Str Glaucus

According to the entry in Way’s Packet Directory, 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 a partner and its master.  The Glaucus met a fiery end on 30 Mar 1852 in Montrose, IA. [1]


The str Gaucus was appropriately named after a Greek god, born mortal, who turned immortal upon ingesting a magic herb.  He came to the rescue of sailors and fishermen in perilous storms. 


The original Certificate of Enrollment for the port of Pittsburgh follows:  Although his name was misspelled,  Capt GW Ebert was both a partner and its master in 1849. 

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      


The written history of the str Glaucus is thin.  The following newspaper clips provide a brief glimpse into what was a fascinating time.  Immigrants wee flooding into the territory, both pro- and anti-slavery groups in order to prepare for the vote on slavery in the new territories.  To the best of my knowledge, the steamboat men from Georgetown, PA were opposed to slavery and in later years supported the Union cause. 


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, Capt Way – 30 Mar.   Insurance for the Missouri River was so expensive most packet owners could not insure their property for its full value.  That was one of the risks these men took – pitting their skills against the river’s suprises.


This confusion of time, and sometimes identity in other cases, makes an accurate presentation of history difficult.  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
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