Archive for the ‘History of Georgetown PA’ Category

Packet Ownership

Monday, March 12th, 2018


For Georgetown the years between 1852-1858 were a time of speedy economic growth.  River business prospered.  The following table lists the partnership of owners over six years of one steamer, str Washington City, plying various inland rivers.  Few Poe family packets survived as long.     


The consistency of these findings taken from the Record Type 41 of the Certificates of Enrollment are unusual.  Other Poe family steamboats changed ownership annually and were often bought and sold outside the family within three years.  The following table lists the owners of the str Washington City from 1852-1857.   Although no data was found for 1855 during this research trip, it should be remembered that in Apr 1855 Capt Joseph MC Calhoon died of cholera in Alton, IL.   Despite dangerous high-water conditions Capt George Washington Ebert, a brother-in-law, clerk James Wilkins a brother-in-law, /pilot Jacob Poe a brother-in-law, and a skeleton crew of Georgetown relatives, steamed to St Louis to recover the body and return it for burial in Georgetown Cemetery.  Proof that the str Washington City was actively working in 1855.  The absence of data for 1855 is most unfortunately due to pages torn from the Enrollment and License book of records.



Cert of Enrollment for the str Washington City (The National Archives)

Str Washington City


1852 1853 1854 1855 1856 1857
Richard Calhoon
Samuel Cadman 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16
George W Ebert 3/16 M 3/16 M 3/16 M 3/16 M 3/16 M
AB Gallatin
Samuel Moore 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16
Steel McMillen
John S McMillin
Adam Poe
Andrew Poe
George Poe
Jacob Poe 3/16 3/16 3/16 3/16 3/16
Thomas W Poe
Samuel Smith 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16
Thomas Smith 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16
JT Stockdale
James Wilkins 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16 2/16



In 1857,the town fielded a fleet of ten steamboats to work on all inland rivers as far as the lower Missouri River.  Several keelboats were also launched by Georgetown rivermen.  The following table lists the steamers 0f 1857 and the men who owned and commanded them. 



Georgetown Packets in 1857


Belfast Belmont Clifton Grand Turk John G Fremont Metropolis Neptune Silver Wave Wash City
R Calhoon 3/16 M
James Diehl 1/8 1/8
GW Ebert 3/16 M 1/8 1/8 3/16 M
AB Gallatin 1/8 M
Eliz McClure 1/8
Steel McMillen 3/32
JS McMillin 13/16 M
Adam Poe 1/2 M 3/8 M
Andrew Poe 1/8
George Poe 1/8 1/8 1/16
Jacob Poe 1/8 3/16 1/4 1/8 3/16 3/16
Thomas Poe 1/4 1/4 1/8 M 1/8 1/4
Samuel Smith 1/8
Thomas Smith 1/8 1/8
Alan Stockdale 1/8
JT Stockdale 3/8 M
Samuel Trimble 1/8
David Wilkins 3/32
James Wilkins 1/8




(1)  In an effort of complete disclosure, George Washington Ebert .  The Poes and Samuel Trimble were my third great uncles, Elizabeth (Poe) McClure my third great aunt.

(2)  The bold faces names in the table are the principle steamboat captains who built, piloted, and operated the boats on many rivers far from home – Georgetown.  The names in lighter type are investors who did not work on the rivers.

 (3)  John Smith McMillin and Steel McMillen were brothers although the Custom House clerk spelled their last name differently on several enrollment certs.

(4)  Samuel and Thomas Smith lived in the village opposite Georgetown on the Ohio River named Smiths Ferry.  They operated a ferry which had served the two settlements since circa 1794. 

(5)  Samuel Cadman, Samuel Moore, and David and James Wilkins resided in Pittsburgh and Allegheny City.

(6)  “M” in the fractional ownership cells indicates “Master” as listed on both the Enrollment and License forms.





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Tripped to DC

Friday, March 9th, 2018


Enrollment and License Book for the Port of Pittsburgh 1856 (The National Archives)

Thinking Sunshine Superman lyrics while in DC today.  Spent two days at The National Archives reviewing Enrollment and License data from the Port of Pittsburgh from 1852-1858.  Stayed at the Swann House B&B in Dupont Circle and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a Greek restaurant named Kapnos.  Bright and sunny and “we’ll do it in style”.




Several stories to tell.  The disposition of the str Golden Gate has been revealed.    The master, Capt Joseph MC Calhoon, died from cholera in Alton, IL in 1855.  He tried to return to Georgetown.  The Masons kept his body till it could be retrieved by Georgetown relatives.  The four-page letter to his widow from the attorney is worth a read.  Never revealed was the fate of his steamboat.  Coming soon as time permits.

Discovered a few more facts about Capt John Smith McMillin. 

Information is sometimes hard to come by.  Record books are beautiful although some have been damaged and pages are missing.  The fact that most of these remarkable books exist after one-hundred-sixty years is remarkable.  


Flyleaf for Enrollment and License Book 1856


Damaged Page for Enrollment of unknown steamboat


More to come.  Three-hundred plus images to process.




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No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.



Str Iron Queen

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Str Iron Queen (From the Collection of the UW La Crosse Murphy Library

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Daily Post dated 23 Mar 1895, Capt Thomas S Calhoon took command of the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line str Iron Queen.  To honor the change of command, a leather chair was presented to Capt Calhoon by Capt James Henderson on behalf of the crew of the str Keystone State.

A paragraph in the article also describes the coal shipping industry which was having “a good, steady run of business” even though there was not a large amount of coal in the Monongahela harbor.











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Old Time Boating

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

St Louis Dispath 10 Jul 1880.

Fun article from the St Louis Dispatch dated 10 Jul 1880.  The article looks back 28 years to identify the prominent steamboat captains of 1852.  One-hundred-sixty-six years ago.  Of the thirteen captains named in 1852, Capts John S McMillin and Adam Poe were residents of Georgetown, PA.  Both Georgetown captains were working on the Wabash River.










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No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.


Sunday, January 28th, 2018

GeorgetownSteamboats is a work in progress.  I do not consider this writing.  Rather I prefer to think of it as a conversation.  I like the idea of sharing my thoughts and research bringing new light to the history of these select men.  All that said I do object to the use of my work for personal profit.   .


Copyright © 2018  Francis W Nash  All Rights Reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.


Capt Frederick Way, Jr

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Over the holidays, I was gifted a woodcut print of Capt Fred Way by an artist friend of my family.  The artist is Sue Neff, a resident of Sewickley, PA.  I was gifted an Artist Proof printed in 1990.  Sue said she would rerun the image and try to lighten the facial features with a lighter paint.  I wonder whether the Ohio River Museum would want an image of Capt Way by an artist from his hometown.

Woodcut print of Capt Fred Way by Sue Neff dated 1990











Capt Way in Georgetown 1940 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)


Capt Way with Fred Hughes visited George WE Poe, Parthenia Parr Calhoon, and Lillian May (Poe) Wagner in 1940.  Capt Way wrote several articles for the S&D Reflector about the steamboat families of Georgetown.









The gift also reminded me of a museum donation given the Wellsville River Museum by Capt Albert C Gilmore of Georgetown.  Capt Gilmore donated several photos and the horns of the str Cruiser.  Two photos featured the str Betsy Ann owned by Capt Way.

Ohio River Museum Donation ca 1965



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The RR Lesson of 1881

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Have we forgotten it?  Has it taught us nothing?  Life goes on.


Due to benign government regulation supported by businessmen and Presidents, the hubris of the railroad magnates then continued unabated.  There are parallels to the giant corporations of today.  Wealth inequity.  Social injustice.  The timeline for this post begins in 1876 ending in 1881.  To set the scene – think PA.  The Centennial Exhibition celebrating the prosperity of our first century and the perfection of our institutions was held from May till Nov in Fairmont Park along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  Ten million people and thirty-seven countries visited.  Gen Custer rode to his death at the Little Big Horn on 25 Jun 1876 covering the centennial with a pall of blackness.  In Nov, Rutherford B Hayes, Republican from Ohio, won the most disputed Presidential election to date.  Precisely, Hayes won the Electoral College vote 185-184 while losing the popular vote by 3%.  My connection to steamboats. – the str Katie Stockdale was built expressly for the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line, the most luxurious packet line ever to run the Ohio River catering to the rich Pittsburgh crowd.  The nation was divided.  The working class had learned first- hand that Capitalism benefited their bosses, trading their lives for profits.  Unemployment rose.  Wages dropped.


A remarkable series of eight railroad strikes, which began during the Centennial Exposition and culminated on 16 Jul 1877 in the strike on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Martinsburg, WV. This work action spread into the greatest labor disturbance on record.  Another view described it as an American reign of terror.


The RR strike at Martinsburg was instantly felt at Chicago and Baltimore in the stoppage of shipments. In a few hours the Baltimore and Ohio, the chief commercial artery of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, was shut down. The strike spread to the Pennsylvania, the Erie, and the New York Central railroads, and then to the Great Western lines. The feeling of the railroad employees all over the country was expressed by the address of those of the Pennsylvania Railroad to its stockholders. The stockholders were reminded that “many of the railroad’s men did not average wages of more than seventy-five cents a day;” that “the influence of the road had been used to destroy the business of its best customers, packet lines and oil producers, for the purpose of building up individual interests.” [1]  Those personal interests were contrary to worker essential needs.


In 1877, freight traffic had almost disappeared from the Pennsylvania Railroad because of how it had been managed.   The PA stockholder address also refers pointedly to the abuses of freight lines, rolling-stock companies, and other railroad inventions for switching business profits into private pockets.


Other workers followed the example of the railroad employees. At Zanesville, Ohio, fifty manufacturing sites stopped work.  Baltimore ceased to export petroleum.  The rolling mills, foundries, and refineries of Cleveland were closed.  Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati had the same experience.  The grain and cattle ceased to move to market, and the large centers of population began to calculate the chances of famine.  New York’s supply of Western cattle and grain was cut off. Meat prices skyrocketed, while Cleveland telegraphed that hogs, sheep, beef and poultry billed for New York were dying on the sidetracks there. Merchants could not sell, manufacturers could not work, banks could not lend. The country went to the verge of panic.


President Garrett, of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, wrote that his “great national highway could be restored to public use only by the interposition of the United States army.” President Scott, of the Pennsylvania Railroad, telegraphed the authorities at Washington, “I fear that unless the general government will assume the responsibility of order throughout the land, the anarchy which is now present will become more terrible than has ever been known in the history of the world.” The governors of ten States — West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kentucky — issued dispersing proclamations which did not disperse. The governors of four of them — West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Illinois — appealed to the national government for help against domestic insurrection, which the State could not suppress. The state troops were almost useless, as in nearly all cases they sided with the strikers.  President Hayes issued two national proclamations to the insurgents.  All the national troops that could be spared from the Indian frontier and the South were ordered back. Armed guards were placed at all the public buildings of Washington, and ironclads were ordered up for the protection of the national capital. Cabinet meetings were continuous. General Winfield S Hancock was sent to Baltimore to take command, General Sherman was called back from the West, and General Schofield was ordered from West Point into active service.


Barricades, in French style, were thrown up by the workers of Baltimore.  New York and Philadelphia were heavily garrisoned. In Philadelphia every avenue of approach to the Pennsylvania Railroad was patrolled, and the city was under a guard of six thousand armed men with eight batteries of artillery. There were violent encounters between troops and voters, with loss of life, at Martinsburg, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Reading, Buffalo, Scranton, and San Francisco.


Jump to Pittsburgh – the site of the worst violence.  Production of iron and steel had dropped as much as 45%.  With the strike, there was horror of revolution.  The town left at the mercy of the workers.  Railroad cars, depots, hotels, stores, elevators, private houses, were gutted and burned.  The situation was described by a leading newspaper as one of “civil war with the accompanying horrors of murder, conflagration, rapine, and pillage.” These were days of greater bloodshed, more actual suffering, and wider alarm than experienced at any time during the civil war, except when Lee invaded Pennsylvania.  Thomas Scott, president of the Penn RR suggested that the railroad strikers should be given “a rifle diet and see how they liked that kind of bread.”  Business class versus working class.  State militia, ordered by Gov John Hartranft, bayoneted and fired on rock throwing strikers.  Twenty strikers were killed and 29 wounded.  Rather than subduing the strikers, the militia infuriated them.  The rock battered  state militia was forced to take refuge in a railroad roundhouse while the strikers set fires to 39 buildings, 104 locomotives, and untold rail stock.  To escape the militia shot their way out of the roundhouse killing 20 more people on their way out of Pittsburgh.  In Pittsburgh, local law enforcement sheriffs, deputies, and police refused to fire on the strikers.  After a month of bloodshed, President Hayes sent Federal troops to end the railroad strike.  Elsewhere in PA, state militia shot 16 in Reading, 14 in Shamokin, 20-50 in Scranton.


These RR and manufacturing strikes, paralyzing twelve States, halted the operation of twenty thousand miles of railroad and threw one million men out of work.  The RR barons of 1881 strained our PA institutions to their limits: the surrender of the Supreme Court of PA at the bidding of Penn RR, the veto by the Standard Oil Co of the enactment of a law by the PA legislature to allow everyone equal access rights on the RRs. (Think net neutrality for a current comparison.)  These attacks by the robber barons on our institutions illustrated some of the methods by which the rich were making the poor poorer. These attacks were one of the things that happened to kill the confidence of citizens in the laws and administration of justice.  The physical violence with which RR had taken their rights of way (Think Mariner East II Pipeline in central PA) caused social disorder we hoped never to see.  The RR history of violence has shown where we failed – between man and man, employer and employee, the public and corporation, the state and citizen – to maintain equities of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”




[1]  HD Lloyd, Story of a Great Monopoly, Atlantic Monthly, Mar 1881.



Copyright © 2018  Francis W Nash  All Rights Reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.

str Buckeye State

Sunday, December 31st, 2017


Meigs County Times Article about the Buckeye State.

A news clip from the Meigs County Times dated 7 Jul 1857 reads like an obituary.  The str Buckeye State “is being torn apart in Cincinnati.  Her machinery is to be put into a new boat.”  The article indicates that the str Buckeye State made 156 trips between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  [1]


One memorable trip on 1 May 1850 was a special “speed trial”.  Departing Cincinnati, the str Buckeye State arrived in Pittsburgh 43 hours later.  No steamboat to this day has equaled that time.  [2]  To celebrate the fast run, a carved wooden fullsize buck was positioned on the top of the pilot house.


The crew for this famous run included Standish Peppard of Georgetown, PA. [3]  After the fast run, Capt Peppard partnered with George W Ebert on many ventures including several trips to Ft Benton in the Montana Territory in the late 1860’s.  Standish Peppard died in 1874 and is buried alongside his wife, Elizabeth Poe, in the Georgetown Cemetery.


Marker for Standish Peppard and Elizabeth Poe (Fran Nash Collection)













[1]  Steamboats, Meigs County Times, 7 Jul 1857, p2, col 15.

[2]  Capt Frederick Way, Jr, Way’s Packet Directory,1848-1994, Son and Daughters of Ppioneer Rivermen, 1983, p63.

[3]  Ibid, p83.


Copyright © 2017  Francis W Nash  All Rights Reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.

Another Georgetown Civil War Story

Friday, August 18th, 2017

History books inform us that the Civil War started in April 1861 in Charleston, SC with the bombardment of Ft Sumter in Charleston Bay.  This event provoked the war between the states, but the shots fired there were not the first act of war.  

The Pittsburgh Gazette, which had strongly supported Lincoln’s candidacy, had long given up on James Buchanan, the only native-born Pennsylvanian to be elected president.  When the president called for a national day of fasting and prayer, Russell Errett, the editor of the Gazette, wrote on 18 Dec 1860 that the country’s “great sin against Heaven [had been] in electing James Buchanan to the Presidency.”

Talk of secession had advanced beyond words.  In Dec 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union.  Others followed.  Rumors of war were rife in local newspapers.  A southern sympathizer, Sec of War John B Floyd under Pres Buchanan and former governor of VA,  sent an order to the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh to ship 124 canons to New Orleans and Galveston.  The steamers Silver Wave and Marengo were contracted by the US Army to transport the artillery south.  Col John Symington, the commander of the Allegheny Arsenal, attempted to obey the order from Washington on Christmas Eve.  When citizens of Pittsburgh learned of this action ─ from a whistleblower at the arsenal no doubt ─ the citizens protested, knowing that the guns would be used to fortify the south.  Angry Pittsburgh crowds halted the movement of the canons and their military escorts to the Monongahela wharf.  Thirty-eight guns had been loaded on the str Silver Wave before the crowds blocked the streets to the wharf.  To avoid violence the order for shipment was countermanded.  Further, Pittsburgh citizens threatened to blow the Silver Wave out of the water if it attempted to go down the Ohio River with the thirty-eight guns aboard.  The str Silver Wave never left the wharf. [1]

Southern politicians in Congress were outraged that ordinary Pittsburgh citizens threatened to interfere with military orders for the distribution of federal artillery and munitions south of the Mason-Dixson Line.  

The explosion caused by the protest of the honorable citizens of Pittsburgh was the first genuine act of war between the North and South.  Their activism reminds us of the need to resist – to do what is right. 

 Much later in 1863, the str Silver Wave was the first noncombat steamboat to successfully pass the Vicksburg batteries.  That feat was a big deal!  Vicksburg was deemed impassable – the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.  The Union convoy of three gunboats and the str Silver Wave and three other packets was riddled with holes carrying supplies to Gen Grant’s army below the city.  Many historians consider the fall of Vicksburg the tipping point of the Civil War.   In that campaign, Pittsburgh and Georgetown men played a significant role.  

The Silver Wave was a packet owned and operated by Capt John Smith McMillin.  Born on 23 Jul 1817 in Georgetown, PA, Capt John S McMillin began his river career keel-boating in the 1830’s and was the master and owner of several steamers.  He moved to Grandview Ave on Mt Washington in Pittsburgh in 1853.  In my heart, Capt John Smith McMillin will always be a Georgetown man.  His parents are buried in Georgetown Cemetery.  




[1]  , Standard History of Pittsburg Pennsylvania, (HR Cornell and Co, Chicago, 1893), p 548-549. 



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Website Anniversary

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

I find I will have spent eight years with the Poes – far longer than I thought possible. Time spent researching in libraries and historical societies and in The National Archives and Library of Congress.  And cemeteries.  I cannot escape the steamboats; there are lots of stories to discover.  I keep thinking there will be one defining captain or pilot, or one greatest steamboat.  I keep plugging along toward an unknown destination.  On and on.



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