Archive for November, 2010

The Lost Fort

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Georgetown may not be the capital of the universe, but the richness of its history will compare favorably with any city.  The pleasure of this knowledge is mingled with sadness.  That sadness has its roots in the neglect of an important historical site, a frontier and Revolutionary War fort.  The forgotten blockhouse, Lot No 11, 109 Water St, Georgetown, PA.

More BM Laughlin Book Updates

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I continue to slog through “The Book” written by BM Laughlin in 1904.  Of the first 297 steamboats listed in the BM Laughlin book, 34 are not included in The Lytle-Holdcamper List.  Boat number 297, the str Caledonia, had an enrollment date of 25 Dec 1835.  The str Caledonia, rated at 122 tons, was built in Ripley, OH per The Lytle-Holdcamper List.

More RR vs Steamboats during the CivWar

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

The more I read I stronger my belief that the history of RRs and steamboat transportation systems during the Civil War is flawed.  If the errs can not be corrected/adjusted at least there should be a record of discussion.  These errors/oversights are probably unintentional, but oversights nonetheless because the source data is scattered and hard to come by and often contrary to popular opinion.  We mistakenly take for granted that RRs then were much like we understand them today.

I been reading the “History of Beaver County Pennsylvania” by Bausman written in 1904.  It totals 1,000 pages.  Railroads were given 14 pages; steamboats 7 pages.  And the steamboat pages are only “building steamboats” in Beaver County boatyards. No words on the men who owned and operated them.  No words on their missions and accomplishments.  The history of Beaver County is fundamentally defined by the Ohio River and river transportaition systems.  That presentation written by Rev  Bausman who lived during the day of the steamboat and RR competition is flawed.

I found an interesting page on the Baltimore and Ohio RR in 1861.  The B&O was 188 miles of track in 1861 following the C&O canal route.  I repeat 188 miles for emphasis.  And even if the B&O RR had developed extensively, it was frequently disrupted during the war:

In the 1850s and 1860s Ohio river steamboat captains were steaming to the upper Missouri River and places the railroads would not reach for twenty years.  That history should be made known.
I also found a website on Confederate RRs which indicated that the RR system in the south was not a benefit to their war effort.   Iron U-rails were used on some lines which were non standard.  The  number of steam locomotives which were all manufactured in the north was limited .  Railroad beds were not properly graded.  Ties were not treated wood requiring more frequent replacement.   Labor shortage required for maintenance were unavailable, etc.  For a variety of reasons the rails in the south ceased to function without direct war action.  Too many unsolved problems to provide an efficient transport system.

Due to the naval superiority of the Union, the river lines of support could not be challenged by the south. 

Even in PA the construction of railroads was strange.  “The superstructure will be formed by two parallel lines of mud sills, twelve inches wide and six inches thick…”  It also describes the rails = 6 inches square = and how they would be spiked.  That railway bed was to become the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railway.  The Penn Central Transportation Company made a big profits transporting troops, but I yet to find the miles of track in 1860.  Over 50% of the troops the Penn Central transported were at the end of the war => troops going home.

In my opinion, the capabilities of the RRs were overrated and the steamboats understated during the Civil War.  Think about that for a few moments.

Laughlin v Lytle-Holdcamper

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A preliminary report comparing the BM Laughlin book with The Lytle-Holdcamper List for the years between 1811-1834 has been loaded as an Excel 2003 spreadsheet.   The report will be updated as additional build years are processed.

Through 1834, BM Laughlin identified 25 boats built at Pittsburgh not listed by Lytle and Holdcamper.


The link to the spreadsheet is located on the page:  Laughlin v Lytle-Holdcamper .  Since I will be updated the spreadsheet periodically, I want only one link to the data.

The BM Laughlin Book

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I am slogging through “The Book” written by BM Laughlin in 1904.  Of the first 200 steamboats listed in the BM Laughlin book, 22 are not included in The Lytle- Holdcamper List.  Boat number 200, the str Sea Gull, had an enrollment date of 16 Mar 1833.  The str Sea Gull, rated at 21 tons, was built in Warren, OH per The Lytle-Holdcamper List and its three supplements.  Per BM Laughlin it was built in Pittsburgh?!?   


From 1831, BM Laughlin included both the month and day of the vessel enrollment.  The Lytle- Holdcamper List provided only the year.  BM Laughlin provided “remarks” on each year’s enrollments such as on the page for 1834 “The Kittanning was not built at Pittsburgh as she was not registered in the Custom House records”.  The only Kittanning listed in the Lytle-Holdcamper List was originally the str Elizabeth built in 1839 and renamed the Kittanning on 3 Nov 1842.  


BM Laughlin commented numerous times that his information came from US Custom House records in Pittsburgh 1811-1904.  The National Archives maintain the records from the US Custom House in Pittsburgh from 1831 -1904.  Before that Pittsburgh was a port under the jurisdiction of New Orleans from 1807-1874 where all the records for the Ohio River and its tributaries were maintained.  Lots of overlap and gaps!  Much to understand.


My analysis will list the boats identified by BM Laughlin between 1811 and 1848 in an MS Excel spreadsheet.  Data from The Lytle-Holdcamper List will also be entered to enable other researchers to perform their own sorts and analysis.

Georgetown Steamboat Families

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

In the Beaver County Times dated 14 Sep 1973, a list of steamboat families of Georgetown was compiled by TS Laughlin of Beaver, PA.  Walter Poe was the source of the list of steamboat men, packets and towboats associated with Georgetown

I have updated the steamboat crews listed on the page Steamer Officer Biographies.  A summary follows:

    (1)  Masters and Pilots             52
    (2)  Clerks                                9
   (3)   Engineers                          11
    (4)  Mates                               12
    (5)  Ship Carpenters                  4
    (6)  Stewards                           16 

I will also update my list of packets and towboats.