Le Claire Iowa

River Men



Watching for the Ferry
John Bloom

Compiled by Georgeann McClure

This is not a complete list  
(If you have any information on river men please add it. )


“When Rafters Ruled’
Fred A. Bill
Chapter 6
Clinton Herald
April 8, 19  

  “I was fortunate enough to get a job with Capt. David Hanks on the Hiram Price and finished the season with him.” 

“One particular thing happened on this up trip.  The engineer’s name was Bartlett and he lived in Le Claire.  When we got to Sycamore chain, on the raft channel side, the boat would not stem the current.  Captain Dave tried a number of times and then gave it up and laid up for the night and the engineer went home.  In the morning when he came to the boat the fireman had steam up and the Hiram Price walked up over the chain as if there was none there!  Captain David was too easy!”


The Davenport Democrat & Leader
Dec. 20, 1908
Pg. 11  

Le Claire  

The Many old friends here are grieved to learn of the death of E. P. Bartlett, which occurred at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Jennie Finley in St. Louis , Dec. 17.  Mr. Bartlett was an old Mississippi river engineer and later was in the government service on the river.

--Sue Rekkas


He has Been Identified With traffic on the Mississippi River For Nearly Half a Century

Davenport Democrat 
Sept 27, 1901  

   The flags on the river packets and at the Diamond Jo warehouse were at half mast today in respect to the memory of Daniel Dawley of Le Claire, one of the oldest and best known steamboat engineers on the upper river.  Mr. Dawley died at his home in Le Claire early this morning after an illness of but as few weeks.  The cause of his death was a fever contracted about a week ago.

   He was nearly 60 years of age and had spent nearly all of his life from early boyhood on the river.  He was a careful engineer and had been at different times on nearly every packet and raft boat on the upper river.  The last boat he was on was the W.J. Young, Jr., which left a week ago Wednesday to go home for a rest.

   The family has been connected with river traffic since the early days of navigation, the father being Captain Daniel Dawley who was on the river almost continuously from 1838 to shortly before his death when he retired and was appointed postmaster of Le Claire.

   Several brothers of the deceased are still living, one A.L. Dawley, being cashier of the Diamond Jo Line at St. Louis .  Another brother, Arthur, resides at Le Claire.  He leaves besides his aged  mother, a wife and two children, a son and daughter.  His death will be universally mourned among river men, who knew him as a faithful engineer and a true friend.  The esteem in which he was held is instanced by the fact that as soon as the news of his death was received the flags on the packets and at the warehouse were raised at half mast.

transcribed by Georgeann McClure         

J. S. Dodds

Davenport Democrat
Dec. 28, 1903

Death of J. S. Dodds of Pleasant Valley
One of the successful farmers of the county  

Was the father of the well known Steamboat Man, Captain Robert Dodds, and had lived to an advanced age-funeral today.  

Announcement is made of the death of John S. Dodds, one of the old settlers of this county and for more than 40 years one of the best known farmers of Pleasant valley township.  He died at his home four miles west of Le Claire on Christmas night.  Mr. Dodds had been in feeble health for the past two years and his death was largely the result of the declining of the physical forces incident to old age.

  The deceased was born in butler county.  Pennsylvania , Aug 22, 1822, and had therefore attained the ripe old age of 81 years, 3 months and 28 days.  On March 10, 1857, he was united in marriage to Miss Susan Shannor of the same county, and together they came west that year, settling on the large farm in Pleasant Valley where they have since continued to live.  Mr. Dodds was one of the most successful farmers of that part of the county and one of its most highly respected citizens.

The members of the surviving family consists of a wife and six children-bird Dobbs of Colorado, Captain Robert Dodds of Keokuk, Miss Lillie Dodds and Mrs Guy LaGrange at home.  John in Kansas and George of Colorado .

Mr. Dodds was a brother of the late T. J. Dodds of Le Claire, for many years, postmaster at that place.  A brother Jesse Dodds and a sister Mrs. Susan Trimpler, reside in this city, while two sisters Mrs. Maggie Humes and Mrs. Elizabeth Stevison reside in Pittsburgh Pa.

The funeral was held this afternoon from the late residence .all the members of the family being present except the son John, who was unable to come.   

Capt. D. F. Dorrance
Pilot, is dead

Passed Away Sunday at Local Hospital at age 73 Years.  

Davenport Democrat
Dec. 18, 1916, Pg. 12

   Capt. D.F. Dorrance of Le Claire, well known Mississippi river pilot, died Sunday morning at 9 O’clock at a Davenport hospital.  Death followed a stroke of paralysis sustained early Thursday morning, since which time he has been in a critical condition.  He was 73 years old.

   Capt. Dorrance was one of the veteran, as well as best known pilots on the upper Mississippi .  During his life he probably brought as many log and lumber rafts over the hazardous Le Claire rapids as any other pilot.

  Capt. Dorrance was born in Rock Island county, Oct. 5, 1843.  He was educated in the district schools and early in life took to the river.  When a mere boy he had the reputation of handling the oars with more dexterity and skill than any other lad on the river.  He soon became a pilot on a raft boat and later acquired several boats of his own.  His last boat was the “Irene D,” named after his daughter, Mrs. Irene Spinsby of Le Claire.

   Capt. Dorrance was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Lancaster who died in 1892.  For the past five years he has been retired from active service, during which time he did occasional work at the pilot wheel.  The past summer he worked on one of the Bedra Wood’s sand boats in Moline and his last engagement was on the steamer Alice, owned by the interstate Material company..

  In his day Capt. Dorrance was known as one of the most skilled and daring pilots on the upper Mississippi .

  Surviving are two children, a son Herschel, and a daughter Mrs. I. S. Spinsby, wife of Capt. Spinsby of Le Claire.

  Funeral services will be held at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon from the Suiter undertaking parlors in Le Claire.  Interment will take place in the Le Claire cemetery.  

                              D. F. Dorrance


Capt. D. H. Dorrance  


ARREST OF D H. Dorrance for driving without a license
What is claimed by the inspectors and what Mr. Durance claims, held for appearance
Nov. 18, 1886  

     There was some more pilot business before Commissioner White this afternoon.  D. H. Dorrance, one of three Dorrances who are so well-known as rapids pilots, was the party in custody, charged with the crime of violating section 4438 of the laws of the United State,”  which forbids any person to sail as pilot of a vessel on the navigable waters of the United States without a license.

     It appears that the district inspectors, Barns and Scott, are at the bottom of the prosecution.  They notified U. S. Attorney finch of the alleged offense and he added accordingly, and Captain Jack McCaffrey was summoned as the prosecuting witness.   The information alleges that on the 14th day of September, 1886, the License of D. A. Dorrance was suspended by the inspectors for a period of ten days, and that on the 17th day of September he acted as pilot on the steamer Pilot, “on the Mississippi river, in Scott County, Iowa,” that he did the same thing with the same steamer on the 30th and 31st  day of September.  

   Attorney Fisch was present for the government and Abner Davison appeared with Mr. Dorrance as his counsel.  Mr Davison claimed that Mr. Dorrance had not been properly suspended -that he had been given no opportunity for a hearing before the inspectors. , who suspended prematurely  without notice to him,, and that therefore the suspension was waived and the commissioners held Dorrance in the sum of $300 for appearance of the next term of the U. S. court in Keokuk.

   All the pilots on the upper Mississippi and the masters and mates of steamboats are watching the proceedings against Dorrance with great interest.  There are some very peculiar features in the case.  For instance,  Dana Dorrance claims that he did not get a pilot during his suspension, that because he was seen in the pilot house of the steamer it was taken for granted that he was acting  at the wheel, when he wasn’t.  he claims, too, that he employed another pilot, giving him $300 a month to do his work.  But the government will endeavor to show that durance was really the pilot when he was in the pilot house the times complained of that the party he employed was not a rapids pilot at best a packet pilot; that the later stood at the wheel. While Dorrance told him how to direct the raft in the channel, and he steered the raft accordingly; and that thus Dorrance was pilot in fact.  The inspectors say that there is no use of having rules and regulations for the government of pilots if pilots are to be permitted to get around them in that way, or to pay no attention to suspensions.  

Tansy Hawthorn
Capt. Tansy Hawthorne

Retired Boat Captain, 93, Pilots Ellen

Capt. Tansy Hawthorne, Le Claire, Guest of U. S. Engineers

 Captain Joe Morehead “Tansy “ Hawthorne , 93, Le Claire, basked in the Limelight today.  

   The old river captain was the guest of the U. S. engineers station in the Clock Tower and was brought to Davenport by the U.S. Ellen, the engineers’ boat, this morning.  He was an honored guest at the Clock Tower and at a dinner served aboard the Ellen at noon.

  In the afternoon the Ellen was taken thru the locks and below the dam, and on the return trip to Le Claire Captain Hawthorne took the wheel, piloting the boat over once familiar rapids now submerged by the lake.  Although he retired from the river in 1930 after 73 years service, he is given his pilots license each year by the government.

   Captain Hawthorne told the engineers that John D. Rockefeller, who celebrated his 96th birthday Monday, had only three years start on him and that he would live longer.

Transcribed by Georgeann McClure

Holsapple W. D.  

Interesting Figure Goes Into discard
April 10, 1921
Davenport Democrat  

  W. D. Holsapple, now 78 years of age, served as a pilot at Le Claire for over 50 years.  He now lives on the bluff behind Le Claire, over looking the great Father of waters on which he spent his life.  Captain Holsappple was born Oct 3, 1843, and lived for many years at Rock Island .  

Transcribed by Kathy Mahmens

Holsapple Dos pilot Le Claire
Holsapple E T engineer Le Claire

Davenport Democrat and Leader
Wednesday, May 14, 1924

The LeClaire Presbyterian Church is Filled at Last Services.

Last rites for Captain W.D. Holsapple, veteran Mississippi river pilot, who passed away Saturday afternoon at his home at Smith's Crossing, below LeClaire, were held at 2:30 o'clock this afternoon in the LeClaire Presbyterian church, Rev. J.T. Stewart conducted the services and burial  took place in the LeClaire cemetery. Jerry S. Green spoke at the services and the church was filled with friends and admirers of the late river man gathered there to pay their last tribute to one of the best known and respected pioneers of this community.


Henry Horton  

Davenport Democrat
Jan. 9, 1910

Henry Horton  

Henry A Horton died at his home in Le Claire early Saturday morning after a long illness from Brights disease.

 Mr. Horton was born in Frankstown, Blair County, Penn. May 4, 1844, and came with his parents Mr. And Mrs. Geo. Horton, to Le Claire when 10 years old, where he has always resided.

  He was married in Le Claire, Sept. 20, 1865 to Miss Elizabeth Hart.  He is survived by his widow and two children, Mrs. E. S. Kindly, wife of Prof. Kindly of Silvis, and George Horton of Rock Island, two grandchildren, Murina Kindly and Isabella Horton, two sisters and one brother, Mrs. A.E. Barrett of Clear Lake, Ia. Mrs. D.P. Redmond of Omaha, Neb. and George Horton of Springfield, Mo.

  Mr. Horton has been a marine engineer all his life.  He was the oldest mason of Le Claire lodge and had held many offices of trust in his town.  He belong to Masonic order and the American Patriots.  Burial at Le Claire Cemetery.   Transcribed by Georgeann McClure  

Capt. Bob Isherwood  

Davenport Democrat
Feb 15, 1898
Bob Isherwood

   The funeral of Capt Bob Isherwood, whose death occurred at his home at 10 o’clock Sunday night.  Was held there at 2 o’clock Monday afternoon, and largely attended.  The boatyards were shut down and the town turned out.  The flags were half masted in St. Louis and other places along the river, and there were general expressions of sorrow at the death of the river veteran.

  Robert Sherwood born in Maryland in 1835 but till he was 19 years of age he lived at Brownsville Pa. At 19 he shipped on the Ohio river steamer, A. G. Mason as carpenter and came with her the whole round trip to St. Paul , and for two years ran with her between St. Louis and that city.  Subsequently he worked as operator on the St. Louis levee. He went on the Canada of the Northern Line, as carpenter, Thence he rose to the place of mate, remaining on the different boats of the line for 13 years, and later became a captain, and commanding the Petrol, the Savannah and the Minnesota .

  In 18  he went to work with the Diamond Jo Line, and he stayed in that company’s employ till his death. With the exception of the seasons of 18  and 18  when he was first at Sioux city , as master in command of the Sidney , but he also walked the deck of the Diamond Jo and the Tidal wave.  He was one of the Diamond Jo’s most trusted men.

  He was married at Le Claire about 1864, to Miss Jennie Henthora.  She survives him with two children, Miss Geneva, principal at McGregor , Ia. And Charles, at home, learning the trade of the river, as his father did. A son and daughter are dead.  The officials of the Diamond Jo Line attended the Funeral and showed their respect in every way, as well as their regret for Capt. Isherwoods death.

Researcher Sue Rekkas  


Thomas Isherwood





Davenport Democrat
February 5, 1923
Front Page

Capt Thomas G. Isherwood, 
Veteran River Steamboat 
Man, Dies in 89th Year

Captain Thomas G. Isherwood, probably one of the most successful and best-known river steamboat captains on the Mississippi during the last half of the century, a man who knew the steamboat business from every angle and had built many crafts which now ply the waters of the Father of Waters, is dead.  Death occurred at 4: 15 this morning at 1333 East 10th street, following a period of failing health extending over the last year.  Capt. Isherwood was 89 years old.  


  Born in Pennsylvania, Oct. 22, 1833, Capt Isherwood, living on the banks of the Ohio river, early in life was fascinated by the stream, and with James G. Blaine, a neighbor boy, often played on its banks and swam in its waters.  In his 18th or 19th year, he obtained his first position as an employee on a steamboat, an occupation which continued to fascinate him up to the time of his death.

  After spending his early years on the Ohio River, learning all phases of steamboat operation, he decided to come to the Mississippi, and was attracted to Le Claire and Davenport.  It has been said that he was an authority on all river conditions, and that he guided and advised hundreds of river captains.  


  A practical steamboatman in every way, he was supreme authority on every craft he captained, setting all disputes himself, and when necessary taking an unruly employee by the scruff of the neck.  He came to be respected by all river men as a fair dealer.

  After a number of years as a captain, he entered the carpenter contracting business, both as a boat builder and as a general contractor, and in this field enjoyed success.  


  FOR THE LAST 73 YEARS, Capt. Isherwood has been a resident of Scott County.  He married Miss Ruby Pollock of Mr. Vernon, Ia., in 1858, she preceding him in death a number of years ago.  

  In recent years, when Capt. Isherwood reached an advanced age, he suffered illness a number of times, and was taken to the hospital, and was taken to the hospital, but he iron constitution he had built up by outdoor life in his youth enabled him to recuperate each time.  Altho his daughters in California had offered him a home in a milder climate, he preferred to be near the river he was so fond of, and every day when his health permitted he would walk down to its bank and look over its expanse of water.

  Capt. Isherwood was a member of Snow Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and Le Claire.  Those who survive him are two daughters. Mrs. Estella Hale and Mrs. Adeline Becker, both of Los Angeles, Cal.

  The body was brought to the Horrigan & Son chapel, where funeral services in charge of Snow Lodge A. F. and A. M. of Le Claire, will be held at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon with burial in Oakdale cemetery.  



1333 East 10th St
Davenport, Iowa
Built 1850


The Daily Davenport
February 5, 1923
Page 1  

Capt Tom Isherwood, old 
Time Mississippi River Pilot, 
Dead at Age of 89

Captain Thomas K. Isherwood, veteran river pilot, died at 4:15 o’clock this morning at his home at 1333 East Tenth Street after a lingering illness of a year’s duration.  Captain Isherwood spent nearly all of his life in river work and was probably the most successful and best-known pilot on the Mississippi river.  He would have been 90 years old next October.

  He was born in Pennsylvania October 23, 1833 and was married to Miss Ruby Polock at Mt. Vernon, Ia. in 1855.

  Captain Isherwood devoted his life to shipbuilding and river work and for over half a century had been accepted as authority on river conditions.  He first became attracted to river work in 1850 when he accepted the command of the steamer Clara Dean which ran between Pittsburg and Louisville on the Ohio River.  He was thus employed three years before accepting a position as pilot of the steamer A. G. Mason which ran between St. Louis and St. Paul on the Mississippi which position brought him to Davenport on the Duck Creek chain and Captain Isherwood entered the employee of the Northern Line Packet company and for 14 years was connected with that company.

  After 56 years services as a river pilot he was forced to retire from that occupation, but continued to follow the river by engaging in the shipbuilding business.

  After his retirement as a pilot he spent many summers on various Mississippi river boats and never tired of telling of his eventful life when he piloted steamers up and down the “Father of Waters,” he has made his home in Le Claire and davenport for a number of years.

  Last August Captain Isherwood narrowly escaped death when he was seriously injured when he fell down the stairs of his home 3221/2 East second St. he sustained a fractured shoulder and an injury to his head which it was feared would prove fatal, but rallied and until recently was able to be about.  Capt. Isherwood attributed his remarkable vitality at such an advanced age to an active life in a rugged occupation.

  He was a member of the Snow Lodge, A. F. & A. M. of Le Claire.  Surviving are two daughters.  Mrs. Estella Hale and Mrs. Adeline Becker of Los Angeles California.

  Funeral services will be held at 2:30 o’clock Wednesday afternoon at the E. A. Horrigan & Son funeral parlors with internment in the Oakdale cemetery.  The Snow Lodge A. F. 7 A. M. of Le Claire will have charge of the services at both the parlors and the grave.


The Davenport Times
June 28, 1901
Page 7

Funeral of Mrs. Isherwood

Services Were Largely Attended by Friends and Relatives

  The funeral of Mrs. Thomas Isherwood was held at the family home 215 East Twelfth Street at 10 o’clock this morning, the services being conducted by Dr. Barclay.  The music was furnished by a quartet.  The floral offerings were numerous and elaborate being the tokens from many steamboatmen and their families of Davenport and Rock Island.  The pallbearers were Captain George Lamont, Captain James Osborn, Captain Lon Bryson, John McGinnis, J. W. Seaman and E. W. Seaman.  The internment was in Oakdale.  

Researcher Sue Rekkas


"Davenport Democrat", Dec. 31, 1945: 
     "THOMAS E. KENNEDY, 83, for 60 years a riverman, died at 5 a.m. Monday in a 
Davenport hospital after an illness of one year. 
     "Mr. Kennedy worked for years as an engineer and mate aboard many boats on the 
river, and for 18 years was employed by the U.S. engineers. 
     "He was born March 20, 1862 in Davenport, and lived most of his life in the LeClaire 
area. On Sept. 10, 1905 he was married to Lottie Mikesell. Mr. Kennedy was a 
member of the Modern Woodmen of America and the Holy Name Society of St. 
Henry's Church, LeClaire. 
     "Survivors include his wife; a son, John E. of LeClaire and a daughter, Mrs. Erma 
Weichman, Albuquerque, N.M.; a grand-daughter and two sisters, Mrs. C.B. 
Christianson, Eugene, Ore., and Mrs. C.W. Disney, LeClaire. 
     "Services will be held at 8:15 a.m. Thursday in the Halligan funeral home, and at 9 in 
St. Henry's Church. Interment will be in Glendale Cemetery."

Submitted by relative Carole Butt of Scottsdale AZ. 


Frank Kitchen


Frank Kitchen  

Davenport Democrat and Leader
September 26, 1919
Pg. 9


    Frank Henry Kitchen, 89, one of the last surviving retired riverboat captains of this area, died in his home in Le Claire at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.  He had been in ill health the last two years.

  The former riverman was born Dec. 10, 1839, at Fulton , Ill. And had lived in Le Claire 61 years.  He had served as a pilot on the Diamond Jo Lines, and also on the Streckfus lines for a number of years and later operated a boat firm.

  Funeral services will be held at 1:30 P.M. on Wednesday in the McGinnis funeral Home followed by burial in Glendale cemetery Le Claire.

    Mr. Kitchen was married to Leila Disney in Davenport in November 1888.  She died in 1898.

  He was a member of Snow Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Le Claire and Kaaba Shrine of Davenport.

  There are no survivors.  His parents, Peter and Christine Kitchen preceded him in death.

  The family has requested that flowers be omitted.  

Researcher Sue Rekkas  

Ex- Le Claire
River Pilot
Dies, Age 77  

Capt. J. H. Laycock succumbs to Heart Attack
-Funeral Tuesday  

  Captain John Henry Laycock,. 77, well known steamboat pilot and master for the Streckfus lines and Federal barge Line, succumbs to a heart attack at hi9s home in Burlington .

  A resident of Burlington for the past five years, Capt. Laycock had operated out of Davenport for nearly 50 years, arriving on Mississippi , Missouri , Illinois , Ohio and Tennessee river steamboats during that time.

  He was born in Halifax England , July 15, 1857, and with his parents came to Le Claire four years later.  He moved to Davenport about 15 years later.  He started his career as a clerk in the Streckfus Lines and offices and rapidly worked his way to a masters license.

  His last assignment was piloting the General Ashburn, a federal barge line towboat.  He quit river work in 1928 because of poor health.

  He was married to Mrs. Anna Kron in 1926 at Fort Madison .  Two brothers, William L. Laycock, Davenport , and Joseph E. Laycock, Colorado , as well as the widow and a stepson survive.  Captain Laycock was a member of the Methodist church, Snow Masonic lodge of Le Claire and the Elks Lodge.

  Funeral services will be held in Le Claire Tuesday noon.  Burial will be in Glendale cemetery, Le Claire.  

Capt. E. J. Lancaster  

Capt. Lancaster, Le Claire, Dead  


Takes Ill While at Work on the Steamer Marquette -was sixty eight Years Old

  Davenport Times 
May 10, 1914
Page 3 (Times Special Service)  

LECLAIRE , IA.   May 9 - Captain E. J. Lancaster, river pilot for forty years, died at his home here at 10 o’clock this morning after an illness of a day’s duration.  He was taken ill while at work as a pilot on the steamer Marquette of the Pierson Sand & Gravel Co., Moline , yesterday, and was brought to his home in Le Claire last night.  He was 68 years old.

  Captain Lancaster was born in De Kalb county Ill. , June 23 1848, but spent most of his life here.  His wife, five daughters, Mrs. John Fedderson of Chicago; Mrs. Wm. Bissick of St. Louis; Miss Alice, Mrs. Clarence Hitchcock and Mrs. Theodore Snow of Le Claire; three sons, Lee and Harold of Le Claire; and Harry of St. Louis; a sister, Mrs. Eliza Stone of Le Claire and a brother, Captain B.P. Lancaster of Le Claire survive.

   Captain Lancaster at the beginning of the civil war enlisted in Company C. eighth Iowa cavalry and served through the war.  He was a member of Snow Lodge of the Mason of Le Claire and of the Modern Woodmen of America     


Capt E.J. Lancaster
June 23 1846 - May 9 1914


Legendary Le Claire Home Faces a Fiery Fate Sunday  

The Daily Times
June 15, 1962
By Larry Heintz  

  A legendary Le Claire house, with a “hidden room,” will go up in flames Sunday- unless fate, in the form of bad weather, intervenes.

  The house is a two-story, 13 room structure built in 1831 by E. J. Lancaster, a Mississippi river boat captain.

  At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, firemen from Scott County ’s fire District No.1-the Le Claire, Pleasant Valley and Princeton department-will begin holding a series of fire drills.

  By 10 a.m. Le Claire Mayor Louis Mohr expects the old landmark to be in flames.

  As with many old landmarks, legends have grown up around the Lancaster house.  But this house has a feature that makes legends more plausible.

  On the second floor, under the southwest gable, was located a “hidden” room, it was reported. The room was never finished and was closed off.  

Explains reason

  The reason for this was explained by Fred Clark of Le Claire, who was a playmate of the Lancaster children, children who remembers the captain.

  “Capt. Lancaster was a very superstitious man,” Clark said. “He said if he finished that room, some member of his family would die.

  Clark also said that Capt. Lancaster, who owned and operated the steamboat, “Eclipse” as a packet boat would not start a trip upstream on a Friday because he thought the boat might hit something.

  A recent occupant of the home however, did open up the “hidden room.” The room, which has a ceiling that goes to the point of the garret, is about 20 feet square, according to Charles “Chappie’ Morgan, one of the Le Claire firemen who will take part in Sunday’s drill.

  Le Claire residents are reluctant to see the house destroyed.  “I think it’s a shame, but I guess there is nothing to be done,” said Mrs. Andrew Neilson, in a typical reaction.  “It’s a wonderful house and it is in good condition,” declared Mrs. Neilson, a great-niece of early settler Antoine Le Claire  

Too costly

  Le Claire’s museum board has made efforts to save the house for use as a museum and library, but found the project would be too costly.

   Destruction of the structure was delayed until that decision was made.

  Present owners Dean Fry and glen Little of Davenport offered the home to the board free with an additional 4100 for moving it..  The site is to be used for commercial development.

 The museum board estimates that it would cost between $12,000 and $15,000 to move the building (to the town park) and to renovate it.

  “It is the biggest house in town,” declared Frank Clark, “It has seven rooms and bath downstairs.”  he pointed out that like the house of Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel, it has seven gables.

  It was built to last, too.  Instead of the usual vertical studding framework, the walls are constructed of 2-inch by 4-inch dimension lumber laid on top of each other and spiked together.  

Researcher Sue Rekkas


                   B. P. Lancaster 
              1940- 1928               


The Daily Times
Oct. 15, 1928

B. P. Parmar Lancaster, pioneer River Captain, dies at age of 88 years at home in Le Claire  

B. Parmar Lancaster, pioneer upper river steamboat captain died Sunday in Le Claire at the age of 88 years.  He succumbed to a brief-illness.

   Captain Lancaster as born July 29, 1840 in Ohio , When five years of age he came west to Le Claire with his parents and had resided there since.

  In early young manhood he answered the lure of the glamorous river and entered into a career of steam-boating on one of the pioneer side-wheelers which frequented the port of Le Claire .  About the time he had mastered the difficulties of a pilot he resigned his post to become a member of the union army in the civil war.

  He served with a company of infantry throughout the war and following the cessation of hostilities returned to his home and to the business of river traffic.  For many years he served in the capacity of pilot on various crafts and later became one of the best known  captains in the log raft and packet trades, directing activities on the Morning Star and Helen Blair as well as other boats.  His advanced age forced him to retire some years ago.

  He was married to Miss Emma Elliott at Le Claire shortly after his return from army service.  She preceded him in death in 1915.  He had been active in the affairs of the John R. Buckman post, G. A. R. at Le Claire.

Surviving are four sons, S. E. Lancaster of Seattle , Thomas and John of Washington and M. J. of Minneapolis : three sisters, Mrs. Mary Shirley of Mont-Morris Colo.   Mrs. Sarah Cummings of California and Mrs. Ollie Finley of Stanton , Iowa .  And several grandchildren. 
Researcher Sue Rekkas  


                                                                                                             Sam Lancaster  


Photo GMC
Joseph Long Oct 16, 1853



Le Claire

Long Joseph  

The Davenport Democrat and Leader
Feb. 25, 1910  

Capt. Jo Long Dies In West
Well Known Riverman Dies After Several Months’ Illness  

  Word has been received in Davenport of the death at Seattle , Wash. , of Captain Jo Long, for years one of the best known rivermen and steamboat owners on the Upper Mississippi .  While serving as its master and pilot, Captain Long engaged in many an exciting race and invariably came out with flying colors.  He was also regarded as one of the most skilful pilots and for years piloted the majority of the boats over the treacherous waters.

  He was the owner of the steamer Jo Long, which for years plied in the packet trade, between Davenport and Clinton and which had the distinction of being the fastest boat in these erous (?) rapids between Davenport and Le Claire.  Two years ago he removed to Seattle and was followed a year later by his family.

  Captain Long was born in Le Claire in 1851 and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Long.  He was for years a member of the Masonic lodge in Le Claire and later became affiliated with the Davenport Masons.  His death followed an illness of two months.

  The survivors are the wife, one daughter, Pearl , and two brothers, William Long of Le Claire and Frank l. Long of Dubuque.

Sue Rekkas  

The Davenport Daily Times
Dec. 5 1896


The jury returns a verdict late this afternoon guilty of assault to commit great bodily injury


Davenport Weekly Democrat
Dec. 17, 1896
Pg. 3  


  Capt. J. N. Long was up before Judge Waterman Monday morning to receive his sentence for he crime of which he was fund guilty by the jury at the recent trial.  He was accompanied by his attorneys. Messers. J. A. Hanley and E. E. Cook, they being practically the only ones in the court room at the time.  After some preliminaries Judge Waterman stated that he would sentence Capt. Long to pay a fine of $100, so that the total amount to be paid by Capt. Long, aside from his attorney’s fees, will be about $250.  He was not prepared to make a settlement at the time, but the court allowed him time to get the money instead of committing him until paid, as is sometimes done.   

* more on this in Iowa steamboat wars on the Iowa History Project


 Long Thomas  

The Daily Times
Oct 13, 1933  

  Thomas F. Long, a life resident of Le Claire, died at 11:35 a. m. today at his home in Le Claire.  He suffered a heart attack Thursday. The decedent was born Dec. 14, 1852, in Le Claire and was educated in the schools there.  He was married to Agnes Wendt, Feb. 26, 1888, at Davenport .  For many years Mr. Long was a steamboat engineer, retiring ten years ago.

  Surviving besides his wife are one son, Emery Long, of Le Claire; one daughter, Mrs. J. P. Curzon, of Davenport and three grandchildren.  The body was taken to the McGinnis funeral home and will be removed to the Mc Ginnis chapel in Le Claire Sunday morning where funeral services will be held at 2 p. m.  Burial will be in Glendale cemetery.

The bearers were Charles Thompson, Herman Bickel, Joe Tweseil, Ewald Van Hein, George Bissick and Thomas Harper.

Sue Rekkas  

Long William  

The Davenport Democrat and Leader
May 27, 1923  

Former River Steamer Cook Breathes Last.
William H. Long Succumbs to Long Illness at Le Claire Home  

  William H. Long for many years a cook on Mississippi river steamboats and well known along the river, died after a long illness at his home, in Le Claire early Saturday morning.

  He was born in Pennsylvania Aug. 25, 1848 and came to Le Claire in childhood. His marriage to Miss Ellen Bishop took place at Hampton Ill. , on Jan. 28, 1876. 

  Surviving are two sons, Roy of Le Claire and Harry of Henry, Colo. ; and a daughter, Mrs. Ina Litscher at home.  A brother Frank of Le Claire, and ten grandchildren also survive.

  Funeral services will be conducted by Rev. Wm, E. Green at the home Monday morning with internment in Le Claire cemetery.

pallbearers were Art Dawley, C. Disney, Frank Suiter, James Ryan, J. A. Meyer, and Capt. Orrin Smith.

Sue Rekkas

Transcribed by Georgeann McClure




                                                                                                  Joe    Long

When competition between the boats for passengers and freight heated up. Capt. Joe Long, thinking he was not getting his share ,  became upset with the steamboat agent James Osborn and stabbed him. He was arrested and fined $300 in court. 


Times Democrat
Feb. 24, 1965  


  Emery (Sam) Long, 67, of 537 N. Cody Road, Le Claire, died Tuesday afternoon in the colonial Manor Nursing Home, Davenport, after a three month illness.

  A life resident of Le Claire, Mr. Long married the former Stella M. Coffin in Davenport in 1925.

  He was a retired riverboat engineer, having worked on the Quinlan, the Le Claire and the Allen

  Surviving are his wife; sons Robert L. and James W., both of Le Claire, William f., Wheatland, and Fred M., Omaha, Neb., three grandchildren, and a sister, Mrs. J. P. Cerzon, Los Angeles, Calif.

  Services will be at 3 p.m. Thursday in the McGinnis funeral home, Bettendorf , with burial in Glendale cemetery, Le Claire.

  Visitation will be after 2 p. m. today.

Researcher Sue Rekkas

Mikesell ( Maxwell) Addison  

April 5, 1903 Daily Times, page 4 under the column “IN OTHER TOWNS”. " A. Maxwell (Mikesell) left Wednesday for Memphis , Tenn. , where he will begin his season's work as engineer of one of the Lee steamers."

--Sue Rekkas  

A Raft Pilots Log
Walter Blair

“Getting on board late at night, I took the berth assigned to me, by the
mate, but did not sleep much. At breakfast I was made acquainted with James
Hugunin, master and pilot, George Tromley, Sr., pilot, R.B.McCall,
mate, Thos, Wright, chief engineer, Add. Mikesell, assistant engineer, Wm.
Davenport, my partner, Ben Shipley, cook, and Harry Carleton, cabin boy.”

* The Mikesell family of Le Claire changed their name to Maxwell

Capt Alvah O. Day  


  Alva O. day, supervisor of the United States Steamboat Inspection Service in this district and old-time Mississippi river steamboat captain, died Monday at Howard Hospital , of septic poisoning from a throat infection.  He resided at 3324 South Jefferson Ave.

  Capt. Day, who was 66 years old, had been in river service for more than 40 years and had been connected with the Government since 1916.  Previously he was captain of steamers for the Diamond Jo Line.  In 1910 he piloted from the North the last large raft of logs sent down the river.


Capt. Hugh Pollock  

Davenport   Democrat
Dec. 5, 1911
Pg. 13  


Former Rapids Pilot Dies in Abject poverty Across the River  

  Concerning the death of Capt Hugh Pollick, (sic) brief mention of which was made in last evenings Democrat, the Rock Island Argus gives the following details:

  Walking along the levee yesterday morning at 11:30, Fred  Gall and Peter Trenkenchuh  approached the northern track of the Rock Island & Peoria Railway between Nineteenth and twentieth street , where they came upon a man lying behind a freight car, all curled up, his head resting near the rail.  A large bruise was discovered on the left side of the head just above the eye, and thinking that the man was under the influence of liquor, they took hold of him to arouse him, Gall at the same time remarking to his companion, “I guess you had better call the police patrol.” On seizing the supposed sleeper they were horrified to observe that he was stiff and cold, having been dead for some time.  

Capt. J.W. Rambo 

One of Last Raft Pilots Succumbs at Le Claire in his Eighty-First Year

Captain Rambo; LeClaire, Iowa

Davenport Democrat
Jan 30, 1925

With the death at 5 o’clock this morning at Le Claire of Capt. J. W. Rambo, is marked the passing of one of the few remaining raft pilots who plied the Mississippi river in the heyday of steam boating before the ramifications of the railroad industry had made obsolescent and almost obsolete the slower and less direct transportation afforded by the locomotive.

Capt. Rambo was 81 years of age, and had been retired from active piloting since Oct 15, 1922. His declining health was not marked until the last few weeks.

For sixty years he piloted rafts thru the Le Claire rapids, having gained his first river experience when an adolescent.

The fascination of the river held for him the remainder of his life. He guided hundreds of boats up and down the Mississippi and earned a reputation as a rapids pilot in the days when railroading was in its infancy..

During the last years of his active river service, Capt. Rambo was commanding officer of the steamer “Artimus Gates” of Clinton owned by the Clinton Sand and Gravel company. He knew well every bend and shoal in the river for many miles on either side of his home city.

For four terms, he served as mayor of Le Claire, and was acting in that capacity at the time the present city hall was built there. He also served as a councilman of Le Claire for several years.

Capt. Rambo was born in Rapids City, Ill., July 27, 1844 across the river from Le Claire and with his parents came to Le Claire when he was but two weeks old, retaining his residence there ever since. He married Miss Josephine Slaughter at Princeton, Nov. 24, 1864, and the couple celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving day of last year.

In the Masonic fraternity, Capt. Rambo won distinction by serving in the various offices of the fraternity, including that of worshipful master. He was a member of Snow Lodge No. 34 at Le Claire, with which he became affiliated in 1871. At the time he was initiated, his brother-in-law, Capt. Joseph Hawthorne, also a pioneer river captain, also took the initiatory degree, and both were equally prominent in the offices of the lodge. In 1921, the lodge celebrated the golden anniversary of the affiliation of Capt. Rambo and Capt. Hawthorne.

In childhood, Capt. Rambo attended the old Sycamore school, at that time resided with his parents near the old water mill.

Those who survive are his wife; one daughter, Mrs. B. J. Metzgar; and one grandson, Ward Metzgar of Dubuque.

Funeral service will be held Sunday afternoon from the home under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge. Interment will be in the Le Claire Cemetery.

--from book  "Rivermen Muscatine, Iowa" compiled by Georgeann Mcclure

Robert Shannon  

The Davenport Democrat
Sept 14, 1910
Pg. 2

Robert Shannon  

The remains of Robert Shannon who passed away Saturday in Rock Island , was brought to his native town Monday morning and laid to rest in Le Claire’s beautiful “City of The Dead ”.  The remains were accompanied by the sons and mother of the deceased and joined here by brother and sisters and many other relatives.  Rev. Bailey and a choir composed of Mrs. George Tromley, Miss Annie Laird and Jas Suiter, held services at the grave.  The following assisted with the casket.  L. Morey, M. Ney, August Abraham, Lee Suiter, Ralph Ewing and S. W. Disney.

Researcher Sue Rekkas  

* there were three Shannons Hugh Shannon, Robert Shannon and James Shannon  


Davenport Democrat and Leader
Dec. 15, 1918  


Captain Fuller Smith of Steamer 
Verne Swain Dies in Chicago  

  According to word received late Saturday, Captain Fuller Smith, former well known river pilot, and for years captain of the steamer “Verne Swain” passed away at 8 o’clock Saturday morning at the home of one of his daughters in Chicago.

  The remains will be brought to Le Claire for burial, and interment will take place there, announcement of the time to be made later.

  Captain Smith’s old home was in Le Claire, and during the long period that he spent in navigation the river he resided there, but removed to Davenport .  He has however, made his home in Chicago for the past ten years.

  The survivors are two daughters Mrs. Grace Tolleson and Mrs. Lola A. Stone, both of Chicago ; two sisters, Mrs. Net Holsappple and Mrs. Cynthia Becker, of Le Claire: also two brothers, Peter of le Claire and George of Moline, Ill.

--Sue Rekkas  

The Daily Times
Dec. 17, 1918
Pg. 12  

Capt. Smith Funeral Held  

  The funeral of Capt. Ira Fuller Smith, who died in Chicago , Saturday, was held Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock at Le Claire, Rev. M. E. Kroster officiated at the service.  The pallbearers were six nephews of the deceased.  They were Orrin Smith, Nelson Smith, Frank Smith, George Holsapple and Frank Becker.  Interment was in Le Claire cemetery.

--Sue Rekkas

Smith Fuller 

Davenport Sunday Democrat
June 12, 1898 

Clears up mystery
Pilot Fuller Smith Explains the Low stage of water

George M. Waters, Moline Correspondent of the Waterways Journal, has the following interesting bit of pilot house profanity and philosophy charge up to him.

  Moline, Ill., May 30, 1898.  Do you Know Fuller Smith?  If not, I will introduce him to you: Mr. Editor, Mr. Smith, pilot on the Verne Swain for the last nine years, making two trips a day over the rapids.” Now, there is a sly old fox of a wheel spinner that can juggle a boat and is up to all the tricks.  He knows all the little pickets, ct offs and openings to put his boat into and through when the water is low, and in a race he will beat you every time.  He is a lovely talker.  You should hear the ornamental language he uses, especially when the bridge tender is slow to open the draw.

  When a new engineer came on and asked: Mr. Smith, which is your slow bell?  He answered: “H--! Got no slow bell!  What you want a slow bell for?  This boat’s slow enough without running on slow bells.  When you get signals, twist the wheel out of her; that’s what you do, Huh! Slow Bells? Nit!”

  While coming down yesterday from Hampton on the Swain I was always in the pilot house, and asked Smith about the stage of water.  “Water? Got no water! Just had wheels put on her bottom!  Can’t you feel her when she runs over the rocks?” “They are moving freight down below.”  “No, sir; that’s rocks-hard rocks.  As long as they allow street sprinklers and sich to pump the water all out of the river and spread it over the ground, just so long we’ll have low water, Gad! I drove a nigger off up at Le Claire the other day that had his mule down to water, and the next morning he came down to the land and says:  “Please Mr. Captain, can let my mule drink out of your river?” 

The Davenport Democrat and Leader
June 10, 1928


CAPTAIN ORRIN SMITH, Le Claire, ran largest rafts down rapids: Father furnished Evidence for Lincoln  

  On a fair day in May 1856, the sidewheel excursion steamer Effie Afton, puffing down the Mississippi , struck a pier of the first bridge across the river between Davenport and Rock Island .

  The impact of the collision or some other force, upset a stove on the steamer’s deck and the big boat went up in flames.  The bridge property of the Chicago , rock Island and pacific railway, being a wooden structure was also partially destroyed.

  Out of this incident grew the famous rock Island bridge case in which Abraham Lincoln distinguished himself, winning the case for the railroad when the steamship company brought suit.

  What is more important the resulting decision set a precedent which struck the opposition in the building of trans-Mississippi bridges a death blow.

  Probably no one at this day remembers the incident more distinctly than captain Orrin Smith of Le Claire, for 48 years a river pilot in all capacities and today actively engaged in guiding the Lone Star on almost daily trips between Princeton and Davenport . 

 Father Furnished Evidence 

“My father, Captain John E. Smith furnished evidence in that case for the railroad company,” he recalled the other night.  Tilted back in an old chair on the lower deck of the Lone Star he rehearsed the incident while a kerosene lamp with yellow light shown thru the smoke from a cigar he puffed occasionally.

  “It nearly made a farmer out of my father after years on the river.  Lincoln and the rock Island wanted to prove that the bridge was not an obstruction to river traffic and hired my father to pilot a boat up and down the river for an entire day.”

  He did it successfully, easily.  Probably made a dozen trips or so in the same channel where the Effie Afton had gone down.  “That made the river men mad and they wouldn’t give dad a square deal so he went back to Le Claire and moved into a small farm.   In 30 days steamboat owners were after him.

  “Come on back and pilot our boats for us” they begged him, “They’re going to pieces in the rapids.”

“I’ll come on back for $10 a day, work or play,” was his reply and they agreed to his terms.  

Compensation Unknown  

  Records show that Lincoln received $500 for winning the case, but what Captain John Smith received, more than his daily wages, Captain Orrin Smith does not know.

  “Like father, like son” the present Captain Smith has proved himself the equal of his father in his mastery of the rapids, which have been the downfall of many a river pilot and stout steamboat.  In his half century of river navigation he has never lost a boat on water that churn over treacherous stones.  He made a name for himself when huge lumberrafts were run down the river from Minnesota and Wisconsin forests and ahs the distinction of bringing down the two largest rafts ever floated across the rapids.

  Fifteen hundred feet in length was one of these monsters, in reality a raft and a half.  Captain Smith explained and conceived when a river captain was roused to new efforts by a story in a Davenport newspaper telling of the “greatest raft in history.” Brought down the river by a rival.

  The second raft, not quite so long, but a double decker and containing 2,600,000 feet of lumber is shown in the accompanying photograph. 

Two Boats required  

  To move these tremendous bulk of logs down the river, two boats were required, one at the stern and another at the head of the raft, the “after called a “bowboat”  the bowboat made it possible the swinging of the raft back and forth across the stream.

  Incidentally it was captain John smith again who conceived the idea of the bowboat and his son who carried this idea to the ultimate perfection.

  “Huge rafts power the essential downfall of river men.”  Captain Smith declares, “With smaller rafts logs would have been moved less rapidly and the supply would have lasted longer.  As it was the last raft was floated down the Mississippi many years ago and a lot of pilots were thrown out of work.”

  “I’ve run all kinds of boats.”  He recalls.  “Raft boats freighters, excursion steamers, and sand barge boats.  There used to be a boat each way daily between St. Paul and Davenport , crowded too with people sleeping on deck cots or wherever they could find a place.  

Will Never Come Back  

  “Now they’re all gone, burned, sunk, rotted, except for a few small ones which as were running here.  They’ll never come back.  They don’t pay, the railroads put them on the run and now the automobile has the railroad going.  Once owned a boat myself, paid $15,000 for her and was lucky to get  $1,800 when I sold her.”  He explained.  Consequently in the attempt to return large traffic, Captain Smith sees but madness where, he says, the cost will far exceed any return and where ice locks the channel for five months out of 12 months.

  But as long as any kind of a boat courses up and down the river here Captain Smith will live the life he knows best.  He has been on the water from the time he was able o row his first skiff.  “I used to swim like a fish, tho I haven’t been in the water for years.”  He says.  Why I used to swim across the river from Le Claire to Port Byron any time the notion struck me, and back again,  “Many’s the time I’ve given passengers on those daily boats a good scare.  Just as they pulled away from Le Claire bound for Pt. Byron, I’d paddle up behind in my canoe, throw a rope over the rudder beam and ride into mid-river.  Then I’d upset my canoe and come up under it, making a big shout as I went down.  

Under the Boat  

  “People would see the canoe turned over and wouldn’t see me come up.  I’d be under the canoe where there was plenty of air and there I’d stay until I thought a boat would be coming after me, then up I’d pop.  What a laugh and stare that would give them.”  He roared. 

“Used to be a crack shot too.”  He reminisced.  “Where other fellows used a shot gun I’d use a rifle or pistol.  Always used to hunt rabbits with a revolver and get them too.  If I saw them before they ran.

  “One day we were coming down the river and saw a big flock of swans way ahead.  I called to my engineer, Frank Long.  He got his shot gun and I my rifle.  When we were about 50 yards away, close enough for the shot gun, I banged away twice and to swans fell, frank called up and asked “did you see those two I got”  “Well until you see the balled marks I answered and sure enough I’d hit them and he missed ‘em.  “One other time Jake Brasser, a boxer, wrestler, and a crack shot, as he claimed, boasted he could out shot me.  Fellows always used to be shooting and then hanging the targets up in a saloon.  

A Crack Shot  

  “Well we put up a six inch target at 35 yards.  Jake had a five shot and O a seven shot revolver.  We fired and then investigated the results.  I’d placed all seven shots in the six inch circle, piecing the bull’s eye with all of them. Jake had hit t only once, but that was right in the center of the bullseye.  Say, he put that target up in the saloon, and didn’t get over it for days.  We used to laugh about that.

  Returning once more to the talk of swimming he warned “Don’t ever get into ice water, it’ll paralyze you.  He told the incident of his own initiation, his first and last experience which happened about 30 years ago.

  “We were coming back from hunting near Princeton .  Had our boat full of guns, camping stuff and straw in the bottom.  A stiff wind was whipping the waves into whitecaps and water stopped into the boat.  All at once she started head first for the bottom.  

Into the icy water  

  “The fellow with me grabbed his gun and went down but I grabbed an oar in one hand the boat with the other.  Down I went too, and then managed to get a hold of George.  Under water I turned the boat upside down, out fell the stuff and up came the boat, bottom side up.  “Hang on the boat I called as I pulled George up, and holler like the devil.  “ I managed to climb on top the boat , straddle it and began to paddle.  Finally a fellow heard us shouting and paddled out.  He pulled George into the boat and I sprawled in paralyzed from the hips down where the icy water had soaked me.  When I got to shore I ran all the way to a saloon, got three hot whiskeys, went home, put on dry clothes and came out all right.  We both did, but stay out of ice water.”

  With that Captain Smith fell back to dreaming a minute.

  “Well guess it’s about time to look for the hay, he spoke suddenly,” and rose to turn down the lamp.

Researcher Sue Rekkas  



                                                                                                  John Smith



Smith steamboatmen from Le Claire  

1870 Le Claire Federal Census
Smith Peter M. 40 M W Runs Ferry Boat Pa

Smith John E. 36 M W Boat Pilot . . Pa .

Smith Oren 11 M W . . .      Iowa . . .

Smith Nelson 18 M W Works on Boat . . Iowa

Capt. Isaac Spinsby  

Davenport Democrat
July 24, 1947  

Capt Spinsby Retired Veteran Of River, is Dead  

Record Includes Mississippi
Piloting and Hennepin Pioneering  

     Capt Isaac Sturgeon Spinsby, 83, a former riverboat captain on the Mississippi, who saw nearly half a century’s service aboard various craft prior to his retirement about 20 years ago, died at 8:20 a. m. today in his home in Le Claire following a six months illness.

   The body was removed to McGinnis funeral home, and services are set for 2 p. m. Saturday, with burial in Glendale cemetery, Le Claire  

   A native of Montgomery City Mo. Capt sturgeon was born Feb. 14. 1864, received his education in the schools of Montgomery City and Le Claire, and married Irene Dorrance in Le Claire, Dec. 18, 1889.  

Began at 17  

   It was while he lived in the Mississippi river community that he learned to love the river and people who worked on it, and longed to become a part of this group.  At the age of 17 he became a deck hand on the Glenmont, and worked successively on such boats as the Saturn, Wild Boy, and Irene D., owned by his father-in-law and named for his daughter, receiving the respective ratings of cub pilot, pilot and later master.  He was named captain on the USS Mac, a government owned boat, in 1891.

  He later served as captain on other government boats such as the USS Ruth, USS Le Claire and the USS Louise.  He had worked for the government for over 35 years on the Mississippi in the Rock Island district and had served as river captain on the Mississippi for over 30 years.  

Hennipen Pioneer  

   Capt. Spinsby was instrumental in the building of the Hennipen canal, waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi , and was in charge of the first boat that passed through.  He held a license to operate on the Mississippi river and all its tributaries, which included the Missouri , Illinois , Wisconsin and various other navigable streams.

   Survivors include four sons.  D. F. Spinsby, at one time candidate for mayor of Rock Island, John Spinsby, South Dakota, and George and Court Spinsby both of Le Claire; five daughters, Mrs. W. L. Pierce, Milwaukee, Mrs. Howard Cole, Los angeles, Mrs. L. W. Amman, Fulton, Ill. And Mrs Curtis Boedecker and Mrs John Moeller, both of Davenport , and nine grandchildren.

   Capt. Issac Spinsby  

Henry Spinsby

Henry Spinsby
St. Louis Post Newspaper
April 16, 1909  

Spinsby-On Thursday April 15, 1909 at 11 a. m. Henry Spinsby in his eighty-ninth year.

Funeral from Louis Spellbrink’s funeral parlors.  1923 Franklin Avenue , on Friday, April 16, at 3:20 p. m. to Crematory.  Incineration private.  

[Spinsby info Contributed by relative  Nancy Schroeder]


Stedman James  

Capt. W.   Blair


“This company bought from W. A. Blair the excellent raft boat, the Silver Crescent . She was 123 feet long with a 23 foot beam. She was built of selected Kentucky oaks and was a fine model. She had the engines of the two-boat Park Painter of Pittsburgh, with 14 inch cylinders and a 4 1-2 stoke.  She was fitted with a comfortable cabin and was one of the handsomest and fastest crafts in the entire rafting fleet.”

   “The writer was her master and pilot with Parm Lancaster as mate, James Stedman as engineer and S. R. Dodds as clerk. For a few weeks Capt. Lon Bryson was with us, to teach and show us raftsmen how to handle passengers and freight as well as the clerical work connected with these things”.



                                                        Jim Suiter                     Robert Moore                          Lee Suiter

Stedman  James (Steadman)



The Times Democrat and Leader
Nov. 19, 1912
Pg. 15


Steadman James 
Wife Jennie Shannon  

  After an illness of four months, due to paralysis, James Stedman died at his home in Le Claire Monday night at 9 o’clock.  Mr. Stedman was born in Ohio Jan. 12, 1849, but came to Le Claire when a young man.  He was married at that place in November, 1873, to Miss Jennie Shannon, who survives him.  Besides his wife, one son, Fred Stedman, is left to mourn the loss of husband and father.  Henry Stedman, the older son of the deceased, died two years ago.

  Funeral services will be held form the Le Claire Presbyterian church Thursday afternoon.


Photo by Bob Jones

steadmanjames.jpg (946218 bytes)

James Steadman 1819-1912 

Capt. W.   Blair


By Capt. Walter A. Blair 

Career of Silver Crescent  

This company bought from W. A. Blair the excellent raft boat, the Silver Crescent. She was 123 feet long with a 23 foot beam. She was built of selected Kentucky oaks and was a fine model. She had the engines of the two-boat Park Painter of Pittsburgh, with 14 inch cylinders and a 4 1-2 stoke.  She was fitted with a comfortable cabin and was one of the handsomest and fastest crafts in the entire rafting fleet.

   This boat finished up some rafting and after a few changes and additions started to revive, on June 17, 1892, the old trade to Burlington. This was the summer of extremely high water.

   The writer was her master and pilot with Parm Lancaster as mate, James Stedman as engineer and S. R. Dodds as clerk. For a few weeks Capt. Lon Bryson was with us, to teach and show us raftsmen how to handle passengers and freight as well as the clerical work connected with these things.

  Our start was not encouraging.  The entire earnings of our first round trip were $16.75.  The increase was slow, but by the end of the season in 1893 we paid a 5 per cent dividend.




Last of The Rivermen At Le Claire
Davenport Democrat
January 24, 1969  

   There is an old saying along the Mississippi River that steamboat men live as long as the wake left by the buckets of their boats.  A “bucket” is another word for a paddle on the wheel, and the wake left by the churning buckets was always pretty long-which meant steamboat men live a long life.

   The last three steamboat men in Le Claire are living out that old saying. 

 Robert A. Moore, who has piloted just about everything from excursion boats to rafters, will be 83 in May.  

Jim Suiter, pilot and master and descendent of a long line of rapids pilots , is 81.  

Lee Suiter, a brother of Jim Suiter and who worked on “more boats than I can remember,” is 76.  

   All have considerable in common besides longevity.  They took to steam boating when they were boys, and haven’t quite shaken that meandering old river out of their systems.

  The boats upon which they have worked will stir memories among old timers who can hark back to the river days of tall smoke stacks and deep-throated whistles.  Remember the St. Paul and the old J.S. Streckfus excursion boats?  Raft boats like the Eclipse and the J. W. Van Sant or the many packets on the Diamond Jo Line?  The Suiters and Moore worked these boats at one time or another.

   With affection, they refer to all boats as “she” or “her” and understandably are saddened by the demise of steam on the river.

   Le Claire was famous as the home of the river men for several years.

   “My dad, John was one of the best pilots in the business,” recalls Jim Suiter today.

   Both Jim Suiter and Robert Moore were licensed rapids pilots.  “We made good money in those days.  I’d get $25 for taking just a regular steamboat through the rapids.  If a man took a log raft downstream over the rapids,  he might get $100 or $200” says Moore .

   “Everyone who didn’t know the rapids was afraid of them.  I learned them from my father, and a pilot pretty well got to know all the tricks.  You’d get near a ledge of rocks, sight on a tree and hove to the starboard and then you’d get through.  Such stuff as that was typical.” says Suiter.  “I remember one spot where you’d keep a government light on dead-set aim with a farmhouse on the Illinois side of the river between Clinton and Buffalo.” and a chief engineer’s license  for any navigable stream.  Of alert mind and memory, the alert 83-year-old Moore is full of tales of the Mississippi and his eyes sparkle as he talks about them.

  “ One day we were sitting on the fence at recess when I heard a steamboat whistle.  I was only 13 then, and I ran down the hill to look at the boat.  She was the Ten Broeck, and the pilot, Walter Blair, yelled, “boy, do you want a job? “ Yes-siree, I took that job, and I went from kitchen flunky to second engineer and chief engineer for the fleet of seven Van Sant boats.

  He quit, the Van Sants because he didn’t get a raise from $90 to $100 a month and went to work for Joseph Streckfus at Rock Island .  

Water Wagon

  “I was chief engineer on the old W.W. an excursion boat running between St. Louis and St. Paul .  Everyone called that boat the “Water Wagon” because Capt. Streckfus wouldn’t permit any liquor on board.  

Green Tree

   In Le Claire is a large tree called the Green Tree Hotel because rafting crews often spent the night under its limbs waiting to run the rapids next morning.  It’s limbs were so sheltering that Walter Blair, the pilot turned-author wrote an entire chapter in his “Raft Pilot’s Log” on the subject.  “The Green Tree Hotel”

  Suiter left the river as a young man and didn’t return until 1928 when he hired out as a cub pilot on the Le Claire. A government workboat.  Three years later he qualified for his pilots license, and his boats helped build a network of wing dams up and down the river “out of willow bundles and stones.”

  He retired in 1943 after service as master and pilot of the “Ellen” a big government steamboat with a crew of 22.  Now he lives in Le Claire in a house once owned by another riverman, the late Henry Horton.  An early engineer.

   Last summer a son-in-law took Jim Suiter out in a small boat.  “I got enough of that little boat in a hurry.  I wanted something big under me,” he smiles.  

A Deckhand  

Up the road from Jim Suiter lives his brother, Lee who hired out as a deckhand on the steamer “Eclipse” when he was “about 13 or 14 years old.”

   “When I was a boy there was nothing to do at Le Claire except go on the river, unless you wanted to work at the quarry or on the farm,” says Lee Suiter.

   He sucked a cigarette and wandered back to the days on the raft boats.

  “It was like being on a picnic.  It wasn’t hard work; it was a wonderful life,”  he reminisces.  “ A deckhand worked for $1 a day and board and it was a darned good board on the boats.

  “I spent many a year on the river, and it was getting so I could wake up any morning, look out the boat and tell exactly where I was.”

  Lee Suiter worked his river years as a deckhand and mechanic.  Some times he thinks he made a mistake and should have taken up farming, or should have gone on and become a pilot: “I knew enough of the river for the job.” he says a little sadly.

  Today, these three old river men in their twilight years are a rather lonely link with the exciting river days of yesteryears Le Claire.

   Not by coincidence, each one of them can see the “ Big River ” from his home.  transcribed by Georgeann McClure               


Davenport Democrat 
Feb 3, 1904
Pg. 6

Suiter J. G.  

   At his home in Le Claire at 7 o’clock Tuesday morning occurred the death of J. G. Suiter in his 79th year of his age.  Pleurisy was the cause of death.

  The deceased was born in Sangamon county Ill. Nov. 11, 1825 and came to Le Claire in 1836.  For a long time the deceased operated the raft boat Rambo in partnership with C. P. Disney, and became widely known as a riverman.

  The deceased was three times married.  His first wife was Mrs. Isabelle Greene of south Bend , Ind. And the second wife was the mother of his surviving children, Frank Suiter and Mrs. Bart Stone of Le Claire.  The third wife died several years ago.

   Three brothers also survive, Frank Suiter of De Witt, and Joseph Suiter of Le Claire.  The third brother Wm. M Suiter died last week.

  The funeral will be held Thursday afternoon at 2’oclock from the Baptist church at Le Claire.




Found Dead on Country Road Near Le Claire Saturday Night-Came Here Nearly seventy
Years Ago, and was Long a Rapids Pilot.  

Davenport Democrat
Jan 25, 1904 Pg 7  

   The cold snap has proved fatal in at least one case in this county , and removes no less a personage than William M. Suiter late president of the Scott County Pioneer Settler’s’ association.  Mr. Suiter left his home in Le Claire Saturday night, to deliver a cow to a party living some distance away,.  His relatives became alarmed when he failed to return some hours afterward, and instituted a search for him.  This resulted in his being found in the roadway, where he had fallen after being prostrated by the extreme cold.  His hands, feet and face were badly frozen when he was found and he had been dead for some time.  As he was 77 years of age, the cold had been too severe for his enfeebled vitality.

   Mr. Suiter had been a resident of Scott county since 1836, his father having come here the previous year and sent back for his family.  William M. was then 10 years of age, and had been born on the American bottoms, in Illinois , his parents being Phillip and Hannah Pancake Suiter. William H. was a rapids pilot at the age of 21 and followed that lucrative occupation all his life, amassing considerable property, in the town of Le Claire and its neighborhood.  The late Mrs. J. H. Manwaring of this city was a daughter of his.  

Davenport Democrat
Feb 3, 1904
Pg. 6

Suiter J. G.  

   At his home in Le Claire at 7 o’clock Tuesday morning occurred the death of J. G. Suiter in his 79th year of his age.  Pleurisy was the cause of death.

  The deceased was born in Sangamon county Ill. Nov. 11, 1825 and came to Le Claire in 1836.  For a long time the deceased operated the raft boat Rambo in partnership with C. P. Disney, and became widely known as a riverman.

  The deceased was three times married.  His first wife was Mrs. Isabelle Greene of south Bend , Ind. And the second wife was the mother of his surviving children, Frank Suiter and Mrs. Bart Stone of Le Claire.  The third wife died several years ago.

   Three brothers also survive, Frank Suiter of De Witt, and Joseph Suiter of Le Claire.  The third brother Wm. M Suiter died last week.

  The funeral will be held Thursday afternoon at 2’oclock from the Baptist church at Le Claire.

Sweeney James

The Davenport Democrat & Leader
Oct. 2, 1927
Pg. 21 

James Sweeney of Le Claire, veteran River Man, Dies 

  James Sweeney of Le Claire, Ia., a government employee on river boats for the past 30 years, died this morning at 9 o’clock at St. Luke’s hospital, Davenport, after a short illness.

  He was born in Le Claire on Jan 20, 1869, and had lived all his life in that place.  He was married on Nov. 25, 1903 to Miss Bertha Lambach at Le Claire.

  Mr. Sweeney was a member of snow Lodge, A. F. & a. M. of Le Claire, and was chancellor commander of the Knights of Pythias lodge of Le Claire at the time of his death.  He also held membership in the Modern Woodmen of America.

  He is survived by his wife and three sisters, Mrs. K. Hugener of Camnache, Mrs. Mary Reynolds of East Moline and Mrs. Fannie Buckheit of Le Claire.

  The body was taken to the Hill & Fredericks mortuary and will be removed tonight to his home in Le Claire from where the funeral will be held Friday at 2:00 p. m. Burial will be in the Glendale cemetery.


Tromley Charlie  

Capt. W.   Blair


One year I was on the Chancy Lamb Capt. John McCaffrey was on the Last Chanch.  We over took him at the head of Maquoketa slough and had to slack up until we got to the foot of the slough where there was room to pass.  Soon after Capt. John sent Charlie Tromley over to see if I was going to run the span at Dubuque bridge.  I told him that was my intention.  He then wanted to know if after my raft was entered in the bridge I would not come back and put his raft through, meantime he would cut lose, catch my raft and take care of it until his raft was through.  This was rather an unusual request but I told Charlie I would be glad to do so if it would be any accommodation.  Well the program was carried out and both rafts were put through without trouble.  It developed later that Capt. John, if he split and run in the usual way could not have gotten both pieces through before dark and would thus have lost a night’s run.  For some reason few pilots cared to tackle this span but it had no terrors for me.  Aside from the one break up I had with the Chancy I never had any trouble at this bridge.


“When Rafters Ruled’ 
Chapter 28
Jerome E. Short speaking
About Charlie Trombley

“By the way, Charlie told me this one on himself.  Before he had become familiar with the river and secured his license he used to spell his father at times and the old gentleman would trust him alone in such sections as he thought best.  One evening he was steering up through crooked slough and made the first bend all right but when facing west he followed the left hand shore and got into the slough and she began to labor.  The father rushed in and said: “Charles, where yo go wiz dis boat?”  “I am right in the channel, father.”  said Charlie.  “But, Charlie, seem to me I never see de pon il’ grow in de Chan’l”

*  Capt Tromley was Canadian


Trombley   (Tromley)  

Capt George Tromley


Veterans Winans and Tromley sail for unknown
Captain M. S. Winans, of Albany  
and Captian George Tromley, Sr., of
Le Claire Dead

Daily Times
Oct 18, 1904
Pg. 4


Captain George Tromley  

  Identified with the Mississippi almost as long as Captain Winans, was Captain George Tromley, who passed away at his home in Le Claire Sunday.  Born in Montreal , Canada , Dec. 15, 1828, he came to the United States when a small boy, settling in St. Louis .  The great river, then the home of heroes of all western boyish hearts attracted his attention and he began his career when but a small lad.  From that time until last year, when he gave up his berth as captain of the Lydia Van Sant, he followed the winding of the great natural thoroughfare from St. Paul to New Orleans, from Cairo to Pittsburg and St. Louis to the headwaters of the Missouri, reading the faces of the stream and guiding the wealth of farmers, merchants and mechanics and the lives of thousands of emigrants to their ports.

  The greater part of his life was spent as a pilot, working on the river in summer and living quietly at his home in Le Claire in winter.  He leaves a wife, a daughter, Mrs. Elmer McCraney and two sons, who have followed the career of their father, Captain George Tromley, of the steamer Juanita.  Rev. R. Pugh, of the Presbyterian church of Le Claire will conduct the funeral services at the home and the remains will be interred in the Le Claire cemetery.
--Sue Rekkas  


Was one of Best Known
Steamboat Men on the
Upper Mississippi

The Davenport Democrat & Leader
April 3, 1919  

  Capt George Tromley, 63 years of age and well known among the older river men of this vicinity, passed away Wednesday evening shortly after 9 o’clock at his home, 615 East thirteenth Street , Davenport .  He had been a sufferer from stomach trouble for the past four months and that ailment was the direct cause of his demise.  He recently underwent a severe operation.

  Captain Tromley had served as captain and pilot on the Mississippi river for many years, practically his entire life having been spent on the Father of Waters, until six years ago when ha and his family moved to Davenport .  Since then he had been employed by the Builders Sand & Gravel Co. of this city.  For 20 years Captain Tromley had charge of the St. Croix in the employ of the Mueller Lumber Company and later was connected with the I. W. Van Sant and the Lydia Van Sant.

  Born in St. Louis , Dec. 7, 1856, he came to Le Claire with his parents when a small child.  He was united in marriage with Miss Alice Laycock, Dec. 7, 1881.  His widow and one daughter, Miss Ruth Tromley, are the only survivors.  Another daughter passed away in 1895 when she was 12 years.  The deceased was a member of Trinity Lodge, A. F. & A. M.

  Funeral services are announced to be held from the late home at 1:30 o’clock Friday afternoon with burial in the Le Claire cemetery.  Rev. Frank Cole of St. John’s M. E. church will officiate.

Sue Rekkas  

Tromley Funeral
Daily Times
April 5, 1919  

  The funeral of Capt. George Tromley, late river pilot was held at 1:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon from the home, 815 thirteenth St. Davenport , with Rev. Frank Cole officiating.  Grace Huber rendered  “Jesus Saviour Pilot me” and “Sometimes We’ll Understand.”  The pallbearers from the home were A. E. Naumann, Frank Smith, S. C. Simpson and Robert Rathmann.

  The body was taken to Le Claire for internment the pallbearers at Le Claire were Capt. Orrin Smith,  Newton Nesbit, N. M. Smith, and S. C. Simpson.

   Capt R. H. Tromley, a brother and Mrs. William McCraney, sister of Davenport , were omitted from Thursdays list of survivors.

Sue Rekkas  


Robert Trombley  



OUTSKIRTS OF Dubuque , where the Illinois Central railroad enters the city.  Trainman saw him walk into the river and immediately went to his rescue.  He was pulled from the water within a half hour despite the floating ice which hindered the rescuing party.  A pulmotor was used and the men worked for sometime trying in vain to restore him.

  He was 63 years of age.  Capt. Tromley was in charge of one of the last log rafts on the upper Mississippi river bringing it to the Old Standard Lumber Co. of Dubuque.  He had been a captain on many riverboats including the steamer J. S.  

Son of  Pioneer  Pilot.  

  Captain Robert H. Trombly was nicknamed “Charlie” when in boyhood in Le Claire , Ia.    He was born in Le Claire in 1860 and resided there until about 12 years ago when he went to Dubuque and went into the hotel business.  He was on the river part of the time after he went to Dubuque .  He was a son of Captain George Trombley of Le Claire.  His father was the first man to take a raft down the Mississippi river with a steamboat.

  Captain Trombley started work on the river when a boy and was ----------(unreadable)

Former resident of Le Claire and slip a former governor of Minnesota for the Streckfus Line and also on the Blair Steamboat Line.

  Survivors are his wife Estella, who is proprietor of a hotel in South Dakota , a daughter, Helen Von Hine of Seattle , Wash. , and three sons, Arthur, Robert and Charles.

Sue Rekkas  

Capt. Trombly who took
own life in Dubuque was
well known in Davenport

Davenport Democrat and Leader
May 25, 1923
Pg. 15

  Dubuque Ia.   March 24 –Capt. Robt. H. Trombly, 63 years old manager of the Majestic Annex Hotel, and one of the earliest Mississippi river pilots and captain walked to his death in the Mississippi river late Friday afternoon his body recovered by railroad workers after it had become jammed in an ice gorge.  Captain Trombley was at a local hospital receiving treatment for nervous prostration and managed to get away from the hospital unobserved.  He was in charge of one of the last log rafts brought down the river to the Old Standard Lumber Co. of this city  

Capt. Trombley was well known in Davenport .  For several seasons he piloted the steamer Frontenac and big barge Mississippi during the period they were owned by Capt. Harry E. Winter.  His sister Mrs. McCraney recently committed suicide in Florida .  A brother Capt. George Trombly died several years ago.

  Capt. Trombly was one of the veteran Diamond Jo Line pilots and was one of the earlier raft pilots on the Mississippi .  For a time he was pilot on the old W. W.  He was a great man, well met and popular with all.  Much regret will be felt by his big following of friends on learning of his tragic death.  He lived most of his life on the Mississippi and Died in its waters.  

Sue Rekkas  



Daily Times
Le Claire Ia.
March 27

Funeral services of Capt. Robert H. Trombley, who was one of the last men to take a raft down the Mississippi river and who walked into the river at Dubuque while in a deranged state of mind and drowned himself, were held in his boyhood home at Le Claire yesterday afternoon.  The services were held at the Horrigan and Mc Ginnis funeral chapel.  Mrs. Trombly, and three sons, Robert, Arthur and Paul, accompanied the body to Le Claire from Dubuque .  Many friends from Davenport , Rock Island and Dubuque attended the funeral.

  Rev. W E. Green, pastor of the Methodist church of Le Claire , conducted the services, Internment was in the family lot in the Le Claire cemetery.

  The pallbearers were F. H. Kitchen, Harry Lancaster, E. W. Von Hein, George Hann, A. H. Dawley and Orrin Smith.   

 Sue Rekkas

Henry Twiezel    D 1924  

Sketch of Capt. S. R. Van Sant
From cabin boy to Governor
A long, honorable and successful career as a boat owner and operator on the Upper Mississippi  

Saturday Evening Post Burlington Iowa
Sept. 2, 1916  

(Capt. Van Sant speaking)  

Another time I saw him perspire was at Davenport .  We had been dropping out trying to store up work enough to keep us busy during the slack season.  We had several rafts laid up and had brought one down.  Men were as scarce as hen’s teeth and we hadn’t had more than five at one time for several weeks.  Henry Tweizel was mating and he and I were the only ones who knew how to pull a skiff, and that crew were about the limit for greenness all around.  Working all day lining up, putting on butting blocks and check-works and then picking up a wood flat to unloaded while running back at night had put us all to the back, there was one stretch of sixty hours that we had no sleep at all and Tweisel and I made up our minds to get off and rest up awhile after we had delivered at Muscatine.

Davenport Democrat
Dec. 3, 1924

  Henry Twiezel passed away last evening at 9:15 o’clock at his home in Le Claire.  Death terminated a lingering disease.

  The decedent was born May 11 1854 in Germany and came to Le Claire in 1868, where he has resided since.  He was 70 years of age at the time of death.  His wife Abbie, preceded him n death on Nov. 14, 1922. Twiezel was occupied for many years as a ship carpenter.

  He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. William Shannon, Mrs. J. Rainstadler, both of Le Claire and Mrs. Ben Hannard of Eldon Iowa; one son, Henry Jr., of Le Claire two brothers, two sisters and 11 grandchildren.

  Funeral services will be held Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the home in Le Claire. Interment will take place in Glendale cemetery at Le Claire. 

Twiezel Joseph 

The Daily Times
April 30, 1940 

Le Claire Man Hit by Auto Friday Dies 

Joseph Twiezel 74, Le Claire died at 6;30  a. m. Tuesday at Mercy Hospital of injuries received at 8 p. m. Friday night when he was struck by a car driven by Minian Oliver, 47, Princeton post mistress of Le Claire

  Twiezel a former riverman, suffered a fractured leg and severe back injuries”  Witnesses said he had walked across the highway 61 directly into the path of the car.

  His sister Mrs. Carolina Voss, with whom he had made his home for the past 10 years, died Friday April 18.

  He was born in Le Claire in 1864 and for many years worked on various river boats.  Surviving is a sister Mrs. Minnie Kaufman, Morton, Pa., a niece Mrs. Minnie Barth Portland, Ore., and tow nephews.  The body is at the Halligan funeral home pending arrangements. 

The Daily Times May 1, 1940
Open Verdict is Returned by Jury In Twiezel Death 

  After hearing the testimony of nine witnesses at the inquest into the death of Joseph Twiezel, 74, of Le Claire, a coroner’s jury Tuesday night returned a verdict that the victim died of pneumonia induced by injuries incurred when he was hit by an automobile driven by Minnie Oliver, Princeton postmistress, in the town of Le Claire about 8:30 p. m. Tuesday at Mercy Hospital in Davenport.

  Drs, Joseph Wolf of Davenport and c. Rosendorff of Le Claire testified that Twiezel suffered a compound fracture of the lower left leg and pneumonia developed Sunday morning.  Mrs. Oliver told the jury that she was driving the automobile in which her husband was a passenger.  She estimated her speed at between 15 and 17 miles an hur while traveling through Le Claire she said she was blinded momentarily by the lights on an approaching car and she did not see the aged man until an instant before the right front portion of the bumper struck him.  David Oliver, husband of the woman, also testified that he did not see Twiezel in the road.  He said the victim was thrown over the right front finder.

  F. D. Buchiet of Le Claire, the driver of the car which was approaching the Oliver coupe, with Richard Vance and Ewald Von Heit, also of Le Claire, testified that he stopped his car and with the aid of his companions took the injured man to the office of Dr. Rosendorff and later transferred him to Mercy Hospital.

  Deputy Sheriff Tom Carroll, who interviewed Twiezel in the hospital two hours after the accident, said the victim informed him that he did not see the car approaching.  Martin Von Hein of Le Claire told the jury that he had walked with Twiezel to the point where the victim crossed the highway.  Von Hein said he had not taken more than 20 steps after Twiezel left him until he heard the impact. He said he turned and saw his friend lying by the side of the pavement.


Van Sant Family  

Boat Builders  

                                                                            Van Sant Stone in Le Claire Cemetery  


                                                                               Van Sant Home Le Claire Iowa  



Van Sant


Van Sant  

Sketch of Capt. S. R. Van Sant
From cabin boy to Governor
A long, honorable and successful career as a boat owner and operator on the Upper Mississippi  

Saturday Evening Post Burlington Iowa
Sept. 2, 1916  

    “Of course all river men know that captain Van Sant is not a native Le Claire but he has always been so intimately connected with the steamboat and river life of Le Claire that in my mind I always think of him as being to the manor born. 

  Neither was his wife Ruth Hall a native of le Claire, although remembering her joyous participation in the social gayety of the old town during her girlhood and the deep personal interest she ahs shown for it during her mature years we feel that le Claire has a greater right to claim them both than has any other place.

  There probably never was a couple in real life who achieved the fame and the material success the have that were more free form a snobbish sense of their importance. Plain, unaffected, sociable, business like they have remained thru go as well as evil fortune. Preoccupied, at times as Captain Sam was some may have thought him unsociable but when you consider the load he was carrying you certainly must admit him excusable.

 I was not on the inside, of course but from current river gossip, there was a time when probably more than $50,000 would have been needed to put the firm on its feet.  It used to be told the Captain that he was in the habit of carrying around a five hundred dollar bill to pull on the groceryman, woodhawks, coal men, butchers and other small dealers and when they would say they couldn’t change it he would just say “Well you will just have to wait till next trip them.”

  Butcher Rathmann used to tell this on him with great gusto.  He said the Captain come running into the shop one day after he had finished icing the meat for the Silver Wave and asked if he could make out the bill for the days supplies right away as he was in a hurry but to just let the old account stand for awhile longer.  As Rathmann handed him the invoice he threw down the five hundred dollar bill and asked him to take the change out of that.  As Rathmann frequently needed change he generally kept a pretty good nest-egg on hand and was especially prepared so he just reached down under the counter and brought up a wallet and then he went back and came up with a shot-sack but about that time Captain Sam picked up the bill remarking “Oh just wait a minute. I believe I can make the change.”  And he pulled out a roll and paid it and then Rathmann walked out from behind the counter and placing his hand on the Captains shoulder and said “Now Sammie you hadn’t ought to do me that way, you can get any thing you want but you musn’t treat me like that.  Great bighearted butcher Rathmann, he carried many a man beside Captain Sam thru a tight place.

  Now at the same time that captain Van Sant was turning every trick and making every edge cut, every man on deck got his envelope.”  


Letter head for the Van Sant Navigation Co. Elmer McCraney Vice president

Van Sant Elias

Davenport Democrat June 14, 1898
Van Sant 

  Elias A. Van Sant, a brother of Capt. Van Sant, died at Peoria Saturday night of dropsy.  He was born in Rock Island Dec. 3. 1888, and his venerable parents are still living in Le Claire.  He had been a resident of Peoria for a number of years, and was one of the active energetic citizens of that place, representing the city’s claims to the M W. A. head office of the Madison head camp.

  Born in this locality 60 years ago, Mr. Van Sant was certainly eligible to the title of “old settler” early in life.  He moved to Will county near Joliet, and was ordained a Methodist minister.  He filled charges there and at Polo, Ill., and at Le Claire, this county, then became a steamboat captain on the Mississippi, and later moved to Beardstown.  The he went to Peoria and engaged in business there.  He was a very active man, a good speaker and writer.  He had a great deal of influence with the people and was instrumental in quelling the railroad riot in Peoria in 1877.  He leaves a wife and four children: Mrs. Dr. Mc Fall, of East Peoria; George R. Van Sant, Fred Van Sant and Mrs. Blanche Mayer of Peoria. 

Von Hein Ewaldt

Marine engineer
The Daily Times
Dec. 16, 1948
Pg. 14 

Von Hein Ewaldt  (Ewald) 

Ewaldt Von Hein, 72, a life resident of Le Claire, died at the home of his sister, Mrs. Charlotte Bissick of, of Le Claire, at 11:30 a. m. today following a brief illness.  A retired marine engineer, Von Hein also was noted in this area for his chess-playing, having been a member of the Tri-Cities chess and checker club and a participant in a number of tournaments.

  He was born in Le Claire Jan. 17, 1876.  surviving besides Mrs. Bissick are another sister Mrs. Dorothy Vance, and a brother, Martin, both of Le Claire.  Three sisters and five brothers preceded him in death.

  The body was taken to Runge Mortuary.

* Bearers were Roy Long, Louie Herman, Lonnie Retherford, Robert Moore, Lee Ruhf and Elmer Jugenheimer. 


Von Hein Hugo
Marine Engineer

The Daily Times
Dec. 24, 1929 
Pg. 4 

Hugo Von Hein of Le Claire Dies at Mt. Pleasant, Ia. 

  Le Claire Ia., Dec 24 Hugo von Hein, 45 of Le Claire died at the Mr. Pleasant State Hospital, according to word received here today.  The body will be brought here for burial, arriving at 8:45 p. m. today.

  Born at 8:45, in Le Claire, he was the son of Martin and Katherine Von Hein.  He was a marine engineer.

  Surviving are four brothers, Charles, Rock Island, Ewald, Le Claire: Martin, Le Claire and dick, Barcelona Spain and two sisters, Mrs. Lottie Bissick and Mrs. Dorothy Vance, both of Le Claire.

  He was a member of the Modern woodmen of America and the Masonic Temple. 

Von Hein Martin 

The Davenport Democrat and Leader
Pg. 11

Von Hein Martin 

“Martin Van Hein of Le Claire, 76 years old died at 2 o’clock this morning of heart disease.  He left nine children.  They are Dora, Lottie, Charles, Leo, Ewald, William and Hugo at home, and Martin and Richard of Seattle. Mr. Von Hein was a cawker (?) by trade.  He was formerly a stockholder in the le Claire Marine Railroad.”

Vogel Charles
Davenport Democrat & Leader
Capt Blair Recalls some of the early boats

March 29, 1931

Walter Blair
Cooks and Watchman, too

 “And I do not forget some of the good cooks we had, like Charlie Moore, John McClung, Fred Foy and Mrs. Spicer-of whose meals we never tired.  And I remember too, some of our faithful watchman who kept awake and guarded us- boat, passengers, crew and cargo-while we slept, and then had us all up at the right time to proceed in the morning.  Charles Vogel was my “old reliable” for many years. He never failed us.  (sometimes and at some places he had his troubles but he took care of them.”





Our Darling Boy
Son of
Capt. I.H. & S.E
Drowned June 2, 1881
Aged 4 yrs 3 Mos. 26 days


 Capt. I. H. Wasson  

The Davenport Democrat
May 12, 1916

Capt I. H. Wasson  

   The remains of  I. H. Wasson of McCook , Neb. A former citizen of Le Claire arrived here Tuesday evening accompanied by Mrs. Wasson and son Fred and wife and other relatives.  Funeral services were held Wednesday afternoon at the Presbyterian church conducted by Rev. M  Krotser.  A choir composed of Mrs. J. E. Smith Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Meyer sang favorite hymns.  The Masonic burial service was used at the grave.  The following brother masons acting as pallbearers.  J. L. Meyer. F. e. Speer. S E. Lancaster N. M. Smith J. M. Hawthorn and Robert Rathman of Davenport .  Burial was in Le Claire cemetery.

   Out of town friends in attendance were Dr. and Mrs. Fred Lambach, Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Parmalee and Miss Mary Toher of Davenport .

*Capt Wasson was connected with the Dimock-Gould Lumber Co. and was employed on the river.   Researcher Sue Rekkas





                                                                                                       the “ Moline        

          The “Mascot” , tow for the Moline      


Upper Mississippi rafting Steamboats”

Edward Mueller

“So in a few days I was on the Steamer “ Moline ” with Captain  Isaiah Wasson, Jerome Ruby, Sam Nimrick, and Dan Dawley, engineers and Tom Cody, Mate. ´The Moline was owned by Dimmock, Gould and Co. of Moline ILL.   


March 1, 1997  

“There were 19 men in the crew of the Moline .  The first Captain J. H. Wasson. It was reported that his successor, Capt. Walter Hunter, came ashore in Le Claire , Iowa , on a dark night to hire a rapids pilot. When Capt. Hunter was near Capt. Wasson’s home, Capt. Wasson struck Capt. Hunter on the head with a blunt instrument.  The incident was accepted as normal rivalry between skippers.”

Webb Bill

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 14, 1935

  “Salt River is a little sluggish stream flowing into the Mississippi just this die of the town of Louisiana, Mo.  The place is noted for being home and birthplace of the original Jo bowers “all the way from Pike.” In the evening Tromley and most of the crew concluded they would visit the town for the purpose of seeing the sights and get something to eat.  Among the rest was notorious Bill Webb, who on the down trip had boasted of serving in the rebel army.  Several of them, however, entered a billiard hall, when Webb supposing he had met some confederates he began boasting of his prowess in the rebel army, but he was mistaken in his men, for two of them whipped out their knives and made for him.  He ran out of the room and down the street in the direction of the river and they after him.  They soon caught him had began slashing him with knives.  He yelled “Murder!” and the officers came to his rescue.  He felt sure he was going to die, so he made a confession to the effect that he had been a very bad man in his day.  He was sent to the hospital and it was found that he had five knife wounds on his body.  However he survived and returned to Le Claire.” 

Webb N. F.  

08-20-1870 Webb, Capt. N.F., Buried Linwood. Died from injuries on Steamer Montana.

The Life and Adventures of Stephen B. Hanks

Burlington Saturday Evening Post
“Recalling the Dred Scott Case”  

Capt. Hanks speaking:  

“I went to Galena early in the spring via Fulton and Dixon and I remember there was much ice still on the banks of the river when we first went up.  My regular season’s work was on the Itasca with Captain Webb whose home was in Le Claire.  He had come from the Ohio river at an earlier date and was rather a peculiar man in some respects but we became very good friends. He was perfectly bald and wore a wig.”  


 Wolverton Brothers
Chapter 38
E. H. Thomas

  During the time the great river was covered with raft boats the Wolverton Bros., established a boat yard at Le Claire , Iowa at the head of the upper rapids.  Joe and Wm. Wolverton came from the lakes and were good workmen.  They adopted a new and novel method for the construction of boats. They kept a force of men at work building a continuous hull 18 feet wide.  This was about the regulation width of the raft steamers and other boats of the smaller class used along there at that time.  When a man came along who wanted a boat the Wolverton’s would cut off one from this continuous hull and give the purchaser any length  desired.  The model bow and stern would be added, and the hull slid into the river where the upper works would be put on to it.  I remember that their price for a hull was $18 per running foot, built of good oak lumber.  Lumber was cheap at that time and no such figures could be made now.  Lumber has gone up to such a figure that steamboat men of the present time tell me that it is economical to make the hull of steel.  That the steel hull costs a little more, but when taking into account the expense of repairs on the wooden hull for a period of 10 or 15 years the steel hull is the cheapest of the two.   

Zebley Johnathan 

  The Le Claire Belle built at the Van Sant yard, came out in spring of 1873, and took her place in the growing fleet of rafters and held it with credit and profit for 17 seasons of steady work with scarcely an interruption.  Her hull was 127”x22”x4’; her engines 14”x4’ had been on the gun boat Benton during the Civil War.  The Benton was later used as a ferry boat at Alton, Ill. For a while then laid up, neglected and sunk in Alton slough.  Her engines, shaft, doctor (pump) and engine and some other parts were fished out and bought for $1,000 and installed on the new boat.  She had a nice comfortable cabin with four staterooms on each side, a small neat office in front and a kitchen, panty and mess room aft.  She had a skylight over her hall but the roof only extended a few feet forward and aft of the cabin.

  She was only 27 inches in draft and when running light was very fast, but loaded she was only a 7 mile boat.

  Van Sant and Son, Jonathan Zebley, John McCaffrey and R. F. Isherwood each owned one fourth at the time she was complete but Mr. Zebley and Capt. “Bob” Isherwood soon sold out to the other owners, Van Sant and Son and Capt. John McCaffrey.” 

Photo Bob Jones

zebleygrave.jpg (815988 bytes)

Jonathan Zebley
April 1890

Pictures of Glendale cemetery Le Claire


The Daily Times, Monday, September 29, 1919 

Mississippi River Steamboat Captains Who Were Once Known From St. Paul to the Gulf


  This picture was taken in Davenport during the convention of the Upper Improvement Assocaiton in 1903.  Each of the seven men on the picture were once well known steamboat captains on the Mississippi river, being known form St. Paul to the gulf, Capt. Alonzo Bryson, former Davenport postmaster, is the only one of the seven men still alive.  Capt. Bryson is now 80 years old.  Those on the picture reading left to right are as follows:  First row-Capt W. C. Bennett, Moline, Capt. Vol Bigelow, La Cross, Capt. Alonzo Bryson, Davenport, an Capt. John Lancaster, Le Claire, Second row-Capt Isaac Mason, St. Louis, Capt. Bart Linnehan, Dubuque, and Capt. W. W. Kinnert, Burlington.

Sue Rekkas

Davenport Democrat & Leader
August 12, 1917 


“Red” Schroeder of Clinton Tore things Loose on Evening Excursion 

Clinton, Ia. August 11-special

  There was some lively doings on the steamer Sidney son after she pulled out of here Friday evening with a moonlight excursion.

  “Red” Schroeder a well-known police character, started to raise a rough house. The boat policeman, assisted by Lieut. Vyles, tackled the unruly passenger and a fierce engagement followed during which Schroeder was given a good beating.  He was then locked up in a cabin on the boat but had not been incarcerated long before, he jumped headforemost out of a window into the river,

  The boat was brought to a standstill and after a diligent effort the crew rescued Schroeder.  He was pulled aboard the boat but there was no more fight left in him.  He was returned to Clinton and let go.

Sue Rekkas 

The Davenport Gazette
April 12, 1849
Pg. 3

Steamboat register

Arrivals                              Departures 

April 5

Anthony Wayne, Morrison St. Louis

St. Croix, J. J. Smith

Oswego, Smithers

Bon Accord, Bersie           Dubuque

Dr. Franklin, Lodwick      St. Peters

Dr. Franklin No. 2, Monfort

Kentucky, Ainsworth       Davenport

Dubuque, Beebee             St. Louis

Cora, Gorman

Bon Accord, Bersie           St. Louis

Uncle Toby, Mahony        Dubuque

Montaukm Morehouse

America Eagle, Cossen      Davenport

Time and Tide, Gould        Dubuque

Wisconsin, Griffith

St. Peters, Ward

Uncle Toby, Mahony          St. Louis

Montauk, Morehouse

Wisconsin, Grif


References to Le Claire men in: 

Port Byron Globe

January 31, 1935
By J. D. Barnes

  Arriving at Taylor Falls we discovered our cargo of corn had then dropped the best down near a new mill for some stabs for fuel for the boat, and right here we came very near having a very serious accident.  Tho it was only intended for a joke.  It was in this wise; the slabs were loading were up on a high bank and had to be run down to the boat on a car, and it was quite a steep grade.  Dave Carr, Ira Thompson and the writer were detailed to load the car at the top of the bank while the remainder of the crew would unload and carry them aboard the boat.  Everything worked very nicely until the last load, which we three loaders proposed to ride down on.  It was the last car and it would be so romantic-in the meantime, Jim Davenport, for a joke, had knocked out the butting block at the foot of the track, which left nothing between us and the icy waters of the St. Croix.  However, as we neared the foot of the track, Tom Doughty saw and realized our peril.  He rushed out with uplifted hands and cried out: For god’s Sake jump or you will go into the lake.” Before he had time to repeat his words we were off the car, and on she went at a lightning speed, cars, slabs and all pell mell into the lake.  As soon as Tromley realized what had happened hi says: “boys, we had better get out of here before that man comes what owns that railroad car.”  So we pulled on for Stillwater.  Davenport on being taken to task for what he had done, claimed that he was innocent, that he had no idea that we would be so foolhardy as to attempt it. Yet he would have laughed if we had gone into the lake.  He was worse scared than doughty when he saw us on the car.  He told Doughty who was standing half way up the track to give us warning that the butting block was out and that they merely intended it for fun of seeing the car and its cargo plunge into the lake.



Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
Feb. 7, 1935 

“We will next return to Stillwater where the writer with several other Le Claire boys had been set ashore and we realized the fact that we were adrift in a strange town that was fast beginning populated with all classes of men.  The arrival of every boat form the south brought a fresh supply of river men while they were coming in daily from the nine forests of the north and the results was the little town presented a lively appearance as most of this new population were of sporting character.  Accordingly for mutual protection, Ira Thompson and the writer agreed to stand by each other, that is, to incase one got into trouble the other was to use all available means for his rescue.  So off we started up town but had not proceeded far when we ran across Ike Wasson who was acting in the capacity of linesman for Sam Register, on old floater who resides in Stillwater and he was also shipping up a crew.  After some parley we hired to him at $1 a day, down time, and get back the best way you can.  On arriving at the raft we were greeted by quite a number of Le Claire boys, among the number were Lige Wakefield.  Lefe and Dick Boem, Bob McCall, Chris Adolph, Orrin Thompson, Jake Schuck.  Billy Moore.  The tow was not going to start out until the following evening so the time was spent in rigging up our oars, as it was the custom for each individual to attend to that matter himself, but he had to be very careful not to raise his car too high.” 

  “Among the old floaters that comprised this now I can recall John Leach, Dave Hanks, Charley Rhodes, Bill Dorr, Ed Du Prant, Ed Dunham, known as Crazy Ed, Geo Brasser.  Sam Register.  These men were pilots had to stand his watch but they did not seem to have but very little control over the men at the oars.  On one occasion when George Brasser was on watch, he called to the men to pull a certain way but the men did not understand so Orrin Thompson hollered back, “Which way.” He replied. “Oh, any way, so you pull.”


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
Feb. 28, 1935

  “Arriving at Stillwater we found another raft all ready and waiting for our pilot, Sam Register to be delivered at Muscatine.  According Ike Wasson shipped up the same crew almost to a man and again the steamer Minnesota pushed us in company with several other rafts thru the lake to Prescott.  We then made the run to the head of Lake Pepin where we remained until the tow had all arrived, and while here Lige Wakefield and Dick Swalley of our crew, engaged in an altercation one day which was contrary to good discipline, and the result was they were court marshaled and sentenced to go ashore. Wakefield however, was not long out of a job for the Winnie Will, Si Bradley, captain, was lying a little below us so he hired out and remained with them most of the season.  The latter boat will be remembered by the old floaters as one of the pioneer raft boats.  She was a primitive affair; however, as he fulfilled her mission which was only to demonstrate the practicability of the steamboat for rafting purposes.” 

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 7, 1935

  “The arrival of the steamer at La Crosse with cholera on board, had created a panic throughout the town an it was the all absorbing topic. The consequence was the place presented a gloomy appearance and I determined to shake it as soon as possible.  Accordingly, on the following day I strolled up to what was then called North La Crosse, where I chanced to meet Miles Swank and Walt Henderson, who had been working at the calking business.  They, too, had caught the cholera panic and had decided to leave the place.  So we all began to look around for a raft that was going to pull out soon, and the sooner the better for us.” 

  Johnny Malvern was only a remnant of a man, having lost an arm and an eye in his country’s service.  He was a very quiet man, though whatever he said on his raft was law.  One evening a little after dark when we were making a landing, he overheard Miles Swank making use of harsh language against him for running late.  Malvern said nothing, however, but on the following morning Swank was called up, paid off and set ashore.  After delivering our raft at Clinton, Walt Henderson and I returned to La Cross and shipped out with Ed Root.  Well say! He was a little the cleverest and nicest Pilot it had been our fortune to fall in with.  For instance if we had to work our oars very long at a time he would politely ask the men to excuse him, ad he would try and do better next time.  Nothing worthy of note occurred on this trip.  In due time we delivered our raft at Clinton, after which, Walt Henderson and I boarded a Western Union train for Port Byron and it was not long before we were enjoying Le Claire society once more.” 


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe
March 14, 1935

  “The crew made up from, Le Claire as near as I can remember were as follows: Pilot, George Tromley; clerk, Little Jim Davenport; cook, John Wesley, also known in Le Claire as Injun John, and he was one of the finest cooks that was ever on board a floating raft.  Tho’ to relish his cooking you did not want to see him, for his appearance was not at all inviting.  He will be remembered as having been murdered a few years later and his body thrown in the river by “Red handed Mike,” who was captain of a floating house, while lying at the island this side of Rapids City.  His remains were found and identified a little below Hampton.  The names of the remainder of the crew were Walt Henderson, Miles Swank, Hayden Franks, Bill Amonds, Tom Miller, Daniel Gallager, Ike Pinkerton, Bill Webb, who afterwards proved to be a notorious jailbird, and others that I cannot recall to mind.  When we arrived at Muscatine, Tromley was not feeling very well and he was certain he was going to have the cholera, so he employed a doctor and we remained there three days.  Tromley however, got better and we once more pulled out.” 


Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes
Port Byron Globe
March 28, 1935

  “I had been in Stillwater a little over a week and time was becoming monotonous, so far a change I thought I would take a stroll down the lake, but I had not gone far before I sighted a boat coming up the lake, and it was not long before I recognized my old standby, the Canada, so I bent my steps back to the landing for I was almost certain there would be some Le Claire boys aboard of her.  Sure enough for when I arrived there I found George Tromley, J. R. R. Lindley (known as Kentuck), Sam Hitchcock and Jo Hawthorn, pilots and about forty men, all from Le Claire.  In answer to the question “Was there anybody left in the town?” The reply was “No, Le Claire took a vomit and there was nothing left of her.”   

Old Times On the Mississippi
By J. D. Barnes

Port Byron Globe

April 4, 1935

  “In about a week the first tow of the season was to go out, and Sam Hitchcock and Lo Hawthorn had a raft that was to be delivered at Alton, Ill., accordingly the Le Claire boys on being appraised of this flocked them and it was not long before they had a crew comprised of our own town boys exclusively.  As this proved to be my last trip on the river aboard a raft I shall go more in details.  As before stated the tow was the first of the season, and besides the raft which composed the tow was Bob Dodds, Bill Dorr, Hank Peavy, Ed Durant and others.” 

  In the chapter preceding this one, referring to the le Claire boys, that the good people of Stillwater looked upon as tramps and bums in the spring of 1867.  I failed to mention that many of those same boys are today our most prominent river men and are numbered with the pilots and engineers.  The next boat from the south after the Canada brought another installment of Le Claire boys into Stillwater.  It appears that John Elliott, John Hanley, Fritz Peterson, Walt Henderson and Herb Rutledge, had been calking down at la Crosse, but business being rather dull they came up to Stillwater for the purpose of rafting, so the place was well represented.  You could have stood on a street corner and seen them all almost any time of the day.” 

  “The following names comprised the boys crew of our raft; John Hanley, John Elliott, Fred Peterson, Walt Henderson, Ed Cassilly, Lige Wakefield, Orrin Thompson, Christ Adolph, Dave Carr and Herb Rutledge.  On the stern of the raft were Tom Kelly, Bob McCall, Ike Pinkerton, Billie Dodd, Billie Moore, Dick and Rave Boerm, Jo River, Ike Bard, Ira Thompson and the writer.  The str. Minnesota towed us thru both the lakes all right.  The trip down the river was a very pleasant one until we reached that much dreaded “Chimney Rock Crossing.”  The river at that time being at a high stage we were in consequence drawn onto a tow head and broke our raft up somewhat.  Our pilot, who was one of the coolest men to be found in time like that, did not get excited in the least, but on the contrary he stood like a statue until the crisis had passed, then he gave orders to the men what they should do.  There never was a better man at fitting up a raft than Sam Hitchcock.  The remainder of the journey was not disturbed by any more breakups of any note.” 

  “On our arrival at Clinton a telegram was in waiting announcing the death of John Elliots father, so he boarded the first train for home.  This left a vacancy on the bow of the raft, which I was ordered to fill, and I was very glad of the opportunity, for the boys said I was pulling the hardest oar that ever cam out of the St. Croix. To tell of the truth, however, there was but two oars on the stern of the raft that amounted to anything, which were Ira Thompson’s and the one in question.  The other eight was what they called bug skimmers on the river.  You would be compelled to run to keep pace with them.  At Princeton Jim Rambo was taken aboard to fill vacancy caused by John Elliott.  Accordingly he was directed to oar which I had recently vacated and on taking hold of it he enquired who had been working it before he came aboard.  Ira Thompson who was nearest him gave the required information and this was his response:  “Well, I always gave Barnes credit for having more sense than to work such an oared as that.”  The first move he made was to raise it six inches by blocking it up.”

More Le Claire River Men  

1870 Census
LeClaire Iowa

Sherwood James 24 M W Carpenter on Boat . . Pa .
Sherwood Anna 22 F W Keeps House . . Mo

Dyer W. 22 M W Carpenter . . Iowa
William Weston 28 M W Civil Engineer . . Mass
Chase Louis 21 M W . . . S.C. .
Nicholls A.F. 24 M W Watchman on Boat . . Ohio . .
McCorty James T. 40 M W Mate on S Boat . . Ireland
 (Surname may be McCarty)
Pavey Paul 47 M W Engineer . . Ky
Webb N.F. 61 M W S Boat Capt. . . NY . .
Lang H.C. 46 M W Civil Engineer . . Pa .
Henderson W.C. 24 M W Calker . . NY
Payne John T. 65 M W S Boat Mate . . Minn .
Martin Absalom 34 M W Engineer . . Va . . .
Burn Thomas 24 M W Engineer on S Boat . . NY . .

VanHam Martin 37 M W Ship Carpenter … Holstein
. Surname may be VanHuen or VanHain
VanHam Katharine 22 F W Keeps House . . Hanover
VanHam Charles 3 M W . VanHam Clara 3/12 F W . . . Iowa

Deppe William 51 M W Ship Carpenter … Holstein X
Deppe Dora 50 F W Keeps House . . Holstein

McGran James 39 M W Ship Carpenter … Ireland
McGran Maria 42 F W Keeps House . . Ireland
McGran Mary Ann 18 F W At Home . . Ireland 196
McGran James 12 M W . . . Iowa
McGran Eliza Ella 10 F W . . . Iowa
McGran Maria 8 F W . . . Iowa

Thompson Stephen 37 M W Pilot on Boat .. . Ill .
Thompson Lavina 29 F W Keeps House . . Ill
Thompson Hannah 11 F W At Home . . Iowa .
Thompson Laura 4 F W . . . Iowa

Le Claire Pilots

Henry Horton...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Thomas Doughty..............................Le Claire, Iowa
E.P. Bartlett......................................Le Claire, Iowa
J.L. Carver........................................Le Claire, Iowa
Enock Davies....................................Le Claire, Iowa
Chas. Burrell.....................................Le Claire, Iowa
George Carroll...................................Le Claire, Iowa
John Van Alstine...............................Le Claire, Iowa
Charles Follett...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Robert Shannon.................................Le Claire, Iowa
David Nugent.....................................Le Claire, Iowa
Hugh Shannon...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Peter Quinn........................................Le Claire, Iowa
James Stedman..................................Le Claire, Iowa
T.F. Long...........................................Le Claire, Iowa
F.E. Goldsmith..................................Le Claire, Iowa
Daniel Dawley...................................Le Claire, Iowa
Joe Manwaring..................................Le Claire, Iowa

Le Claire Iowa
Raft Mates


Thos. Maley,                            Le Claire.
Thos, Kennedy,                        Le Claire.
Henry Tweisel,                          Le Claire.
Henry Massman,                      Le Claire.
John Bailey,                              Le Claire.
John Elliott,                               Le Claire.
James Shannon,                        Le Claire.
George Stenhouse,                   Le Claire  

Chapter VII
E. H. Thomas  

Boiler Explosions and Storms and the Havoc Caused by Them  

   Considering the large number of boats and men employed the loss of life was small during that period.  I shall always remember one of these explosions for I lacked about fifteen minutes of getting into it.

  The stern wheel Steamer Lansing was owned by Rambo & Son of Le Claire.  She made daily trips to Davenport , leaving Le Claire in the morning and returning in the evening.  I was in Le Claire and there met Robert Smith, a pilot, with whom I had a slight acquaintance.  I am not sure, but I think he was the son-in-law of the elder Rambo.  I was going down the river and he told me that he was to take the Sterling to Davenport on the following day for the Rambo’s, and invited me to ride with him.  I accepted the invitation and told him I would be on hand next morning at 7:30.  I was stopping at a hotel near the river and just opposite the steamboat landing.  I was up next morning in ample time, but the hotel-keeper was late with breakfast.  Myself and two other men missed the boat.  We crossed the river to take the train, and there learned that the Lansing had exploded one of her boilers while lying at the town of Hampton .  The Lansing left Le Claire that morning with 10 or 12 passengers.  When Smith landed her at Hampton the wind was hard on the shore.  When ready to leave there the wind held her to the bank, and she would not back out.  A spar was set at the stern of the boat to sparn out and the passengers were all back there assisting in the work.  Smith was at the wheel in the pilot house and the clerk in his office.  The Lansing had two boilers, and while the sparring was going on the shore, the boiler exploded, going high in the air.  Smith and the clerk, whose name, I think, was Vandyke , were killed. Van Dyke’s body was blown across the river, where it drifted across the river up to the shore.  Pilot Smith was blown in the opposite direction-out into the town.  The shore at Hampton was flat, and the wind had driven the side of the boat upon it, and it was said that the explosion was caused, not by steam pressure, but from a lack of water in the shore boiler.  The hull of the boat laying on an incline, forced all the water out of one boiler and into the other.



“May the waters that took you away, return you to me”