Scott Co, Iowa USGenWeb Project
A Raft Pilot's Log by Capt. Walter A. Blair
1929-Arthur H. Clark Company
Transcribed by Joan Bard Robinson
The Beef Slough Boom and Improvement
Company was organized in 1867, and
chartered by the state of Wisconsin to catch, sort, raft, and scale all logs
coming down the Chippewa. These were turned into Beef Slough by a sheer boom
at the head, and jam booms farther down were
uses for holding the run in high water. The company was allowed to charge
seventy-five cents per thousand feet for logs, and two cents each for
It was soon demonstrated that this was a great improvement over separate
operations by individual owners, and when this company was taken
over by the Mississippi River Logging Company, in 1873, it wa soon evident
that the sufficient capital and vigorous and intelligent management of this
organization would take excellent care of the Chippewa outfit and keep
the large mills regularly supplied, as long as the timber supply held out.
Beef Slough is a branch mouth of the Chippewa river, leaving the main
stream at Round Hill, and following down along the high Wisconsin bluffs
for about twelve miles, opening into the Mississippi just above the town of
By dredging and digging at its head, and removing obstructions in its
course, the diversion was much increased into the slough, and then a long,
heavy sheer boom placed diagonally across the Chippewa, not only turned
all the logs into Beef Slough, but greatly accelerated the current and
gave good water to work on.
Thousand of piling were driven and many booms placed, and pockets and
chutes arranged, so that the big crops of logs were saved. They were sorted,
rafted and scaled, with check works and guy line pins, all ready
for tow boats to hitch into, and were taken away and delivered to the mills
down river as fast as the seventy-five steamboats on the Upper Mississippi
could go up and down.
During the busy season, between 1200 and 1500 men were employed in
Beef Slough, and the work was handled with great system and energy.
While Mr. Weyerhaeuser was seldom seen at teh Slough, his spirit was
always evident. Mr.Irvine in the earlier years lived at Wabasha, and was at
the office nearly every day, with George Scott directly in charge. Other men
were E.Douglas, at the rafting works, D.J.McKenzie, head scaler, Kinney
McKenzie, in charge of the 'dropping', Duncan McGillivray as assign-
ment and delivery clerk, and Pet Short handling the catch boom at the mouth.
The steamer'Hartford' under Captain Henry Buisson, was busy dropping
out half rafts to places of safety, where they would lay at owner's risk
until taken away by some other boat.
The steamer'Jesse Bill,' under Captain Lew Martin, was doing all kinds
of company work, while the 'Little Hoddie' was 'bowing out' and towing
batteaux crews back up to the works.
Twice a day the local steam packet 'Lion' passed through the lower end of
the Slough, landing at the office to let off mail, passengers, and a
little freight , and then out through the 'cut off' on her way to Wabasha,
There was no railroad on the Wisconsin side, and Captain H.C. Wilcox
had a nice trade between Alma, Wisconsin, and Wabasha, Minnesota, making two
round trips a day.
All the bosses and many of the men working in Beef Slough were Scotch-
Canadians, who had been lumberjacks back home on the Ottawa or Saint
Maurice, and their quick, decisive speech with the burr on it, pleased me
very much. You could not throw a boom plug at any crew and not hit a
Macdonald, or a Mackenzie, and probably get one back from a Duncan.
Each raft was composed of two pieces (halves) of three brails each. A
brail of logs was six hundred feet long and forty-five feet wide. The rim was
made of the longest logs, fastened at the ends with about a thirty-inch lap,
by a short, heavy chain of three links. A two -inch hole was bored nine
inches deep in each log, and a two-inch oak or ironwood pin, with a head on
it was put through an end link of the chain , and driven hard into the hole
in the boom log. These logs so fastened, made a strong boom or frame( with
just enough flexability to suit the job) into which the loose logs were
carried by the current and skillfully placed endwise with the current, by
men, using pike poles and peavies. Then one-half-inch cross wires were placed
an tightened , to hold the boom and logs together
and prevent spreading.
When a brail was completed, two men with a double-headed skiff or
batteaux, would drop it down, by the current, one to three miles, and snub
it in, where later two more brails would be landed beside it. Then a fitting
crew would come a drop the three brails even at the stern, fasten them
together, build 'snubbing works' and other things necessary to complete
a 'piece' or 'half raft' all ready for a boat to hitch into.
When the tow-boat came to take these pieces away, she would move alongside
slowly, while the amte and his men threw off the cross lines, reaching across
the three brails, and the windlass poles, with which they were drawn up and
Then they would turn the boat around (not by any means an east task
in such a close place), hitch her into the stern of the raft, with headlines
straightout to the check works to back on, and breats lines from her head to
the right and left, to keep her stem, or nose, on the butting block,
and guy lines out from the midship or after-nigger to the stern corners of
the raft, to hold the boat in any desired position.
The butting block was a big log securely fastened, by timber and chains,
to the stern boom, to tow on.
Then part of the crew ran out the long A line, running diagonally across
from the outside booms, crossing X like in the middle (these to keep her
straight and prevent buckling), and others put on the corner lines to prevent
the heavy strain on the guy lines from pulling the corners back. The mate
with one or two good men, put on and tightened a heavy monkey line, to help
the butting block. When this was done, she was all ready to back
out, with the 'Little Hoddie' hitched in across the bow, to back or come
ahead, moving the bow to right or left, to clear the other pieces on either
side of the channel, just wide enough in places to let the bow through,
sometimes the outside booms rubbing on each side. The mate a few men
watched close to loosen her up if she caught anywhere.
Sometimes she would catch and foul, and tear a brail loose, or make a
drive. Then came the call 'tie up, the catch boom is closing,' and a general
tie-up of two to three hours would follow, till the loose logs
ahead were secured.
Usually, though, all went off wonderfully well, and she soon passed the
closing boom and out of the Slough into the Mississippi. Soon they tied up
under a bar or on the foot of an island., while the boat went back to the
Slough and got her second piece.
When coupled up, these two pieces made a raft two hundred and seventy-five
feet wide and six hundred feet long. They contained 800,000 to 1,000,000 feet
of logs, weighed 3,500 tons, and covered three acres.
The output from Beef Slough was 12,000,000 feet in 1867, 26,000
feet in 1869, and 10,000,000 feet in 1870.
From the time the Mississippi River Logging Company took control, in 1871,
the annual output increased quite steadily, until it reached 535,000,000 feet
in 1885 , 405,000,000 feet in 1887, and 542,000,000
feet in 1889.
In 1889, the operations were transferred from Beef Slough to West Newtin
Slough, a little below, on the opposite side. They were conducted
by a new company, but it was composed of the same stockholders, and headed by
the same officers.
Not only the logs belonging to the 'pool,' as it was called, but all logs
coming down the Chippewa were handled and delivered to their owners in
regular raft shape, on the regular charges allowed by the state charter.
There were over 2,000 different marks on the logs scaled and passed
through the Slough. The way this was done was certainly a fine demonstra-
tion of efficiency and square business methods.
West Newton reached the peak of its business in 1892, when 632, 150,000
feet of logs were rafted.
Using west Newton as a base required the driving of the loose logs out of
the main mouth of the Chippewa
at Read's Landing, and down the Mississippi to the head of the West Newton
Slough, and to place a big, long sheer boom above the mouth of
Beef Slough, to throw the logs over toward and into the head of West Newton
These loose logs between the sheer boom and read's were often too thick to
run through, especially when the Chippewa was rising, and it was common for
steam boats to have to tie up for a few hours until the heavy run was over.
>From 1892 the output decreased steadily until 1904 when the 'great game'
ended for good. This was because the supply of pine accessible to the Chippewa
and its tributaries was exhausted.
In 1909, the Mississippi River logging Company of Clinton, Iowa was
dissolved, after a most highly successful career, during which nearly every one
of its members became millionaires.
During the period of its greatest activity, the officers were: Fred
Weyerhauser, of Rock island, Illinois, president; Artemus Lamb, of Clinton,
Iowa, vice-president and Thomas Irvine, Secretary.
The principal members of the company were:
Youmans Brothers and Hodgins--------------Winona, Minneasota
Laird,Norton and Company ----------------Winona,Minneasota
Winoan Lumber Company-------------------Winona,Minneasota
W.J.Young and Company-------------------Clinton,Iowa
C.Lamb and Sons-------------------------Clinton,Iowa
Dimock Gould and Company-----------------Moline,Illinois
Weyerhauser and Denkmann----------------Rock Island, Illinois
Rock Islan Lumber and Mfg, Company--------Rock Island,Illinois
Musser lumber Company--------------------Muscatine, Iowa
Hershey Lumber Company-------------------Muscatine,Iowa
Shulenburg and Boeckler--------------------Saint Louis, Missouri
MY FIRST YEAR RAFTING, 1878
My service on the Mississippi river began in late March, 1878. I had
finished the winter term as teacher of the intermediate room in the public
school at Princeton, Iowa. About 11 p.m., I boarded the nice steam raft-boat
'LeClaire Belle,' bound for Savanna Bay, for a raft of logs for Carson and
Rand, of Burlington, Iowa.
The 'LeClaire Belle' was owned by Captain Sam Van Sant of LeClaire, Iowa,
and S.&J.C. Atlee of Fort Madison, Iowa.
Captain Van Sant was her manager and he put me on her to do what
clerking there was, and with Will Davenport, who became my partner, I stood
regular six-hour watches running the nigger-engine while towing rafts
down stream, and as watchman going up river.
As clerk, I had to keep the log book, the time and expense books, buy
all supplies, fuel and sundries and pay for them. On the delivery of each
raft, I had to get a receipt for it, showing the number of strings, or brails,
and the scale in feet, and draw enough money from the mill company, to whom
we delivered the raft, to pay the trips expenses. The crew were all paid up
at the end of each trip, and also all bills for supplies.
Captain Van Sant impressed upon me the importance of keeping close watch
of my cash book and the necessity for balancing my cash at least once a day,
as the work in the office was often done in a hurry amid more or less noise
and confusion. I am still grateful to him
for getting me started right in discharging a duty which in time became a
habit that saved me from loss and worry, and gave me real pleasure.
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.
Later I became acquainted with the firemen, John Shannon and Martin
Larkins. She had eight or nine men on deck, of whom I remember only one,
Johnny Bagley, who often helped me by 'watching the nigger' when I had some
work to do in the office, and he posted me about my numerous duties
and steamboat rulesdand ways of doing things. Old Martin, the firemen, also
took interest in me, reminding me what my rights duties were. While I made a
few cracks, of course, with their help I made rapid progress in getting into
my place. We were all on the boat at the close of the season,
during which we ran logs from Stillwater, Minnesota, to Atlee's mill in Fort
The 'Belle' was only six years old, with hull, machinery and boilers in
excellent condition. She had a nice, comfortable cabin for the officers,
with kitchen, pantry and mess-room at the after end.
The office was directly in front, and was fitted up complete, including a
good, small safe with combination lock. I was proud to work in this little
office, and determined to hold the job. Nothing but gatling guns and police
dogs could have driven me away from it.
The pilot and mate were kind and helpful from the start, as was the
assistant engineer, and before the season closed, the captain and chief
engineer became pleasant and agreeable.
The 'Belle's' oak hull was one hundred and twenty-five feet long,
twenty-two and one-half feet wide, and drew twenty-eight inches light.
She had two boilers, and engines fourteen inches bore by four-foot stroke,
applied to a stern paddle wheel. She was a nice, easy boat to steer and
handle, and was real fast when running light, but slow when loaded down with
When we reached Savanna Bay, the next morning after I 'shipped,' we
found that the raft had been laid up so long that the rope booming was
all rotten. We put in the whole day rebooming it and getting it ready to run.
That night we had a snow storm, and it was late the next day when we got
the two pieces dropped down through Sabula bridge, and coupled below
Dark Chute, after dark. Here I got into my first trouble. I took red lanterns
to hang on the outside corners of the raft next the channel.
As walking logs was new thing to me, I took a bright lantern to light me
back to the boat, I hung my red lantern all right and was carefully picking my
way back to the boat, when a piece of rotten bark, covered with snow, gave
way, and I fell, hurting one knee. My bright light got wet and went out. I
had to crawl back on my hands and one knee. The other was stiff and sore, but
I managed to avoid exposure and gaffing.
When we delivered the raft at Burlington, Mr.E.D. Rand paid me in full
and gave us an extra one hundred dollars on my explanation about the delay
and extra work in getting the raft ready. This settlement pleased our
manager when I reported to him about collecting one hundred dollars more
than the contract price, as he had not suggested claiming any extra pay.
The 'LeClaire Belle' made one trip to Saint Louis during low water in
September. She made this trip under charter to the eau Claire Lumber
Company, Captain Peter kerns took charge and Captain Hugunin went with him as
pilot. He did not need a clerk, or had one of his own, so George Tromley and
I did not get to make this trip, but we were transfered to the
'Silver Wave' until the 'Belle' returned.
On this trip the 'Belle' lumber raft was put through the new Keokuk canal.
Coming back up, while locking through, some of the crew gathered a lot of
persimmons, which were growing plentifully along the canal-side. They ate all
the ripe ones, and carefully put some green ones where I would find them.
Fortunately I boarded the boat long before daylight on her return, and had my
first experience wiht green persimmons before there were many around to
witness my struggle to get my mouth back in shape so I could talk and eat my
breakfast. I threw the others all overboard, but claimed i had eaten them and
liked them. Any one who has not tried eating green persimmons should try a
few to get the correct idea.
On our first trip to Stillwater, Minneasota, for a raft, there was much to
see and enjoy. I had never been above Dubuque before, and that is where the
fine bluffs scenery begins.
Many fires on the bluffs at night added much to the natural grandeur of
the Great Canon. At the time, wood cut on the bluffs was the principal fuel
used by the many steamboats operating north of Dubuque. Every spring, too,
there was a lot of brush to be burned away. The work was usually done
at night, and certainly
presented many beautiful pictures. I stood the forward watch, 6:30 to
12 A.M., and 6:30 P.M. to midnight, so I had plenty to look at, and often
stayed up until long after my partner came on watch.
There were no wing dams in the river then, nor one-tenth as many
sand-bars, but there were a few crossings that were bad every season during
the low water period (usually during August and September). Places like
Queen's Bluff, Chimney Rock, and Beef Slough bars were wide and shallow. I
have seen eleven boats aground on, or waiting to get over, Winon bar. These
were the first places to which the wing dam or jetty system was applied with
success that led to its adoption for the entire Upper Mississippi.
The old penitentiary of Minneasota was located at Stillwater. While the
crew was fitting up the raft, I had some business ashore, and leisure enough
to to visit the state prison, in order to get a peek at Cole Younger. He was
in for a long term for aiding Jesse James in robbing the bank in Northfield,
Minneasota. This was considered a great feat then, but would be a very tame
affair in these progressive days.
Cole Younger was a well built, handsome man. After serving many long
years, with excellent behavior, my old employer , Captain Sam Van Sant,
having become governor of the state, pardoned or paroled him, and took a real
interest in him. He had paid the penalty and had become a changed man.
On our second trip to Stillwater, we laid there all night to clean
The streets were full if men who had come down on 'the drive. 'They brought
the log crop from the woods, down the little tributaries into the main
stream, the Saint Croix river, breaking jams, sacking, rolling, and following
them down into
the great catch booms at the mouth to the Saint Croix, where it empties into
the head of Lake Saint Croix, at Stillwater. This beautiful lake is thirty
miles long, and empties into the Mississippi at Prescott, Wisconsin. it made
an admirable place to hold rafts, and store logs and lumber ready for towing
These strong, husky men from the woods wore blue or red mackinaw jackets
and high boots, with calks in heels and soles so they could hold their
footing on loose, slippery, rolling logs.
They were here drawing their pay and most of them spending it freely.
The places of amusement and refreshment were doing good business. After their
fling in town, many of these men put in the summer season on the raft-boats
engaged in towing logs and lumber to mills and yards down river.
Durant,Wheeler and Company had a fleet of nice raft-boats, and handled a
good share of the output from the Saint Croix. Captain A.B.Young had the big
tow-boat 'Minneasota', Captain Hank L. Peavey
had an excellent boat the 'Penn Wright', and Isaac Staples who had a part
in everything in Stillwater, was building two fine raft-boats, the 'Isaac
Staples' and the L.E. Staples.
The 'Helen Mar' and the 'Ada B.' were aid up and for sale. I wanted one of
them badly, but could not raise money enough, and my employer,
who was willing to take a chance with me, thought the put look was not good
anyway. The year 1878 was a dry season, and not a busy one on the river.
conditions changed the next year for the better, and improved right along for
several years. The 'Mar' or the 'Ada' would have been a good buy.
The 'Ada B' was bought by the United States engineers and rendered
many years of excellent service. When she was condemned and sold, in
February, 1924, I was the successful bidder. So I owned her at last,
over forty-five years after I first saw her and wanted her. I soon sold her,
at a profit, but let her go with great regret, as she was a peach to work
with. The United states engineers condemned her so they could buy the Mayo's
pleasure boat 'Minnesota', to replace her. I got the 'Ada B.'
for $1250,00, and the United states engineers paid $35,000.00 for the
As my duties going up river were very light, I could spend considerable
time in the pilot-house, where I could be learning the river. Pilot Tromley
gave me every encouragement, and Ii will always hold his kindness in grateful
recollection. He was a French-Canadian, and, not not having learned to read,
had retained much of his native dialect, using many expressions that were
just delightful. Though not educated, he was bright and well informed. He was
a pleasant man to meet usually or to stand watch with,
, day and night. Though he had been on the river forty-five years, and
was about seventy years of age, he was straight, handsome, and healthy, not
only the liveliest person in the crew but the best company I ever had through
a season. Several years after, when I was in charge of the 'Ten
Broeck' and the 'J.W. Mills', I had him with me as my pilot-partner. He
was just the same genial, kindly, fun-loving, old Canuck as when he gave me
my first lessons in piloting, on the 'LeClaire Belle.'
In 1871, Taylor Williams opened coal mines at Rapid City, Illinois, at the
upper end of the LeClaire Rapids and soon built up a a big trade supplying
coal to steamboats, at LeClaire, Iowa. The vaol was loaded into small cars
at the mines, one and one-half miles
from the river, and these were run down by gravity to the river bank, and
dumped into barges, holding 1500 to 200 bushels. these barges were towed
over to LeClaire by the handsome little steamer 'Jenny Gilghrist'. This coal
was found at the time to help steamboating on the Upper Mississippi
especially the rafting. The raft boats could fill up on excellent coal at
LeClaire, at eight cents a bushel, or two dollars a ton on the barge. Some of
the boats could carry enough coal to make the round trip up to Beef Slough
and back, while others would have to take on wood up river.
There were many regular wood yards, where good, dry was ranked, close to
the water, to supply boats landing for it at any time, day or night.
The most notable wood landings were Harringtons( below Bellevue), Finleys
( above Dubuque), Saint Louis woodyard (below Guttenberg), Frenchtown,
Clayton, Dave Norells( at teh mouth of the Wisconsin river), Fred Worth's(
above McGregor). At Lynxville, Wisconsin, Tom Bright and Lish Randall had
wood flats loaded ready to be taken in tow and unloaded under way. Jim
Latshaw and Bill Tibbetts sold wood at Victory, and Charley Ott , Pearl
Oliver and Jo Franzeni, at Bad Axe, also had wood boats and were considered
experts in loading it for sale. By putting all crooked limbs wood down in and
placing nice, straight split wood on top, an expert could take thirteen cords
off the bank and make a good showing of what measured eighteen to twenty
cords in the flat boat.
John Witte had a good yard at Brownsville, and there were others at
Hammond Chute, Queens Bluff, The Stone House ( above Winona), Fountain
City, Richtman's, Belvedere, and West Newton. John Harry had wood in flats at
Alma. Above Lake Pepin, we could wood at Trenton, Diamond Bluff,
or smith's, and we could get good, coarse, dry slabs at Glenmount in Saint
We thought our expenses were high then, when we were only paying two
dollars a ton for good coal, two dollars and fifty cents for a cord for dry
oak wood, and one dollar and twenty-five cents to one dollar and fifty cents
a cord for slabs, piled on the bank, at a few mills that catered to this
We were paying men on deck twenty-five dollars a month, thirty-five
dollars to firemen, ninety dollars to chief engineers, and sixty dollars to
assistants, sixty dollars to the cook, and fifteen dollars for his helper, on
boats that only carried their own crew.
On some boats that carried families and friends of the owners, they paid
ten or fifteen dollars more to the cook, and carried an extra boy in the
Living was good, for supplies were plentiful, and very cheap compared with
present prices. Ice was two dollars per ton, eggs ten to fifteen cents a
dozen, meat six to ten cents a pound, with liver and bones for the dog thrown
in, potatoes twenty to fifty cents a bushel, cat fish ten cents,
buffalo fish eight cents, crappies and sun fish also eight cents, and frogs
legs seventy-five cents a dozen. Pancakes and 'jambolaye' were oue standbys
for breakfast, and our strong suits in desserts were 'Sally Lunn' and 'Dead
Going down stream with a raft, at the rate of three and one-half to four
miles an hour, I frequently had to take one of the skiffs and two linesmen to
row it, and pull ahead of the tow, to get ice, meat, milk, and
fresh vegetables. Going ahead to Fountain City, we could get our skiff
loaded, and easily catch the boat while she was backing the bend in Betsey
Slough. at Winona, I would step off while she was double tripping the 70
bridge, and have everything ready at the river side to load in the skiff
when she came down with the second piece. We always pulled ahead at Lansing,
as it was our best fish and vegetable suppy, and a handy place to get ice and
Gaunitz brothers ran the boat store at Lansing, Iowa, many years, and
had a nice boat trade. Their books show that they once had twenty-four
steamboats at their pier during the twenty-four hour day. At another time
they put up and delivered seven hundred and twenty dollars worth of goods
to boats in one night.
In nearly every town along the river you would see the sign 'Boat Store'
on one or more stores on Front street. This usually meant only a grocery
store that catered to the steamboat trade during the day and evening. Some
few gave a night service too.
However, there were only a few real boat stores, such as Ward and Brady,
at Saint Louis; Hansen and Linehan, and Diamond Jo stores, at Dubuque, Iowa,
McDonald Brothers and P.S. Davidson's at LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where they kept
groceries, rope in all sizes, blocks and pulleys, shovels, picks, hand-picks,
axes, peaveys, augers, and all rafting supplies and tools. They had a
sail-loft, where tarpaulins and canvas covers of all kinds were made. I
always loved the smell of oakum and rope that came from upstairs.
During good water stages, we made round trips between Stillwater and Fort
Madison in ten or eleven days. When the river got low and we had to
double-trip from Read's Landing, at the foot of Lake Pepin to the foot of
Coon Slough, it took us fourteen to sixteen days.
In ordinary stages of water, our boats could follow
'down the shore,' or raft channel, on the Upper Rock Island rapids
(fifteen miles long, extended from Rock Island, Illinois, to LeClaire,Iowa),
but we always employed a special rapids pilot, and we never started over
until daylight. When the river got low, we had to double-trip the rapids part
way at least( that is, take over one-half of the raft at a time), with
a smaller boat on the bow to shove ahead or back into, the narrow crooked
These rapids pilots became very skillful in their work. There was a sharp
rivalry between them for trips, when business was dull. During the busy
seasons, they all had plenty to do. At the time I began rafting, 1878,
J.W. Rambo and D.F. Dorrance had nearly all the rapids work, but J.N.
Lomg was edging in wherever he got a chance, and soon held his own with
Each of the pilots owned or had an interest in a bow-boat, which assisted
in getting these big rafts over in low water. The pilots' own pay
and their share in the earnings of the bow-boats means a good income,
, but they spent it freely, and had very little left when the business ended.
D.F.Dorrance and John Smith had the first regular bow-boat,
the 'Prescott.' Then Dorrance bought the old 'Wild Boy,' cut off her cabin.
and after using her one or two seasons, dismantled her, and used her
machinery on a nice. new boat, built at LeClaire, and called the 'Pilot'.
John McCaffry had part interest in in this boat. He had also gotten into this
rapids game, after resting up from his arduous and successful operations in
running logs and lumber by contract.
At this time, Rambo and Long were using the 'Last Chance' as their
bow-boat, getting a percentage of her
earnings, she being owned by LeClaire Navigation Company. I was on her as
master all season, and while she was engaged on the rapids, in low water,
I learned to bring her back up between trips while the rapids pilots rested'
for another trip. This was a fine chance for me to learn the rapids, and I
embraced it, and soon had removed from my piliot's license the phrase:
'The Rock Island Rapids excepted,' so that the license allowed me to
pilot from Saint Louis to Saint Paul and Minnesota, and to Stillwater, on
Lake Saint Croix.
Dorrance later sold the 'Pilot' and built a larger boat called ' Irene D.'
at Kahlke's boatways at Rock Island. Her engine, twelve inches by eight-
foot stroke, were built by Kattenbracker and Weithe in LeClaire, and she was a
strong, fast boat.
Then Long and McCaffrey had the 'Jo Long' built by Swain at Stillwater,
with engines twelve inches by six-foot stroke. She was very fast and more sat-
isfactory in every way than the 'Irene D.'
Meanwhile, Captain J.W. Rambo and his backers, which included Mr.
Jacob Suiter and Joe Manwaring, built the 'West Rambo,' neither as large or
as fast as the others, but she was a handy, useful craft, and did a lot of
The 'Pilot' was still owned at LeClaire, towing rock to Davenport, and the
'Jennie Gilchrist' was there, towing coal. This made five nice, light,
handy boats that tied up at LeClaire every night.
The rapids pilot's fee for a straight, single trip down, was ten dollars.
If he had to double-trip from Duck Creek or Stubb's Eddy, it was fifteen
dollars. In low water, when they split the raft, at LeClaire, and put it down
steamboat channel with a bow-boat, we paid the pilot twenty-five to thirty-
five dollars and from forty-five to ninety dollars for the bow-boat.
When we had good water, and no fog nor wind to delay us, we got coupled up
and under way from below Davenport bridge by 9 A.M. and had an easy, open
run, with no bridge , to Burlington, Iowa, reaching there at daylight the
next morning. After splitting the raft in Rush Chute, we coupled up below the
bridge about 8 A.M., went on down and reached Fort
Madison, our destination, that day We delivered the raft to the sawmill,
got our lines and other stuff aboard, and were off up the river again by
Our expenses were divided under five headings:
Portage, or salaries and wages.
Fuel, including coal. wood, etc.
Provisions, including ice and all eatables
Sundries, such as oil, rope, tools, packing, etc.
Rapids expense, including pilotage and bow-boat service.
At the end of each trip, I closed up these accounts and sent each
owner a statement taken from the books, something like the following:
Steamer LeClaire Belle
Statement Trip No. 10- June 20- July 2, 1878
Running fourteen strings of logs, Stillwater to Fort Madison
for S.& J. Atlee, at $110.00 per string-----------------$1540.00
Towing barge Fairport to red Wing-------------------------100.00
Two round trip passengers Davenport to LaCrosse----------------30.00
Fuel, 13 days------------------------------260.15
Rapids expense up and down-------------------35.00 1027.09
We often made trips when we had no earnings outside the raft, and some
trips were lengthened by log, stoem or some mishap.
I cant remember how many trips the 'Belle' made that season, but I do
recollect that she was over seven-thousand dollars ahead, when she broke her
shaft, above Eagle Point, on her last trip down, in November, 1878.
Captain Van Sant then chartered the 'Artemus Lamb,' which came up, and
after taking the 'LeClaire Belle' to the Diamond Jo boatways at Eagle Point,
hitched into out raft and delivered it to Fort Madison.
This ended my first season on the river, which had been interesting, ,
pleasant and profitable. I saved my wages, for there was no opportunity all
summer to spend money.
I recall, however, one evening in Burlington, Iowa, when the boat was
double-tripping the bridge. I had seen the cards announcing a lecture by
T.DeWitt Talmadge on 'The bright side of things.' The ticket was fifty cents,
and I was there greatly enjoying this fine treat, when I heard the 'Belle'
whistle for the landing. Reluctantly but hurriedly, I withdrew from
the hall and reached the river bank as the boat came in. They put out some
lines, and I then asked the captain if they were going to lay over in
Burlington, and he answered 'Yes.' I told him I was sorry I didn't know that
for I had left a fine lecture in the interesting part. He then urged me to
hurry back to the hall. I did so and enjoyed one of the best things
the great orator ever gave to the public
THE GREAT RIVER THEN(1878) AND NOW (1928)
During the year, 1878, there was considerable life on the Upper Miss-
ssissippi aside from the rafting business. There were many small, local
packets running in short trades, like the 'Charles Rebstock,' or 'Albany,'
between Davenport and Clinton, the 'Ella' between Ferryville and Lansing,
the 'Vigor' betwenn Browmsville and LaCrosse, the 'Robert Harris' between
Fountain City and Winina. The 'Penquin' ran between Alma and Winona, the
'Lion' from Alma to Wabasha, the'Ida Heerman' from Read's Landing up
the Chippewa to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the 'Phil Schaeckel' Read's up to
Menominee, the 'G.B. Knapp' between Prescott and Taylor's Falls, the
'Maggie Reany' from Stillwater to Saint Paul, and the 'Belle of Pepin' be-
tween Pepin and Lake City.
The Diamond Jo Line operated the new steamer 'Josephine' between
Fulton and Burlington, and also had the ' Diamond Jo,' the 'Josie,' the
'Imperial,' the 'Arkansas,' the 'Tidal Wave,' the 'Libby Conger,' and
many barges, operating between Fulton and Saint Paul.
Also the consolidated Keokuk-Northern Line packet company had a large
fleet of fine, side-wheel steamers like the 'Minneapolis, 'Minnesota,
'Muscatine,''Belle of LaCrosse,' 'Northwestern,' 'Red Wing,' 'Clinton,'
and 'Lake Superior,' and the stern-wheelers 'Annie' (later the 'White
Eagle'), 'Great Pacific,' 'Keokuk,' and others, giving frequent and regular
service over the entire Upper Mississippi.
In 1881, the Diamond Jo Line added two new large stern-wheelers, the
'Sidney' and 'Pittsburgh,' to its fleet, and became a strong competitor of
Keokuk Northern Line for the passing business between Saint Louis and Saint
The 'Pittsburgh' was conseded to be the best all-round stern-wheeler
on the Upper Mississippi. She was two hundred and fifty-eight feet long,
forty feet wide, five and eight-tenths feet in the hold, and measured seven
hundred and twenty-two tons. She had fine engines, twenty-two
inches by seven feet, three large boilers, a good cabin, and large, roomy
texas. The 'Pittsburgh' was fast, of light draft, and a good handler,
Captain John F. Killeen, superintendent of the Diamond Jo Line, was her
master from 1882 to 1893, and under his management she became very popular
In 1878, there were a few fine raft-boats whose owners made provisions for
pleasure trips foe their families and friends, which did not in the least
interfere with the regular work. The crews were glad to have company aboard.
C.Lamb and Sons of Clinton, Iowa had the 'Artimus Lamb,' one of the
handsomest and best boats ever built. The Hershey Lumber Company, of
Muscatine, Iowa, owned the 'B.Hershey,' a strong, comfortable boat.
The 'Hershey' was in charge of of that prince of pilots and thorough
gentleman, Cyprian Buisson, of Wabasha, Minnesota. There were four of
these Buisson brothers, of whom three, Henry, Joseph, and Cyprian, took to
rafting, and were very successful pilots and masters.
Their quarter Indian blood showed plainly in their looks and habits. All three
were highly esteemed by their employers and associates on the river. Captain
'Cyp's' last piloting was done for me on the large side-wheeler 'Morning
Star,' running from Davenport to Saint Paul. I have never met a man who
had more in him to admire and love.
Weyerhauser and Denkmann had the 'C.J.Caffrey,' a powerful raft-boat,
rebuilt from the United States side-wheeler snag-boat of the same name,
Captain O.P.McMann, of Clinton,Iowa, was her master pilot for many years.
W.J.Young and Company, of Clinton, Iowa used the 'J.W. Mills' as the
family boat. She was not large , but was strong and well fitted up. Paul Kerz,
of Galena, Illinois, was her captain.. Later, when Young and Company
built the 'Douglas Boardman,' a much larger and finer boat, Captain Kerz and
and his excellent engineer, Conrad Kraus, also of Galena, were transferred to
her, and for a time she was the family boat until the 'J.W.Young, Jr.' was
built. She was the real queen of the raft-boats Captain Kerz died in Galena in
Another fine, powerful boat was the 'Blue Lodge,' owned by the Clinton
Lumber Company. She had been an Ohio river tow-boat. During the low water
season, 1878, the Diamond Jo Line has her under charter towing grain in
Captain Van Sant and the Musser Lumber Company of Muscatine, Iowa, \
had the comfortable steamer 'Silver Wave,' and she seldom made a trip
north without a few 'people in the cabin,' as extras are called. Not only
was Captain Van Sant a charming host, but her chef was equaled to none.
I am sure Joe Gallenor's
cooking had much to much to do with the popularity of the boat. I spent
three busy and happy seasons on the 'Silver Wave,' and never failed to
appreciate Joe's cooking. He was not expensive either, a poor cook is that,
for so much is wasted, not eaten, but thrown down the 'dollar hole,' as they
called the chute from the kitchen to the river.
Joe Gallenor was the most inveterate practical joker I ever knew. He
played jokes on all of us. Time and again, when I was aroused before
breakfast, someone would call" when did you get promoted?" and on turning my
head around, would find a thin, warm pancake cosily resting on each shoulder,
epaulets. He had placed them there so quickly, as I was passing, that I had
not noticed his act.
J.A.Hanley, now a dignified and successful lawyer in Davenport, Iowa,
was our cabin-boy on the 'Silver Wave' in those days Of him I will have more
to say in the next chapter.
Captain A.R. Young of Stillwater. Minnesota, had the largest and most
powerful of all the raft-boats. She was called the 'Tow-boat Minnesota.'
to distinguish her from the side-wheel steamer of the same name, a Saint
Louis packet. Her engines were sixteen inches by six feet. She was used in
floating-raft days, to tow fleets of rafts through Lakes Saint Croix and
Pepin. While towing down river , Sam Hitchcock and Frank LaPoint were her
|Palo Alto County, Iowa USGenWeb Project||Scott County, Iowa USGenWeb Project||Celtic Cousins||A Little Bit of Ireland||The Irish in Iowa||Joynt/Joint Family Chronicles||Other Family Ties|