Archive for the ‘River Tales’ Category

Another Old Book

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

I found a fascinating historical quarterly on eBay.  The Annals of Iowa (Third Series Vol IV No 5) dated April 1900.  My copy came via a private collector through the New Jersey Historical Society.  The book itself is quite interesting.  The binding is not sewn, yet the book is composed of quarto pages which is unusual.  It has not been read completely because most of the pages had not been cut.  Cutting the pages in order to read the book was a delicate process, and probably value destructive.   


The article in the quarterly that caught my eye was the History of Steamboating on the Des Moines River, From 1837 to 1862 by Tacitus Hussey.  It is a collection of arrival and departure logs from two ports and personal diaries.  Combined the logs and diaries confirm that several of my Georgetown guys were working on the Des Moines River as early as 1851. 





Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Jewels from the Internet

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

In Jan 2012, Kevin Mahoney contacted me through GeorgetownSteamboats.  His interest was the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line.  Specifically, he was interested in William (Capt Billy) Anderson, his great great grandfather.  Thanks to Capt Benjamin M Laughlin, I have some unique information on the Pitt-Cin Packet Line.  My information, however, pales in comparison to the Mahoney treasure-trove.


Str Virginia in cornfield in 1910 (courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County)

Capt Billy Anderson was the pilot of the str Virginia on 6 Mar 1910 - the night of the cornfield episode.  One passenger wanted to debark at Willows Grove, WV.  The passenger’s ticket represented a transaction of fifty cents.  Pilot Billy Anderson argued that the stop was too dangerous with the high water; Capt Charles Knox convinced him to try.  That night the str Virginia  parked securely between cornstalks six hundred feet from the river channel.  For six long months the str Virginia was aground – sitting high and dry on fertile soil.  Robins built nests in the pilothouse;  mudwasps constructed hives in the shelter of the decks.  An archaeologist from the Ohio State Historical Society said the str Virginia was stuck on an Indian mound when artifacts were dug under the hull.  A sad state for the proud str Virginia.


Mr Mahoney has family and steamboat photos and stories written by Capt Billy’s daughter.  It is a bit of American history that should be made public. 




Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Mr Matthew S Schulte, Executive director of the Steamship Historical Society of America (SSHSA), has graciously granted permission to scan and post the pages of two articles published in PowerShips, the voice  of the SSHSA. 


The first article, “No Place For a Lady“, was the description of the Missouri River journey written by Nancy Ann (Poe) Ebert in 1869.


The second article, “The History of a Civil War Transport, the Clara Poe ” was the story of the str Clara Poe during the Civil War and the unsuccessful request for indemnity which spanned six presidencies.



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Georgetown Homecoming 2013

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Saturday last I traveled to Georgetown, PA to attend the 2013 Georgetown Homecoming.  The event was held in hot, humid, and t-storm threatening weather in the yard of Georgetown home built in 1848.  The home is adjacent to the Georgetown United Methodist Church which was erected in 1877.  A fun time ― meeting old friends and relatives; sharing stories and past histories.   A good story brings out the best in good food and good friends.  Although the town has a population of only 182 according to the 2010 census, the reunion attracted well over 200 people from as far as California. 

Georgetown Homecoming 2013 (F Nash Collection)

By the way, the rain predicted passed by the town.  Maybe Capt Thomas W Poe’s spirit was watching over us. 





Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

Thomas Washington Poe

Friday, March 29th, 2013

If there is a “night shade” hovering over any stone in the Georgetown Cemetery, it would be the spirit of Capt Thomas Washington Poe for good reason.   Capt Thomas Poe was arguably the most far-famed and ill-fated steamboat captain from Georgetown, PA.  Thomas Washington Poe was born in 1819 in New Lisbon, Columbiana Co, OH.  He died on 31 Dec 1881 aboard the str Fearless on his way to Pittsburgh. 


Capt Thomas W Poe with wives, Phebe and Martha Jane (F Nash Collection)

Misfortune paid its respects to Capt Thomas Poe many times and often far from home.  On 11 May 1855  the str Georgetown was fatally snagged at Bellefontaine Bluffs on the Missouri in route to a military post.  The  str Georgetown was owned by Thomas W Poe and other partners from Georgetown, PA.  He was the principal owner of the str Clara Poe which went up in flames during the Civil War - burned by rebel forces on 17 Apr 1865 at Eddyville on the Cumberland River.  He also owned the str Amelia Poe which was a complete loss when snagged on the upper Missouri river on 24 May 1868 and salvaged by 1,500 riotous Indians.  And he was the

Thomas Poe Illustration in Life on the Mississippi

owner of the str  Nick Wall which met a tragic end on the Mississippi River near Napoleon, AK on 18 Dec 1870.  Here a grisly incident occurred that Mark Twain retold in “Life on the Mississippi”.  The boat struck a snag and sunk rapidly.  Though injured himself by the falling roof, Capt Thomas W Poe attempted to save his wife trapped in a stateroom.  He chopped a hole in the roof with an ax striking the unfortunate Martha Jane Poe in the head.  Martha Jane Poe, fatally wounded, was returned to Georgetown for burial. 


Although Thomas W died on 31 Dec 1881 aboard the str Fearless on his way to Pittsburgh,  his spirit lived on ― in the courts.  The steamer sank eight months later on 26 Aug 1882 on the Missouri.    The legal case regarding the property loss was finally decided by the Supreme Court of Missouri in Oct 1887― not in favor of the Poe heirs.  This verdict feels perfectly consistent with the trend of Thomas Washington Poe’s lfe.




Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

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