Archive for October, 2010

Boat Definitions

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Packet.  A river steamboat designed to carry freight on its decks and to provide quarters for its passengers.

Excursion boat.  A boat that carried passengers only and does not provide staterooms.

Tourist boat.  A boat that only carries passengers and does provide stateroom accommodations.

Towboat.  A boat that pushes barges.  The boat does not carry people not does it carry freight on its decks.

Showboat.  A floating theater with no means of self propulsion.


Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

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The Destruction of the str Horizon

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Based on the readings from the National Archives, I loaded a page describing the collision of the str Horizon on the Mississippi River.  The page link is called A Case for Indemnity.

The losses of the Horizon and Clara Poe  differ in several ways.  The Horizon was definitely under contract to the US Army Quartermaster.  Yet the military Vessel File at the National Archives has more original source papers regarding the burning of the  Clara Poe


One interesting aside from Horizon were letters from an engineer named Kemper.  In a letter dated 4 May 1874, Kemper’s attorney requested pay for service on the str Horizon while running the batteries at Vicksburg.  As you no doubt have guessed, the response from the US Army Quartermaster was negative — stating “our records do not show that Kemper rendered the services”.  Eleven years after the event the US Army Quartermaster refused to pay the engineer Kemper’s day wages even though Kemper had an affidavit from an officer on the boat stating that Kemper served at Vicksburg.  No records – no pay – period!  You gotta admire these US Army logistics agents.

The Destruction of the Clara Poe

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Based on the records from the National Archives, I loaded a page describing the burning of the str Clara Poe on the Cumberland River.  The page link is called A Case for Indemnity.

Early Settlers

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Many of the earliest settlers of Georgetown came from Maryland via Washington, PA, formerly called Catfishtown, an early Indian encampment of the Delaware chief named Catfish.  The principal route taken by those migrating from Washington County PA to the western frontier was the Indian trail known as the Catfish Camp Trail which passed through Georgetown.  [1]  At that time the trail was only wide enough to accommodate single file passage.  Georgetown would become the northern terminus of the Washington Post Road leading to Washington, PA.[2]


Although the area was well known as early as June 1739[3], the first people settled on the land reached the village which would become Georgetown in about 1772.  From Georgetown, river crossings into the Northwest Territory were made by Dawson’s Ferry. 


Consider this date with the founding of Marietta, OH on 7 Apr 1788 at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers.  Marietta was the first sanctioned settlement in the state of Ohio which was the first state derived from the Northwest Territory.  By year’s end 1788, Marietta had a population of 137. [4]   From Georgetown years earlier, Ohio homesteaders had crossed the Ohio River and followed trails up the Little Beaver Creek into the Northwest Territory. 




[1]  Denver and Eugenia Walton and Bob Bauder, Rivers of Destiny, Beaver county Historical and Landmarks Foundation, 1999, pg 99.
[2] Thomas J Malone, John Bever, Pioneer Surveyor, East Liverpool Historical Society, 1975, p 13.
[3] Thomas J Malone, John Bever, Pioneer Surveyor, East Liverpool Historical Society, 1975, p 4.
[4]  Wikipedia Article, Marietta, Ohio, 13 Oct 2010.Many of the earliest settlers of.

The Book

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Labor Day weekend my Aunt Frances Finley lent me a hand written book identifying every steamboat built in Pittsburgh from 1811-1904.   Its author was BM Laughlin (Benjamin M Laughlin) and it was presented on 20 Sep 1904 to his brother, RD Laughlin (Robert Dawson Laughlin).  At that time, Robert D Laughlin was a steamboat steward who lived in the home built by  Thomas W Poe.   Benjamin M Laughlin credits “Mr Snowing” of the US Custom House in Pittsburgh for collection of the data.  He also provided personal info such as


            “I remember the flood on February 10th 1832.”  
            “I commensed steamboating Augt 1844 sixty years ago.”
            “My first boat was the Rhode Island captain RD Dawson.”  


BM Laughlin Book Preface (Frances and John Finley Collection)

BM Laughlin Book Preface (Frances and John Finley Collection)

Last week I visited the National Archives in DC to do Enrollment and License research and cross check the data in the BM Laughlin book.  The archives in DC have the Certificates of Enrollment for the US Custom House in Pittsburgh from 1831 – 1901.  I am still trying to determine whether records before 1831 have been lost.  Thursday afternoon at the National Archives, I looked at nine books with enrollment records.  On Friday, I reviewed the Vessel Files in the military records for the Civil War.  More on that visit in a later post.


This hand written book is a real find.  It presents original source data I have not seen in any river museums and libraries that I have visited.  The book has essentially eleven distinct chapters with personal notes about some of the Georgetown boats.  As you will read, not all the data came from US Custom House records.


     (1)  SBs built at Pittsburgh 1811-1904
     (2)  SB Name Changes
     (3)  SBs built below  (ie Marietta, Cincinnati, Louisville, Paducah) 
     (4)  Record of High Waters in Pittsburgh
     (5)  Old Pitt Cin Packet Line
     (6)  Names of SBs Dismantled
     (7)  Diasasters
     (8)  23 Str Burnt in St Louis
     (9)  10 Str Burnt in Pittsburgh
     (10)  Names of Capt Deceased
     (11)  Names of Pilots Deceased

 I have not yet decided what to do with this data in this book.  The book is too fragile, and too thick, to scan each page.

BM Laughlin list of Pitt Cin Packet Line Steamers (Frances and John Finley Collection)

BM Laughlin list of Pitt Cin Packet Line Steamers (Frances and John Finley Collection)

Floral Album 1878

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Select pages from another autograph book of Parthenia Parr Calhoon has been loaded as Floral Album 1878.  This book has signatures of officers of the str Katie Stockdale dated 4 Jun 1888.