The Iced Body

Joseph MC Calhoon was a steamboat captain born in 1823.  His brothers, John, Milton, Richard, Robert and James Hutchinson, were also steamboat captains and pilots, and all of them  lived in Georgetown, PA or the surrounding Greene Township.   In 1846, Joseph MC’s older brother John had drowned in Marietta, OH while in the command of the Poe packet Financier.  John was 37 years and left three young children.  Milton moonlighted as a farmer in the spring and summer and worked on boats in the fall and winter.  Richard, Robert, and James were steamer captains during the Civil War.


Joseph MC Calhoon married Parthenia Parr, the daughter of Abraham Parr and Mary (Hague) Ebert.  They had five children.  Twins, a son and a daughter, were born to Joseph MC posthumously. 


At age 27 years, Joseph MC Calhoon was master of the Cinderella.   Like  the Financier commanded by his brother John, the Cinderella was a Poe family boat where Joseph MC gained his river experience.  According to the Certificate of Enrollment of the Customhouse in Pittsburgh, PA brothers Andrew and George Poe were two of the partners in the enterprise.

Str Cinderella

Owners and Partners Share Vol: 6633
James H Haslett Enroll No : 116
Andrew Poe Cert Date: 6 Aug 1849
George Poe Cert Type:: Enrollment
Build Locn: Elizabeth, PA
Build Date: 1847
Master Joseph MC Calhoon


In 1852, Joseph MC built the sidewheeler Golden State which he commanded until his death.  Its cargo capacity was 298 tons and its cabin capacity provided 40 staterooms with 2 berths

Str Golden Gate Llicense dated 1854 (Frances and John Finley Collection)

Str Golden Gate Llicense dated 1854 (Frances and John Finley Collection)

each.  The Golden State was permitted to accomodate 102 persons according to the Inspector’s Certificate.   Capt Jackman T Stockdale was master in 1854 working the Pittsburgh to St Louis trade.  While master and owner of the Golden State, Joseph MC managed the construction of the sternwheeler Caroline which he sold before its completion.  The Caroline burned near the mouth o the White River on 5 Mar 1854.  Next he built the steamer Parthenia Parr, named for his wife.  Like the Caroline, he never commanded the Parthenia Parr.  Like the Caroline, the Parthenia Parr met its end in flames in St Louis on 7 Dec 1855.

The original ownership of the Golden State according to the Certificate of Enrollment of the Customhouse in Pittsburgh, PA is displayed in the following table.


Str Golden State

Owners and Partners Share Vol: 6636
Joseph MC Calhoon 3/8 Enroll No : 154
James Lyon 1/8 Cert Date: 1 Sep 1854
Thomas Oliver 1/8 Cert Type:: Enrollment 131
William Rea 1/16 Build Locn: McKeesport, PA
David McNeal 1/16 Build Date: 1852
George McBride 1/16 Master Jackman T Stockdale
Haigh Hartupre 1/16
William Noble 1/8



Near the mouth of the Missouri River in Apr 1855, Joseph MC became ill aboard the Golden State.  He intended to return to his home in Georgetown, PA.  Unable to proceed farther than Alton, IL, he stayed at the Franklin House where he died on Saturday evening on 21 Apr 1855 at about nine o’clock. 

Masonic Service Notice for Joseph MC Calhoon dated 22 Apr 1855 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Local Free Masons organized and conducted a service on 22 Apr 1855 and his body was placed in a metal case and deposited in a vault in St Louis Cemetery until he could be returned to Georgetown, PA.  In a letter addressed to Mrs Jos M Calhoon from WH Turner dated 23 Apr 1855, the cause of death was described as “attacked with Cholera or Cholera Morbus”.  Joseph MC had a $1040 in a money bag and $260 in his pocket book.  All of it was placed in the Alton Bank by brothers in the fraternity of Masons. [1]  The amount of cash, $1,300 would be equal to approximately $26,000 today.  Some said the body was pickled, a custom of the time.  Joseph MC was 32 years and left five young children. 


Turner to Parthenia Calhoon 1855 p1 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Turner to Parthenia Calhoon 1855 p2 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Turner to Parthenia Calhoon 1855 p3 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)













Turner to Parthenia Calhoon 1855 p4 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

At the time of his death in Alton, IL, navigation on the Ohio River had been halted due to high water.  When navigation opened at Pittsburgh, the steamer Washington City ran to St Louis despite the dangerous conditions of the swollen river.  The Washington City was commanded by Capt George Washington Ebert, a brother-in-law of the deceased; the clerk was James Wilkins, a brother-in-law; and its owner was Jacob Poe, a brother-in-law.  All lived in Georgetown, PA.  After collecting the body and settling the business accounts, the Washington City returned directly to Georgetown where the body was interred in the Calhoon family lot.  According to local history, the body was stored in ice a board the steamer.  Assuming the return trip would have taken approximately 14 days, the body would have arrived in Georgetown on or shortly after the day the twins were born.   
MapQuest of Alton, IL and St Louis, MO

MapQuest of Alton, IL and St Louis, MO

The fate of the Golden State in Apr 1855 was not recorded.  On the Cert of Enrollment  dated 18 Dec 1855, Jacob Poe and GW Ebert replaced Joseph MC Calhoon as partners.  On the Cert of enrollment dated 28 Mar 1856, Adam Poe was listed as the primary owner.  Control of the str Golden State  stayed within the Poe family. In his book “Old Times on the Upper Mississippi” by George B Merrick, he listed the Golden State in the St Paul trade.  In 1856 Capt NF Webb was in command; in 1857 Capt Scott with the Galena, Dunleith, and St Paul Line.   According to Way’s Packet Directory, the Golden State burned at Sulphur Springs, MO on 6 Sep 1857. [2]


Steamboats and swollen rivers were a dangerous mix.  To recover the body of Joseph MC Calhoon, his brothers-in-law with a skeleton crew of neighbors and relatives from Georgetown braved the angry Ohio.  The danger was real.  In similar high water conditions the luxury steamer Virginia in Mar 1910 missed the channel on the Ohio and came to rest in a Willow,Grove, WV cornfield more than 700 feet from the river and 38 feet above normal water level.  A similar fate could have befallen the Washington City.

Str Virginia in WV cornfield 1910 (From the Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse)

Str Virginia in WV cornfield 1910 (From the Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse)






[1]  Alexander C McIntosh, Georgetown – Its Early Settlers and their River Boat Experiences, Beaver County Historical Society, 5 Apr 1983.

[2]   Frederick Way, Jr., Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 191.





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