Archive for the ‘River Tales’ Category

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


Thank You

Monday, November 11th, 2013

On this Veterans Day, I am reminded of sacrifices made.  I have scanned and loaded two newspaper articles dated Oct 1942 about a cannon that had been standing in the town square Georgetown since shortly after the Civil War.  One article identified as a “Special to the Review”  stated that the cannon had been installed as a monument 78 year earlier.  In Oct 1942 the Georgetown town council, like many other small towns, had voted to donate the relic to help relieve the national shortage of scrap metal.   


Civil War Cannon Memorial (Newspaper Clips dated Oct1942)


The historic cannon, forged in Pittsburgh, was transported from the Pittsburgh Arsenal by packet to Line Island where is was to be used to defend Pittsburgh from Gen John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry.  When word reached Georgetown that Morgan’s Raiders were in eastern Ohio on Sunday 26 Jul 1863, the ferry boat was scuttled, women were told to secret their valuables and take their children to a safe place, and the roads were filled with men on horseback riding to defend Georgetown, PA .  It was reported that you could hear gun fire all over the county. 


After many anxious hours, the Georgetown heroes learned that Morgan had been captured a mere 25 miles away near Lisbon, OH.


The Georgetown people sacrificed the cannon and its bit of history to help their sons and daughters serving in WW II.  That was fitting and proper.


Today, I want to thank all veterans of all wars for your service and sacrafice.



Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
All Rights Reserved

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