Steamboats 1865-69


Built: 1866, Cincinnati, Ohio
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 227′ x 35′ 6″ x 6′, 728 tons.
Engines: 22’s – 7 ft.
Boilers: 4 boilers, each 40″ x 26 ft. with five 9″ flues.

Operating on the Upper Mississippi River, the PHIL SHERIDAN was owned first by the Cincinnati and Wheeling Line before being sold to the Davidson Line in March 1866. She was later recorded with the Northwestern Union Packet Company as one of their sixteen or so packets that dominated the upper river trade until 1874. She had an impressive pilot-house cupola and a painting of General Sheridan on horse-back on her paddle-boxes.

The Northwestern Union Packet Company absorbed a number of packet companies in the 1860’s. Their packets included: MOSES McLELLAN, OCEAN WAVE, ITASCA, KEY CITY, MILWAUKEE, CITY BELLE, WAR EAGLE, S.S. MERILL, ALEX. MITCHELL, CITY of ST.PAUL, DIAMOND JO, TOM JASPER, BELLE of LA CROSSE, CITY of QUINCY, and JOHN KYLE.


Built: 1867, (hull) by Dunlevy & Co., Wheeling, W. Virginia. Completed at Pittsburgh.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 230′ x 36′ x 5′ 5″, 605 tons.
Engines: 20’s – 7 ft., by Snowden & Co.
Paddlewheels: 26 ft. with 10 ft. buckets.

Built for the Keokuk Northern Line, the DUBUQUE was lavishly frescoed with landscapes, her main cabin decorated with scenes painted by Emil Bott. In late April 1867, she left Pittsburgh for the Upper Mississippi. On her first trip, on May 4 she struck the Rock Island bridge pier on her starboard side, damaging her guards and equipment, and crippling her engine on that side. She served a dozen years, until on the afternoon of March 4, 1879, she burned in Alton Slough with the LAKE SUPERIOR, while both boats were be prepared for the spring trade.


Built: 1868, by Howard & Co., Jeffersonville, Indiana.
 Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
 255′ x 41′ x 9′ 3″.
Engines: 32’s – 9 ft.
Boilers: Seven boilers, each 38″ diameter by 28 ft.

The FRANK PARGOUD was built for John W. Tobin, of New Orleans, who was the sole owner, and it was named for Gen. Frank Pargoud, a wealthy Ouachita River planter. Originally designed for the New Orleans-Ouachita River trade, she proved too large and was placed on the New Orleans-St.Louis trade, running several trips. She subsequently ran between New Orleans-Memphis, making weekly round trips, which was an achievement for a regular packet. Later, she was moved to the New Orleans-Vicksburgh trade, running two trips per week, before running steadily in the New Orleans-Fort Adams trade.

At this time the KATIE was running New Orleans-Greenville, Capt. J.M. White met finacial troubles and was laid up. Capt. Tobin hired White as Master of the FRANK PARGOUD and immediately entered the New Orleans Greenville trade where the boat made a mint of money. One writer of the time said ‘a notorious fact is that her last trip was the most profitable one.’ The J.M. WHITE was built to replace her, at which time the FRANK PARGOUD was laid up at New Orleans opposite the Ursaline Convent. Her boilers were removed but, otherwise intact she slumbered there several years. Captain Tobin had put her out to pasture as reward for work well done.
Credit:~ Capt. Frederick Way, Jr., Ways Packet Directory.

Few records remain of this splendid packet, despite the fact that she survived the war and had a long service, with her engines being used in the ROSA LEE in 1887.


Built: 1869, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 301′ x 42′ 6″ x 9′ 8″, 1,547 tons.
Engines: 34’s – 10 ft. , each 2-flue, built by Niles.
 Eight boilers built by Dumont.

The famous racer, the sixth NATCHEZ, was built for Captain T.P. Leathers for the New Olreans-Vicksburg trade. The NATCHEZ departed on her maiden voyage south on December 6, 1869, and upon her arrival the editor of the Natchez “New South” was unimpressed, reporting ‘The new boat has been so puffed up we really expected to see a fine steamer. But we are disappointed. She may be substantial and fast but is decidedly plain and ungainly.’ Although sparingly ornamented compared to other boats of a similar size, she was certainly well designed, and bore unusual square-topped stacks with her name on each side (at least two of the NATCHEZ boats had square-topped stacks, but the largest and most distinctive were on the sixth boat, the racer.).

In off-cotton seasons the NATCHEZ made trips to St. Louis, and so it was in June 1870 she sprinted north to that port breaking the long standing J.M. WHITE record by one hour 12 minutes. The businessmen of St. Louis presented a fine set of deer horns to Leathers and much printer’s ink was expended on laudation. This achievement set the stage for the celebrated race run several weeks later, New Orleans to St. Louis, between the NATCHEZ and the ROB’T E. LEE. It is said of her that she went through the water like a swan. She had a half-round groove in her stemband that spurted up water like a fountain-jet when under full headway. Smokestacks were red, and she wore the cotton bale symbol between them. The whistle, a huge, single-chime affair, was mounted inside one of the smokestacks, Capt. Leathers remarking: “The whistle is for awakening persons on shore; not on the steamboat.” Observers said it had the sound of a big bumblebee.
Credit:~ Capt. Frederick Way, Jr., Ways Packet Directory.

Though the NATCHEZ lost the famous race, she was very likely just as fast, or faster. The pairing of the two boats was not managed equally. The ROBT. E. LEE was stripped of all unnecessary weight for the race, including doors, while the NATCHEZ ran more-or-less as normal, even carrying some freight and making stops. It was further recorded that the ROBT. E. LEE took on fuel without landing, from steamers with wood-flats, and ran during fog, while the NATCHEZ stopped to load up, and was more cautious in the fog, sometimes laying up until it cleared.

The NATCHEZ was certainly one of the most successful boats ever to run on the river, making 401 trips between New Orleans and Natchez during the nine and a half years that she ran on this trade.

More boats to be added …