Str Washington City

The str Washington City has become one of the most interesting packets from Georgetown, PA. Fragments of its history are scattered across many documents.  Putting these pieces together has resulted in a oddly fascinating history.  Its master was Capt George W Ebert, my double great grandfather.  All this is personal, naturally of great interest to me, but to history in general, the reputation of the str Washington City has not been well preserved over time. 


According to Way’s Packet Directory, the str Washington City was a side wheel, wooden hulled packets built in Freedom, PA in 1852.  Its cargo capacity was rated at 282 tons and its dimensions were 181x29x6.5.  It ran in the Pittsburgh to St Louis trade and was “off the lists” in 1859.  Capt George W Ebert was its master in 1855. [1]  Capt Way’s directory is the holy book of steamboats.


The Lytle-Holdcamper List has one line defining the str Washington City which confirms the date and place of build and the capacity.  It adds information about the first home port which was Pittsburgh and the disposition which was abandoned in 1859. [2]  


The Certificate of Enrollment for the str Washington City from the Pittsburgh Customhouse records at the National Archives listed the original owners as follows:

Str Washington City

Owners/Partners Share Vol: 6634
GW Ebbert 3/16 Enroll No : 162
Jacob Poe 3/16 Cert Date: 6 Nov 1852
James Wilkins 2/16 Cert Type:: Admeasurement
Samuel Cadman 2/16 Build Locn: Freedom, PA
Thomas Smith 2/16 Build Date: 1852
Samuel Smith 2/16    
Samuel Moore 2/16    


On the record dated 6 Nov 1852, George W Ebert was listed as the primary owner. [3]  The other family names are well known in Georgetown.  Samuel Moore was from Rochester, PA and James Wilkins, clerk of the str Washington City, and Samuel Cadman lived in Allegheny City.   (On many of the National Archivves records, the Ebert name is misspelled.   


A second Certificate of Enrollment record listed a surrender date of 1 Dec 1954 with a surrender cause of “Expiration of License and Change of Ownership”. [4]  The list of partners and their shares did not change so I assume the entry was an expiration of the vessel license.


In the spring of 1855, Capt George W Ebert commanding the str Washington City made a dangerous run down the Ohio from Georgetown to St Louis.  The trip was an emergency mission to recover the body of his brother-in-law, Capt Joseph MC Calhoon, who had died of cholera.  The complete story of the death of Capt Joseph MC Calhoon is found on the page – The Body.  This bit of information indicated that Capt George W Ebert maintained command of the boat through that date. 


Another reference to the str Washington City from the The State Historical Society of Missouri occurred on Fri, 22 May 1857.  The reference indicated that str Washington City upon her arrival to Council Bluffs, IA, was purchased by Capt Devinney for $15,000 and converted the boat into a floating hotel. [5]


The str Washington City was also listed by Dr EB Trail in his list of boats on the Missouri from 1836 to 1898.  Other references list the str Washington City as one of several boats running the lower Missouri River in the early 1850′s.  In the history of Buchanan County and St Joseph, Missouri, the str Washington City was listed as “making a few trips” to St Joseph.


However hard it is to pin down its actions, it is important to acknowledge that the str Washington City and its  Georgetown owners and crew were in the river freight and passenger business at the sharp and dangerous frontier edge of our nation.  Without their tenacity, without their fearlessness, without that readiness to leave behind the safety of the Ohio River and venture into the Missouri, the development of the interior of our nation would have been delayed many years. 





[1]  Frederick Way, Jr, Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1994, (Ohio University Press, Athens 1994), p. 481.
[2]  Lytle-Holdcamper, p226.
[3]  National Archives and Records Administration Record Group 41 for the Pittsburgh Customhouse Certificates of Enrollment , Vol 6635, Rec 143, 6 Nov 1852.
[4]  National Archives and Records Administration Record Group 41 for the Pittsburgh Customhouse Certificates of Enrollment , Vol 6636, Rec 162, 6 Nov 1852.
[5]  Copy of unknown newspaper article.


Copyright © 2012 Francis W Nash
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