Archive for the ‘River Tales’ Category

TC Collins ― Boatman

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I found a rare and fascinating book


            “The Adventures of T. C. Collins ― Boatman
               Twenty-four Years on the Western Waters

The book, edited by Herbert L Roush, Sr, was published in 1985.  Like a limited edition print, I have signed copy number 10 of 750 copies.  The book is the compilation of four journals written by TC Collins before his death in 1907.  Those journals were given a place in the attic of the Collins family home for almost eighty years before the work was introduced to Rev Roush.  The book is the transcription and editing of 2,800 pages of hand-written work.


The reason I find the book fascination is the career of TC Collins paralleled the time of my steamboat men from Georgetown, PA.  He writes about the hardships of the life of a roustabout.  From his writing, I learned details about flatboating, floods, ice jams, and steamer wrecks on the Ohio River.  Born in Little Hocking, OH, TC Collins worked on the rivers that my ancestors worked.  He named some of the boats that my ancestors owned.   He did not name many of the captains of the boats, but he did identify people he worked with ― deckhands, pilots, and friends. 


This TC Collins autobiography presents a first hand account of the expansion of the young American frontier.  A wonderful read.


Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Capt Adam Poe’s Book

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

In writing about his river experiences telling about himself, he was also telling the story about the frontier and expansion to the West.  Capt Adam Poe was contributing to the growing body of literature about the West.  At that time Americans were avid readers of “Westerns”.  These novels, and epic tales of the Indian Wars,  were the core of the motion picture industry through the twentieth century – the struggle between good and evil and survival in a lawless society. 


Make time to read The True History of… by Capt Adam Poe.  The pages have been scanned and loaded for your entertainment.  It is a wonderful story.




Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Fracking Redux

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

This morn I was reading a newspaper article about “fracking” in PA.  The article reminded me of a story attributed to Charley PoeCharles Edgar Poe, the son of Capt Jacob Poe, was a gentleman and a great storyteller.  His oil drilling tale was well told and well liked.  From 1860-1885, oil and gas wells were drilled in every direction centered around Georgetown, PA.  

Smith's Ferry Oil Field ca 1865 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Smith’s Ferry Oil Field ca 1865 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

This photo from the Western Advertiser dated 25 Jan 1972 illustrates the ferocity of the drilling efforts in Smith’s Ferry opposite Georgetown.  There must be fifty derricks pictured on this spit of land.  The wells of that time had little or no casing, and few if any were capped.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no count or map of the wells drilled.  Those holes are the problem. 

 There is also no public water system in Georgetown, PA.  Drinking water is pumped from a private well on each property.  The water from some wells nearby old drilling sites has an unpleasant “oily” taste after 150 years.  Filters, softeners, and other water purification devices can not remove the taint.     


I am curiously interested in the process of “fracking”.  In Charley Poe’s day, oil drilling operators would “doctor” ailing wells.  A charge of nitroglycerin was lowered into the well casing and discharged.  If the results were good, a listless well would begin to produce oil or gas.  This process was essentially “nitroglycerin fracturing” – the shale containing the oil or gas was fractured by the explosion releasing trapped petroleum.   


Today the “fracking” boom is changing the landscape of southwestern PA, and Georgetown.  The extraction technology has changed from nitroglycerin to a high pressure cocktail of chemicals too “top secret” to be disclosed by the drilling operators.  And disclosure is not required by current PA DEP regulations.  To date according to the following NPR website page,  the total number of wells drilled in PA was 8,982 by 74 operators.  There have been 3,025 citations issued for violating PA environmental regulations, primarily water contamination.   




Climate change is a theory that has been acknowledged and accepted by 97% of our environemental planet scientists.  According to these scientists, carbon emissions from coal and oil fuels are a major cause of climate change.  Why is more oil and gas production extracted by dubious means and long term side effects the solution to our economic problems.  Fracking is the problem.  And the solution? 



Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

The First Steamboat War.

Friday, December 21st, 2012

In May 1846, the US Army was completely unprepared for the logistics problems presented by the Mexican War.  Difficult though the procurement of supplies was, the distribution of those supplies presented far more complex problems.  Supply lines were longer than ever experienced in US military history.   For the Army of the West, nearly 900 miles of Indian Territory separated the Ft Leavenworth depot from Santa Fe and 1,050 miles separated Santa Fe from San Diego. For the Army of the East, San Antonio was 600 miles from Chihuahua and 160 miles from Port Lavacca on the Gulf of Mexico.


Beginning in Nov 1846, the US army Quartermaster successfully used steamboats for transporting troops and supplies to Ft Leavenworth on the Missouri River and New Orleans.  Some of the inland river steamboats also “sailed” the 600 miles from New Orleans over open seas so that they could operate on the Rio Grande during the war.  (Sailing vessels also moved troops and supplies from New York and other Atlantic ports to the Gulf.  At that time, the steam powered toy called a railroad appeared destined for nothing more than carrying goods to a steamboat port provided no benefit to the Army.)    


According to the entry in Capt Way’s Directory, the str New England was the flagship of a fleet of steamboats departing Pittsburgh with soldiers bound for the Mexican War.  In Mar 1847, the str New England was purchased by Capt George W Ebert who operated the sidewheeler between Pittsburgh and Wheeling till 1849. [1]  I do not know whether Capt Ebert  participated in the Mexican War effort (combat operations lasted a year and a half to the fall of 1847).

The following table lists the owners of the str New England  according to the Certifiacte of Enrollment record dated 3 Mar 1847.

Str New England

Owners and Partners Share Vol: 6629
Geo W Ebert   Enroll No : 26
Jacob Poe   Cert Date: 3 Mar 1847
Andrew Poe   Cert Type:: Enrollment 180
Thomas Poe   Build Locn: Pittsburgh, PA
Wm J Kountz   Build Date: 1844
David Wilkins   Master GW Ebert



Check the owners of  the str New England in 1847.  All these names spelled history.   Geo W Ebert was my great great grandfather;  Jacob, Andrew and Thomas Poe were brothers and my great great granduncles.  During the Civil War, William J Kountz was the admiral in charge of river transportation.  He declared that Gen US Grant was  a “glorious drunk” who should be court marshaled.  Grant arrested William J Kountz  for insubordination. 



[1]  Frederick Way, Jr.,Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p 343.


SSHSA Article

Monday, October 29th, 2012

It’s been much too long since my last post.  I have an article in the Steamships Historical Society of America (SSHSA) magazine PowerShips Fall 2012 No 283.  The synopsis follows:


No Place for a Lady!: Journal of the Wife of a Steamboat Captain:  With a load of freight aboard the steamboat Mollie Ebert, Captain George Washington Ebert left the Georgetown, Pa., landing destined for Fort Benton in the Montana Territory.  Nancy Ann (Poe) Ebert accompanied her husband on that river voyage. They were steaming right into Indian territory a few years before General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry’s ride to death at the Little Bighorn.  Great great grandson Francis Nash draws on Nancy Ebert’s journal account of the journey for a fascinating history of steamboat commerce in 1869.



The story was edited by Jim Pennypacker who is the editor of PowerShips.  He made me look like a professional.  If you can find the periodical, the story is a fun read. 


Keep dry.  We have hurricane Sandy passing through this eve.  Already the winds are gusting and the rain is arriving in sheets so I expect it will be a long night. 




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Another Find

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Last weekend I was in Georgetown, PA, packing books that my sister and I donated to local libraries.  In an old box of books, we discovered a “home made” book by Mrs Lillian May Poe Wagner. 

Lillian May Poe Book -Cover (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Lillian May Poe Book -Cover (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

The book was a bible study book  – The Divine Plan of the Ages.  Lillian May Poe pasted photographs, newspaper clippings, obituaries, postcards, business cards, and hand written notes over the pages of the study book.  The items are dated from 1904 to 1936. 


I will scan and load the important pages – pages with photographs of the Georgetown steamboat captains and their wives, wedding announcements, etc.

Lillian May Poe Book - Obit (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Lillian May Poe Book - Obit (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Lillian May Poe Book - Family Photos (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Lillian May Poe Book - Family Photos (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)


Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Capt Jacob Poe Update

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

The biography of Capt Jacob Poe has been updated.  Data acquired from the Certificates of Enrollment for the port of Pittsburgh at the National Archives has been included for some of the early Poe family steamboats.  By “early” I mean before 1848 when Capt Way’s Packet Directory starts its history of steamboats. 


Capt Jacob Poe was also in command of several keel boats.  I intend to add data on these Georgetown keel boats in the near future.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Two Strs Yorktown

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I intend to refocus my attention on the core purpose of this website.  It exists to make public the journal of Nancy Ann (Poe) Ebert.  Her personal journal of the trip with her husband, Capt George W Ebert, on the upper Missouri River in 1869 was a bit of American History that I believe should be shared with river scholars.  I also want to share the stories of the steamboat men from Georgetown, PA.  The most remarkable and unique source information that I have been able to share has been the hand written book by Capt Benjamin Mackall Laughlin.  That book identified 42 steamboats built between 1832-1838 in the Pittsburgh region that were not listed by Lytle and Holdcamper. 


To begin my renewed concentration on steamboats, a page named Str Yorktown b1853 has been loaded.  It was the second boat named Yorktown owned and operated by the Poe family.  To differentiate the two vessels, I added the build date specified on the initial Certificate of Enrollment in the title of the page.  Capt Way’s Packet Directory number was considered, as another distinguishing feature, but I preferred the build date because the Poes ran boats with duplicate names before 1848, the year Way’s Packet Directory began its list.   


Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

History is a Story

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Ms Barbara Macleish has introduced me to the reference “Chronicling America”. 


About Chronicling America


Chronicling America is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.


So far 737 newspapers from 1836 to 1922 have been digitized.  Unfortunately, western PA is not well represented.  Fortunately OH, MO, and MT along the inland rivers are well represented during the steamboat era.  No doubt I will be spending much time searching these references.


A good example of the findings from “Chronicling America” is the little known str Glaucus.  The str Glaucus information provided by the original Certificate of Enrollment appears below followed by Capt Way’s entry in his Packet Directory.  :


Str Glaucus


Owners and Partners Share Vol: 6633
T Harvey Miller   Enroll No : 89
Thom S Clarke   Cert Date: 6 Jul 1849
Wm Thaw   Cert Type:: Enrollment
Geo Black   Build Locn: W Elizabeth, PA
Robert S Hays   Build Date: 1849
Wm Bingham   Master GW Ebbert
Wilson Miller      
GW Ebbert      




Glaucus.  The sidewheel wooden hull packet named the Glaucus was built in West Elizabeth, PA in 1849 for the St Louis to Keokuk Packet Line.  Its capacity was 154 tons.  George Washington Ebert was partner and its master.  The Glaucus met a fiery end on 30 Mar 1852 in Montrose, IA.  [1]



In addition to this original source info and Capt Way’s history, Ms Macleish has directed me to newspaper articles found in Chronicling America, as well as other more direct routes.



Gallipolis Journal 7 Aug 1851


By the tremendous hail storm
Saturday night, the steamer Glaucus
had her chimneys blown over, and
cabins badly shattered.



Hannibal Journal  25 Mar 1852 (Fri)


You may have heard of the loss of
the steamer Glaucus – if not, I will
tell you that she was burned at
Montrose on Friday last, while lying
there ice-bound.  She belonged to the
Keokuk Packet Company, and was
insured for $5,000.


Democratic Banner (Davenport, Iowa)
1852  March  26

BURNING OF THE GLAUCUS.—On Saturday last, the Steamer Glaucus, on her upward trip from Keokuk, while lying ice-bound at Montrose, was entirely destroyed by fire.  The fire originated in the steerage, and spread so rapidly as to prevent the recovery of anything, excepting the books and papers of the boat—even the passengers’ baggage was all destroyed.  The Glaucus, we understand, was not intended to be run as one of the regular mail boats, between this point and Keokuk, but was to have been kept as a reserve, to run in case of need.


Day in history for March 28, 2002 – Quad-Cities Online

150 years ago: Passengers from the Lamartine, just arrived, informed us that the packet Glaucus burned about 11 a.m. yesterday while it was lying ice- bound at Montrose, Iowa. Not even the baggage of the passengers was saved


Notice the differences in the date the str Glaucus burned.  The Hannibal Journal indicated 18 Mar, the Democratic Banner – 20 Mar, the Quad Cities Online – 27 Mar,  and Capt Way – 30 Mar.  Capt Way is my go to guy.  If he writes something, then it is true, even if it was not.


This confusion of time, and sometimes identity in other cases, makes an accurate presentation of history difficult.  Early American history is a story.  How much is fact and how much is legend does not really matter, for it did certainly happen. 




[1]   Frederick Way, Jr.,Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 188.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Cholera and Steamboats

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

“The Ghost Map” by Steven Johnson tells the story of the most severe outbreak of cholera in London’s history and one determined man’s efforts to analyze the outbreak.  That man was Dr John Snow.  The date was 1854.  In the study Dr Snow mapped the location of each victim and interviewed family survivors, if any.  At the time, health officials believed that cholera was spread by “ill humours”.  London was notoriously known for its bad air and odors due to its dense population and lack of sewage management.  Bacteria were unknown.  Yet Dr Snow identified the one common factor of the victims – the Broad Street public pump.  He effectively stopped the cholera outbreak in Soho by removing the pump handle on the contaminated well.  Although his hypothesis was not well accepted for another twenty years, Dr Snow determined indirectly that cholera was spread by contaminated water and is credited with the development of the epidemiological method.  


On Saturday evening 21 Apr 1855 at about nine o’clock, Capt Joseph MC Calhoon died.  The cause of death was described as “attacked with Cholera or Cholera Morbus” in a letter from WH Turner, Esq to Mrs Joseph MC Calhoon. Capt Calhoon took ill near the mouth of the Missouri River.  He tried to return to his family in Georgetown, PA but only made it as far as Alton, IL.  His body was taken to St Louis by local Free Masons and later transported to Georgetown, PA by relatives.  More details of Capt Joseph MC Calhoon’s death are found in the page – The Body.


In a letter written by Dr Isaac H Harriott II dated 15 Jul 1855, another incident with cholera took place.  On 5 Jul in Keokuk, Dr Harriott booked passage on the str Ella bound for St Paul.  Before the str Ella reached Montrose, IA two deck passengers had died of cholera.  Permission to bury the two victims was denied by local health authorities on 6 Jul 1855.  According to Dr Harriott, the two men were put into one box and buried about two or three miles from Montrose, IA on 7 Jul. 


The same incident of cholera in Montrose, IA was described in Capt Adam Poe’s River Experiences.  Cholera was so feared that Capt Adam Poe could not hire local laborers to load freight onto the str Ella.  The disease was terrifying.  A victim would lose up to five gallons of water a day, leading to a rapid painful death from dehydration.   Capt Adam Poe’s opinion of Montrose on a scale of  criminal to fair-minded was made clear.  According to Capt Poe’s recollections, the steamboat carpenter made two rough boxes.  The men were buried on a low island in the Mississippi River.


There was no Dr John Snow like person on the Mississippi in 1855.  But it is not unlikely that these two incidents on the Mississippi, separated by four months and a hundred miles of water, had a common factor like the town well in Keokuk or another river town.  Today contaminated water is still a serious worldwide problem.  One estimate indicates that more than 100,000 deaths a year are caused by cholera infections.




Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved