Archive for December, 2013

Another Used Book Review

Monday, December 16th, 2013

“The Conquest of the Missouri” by Joseph Mills Hanson I highly recommend.  Published in 1909 the book is a biography of the life of Capt Grant P Marsh concentrating on the days of his support of the US Army during the Indian Wars of the 1870s.  Capt Marsh was a direct participant in some important historic moments


For several reasons, this is a great book on steamboat history and the general history of the development of the upper Missouri River valley: 


                (1)  Joseph M Hanson lived during the period he was writing about, 

                (2)  Joseph M Hanson personally interviewed Grant P Marsh who furnished much of the material set forth in the book.

                (3)  Joseph M Hanson also interviewed many of the Army officers who served in the Indian Wars and other notable people and steamboat men, such as William F Cody (Wild Bill), Samuel L Clemens Mark Twain), and Horace Bixby Mark Twain’s pilot mentor).

                (4)  The illustrations and plates are fascinating, such as the group of officers (including Custer) and ladies of the 7th US Calvary at Fort Lincoln in about 1875, approximately one year before the battle of the Little Big Horn.

                (5)  The names of many steamboats (Luella, Ida Stockdale, Key West, Josephine, and the Far West) and their officers are woven into the narrative unlike most other historic accounts.

For other reasons, this used book is of great interest to me, but maybe not to you:

Flyleaf of The Conquest uf the Missouri ca 1910 (F Nash Collection)


                (1)  The original owner of this book received it as a gift on16 Mar 1910 according to the inscription on the flyleaf.  That person, or subsequent owners, loosely inserted many newspaper clippings and notes about specific events on many pages.  These insertions I find fascinating.  In one case, an obituary was inserted including a hand written correction of what should have been written in the book.  The back of a First Loan and Trust deposit slip Yankton, SD 192_ was used as paper for the hand written correction.

                (2)  Capt Grant Marsh worked for some of my guys from Georgetown, PA.  Unfortunately, Joseph M Hanson got many of the Georgetown details, as I understand them, wrong.  I am considering writing a correction sheet and inserting it in the book for the benefit of the next reader.   Of course, Capt Marsh was the master of the str Ida Stockdale during the 1867 season on the upper Missouri River and his salary was $1,200 month.  That he was a skillful navigator and a proven captain is not arguable.  However, Joseph M Hanson gives Capt Grant a little too much control of and credit for building the boat that, in my opinion, belongs to Georgetown men.  The str Ida Stockdale was owned by Capt Jackman Taylor Stockdale and Capt Thomas Stevenson Calhoon who as partners directed the purchase and building of other packets.  There is no discernable reason that they would relinquish this oversight task to a hired captain.  Both Stockdale and Calhoon were veteran captains and pilots working on the lower Missouri before the Civil War and all the military waterways during the war.   Both had been to Ft Benton.  Joseph M Hanson named the owner of the str Ida Stockdale as Capt RS Calhoun rather than TS Calhoon.  The Georgetown Calhoons were prideful of the spelling of their name.  Joseph M Hanson acknowledged that Capt Thomas S Calhoon “accompanied” Capt Marsh “though he made the voyage for pleasure only and had nothing to do with the management of the boat”.  Actually, as well as a principle owner Capt Thomas S Calhoon was the first clerk of the str Ida Stockdale for the venture on the upper Missouri.  For confirmation, Capt TS Calhoon’s journals can be found at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.


I repeat that these apparent discrepancies are important to me, but maybe not to you.   Regardless, the book is a grade-A read.    




Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved