,000 for each additional 2 feet, or a total of $5,000,000 when 28 feet had been obtained. The remaining $5,000,000 was to be paid in annual installments of $500,000 each, conditional on the permanence of the channel during the ten years. This proposition at first met with vigorous opposition and denunciation.

When the matter was first submitted to Congress an appropriation of $8,000,000 was made for the Fort St. Philip Canal, which passed the House by a good majority, while at the same time the jetty plan was defeated. In the Senate, however, the canal scheme was crushed, Mr. Eads' arguments before the Select Committee on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard being so forcible that in the Senate the committee asked to be discharged from further consideration of the Fort St. Philip Canal bill, and to report as a substitute for it a bill authorizing the appointment by the President of a commission of seven engineers — three from the Army, three from civil life, and one from the United States Coast Survey — to whom this


question as to the proper method of opening the mouth of the river should be referred, with instructions to report at the next session of Congress.

The report of this board was presented to Congress on January 13, 1875, by the Secretary of War, and it proved favorable to the jetty plan, the board recommending its application to South Pass. Soon after the report, Mr. Eads made a new proposition to Congress to make a channel 30 feet deep at the mouth of Southwest Pass. A bill embodying this proposition was presented to the House in February, 1875, and passed it ten days afterward. In the Senate, however, South Pass, as recommended by the board, was selected. The act became a law March 3, 1875.

The terms were that Captain Eads was to obtain a channel 20 feet deep and 200 feet wide at the bottom, in thirty months from the passage of the act, and having obtained such a channel, he was to receive $500,000 for every additional 2 feet in depth, with corresponding widths at the bottom until a depth of 30 feet and a width of 350 at the bottom were obtained. He was to receive $500,000, with additional payments, for maintaining the channel. Up to that period the payments of the Government would amount to $4,250,000, with $1,000,000 in addition, earned by Captain Eads, to be retained by the Government for a certain specified length of time as security that the jetties would maintain the channel secured. There was also a provision in the contract which gave Captain Eads $100,000 a year, for twenty years, for maintaining and keeping the jetty works in repair.

The jetties extend from South Pass across the bar into the Gulf. The total length of the east jetty as constructed was 12,100 feet, or nearly 2 1-3 miles; the west jetty terminates opposite the east jetty, but its total length is only about 1 1-2 miles, the difference being due to the greater extension of the natural banks on the west side of the pass. Without entering into a detailed account of the method of constructing the jetties, their mode of structure may be briefly stated to be with willow mattresses laid in layers and weighted with stone, and on this foundation a concrete wall is built. After successfully surmounting innumerable engineering difficulties and embarrassments of the most formidable character, Captain Eads achieved a glorious triumph in his great undertaking, and the jetties were practically completed in July, 1879. At the head of the passes a navigable channel 26 feet deep and 165 feet wide was obtained and certified to July 10, 1879. Since


that date the semi-monthly surveys have shown constant increase both in depth and width. The bar at the head of South Pass, with only 14 feet of water over it, which lay like a formidable dam in the entrance of the channel, was completely removed, and the depth of water in South Pass was made greater by 2 feet than that in the two larger passes on either side of it. At the mouth of South Pass the current, which in 1875 struggled feebly against the frictional resistance of the bar that obstructed it, became, by the construction of the jetties, a strong and living force, which, attacking the obstacle in its way, swept it far into the great depths of the Gulf, and carved out for itself a deep and wide channel more than equal to the wants of commerce. The minimum depths through the jetties at various dates since 1875 to date clearly indicate the efficacy of the scouring process caused by the jetties. In June, 1875, the water was 10.2 feet. In 1876 its greatest depth was 23.5 feet in August; its least depth was 21.0 in May. In 1877 it reached 24.2 from October 25 to December 14; its least depth was 22.0 in March. In 1878 it was 27.1 feet in December and 25.4 in March. In 1879 it was 31.7 feet in December and 27.0 in March. In 1880 the depths were, June, 31.4; July, 30.8; August, 32.0; September, 30.6; October, 30.3; November, 30.8; December, 30.8. In 1881 the greatest depth was 33.8 feet in January, and its least 30.4 feet in November. In 1882 it was deepest in September, being 31.9 feet; its least was 30.5 in February, and 30.5 in April. In 1883 the greatest depth was 33.4 in June; its least, 30.2 in January.

Since then the jetties have been put to the severest tests. In 1883 the English cable ship, the Silvertown, put to sea with the largest cargo ever leaving New Orleans: 10,618 bales of cotton, 319 tons of ore, 24,193 bushels of grain, 10,750 staves, 1,000 tons of coal, and 275 of water ballast; a total of 5,020 tons, the vessel drawing 25 feet 4 inches. The City of New York also went through, drawing 25 feet 10 inches. She was a comparatively narrow ship, whereas the Silvertown had an enormous breadth of beam and was nearly as broad at the bottom as at the top, being almost flat-bottomed. The saving to the people of New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley by reason of the establishment of the Eads jetties, was plainly shown by Hon. Joseph H. Burrows, of Missouri, in a speech on the improvement of the Mississippi River, in which he stated that the transportation rates on a bushel of wheat shipped from the center of the Valley, at Saint Louis by river to the seaboard


at New Orleans during the three years 1877, 1878, and 1879, ranged all the way from 10 to 15 cents less than by rail to the seaboard at New York. That, owing to the jetties, half of the total grain produced in the 14 Valley States could be shipped from Saint Louis to New Orleans, instead of by rail to New York, with an annual saving to the seaboard at 10 cents per bushel, which would be $90,381,552, and at 15 cents per bushel, $135,572,328.

The following table is taken from the annual report of Major Heuer, engineer in charge of the jetties, and gives the lowest depth and width of the 26-foot and 30-foot channels through the jetties, according to surveys made in May and June, 1887, respectively: —

Distances from east point in feet. Month. Least width for — Least depth.
30 feet. 26 feet.
0 to 2,000 May 180 330 39.4
June 190 350 39.0
2,000 to 4,000 May 320 370 35.3
June. 280 330 35.4
4,000 to 6,000 May 320 390 37.1
June 330 380 37.5
6,000 to 8,000 May 210 290 31.2
June 210 280 32.3
8,000 to 10,000 May 210 290 34.2
June 130 250 34.1
10,000 to 12,000 May 230 300 38.1
June 190 270 35.2

Beyond the ends of the jetties there is a central depth of 30 feet on a direct course from the ends of the jetties to the sea; the 26-foot channel is 210 feet wide and the 30-foot channel 60 feet wide.

At the head of South Pass, that is from the main river into South Pass, there is a central depth of 29 feet, and the 26-foot channel is very wide.

Above Goat Island the central depth is 29 feet, and the 26-foot channel is 380 feet wide.

Near Grand Bayou the central depth is 28 feet, and the 26-foot channel is 200 feet wide.



The following are the expenditures at various times of the Government on the improvement and deepening of the passes, other than the contract with Captain Eads for the jetties: —

Year. For what expended. Amount.
1829 Survey $500
1836 Increasing depth 75,000
1837 Removal of obstructions 120,000
1850 Survey 50,000
1852 do 50,000
1852 Opening ship canal 75,000
1856 Improvement of South Pass and Pass ŕ l'Outre. 330,000
1866 Improving mouth of river 75,000
1867 do 200,000
1868 do 50,000
1869 do 85,181
1870 do 300,000
1871 do 125,000
1872 do 155,000
1873 do 125,000
1874 Improving mouth of river and survey 85,000
1875 Improving mouth of river 250,000
1876 Improving mouth of river and survey 115,000
1877 do 12,000
1878 Survey 15,000
1879 do 24,000
1880 do 10,000
1881 do 10,000
Total   $2,526,681
  Expended by the Government for the construction of the jetties under the contract with Capt. James B. Eads 5,950,000
Total   $8,476,681


In respect to the improvement of the Mississippi River for purposes of navigation, little or anything was done save at the mouth before 1878. This was due to two reasons — because the Government did not fully recognize its obligations in the matter, and because the removal of snags and obstructions was deemed sufficient improvement. The first work undertaken on the Mississippi was on the upper course of that stream at the Des Moines.

In 1868 Congress made an appropriation of $40,000 for the removal of obstructions in the Mississippi River. It had previously set aside $3,352,040 for the snag-boats employed in


service on the Western waters. This service was not confined to the Mississippi alone, however, but included work on its leading tributaries — the Ohio, Missouri, Red, and Arkansas. About 40 per cent., or $1,340,800, may be counted on as having been expended on the Mississippi below Memphis, which, with the special appropriation of $40,000 in 1868, makes the total for the removal of snags in that river $1,380,800 up to 1879. Since 1879 the expenditures on the snag-boats on the Mississippi and Missouri have been $495,349.77. Allowing 50 per cent, for the Mississippi, it gives $247,674.88 as the snag expenditures since 1879.

In 1878 the river and harbor bill included a number of items for river improvements, mainly at the harbors of the chief towns.

Memphis harbor received $8,300
Vicksburg 134,000
New Orleans 110,000
The mouth of Red River 190,000

In 1880 the appropriations were: —

Memphis harbor $15,000
Vicksburg 20,000
Natchez and Vidalia 40,000
New Orleans 75,000

In 1881, the following: —

Memphis 15,000
Vicksburg 75,000
Natchez 50,000
New Orleans 75,000
The Passes 10,000

The following are the amounts expended on the improvement of the Mississippi previous to the creation of the River Commission: —

Years. For what expended. Amount.
1871 Gauging $5,000
1874 Improvement of the alluvial basin 25,000
1776-'78-'79 Gauging 15,000
1878-'79 Protection of harbor of Memphis 83,000
1878-'79 Protection of harbor of Vicksburg. 134,000
1878-'79 Protection of harbor of New Orleans 110,000
1880 Harbor of Memphis 15,000
1880 Harbor of Vicksburg 20,000
1880 Harbor of Natchez and Vidalia 40,000
1880 Harbor of New Orleans 75,000
1881 Harbor of Memphis 15,000
1881 Harbor of Vicksburg 75,000
1881 Harbor of Natchez 50,000
1881 Harbor of New Orleans 75,000
Total expended on river improvements previous to river commission, except on passes and removal of snags $737,000



In the meanwhile in 1879 Congress had passed the bill creating the Mississippi River Commission, of seven members, to suggest a plan for the general improvement of the river and to control and supervise the work done. Under that body the work has since been systematically carried on with much larger appropriations than formerly. The following are the amounts voted by Congress at different times to the improvement of the river under the Commission:

1881 $1,000,000
1882 4,123,000
1883 1,000,000
1884 2,065,000
1886 1,994,057
Total $10,477,855

Of this there has been expended for channel work, as distinguished from levees, the following amounts: —

Location. Amount.
Memphis harbor $615,077
Helena reach 8,000
Choctaw reach 2,680
Repairs to plant 80,000
Greenville harbor 37,500
Vicksburg harbor 197,819
Lake Providence reach 2,415,902
Natchez and Vidalia harbors 8,253
Red and Atchafalaya Rivers 316,717
New Orleans harbor 233,195
Cubit's Gap 137
General service. 114,259
Total $3,979,539

The following is the levee work done in the same district by States: —

Tennessee: Lauderdale.

Mississippi: Tunica and Coahoma; Bolivar Riverton; Bolivar Hughes; Washington and Issequena; Ben Lemond.

Arkansas: Mississippi, Long Lake, Philips, 'Possum Fork.

Louisiana: East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, and Concordia; general protection of Tensas Basin; Point Coupée Morganza; general protection Atchafalaya Basin; Bonnet Carre.

The apportionment among the several States was as follows: —

Tennessee $100,000
Mississippi 624,678
Arkansas 404,561
Louisiana 1,342,810
Total $2,472,049
Total amount expended by river commission between Memphis and Gulf $6,451,588



Among the river States, Louisiana has led by a long distance in the matter of river improvement. This was due largely to the fact that it was first settled, and was most dependent upon keeping open its water-courses. The settlements in Louisiana were almost altogether upon the streams. To secure, therefore, communication with markets, it was necessary to keep the interior rivers and bayous free from snags and other obstructions.

Louisiana, in consequence, expended more upon its levees and river improvements than all the other lower Mississippi States. There were some improvements attempted under the French and Spanish governments, especially at the passes, as already narrated. In 1814 the dike across Bayou Manchac was constructed to cut off that outlet.

In the early days of the State a large amount of work was done, but mainly by private individuals, the steamboat men and keel-boat men. The Mississippi and all its tributaries were at that time filled with logs and snags, and navigation rendered dangerous thereby. These obstructions the steamboat men gradually removed themselves, opening most of the streams. There are, of course, no figures attainable of the cost of this work. If, however, the work done in the way of removing the rafts, logs, and snags be estimated on the basis of that subsequently undertaken by the State boards of works and State engineers the expense of river improvement between 1800 and 1815 was from $12,000 to $15,000 a year; and from 1815 (when the steamboats began running) until 1833 from $25,000 to $30,000, or $490,000 for the whole period. This, however, is merely an estimate of its cost based on the work subsequently done by the State.

After 1833 the statistics are reliable and authentic as the board of public works and the various other boards carrying on the interior improvements upon which the State had entered, were required each year to present full itemized reports to the legislature. These reports give the various works under way and their cost. The great aim of the State government at that time was to give all portions of Louisiana a route to market, which was done partly by the improvement of the interior water-ways and partly by means of public roads. In 1833 the legislature of Louisiana organized the board of public works, for the improvement of the State and particularly for cleaning out the streams, removal of snags and logs and other obstructions. The first work undertaken was the


removal of the rafts obstructing the Atchafalaya and Grand Rivers, and Bayou Sorrel, in order to open, the navigation through these streams to the Attakapas.


It became, at the same time, necessary to improve the mouth of Red River and the connection between that stream and the Mississippi, which had been injuriously affected by the cut-off made near its mouth by Captain Shreve, on behalf of the United States, in 1831.

The board worked zealously at these two enterprises, making, however, little progress with them, and fifteen years afterwards, complaint was still made about the raft in the Atchafalaya and its obstruction to navigation. The opening of that stream moreover had an unfavorable effect on the mouth of Red River. When the raft was partly broken and removed the increased current velocity of the Atchafalaya soon washed out the light deposits in the channel, and it was thus able to carry off a large volume of the Red River and divert that stream from the Mississippi.

The board of public works had complete charge pf all the public improvements going on in the State, the income being derived from the public improvement fund, obtained from the sale of lands granted Louisiana for its internal improvement. The work done was confined mainly to river improvement, the removal of rafts, dredging of the streams to give them greater depth, and construction of canals to give intercourse between navigable rivers. The board had three boats in the field, with crews of sixty men, and occasionally chartered other vessels. The operations for the year 1840 show work done on the Atchafalaya and Bayou Plaquemines, on Bayous Bonfouca, Packet, Manchac Pass, which was opened; Bayou Plaquemines opened to the Mississippi, where works were constructed to prevent the logs from drifting and causing the Atchafalaya raft; on Bayou Boeuf, opened to Prairie Jefferson; Tensas, to Bayou Roundaway; Macon, throughout Bayous Bartholomew, Des Glaizes, and Courtableau. The United States had undertaken the removal of the obstruction in the navigation of the Red River, near Alexandria, known as the "Rapids," or Falls. Louisiana also made an appropriation for this purpose, and an arrangement was made with the United States contractor to carry on the improvements under the State specifications for slightly less than the legislature had appropriated for this purpose.

The work was done mainly with slaves owned by the board of works. A few convicts were employed, but were not found


satisfactory. The expense for labor, therefore, was small. The total expenditures for the year were $54,895.54. Of this, $5,000 was expended to Bayou Courtableau under a special appropriation of the legislature. All but $1,017 was expended on the Mississippi or tributary streams. The cost of the works at the junction of Bayou Plaquemines and the Mississippi to prevent the deflection of logs was $2,080. The floating boom proved to be of only temporary benefit and the State found it necessary each year to remove the logs gathered at the mouth of the bayou and to make changes and additions to the boom.

In 1846 the State had at work three boats and 114 men. It purchased that year a snag-boat and a dredging machine. The total expenditure, aside from work on the levees, that is the amount spent for the direct improvement of streams, the dredging of channels and removal of snags, $62,668. It ranged from $50,000 to $85,000 a year for the next ten years. The State board of works continued actively on river improvement until the war broke out, with from three to six boats and from 50 to 150 men, most of them slaves, the principal work being done in Bayous Tensas, Grosse Tete, Courtableau, Macon, and the Mississippi, Red, Grand, and Atchafalaya Rivers. In 1847, under a special act of the legislature, a contract was made by the State with a Mr. Hoard to cut a canal across the Raccourci Bend, and thus cause a cut-off in the Mississippi River at that point. At that time great confidence was felt in cut-offs, and it was proposed in this way to straighten the river and reduce its length, and thus do away with levees. And as Captain Shreve had made his cut-off near the mouth of Red River for the United States so Mr. Hoard developed Raccourci Cut-off in the immediate neighborhood for the State of Louisiana. The work was done in defiance of the advice of the State engineer and cost $12,000. It consisted simply of a canal cut across the head of the Raccourci isthmus, through which the river poured, and in a very short time found its way, leaving its old bed a lake. It is now admitted that Louisiana made a grave mistake here. Instead of lowering the level of the river, as expected, it raised it, and the parish of Pointe Coupee below has suffered severely in consequence of these cut-offs, and has been compelled to raise its levees several feet until they are now the highest in Louisiana. Another effect of this work was to close up Old River, the connection between the Red and the Mississippi. This followed immediately after the making of Raccourci Cut-off, and in consequence of it and the removal of the raft in the Atchafalaya.



The unsettled condition of a large portion of Louisiana and the immense number of logs and snags floating down the Mississippi from the new settlements being made above rendered it absolutely necessary to keep up this work of improvement. Thus, we find that the raft in the Atchafalaya and Grand Rivers and at the junction of Bayou Plaquemines and the Mississippi re-formed each year and had to be removed. Although the work of improvement was under the control of the State board of works and the State engineer, it was really directed by the legislature, which provided that such and such streams should be improved or cleaned, in much the same manner as Congress directs the United States engineers today. The legislature passed, for instance, in the six years between 1847 and 1853, no less than 132 different acts in regard to river improvement and affecting the State engineer and board of works, and providing for the cleaning out and improvement of streams aggregating over 5,000 miles in length.

In 1852 commissioners were appointed and money appropriated by the legislature for the removal of the falls in Red River. The work was let out, but nothing was accomplished nor did a second appropriation bring any permanent good, and the reports declared a lock absolutely necessary there. [The falls have since been removed by the United States.]

The donations made by the United States to the State of Louisiana in 1849 of all the swamp lands within its limits, to be used for the redemption of these lands, led to a great activity in levee building and in the improvement of the streams. The State was divided into four districts, in each of which was a commission in charge of the management of the swamp lands and of the various improvements going on there. The work undertaken was of a colossal character, and included the building of levees, the digging of canals, drainage of the swamp lands, and improvement of the streams. Most of the works undertaken were ordered by the legislature. Some idea of the magnitude of these operations may be arrived at by the fact in a single district, the second, in one year, appropriations aggregating $352,500 were made out of this swamp fund. It is true that the works cost less than the appropriations and that there was a handsome balance left to the credit of the fund, but the activity shown in public improvements may be imagined from this total. The bulk of the work done, however, was the building of levees and the


digging of canals, not so much for the improvement of navigation as for the redemption of the swamp land by properly draining it. The work of river improvement by the State continued actively through all this period.

In 1854, notwithstanding what had been already done in the improvement of the Atchafalaya, the legislature found it necessary to let the work of cleaning out that stream by contract, the price paid being $15,000.

In 1855 Louisiana undertook the improvement of the Ouachita, expending for that purpose $8,935, without securing any benefit there from beyond a survey of the river. The special report on this subject calls attention to the increased danger of obstruction at the mouth of Red River, which entitled it, the report declared, to the constant service of a dredge boat at each high water, "since it is justly apprehended that at any season when the Red River shall have no rise subsequent to a rise in the Mississippi, the channel into it will most probably be barred up."

A timely warning this, for no other point on the Mississippi has given more trouble to the United States and Louisiana engineers than this.

In 1856 the State force at work included three snag-boats, two dredge-boats, and 95 slaves. The State engineers were also allowed to use, for the space of a year, all the runaway slaves in the Baton Rouge depot. The work to which this force was principally devoted was the cleaning out and improvement of the Atchafalaya, the removal of the falls in Red River opposite Alexandria, and keeping open the mouth of Red River where it joins the Mississippi. Innumerable plans were suggested for these several improvements, dams, locks, etc.

In 1859 the State appropriated $35,000 for Old River and the mouth of Red River, which had by this time become a chronic nuisance. Frequent appropriations had been made for this work — indeed, scarcely a year passed without it having been attended to and dredged; but the river was kept open in this way only a short time, and each report closes with the statement that the improvement secured was only temporary. On this point and the Atchafalaya, the bulk of the State river improvement fund was expended. In 1860 the State finally came to the conclusion that the only way by which the connection could be maintained between the Red and the Mississippi was by constructing a dam or sill over the mouth of the Atchafalaya where it joins Old River — the plan proposed by the Mississippi River Commission to-day. This work was ordered by an act of the legislature in 1860, but interrupted by the


war. The cost was estimated at $996,000. Another plan proposed at the time was the closing of Bayou Plaquemines (since done) and its connection with the Mississippi by way of locks (reported on favorably by the United States engineers) the cost of which was estimated at $226,000.

In 1860 the appropriation required for the execution of the several works, based upon the surveys called for under special acts of the legislature or under general order from the board of public works amounted to $1,288,765. Acts were passed by the legislature approving nearly all these schemes of improvement, and there is little reason to doubt that they would have been undertaken had not the war called a halt. None of them, however, were even begun; and during the few months intervening before the declaration of hostilities, the board of work confined its attention wholly to levees.

It is difficult to arrive at the amount expended by the State of Louisiana during this period for improvement. The appropriations of the legislature are far above the actual amount expended, running up some years to $500,000 and $600,000. The expenditures of the State board of works, State engineers, and the commissioners of the four swamp-lands districts were for the improvement of navigation, of drainage, for the opening of rivers, removal of snags, construction of levees and canals, and even of roads, and these are always very much mixed up with each other. It is possible, however, to disentangle them, but only by going over the expenditures item by item. The work was done mainly by negro slaves, the cost of whom was an important item, the slaves used for the dredging and snagging boats having cost the board of works no less than $275,500. In each report there is a demand for more slaves, and a request made that the State vote $250,000 for the purchase of extra negroes for this work. The engineer estimated in his report that the work could be done by slave labor at half the cost of free whites. In the following tables below, therefore, the estimates of the actual value of the improvements ought to be doubled — that is the work done is twice as much as the money value represents. In this cost is included the negro slaves purchased, as well as the dredge and snag-boats, lumber, and other expenses. These and the salaries of the State engineers and the actual cost of subsistence of the slaves employed on government work were the sole expenses, for there were no wages paid to hands. For a short period, the negro prisoners in the penitentiary were used in the State improvement works, but they were not found satisfactory. Later, the runaway slaves impounded at Baton


Rouge were required to labor twelve months on the government works before they were sold.

The following shows the amount expended by the State of Louisiana, or its districts for divisions, for the improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi and its immediate tributaries, aside from the amounts expended for levees, dikes, etc., and represents the expenditures for dredging the stream, removing rafts, logs, sawyers, and snags, for booms, dams, and other constructions to regulate the outpour of the river, for cleaning outlets, and in general for all works intended directly and immediately for the improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi and its tributaries, not including any amount expended for levees, for the protection of land from overflow, or for any other drainage purposes.

1833 to 1840 $445,724
1840 to 1845 302,120
1845 to 1850 317,472
1850 to 1855 212,264
1855 to 1861 377,120
Total $1,654,700

The amount expended during this period for river improvements by the parishes and private individuals was small, as the State boats went from stream to stream, clearing away all obstructions. Only an estimate can be made of these expenses, as about $60,000, or a little more than $2,000 a year. There has, indeed, been scarcely a year when the steamboats have not done something towards river improvement, and they estimate their expenditures or time for this purpose, even today, when the Federal Government has taken charge of the rivers at $5,000 annually.

The war that followed interrupted all State work except a little leveeing here and there. Nothing was done towards the improvement of the Mississippi and its tributaries; indeed, the aim was rather to close the streams and render them inaccessible to the Federal gunboats than to keep them open.

In 1865, immediately after peace came, an important work was undertaken by the parish of Iberville and the planters of the immediate neighborhood in the closing of Bayou Plaquemines. This had always been a troublesome point on the Mississippi, and as early as 1840 the State engineers had taken it in charge, for here the logs drifted from the Mississippi, interfering with its navigation and filling up the Atchafalaya with a raft. The river showed, moreover, a disposition to cut in here, and it was deemed necessary both in the interest


of its navigation and the protection of the interior country, to close this navigable stream. An attempt was made by the State engineers some eight years later to reopen it, but they were forcibly driven from the field by the people of Iberville. A survey has since been made by the United States engineers looking to the reopening of the bayou with a lock.


With peace, the State did not return to the river improvement works it had on hand when the war broke out. Both the levee board and the board of public works (recreated in 1868) confined themselves almost wholly to levees. The United States had fully undertaken the work of removing the snags and obstructions which had previously constituted so large an element of the work done by the State in improving the navigation of the Mississippi and its tributaries. The only river improvements in which Louisiana interested itself were at the head of the Atchafalaya, at Old River, giving the Red entrance to the Mississippi and the Red River Falls. For Old River an appropriation of $64,000 was made in 1869, but the contract became involved in litigation and another contract was subsequently made. In 1869 the improvement of the navigation of the Teche was begun with a series of dams and locks, but after the expenditure of a large sum it was abandoned in toto. An attempt was also made to cause a new cut-off in the Mississippi at Waterproof, but without success.

The recognition by the Federal Government about this time of the importance and duty of interior river improvement and the appropriations for the chief rivers of Louisiana, in the river and harbor bill, did away with the State work. The only State river improvement or expenditures since have been the construction of a dam across Ton'es Bayou in Red River, which work was afterwards taken up by the Federal Government, and the improvement of Old River, connecting the Mississippi, Red, and Atchafalaya. The last work undertaken by Louisiana was in 1877. Dissatisfied with what the Federal Government had done at the mouth of the Red River, and in deference to the requests of the steamboat people who found themselves cut off from the Red, Ouachita and other streams, the legislature voted $20,000 for the improvement of navigation at Old River. The work was undertaken by the State engineers, assistance being given by the steamboats engaged in the Red River trade; and at the expense of $7,220, the river was opened to navigation.

Since then, the State has done nothing save in the work of


leveeing and draining. A considerable amount, however, has been expended by private citizens, principally by the steam-boat men, to improve the navigation of the Red at Old River and the Falls at Little Devil's Bar, on the Courtableau, a tributary of the Atchafalaya. This cost, however, has been mainly in labor in the use of boats and men rather than in materials, and it is somewhat difficult to estimate it exactly. It can only be done on the basis of time consumed and men employed on the work. The expenditures from 1865 to 1887 for river improvement other than levees, has been $168,220 for the State and $115,500 for the parishes, planters, citizens, and steamboatmen, or a total of $283,720. During the greater portion of this period, the work of river improvement, snagging the river, was carried on by the United States engineers, and the State thus relieved from all except levee work.

The following table gives the amounts expended by the State or Territory of Louisiana in the improvement of its streams during the present century. It is restricted entirely to the improvements made for purpose of navigation, and includes none of the numerous works undertaken for drainage purposes, or for the protection of land from overflow or the redemption of swamp lands; and it is further restricted to the Mississippi and its immediate tributaries, which more or less affect it — the connection between the Red and "the Father of Waters," and the Atchafalaya, which plays so important a part in the improvement of the Mississippi: —

Estimated work done mainly by private individuals, steamboats, flat and keel-boats, with some assistance from the planters, 1803 to 1833 $490,000
Work done mainly by State and districts under boards of public works, engineers, etc., 1833 to 1861 1,714,700
Work done by State, parishes, and private individuals, mainly steamboatmen, 1861 to 1888 287,220
Total $2,491,920

As near as it can be divided these expenditures were: —

By State $1,826,235
By parishes, town, and districts 205,285
By private individuals, companies, steamboats and others 460,400
Total $2,491,920

The five chief items in this total were: —

Dredging the mouth of the Mississippi.

Dredging and improving the connection of the Red and Mississippi, and the Atchafalaya.

Removing the Plaquemines and Atchafalaya raft, a work on which the State was engaged for nearly twenty years.

Removing snags and obstructions.


It is safe to say that three-fourths of this sum went for the specific purposes.


There are no records whatever of the expenditures for river improvement previous to the American dominion, although several references are made in the history of Louisiana to work done, particularly at the mouth of the river. Judging by the experience in later years, it would be safe to put the expense of the work at the passes under the Spanish and French Governments at $200,000. Of the other improvements, such as clearing away snags, there are no records whatever.

The other two lower river States have done little in the way of river improvement as compared with Louisiana. They were both settled many years afterwards, at a time when the Government recognized its obligation in the matter of the removal of snags. The State of Mississippi co-operated to a certain extent with Louisiana in the improvement of certain streams in which they were jointly interested, notably the Mississippi and the Pearl. Some work was done in the matter of snagging, but this was mainly by private individuals, by the planters and steamboatmen. Latterly, the town of Greenville has expended large sums for the purpose or holding the river bank there, a matter of equal importance to the town and to the maintenance of the river and the improvements of its channel. The Mississippi has been eating away the banks at Greenville for some time, destroying the front of the town. For over ten years the constant caving has destroyed the permanent value of real estate, 1,200 feet of valuable property having been swallowed up by the river. The Mississippi River Commission appropriated $37,500 to hold the bank at Greenville, regarding that as essential to the plan of river improvement it is carrying on. The appropriation was supplemented by the people of Greenville, who contributed $50,000 towards the work in the way of bonds. A survey was made and work begun in September, 1887."


The total sum expended by the General Government from March 4, 1789, to June 30, 1886 (a period of ninety-seven years), in the improvement of the Mississippi and its forty-four navigable tributaries, was in round numbers about $51,000,000.

The expenditures by rivers, compiled and re-arranged from


the official reports of the Treasury Department, are as follows: —

Name. Amount.
Mississippi $29,785,666
Ohio 6,048,348
Missouri 2,866,965
Tennesssee 2,816,456
Kanawha 1,749,000
Red 1,443,793
Illinois 1,161,000
Cumberland 722,479
Kentucky 709,998
W abash 487,500
Arkansas 420,076
Monongahela 303,600
Ouachita 290,000
Osage 189,994


The next important consideration in a transportation line is the cost of construction. Railway stockholders expect dividends, and if their roads be extravagantly built the burden is soon shifted to the shoulders of the producer and consumer along the way in the shape of excessive rates. Even if rightly located and cheaply built, railroads represent enormous capital when contrasted with rivers made by nature at no expense to the people.

The 16,090 miles of navigable water-ways which constitute the commercial part of the Mississippi River system were constructed and presented by nature at no cost to the people. But they are just as valuable as if artificially built. They are the nation's property, and should, like its military roads, its custom-houses, post-offices, and other property, be kept in repair. Congress is the board of management for this purpose, and should, in guarding the people's transportation property, exercise the same skill and observe the same laws of economy as railway directors who are chosen to manage the railway lines owned by individual stockholders.


There were, during the census year 1880, 87,782 miles of railways in operation in the United States, built at a total cost, for construction, of $4,112,367,176 or an average of $46,848 per mile.

Now, in view of the facts and figures showing the superior and economical location of the Mississippi and its navigable tributaries, their wonderful commercial capacity, their facilities


for cheap transportation, the enormous annual products of the twenty-one States and Territories intersected, and the colossal proportions of their internal commerce, it may not be unreasonable to estimate their actual commercial value as follows: —


The Lower Mississippi, from St. Louis to the Gulf, at $468,480 per mile, or ten times the average cost per mile of the railways of the United States.

The Upper Mississippi, from St. Louis to St. Anthony's Falls, at $327,936 per mile, or seven times that of the average railway.

The Ohio, from its mouth to Pittsburgh, the Missouri, from its mouth to Sioux City, the Red River, from its mouth to Shreveport, and the Cumberland, from its mouth to Nashville, at $234,240 per mile, or five times that of the average railway.

The remaining navigable tributaries of the Mississippi at $46,848 per mile, or the same as that of the average railway.

We have then a total valuation as follows: —

The Lower Mississippi, from St. Louis to the Gulf (1,352 miles) $633,387,664
The Upper Mississippi, from St. Louis to St. Anthony's Falls (809 miles) 265,300,224
The Ohio, from its mouth to Pittsburgh (1,021 miles) 239,159,040
The Missouri, from its mouth to Sioux City (1,019 miles) 238,690,560
The Red, from its mouth to Shreveport (456 miles) 106,813,440
The Cumberland, from its mouth to Nashville (209 miles) 48,956,160
The remaining navigable tributaries of the Mississippi (10,774 miles) 522,542,692
Total value $2,054,849,680

In other words, the people of the United States have in the Mississippi and its forty-four navigable tributaries, highways of commerce and cheap transportation to the seaboard to the enormous value of $2,000,000,000. This property was a present from nature. The question naturally arises, will they manage it on business principles and keep it in an adequate state of repairs?


"The delta or alluvial lands of the Mississippi are subject to overflow unless protected by dikes or levees, the name originally given to these embankments of earth by the French or creole settlers of Louisiana. This delta includes portions of seven States — Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee,


Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It is calculated by the Mississippi River Commission to contain 29,790 square miles or 19,065,600 acres, as follows: —

[Complied from the Alluvial Map of the Mississippi River Commission.]
Basin. State. Square miles. Acres.
St. Francis Basin and Mississippi Illinois 65 41,600
Missouri 2,874 1,839,360
Kentucky 125 80,000
Tennessee 426 272,640
Arkansas 3,216 2,058,240
do 956 611,840
White and Arkansas fronts Tennessee 27 17,280
Yazoo basin Mississippi 6,621 4,237,440
Arkansas 480 307,200
Macon, Boeuf, and Tensas basins Mississippi 305 195,200
Louisiana 4,475 2,864,000
Atchafalaya basin do 6,195 3,964,800
Pontchartrain basin do 2,001 1,280,640
La Fourche basin do 2,024 1,295,360
Total 29,790 19,065,600
Square miles.
Illinois 65 41,600
Missouri 2,874 1,839,360
Kentucky 125 80,000
Tennessee 453 289,920
Arkansas 4,652 2,977,280
Mississippi 6,926 4,432,640
Louisiana 14,695 9,404,800
Total 29,790 19,065,600


To those who charge the government with too lavish appropriations for the improvement of Western water-ways may perhaps be enlightened by a recent debate in Congress on the subject of appropriations.

In discussing the Union Pacific Railroad indebtedness Mr. Edmunds of the Senate said: —

MR. EDMUNDS. No, that is principal and interest down to the 1st of July, 1885. There is twelve years of interest yet on $33,000,000, which would be, at 6 per cent., 72 per cent.


on $33,000,000, which, in round numbers, is three-quarters of that, which would be about $24,000,000 more, which added to your $68,000,000, leaving off the odd hundred thousands, would make $92,000,000, that within ten years from this date will be due to the United States from this corporation for actual cash that the United States will have paid out.

Now, what else did it get? Let us see. The land question is stated in the same report. The net proceeds of land sales, after deducting all expenses of management, commission, etc., to December 31, 1884, were $25,668,806.65. Add that twenty-five million dollars to the ninety-odd millions that I had before and you have, in round numbers, just about $120,000,000 of cash that this company will have had from the United States.

"The estimated value of the unsold lands is $13,602,696.25."

Take that to be a fair estimate of the value and add that to your $120,000,000, and you have $134,000,000 that the people of the United States have paid into this thousand miles of road from Omaha to Ogden.

The amount appropriated for the improvement of the rivers of the Mississippi Valley, as shown in the various reports published in this work, sink into insignificance when compared with the subsidies granted this single road. And while the latter is claimed to be a loan, in part, there are very grave doubts whether the government will ever be able to collect even the interest, much less the principal.

In discussing the subject of river and harbor appropriations, it was shown that out of $105,000,000 that had been expended up to 1882 — $19,000,000 had been expended on the Mississippi River, and several millions have since been absorbed.

The following table will surprise some who are not aware of the distribution that has been made of the river and harbor appropriations up to 1882 by States. There is no comparative statement at hand by which it may be seen whether the same proportionate division has been continued up to the present time: —

There had been expended up to 1882 the sum of $105,000,000. Most of that has been expended since 1865. There has been expended of this sum on the Mississippi River up to 1882, $19,536,000, and several millions have been expended since. In other words, we have chiefly within the last fifteen or twenty years made an expenditure of more than $125,000,000 on rivers and harbors, and each year we are continuing


to increase that amount by similar expenditures. The expenditure up to 1882 by States is as follows: —

Alabama $956,142
Arkansas 315,000
California 1,493,428
Connecticut 1,527,448
Delaware 3,043,636
Florida 680,352
Georgia 1,364,064
Idaho Territory 10,000
Illinois 2,352,304
Indiana 786,198
Iowa 2,499
Kentucky 367,500
Louisiana 147,809
Maine 1,404,889
Maryland 1,485,769
Massachusetts 2,928,779
Michigan 7,828,356
Minnesota 447,500
Missouri 22,000
Mississippi 295,175
New Hampshire 175,500
New Jersey 987,496
New York 9,539,973
North Carolina 2,261,202
Ohio 2,857,031
Oregon 649,305
Pennsylvania 1,067,101
Rhode Island 733,613
South Carolina 931,342
Tennessee 85,500
Texas 2,166,133
Vermont 545,311
Virginia 1,683,375
Washington Territory 5,500
West Virginia 1,387,587
Wisconsin 4,616,495
District of Columbia 253,202
Miscellaneous 88,349,198
Total $105,796,403


"Old Timer" furnishes the New Orleans Times-Democrat with the following chronicles of cut-offs in the days of auld lang syne: —

The total number of cut-offs which have been made in the direction of the serpentine course of the Lower Mississippi by the shifting of its alluvial course at various times since 1699 are computed at no less than 180 miles. The channel is estimated to have been regularly changing for ages at the rate of two miles per year. It has probably thus traversed the whole alluvial surface of the States of Louisiana and Mississippi


particularly the delta of the former, which is so low. The following are some of the cut-offs, commencing with the earliest of record: —

1. About 1699 it is supposed that the Yazoo cut-off took place and Old River was formed.

2. The first Homochitto cut-off in 1720, which saved a distance of thirty miles. Previously the river washed the highlands of the present county of Adams.

3. Point Coupee cut-off was made in 1721.

4. Great Cut Point. This cut-off is the one above latitude 33 degrees, and was made about the year 1747.

5. The second Homochitto cut-off in 1779. This burst through in one night while a boat ascending the stream lay just above it.

6. New cut-off, in 1817.

7. Red River cut-off, in 1831.

8. Bunch's cut-off in 1832.

Total extent of these cut-offs, 180 miles.

Niles' Register, October, 1836: The distance around the bend of the Mississippi, into which the Red River empties itself, is eighteen miles. On the 14th of January, 1831, Captain Shreve, the superintendent for improving the navigation of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, commenced making an excavation across the neck of land at the narrowest point. The object was effected by cutting a canal seventeen feet wide and twenty-two feet deep. The water was let through the canal about the 28th of January, fourteen days after the commencement of the work. In two days the water had excavated a channel to such an extent that the steamboat Belvidere passed up through it. On the same day the United States steamer Heliopolis passed up the same channel. In five days it was the main channel of the river. The excavation was made by the steam snag-boat Heliopolis. She used steam scrapers.

August 20, 1831, Florida Gazette, La., says "By shortening the river twenty leagues between Fort Adams and New Orleans you increase the rise of water at New Orleans, by 7 feet and 1 inch. Captain Shreve has therefore been tampering with a dangerous subject, and it is to be hoped that no more such experiments will be tried. It is well known that the levee is a heavy burden in lower Louisiana. In 1828 there was not, on an average, 6 inches of levee above the level of the river from Point Coupee to New Orleans. If the cut-off at Raccourei is


made, by which twenty-eight miles will be saved, the rise of the river at the lower point will be about 3 feet 9 inches, and the levee at New Orleans must be raised 5 feet higher."

There has been since "Old Timer's" day or since the Red River cut-off, the following: Agreeable to Captain Isaiah Seller's diary Horse Shoe cut-off was made in 1839. In 1847 Rackasee cut-off was made; in 1858 Lake Port, then followed in rapid succession the cut-offs at the mouth of Arkansas, Terrapin and Davis cut-off. In 1876, the cut-offs at Commerce, Centennial or Island 37 was made, Vicksburg, Water Proof and Kaskaskia about the same time. The latter is the only cut-off above the mouth of the Ohio on the Mississippi of which there is any record.

If "Old Timer" is correct in his calculations, and there was saved in distance 180 miles in 132 years, by eight cut-offs, we now find eleven cut-offs, from 1839 to about 1885, or say 46 years, some one has suggested that it would be an interesting problem for a curious mathematician to determine how many years it will require to bring Cairo and the Gulf of Mexico into close proximity.

The writer in the Florida Gazette, La., above quoted, is doubtless in error about the effect of shortening the river, although there is no doubt a cut-off raises the water immediately below. But the increase in the velocity of the current and the increased scour on the bottom of the river corresponding with the velocity, very naturally modifies the rise, and it soon adjusts itself, but renders necessary increased protection to caving banks.


Chapter XLVIII. Improvement of Mississippi Above St. Louis, or Upper Mississippi.

The character of the river above the mouth of the Missouri differs so much from that below there seems necessary an entirely different system of improvement.

The plans adopted so far as executed, seem to have resulted successfully. The great natural obstructions "the lower and the upper rapids," as they are familiarly known, have been materially improved. The lower, or "DesMoine Rapids," by a canal of 8 miles. The upper or "Rock Island Rapids," by the excavation of rock from the channel. The system of dredging and wing dams seems adapted to the improvement of the low water embarrassment in other parts of the river and if continued may result in furnishing sufficient water in the channel for all navigable purposes. From present indications the sixteen railroad bridges across this river above St. Louis, so obstruct the navigation and restrict the commerce of the river, that the time is not far distant when the lumber traffic, the raft towing, will comprise its principal commerce. The careless and indifferent manner in which the government has allowed the railroad bridges to be built, seems to have pretty nearly accomplished two objects, whether intended or not, viz.: to change the course of trade from north and south, to east and west, and to so obstruct navigation as to destroy competition.

The first bridge across the Mississippi was at Rock Island. It was a draw-bridge and built without any legal authority, simply by a charter from the State of Illinois. It was commenced in 1853 and finished in 1856, and was the most dangerous obstruction to navigation ever constructed, on account of its being located over a chain of rocks, producing boils and cross-currents which were difficult to keep a boat in. Many lives were lost in passing through the draw, and under the bridge, and many rafts were broken up. One fine steamboat, the Effa Afton, was sunk and a large number of lives lost. An effort was made by the river interest to have the bridge removed as an illegal structure and dangerous to navigation. But such was the persistency of the proprietors they defeated every effort in the several courts to which it was carried, and after fighting the bridge for more than ten years with the


money and influence of the Merchants' Exchange of St. Louis, as well as that of many citizens along the river, and the best legal talent that could be employed, the bridge remained until removed by act of Congress in 1872, when by a sort of compromise the government built another bridge higher up the river at the head of the Island, and removed the old one.

After the expenditure of more than $20,000 in litigation, of which the boatmen contributed very liberally, and to no purpose, they concluded it was not worth time or money to attempt to defeat a railroad in building bridges wherever they desired. Hence, whenever a road reached the bank of the river, they met with but little opposition in building any kind of a bridge they fancied. The result is, there is already 16 bridges on the Upper Mississippi, scarcely any one of which was built with any regard to the navigation of the river except the government bridge at Rock Island.

There has been expended by the government for improvement of navigation up to the present time, January, 1889, on the river above St. Louis, in round numbers, about eight million dollars, including the canal at the lower rapids which cost about $4,000,000. In 1837, the government undertook to make an improvement on the lower rapids under the direction of Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, of the Engineer Corps, by blasting out a channel through what is known as the "lower chain" or "Sucker Chute." It was a valuable improvement as far as it went, and is still used as the channel in low waiter. But the appropriation was soon exhausted and the work was abandoned. President James K. Folk's strict "construction" theory soon prevailed, and no more money for several years was appropriated for "Internal Improvements," among which was very inconsistently classed "inland waters."

The theory that has more recently prevailed in the public mind, that all problems of cheap transportation would be solved by the introduction of barges as soon as navigation shall be so improved as to make the towing of them practicable, will probably never be realized on the Upper Mississippi.

From the earliest dates, since the settlement of the country required river transportation, barges or keel-boats have been important factors. Even before the introduction of steam they were here, as on other Western streams in general use, only of a little different character. They were known as "keel-boats" and the only change effected by the introduction of steamboats, was, they were towed instead of being floated and handled by sweeps, as formerly.

The great distance (some 30 miles), through which the rapids


extend; with only 125 miles between the two, with some two feet less water across them than was found in the ordinary channel, rendered towing always practicable except in high water. The same custom still prevails, and while the canal and the deepening of the channel across the upper rapids have greatly improved the navigation, saying nothing about the other improvements still going on, the damage consequent upon the construction of so many badly protected bridge piers has done far more to destroy the safety of navigation than the eight million dollars expended by the government has done to improve it.

In this utilitarian age, it is hardly worth while to speculate or theorize upon the distant future or of what may occur. But there are a few old boatmen and citizens who still remember the beautiful scenery and picturesque views along the whole course of this river, from the foot of the lower rapids (Keokuk), to the Falls of St. Anthony, when the Indians were the sole occupants and owners on the west side, with but few white settlements on the east side of the river.

Even at that early day, before St. Paul was located, or Minneapolis thought of, an occasional tourist, attracted by the beauty of the scenery in its native wildness, would take passage on some of the few boats that annually made a trip to the forts and trading posts with soldiers and supplies.

Through the courtesy of the officers at Fort Snelling, the head of navigation, an additional pleasure was afforded them, and the officers of the boats by a trip in the government wagons, across the beautiful prairie, a distance of nine miles from the Falls St. Anthony, taking in on the route the picturesque little waterfall of "Minnehaha."

The only evidences of civilization then to be seen where the large city of Minneapolis now stands, was a little log grist mill built by the soldiers on the bank of the river in the midst of the falls from whence power was obtained to grind the corn for the use of the garrison nine miles distant.

While these wild native scenes are vividly remembered by the past and the present generations, what may not be anticipated by coming generations, when we contemplate the unsurpassed beauty and fertility of this valley and the grandeur and possibilities of this noble river which meanders a distance of 600 miles through this part of the valley in its course to the gulf.

No one mile through which it courses but what is susceptible of the highest cultivation and offers the rarest attractions for building hamlets, villas, towns and cities.

In anticipation of future events it is gratifying to know the


government has the power to remove or remodel these illy constructed bridges. But from past experience it is well to remember that the sentiment of the people must be remodeled before it can be done. The practical question suggests itself. Is it not wise to construct them properly at first? Of this the government should consider.

The long intervals between boats at that early period, sometimes rendered a resort to the canoe and pirogue necessary to travelers and tourists when it became important or desirable for them to leave the country before the arrival of the next steamboat.

This writer can speak knowingly and feelingly on this subject, he being desirous of attending the first sale of pine lands on the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers by the Chippewa Indians, in 1838.

The sale was advertised to take place at Fort Snelling on a certain date. Having arrived there by steamboat a short time previous to the day of sale, I concluded to remain with some Indian traders living across the river from the fort whose acquaintance I had made.

Indians being a good deal like white men are often a "little uncertain," and for some reason failed to arrive on the day appointed for the sale, and as the sale was possible to be deferred from time to time, a small party of us who were there for the same purpose concluded to buy two bark canoes and a small outfit, and explore the country that was to be sold.

It lay about 150 miles east, by the way of the Mississippi and Chippewa Rivers. Across the country it was much less. But as there were no roads, guides, nor means of conveyance, we took the natural route, packed our canoes and started down the river.

When night came we had reached Red Wing, the Indian village of the Sioux. But as their accommodations were only sufficient for themselves, we made our camp on the bank of the river where we entertained the whole village during the evening.

There being four in our party we divided he night into four watches, each standing two hours.

Tents had not then become so necessary to campers as they are now, and we depended upon the clerk of the weather for protection from storms in the absence of the Signal Service Bureau. But having failed to provide ourselves with mosquito bars, all other protection sunk into insignificance. We could have withstood a hard storm, even a raid from the Indians, anything that could have saved us from the persistency and


poisonous effects of these venomous insects. Even in mid-day or in a gale of wind it was all the same. They seemed to have existed so long on Indian diet that the blood of the white man was a luxury they could not resist. And still, judging from the size to which they had attained, there could be no doubt that their diet was at least strengthening. The swamps and morasses of Mississippi or Louisiana, where they feast upon shrimps or alligators the year round, never produced such bloodthirsty fiends as the Upper Mississippi did before the white man squatted on its banks. What effect civilization has had upon them this deponent sayeth not. After battling two days with heavy winds through Lake Pepin, we at length reached the mouth of the Chippewa. Then came the tug of war. Recent rains had swollen that stream, so that in spite of our efforts, after dropping one canoe and doubling our propelling power, we could only make about half a mile per hour. We were therefore compelled to the conclusion that we did not care about buying pine lands any way. And as we were then some eighty miles from the fort down stream, we ceased paddling our canoe and soon found ourselves floating out onto the broad Mississippi, where we picked up our abandoned craft, re-arranged our cargo, and after persuading a half-breed Frenchman, who was camping on the bank opposite the mouth of the river, to part with his mosquito bar for our remaining stock of whisky, we again shoved out and started for civilization, satisfied that while we had the current in our favor it was only a question of time when we should reach there.

We divided our mosquito bar into hoods, or vails, by which we protected our faces, necks, etc., and by long buck gloves which we had supplied ourselves with, we bid defiance to the gallenippers, except when eating our meals which we cooked on shore. After a few uneventful days of floating, paddling and camping we reached Dubuque, wiser if not whiter men.

There we met the new steamer, Smelter, Capt. Smith Harris, just from Cincinnati. With all the applause and congratulations that were being extended to the captain by the citizens none were more ready or better prepared to appreciate the value of steam in navigation than we were.


Chapter XLIX. Improvement of the Ohio River.

On streams like the Ohio, the practicability of improving the navigation has never been questioned.

It is only as to the best mode of doing it and of the various plans proposed, most of which, so far as they have had a fair trial have resulted in some benefit.

For a period of six months each year, the Ohio furnishes as good, as safe navigation, or did previous to the building of bridges across it, as any stream in the known world. The banks are permanent, the bottom is of hard sand or gravel, the current is usually gentle, the channel varies but little.

In a very extended and able report made by Col. W. Milnor Roberts, civil engineer, in charge of Ohio River Improvements, to chief of engineers of the United States army, in 1870, various plans are considered in detail. Any one of which, if adopted by the government and vigorously prosecuted, would undoubtedly result in adding at least four months each year, making 10 months out of 12 of the best navigation on any river in America.

The following short extract from his report will be read with interest.

Those who are interested in the improvement of the Ohio will find in a work recently issued by the government, "International Commerce of the United States," extended quotations on the subject.

Wherever this river is improved as contemplated, and the bridges protected as they may and should be, there seems no good reason why certain classes of steamboats may not successfully compete with parallel lines of railroads in the transportation of all heavy and bulky freights. But never for a general passenger traffic, or for light, valuable merchandise.

The hope, then, for those engaged in river transportation lays within themselves. A united effort on their part may result in Congress making sufficient appropriations to so improve the navigation that the now rapidly declining commerce of the river may be practically, if not wholly, restored.



The following extracts, taken from a special report made in 1870 to the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, by Col. W. Milnor Roberts, civil engineer in charge of Ohio River improvement, though voluminous, have such an intelligent and direct relation to this subject that the reader will find them perhaps the best exposition of the several modes proposed for river improvement possible under the circumstances. It will be sufficient to say before presenting these extracts that the main conclusions of this expert engineer have been generally approved by the General Government, and some of them — notably in the case of the Davis Island dam — carried into practical operation.

Colonel Roberts says: —

"Former reports to the Department made some years ago by different topographical engineers, and later reports made by myself, concur in the opinion that the system heretofore adopted to improve the navigation by means of riprap stone wing-dams concentrating and guiding the water into comparatively confined channels, although beneficial and useful, especially to the low-water navigation, does not meet the requirements understood as belonging to the radical improvement of the whole river. The present low-water system, it is true, does not involve a large expenditure of money. It does good and helps the navigation to a certain extent, at a small cost, and it can be effected in a short time, much of it in one or two favorable working seasons. But when finished, although it will be productive of public benefit more than commensurate with the outlay required, it will be no more than an amelioration of the present difficulty. All that has been promised or hoped for under this system, without the aid of artificial reservoirs, has been an increase of 12 to 18 inches in the depth of the low-water channels, making about 2 1/2 feet where there was only 12 to 18 inches in the natural river. It is important to effect even this, and the whole amount of money required for this purpose is comparatively insignificant. But the public now using and interested in the navigation of this river is a much greater and more influential and more national body than the public that was concerned in it twenty-five years ago; and such improvements as were then satisfactory are now believed to be inadequate, even for the present river business, and not at all such as ought to be established in view of its future augmentation. Hence the question of its


radical improvement is much more important now than it was a quarter of a century ago. The present interests involved are manifold greater, and it is quite obvious that nothing is likely to occur to prevent or seriously retard their future further rapid development and extension. So that if there are now six hundred millions of dollars' value of river commerce, as compared with fifty millions of former times, a few years only in the national life will elapse till there may be a thousand millions in place of the six hundred millions of value at the present time. The permanent improvement of a natural channel of commerce of such vast present and future importance may well command the careful study and attention not only of the Engineer Department, but of Congress and of the whole country. Plans which years ago may have appeared gigantic or disproportioned to the extent of the trade then interested may now be regarded as no more than appropriate to the magnitude of the new commercial necessities of the river. Yet, forty years ago, in the infancy of the internal-improvement system in the great States of Pennsylvania and New York, these single States did not hesitate to invest over $60,000,000 for State public improvements, and this expenditure has been abundantly repaid in the consequent development not only of the resources of those States but of the resources of the great West. For unquestionably it was largely, indeed principally, owing to the construction of the great canal and railroad thoroughfares through Pennsylvania and New York (afterwards materially aided by the opening of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) that the West and North-west became so rapidly settled and developed in such an extraordinary manner. The fact, therefore, that it will cost a large sum to make the Ohio River all that ought to be made of it as a great national commercial artery is not and probably will not be generally considered to be of such vital consequence as in early times. The particular mode of improving it in order to secure the best attainable result is of more real consequence than the cost of effecting such result. It may be conceded and understood in the outset that to accomplish the complete, radical improvement of the Ohio River will require a large expenditure.

"Of the several plans proposed it is believed that only one would secure the proper depth of navigation at all times without aid from artificial supply from reservoirs. The plan of locks and dams, if the works were properly constructed, would, in my opinion, furnish the desired depth at all seasons, without any artificial aid from reservoirs. The reasons upon


which this opinion is based will appear further on. It is not mentioned here in the way of an argument in favor of that particular plan, but merely as an ascertained fact. The merits and demerits of this plan will be exhibited in this report.

"The plan of reservoirs as the sole means of supplying the Ohio River at all times with an additional flow sufficient to insure in low-water periods a depth of 5 or even 6 feet originated with Chades Ellet, Jr., Esq., civil engineer, and was very beautifully elaborated by him in various publications, and thirteen years ago its adoption was strongly urged upon the country. His plan contemplated no work upon the river itself, the idea being to accumulate large quantities of water in reservoirs upon the headwaters, or on the main streams above the head of the Ohio, to be drawn off and allowed to flow when needed to maintain the proper depth of the main river. No special surveys were made for the purpose of determining the number and locations of the reservoirs contemplated on this plan. Daily observations had been made through a series of years of the depth of the flow in the channel at Wheeling. From these Mr. Ellet deduced by calculation the theory that enough water falls upon the territory drained above Wheeling, if it were equalized throughout the year, to make a constant depth of over 7 feet in that channel. He found by calculation the probable quantity of water required to be stored up in reservoirs sufficient to maintain a depth of 6 feet through the low-water periods. He also made some personal examinations along the upper portions of the Alleghany River and obtained considerable information from various sources respecting elevations of different parts of the region in question, all of which enabled him to present his views in very attractive forms, both to the scientific world and to the general public. The practical merits of this plan of reservoirs will be considered in another place in this report.

"A third plan for the improvement of the river was proposed by Herman Haupt, Esq., civil engineer, in 1855, which consists of a system of longitudinal mounds and cross-dams so arranged as to make a canal on one side of the river about 200 feet wide, or a greater width, and reducing the flow to nearly an average of, say, about 6 inches per mile between Pittsburgh and Louisville. Thus, instead of a series of natural pools and ripples, which now constitute the general regimen of the river, this plan would change it, on a width of 200 feet or more, to an equable flow due to the general average declivity of the stream.

Mr. Haupt's calculations showed that in extreme low-water


stages there is not water enough flowing naturally to maintain the full required depth in such a channel; that some additional supply would be needed from reservoirs; very much less, however, than the quantity necessary to maintain a similar depth in the unobstructed river on Mr. Ellet's plan.

"A fourth plan has been proposed by Alonzo Livermore, Esq., civil engineer, the principle of which he secured by patent in 1860. It is a combination of damsand peculiar open chutes through the dams, arranged so as to retard the flow and lessen the velocity of the water from the upper to the lower pool without interfering with the free passage of boats through the chutes; the chutes being substituted for locks. This may be regarded as another method or substitute for the open canal and dams which had been proposed by Mr. Haupt as a means of saving water on the reservoir plan. For a certain width of chute, say 100 feet, the natural low-water flow on Mr. Livermore's plan is deemed sufficient without the aid of artificial reservoirs.

"It is proposed to consider each of these four proposed methods of improving the river in the order in which they are already referred to, premising that this order or arrangement has no reference whatever to the respective merits of the different plans, but arises naturally in connection with the periods when the several plans were publicly promulgated. I should further remark here that although the writer early advocated the idea of the probable future construction of a lock-and-dam system for the Ohio, while engaged as engineer in constructing the Monongahela steamboat navigation in 1839, he has never been so wedded to that particular mode or to any one plan as to hinder him from presenting all plans in an impartial manner to the consideration of those who, with every wish to know their merits, could not be expected to take the time to examine fully for themselves. So that, in entering now upon a reinvestigation of this subject, I am by no means sure which plan, as a whole, may ultimately be deemed most advantageous. It is due to myself, in connection with so grave a question, to state further that at no time during former examinations into the merits of the different plans did the writer feel warranted in recommending without more investigation the adoption of either of the modes proposed."


Chapter L. The Steam Whistle.

A good deal of controversy has arisen at different periods by those claiming to know the invention and first use of the steam whistle. Without pretending to settle the question, the following paragraphs may throw some light on an unimportant matter. —

A paper published in St. Louis in 1838, called the St. Louis Bulletin makes this claim: —

"The steam whistle is an invention of the celebrated Mr. Watt many years ago. A correspondent of the National Intelligencer describes it as he saw it at the Chelsea Water Works as far back as 1820. It was an iron whistle, which, piercing the top of the boiler, descended into it, near to which the water could with safety be evaporated. The moment the water became exhausted below that level the steam would rush up into the whistle and ‘pipe all hands’ giving the warning of danger."

Captain Wm. H. Fulton, an old river man living at Little Rock, Arkansas, writes to the Marine Journal in 1885 as follows: —

"We think we can settle the matter of the first steam whistle ever used on Western and Southern waters beyond the possibility of a dispute. In the spring of 1844, Capt. Abraham Bennett, of Wheeling, West Virginia, J. Stut Neal, of Indiana, and myself had a boat built at Pittsburgh, which was named, Revenue. While the boat was being finished Mr. Andrew Fulton, the great bell and brass foundry man, made a trip to Philadelphia on business. On his return he spoke of a great curiosity he had seen there in the way of a steam whistle, which could be screwed on the top of one of the boilers. Mr. Fulton described the whistle in such a manner that Mr. Neal, who was an engineer and one of the owners, ordered one to be put on the Revenue. I was to be clerk of the boat and induced the Captain to put into the staterooms rubber life preservers. I now state without fear of contradiction that the steamer Revenue was the first steamboat on Western waters to use a steam whistle or a life preserver."

Captain Joseph Wolff, formerly of Pittsburgh and an old river man, has this to say of the steam whistle: —

"The first steam whistle I ever heard or heard tell of, was


on the two-boiler coast packet, Luda, in the year 1843. It was screwed into the top of the boiler, and the first time it was used was when she passed the fast Nashville and New Orleans packet, Talleyrand."

An old-time steamboat Captain thus expresses his views: —

"The steamer St. Charles, built at Pittsburgh in 1844, for the Nashville and New Orleans trade, was the first boat ever to use a steam whistle. He came from Pittsburgh on the St. Charles and says Capt. Wolff is slightly mistaken. The boat was commanded by Capt. Mark Sterling, and owned by I. R. Yeatman & Co., of Nashville."


"The first introduction of the musical steam calliope on Southern waters was by the Ohio River steamer Unicorn, a little over thirty years ago. When the ear-splitting music began to play as the boat neared the wharf the people wondered, and the wonder grew as the airs changed. Up in the city the strains created a decided sensation, and many ran out of their houses, around the next corner expecting to see half a dozen brass bands march along. The farther the curious went the more distant seemed the sound, until at length word was spread that it was a steam calliope on a steamboat, and thousands went to the bluff to listen to it. Afterwards a calliope was put on Spaulding & Rogers' great show boat, the Floating Palace, and with a skilled musician to play it, together with a system of bell chimes. The peculiar music waked the natives on all the tributaries of the Mississippi as well as on the main river itself, and also on the Alabama and tributaries. The people of the Yazoo and Tallahatchie valleys were first treated to calliope music, in hand-organ style, on board of the steamer Dixie, a small craft built by Capt. S. H. Parisot and the late Capt. M. P. Dent, nearly thirty years ago. The swamps reverberated with the tones of the steam organ for many miles as the boat passed up and down the stream, and the darkies fairly howled with delight as they listened, while the white folks were almost equally excited. The steam whistle was first introduced on boats about 1845, and when the steamer Anthony Wayne ascended the Upper Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers with one a year or two after, a crowd of curious Chippewa Indians went overboard like didappers on the deep side at one of the landings, when the whistle was turned loose. The first boat built exclusively for passengers was the General Pike at Cincinnati, in 1818. The first boat


to use the steam capstan was the Tennessee River packet Greek Slave in 1846, and the first steam freight hoister was on the bayou Lafourche packet C. D. Jr., built at Louisville. Before that, manual labor was the method. The present system of swinging stages by steam was introduced a little over twenty years ago, and the first electric light displayed at our wharf, was on the iron steamer Chouteau less than ten years ago."


[From De Bow's Review, 1846.]

By an act of Congress passed in 1798, a permanent fund was provided out of the wages of seamen for hospital purposes, to the benefit of which boatmen were afterwards admitted.

It has now been eighty-six years since the tax was first imposed upon seamen and boatmen. The tax has just been removed during the present Congress and the government now assumes the maintenance of this great institution.

In connection with the above we will state that some years before the advent of steamboats upon the Western waters, or, as early as 1804, at which time a U. S. Custom-house was established at New Orleans, all barges and keel-boats entering this port were enrolled and hospital dues collected, according to the number of men composing the crews of these barges and keel-boats, also all sea-going vessels entering this port.


Chapter LI. The Wanton Destruction of Vessels.

"MY attention has been drawn to this subject by an article published in one of the city papers. This refers to the steamboat Shanon. One of the principal charges is that the clerk of the boat forged and uttered bills of lading for a large quantity of cotton which had never been shipped upon the boat. This was done for the purpose of defrauding the underwriters out of a large amount of money in case the boat sunk or was otherwise destroyed. This is one of the highest crimes known in the criminal law of England, punishable by transportation to the penal colonies for life.

I hope for the honorable and good reputation which the steamboatmen of the Mississippi and its tributaries have always borne, that this may not be true so far as the Shanon's officers are concerned.

I know of but one instance of this kind in the history of steamboating on the Western waters. This was the burning of the steamer Martha Washington in 1849 or '50. I think some place near Grand Gulf.

The steamer Martha Washington was commanded and owned by Capt. John Cummings, running between the ports of Cincinnati and New Orleans. A large amount of the cargo or the most valuable portion of it was shipped by Kassine & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio.

She was burned near Grand Gulf. The hull sunk before the entire cargo was burned. The wreckers took possession shortly after she sunk, and commenced to recover her cargo. They soon found that many of the boxes and packages shipped by Kassine & Co. contained only scraps, shavings, etc. Upon this the underwriters arrested Kassine, Capt. Cummings and some others.

Kassine was found guilty and sentenced for a long term of years to the penitentiary. Cummings was also tried, and I think on the first trial the jury could not agree. He was still under indictment and would have been tried again, but died, it is said, from the effects of his troubles."

The accompanying account of the same transaction as will be observed, locates the burning of the Martha Washington


at Island No. 65, instead of "near Grand Gulf," which is correct. The boat burned near Grand Gulf was the Washington, about the same time, hence the conflicting accounts.


"The writer knew Capt. Jno. Cummings in 1846, when he brought the steamboat New Brazil to Red River, and traded with her between New Orleans and Shreveport. Cummings was a man of splendid physique, handsome and good address, he and his boat were very popular and did a good business. He only remained one season in Red River.

In 1847 I went down to the Rio Grande River, Mexico, with a small steamboat from Red River, as purser. The boat was chartered by the U. S. Quartermaster and we transported troops and munitions of war from the mouth to Comargo. Upon one of these trips I met Capt. Jno. Cummings in Matamoras and found that he was a partner in a large gambling house, the firm doing business under the name of Cole, Jim McCable & Cummings. Jim McCable was the faro dealer. He had also been a steamboat man upon the Mississippi and tributaries.

After the close of the Mexican War I did not hear of Captain Cummings until I read the following dispatch in the New Orleans Daily Delta, January 16, 1852: —

MEMPHIS, January 12, 1852. — The steamer Martha Washington, Captain John Cummings, bound from Cincinnati to New Orleans, was burned at Island No. 65 yesterday morning at half past one o'clock. Several lives were lost and the boat and cargo a total loss. The officers and crew were saved, some of whom were taken on board the Jas. Millenger, and some on the steamer Chas. Hammond. The books and papers were all lost. Sometime after this disaster I saw a notice of the arrest of Captain Cummings and William Kassine, charged with the crime of having burned the Martha Washington for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining a large amount of insurance on the boat and cargo. The next thing I heard was that the Cincinnati underwriters had sent a diving-bell boat and divers to make an examination and find the evidence of fraud. Shortly after the divers commenced to bring the cargo to the surface, they found that the boxes marked and shipped by Wm. Kassine as boots and shoes, saddlery and harness, dry goods, etc., contained only old scraps of leather and brickbats. With all this evidence of fraud on the part of


Kassine & Co. the court was unable to convict them of the crime of having destroyed the boat purposely.

After this trial Captain John Cummings was arrested a second time by the authorities of the State of Arkansas and tried for murder and arson at Helena. This second trial occupied a long time, and Cummings remained in prison for many months. He was finally acquitted, but his long imprisonment destroyed his health and he died shortly after.

In the annals of steamboating upon the Mississippi River it has been but seldom that the captain of a steamer has ever been charged with barratry or destroying a steamer for the purpose of obtaining fraudulently money from the underwriters. The Martha Washington is the only instance I know of where the boat was destroyed by fire."
F. C. F.

Chapter LII. Iron Steam Vessels.

"THE first iron boat was built on the River Thames in 1822. She was 106 feet long, seventeen feet wide, and was propelled by oars worked with steam. She was called the Aaron. The first iron steamer built in this country was the Valley Forge, in 1839. She had four water-tight compartments, and was supposed to be proof against fire or sinking. Nevertheless, she was snagged and sunk in her second or third year. Capt. Jesse Hart owned and commanded the Valley Forge, and, from accounts, in finish she was the J. M. White of her day."

It does not appear who wrote the above article on the steamboat Valley Forge. But the truth of history justifies this correction: The Valley Forge was built at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Roberson & Mimms, engine builders, and was owned by them, and commanded by Capt. Tom Baldwin. She had a good cabin for that period, but nothing superior.

Capt. Jesse Hart probably bought into her at a later date and took command of her.

But this boat, nor any of the few that have been built of iron, have succeeded on Western waters as a profitable investment, although there seems no good reason why they should not succeed as well as wood if properly built.


As gunboats, so far as they have been in service, they seem to have given satisfaction.

Contrary to the above assertion, the Caledonia was built on the Tay, in 1818, to run between Perth and Dundee, and was undoubtedly the first iron steamboat.


"There is now on the stocks at Pittsburgh an iron forty-four gun steam frigate, about 1,100 tons, to be ship-rigged and propelled on Lieut. Hunter's plan. This will be the largest iron vessel ever built in the United States.

1847. The Alleghany, United States steamer, launched at Pittsburgh, fitted out under the direction of Captain Hunter at Memphis, Tennessee, with that gentleman's newly invented machinery for propelling steam vessels. This vessel is propelled by a submerged horizontal wheel.

The Alleghany sailed from Memphis navy yard on June 4th, 1847, under Lieut. Com. Hunter, for New Orleans.

Sept., 1847. The Alleghany sailed from New Orleans on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.

1849. The United States steamer Allegheny, Commodore Hunter, was off Belem, a suburb of Lisbon, on December 22nd.

In an interview I had with the old Commodore Hunter, yesterday, he informed me that the steamer Alleghany was still afloat in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

April, 1847, during the Mexican war, Lieut. Hunter commanding the U. S. war steamer Scourge, captured the town of Alvarado upon the Mexican coast. When Commodore Perry with his squadron arrived he found the place already under the American flag. He was greatly incensed against Lieut. Hunter for making the capture, and a court-martial was ordered. Lieut. Hunter was honorably acquitted. Commodore Hunter resigned from the United States Navy on the breaking out of the late war, and held a command in the Confederate States Navy until the close of the war. He is probably the oldest living officer of the United States Navy. He is now one of the Harbor Masters at this port."


June, 1839. The packet ship Edwina arrived at New Orleans from Liverpool, England. She brought out in sections an iron steamboat 180 feet long, 28 feet beam, 8 feet depth of


hold, and weighing sixty-five tons, intended to ply as a packet between Mobile and New Orleans. This steamboat has been sent up the river to Pittsburgh, where she will be put together, receive her engines and return to her station. The name of this boat was the W. W. Fry. She sunk in the Alabama River about 1841. — Ex. Niles' Register.

[Niles' Register, Vol. 25, 1823. ]


From a late Liverpool paper: —

"The iron steamboat Commerce de Paris sailed last week for Paris."

"This boat is 112 feet long and 27 feet wide, including her wheels, which are only half the breadth of the common wheel. They are so placed that she is not in proper trim for going until she is loaded with 100 tons of merchandise. She will then go eight miles an hour, and is capable of carrying 150 tons with very little diminution of speed, as the wheels work equally well, however deep they are in the water."

Soon after the great fire in Chicago in 1853, the people of St. Louis thought to avail themselves of that calamity, by inaugurating new enterprises, opening new avenues of trade, offering new inducements to manufacturers, and in short attempting to regain the prestige they had lost, by the greater enterprise of the people of Chicago. Many suggestions were made and many schemes were proposed.

By the following communication, which is quoted from the Missouri Republican published at that date, it will be seen the subject of iron steamboats and barges was then just beginning to attract attention as being the thing to supersede wooden boats, in the near future, on Western waters. But contrary to what then seemed sure to follow experiments in many parts of the country, and especially in Europe, with the exception of a few unimportant contracts, the efforts to introduce iron boats on the waters of the Mississippi Valley has proven a failure. The reason of which does not seem so apparent. The most probable cause is on account of the greatly increased cost of iron over wood. The few boats that were built did not determine anything positively one way or the other, only that they cost more than double those of wood. Later, a yard for building iron bulls was opened at St. Louis, and quite a number of boats were built for the government, and seem to have given good satisfaction.

But soon after the establishment of this yard, it


became apparent that the days of the present system of steamboating were numbered, and no one had the nerve, if they had the means, to make experiments or to build expensive boats.

The falling off in the demand for wooden boats created great competition in those yards, and those that wanted a boat built, could get it at almost any price.

This had much to do in preventing the use of iron undoubtedly, as well as closing up many boat yards.

The mania that prevailed about that time for barge transportation, filled the rivers with barges, and there was enough built to supply the trade for many years or until they are worn out.

Then it is possible, and there seems no good reason why it may not be probable, that barge companies will try the use of iron, or steel, in barges.

Contrary to what seemed probable ten or fifteen years ago, iron or steel steamboats or barges have not been adopted. But had the demand continued for any kind of boats, there is but little doubt iron ones would at least have had a fair trial.


In about 1880, Capt. Boardman, of New Orleans, built an iron hull at Cincinnati for a stern-wheel boat for the Red River trade.

She had capacity for about six or eight hundred tons and was a good boat of her class. So far as her record goes she proved satisfactory in every respect in which the hull was involved.

She was called "John T. Moore," and is probably still in use.

About that time Capt. Thorwegan, Chouteau, Maffitt and others built the "Charles P. Chouteau" out of an iron hull that had been used before.

She had a stern wheel and was one of the largest cotton carriers on the Mississippi.

Her record is not conclusive as to the practicability of substituting iron for wood on Western waters.

The preponderance of opinion by those whose observation entitles them to consideration, seems to be adverse to iron hulls on shallow streams where hidden obstructions are liable to be encountered.

At the present time, 1889, there is no iron boat yards in the West, and but little use for any other kind.



Editor Republican: While our merchants, business men


and property holders are discussing how they shall best avail themselves of the present opportunity of securing the trade driven from Chicago by the recent calamity there, allow me to suggest that there are other and quite as legitimate enterprises that demand consideration at their hands.

And among them I would name that of a yard to build iron steamboats.

A yard with the proper facilities for that purpose can not be established for less than half a million of dollars. This would of course include all the necessary machinery for doing work with promptness and economy, and without such facilities, it would be useless to attempt to build iron steamboats.

The increased cost of building such boats over that of wood is the only objection that can be urged against their introduction. But with the proper facilities there is no reason why they can not be built nearly as cheap here as at Wilmington, Philadelphia, or even on the Clyde.

But without some material aid from the city or individuals, a yard of this kind will hardly be located here. As I understand there is a company already formed, who are looking about for the most favorable location to establish such a yard, there is no good reason why St. Louis should not have the benefit of it if our citizens show the proper spirit, and extend to the enterprise that degree of liberality it is entitled to, and which is already proffered from other points.

The great efforts that are being made to extend our trade and commerce in every direction is all very well and necessary; so, too, with the aid extended to railroads and other public enterprises. But here is a proposition to establish upon a permanent basis an enterprise that will do more to encourage manufacturers, and build up the city than all the increased trade that can be secured in consequence of the great Chicago fire.

Is there public spirit and liberality enough in our community to grasp this thing before the cities on the Ohio supersede us, and compel us to go there for our iron boats, as we have done for the last 40 years, for most of those built of wood.

Statistics would probably show that the citizens of St. Louis have paid ten millions of dollars to other ports for building their boats in the last 40 years, giving employment to thousands of mechanics, merchants, etc. And the reason for that, has principally been, that we have not had the building material to build them here. That can no longer be said in connection with iron boats. No one will doubt that we can


compete with any other point, in anything pertaining to iron. If we cannot we had better appeal to our iron men to know the reason why?

ST. Louis, 1853. E. W. GOULD.


The present cost of steel would seem to suggest that as the coming material for the use of vessels of all kinds, if wood is to be superseded, as it is more ductile and lighter, in addition to its superior strength, while the discrepancy in cost is much less than a few years since. Among the last regular steamboats built in the West, was one built of steel at Dubuque, on the upper Mississippi, named Cherokee.

Why that location was selected does not appear, as it has never been known as a boat-building point, or as offering any peculiar advantages in the way of material or skillful mechanics.

So far as reported, there seems no objection to the material used in this boat. But it has been stated the cost of the hull far exceeded the estimates of the builders and fully confirmed the experience of all others who have figured on iron or steel steamboats.

In Europe steel has been largely used in building steam vessels for several years, as well as in America.

Whether the obstructions often encountered in river navigation will be found more serious to metal than wood hulls probably yet remains to be tested. It is not one of strength but of elasticity, the possibility of yielding a blow without breaking.


1839. The first act of Congress relating to granting licenses to steam vessels and steamboats was passed in 1839. Also an act requiring all engineers, pilots and captains to be licensed. The act reads as follows: All engineers before they shall be allowed to act as such, shall be examined before a board of persons appointed for that purpose. When upon being found qualified shall obtain a certificate to that effect. Also all pilots of steamboats shall be examined in like manner, and if found qualified, upon such an examination, shall also obtain a certificate of his qualifications.

Also an act prohibiting any person acting as captain or commander of any steamboat until he shall have served two years in said business. Also requiring every applicant before


examination to bring forward testimonials as to his sober and industrious habits. — Ex. Nile's Register, 1840.

NOTE. — We would like to know if there are any captains, pilots, or engineers living in this city who held one of these original licenses.

The first fine imposed upon a Western steamboat for not having a license was in June, 1840. In the United States District Court, sitting at Columbus, Ohio, a judgment has been obtained against the steamboat Warrington, Capt. John Moore, for carrying passengers and freight on the Ohio river without a license. The verdict was for $500, the penalty. — Ex. Hazard's Register, 1840.

Chapter LIII. Tornado in Natchez, Miss., 1840.

Up to this date there is no record of any serious losses to steamboats in this valley from tornados, or cyclones, as they are now more familiarly known.

And even since that time there is no record of so great loss of life from that cause as was sustained then, if those on flat-boats laying at the landing are included.

In Floyd's "Steamboat Directory," published in Cincinnati in 1856, the following account is found: —

"On the 7th of May, 1840, the city of Natchez was visited by a tornado which occasioned immense destruction of life and property. Several steamboats were destroyed at the wharf and many persons who had embarked on them were drowned. A large number of flat-boats were wrecked and it was supposed 200 boatmen were lost. A heavy tax had been exacted of these trading flat-boats at Vicksburg and a large number of them had recently been dropped down to Natchez. So the number was much larger than usual, and at that time it was the great center of flat-boats any way.

The steamboat "Hinds" was blown out into the stream and sunk and all passengers and crew except four men were lost.

It is not known how many passengers were on the boat.

The wreck of the Hinds was afterwards found at Baton Rouge, with 51 dead bodies on board, 48 of which were males and three females.


The steamboat Prairie had just arrived from St. Louis loaded with lead. Her upper works, down to the deck, were swept off, and the whole of the passengers and crew are supposed to have been drowned.

The number of passengers is not known, but four ladies at least were seen on board a short time before the disaster.

The steamboat H. Lawrence and a sloop were in a somewhat sheltered position at the cotton press. They were severely damaged but not sunk. The steam ferry-boat was sunk, and the wharf-boat Mississippian, which was used as a hotel, grocery, etc.

Of 120 flat-boats which lay at the landing all were lost except four, but many of the men employed on board were saved."

The facts in this case were bad enough, but have been doubtless exaggerated by this reporter, whoever he may have been.

This writer left Natchez at 3 o'clock on the day of the storm, on the steamer Maid of Orleans, bound down stream, and had just made the turn going towards Ellis Cliff's, 15 miles below Natchez, when the cyclone passed up. While we were not within its direct course, the storm was so severe we landed and lay all night near the cliffs.

The first that was known of the severity of it was from the appearance of the Prairie, which passed down just after daylight, and before we started.

Her upper works were wrecked, chimneys down, pilot house gone, and a part of the hurricane roof. They had rigged up the stumps of the chimneys, one of which was about ten feet longer than the other, and the pilot stood out-doors.

As the machinery and wheels were not damaged they managed to get her to New Orleans, where she was repaired. I was well acquainted with the captain and most of the officers, and am under the impression there was no one lost on the Prairie instead of everybody as stated above.

The steamer Hinds was capsized at the landing and the hull was found several weeks later 150 miles below, or near Baton Rouge. It seems difficult to understand how so large a number as 51 dead bodies could have been found in the hold of the boat. But they must have been in the hold if anywhere, as it was found bottom-up with the upper works gone.

The Hinds was laying at Natchez taking in cargo, and instead of going into the hold the crew would have been more probable to have run on shore when the storm struck them; so too, with the flat-boats. One hundred is a great many


but what there was of them were destroyed, with everything else "under the hill," and two entire squares of brick buildings on top of the hill, and many single buildings, trees, fences, etc., as well as many lives.

The storm seemed to have struck the foot of Natchez Island first, which was then covered with a heavy growth of young cotton wood, from three to six inches in diameter. They wore cut off 8 or 10 feet from the ground as clean and as evenly as could have been done with an ax, and at a little distance resembled a big field of corn, with the fodder just cut, much more than a young forest of cottonwood prostrated.

The uniformity with which the whole island was swept was the principal novelty.

There has been no storm on the Mississippi so destructive as this one at Natchez in 1840, until the great storm at New Orleans and vicinity in August, 1888.

This one continued for three days with more or less violence, rain falling in torrents most of the time.

Several steamboats were wrecked, some entirely lost, and 175 loaded coal boats sunk. These belonged principally to the Pittsburgh Southern Coal Co., and were valued at $250,000. Other property to an equally large amount was destroyed and several lives were lost.

The new steamboat Teche, Capt. L. T. Belt, was caught in the storm some sixty miles above New Orleans, and was for several hours at the mercy of the winds and badly wrecked. Nothing but the fact that she was new and a very staunch boat saved her and many lives from destruction.


[From Sketch Book of St. Louis.]


"Late in the fall, in 1848, that dreadful scourge — the cholera, made its appearance in our midst and began its work of death. The approach of cold weather stayed in a great measure, the ravages of the disease, although we heard during the winter occasionally of cases. But as the genial smiles of spring began to fall upon the city, the disease developed itself in full force, and like the famishing wolf, whose appetite is whetted by the taste of blood, it was doubly fierce and unsparing.

The general cry was: "Hush up! Don't alarm the people.


You will frighten them into the disease. It is all humbug. It is only a slight sickness among deck hands and poor laborers, who eat poor food and live in badly ventilated houses," etc., etc., and so it was determined to ignore and discredit the existence of the disease.

But the formidable and insidious malady would not consent to be ignored

All the while it was furtively and gradually disseminating its poison, sowing the seeds of a rich harvest of death — filling up the wards of the city hospital and thinning the crowds of laborers on the levee.

The very small number of our citizens who took the trouble to examine the statistics began to be alarmed, but they were frowned down as panic makers, and the disease — the existence of which was admitted, was pronounced to be ship fever, which threatened only sailors and steamboat men.

The disease soon assumed a more bold and formidable appearance, and instead of stalking through lanes and dirty alleys it boldly walked the streets.

It was proclaimed in a thousand forms of gloom, sorrow, desolation and death. Funeral processions crowded every street. No vehicles could be seen except doctors' cabs and coaches, passing to and fro from the cemeteries, and hearses, often solitary, making their way to those gloomy destinations. The hum of trade was hushed, the levee was a desert.

The streets wont to shine with fashion and beauty, were silent. The tombs, the homes of the dead, were the only places where there was life — where crowds assembled, where the incessant rumbling of carriages, the trampling of feet, the murmur of voices and the signs of active, stirring life could be seen and heard. Physicians were kept constantly on the move — on visits of many going hither and thither, with no hope of fee or reward, except that which will be awarded them in an after world.

Some reeled through the streets like drunken men from sheer fatigue and exhaustion. Many touched not a bed for weeks. To realize the full horror and virulence of the pestilence it was necessary to go into the crowded localities of the laboring classes, where the emigrant classes cluster together in filth and without ventilation.

Here you would see the dead and the dying, the sick and the convalescent in one and the same bed. Father, mother child, dying in one another's arms.

Whole families were swept off in a few hours, with none left to mourn or to procure burial.


Offensive odors often drew neighbors to witness such revolting spectacles! What a terrible disease. Terrible in its insidious character, in its treachery, in the quiet, serpent-like manner in which it winds itself around its victim, beguiles him by its deceptive wiles, cheats him of his senses, and then consigns to grim death. Not like the plague with its red spot, and maddening fever, its wild delirium, but with guise so deceptive that none fear the danger until it is too late — it marches on!

While the disease was raging at its fiercest, the city was doomed to another horror — the city was burnt — fifteen squares were laid in ashes. The fire commenced on the steamer White Cloud, laying between Wash and Cherry streets. The wind was blowing fiercely on shore, which fact contributed materially to the extent of the marine disaster, and although the lines of all the boats were cut and hauled in, and they shoved out into the current, the burning boat seemed to outstrip them all, with the speed with which she floated down the river, and in perhaps thirty minutes after the fire broke out, twenty-three steamboats had been abandoned to the prey of the flames and a half a million dollars' worth of property had been destroyed. So devastating a fire had never before been known in the United States.

It was a scene for a painter; which may not have been preserved, but which may be pictured by any one having a taste for the wild and the wonderful — the fantastic forms and tracing presented in flaming boats, the island forest, the houses and the hills in the distance on the Illinois shore, the numberless warehouses, and the thousands of persons lining the wharf.

Fifteen blocks of houses were burned or seriously damaged, causing the loss of ten million dollars. The fire was finally extinguished by blowing up several houses with powder, but in doing that several lives were lost although great care was taken to give timely warning. The list of sufferers made eight or ten columns in the Missouri Republican.

The following are the names of the boats burned: —

American Eagle, Cossen, Master; Keokuk and Upper Mississippi packet; valued at $14,000; total loss; insured at Pittsburgh for $3,500; no cargo.

Alice, Kennett, Master; Missouri river packet; valued at $18,000; total loss; insured for $12,000 — $9,000 in city offices, balance in the East; cargo valued at $1,000.

Alexander Hamilton, Hooper, Master; Missouri river packet,


valued at $15,000; total loss; insured for $10,500 in Eastern offices; no cargo.

Acadia, John Russell, Master; Illinois river packet; valued $4,000; total loss; fully insured in Eastern offices; cargo valued at $1,000.

Boreas, Bernard, Master; Missouri river packet; valued at $14,500; total loss; insured for $11,500 in this city; no cargo.

Belle Isle, Smith, Master; New Orleans trade; valued at $10,000; total loss; insured at $8,000 in New Orleans offices; no cargo.

Eliza Stewart, H. McKee, Master; Missouri packet; valued at $9,000; insured for near full value.

Eudora, Ealer, Master; St. Louis and New Orleans trade; valued at $16,000; total loss; insured for $10,500; no cargo.

Edward Bates, Randolph, Master; Keokuk packet; valued at $22,500; insured for $15,000.

Frolic (Tow boat), Ringling, Master; valued at $15,000; no insurance.

Gen'l Brooke (Tow boat), Ringling, Master; valued at $1,500; no insurance.

Kit Carson, Goddin, Master; Missouri river packet; valued at $16,000; insured for $8,000.

Mameluke, Smithers, Master; New Orleans and St. Louis trade; valued at $30,000; insured for $20,000; no cargo.

Mandan, Beers, Master; Missouri river; valued at $14,000; insured for $10,500; no cargo,

Montauk, Morehouse, Master; upper Mississippi; valued at $16,000; insured for $10,000; cargo valued at $8,000.

Martha, Finch, Master; Missouri river; valued at $10,000; fully insured; cargo valued at $30,000; also insured.

Prairie State, Baldwin, Master; Illinois river packet; valued at $26,000; insured for $18,000; cargo valued at $3,000.

Red Wing, Barger, Master; Upper Mississippi trade; valued at $6,000; no insurance; cargo valued at $3,000.

St. Peters, Ward, Master; Upper Mississippi trade; valued at $12,000; insured for $9,000; no cargo.

Sarah, Young, Master; St. Louis and New Orleans trade; valued at $35,000; insured for $20,000; cargo valued at $30,000.

Tagliona, Marshall, Master; Pittsburg and St. Louis trade; valued at $20,000; insured for full value; cargo valued at $12,000.

Timore, Miller, Master; Missouri river trade; valued at $25,000; insured for $10,000; cargo valued at $6,000.

White Cloud, Adams, Master; St. Louis and New Orleans trade; valued at $3,000; fully insured; no cargo.


Chapter LIV. Steamboats and Packet Companies.

The writer of the following communication will be recognized by many old boatmen and citizens of Cincinnati as among the earlier boatmen running out of that port in the trades on the Ohio above that city. His recollections will, of course, revive that of the few of his associates who still remain and bring to mind some pleasant reminiscences of the past, and of many old boats long since forgotten.

All will unite with this writer in thanking Capt. D. F. Barker for his kind effort to awaken pleasant recollections of events half a century ago: —

CONCORD, MASS., Nov. 21st, 1888.

Capt. E. W. Gould, St. Louis:

DEAR SIR — My brother, J. H. Barker, tells me you propose publishing a history of old steamboat times, such as names of packets, when and by whom established, etc. As I was identified with some of the early packets in the Maysville and Portsmouth trade, my brother thinks I could give you some items that you might be able to use.

In June, 1836, Capt. Grafton Molen and James Walls bought of Jacob Strader the steamboat Swiftsure, and put her in the packet trade to Maysville. Previous to that time the trade had been supplied irregularly by several owners of boats, but the advent of Captain Molen with the Swiftsure may well be claimed as the beginning of what now is the widely known and influential packet line doing most of the business between Cincinnati, Maysville, Portsmouth and Big Sandy.

The Swiftsure was less than 100 tons measurement; built by Strader in 1835 for the Guyandotte trade; but a short time before completed. Strader sold one of his Cincinnati and Louisville packets to go to Mobile, so he put the Swiftsure in the Louisville trade until the first double engine, Ben Franklin, could be finished. When Molen entered the Maysville trade with the Swiftsure, the Lady Scott, owned by the Woods of Maysville, had been in the trade for several months. The Lady Scott was originally a canal boat and left the trade in a short time after the Swiftsure entered it.


There were a number of boats built ostensibly for the trade between 1836 and 1840, but which did not continue long in it. The Casket, built at Ripley, by Capt. John Moore; Kubicon, by a number of Maysville merchants; Naples, by the Woods' family, and the Fairplay, by Capt. John Moore.

In 1839, Molen and Walls built the Mail, which proved too large and only ran a few months and was sold to Strader in 1840. In the fall of 1840, Molen put in the trade the second Swiftsure which remained until 1842, when she went into the Pittsburgh line, returning to the Maysville trade in 1844. From 1840 to 1844, besides the Swiftsure, there were the Fairplay, Capt. John Ellison; Indiana, Capt. John Harland; the Pilot, Capt. Wm. McClain. In 1844, Molen built and put in the trade the Daniel Boone and McClain put in the Simon Kenton. McClain sold the Simon Kenton to Strader in 1847, and the Circassian, Capt. John Ballenger, took her place in the trade. In 1848, a stock company was formed called the Cincinnati and Maysville Packet Co., two new boats having been built for the trade — Boone, Capt. Molen, and Kenton, Capt. McClain. About 1855 or '56, the Scioto, No. 2, Capt. Keppner, then in the Portsmouth trade, was bought and the name of the company was changed to Cincinnati, Maysville and Portsmouth Packet Co., and so continued until 1859, when the company dissolved and the boats sold to individual members of the company who continued some of the boats in their respective trades.

My connection with the trades then ceased.

If you can make use of any of the above you are at liberty to do so.

Very respectfully, D. F. BARKER.


In 1858, there were more and better arrangements for regularity and punctuality in steamboat management than had ever before existed on all Western rivers.

In addition to the "Railroad Line" from St. Louis to New Orleans, there was organized to run from Louisville to New Orleans what was known as the "Lightning Line," consisting of some of the fastest and best boats then running, among which was the Robert J. Ward, Capt. Silas Miller; Diana, E. T. Sturgon; Baltic, C. H. Meekin; John Raine, W. Underwood; Antelope, E. Brown; Pacific, A. McGill, Woodford, Moses Erwin; Jas. Montgomery; Samuel Montgomery; Fanny Bullitt, S. B. Durham; E. H. Fairchild, I. H. B. Fawcett.


While this was only a joint arrangement and each boat was managed by its owner, it was well arranged and run with regularity and was very popular with the traveling public. It was maintained until the war, but never re-organized afterwards.

At Cincinnati a good line was organized on the same basis as the Louisville and New Orleans. It was known as the "Cincinnati and New Orleans Express Line" and was composed of the following boats: Switzerland, Captain J. P. Schenk; Ohio Belle, Captain John Sebastian; Monarch, Captain John A. Williamson; Tecumseh, Captain F. F. Logan; Judge Torrence, Captain R. M. Wade; Susquehanna, Captain O. C. Williamson; Madison, Captain G. D. Hoople; Universe, Captain Albert Stine; Nick Thomas, Captain John A. Duble; Queen of the West, Captain J. P. Wade.

These were what was known as short boats, and could pass the locks in the Louisville canal — were not fast, but of large carrying capacity, with tine accommodations for passengers, and their tables were furnished equal to a first-class hotel. They were run on schedule time and maintained uniform rates of freight. Their regularity, promptness and good management was such an improvement upon the former style of running Cincinnati boats engaged in the New Orleans trade, that they soon secured a popularity that promised very satisfactory results. They were even an important factor in establishing rates of freight with the railroads and were really at that time the regulators of that traffic.

But two years later the war came, and not only destroyed all legitimate commerce between the North and South for four long years, but forever destroyed the hopes of that generation of boatmen of ever again establishing the supremacy of river transportation — from causes originating in the results of the war, which gave to railroads the ascendancy which they would not have attained in many years. The boats and the boatmen were alike scattered, and many of both destroyed, and when the war closed and government transportation no longer furnished employment, another and a more vital war was inaugurated — a war for bread. No industry suffered so much — no class in the community was so illy prepared to meet the emergency. From education and from habit, boatmen, as a rule, new no other occupation — wanted to know no other. A few of the more enterprising embarked in other pursuits with varying degrees of success.

Another portion collected their exhausted energies and remaining resources and attempted to recover what was lost by purchasing from the government repairing and rebuilding


what remained or the old boats, and with them attempted to re-establish what had once been legitimate and profitable lines of boats. In some few instances they succeeded, and are today their own successors, after the lapse of many years and many struggles and conflicts with their powerful rivals. Another and perhaps the most numerous class that time has dealt more gently with than has fortune, are still waiting and watching for the "shadows to a little longer grow" before attempting to launch their frail barques upon the unknown waters across the river, while the well known waters upon which the best years of their lives have been spent have proved so full of wrecks, rocks and disasters.


Long previous to 1858, however, many flourishing steamboat organizations were in successful operation on the Ohio and its tributaries. The "Cincinnati and Louisville Mail Line, "organized in 1818, the first steam packet company of which there is any record.

In 1847 this company increased its stock and, extended its line from Louisville to St. Louis. Adding the following boats: Southerner (low pressure), Capt. Catterlin; Northerner (low pressure), Capt. Erwin; Ben Franklin, Capt. Dollis; Moses McClellan, Capt. Barker; High Flyer, Capt. Wright; Fashion No. 2, Capt. Reed; Alvin Adams, Capt. Boies.

This constituted a daily line of first-class passenger boats between Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis.

The Jacob Strader (low pressure) and the Telegraph No. 3 were the connecting boats at Louisville. The Strader was the largest boat ever constructed to run above the falls, and the most expensive. Her cabin accommodations exceeded any other boat ever built on the Western waters. She would accommodate with state rooms some four hundred passengers.

The connecting boats below the falls were of large capacity, and their recorded time was very fast. Reducing the former time between Louisville and St. Louis, from three days to 39 and 44 hours, and before the completion of a railroad the travel on these boats was immense.


Louisville was also the home port for several lines of boats beside that of the great and popular passenger line to New Orleans.

Notably the "Henderson Packet Company," the Louisville and Wheeling line of fast passenger boats, in connection with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, known as the Union Packet


Company. This line was organized in 1852, and composed of the following elegant steamers: —

Alvin Adams, David White, Thomas Swan, Baltimore, Falls City, Virginia and City of Wheeling.


(From the Pittsburgh Dispatch, 18th.)

I have read with great pleasure a number of your old time boating items, our whole family of males having been engaged on the river, commencing with keel-boating, and when they disappeared, took to steamboating. The following list has never been in print: —


1811 — Orleans, built at Sucks Run, on the site where the Pan Handle Railroad bridge crosses the Monongahela River.

1814 — Vesuvius, Etna.

1815 — New Orleans; only boat built that year.

1816 — James Monroe, Buffalo.

1817 — Franklin, James Madison, Gen. Jackson.

1818 — Alleghany, Expedition, James Ross, St. Louis, Tamerlane, Tom Jefferson.

1819 — Western Engineer, Telegraph, Rapides, Olive Branch, Dolphin, Cumberland, Car of Commerce, Balize Packet.

I have lost the record of building in 1820 and 1821.

1822 — Favorite, Gen. Neville.

1823 — Rambler, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and St. Louis Packet; Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

1824 — American, Herald, President.

1825 — Bolivar, Friendship, Gen. Brown, Gen. Wayne, Lafayette, Pocahontas, Wm. Penn.

1826 — America, New York, Echo, Erie, Fame, Commerce, Columbus, Messenger, Liberator, Lady Washington, Jubilee, Illinois, Hercules, Gen. Coffee, Florida, De Witt Clinton.

1827 — Wm. D. Duncan, Pennsylvania, New Pennsylvania, Maryland, Essex.

1828 — Baltimore, Cumberland, Delaware, Missouri, Neptune, North America, Potomac, Phoenix, Star, Powhattan, Plaquemine, Red River, Stranger, Talisman. You will perceive that boat-building has steadily increased.

1829 — Citizen, Cora, Corsair, Caroline, Huntsville, Home, Huntsman, Hudson, Industry, Huron, James O'Hara, Kentucky, Link, Mohican, Monticello, Nile, Red Rover. The latter boat measured 500 tons, and was the largest boat built up to that time. Rhuhama, Talma, Trenton, Talgho, Tariff,


Uncle Sam, Victory, being twenty-four steamers built that year.

1830 — Sam Patch, Peruvian, Olive, Mobile, New Jersey, Hatchie, Eagle, Gleaner. Gondola, Enterprise. Abeona, A. D. R.


Pittsburg Dispatch: In 1850-2, just prior to the opening of the railroad era at Pittsburgh, there were three principal packet lines running to Brownsville, Cincinnati and St. Louis. In the first line were the packets Louis McLaiu, Consul, Baltic and Atlantic, and the captains of that day were Adam Jacobs, Sam Clark, James Parkinson, Isaac Woodward and Elisha Bennett. Running in the Pittsburg and St. Louis trade were the John C. Fremont, Caledonia, Persia, Aliquippa, Anglo-Saxon, Alma, Niagara, Hindoo, Shenandoah, Arctic, Isaac Newton, Paul Anderson, Manchester, Keystone, Ben West, Honduras and Cambria. The captains were M. A. Cox. William Forsythe, Hiram Price, George W. Bowman, Hugh Campbell, Thomas and Robert Greenlee, Benjamin Hutchinson, James Gormley, Eph. Butcher, William Connelly, John and Henry Devinney, Jake Hazlett, George Cochran, Jake and Adam Poe, T. J. Stockdale, R. C. Gray, Dick Calhoon, Joseph Smith and A. G. Mason. The Cincinnati boats were the Monougahela, Keystone State, Alleghany, New England, Messenger, Brilliant, Crystal Palace, Clipper and Buckeye State, and the captains were Charles W. Batchelor, W. J. Kountz, R. C. Gray, Charles Stephen, Daniel Stone, John Klinefelter, R. J. Grace, Samuel Reno, Melchoir W. Beltzhoover and James Fisher. These boats, as a rule, drew four feet of water without cargo, and gray-haired rivermen say that in those days they always looked for boating at least ten months in the year from September until June. They attribute the contraction of the boating season to its present limited period to the destruction of the forests and the absorption of the rainfall by the soil. Rivermen did not always believe in the expediency of building their boats to the length of 300 feet. Indeed in 1833 there was quite a rumpus about the length of the Wacousta, between Jake Arnold and Pete Dohrman, two of the pioneers. Jake wanted to make her 120 feet long, but Pete vowed he would never go into her wheel-house if she went over 110 feet, as she would surely capsize. How little foundation there was for good Peter's fears can be realized when he remembers that the Great Republic, built here in 1867, was 350 feet long, and 48-feet in the beam, or just three times the dimensions of the Wacousta. One could fill a volume of the most capacious


proportions with the stories of the old time river captains, and yet not adequately cover the subject. Many there are who will recall the disastrous fate of the steamboat Americus, that was launched on a Friday, thus setting at defiance one of the most firmly rooted superstitions of watermen of all climes. She was commanded by Capt. Charles W. Batchelor, and all went well with her until one day, while going up the Illinois River, Capt. Batchelor was standing in the wheel house with Pilot Jack Quick, a sad sea dog. There was a hail from the shore, and looking around, they descried a man sitting on a white horse. The nose of the boat was turned toward the bank, much against Jack Quick's inclination. Said he: "See here, Cap'n, if that 'ere man with the white boss should be a preacher, this boat'll burn afore mornin'." And so the man turned out to be a preacher, and so, sure enough, the boat took fire and was burned, and it was all on account of her being launched on a Friday, and because she met a preacher with a white horse. So goes the tale, as reeled off by an ancient man of the wheel.


Portsmouth Tribune: Much has been written in newspapers about river men, and men applauded that started in where their fathers or some wealthy relative or friend left off, while men that commenced on the keel-boat, at the oar and setting-pole at fifty cents per day and came up to be men of wealth and standing amongst business men, have been entirely forgotten. The men that first opened up navigation on the Ohio river from Pittsburgh to Louisville, at the falls of the great Ohio, should not be allowed to die unseen, unheard of and forever forgotten. Such men as studied the channel of the river, marked it out by clumps of trees and by notches in the hills bordering on this beautiful river, many of whom lived to build, own and command good steamboats and navigated the Ohio and Mississippi and their tributaries. These men did not have the advantages that the captains (or bell-ringers) of the present day have. They had no wharfboats, no clean landing to discharge their cargoes on. They did not have any freight agent on shore to solicit freight and telegraph them at the different points on the river what was proper to do for their advantage, but they must go it alone and manage their own boat, get their freight, build up a good reputation for themselves and their boats by their industry, economy, fair dealing, and honesty. In those days there was not one suit against a steamboat and owners to 150 these days. We know that there was not so many boats in those days as now, nor half so


many pettifoggers to urge on a litigation. I have only to notice some old timers about Wheeling, W. Va. Others will be noticed at another time. I am writing from memory what I have seen and what I know to be facts, but I have no correct dates. I propose to name men that commenced at the foot of the ladder and went to the top before God called them home. They sleep, but the channel they found in the Upper Ohio and followed for years will be navigated until time itself will be no more. These men, though gone, should be kept in mind by the young steamboatmen that are coming up to navigate the Ohio the next fifty years: Hamilton Dobbin, William Cecil, Wash Johnston, Capt. Boothe, Samuel Mason, Henry Mason, Jerry Mason, Jim Louderback, Bolden Biddle, Hugh McLain, John McLain, Charles McLain, Alex. McLain and Wm. and Samuel Dean, Hiram Burch, of Marietta, Wm. Keating, James Patterson, Samuel Beemer, William Stoneman, — Greathouse and Bazel Roades. Capt. Dobbin built and run keel-boats and a number of small steamers. The last two boats he constructed were the Robert Emmett and Tuscumbia about 1827. Capt. Cecil built the Monticello, and after her he built the Jefferson, at Big Grave Creek, twelve miles below Wheeling, where he lived and died. Capt. Samuel Mason commenced on the river as a pushing hand on one of Capt. Cecil's keel-boats; was a deck-hand on the Jefferson and other boats. He soon got to the wheel on the steamers and was called a good pilot. He gained the reputation of being a good boatman, and having some business turn, he married Capt. Cecil's daughter. He and Cecil built the Roanoke. Mason was very successful in making money with her. After one year they sold the Roanoke and built the Reliance. She was a fine and very fast boat. Sam. Mason commanded. He was the man to push her, and coined money with her. After they got the cream off of her they sold her to some St. Louis men at a big figure, on account of her speed, as Pat. Rogers used to say when speaking of a fast boat. She could whack 'em. The Reliance never did swim in steam water long at a time when Rube Tuscan or Tom Wilson was at the throttle valve. After the Reliance Cecil and Mason brought out the light draught William Penn. She was fast and made money. After a lucky run, they sold her into the Cincinnati and Rising Sun trade and built the Bertram. She did not pay so well as the others. She was sold to run in Bayou Teche, La. They then brought out the Saint Cloud, Capt. Sam Mason, John List, clerk (a good team.) In time she was sold. Mason was on the Falls City, in the Union Line since that time, and has commanded a number of boats. He died in 1884. It may


not be amiss to give some incidents of Capt. Sam Mason's life. He was always in a hurry. Lost time in a fog worried him because he would not get his passengers in port before a dinner or a supper as he had figured on. When aground he never slept. The Saint Cloud, loaded with sugar and molasses, at Capatina, sixteen miles below Wheeling, grounded and the molasses was lighted into a flat-boat and towed over the bar. While getting over the flat shipped about two feet of water. The boat was lashed to the steamer, and pumps set to work. The tackle was backed down from the derrick-head with cant hooks to hoist out the molasses. The ice was freezing on the water's surface. The men refused to go in the water to hook on the barrels. Mason came out, and seeing nothing doing, asked what was the matter. The mate answered, "I can't get a man to go in and hook on." The Captain took in the situation in a moment, and sung out, "Bar-keeper, bring me a pitcher of whisky and a tin-cup." The bar-keeper did as ordered. Mason poured out one-half tin full of the whisky and drank it down, and then jumped into the water and hooked on a barrel. After he had hooked on to three barrels, a big son of Erin stepped up to the bar-keeper and said, "Give me the full of that cup, and it's me that will stand before the cant hooks till the barrels is out." The Irishman drank the whiskey, and jumped into the work. The Captain said, "Well, Pat, are you here?" "Yis, sir, it's me. I bate yees half the full of the cup. Now, away wid ye; get dry pants on yees, and siud me another jagger immejetly." The barrels were soon all out.


NEWTON, MASS., Nov. 28, 1888.

Capt. E. W. Gould, St. Louis, Mo. —

DEAR SIR: About all the information I will be able to give in relation to "early navigation," on the Western and Southern rivers, will be from memory. My beginning was in the year 1830, at, which period there were no organized companies owning steamboats beyond those enterprising citizens, whose holding of steamboat stock, seldom reached over more than one boat. In the trade between Cincinnati, Louisville and New Orleans, there were boats with names as follows, to wit: — Henry Clay, Splendid, Farmer, Orleans, Louisiana, Homer (three decker), there being accommodation above the cabins for deck passengers to this latter boat. Signal (low


pressure), Philadelphia, (low pressure), Kentuckian, Bonnets, O'Blue, Samson, (without a p), Bellfast, Hudson, Constitution, Huntsman, Red River, Convoy, Scotland, Superior, Cincinnatian (low pressure), Ohio, Chesapeake, Reaper, Polander, Arab, Helen McGregor, Uncle Sam, Tuscarora. This boat was the first that made the trip from New Orleans to Louisville inside of eight days. Her time being seven days and sixteen hours. This voyage was made in Spring of 1834.

There were quite a number of boats running from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, Louisville and occasionally St. Louis, the latter city containing only 6,000 inhabitants in 1830. There were boats running to Nashville on the Cumberland and to Florence and Tuscumbia on the Tennessee Rivers, and in the spring of the year boats would load to Lafayette, Terre Haute and Logansport on the Wabash. At that period Memphis had no boats running to it. Occasionally a boat would load for Little Rock.

The first combination or consolidation of steamboat stock was made at Louisville in the summer of 1832. A contract for carrying the mail between Louisville and New Orleans by the river was given to Charles M. Strader and others. Meetings were held for the attendance of owners of steamboat stock, suitable for New Orleans trade. The boats were valued by parties interested. Had their own agents at Cincinnati and Louisville. Capt. Samuel Perry, and Levi James, at Cincinnati, and Chas. M. Strader and Henry Forsythe at Louisville. Supposing they had control of all boats, which were suitable for the New Orleans trade for carrying freight and passengers, they could be independent, and deemed it unnecessary to employ the old agents, Wm. D. Jones of Cincinnati, and J. C. Buckles at Louisville; were good business men, well liked and had been active steamboat agents for all trades on the river. This was where the great monopoly made its first mistake. In place of ignoring these men, they should have been made the agents of the "Ohio & Mississippi Mail Line Co." "O. & M. Mail Line Co.,"was on the side of their wheel houses. Messrs. Levi James and Samuel Perry were old captains in the trades, their two sons were made captains.

The arrangement resulted in disaster, i. e., the line made no money for the reason that Messrs. Jones and Buckles would induce every owner of a steamboat of carrying capacity of 200 tons, and who were out of the "O. & M. Mail Line" to send or bring their boats to Cincinnati or Louisville, and load for New Orleans, that the monopoly was in bad odor with shippers, etc.


The consequence was that in place of pork paying $1.50 per barrel, it was carried for 37 1/2 cts., everything else in proportion. At the end of the season the compact ended, and each and every owner took his boat back. The season following was successful, and boat owners did well till the panic in business which began in 1837 continued till the '40s.

The first regular boat in the trade between Cincinnati and Louisville was the General Pike, built at Cincinnati in 1818. Her first commander was Capt. Bliss. In 1821, Jacob Strader was made captain and James Gorman was clerk. The trade of this boat was between Cincinnati and Louisville, but occasionally her trips were extended as far as Maysville, Ky. In 1825 the (low pressure) Ben Franklin was built, commenced running in 1826, between Cincinnati and Louisville, not on regular days but as often as required. This being before the canal at Louisville was built, would load at Cincinnati with produce and reship at Louisville, wait at the latter city till an arrival of a New Orleans boat, then load for a return trip. The Ben Franklin was owned by Capt. Jacob Strader, James Gorman, Philip Grandon, James Kelly (engineer of boat), and others.

Capt. John Blair Summons, who for many subsequent years was a successful captain of the boats in the Cincinnati and Louisville Mail Line, was mate and pilot. John Wesley Brown was also a young pilot of the Ben Franklin. Messrs. Strader and Gorman retired from running as officers of steamboats in 1831. The boat being well along in years was sold to Robt. G. Ormsby, of Louisville, with Edward Carroll as captain, and James M. Noble (now living) was clerk.

Two Virginians, named Porter and Beldon, succeeded in obtaining contracts for carrying the mails in Virginia from Guyandotte on the river and from other points through Charlottesville, White Sulphur Springs, etc., to Richmond and Washington City, and by river to Cincinnati from Guyandotte four times a week, and intermediate points. Also from Cincinnati to Louisville and intermediate points daily. This was in 1830 and 1831. They also contracted to transport the mails between New Orleans and Mobile by steamboat. Two boats being built at Cincinnati for the purpose, one was named Star of the West, the other, William S. Barry, W. F. B. being the Postmaster-General.

Capt. Strader having retired from the river, but familiar with river business, was made the business manager of the boats, making regular trips four times a week between Cincinnati and Guyandotte and daily between Cincinnati and


Louisville. The United States Mail Line began running every day in 1831. The contractors at this time owned only two boats for this Ohio River service, the steamers Guyandotte and Portsmouth. The town of Portsmouth, 112 miles above Cincinnati, had about this time become a very important point, it being the southern terminus of the Great Ohio Canal, commencing at Cleveland and ending at Portsmouth, and proved a valuable support of the boats. At this period there were no railroads in the whole United States, except the one from New Orleans to the lake, about four miles in length, and one other — the Baltimore end of the Baltimore & Ohio road, fifteen miles long to Ellicott's Mills. This much of the B. & O. road was finished and put in use as early as 1827, Cars being run by horse power. For the Guyandotte and Portsmouth trade two boats were built, the Guyandotte in 1831 and Portsmouth in 1832. The latter boat proved to be unnecessarily large and expensive for the trade, and early in 1833 was placed in the Cincinnati and Louisville trade, the Helen Marr taking her place to Guyandotte. The mail line between Cincinnati and Louisville was maintained by boats chartered or they were given a day in consideration of their making no charge for carrying the mail. Until 1834 it required three boats to keep up a daily service. The Champlain, Messenger, Robt. Fulton, and Portsmouth were mostly in the trade till 1834. About this time Capt. Strader bought all the interest of Messrs. Porter and Belden and became the principal owner. Early this year (1834) a new boat was put in the trade (I mean now the Cincinnati and Louisville Mail Line), named Ben Franklin, was very fast, single engine, 5 1/2 foot stroke, 27 inches diameter, hull 165 feet long, 18 foot beam, 5 1-2 foot hold, 4 39 inch boilers, 18 feet long. This boat made the trip from Louisville to Cincinnati in fourteen hours twelve minutes.

This was more than 54 years ago. The Ben Franklin and Portsmouth performed the service each, making the round trip every two days. The trade proved to be profitable, the Ben Franklin paid for herself in eight months. Jacob Strader and J. B. Summons' the captain, were the sole owners of the Ben Franklin, the writer being clerk. The Portsmouth was owned same way, with the exception that Capt. I. D. Edmoud had a small interest. The Portsmouth was a good running boat, though not as fast as Ben Franklin. In 1835 a new fast boat, Gen'l Pike, took the place of the Portsmouth, was 168 feet long, beam 19 feet, hold 5 feet 8 inches, single engine, 5 1-2 feet long, 25 inch diameter, 4 boilers, 40 inch by 20 feet, made the


run from Louisville to Cincinnati in 13 hours, 40 minutes. John D. Edmond, captain; Alfred Dunning, clerk.

In June, 1836, another new boat took the place of the Ben Franklin (the latter having been sold to Capt. Slade to go to Mobile). This boat had double engine, 7 feet stroke, 6 feet hold, 23 feet beam, was fast, having made the run from Louisville to Cincinnati in 12 hours and 8 minutes. Good passenger accommodations but poor freighter, was profitable to the owners. In 1838, another double engine boat was placed on the route to take the place of the single engine boat, Gen'l Pike. This new boat was named Pike (Big Pike), 182 feet long (just filled the old locks), 28 feet beam, 7 foot hold, 2 engines, 8 feet 25 inches, 6 boilers, 24 feet 40 inches. This boat was built by Wm. French, Jeffersonville, about the speed of Ben Franklin, but a larger carrier.

For low water boats the company built and owned boats suitable for the season named Little Ben, Little Pike, Ben Franklin No. 7, Pike No. 8, etc. In 1840 the United States Mail having been built by Mr. James Wall for the Cincinnati and Maysville trade, which proved rather expensive for the place, was sold to Capt. Strader. In the spring of 1841 she was placed in the trade between Cincinnati and Pittsburg leaving the former city every Monday morning at 11. This was a fast boat, 2 engines, 18 inches 7 feet, Stroke, 3 42-inch, boilers, 22 feet beam, 180 feet long, etc. Carried a great many passengers, some freight, and did very well. The writer was captain, James Summons clerk.

The apparent success of this boat during a rather short season (water getting low by middle of June), suggested the idea to the steamboat community of making it a tri-weekly line. Linas Logan and P. Wilson Strader bought the "Mail" for the purpose. William (Bill) Fuller put in the Swiftsure No. 2. In the course of two years more, there were boats for every day. The Messrs. Stoneput in theMonongahela; Klinefelter, the Hibernia; Capt. Crooks, the Clipper; Capt, Grace, the Brilliant; Capt. Dean, the Buckeye State; Capt. Kountz, the Cincinnati, the Messenger was one of the boats, and Pittsburg, Capt. James McClew, Alleghany. It was in the '50's the great "Wheeling and Louisville" line was established. At about this time everybody wanted fine large fast boats. The Pennsylvania Central was nearly completed to Pittsburgh and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had almost reached Wheeling. Steamboatmen nor railroad men had at that time any idea that railroads would be built to run from East to West and North to South, over rivers, through and over mountains,


and all over the continent. The New York Central ended at Albany and Buffalo. It was supposed the Pennsylvania Central would end at Pittsburgh, and the Baltimore and Ohio at Wheeling, otherwise the fine large steamers to ply between Wheeling, Louisville and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would not have been built. They were, however, named as follows, to-wit: Alvin Adams, David White, Thos. Swan, Baltimore, Falls City, Virginia and City of Wheeling. The early plans in building railroads were to place them so as to connect with steamboat routes.


The result shows they didn't stop there, and steamboat enterprise has materially declined. This is quite a digression from the original object. "Writing something about the Mail Line" I will digress a little more, now I'm about it. It was in the year 1832, Capt. Shrodes, of Pittsburgh, built the largest boat ever constructed on the Western waters. This boat was named Mediterranean. Was too long and too wide to pass through the locks, drew about 6 feet light, 200 feet long, 31 feet beam, 10 feet hold, 8 42-inch boilers 24 feet long single engine, don't remember the size, passed down the river in February, 1833, never returned as far as Cincinnati. Capt. Shrodes afterwards built other large boats in 1834 and 1836. Three of them large carriers, Corinthian, Moravian, and Peru. Double engines, lock length. As early as 1834 steamboat interest began to increase rapidly, many were built at Pittsburgh. The trade with St. Louis and Upper Mississippi country was rapidly becoming of marked importance, and it was not uncommon to see the signs for "St. Louis" on as many as from 5 to 6 boats at the same time at the Cincinnati wharf. There were lines formed. One: "The Pilot's Line," "The Good Intent Line," "The Red Letter Line," and later a line of fast boats called the "Express Line." There were five of them, named as follows: Tiber, Tribune, Susquehanna, Paris, and London owned in Pittsburgh 175 feet long, 21 feet wide, 5 1-2 feet hold 4 42-inch boilers 24 feet long, single engines, disremember the size. I believe another of the same class was in the line, named Glasgow, Capt. Wm. McClain.

I will now return to the "Mail Line." The second double engine, Ben Franklin, was built in 1840, made two trips to New Orleans in the winter of 1840-41. After returning to Cincinnati in February, 1841, carried General W. H. Harrison to Pittsburg on his way to Washington to take his seat as President. This latter boat proving rather large for the Mail trade was placed in the trade between St. Louis and New Orleans in 1842, Capt. Casey; she was a fast runner, having left New


Orleans for St. Louis three times on regular trips in one month, it was the month of May, 1842. The Ben Franklin No. 6 was built in 1843 and placed in the line. The Pike No. 7 being the boat on the opposite days. Ben Franklin No. 7 and Pike No. 8 being the low water boats. Some time during the year 1840, Capt. John D. Edmond having resigned his position as commander of the Pike, Capt. John Armstrong was installed as captain of the "Pike side of the Line" and Capt. Chas. P. Bacon, of Louisville, was placed in the office, Alfred Dunning having retired as clerk with Capt. Edmond. Capt. Bacon, in 1843, retired from Mail Line to engage as captain in the trade between New Orleans and Louisville. Capt. Fitzgerald, old "Two and a half and the door slides" was clerk. In all these years John Blair Summons was captain of the Ben Franklin and J. H. Barker was clerk. James Gorman became interested as owner on the "Pike side of the Line;" also Capt. Armstrong became a stockholder in 1840, each owning one-sixth. Messrs. Summons and Barker holding their stock in the "Franklin side," Jacob Strader being owner of one-half of the "Franklin and two-thirds of the Pikes."

The house of "Strader & Gorman," having been established about the year 1833 for the purpose of carrying on a general produce and commission business, were agents for steamboats in the New Orleans trade as well as for the mail-boats. Wm. Worsham was their confidential clerk and book-keeper till 1840, at which time Ed. (Major) Tillotson succeeded Mr. Worsham. The old line continued until the year 1847 without any change in ownership. When the property changed hands, John B. Summons, Patrick Rogers, Thomas Sherlock, C. G. Pearce, Philip Anschutz, Edward Montgomery and J. H. Barker were the purchasers. The Line since has continued being the "United States Mail Line." New owners have been added and old ones have retired from time to time. The business increased, boats were built, some bought. A daily line at one time during the years before the war. The Company owned and ran a boat every day to St. Louis. Also a tri-weekly Hue to Memphis. Were interested as stockholders in the "Great Mississippi and Atlantic Steam-ship Co." and previous to the war in the line from Memphis to New Orleans.

The names of the boats (some of them) owned by the company are somewhat familiar to the present generation. Among which were Jacob Strader, Telegraph No. 3, Alvin Adams, Fashion, The Pikes, Ben Franklin, United States,


America, Telegraphs, Nos. 1 and 2, Northerner, Southerner, Moses McLellan, Superior, Gen. Buell, Major Anderson, Pike No. 9, Lady Franklin, Lady Pike, High Flyer, Gen. Lytle, City of Madison.


In May, 1884, the old company sold a majority of stock to the Big Sandy, Portsmouth and Pomeroy Packet Co., with Capt. C. M. Holloway, General Manager, Capt. John Kyle, President and Lee R. Keck, Secretary and Treasurer, of Cincinnati, and Capt. Frank Carter, Superintendent at Louisville. The steamers of the company at this time are the Fleetwood, City of Madison, Gen. Pike, City of Vevay and Minnie Bay.

One stockholder (J. H. B.) who become interested as an owner of the Ben Franklin in the year 1836, is now, in 1888, still one of the owners.

Hoping my humble effort may aid you somewhat in your undertaking, I am,
Yours sincerely,

CINCINNATI, O., Dec. 28th, 1888.

Capt. E. W. Gould, St. Louis. Mo. —

DEAR SIR: Yours of the 7th inst. was duly received, but an unusual press of official duties, together with indifferent health, prevented an earlier reply.

The following are the principal packet companies, with names of officers, as requested, but I regret my inability to give the respective dates of their organization: —


James D. Parker, President; L. E. Keck, Secretary and Treasurer; R. W. Wise, Superintendent. Steamers — Ohio, DeSoto, Buckeye State, Granite State.


John Kyle, President; C. M. Holloway, Superintendent; L. R. Keck, Secretary and Treasurer; D. W. Shedd, General Freight Agent. Steamers — Bostona, Bonanza, Big Sandy, Telegraph, St. Lawrence, Louis A. Sherley.


Cincinnati, New Richmond, Moscow and Chilo: David Gibson, President; N. C. Vanderbilt, Secretary. Steamers Tocoma and Lancaster.



David Gibson, President; Bruce Redden, Secretary; L. Redden, Superintendent. Steamer Handy No. 2.


David Gibson, President; M. F. Noll, Secretary; Chas. Musselman, Superintendent. Steamer Andes.

Herewith inclosed please find P. O. order for my subscription for a copy of your forthcoming work.

Thanking you for the compliment paid me in your letter, which is scarcely warranted, I will close with kind regards and very many good wishes for the success of your worthy undertaking.

Sincerely yours,

Chapter LV. St. Louis and New Orleans Packet Company — "Railroad Line," 1858.

This line comprised a number of the finest steamers on Western waters at the time. They consisted of the following boats, viz.: —

Imperial, Capt. Gould; New Falls City, Capt. Montgomery; Wm. M. Morrison, Capt. Bofinger; City of Memphis, Capt. Kountz; James E. Woodruff, Capt. Rogers (the Woodruff was the first steamboat that ever published a daily paper on board; it was edited by Capt. G. W. Ford, the clerk); Pennsylvania, Capt. Klinefelter; A. T. Lacy, Capt. Rodney; New Uncle Sam, Capt. Van Dusen; J. C. Swan, Capt. Jones; Alex. Scott, Capt. Switzer.

Ten steamers composed the line. They had an arrangement with the Illinois Central Railroad at Cairo, and with the Ohio and Mississippi at St. Louis, by which passengers and freight were contracted to all points reached by either road or the boats.

While this was not a joint stock company, the boats were run in joint interest, and with a regularity heretofore unknown in this trade and at uniform prices for the business they did.


Many forebodings were expressed as to its success, as it was among the first attempts to organize a regular line upon this principle.

But few mouths however elapsed before the line became very popular with the owners of boats, and with the traveling public and shippers everywhere.

A position in the railroad line, or a "day in the line," as it was termed, was coveted by all who had a boat suitable for the trade, and commanded a large premium when offered for sale, and as high as $1,500 was paid in some instances.

But from the unfortunate "unpleasantness" that occurred between the North and the South, in 1861, the "railroad line of boats" promised a success that has not been excelled by any organization in the New Orleans trade since, and furnished a character of boats and a service to the public unrivaled before or since that time.

While their time was not as fast, their regularity and accommodations were as good.


Before the close of the war the demand for transportation on the Tennessee river induced the establishment of a packet company between St. Louis and Johnsonville. Several boats found employment there in transporting government supplies, and a successful business was done for several years under the direction of Capt. Cafferes and other war captains of the time, as there was not a legitimate trade after the government transportation ceased, the boats were withdrawn and no regular boats ran there until the present company reopened the trade.

In 1881 a company known as the "St. Louis, Cincinnati, Huntington & Pittsburgh Packet Co.

Capt. I. M. Williamson, of Cincinnati, acted as superintendent at that port, and Capt. W. S. Evens filled the same position at Pittsburgh.

The company had some good boats and they were judiciously managed.

But it was soon discovered the distance was too long and the competition with railroads over a much shorter route could not be successfully maintained, and after a few months the boats were withdrawn.



Soon after the close of the war the trade of the South drifted towards St. Louis very rapidly, and suggested more and better facilities for transportation.

The result was the combination of the surplus boats that were left idle after the war into organizations, and were styled Arkansas River Packet Co., Red River Packet Co., Ouachita, Tennessee, etc., etc. They were simply associations with an agreement to run under certain prescribed rules, and under the direction of a board of directors and a president. Whenever, from any cause, the owners of a boat wanted to withdraw, they did so.

"The Merchants, St. Louis & Arkansas River Packet Co." was organized in 1870.

James A. Jackson was elected President; D. P. Rowland, Vice-President; G. D. Appleton, Treasurer; Sylvester, Secretary and Superintendent.

The company had several light draft boats which ran successfully a year or two. But low water and the Iron Mountain Railroad soon wore them out, and they were never replaced.

The Ouachita River Packet Co. was organized in 1870, with several good boats, owned at St. Louis, among which were the C. H. Durfee, Frank Dozier, master; Mary McDonald, John Greenough, master; Ida Stockdale, J. W. Jacobs, master; Hesper, J. Furgeson, master; C. V. Kountz, I. C. Vanhook, master; Tempest, D. H. Silver, master.

These boats were succeeded by others as they were lost or withdrawn, and it seemed for several years that a permanent trade by the river would be established. But like all other trades with St. Louis, on the tributaries of the Mississippi, it has only been a question of time, and that time has generally expired on the completion of every railroad.

A line of boats known as the "Carter Line," was established in 1869, to run between St. Louis and Red River. But its existence soon terminated, after an unsuccessful career of a few months.

A principal difficulty in this case was the great distance with no return cargo.



The great demand for transportation after the second year of the Civil War, for moving troops and munitions of war by the government, induced the building of a large number of boats and at fabulous prices. The result was that at the close of the war, or in 1866, it became a very serious question with the owners, what could be done with them. It was painfully evident that the business of the country was so demoralized that not half the tonnage then afloat on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers could be profitably employed. After various plans had been considered and discussed by the large number of owners, a joint stock company was agreed upon and the assessed value of all the boats that were to be included in the organization was to form the capital stock.

Three disinterested gentlemen were selected to value the boats.

The aggregate value was fabulous — nearly two and a quarter million dollar's. It included some twenty boats, many of them the largest and finest then afloat.

The company was christened the "Atlantic and Mississippi Steamship Co."

John J. Roe was elected first President, and John N. Bofinger, Superintendent; the principal office was in St. Louis.

It had the most extensive agencies and connections of any steamboat company in the world. It had its own system of coupon tickets, which was recognized and good on all railroads in the country.

Freight and passengers contracted to and from all points. Its connections at New Orleans with New York by steamships were close, and large quantities of freight from Eastern cities from all points on the Mississippi River were billed through the line and vice versa.

The first fatal mistake was made in the organization, and was probably the cause of its entire failure, within two years. A majority of the best boats owned at St. Louis and in Cincinnati and some from other places were selected and appraised, and stock issued agreeably to the valuation, which constituted the capital stock of $2,000,000. Subsequently the company purchased three or four boats which increased the capital stock to $2,240,000 and the number of boats to about 25, leaving about half that number of boats outside.

In this the mistake occurred.


These outside boats, while not as new or as valuable as most of those selected, were of large capacity, and when combined under an organization, at once presented a formidable competition.

Things went on swimmingly for a few months. The officers of the boats were generally selected from among those that had previously been employed by former owners, and were sometimes holders of small blocks of stock.

The war was over, and the country full of greenbacks. Everything was inflated, and prices of everything consumed by steamboats were fabulous. People at the North had become extravagant in everything, and the only cheap commodity in the market was "greenbacks." The result was soon apparent, as many of the steamboats were in commission, manned by crews with but little interest, if any, beyond their salaries, each crew striving to excel the other in the elegance and luxury of their tables and in the speed of their boats, with no one to control or check their extravagance.

The wide-spreading limits of the company's business rendered it impossible for the executive officers (only two of which were receiving salaries) to do more than to give general supervision, leaving the detail and the result to the judgment and the caprice of those in charge of the boats. The result was as may be anticipated. While the company was doing an immense business, it was being done so extravagantly and with so little regard to permanent results, there was no margin for profits.

Although the war was now over and the volunteer forces had been returned to their homes, the government had yet a large amount of water transportation to be done, extending throughout the Mississippi valley, and advertised for bids to cover several months, and to include all its transportation. The directors of the Atlantic and Mississippi Steamship Co. decided that they had had enough government transportation before the "surrender" and declined to put in a bid.

This was another fatal mistake.

It left the field open for the organization of another company, which were not slow to avail themselves of it, and having secured the contract from the government all the outside boats that were suitable and desired to do so, were put into the new organization.

The government contract, although let at lower than the current rate at that time, formed the basis of a cargo in all directions, which gave another company a decided advantage over the A. & M. About this time, or early in 1867, adversity


seems to have overshadowed the great company. Losses by the explosion of boilers was unprecedented. Several of their finest boats were burned. Three at one time, laying at the wharf at St. Louis. Some were sunk and in less than six months half the boats had disappeared. Many lives had been lost and damages had accrued from various sources. Suits had been commenced for damages in some cases and the stock which twelve months previous had been sold at par, was a drug in the market at any price. Debts were pressing, directors were indorsing paper to raise money and the boats making nothing. At length an assessment was made on the stockholders to pay off the indebtedness. A large portion of the stockholders responded. Some did not, thinking it was too late to save the "sinking ship."

They were wise. While a large sum was realized from the assessment, it only tided over the chasm that had been widening since the organization. It however enabled the company to liquidate its indebtedness to all except the stockholders. Later on they were relieved for their endorsements by the sale of the remains of the wreck. Every remedy known to the trade was resorted to at different periods during its short career to avoid the pending crash.

The directors were liberal, high-toned business men, and stood manfully by the company throughout all its embarrassments. Capt. John J. Roe resigned the presidency and was succeeded by E. W. Gould, Joseph Brown, and Wm. J. Lewis. But no amount of experience or financial ability could do more than defer the final catastrophe.

Thus perished one of the largest steamboat companies ever formed in the Mississippi Valley and with it vanished several fortunes, the accumulations from the result of the war.

One of the largest stockholders in this company had stock to the amount of $450,000, which represented the assessed value of the boats he put in. Others had very large amounts, perhaps not quite so much, but far more than they were able to lose, and never recovered from the loss.

St. Louis & New Orleans Packet Company succeeded the Atlantic & Mississippi Steamship Company. It was organized in 1869. Capt. John N. Bofinger was elected president. A large number of steamboats were included in the association, and controlled by the company, but were owned by individuals. When the A. & M. company collapsed several of their boats were purchased and put into the new line.

Having a contract with the government and each owner


managing his own boat, under the general rules of the company, the result was far more beneficial to the owners than had resulted to the owners of the stock in the Atlantic & Mississippi Company.

This organization continued with varied success for several years, and was succeeded by the "Merchant's Southern Line Packet Company" in which were included boats that had formerly been associated in the St. Louis & New Orleans Packet Company. Capt. I. F. Baker was elected president and B. R. Pegram, vice-president.

After a varied experience of two or three years the organization was not such as was satisfactory to shippers nor did it meet the demands of the commerce between St. Louis and New Orleans, neither was it profitable to the owners.

It was finally superseded by the "Anchor Line" which extended their Vicksburg line in part, and thus covered the whole territory from St. Louis to New Orleans.


By the addition of some outside boats this line was perfected and has been maintained for several years with profit, and has given general satisfaction to shippers and the traveling public. The promptness and regularity of the "Anchor Line" has given it a national reputation, which nothing but the overpowering competition from railroads will ever disturb. Certainly not so long as the company maintain the character of their boats and the regularity with which they are navigated, unless the withdrawal of so many boats from the New Orleans trade shall create dissatisfaction which may result in inducing competition from others beside the barge line.

It hardly seems possible to those who once knew of the large number of regular freight and passenger boats employed in this trade that one boat per week would at this date, 1889, be sufficient to accommodate that trade.

But those who have witnessed the result of railroad competition on other rivers need not be surprised at even this, notably from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, from Louisville to New Orleans, from St. Louis to the Missouri River, where in less than thirty years the number of regular boats has been reduced from sixty to none at all.


Chapter LVI. Memphis Steamboat Organizations.

As early as 1844 as seen by reference to New Orleans papers an organization was formed to run a line of four boats to Memphis, composed of the following: —

Steamer Memphis, Capt. R. S. Fritz; steamer Joan of Arc, Capt. C. B. Church; steamer Louisiana, Capt. T. J. Casey; steamer Red Rover, Capt. M. G. Anders.

This was a temporary organization and was succeeded in 1849 by the steamer Autocrat, Capt. G. W. Gosler; steamer Magnolia, Capt. St. Clair Thommasson. These boats were continued in that trade several years and were succeeded in 1857 by the following boats, viz.: —

Steamer Ben Franklin, Capt. J. D. Clark; steamer Nebraska, Capt. A. R. Irwin; steamer Ingomar, Capt. Berditt Paras; steamer John Simonds, Capt. J. F. Smith; steamer Belfast, Capt. W. Wray; steamer H. R. W. Hill, Capt. T. H. Newell; steamer Capitol, Capt. J. D. Clark.

This was a well organized company and ran with regularity in connection with the Memphis & Charleston Railroad three or four seasons, ticketing passengers to all points in the West, North, and East.

It maintained an office in New Orleans and Memphis, and was really the first and most formidable steamboat organization that had existed up to that time. The boats were put in at a valuation which constituted the capital stock of the company. But the expenses more than absorbed the net earnings of the boats, and the owners preferred to sell the boats to pay off the indebtedness rather than to assess themselves to sustain the line.

The result was the boats were sold and the line discontinued, the owners having sunk nearly the value of the boats.

The officers of this company were James Gosley, President; C. B. Church, Superintendent; J. J. Rawlings, Secretary.

During this period there was a line of four boats from Memphis to Louisville, viz.: Tichomingo, Alvin Adams, Southerner, and Northerner; all fine boats, but there was not sufficient business to support them, and the line was of but temporary duration.



In the Memphis Appeal of September, 1888, one entire side of that paper is devoted to historical, amusing and interesting items relating to steamboats and steam boatmen more or less connected with that port, by W. S. Trask.

The following interesting items are from that elaborate article: —

"A number of very prominent men of the present day have passed a part of their career on boats plying the Western rivers in various employments. Ex-Governor Cameron, of Virginia, the predecessor of Fitzhugh Lee, was a clerk on the Wm. M. Morrison, less than thirty years ago, and Mark Twain, the humorist and author, was a pilot on the same craft. Wm. B. Bate, of the United States Senate, was a freight clerk on the steamer Tennessee, running between Nashville and New Orleans, over forty years ago. Many of the prominent bankers and insurance men of the Ohio River cities were captains or clerks in their earlier days, and ex-Congressman Hooper, of Utah, ran a boat called the Alexander Hamilton on the Upper Mississippi back in the forties and perhaps later. Charles E. Marshall, of the Red River packet B. L. Hodge, one of the most accomplished masters of thirty years ago, was a brother of the late gifted Humphrey Marshall, of Kentucky. The late Cornelius K. Garrison, the great railroad magnate of New York, ran the big side-wheel steamer Convoy in the Memphis and New Orleans trade, also to St. Louis, about '47 and '48, and Wm. Ralston, afterward a prominent San Francisco banker, was chief clerk on the same vessel. Both went to California in '49 and became millionaires several times over. Ex-river men now here in our midst include Mr. W. W. Schoolfield, the genial merchant, Mr. Samuel P. Read, the prominent banker, and several more not just now in mind. Last winter on one of the Ohio River flat-boats, which moored at our levee, a graduate of West Point was a hand at the sweeps, and Capt. Mallory, of flat-boat renown is the auditor and treasurer of one of the richest counties of Southern Indiana, while another flat-boat captain, in the person of Mr. Espey, is a candidate for an equally responsible place in another Indiana county not fur from the Ohio line. A host of others might be mentioned but these are enough to show that honor and fame from no condition rise.

The late William Bohlen, of this city, was identified with river interests for a full half century, covering the grand era


of steamboating. He owned the steamer Alliquippa back in the forties, and for years the craft towed ice-loaded barges between the Upper Illinois River and Memphis, occasionally going to Vicksburg and as far as Baton Rouge, to supply the people's demands for ice. The steamer Capitol, built by the Howards at Louisville in 1854, for the New Orleans and Bayou Sara trade, where she had a most successful career, was afterward purchased by the Bohlens for their ice towing traffic, and this boat was sent from here to the Yazoo River in May, 1862, towing the war-boat Arkansas, which vessel afterward made havoc among the Federal fleet in front of Vicksburg. The Capitol had the reputation of being among the fastest boats of her day, and for an entire season, that of 1859, she made weekly trips between this port and New Orleans, carrying the mail and making fifty-six mail landings up, and as many on the down trip. The Capitol was 235 feet long, 35 feet beam, 8 feet hold and had six boilers with thirty-inch cylinders, nine feet stroke. She was contemporary and about the same size as the famous Southern Belle which ran in the New Orleans and Vicksburg trade between 1851 and 1858, commanded by Capt. J. M. White. A goodly number of pleasant stories are related of the late William Bohlen's success in various sports during the early history of this city. He was famed far and near as a most wonderful checker player, ranking in that way on a par with the great Creole chess king, Paul Morphy. It is related that on one occasion a visitor here from Vermont named Tinsley Kaye, brought with him an entire new kit of checker tools expressly to beat Mr. Bohlen at his favorite game, his renown in this sport having spread to the distant maple groves of the Green Mountain latitude. Mr. Kaye called on Mr. Bohlen, proposed a sitting, the couple repairing to a quiet room at the Gayoso for the indulgence, and after a four hour contest, the difference was only one game in favor of the Memphis player. Then an adjournment for supper ensued, and after it was over the play was renewed. It was kept up steady throughout the night and far along toward sunrise, at which time Mr. Bohlen was nearly forty games ahead. The visitor from Vermont packed his kit and went East, spreading the news about the Bluff City checker play as he traveled.

The surviving brother of the late Mr. Bohlen, now resident here, made his first voyage down the muddy Mississippi with coal and ice, going as low as Baton Rouge and trading off his stock by the barrel or cart-load as suited purchasers. He closed up the trip with $2,000 profit, all yellow gold coin, that being the favorite currency of time, and this he packed


snugly in a box, taking passage for the Ohio River on the steamer Ben Sherrod. The boat took fire during the trip up, between Fort Adams and Natchez, at 2 o'clock on the morning of May 9, 1837, and was totally destroyed, over fifty lives being lost by the disaster. Among the lost was the father and two children of the boat's commander, Capt. Castlemar, but the latter saved his life as well as that of his wife by swimming ashore with her. Mr. P. R. Bohlen undertook to save himself as well as his treasure, but his efforts were only partially successful. He went overboard in deep water with the box of coin under one arm, held on to the burning boat by digging his finger nails into the oaken seams in the side of the hull, and finally when red-hot coals began to drop through the guard over his head, singeing his hair and scorching his ears, he took a notion it was time to drop the box and swim. He made the shore in safety, but lost his gold. Finally reaching his destination up the Ohio his friends staked him, and now in his advanced years he is comfortably fixed and leads a bachelor life at his ease on a farm in Central Illinois affording recreation and a chance for investing a share of the surplus earnings of his investments here.

The golden days of steamboating in the Memphis and New Orleans trade began about 1848, and the richest of this marine harvest time was the decade and a half preceding the interstate war. In those days several hundred thousand bales of cotton were annually carried South by boats from Memphis and points on the river below. Cotton, negroes and land comprised the wealth of the valley country and the cotton planters were the nabobs of the South. A negro in those days was worth a round $1,000, and a bale of cotton brought $50, the capacity of production being about ten bales of cotton and five acres of corn each year to a field hand. No railways penetrated the interior at the time, except for short distances, and the only means of transportation on our Western and Southern rivers was the stately steamboat, or the primitive keel or flat-boat, the latter being the exclusive method of conveying coal for use down South. It was away back beyond this period that the brave old warrior, Gen. Wm. O. Butler, who ran for the Vice-presidency with Cass in '44, and died at the advanced age of eighty-seven, wrote a poetical gem which will hold its place as long as time lasts, commencing —

"O, boatman, wind that horn again,
For never did the listening air
Upon its lambent bosom bear
So wild, so soft, so sweet a strain."


In those early days when the Convoy, Capt. C. K. Garrison, was the pioneer steam packet from Memphis to New Orleans, and the Autocrat, Capt. Goslee, soon after became her consort, most of the traffic was transacted on flat-boats moored at our landing. The best boarding place for single gentlemen was on the big wharf-boat always lying at the landing, and on which boat and bar stores were kept in abundance. Then it was that the respected Maj. J. J. Murphy sold groceries and ship chandlery from a flat-boat, the late C. W. Goyer dealt out side meat to country wagoners, Mr. Kinney and the Hon. John Johnson disposed of furniture in the same way; the Walt and Elliott brothers handled grain and produce, while many others had their trading boats floating at the front, filled with valuable stores to barter with the public. Flat-boating had been in years previous a perilous business, but it generally returned handsome profits, and a voyage southward was often full of romance as well as adventure. A three months' trip to New Orleans, floating lazily with the current, the scenery constantly changing, but ever wild and beautiful, was a thing never to be forgotten, and many of our early settlers laid the foundation of their fortunes while serving aboard of flat or keel-boats. These gave place to the grander steamboat in due time, and as our little city grew in importance the packet steamers plying hence to New Orleans increased in number and capacity. The pioneer pair named above were followed by the first and second Bulletin, Capt. Charles B. Church; the Geo. Collier, Capt. Goslee; the Nebraska, Capt. Erwin; the Ben Franklin and Ingomar, Capt. J. D. Clark; the H. R. W. Hill, Capt. Newell; the R. W. Powell, Capt. Joseph Estes; the John Simonds, Capt. Frank Hicks; the Prince of Wales, Capt. James Lee, and several others of equal note, capacity and grandeur. All of the commanders and clerks of the boats named are now deceased except Capt. Frank Hicks and Capt. James Lee.


Talent is essential to success when it comes to stealing a steamboat, or a red-hot stove, for neither is easy to do, though both are known to have been done. A steamboat called the Sallie Robinson, that run, along in the fifties, on the Yazoo and Tallahatchie rivers, carrying 2,000 bales of cotton each trip in the active business season, was stolen outright twenty-five years ago by Edward Schiller, and he pocketed the proceeds of the sale, amounting to $20,000. The vessel belonged


to a merchant of New Orleans named Joseph R. Shannon, but he had the craft registered in the name of his friend, Edward Schiller, at the time Commodore Farragut captured the Crescent City in 1862. Schiller managed to get hold of and destroy every paper relating to the ownership of the boat except the custom-house registration record. He sold the boat, gave a clear title and went West. Buying a farm near Fort Scott, Southern Kansas, then on the frontier, he lived in retirement for a dozen years; and, after that, Mr. Shannon found and begun to worry him. A compromise proposed by Shannon was not accepted, and the bother began in earnest, as the rightful owner of the craft never let, up until the other was penniless. Schiller had been a reporter on the New Orleans True Delta, at which time he wrote a book called "Cherry Blossom," that did not meet success. After he lost his Kansas farm he turned up here in Memphis while Greeley ran for the Presidency, and worked as a printer on the Avalanche; also wrote for awhile for the same journal, and finally went off to Southern Texas, where he died in poverty some years later, leaving a son and a daughter. He was an eccentric individual, who, upon introducing himself into the Avalanche office, unloaded about a hand-cart of manuscript from his left shoulder and asked the editor, Mr. Brower, to examine it, with a view to publication. It is needless to say the matter was never printed, for it was not worth printing. The poor fellow could write very well, but his efforts were not appreciated by the public. He stole a steamboat, but could not hide the proceeds successfully — a common failing among pilferers.

The exploit of Schiller affords perhaps the only instance recorded where one