UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
HISTORY OF STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA
BY THOMAS HUGHES.
The picturesque river which gave our commonwealth its
name has always been an important feature in the geography and
history of this northwest country.
The geologist reads in the deep erosion of this valley, and
in its continuance to lake Traverse, which outflows to lake Winni-
peg and Hudson bay, the story of a mighty river, the outlet of a
vast ancient lake covering the Red river region in the closing part
of the Glacial period. What use, if any, the primitive men of
that time made of this majestic stream, we know not.
The Dakota tribes, whom the white explorers found dwelling
upon our river's margin two or three centuries ago, called it "the
sky-tinted", from the tincture given its water by the rich clayey
soil of its valley. Their mortal foes, the O jib ways, whose home
was among the somber pines of the north, were impressed with
the greenness of its luxuriant foliage, and hence knew it as Ash-
kiibogi-Sibi, "the River of the Green Leaf." The French trad-
ers named it the St. Pierre (or St. Peter), probably in honor of
one of their leaders who had been among the first to explore it .
Many and varied have been the scenes enacted upon its banks,
scenes of thrilling adventure and glorious valor, as well as of
happy merriment and tender love . It was for centuries the arena
of many a sanguinary conflict, and the blood of lowas, Dakotas,
Ojibways, and white men, often mingled freely with its flood.
*Read at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council, April 14, 1902.
132 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
EARLIEST, NAVIGATION BY WHITE MEN.
For generations unknown the only craft its bosom bore was
the canoe of the Indian. Then came the French traders, with
their retinue of voyaguers, who made our river an avenue of a
great commerce in Indian goods and costly furs. For over a
hundred years fleets of canoes and Mackinaw boats, laden with
Indian merchandise, plied constantly along the river's sinuous
length. The sturdy voyaguers, however, left to history but a
scant record of their adventurous life. A brave and hardy race,
were they, inured to every peril and hardship, yet ever content
and happy ; and long did the wooded bluffs of the Minnesota
echo with their songs of old France.
The first white men known to have navigated the Minnesota
were Le Sueur and his party of miners, who entered its mouth
in a felucca and two row boats on September 2Oth, 1700, and
reached the mouth of the Blue Earth on the 3oth of the same
month. The next spring he carried with him down the river a
boat-load of blue or green shale which he had dug from the bluffs
of the Blue Earth, in mistake for copper ore . Much more profit-
able, doubtless, he found the boat-load of beaver and other Indian
furs, which he took with him at the same time. This is the first
recorded instance of freight transportation on the Minnesota
In the winter of 1819-20, a deputation of Lord Selkirk's
Scotch colony, who had settled near the site of Winnipeg, traveled
through Minnesota to Prairie du Chien, a journey of about a
thousand miles, to purchase seed wheat. On April I5th, 1820,
they started back in three Mackinaw boats loaded with 200 bush-
els of wheat, 100 bushels of oats, and 30 bushels of peas. Dur-
ing the month of May they ascended the Minnesota from its
mouth to its source, and, dragging their loaded boats over the
portage on rollers, descended the Red river to their homes, which
they reached early in June.
The Mackinaw or keel boats used on the river in those days
were open vessels of from twenty to fifty feet in length by four to
ten feet in width, and capable of carrying from two to eight tons
burden. They were propelled by either oars or poles as the
exigencies of the river might require. The crew usually com-
prised from five to nine men. One acted as steersman, and, in
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 133
poling, the others, ranging themselves in order upon a plank laid
lengthwise of the boat on each side, would push the boat ahead;
and as each, in rotation, reached the stern, he would pick up his
pole and start again at the prow. Their progress in ascending
the river would be from five to fifteen miles per day, depending
upon the stage of water and the number of rapids they had to
Dr. Thomas S. Williamson, the noted missionary to the
Indians, in describing his first journey up the valley of the Minne-
sota, in June, 1835, gives an interesting account of how he shipped
his wife and children and his fellow helpers, Mr. and Mrs. A.
G. Huggins, with their goods, on one of these boats, which was
nine days in making the trip from Fort Snelling to Traverse des
In the correspondence of Mrs. S. R. Riggs, the wife of
another famous missionary to the Sioux, is found a vivid picture
of a Mackinaw boat, belonging to the old Indian trader, Philander
Prescott, in which she ascended the Minnesota in September,
1837. It was about forty feet long by eight feet wide and capable
of carrying about five tons. It was manned by a crew of five
persons, one to steer, and two on each side to furnish the motive
power. Oars were used as far as to the Little rapids, about three
miles above Carver, and thence to Traverse des Sioux poles were
employed. The journey consumed five days.
Illustrative of the size and capacity of some of the canoes
used by the traders, we find George A. McLeod in April, 1853,
bringing down from Lac qui Parle to Traverse des Sioux forty
bushels of potatoes, besides a crew of five men, in a single canoe
twenty-five feet long by forty- four inches wide, hollowed out of a
huge cottonwood tree.
The first steamboat to enter the Minnesota river was the
Virginia on May loth, 1823. She was not a large vessel, being
only 118 feet long by 22 feet wide, and she only ascended as far
as Mendota and Fort Snelling, which during the period between
the years 1820 and 1848 were about the only points of importance
in the territory now embraced within our state. Hence all the
boats navigating the upper Mississippi in those days had to enter
the Minnesota to reach these terminal points.
134 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
Except for these landings at its mouth, and save that in 1842
a small steamer with a party of excursionists on board ascended
it as far as the old Indian village near Shakopee, no real attempt
was made to navigate the Minnesota with steamboats until 1850.
Prior to this time it was not seriously thought that the river was
navigable to any great distance for any larger craft than a keel
boat, and the demonstration to the contrary, then witnessed, has
made that year notable in the history of the state.
EXCURSIONS IN THE YEAR 1850.
In June, 1850, the Anthony Wayne, a Mississippi river boat
in charge of Captain Daniel Able, arrived at St. Paul with a
party of St. Louis people. They were a jolly crowd, and to
enliven their trip had brought with them a small band of music
from Quincy, Illinois. Just then there was quite a freshet in
the Minnesota, and it was suggested to Captain Able that to en-
tertain his guests he take his boat on an excursion up this river,
then little known, to see the country. The people of St. Paul
were soon enlisted in the project, and a purse of $225 was raised
to defray the expense.
On the day set, Friday, the 28th of June, early in the morn-
ing the Anthony Wayne, with her decks crowded with one hun-
dred and fourteen of St. Paul's prominent citizens and the
seventy St. Louis people, started on her memorable journey up
the Minnesota. All nature seemed propitious. The day clear
and balmy, the luxuriant vegetation freshened by recent showers,
and the river full to the brim, glistening like silver between its
winding avenues of trees gaily decked and festooned in varied
green, all combined to make a glorious paradise of this most
charming of valleys. Louis Pelon and Thomas J. Odell, because
of their acquaintance with the river, acted as pilots.
At Fort Snelling our excursionists found Captain Monroe
with only fifty men in charge and expecting every moment to be
summoned to Sauk Rapids to quell a disturbance by the Winne-
bagoes, which happened the next day. Here the military band,
under the lead of Mr. Jackson, joined the excursion.
The first point of note above the fort, and at a distance of
about three miles by land from it, was Black Dog's village, com-
prising a row of huts and tepees ranged on the brow of the
north bluff. The intervening ground between the bluff and the
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 135
river was covered with patches of corn and beans, which the
squaws were busily hoeing. Near by on the same side of the
river, but close to its banks, they passed Man Cloud's village .
Five or six miles beyond (by land measure), Good Road's
village stood on the south bank. About ten miles farther, and
on the same side of the river, lay Six's village, where Samuel
Pond had his mission station . Nearly opposite the present village
of Chaska was a village of Wahpahton Sioux, where Louis Robert
had a trading post, for which the boat unloaded some goods . At
the foot of the rapids near Carver our steamer overtook a keel
boat bearing the name "Rocky Mountains," whose crew were en-
gaged in the arduous task of forcing their boat up the rushing
waters by dragging it with a long rope passed around a tree
above and by pushing it with their long poles . The Wayne con-
cluded not to attempt the rapids, and turned her prow homeward .
The fuel having given out, the boat crew made a raid on an
Indian cemetery close at hand, and replenished their stock from
the dry poles and pickets there found . This vandalism was prob-
ably excused on the ground of necessity, no other dry wood being
available . Be that as it may, it is certain that the steam generated
by this funereal fuel soon carried the Wayne and her happy
burden home. The voyage had proven eminently successful, and
the people were wild in their praise of the river and the beautiful
country it drained.
Emulous of the Wayne's achievement, the Nominee, a rival
boat in command of Captain Orren Smith, got up another ex-
cursion party, and on the I2th of July sailed up the river, and
passing the formidable rapids planted her shingle three miles
above, and then returned home in triumph.
The Wayne, not to be thus outdone by a rival, on the i8th of
the same month, with a third excursion on board, ascended
again the now famous river. The Fort Snelling band partici-
pated also in this journey. Passing the rapids and the shingle
of the Nominee on the first day, the Wayne spent her second night
at Traverse des Sioux. Here the missionaries, M'essrs. Hop-
kins and Huggins and their families, extended generous hospi-
tality; and the next morning they joined the party in their farther
progress up the river . After partaking of a picnic dinner at the
bend in the river two or three miles below the present city of
Mankato, our excursionists turned the prow of the Wayne home-
136 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
ward, whence arriving they swelled the praise of the beautiful
valley of the Minnesota more than ever .
Incited by the success of these boats, the Yankee, a steamer
belonging to the Harris line, determined to outdo them all. Ac-
cordingly a big excursion, comprising most of the prominent
officials and business men of St. Paul, was organized, and on
Monday, the 22nd day of July, this ambitious little boat steamed
into the mouth of the Minnesota. She was officered by M. K.
Harris, captain, J. S. Armstrong, pilot, G. W. Scott, first en-
gineer, and G. L. Sargent, second engineer. The Fort Snelling
band was again in requisition. Late on the afternoon of the
second day the boat passed Traverse des Sioux, where the mis-
sionaries had just harvested a small field of wheat, probably the
first ever raised in the valley. It certainly was fitting that this
first year of steamboating in the valley should also be the first
year to grow that commodity which was to play so important a
part in the river's traffic.
The second night was spent at the upper end of Kascta
prairie. It was a charming moonlight night, and a number of
the Yankee's party held a dance on the grassy floor of this level
plateau. The band furnished the music (some of the dancers
said that several mosquito bands were out too) .
Early Wednesday the Yankee started up stream again, soon
passing the sign the Anthony Wayne had fastened to a neighbor-
ing tree the w r eek before. On the mound at the mouth of the
Blue Earth our travelers found a small Indian trading post, be-
longing to H. H. Sibley, in charge of a Frenchman. Discover-
ing here in the sand what seemed to be pieces of cannel coal, they
were told by the Frenchman that two or three miles up the Blue
Earth there was a solid bed of coal four feet thick in a bluff.
This must have been the same wonderful bluff in which Le Sueur
found his copper mine, but as no such bluff was ever afterward
known in that locality, and as the Frenchman also mysteriously
disappeared, there may be some ground for the report that he
stole it, or it may have been all "bluff," a French "bluff."
By the third evening the boat reached a point a little above
the present village of Judson in Blue Earth county. Even thus
late in the season (July 24th), the stage of water in the river was
excellent, and no difficulty so far had been incurred in its navi-
gation. It was voted that evening to proceed again on the mor-
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 137
row, but the intense heat (which had been 104 degrees in the
shade that day) and the swarms of mosquitoes prevented both
crew and passengers from sleeping. For that reason, and be-
cause provisions were nearly exhausted, the vote was reconsid-
ered in the morning, and the fourth night found them again at
Traverse des Sioux.
On the next day they spent an hour at Six's village. The
old chief, with about a hundred of his braves, came down to the
landing to meet them, and there he made a speech claiming big
damages because the excursionists had tramped down his corn.
True, the corn had been drowned out and washed away by the
high water long before the whites landed; but then, the Great
Spirit was angry because they had taken those big fire canoes up
the river, and that was why the freshet came, so they ought to
pay for the corn. How Six (or "Half a Dozen," as James
Goodhue of the "Pioneer" called him) succeeded with his damage
suit is not stated, but our travelers reached St. Paul all safe by
Never did they forget the beautiful country they had seen,
and the delightful journey they had taken on its most picturesque
highway. Nearly all the prominent people of the Territory,
and scores of visitors from the East, had participated in one or
more of these excursions. The navigability of the Minnesota by
steamboat was now a demonstrated fact, and the desirability for
settlement of the fertile country it drained was by these eye
witnesses everywhere enthusiastically heralded. This focusing
of the public eye on the valley contributed in no small degree to
the making of the great treaty with the Sioux in the following
summer, whereby this magnificent country was thrown open to
THE TREATY OF 1851, AND ENSUING IMMIGRATION.
On the 29th of June, 1851, the steamer Excelsior (called
by the Indians the Buck boat, from the antlered head of a' deer
which decorated its prow) transported the treaty commissioners,
Hon. Luke Lea and Governor Ramsey, with their attendants
and supplies, to Traverse des Sioux, where at sunrise on the
morning of the 3oth they arrived . On the 2oth of July the Ben-
jamin Franklin, No. I, carried to the same place a party of St.
Paul people to witness the famous treaty then in progress. The
138 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
third and only other boat to ascend the Minnesota this year was
the Uncle Toby, which on October 7th conveyed to Traverse des
Sioux the first load of Indian goods under the new treaty.
During the fall and winter following this treaty there was
a great rush of settlers into the Minnesota valley, and before the
spring of 1852 a series of town sites lined the banks of the river
from St. Paul to the mouth of the Blue Earth, a distance by
water of a hundred .ind fifty miles. These embryo towns were
at once in dire need of communication with the civilized world,
that they might be accessible to the swarms of settlers ever
pressing westward, and that those locating in them might have
their wants supplied.
STEAMBOAT TRAFFIC, 1852 TO iS/I .
Among the proprietors of the townsite of Mankato were
Henry Jackson and Col. D. A. Robertson, both influential busi-
ness men of St . Paul . Through their efforts the steamer Tiger,
under Captain Maxwell, was induced to make three trips to the
remote Blue Earth town in the spring of 1852. She left St.
Paul on her first journey April 2ist, and returned on the 25th
of the same month. Her second and third trips were made on
April 28th and May i8th. Each time she carried a full load of
passengers and freight for Mankato and intermediate points.
The Minnesota now becoming too low for navigation, the Tiger
In the meantime, by an act of Congress passed June 8th,
1852, this river, which heretofore the whites had called the St.
Peter's, had its ancient Sioux name, Minnesota, restored to it . The
mid-summer rains restored to it, also, its navigable condition, and
Colonel Robertson succeeded in chartering the Black Hawk to
make three trips to Mankato during July . The Black Hawk was
a stern- wheel boat, just built the winter before at Rock Island,
and was well adapted for the Minnesota trade, being 130 feet
long with a 21 -foot beam, and drawing only 17 inches of water.
She had thirty state rooms, with berths for sixty passengers, and
was capable of carrying 130 tons. Her captain was W. P.
Hall, and her clerk W. Z. Dalzell. She left St. Paul on her
first voyage up the Minnesota on the third of July, having on
board, besides freight, forty passengers, fifteen of whom were
booked to Mankato. The boat arrived there on the morning of
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 139
the 5th, and returned the next day to St. Paul. On the I2th and
2ist of July the Black Hawk departed on her second and third
trips to Mankato, and during the same season she made two trips
to Babcock's Landing, just opposite the present city of St. Peter,
and one to Traverse des Sioux.
The Jennie Lind also entered the Minnesota trade this year,
and during July made one trip to Babcock's Landing, one to
Traverse des Sioux, and one to Holmes' Landing (now Shako-
pee) . The steamer Enterprise also went as far as Little rapids,
making in all thirteen departures from the St. Paul wharf dur-
ing this very first year of traffic with white settlers.
The first boat to enter the Minnesota in 1853 was tne Greek
Slave, a new boat built especially for this river by Captain Louis
Robert. She left St. Paul on April 4th with 150 passengers,
besides a full load of freight, and on the 7th arrived at Traverse
des Sioux and Mankato. Another boat to enter the trade this
year was the Clarion, a small stern-wheel vessel of seventy-two
and one-half tons burden, owned by Captain Humbertson. On
her first voyage she carried an excursion to Traverse des Sioux,
where she arrived on April 22nd .
Two events of 1853, of much importance in the develop-
ment of the Minnesota river trade, were the establishing upon its
head waters of the Sioux Agencies and the erection in their
vicinity of Fort Ridgely. The necessity thus created, of trans-
porting to such a distance up the river the large quantity of sup-
plies required annua'ly by both soldier and Indian, gave an im-
petus for years to the steamboat traffic of the Minnesota.
The West Newton, Captain D. S. Harris, secured the con-
tract to convey the troops with their baggage from Fort Snelling
to the new post. She was a small packet, 150 feet long and of
300 tons burden, and had been bought the summer before by the
Harris brothers to compete with the Nominee in the Mississippi
river trade. She left Fort Snelling on Wednesday, the 2/th
day of April, 1853, having on board two companies of the Sixth
U. S. Regiment, in command of Captains Dana and Monroe.
To help carry the baggage, she had two barges in tow. The
Tiger had also departed from St. Paul on the 25th, and the
Clarion on the 26th, each with a couple of barges in tow, heavily
loaded with supplies for the new fort and the agencies. The
West Newton, being the swiftest boat, passed the Clarion at
140 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
Henderson, and the Tiger near the Big Cottonwood, and thence
to the site of the new fort at the mouth of Rock creek, was the
first steamer to disturb the waters of our sky-tinted river.
The Minnesota this year remained navigable all summer, and
a number of boats ascended it to Fort Ridgely and the Lower
Sioux Agency, while others went to Mankato and other points.
The passenger travel, as well as the freight trade, was excellent.
On two successive trips in July, the little Clarion carried 150
passengers at a time, and other boats were equally crowded. In
September two St. Paul gentlemen, C. D. Fillmore and William
Constans, bought each a small boat for the Minnesota trade.
Mr. Fillmore's boat, the Humboldt, started on her first trip on
the I3th of that month; and on the 24th followed Mr. Constans'
boat, the lola.
In all there were forty-nine boat arrivals in 1853 from the
Minnesota river at the St. Paul wharf. The names of the
boats, and the number of trips made by each, so far as known,
were as follows: Gieek Slave, 4 trips; Clarion, 16; Tiger, 13;
Black Hawk, 8 ; West Newton, I ; Shenandoah, 3 ; Humboldt, 2 ;
lola, 2 . The Greek Slave opened the season on the 4th of April,
and the lola closed it on the 2nd of November.
The winter of 1853-4 was mild and open and the river broke
up early, but without the usual freshet/ for there had been but
little snow. The Greek Slave was the first boat on the Minne-
sota again in 1854, and her first trip w r as an excursion to Shako-
pee on the 2 ist of March. The Humboldt followed her in a day
or two, and during March and April made about a dozen trips,
but owing to low water did not get above the rapids more than
once or twice. The Greek Slave only attempted one trip up the
Minnesota, this being in April.
The success of the prior season had awakened in the boat-
men great expectations for this year, and much preparation for
it was made during the winter, but all was doomed to disappoint-
ment. Captain Samuel Humbertson, who the year before had
been the most active in the trade, and who had started above the
mouth of the Blue Earth the townsite of South Bend, which he
hoped would become the chief city of the valley, during the
winter sold his little Clarion, and built for himself at Belle Ver-
non, Pa., on the Monongahela river, a fine new boat 170 feet
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 141
long, with thirty-eight well furnished state rooms. He christened
her the Minnesota Belle, and, loading her full with immigrants,
intended mostly for his new town, on May 3rd started up the
Minnesota. To the captain's great chagrin, his new boat failed
to climb the Little rapids, near Carver, and he abandoned the
river, townsite and all, in disgust .
A rainfall a few days later, however, swelled the river suffi-
ciently for the Black Hawk to reach Traverse des Sioux on the
2Oth day of May. For some time, and until after July 2oth, the
lola and the Montello ran with fair regularity between the Little
rapids and Traverse, supplementing the Black Hawk, Humboldt,
and other boats, plying below the rapids.
Large keel boats, denominated barges, propelled after the
ancient method by a crew of men with poles, became common
on the river this year. Andrew G. Myrick placed two of these
barges on the river in charge of the Russell boys. These ves-
sels were from 50 to 60 feet long, 10 to 12 feet wide, and with
sides four to five feet high, along the top of which was fastened
a plank walk, for the use of the pole men. A small low cabin
for the cook was built in the stern, and during foul weather a big
tarpaulin was spread over the goods. A full crew consisted of
a captain, who also acted as steersman, ten to a dozen pole men,
and a cook. With a fair stage of water the usual speed up
stream was twelve to fourteen miles a day, but if sandbars or
rapids interfered a mile or two would be a hard day's journey.
Down stream, however, they would travel much faster. Most
of the supplies for Fort Ridgely and the Sioux Agencies, as well
as for all up river towns, had to be transported this year in such
The total steamboat arrivals from the Minnesota at St. Paul
in 1854 did not exceed thirty, and few of them came from beyond
the Little rapids. This, however, does not include trips by the
Montello and the lola between the rapids and points above.
The snowfall in the winter of 1854-5 was again rather
meager, and consequently the river continued low during the
spring of 1855, though not as low as the prior season. The
Globe, a new boat belonging to Louis Robert, with Nelson Robert
as captain, was the first steamer, leaving St. Paul on the 8th of
April. The Black Hawk, the J. B. Gordon, No. 2, the H. S.
142 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
Allen, and the Montello, with the barges Russell and Master,
promptly joined in the trade. A fair business was done in April,
but during the midsummer months navigation was mostly sus-
pended, because of low water. The fall rains caused quite a
freshet, and there was a brisk trade again for a month or two,
continuing as late as the middle of November. The Time and
Tide, Berlin, Equator, and Reveille, had now joined with the
other boats in the Minnesota river trade.
Louis Robert, having the contract this year to deliver the
Sioux annuities, took them up to the Agency late in October in
the Globe, of which Edwin Bell was then captain. Within two
miles of the landing the boat struck on a rock, and the goods had
to be unloaded on the river bank. While Captains Robert and
Bell were gone to carry the Indian money, amounting to $90,000
in gold, to Fort Ridgely, the Indians, who were gathered in force
to divide the provisions, carelessly set fire to the dry grass, which
was quickly communicated to the pile of goods, and most of them,
including fifty kegs of powder, were destroyed.
The names of boats engaged in the Minnesota river trade
during this year 1855, an d the number of trips taken by each
from St. Paul, were as follows: Globe, 14 trips; Black Hawk,
13; Berlin, 13; Time and Tide, 8; H. S. Allen, 22; ]. B. Gor-
don, No . 2, 28 ; Equator, 6 ; Reveille, 3 ; Montello, i ; and Shen-
andoah, I . The total of the trips definitely recorded is thus 109.
The Humboldt also ran on this river in the years 1854 to 1856.
The first to enter had been the Globe on April 8th, and she was
the last to leave on the i6th of November.
An event of 1855 which tended to stimulate the commerce of
the Minnesota for some years, was the removal of over 2,000
Winnebagoes from the upper Mississippi to a reservation near
A good fall of snow during the winter of 1855-6 caused an
abundant supply of water in the river next spring. The naviga-
tion of the Minnesota for the season of 1856 was opened on
April loth by the Reveille, a stern- wheel packet, in command of
Captain R. M. Spencer. Four days later, the Globe, with Nel-
son Robert as captain, departed from St . Paul for the same river,
and she was followed the next day by the H. S. Allen.
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 143
The Reveille was considered a fast traveler, and as an in-
stance of her speed it is recorded that on her second trip of this
year she left St. Paul at 2 p. m. on Thursday, April I7th, with
132 passengers and a full load of freight, and arrived at M'an-
kato by Saturday ; and that leaving the latter place at 5 a . m . the
next day, she reached St. Paul by 8 p. m. that evening, after
having made twenty- four landings on the way.
On the 5th of May, the Reveille landed at Mankato a com-
pany of settlers numbering two or three hundred, known as the
Mapleton Colony; and the following Saturday (May loth) the
H. T. Yeatman landed at South, Bend a company of Welsh
settlers from Ohio, numbering 121 souls. The Yeatman was
a large stern-wheel boat, about the largest that ascended the Min-
nesota, and this was her first trip. She continued in the trade
only a few weeks, while the water was high. Her captain was
Samuel G. Cabbell. Regular trips were made this year by sev-
eral boats to Fort Ridgely and the Lower Sioux Agency, and
some ascended to the Upper Agency, at the mouth of the Yellow
The time table of Louis Robert's fine packet, the Time and
Tide, issued for this season, shows the distance from St. Paul
to Yellow Medicine to be 446 miles. To an old settler, who
actually traveled on a Minnesota river steamboat in those early
days, the idea of a time table may seem rather amusing; for if
there was anything more uncertain as to its coming and going, or
more void of any idea of regularity, than a steamboat, the old
time traveler never heard of it. Now stopping in some forest
glen for wood, now tangled in the overhanging boughs of a tree
with one or both smoke-stacks demolished, now fast for hours
on some sandbar, and now tied up to a tree to repair the damage
done by some snag, while the passengers sat on the bank telling
stories, or went hunting, or feasted on the luscious wild straw-
berries or juicy plums which grew abundantly in the valley, were
common occurrences in steamboat travel. M'any a pioneer re-
members the Time ?.nd Tide, and how its jolly captain, Louis
Robert, would sing out with sonorous voice, when the boat was
about to start, "All aboard ! Time and Tide waits for no man,"
and then add, with a sly twinkle in his eye, "and only a few min-
144 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
utes for a woman.'' Though we of today may think such
method of travel tedious, yet it had many pleasant features, and
to the people of that time, unaccustomed to the "flyers" and "fast
mails" of today, it seemed quite satisfactory.
The names of the boats which left the St. Paul wharf in
1856 for the Minnesota river, and the number of trips taken by
each, were as follows: Equator, 46 trips; Reveille, 40; Globe,
34; Wave, 29; Minnesota, 20; Clarion, 12; Time and Tide, 12;
Berlin, 10; and H. T. Yeatman, 4. The total trips so recorded
are 207, being an increase of nearly a hundred over the preceding
year. The steamboats H. S. Allen and Humboldt were also
on the Mississippi river this year.
The season of 1857 opened auspiciously with a good stage
of water in the Minnesota. The Equator, a well built packet of
fair size in charge of Captain Sencerbox, was the first boat.
She left St. Paul for Mankato on the morning of April I2th with
a full load of passengers and freight. She was followed the
next day by the Clarion, which had been bought the year before
by Captain O. D. Keep and brought back to the Minnesota,
where she had done such good service in 1853 under Captain
Humbertson. Captain Keep and his clerk, John C. Hoffman,
resided in the vicinity of Shakopee, and they kept the Clarion in
the Minnesota trade until she sank near the St. Paul levee two
or three years later.
Two fine new boats, destined to do much service on the
Minnesota, entered this year. They were the Frank Steele, a
splendid side-wheel packet owned by Commodore Davidson, and
the Jeannette Roberts, a large stern-wheel packet owned by Cap-
tain Louis Robert. The Antelope, a small craft which Captain
Houghton ran regularly for years between St. Paul and Chaska,
began her career this season. Other important boats which en-
gaged in the Minnesota trade this year for the first time were
the Medora, J. Bissell, Isaac Shelby, Fire Canoe, and Red Wing,
all good sized packets, especially the last two.
During the spring of this year steamboating on the Minne-
sota was unusually brisk. Eighteen boats arrived at St. Peter
during a single week in May, and by June 1st thirty- four boats
had passed that town for points above. It was no unusual occur-
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 145
rence to see two or three boats unloading at once at the Mankato
The names of the boats which left the St. Paul wharf this
year 1857 for the Minnesota, and the number of trips made by
each, were as follows : Antelope, 105 trips ; Jeannette Roberts.
40; Isaac Shelby, 36; Medora, 29; Frank Steele, 20; Equator,
14; Time and Tide, 13; Clarion, 12; Minnesota, 8; Ocean Wave,
6; J. Bisscll, 5; Red Wing, 3; and Fire Canoe, i. The total
trips were 292, an increase of 85 from the year before. The
last boat was the Antelope which arrived at St. Paul on the
1 4th of November.
The winter of 1857-8 proved very mild, and the river broke
up unusually early. The first boat to leave St. Paul for the
Minnesota was the Jeannette Roberts, Captain Thimens, on
March 2Oth, but the Medora, Captain Charles T. Hinde, follow-
ing in a short time, passed her before reaching Shakopee. In
doing so, the boats rubbed too close together, and one of the Me-
dora's wheels was injured, so that she had to tie up an hour or
two for repairs. She managed again to overtake and pass the
Jeannette while the latter was unloading at Traverse des Sioux,
and reached Mankato as the first boat on the morning of March
22nd, followed there an hour or two later by the Jeannette.
Notwithstanding that there had been hardly any snow the
previous winter, the heavy spring and summer rains kept the
river in a good navigable condition, and boats of the size of the
Frank Steele and Isaac Shelby were able to ascend to Mankato
late into September. The Freighter was the only new boat to
engage in the Minnesota trade .
This spring J. R. Cleveland and C. F. Butterfield built a
barge at Mankato 75 feet long by 12 feet wide and 4 feet high,
which they christined "The Minneopa." It was employed by
Mr. Cleveland during the period of low water for many years
in the Mankato traffic. It was operated in the old way, by a
poling crew, and it usually took two weeks to make the trip to
St. Paul and back to Mankato.
There were 179 steamboat arrivals at Mankato this year,
counting those arriving from points above as well as from below;
the former, though, did not exceed 25 or 30.
146 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
The list of the boats engaged in the Minnesota trade this
year, 1858, and the number of trips made by each, as shown by
the St. Paul wharf master's book, are as follows: Antelope, 201
trips; Frank Steele, 54; Jeannette Roberts, 35; Time and Tide,
30; Freighter, 18; Isaac Shelby, 16; Ocean Wave, 12; Clarion,
1 1 ; Medora, 8 ; Fire Canoe, 6 ; and Minnesota, 3 . The total re-
corded trips were thus 394, an increase of 102 over the year be-
fore. The steamboats Belfast and Equator and the barge Min-
neopa also plied on the river this year, but the number of their
trips cannot be given .
In 1859, the river broke up early after a mild winter, and
the Freighter arrived at Mankato, the first boat, on March 27th,
having left St. Paul two days before. An abundant rainfall
kept the river in good navigable condition its entire length
through most of the season. The Favorite, an excellent side-
wheel packet of good size, built expressly for the Minnesota
trade by Commodore Davidson, entered as a new boat this spring .
As the water was quite high in the upper Minnesota, Cap-
tain John B . Davis of the Freighter conceived the idea of cross-
ing his boat over from the Minnesota to Big Stone lake and
thence to the Red river, and accordingly about the last of June
he attempted the feat. Whether the crew found too much whis-
key at New Ulm or the boat found too little water on the divide,
authorities differ, but all agree that the captain and his crew
came home in a canoe about the last of July, passing Mankato
on the 25th of the month, having left his steamboat in dry dock
near the Dakota line. The Freighter was a small, flat-bottomed,
square-bowed boat. The Indians pillaged her of everything but
the hull, and that, half buried in the sand about ten miles below
Big Stone lake, remained visible for twenty or thirty years. The
captain always claimed that if he had started a month earlier
his attempt would have been successful.
The steamboat arrivals at Mankato this year were in total
131, as follows:
From St. Paul From the West
Favorite 44 4
Jeannette Roberts 31 8
Frank Steele 19 "
Freighter 2 I
Ocean Wave 2 2
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 147
Time and Tide 2 i
Isaac Shelby I i
Belfast i i :
Total 102 29
The total arrivals from the Minnesota at the St. Paul wharf
were 300, which included some boats, like the Antelope, which
did not come to Mankato at all. Navigation continued this year
until quite late, the last boat to pass down over the Little rapids
being the Jeannette Roberts on the 6th of November.
In 1860, the Minnesota again broke up quite early and the
first boat, the Time and Tide, left St. Paul March iQth, reach-
ing St. Peter on March 2ist, and Mankato the next morning.
The river was quite low this spring and none of the larger boats
were able to ascend it. A number of small boats of light draft
were, however, put into the trade instead, such as the Little
Dorrit, the Eolian, which Captain Davidson had succeeded in
raising the fall before from the bottom of lake Pepin where she
had lain since the spring of 1858, and the Albany, a small new
boat of very light draft which Captain Davidson had built the
winter before expressly for the Minnesota in low water. The
Jeannette Roberts managed to get up as far as Mankato a few
times, and once in July, when there was a small freshet, even to
the Sioux Agency. After a little rainfall in June, the Time and
Tide, the Favorite, and the Frank Steele, came up as far as St.
Peter for a trip or two. Most of the time, however, the Albany,
which the old settlers used to say only required a light dew to
run in, was the only boat which could float at all above the Little
rapids. For a time she supplemented the Favorite at the rapids,
but finally the water 'got so low that navigation suspended entire-
ly, except .that the little Antelope kept her trips to Shakopee and
Chaska. Cleveland's barges (for now he had two of them) had
the monopoly of the Minnesota river traffic for the most of the
season. They could carry ten or twelve tons each, and were
kept busy until the river closed in November. There were only
250 steamboat arrivals at St. Paul from the Minnesota this year,
and the Antelope made 198 of these.
The spring of 1861 opened with a bjg flood in the Minne-
sota. The first boat, the Albany, left St. Paul on March 3Oth,
and arrived at Mankato the 1st of April. She was officered by
148 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
J. V. Webber, captain (who was now the owner, having pur-
chased her from the Davidson company in March), Warren
Goulden, first clerk, and Moses Gates, engineer. It was claimed
by the older Indians and traders that the upper Minnesota was
higher this spring than it had been since 1821. In April the
Jeannette Roberts ascended farther up the river by two miles
than any steamboat hud ever done before, and might easily have
accomplished what the Freighter attempted and failed to do in
1859, to wit, pass over into the Red river, if she had tried; for
the two rivers were united by their high flood between lakes
Big Stone and Traverse.
This season the Minnesota Packet Company, of which Cap-
tain Orren Smith was president, put two first class boats, the
City Belle and Fanny Harris, into the river to compete with the
Davidson and Robert lines. The Fanny Harris, on her first
trip, which occurred during the second week in April, went to
Fort Ridgely, and brought down Major (afterwards General)
Thomas W. Sherman and his battery to quell the southern re-
bellion, w r hich had just started. With her also went the Fav-
orite and brought down Major (afterwards General) John C.
Pemberton, with his command of eighty soldiers, the most of
whom, being southern men, were much in sympathy with their
The City Belle made her first appearance at St. Peter and
Mankato on May i8rh, under command of Captain A. T. Cham-
blin. She was a fine side- wheel packet, and about the largest
boat that ever entered the Minnesota trade. The river, though
high in the spring, did not continue so very long, and by the
last of June became so low that navigation above the rapids had
to be suspended.
The arrivals at St. Peter and Mankato from below num-
bered 66, as follows: Albany, 22 trips; Favorite, 18; City Belle,
10; Jeannette Roberts, 9; Eolian, 4; Frank Steele, 2; and Fanny
Harris, I .
Boats below the rapids, however, continued to run the most
of the season, and the total arrivals at St. Paul from the Min-
nesota were 318.
The barges of Captain Cleveland were kept busy in the
traffic between Mankato and points below. The first shipment
of wheat in bulk from the Minnesota was made in June of this
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER, 149
year, 1861, on one of these barges. It comprised 4,000 bushels,
and was taken direct to La Crosse. Heretofore it had been
shipped in sacks. Wheat had now become the principal export
of the valley. During the earlier years nearly all the freight
traffic on the river had been imported, but by this time the ex-
port of grains had grown to be an important item . With so many
Indians in the valley the shipment of furs, which at first had
been about the only export of the country, still continued valu-
able; but furs, because of their small bulk, cut but little figure
in the boat'ing business. This year the value of the furs from
the Sioux Agencies was $48,416; and from the Winnebago coun-
try, $11, 600.
The spring of 1862 witnessed another great flood in the
Minnesota, and navigation was opened by the* Albany . She
only got as far as Sr. Peter on her first voyage, arriving there
on April 3rd, and reaching Mankato on her second trip on the
1 3th. The Pomeroy, an excellent new boat, was put into the
trade this spring by the Davidson company. Two small boats,
the Clara Hines and G. H. Wilson, entered the Minnesota also
for the first time this spring. Messrs. Stagg and Handy of St.
Paul put a small boa f called "New Ulm Belle," which they built
with the machinery of the Clarion, also into the Minnesota traf-
fic, in charge of Captain Scott. The Favorite, officered by Ed-
win Bell, captain, and N. B. Hatcher, clerk, and the Jeannette
Roberts, officered by Nelson Robert, captain, and Jack Reaney,
clerk, were active in the trade this year as usual.
The register of boat arrivals at Mankato for the year shows
a total of 70, as follows :
From below 'From above
Albany 19 I
Jeannette Roberts 13
Favorite 9 I
Clara Hines . . 8 I
Pomeroy 6 I
G. H. Wilson I
Total 58 12
The length of the period of navigation, from April I3th to
July 20th, was three months and seven days. Wheat shipped
150 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
from Mankato on these boats amounted to 62,000 bushels, and
8,000 bushels were shipped from South Bend.
Below the rapids, navigation continued until late in Novem-
ber, and the total anivals at the St. Paul wharf from the Min-
nesota were 413, the largest record in the river's history. The
fall navigation may have been slightly stimulated by the require-
ments of the Sioux war. Immediately on news of the outbreak,
the Favorite, under Captain Bell, carried the first soldiers of
General Sibley's command, with such arms and ammunition as
could be hastily gathered at Fort Snelling and St. Paul, to the
defense of the frontier, taking them to Shakopee and one com-
pany as far as the Little rapids .
The Jeanette Roberts was the first boat in 1863. She ar-
rived in Mankato on April 3rd, and was there greeted by the en-
tire population of the town, including about 1,000 soldiers, who
made the echoes ring with their cheers . It was customary in those
steamboat days for young and old, male and female, in every
town along the river, at the deep baying sound of the first whistle
to gather at the levee to welcome the first boat. To the lonely
pioneer, the vigils of a long winter in the wilderness \vere trying,
and the arrival of the first boat was an important event in his
life, when he heard from his childhood home and the outside
world, and when his exhausted larder would be replenished and
a few relishes \vould relieve the monotonous round of corn cake.
Much of the traffic this year consisted in transporting troops
and supplies in connection with the Sioux war. The Favorite,
the winter before, had been lengthened by cutting her in two
and inserting a piece thirty feet long into the middle, just ahead
of the machinery and wheels. This materially increased the
boat's capacity, but rather spoiled her appearance. She was
taken entirely into the Government service this season, and one
of her first duties was the transportation of the 270 condemned
Sioux from their Mankato prison to their new quarters at Dav-
enport, Iowa. They left Mankato on April 22nd, and the forty-
eight acquitted Indians with fifteen or twenty squaws, who had
been acting as cooks, went with them .
During the winter, under the religious instruction of the
missionaries, Williamson, Riggs, and Pond, a wonderful trans-
formation had occurred in these wild savages of a few months
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 151
before, a transformation that proved sincere and lasting, and
as they sailed down the river, they sang religious hymns in their
native tongue. Affecting, indeed, was the scene, as in passing
Fort Snelling and St. Paul, where their squaws and papooses
were imprisoned, they sang their favorite hymn, "Have Mercy
upon us, O Jehovah," to the tune of Old Hundred.
In May the Winnebagoes were to be removed from Blue
Earth county to their new agency in Nebraska, and on the even-
ing of the 8th of this month the Pomeroy and Eolian arrived at
Mankato to take part in the transportation of this tribe. Eleven
hundred of them had already pitched their tepees in what was
called Camp Porter, on the river bank just back of where now
stands the Hubbard and Palmer mill in Mankato. A few days
before, a party of them had killed two Sioux who were visiting
their agency, and, stretching their scalps on a couple of hoops
decked with colored ribbons and fastened to poles, they paraded
the streets with them . On this night of May 8th, from sundown
to sunrise, the people of Mankato were regaled with the tom-tom
music and savage yells of the scalp dance. On Saturday, May
9th, they began to embark, 405 going on the Pomeroy, and 355
on the Eolian. Both boats started from the Mankato wharf at
two o'clock in the afternoon. Conspicuous on the Pomeroy's
hurricane deck were planted the poles bearing the two Sioux
scalps, around which sat, first, the war party o^f about twenty
young bucks, half naked, their bodies daubed with mud and
paint, and with wreaths of green weeds and grass on their heads,
and next to them squatted a number of other warriors, all chant-
ing in time with two or three tom-toms a monotonous "He-ah,
he-ah/' as they journeyed down the river, a scene quite in con-
trast with that presented by their Sioux brethren on their de-
parture two weeks before. The next day, the Favorite took 338
of the remaining Winnebagoes, and on the I4th the Pomeroy
came after the last of them. In all there were 1,856 removed.
Besides the traffic incident to military operations, there were
shipped from Mankato alone over 60,000 bushels of wheat this
spring. The Prairie du Chien Railway Company put a new
boat, named the Flora, into the Minnesota river trade this season .
She was a stern-wheeler of about the size of the Jeannette Rob-
152 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
The summer of 1863 was exceptionally dry, and though
boats were able in May to ascend to Camp Pope, twenty-five miles
above Fort Ridgely, by the middle of June the river had fallen
so that all steamboat traffic above the rapids was suspended .
The imperative need of freight transportation in the valley
became yearly more insistent, and the inability of steamboats to
meet the demand, especially in periods of drouth, caused a great
increase this summer in the use of barges, amounting to a new
departure in the river traffic. Hereafter, instead of carrying
freight in large steamers, it was found much more expedient to
carry it in strings of barges drawn by small tug-boats. Among
others, Messrs. Temple and Beaupre of St. Paul put four barges
into the Minnesota traffic to ship freight from Mankato and
points between it and the Little rapids to Prairie du Chien . The
total steamboat arrivals from the Minnesota this year at the St.
Paul wharf were 177.
During the winter of 1863-4 the Davidson Company built
a fine new packet, about 150 feet long, for the Minnesota river
trade, which, in honor of the thriving town of the mouth of the
Blue Earth, they christened "The Mankato." The citizens of
that municipality, in appreciation of the compliment, purchased
a fine silk flag to present to the boat on her first arrival ; but un-
fortunately that opportunity did not come until a year later, for
during 1864 about the only boat which reached Mankato was the
Jeannette Roberts on April i6th.
The barge traffic flourished, however, in spite of the low
water, and steamboats were used on the lower Minnesota. The
total arrivals of steamboats at St. Paul from the Minnesota this
year were 166; and of barges, 82.
In January, 1865, the state legislature appropriated $3,000
to improve the Minnesota river; and Major E. P. Evans, of
Blue Earth county, and John Webber, of Ottawa, Le Sueur coun-
ty, were appointed commissioners to oversee the work. Accord-
ingly in February Major Evans with a force of fifty men cleared
the river of snags, and later they made other improvements,
which aided navigation considerably.
By the spring of 1865 the severe drouth of the last two years
was broken. The first boat to leave St. Paul for the Minnesota
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 153
was the Ariel on the second of April. She arrived at St. Peter
on the 3rd, and at Mankato on the 4th .
Among the new boats to enter the Minnesota this year were
the Mollie Mohler, Julia, G. H. Gray, Otter, Mankato, Lansing,
General Sheridan, and Hudson. The Mollie Mohler had been
built the winter before for the Minnesota river trade; she was
125 feet long, and had accommodations for fifty-six cabin pas-
sengers. Her captain was George Houghton. The Julia was
a stern-wheel boat, built the same winter by the Northwestern
Packet Company expressly for the Minnesota trade. Her length
was 141 feet, her beam 28 feet, and her total capacity 300 tons,
although drawing only seventeen inches of water. Jack Reaney,
for years the popular clerk of the Jeannette Roberts, was her
captain. The G. H. Gray was built in the spring of 1863 on the
St. Croix. She was 139 feet long, 19 feet wide, and drew four-
teen inches of water.
The trade this year was quite brisk as long as the season
lasted. The boats were able to reach St. Peter and Mankato
for about two months in the spring, and by reshipping at the
Little rapids were able to get to the rapids just below St. Peter
for two or three weeks later.
During the season . the number of steamboat arrivals at St.
Paul from Carver and the Little rapids was 150; and from points
above the rapids as far as from Mankato, 40. A few trips were
also made to the upper Minnesota. The total arrivals from this
river at St. Paul in 1865 was 195. This of course does not em-
brace trips made by the Albany and other boats between the
rapids and points above. Twenty barges, each loaded with 200
barrels of lime from Shakopee, and 97 barges loaded with wood,
averaging 40 cords each, from various points in the valley, also
arrived at the St. Paul wharf. No records of the wheat barges
were kept, as they generally carried their cargoes to La Crosse
or Prairie du Chien, but they were quite numerous.
In 1866 the first boat to arrive at St. Peter and Mankato
was the Chippewa Falls, on the I5th of April. The Minnesota,
a splendid packet built the winter before at Cincinnati, entered
for the first time this season. The principal boats engaged this
year in the traffic were the Julia, Mankato, Mollie Mohler, Stella
154 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
Whipple, Albany, Otter, Pioneer, Tiber, and Pearl. By the
i6th of June there had been 38 arrivals at Mankato, which num-
ber during the season was swelled to 50, having a total capacity
of 3,750 tons.
The barge trade by this year had grown to immense propor-
tions, over 175 barges being used. The Tiber towed out of the
Minnesota and down the Mississippi at one load a string of
barges carrying 30,000 bushels of wheat. Some of the barges
were of great size. Among the largest was one owned by Cap-
tain Davidson, called "Little Mac," which was 142 feet long by
25 feet in width, of 114 tons burden.
The wheat shipments from the principal points in the Min-
nesota valley during 1866 amounted to 688,641 bushels, as fol-
lows : From Belle Plaine, 45,000 bushels; Faxon, 12,600; Hend-
erson, 29,400; Le Sueur, 22,000; Ottawa, 5,000; St. Peter,
68,850; Mankato, 190,000; South Bend, 25,000; Shakopee, 106,-
791; Carver, 80,000; and Chaska, 104,000.
The navigation this year, however, was quite poor, owing
to low water through most of the season. A United States sur-
vey of the river was made during the summer with a view to im-
The arrivals at the St. Paul wharf from the Minnesota in
1866 were only about 100. The decrease was probably due to
two causes, first the construction to Belle Plaine of the St. Paul
and Sioux City railroad, which cut off most of the boat traffic on
the lower and most navigable portion of the river; and, second,
that most of the freight was now being carried in barges, w r hich,
having no occasion to stop in St. Paul, passed down the Missis-
sippi without being registered in the St. Paul wharfmaster's
The year 1867 was exceptionally good for boating, as a fine
stage of water continued during the entire season. The first
boat to land at Mankato was the Chippewa Falls on the i8th of
During the summer and until the first of September, the
Mollie Mohler, Captain H. W. Holmes, made daily trips be-
tween Mankato and Belle Plaine, a distance of 175 miles, making
close connections at the latter place with the St. Paul trains.
She would leave Mankato every morning at 8 o'clock and arrive
at Belle Plaine about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and then leave
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 155
Belle Plaine on her return journey at 6 o'clock p. m. and
reach Mankato by sunrise . As indicative of her speed, she would
at times make the trip from Mankato to St. Peter, a distance of
30 miles, in one hour and twenty minutes ; and as evidence of the
abundant water in the rivers this season, the Mollie on the Qth of
June ascended the Blue Earth and Le Sueur rivers to the Red
Jacket mills, situated about where now the Milwaukee railway
crosses the latter stream, and carried hence 425 barrels of flour.
Up to September, when the Mollie Mohler retired, there had been
1 66 steamboat arrivals at Mankato, of which the Mollie had
After this the Otter ran quite regularly until the 3Oth of
October, making two or three trips a week, and the Ellen Hardy
and Mankato made a few trips, while the Ariel made regular
trips between Mankato and St. Peter and the railroad terminus,
until the river closed about the loth of November.
Congress had made an appropriation of $7,000 this year to-
wards the improvement of the river, and in July bids were re-
ceived by Gen . G . K . Warren, government engineer, on two
proposed contracts for such improvement, one covering the first
section, reaching from the Redwood to Mankato, and the other
for the second section, extending from Mankato to the Little
rapids. Not much came of this river improvement project, and
it was soon abandoned, as the advent of railroads into the valley
rendered it unnecessary.
The principal river casualty of 1867 was the sinking of the
Julia two miles below Mankato on the morning of the loth of
May. She struck a snag as she was coming up the river, under
a full head of steam, well loaded with passengers and freight, and
sank in twelve feet of water. None of the passengers were in-
jured, and nearly all the freight was recovered, but the boat itself
was a wreck. Her machinery and upper deck were eventually
removed, but the hull lies in the sands of the Minnesota to this
In 1868, the Chippewa Falls was again the first boat at St.
Peter and Mankato, arriving at the latter place on the 3ist of
March. Navigation was not nearly as good this year as the
year before, yet by the first of May there had been over 50 steam-
boat arrivals at Mankato. No new boat, as far as known, en-
tered the river this year ; and quite a few of the boats prominent
156 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
in the trade the prior season had disappeared, among them the
well known Mollie Mohler and Jeannette Roberts. Most of the
trade was confined to points above the terminus of the railroad,
which by October had reached Mankato, the first passenger coach
on the St. Paul and Sioux City road arriving there on the 6th of
that month .
The first boat to reach Mankato in 1869 was the Ellen Hardy
on the 1 8th of April. The Otter, St. Anthony Falls, Pioneer,
Tiger, and our old friend, the Jeannette Roberts, were engaged in
the Minnesota trade this season, besides the Ellen Hardy. The
business men of New Ulm this spring, seeing no immediate pros-
pect of a railroad for their town, bought the little steamer Otter
for $3,000, and put her into the trade between New Ulm and
Mankato, where she made regular trips twice to three times a
week. Her average load of freight used to be 3,000 bushels of
wheat. A number of trips were made to Redwood. The naviga-
tion continued until rather late. On November 3rd, there were
three boats unloading at once at the Mankato levee: the Pioneer,
Otter, and Tiger.
The first boat to reach Mankato in 1870 was the Otter from
New Ulm, on April 5th ; and the Mankato on April I3th was the
first boat to arrive from St. Paul. During the early spring
there was quite a brisk trade ; and the smaller boats, like the
Tiger and Otter, continued to run even through July and August .
The arrivals at Mankato in April and May alone numbered 43 ;
and the total arrivals for the season were about 80. The Mankato
brought down from New Ulm on the 2d of May 17,000 bushels
of wheat on one load, and two days later the Dexter brought
down in two barges 21,000 bushels. The Otter and Tiger plied
mostly between Mankato and New Ulm; while the Mankato,
Dexter, and St . Anthony Falls, made frequent trips to St . Paul .
As an instance of the speed of the Tiger, it is stated that on
May I4th she made the run from Redwood Falls to Mankato in
thirteen and a half hours. In the spring of this year the Jean-
nette Roberts, one of the best known and longest in service of all
the Minnesota steamboats, was sold to go to the Wisconsin river
lu 1871 the Otter was the first boat again at Mankato, ar-
riving on April 4th from New Ulm. On April I5th came the
Pioneer, the first boat from St. Paul. On April i8th, as the
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 157
Mankato was approaching 1 St. Peter on her first trip of the
season, she struck a snag a few rods below the present wagon
bridge in that city and sank. Her passengers and crew received
no harm. After lying in the river channel for over a year, she
was finally raised and taken below, never to enter the Minnesota
again. The Otter, Pioneer, and Hudson, were busily employed
during April and May (which was as long as navigation this year
lasted) in carrying wheat and other freight from New Ulm and
Redwood to South Bend, where it was transferred to the rail-
road. It is said of the Otter, that on May nth of this year she
made the run from West Newton to South Bend, a distance of no
miles, in less than seven hours running time, being the quickest
time the journey was ever made by any boat. She brought with
her two barges loaded with 2,000 bushels of wheat.
With this season ends practically the navigation of the Min-
nesota river, for the Northwestern railway reached New Ulm
THE LAST STEAMBOATS, 1872 TO 1897.
The Osceola, Captain Haycock, a small boat, ascended the
river as far as Redwood once in the spring of 1872, twice in the
spring of 1873, and once in the spring of 1874. The water,
however, was quite low each season and navigation difficult. In
1876, on the high water of the spring, the Ida Fulton and Wyman
X. came up this river; and ten years later, in 1886, one trip was
made by the Alvira. Again for ten years no steamboat was
seen on the Minnesota, until, taking advantage of a freshet in
April, 1897, Captain E. W. Durant of Still water ran his boat,
the Henrietta, a stern-wheel vessel 170 feet long, with forty state
rooms, on an excursion to Henderson, St. Peter, and Mankato.
With the advent of civilization, the surface of the country
has been exposed by cultivation so that much of the moisture
which in the olden days drained into the creeks and -rivers now
evaporates, causing all of our streams to shrink to half their
former size. Thus it has come to pass that he who sees the Min-
nesota of today wonders that it was ever a navigable stream.
But the old settler who remembers the river in its prime, when
it carried on its swelling bosom the commerce of its great valley,
can see in the dim vistas of the past a different scene ; and many
158 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
a tale of thrilling interest can he tell of those bygone days, when
our sky-tinted river was navigable .
LISTS OF STEAMBOATS, 1850 TO 1897.
The following are lists of the steamboats on the Minnesota
river for each year, with the names of their captains when known,
as compiled from the records of wharfmasters and from news-
paper files. The totals of steamboat arrivals at the St. Paul
wharf from the Minnesota river are also noted for each year .
1850. Anthony Wayne, Capt. Dan Able; Nominee, Capt. Orren
Smith ; Yankee, Capt M. K. Harris. Total arrivals, 4.
1851. Benjamin Franklin, No. I, Capt. M. W. Lodwick; Excelsior,
Capt. James Ward ; Uncle Toby. Total arrivals, 3.
1852. Black Hawk, Capt. W. P. Hall ; Enterprise ; Jenny Lind ; Tiger,
Capt. O. H. Maxwell. Total arrivals, 13.
1853. Black Hawk; Clarion, Capt. Samuel Humbertson; Greek Slave,
Capt. Louis Robert; Humboldt; lola; Shenandoah; Tiger, Capt. Barton;
West Newton, Capt. D. S. Harris. Total arrivals, 49.
1854. Black Hawk, Capt. W. P. Hall; Globe, Capt. Haycock; Greek
Slave, Capt. Louis Robert; Humboldt; lola, Capt. William H. Sargent;
Minnesota Belle, Capt. Samuel Humbertson; Montello; War Eagle. Total
1855. Berlin; Black Hawk, Capt. O. H. Maxwell; Equator, Capt.
Maxwell ; Globe, Captains Louis Robert and Edwin Bell ; H. S. Allen,
Capt G. W. Farman; Humboldt; J. B. Gordon, No. 2, Capt Maxwell;
Montello; Reveille; Shenandoah; Time and Tide. Total arrivals, 109.
1856. Berlin ; Clarion, Capt. O. D. Keep ; Equator, Capt. O. H.
Maxwell ; Globe, Capt Nelson Robert ; H. S. Allen, Capt George D. Mar-
tin; H. T. Yeatman, Capt Samuel G. Cabbell ; Humboldt; Minnesota;
Reveille, Capt R. M. Spencer; Time and Tide, Capt. Louis Robert;
Wave. Total arrivals, 207.
1857. Antelope, Capt George Houghton ; Clarion, Capt John C.
Hoffman; Equator, Captains Marvin and Sencerbox; Fire Canoe; Frank
Steele, Capt Davidson; Isaac Shelby, Capt. Bishop; J. Bissell, Capt Mar-
vin; Jeannette Roberts, Captains Thimens and Simmons; Medora, Cap-
tains Charles T. Hinde and McLagan; Minnesota, Capt Sencerbox:
Ocean Wave ; Red Wing ; Time and Tide, Capt Louis Robert. Total ar-
1858. Antelope, Capt George Houghton; Belfast; Clarion; Equator;
Fire Canoe; Frank Steele, Capt. William F. Davidson; Freighter, Capt
John B. Davis; Isaac Shelby, Capt Bishop; Jeannette Roberts, Capt.
Thimens; Medora, Capt Charles T. Hinde; Minneopa (barge), Capt
J. R. Cleveland; Minnesota; Ocean Wave; Time and Tide, Capt. Nel-
son Robert Total arrivals, 394.
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 159
1859. Antelope, Capt. George Houghton; Belfast; Eolian; Favorite,
Captains Edwin Bell and Peyton S. Davidson; Frank Steele, Capt. P. S.
Davidson; Freighter, and Isaac Shelby, Capt. John B. Davis; Jeannette
Roberts, Capt. L. Robert; Minneopa (barge), Capt. J. R. Cleveland;
Ocean Wave; Time and Tide, Capt. N. Robert. Total arrivals, 300.
1860. Albany, Capt. John V. Webber ; Antelope, Capt. George Hough-
ton; Eolian, Capt. Thimens; Favorite, Capt. P. S. Davidson; Frank Steele,
Capt. N. B. Hatcher; Jeannette Roberts, Captains N. Robert and F.
Aymond ; Little Dorrit; Minneopa (barge), Capt. Cleveland; Time and
Tide, Capt. N. Robert; Victor (barge). Total arrivals, 250.
1861. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton;
Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; City Belle, Capt. A. T. Chamblm; Clara
Hines ; Eolian; Fanny Harris; Favorite, Capt. P. S. Davidson; Frank
Steele; Jeannette Roberts; Victor (barge). Total arrivals, 318.
1862. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton;
Ariel, Capt James Houghton; Clara Hines; Favorite, Capt. Edwin
Bell; G. H. Wilson; Jeannette Roberts, Capt. N. Robert; New Ulm Belle,
Capt. Scott; Pomeroy. Total arrivals, 413.
1863. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton;
Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; Eolian; Favorite; Flora; G. H. Gray;
Jeannette Roberts, Capt. N. Roberts ; Pomeroy ; Stella Whipple. Total
1864. Albany, Capt. Jones; Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; Express;
Firesides, Capt. Joseph Hopkins; Henderson (barge), Capt. Frank
Aymond; Jeannette Roberts; Mollie Mohler, Capt. George Houghton;
Monitor; St. Cloud, Gapt. James Houghton; Stella Whipple, Capt. J. V.
Webber; Turtle. Total arrivals, 166.
1865. Addie Johnson ; Albany, Capt. A. R. Russell ; Annie Johnson ;
Ariel, Capt. H. W. Holmes; Chippewa Falls; Clara Hines, Capt. Spear
Spencer; Enterprise, Capt. Merrill; G. H. Gray, Capt. Isaac Gray; G. H.
Weeks; G. H. Wilson; General Sheridan; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney;
Hudson; Lansing; Mankato, Capt. J. V. Webber; Mollie Mohler, Capt.
George Houghton; Otter, Capt. Bissell ; Stella Whipple, Capt. J. Web-
ber; Tiger, Capt. A. R. Young. Total arrivals, 195.
1866. Addie Johnson; Albany, Capt. Harry Holmes; Alice; Ariel;
Chippewa Falls, Capt. Alex. Griggs ; Damsel; Delaware; Enterprise;
Flora; G. B. Knapp; G. H. Gray, Capt. Isaac Gray; G. H. W'eeks;
G. H. Wilson; General Sheridan; Hudson, Capt. Sencerbox; Jennie Bald-
win, Capt. George W. Duncan; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney; Lady Pike;
Lansing; Mankato; Minnesota; Mollie Mohler, Capt. Harry W. Holmes;
Otter, Capt. Bissell ; Pearl ; Pioneer ; Planet (barge) ; Stella Whipple,
Capt. J. P. Merrill; Tiber, Capt. Andy Miller. Total arrivals, about 100.
1867. Ariel; Chippewa Falls; Clipper; Ellen Hardy; Flora; G. B.
Knapp; Hudson; Jeannette Roberts; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney; Man-
kato; Mollie Mohler, Cavt. H. W. Holmes; Otter, St. Anthony Falls,
Capt. Aaron Russell; Tiber. Total arrivals of steamboats, 100; of barges,
160 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
1868. Ariel, Capt. James Houghton ; Ben Campbell : Buckeye ; Chip-
pewa Falls; Clipper; Cutter, Gapt J. V. Webber; Ellen Hardy, Capt.
Russell; Flora; G. H. Wilson; Hudson, Capt. George W. Duncan; Jean-
nette Roberts, Capt. Robert; Mankato; Otter; Pioneer; Wyman X.
Total arrivals of steamboats, 80 ; of barges, 100.
1869. Chippewa Falls, Capt. James Houghton; Ellen Hardy, Capt.
Hardy; Jeannette Roberts, Capt. John Webber; Mankato, Capt. James
Houghton; Otter; Pioneer, Capt McLagan ; St. Anthony Falls; Tiger;
Wyman X., Capt. Wyman X. Folsom. Total trips below Mankato, about
50; above Mankato, about 80.
1870. Dexter ; G. B. Knapp ; Jeannette Roberts ; Mankato, Capt.
James Houghton; Otter, Capt. John Segar; Pioneer; St. Anthony Falls;
Tiger, Capt. Hancock. Total trips below Mankato, about 50; above Man-
kato, about 100.
1871. Hudson ; Mankato, Capt. James Houghton ; Otter, Capt. Bon-
coeur Subilier ; Pioneer. Total trips below Mankato, about 20 ; above
Mankato, about 50.
1872. Osceola, one trip.
1873. Osceola, two trips.
1874. Osceola, Capt. Haycock, one trip.
1876. Ida Fulton ; Wyman X.
1886. Alvira, one trip.
1897. Henrietta, Capt. E. W. Durant, one trip.
In a single list, as follows, these steamboats of the Minne-
sota river are arranged alphabetically, with information, so far as
found, of their place and date of building, and their hull ton-
nage. Where further details are at hand, "sd." and ''St." note
respectively side-wheel and stern-wheel boats, and the figures in
parentheses give the size of the boats in feet.
Addie Johnson 220
Albany Ottawa, Minn. 1860 42
Annie Johnson *. 171
Antelope 1850 37
Anthony Wayne, sd 1848
Ariel 1861 67
Belfast 1858 156
Ben Campbell, st. (29 by 182) Shoustown, Pa. 1852 287
Ben Campbell [year 1868] 143
Benjamin Franklin, No. I Brownsville, Pa. 1847 181
Black Hawk, st. (21 by 130) Rock Island, 111. 1852 130
Chippewa Falls 1865 91
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 161
City Belle, sd Murraysville 1854 216
Clara Hines, sd 1861 80
Clarion, st Monongahela, Pa. 1851 72
Clipper Belle Vernon, Pa. 1855 68
Cutter .'.... 1867 92
Ellen Hardy, st !86; 77
Enterprise [year 1852]
Enterprise 1865 8a
Eolian Brownsville, Pa. 1858 106
Equator, st Beaver, Pa. 1855 105
Excelsior Brownsville, Pa. 1849 172
Fanny Harris Brownsville, Pa. 1855 160
Favorite, sd 1859 1 15
Fire Canoe Lawrence 1854 166
Flora, st. , 1860 159
Frank Steele, sd 1857 136
Freighter Zanesville, O. 1855 93
G. B. Knapp 61
G. H. Gray, st (19 by 139) St. Croix River. 1863 50
G. H. Weeks 160
G. H. Wilson 1862 100
General Sheridan, sd 1865 35
Greek Slave, sd 1852
H. S. Allen
H. T. Yeatman, st Freedem, Pa. 1852 165
Henrietta, st. ( i/o feet long)
Hudson , 1865 125
Humboldt ^ 1853
Ida Fulton 220
lola, st. 1853
Isaac Shelby 1857 100
J. B. Gordon, No. 2
Jeannette Roberts, st 1857 112
Jennie Baldwin, st 193
Jenny Lind Zanesville, O. 1851 107
Julia, st. (28 by 141) Pittsburg, Pa. 1865 158
Lady Pike 210
Lansing v 1865 84
Little Dorrit .
162 MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTIONS.
Little Mac (barge, 25 by 142) 1 14
Mankato (about 150 feet long) 1864 113
Medora 1857 101
Minneopa (barge, 12 by 75)
Minnesota Elizabethtown 1849 142
Minnesota Belle (170 feet long) Belle Vernon, Pa. 1854 226
Mollie Mohler, sd. (22 by 125) Carver, Minn. 1864 94
Monitor 1864 15
New Ulm Belle
Nominee Shoustown, Pa. 1848 213
Ocean Wave 1857 60
Otter 1865 30
Pearl Cincinnati. 1851 184
Pearl [year 1866] 51
Red Wing ; 1857 150
Reveille, st 1855
St. Anthony Falls, sd 1866 40
Stella Whipple 1863 74
Tiber Marietta, O. 1851 184
Tiber [years 1866-67] 7%
Tiger, sd, Sauk County, Wis. 1849 84
Tiger 1865 17
Time and Tide, sd Freedom, Pa. 1853 131
Turtle, sd. (14 by 100) Henderson, Minn. 1864
Uncle Toby 1845
War Eagle Fulton, 111. 1849 296
Wave Elizabethtown 1848 89
West Newton (150 feet long) 1852 300
Wyman X., st. (22 by 120) Taylor's Falls, Minn. 1868 92
The first boats on this river for each year, and the dates of
fhe"ir departure from the St. Paul wharf (or, for a considerable
number, as indicated, of their arrivals at St. Peter and Mankato),
are noted in the following table.
Anthony Wayne. June 28, 1850.
Excelsior, June 29, 1851.
STEAMBOATING ON THE MINNESOTA RIVER. 163
Tiger, April 21, 1852.
Greek Slave, April 4, 1853.
Greek Slave, March 21, 1854.
Globe, April 8, 1855.
Reveille, April 10, 1856.
Equator, April 12, 1857.
Jeannette Roberts, March 20, 1858.
Freighter, March 25, 1859.
Time and Tide, March 19, 1860.
Albany, March 30, 1861.
Albany (arrival at St. Peter), April 3, 1862.
Jeannette Roberts (arrival at Mankato), April 3, 1863.
Jeannette Roberts (arrival at Mankato), April 16, 1864. ,
Ariel, April 2, 1865 (arriving April 4 at Mankato).
Chippewa Falls (arrival at Mankato), April 15, 1866.
Chippewa Falls (arrival at Mankato), April 18, 1867.
Chippewa Falls March 29, 1868 (arriving March 31 at Mankato),
Ellen Hardy (arrival at Mankato), April 18, 1869.
Otter (arrival at Mankato from New Ulm), April 5, 1870; Mankato
(arrival from St. Paul), April 13, 1870.
Otter (arrival at Mankato from New Ulm), April 4, 1871; Pioneer
(arrival from St. Paul), April 15, 1871.
Osceola, May 15, 1872.
Osceola, April 12, 1873.
Osceola, April 25, 1874.
Ida Fulton and Wyman X., April 18, 1876.
Henrietta, April 23, 1897.
RETURN TO DESK FROM WHICH BORROWED
THIS BOOK IS DUE BEFORE CLOSING TIME
ON LAST DATE STAMPED BELOW
D OCT 2 1
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:IR. DEC 1
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