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Perry Mills Ruby
“The Government steamer Alert is in charge of Capt. Perry Ruby, one of the cleverest steamer boatmen on the “upper Mississippi” and Mr. Charles Harvey is the painstaking engineer at the throttle. The Alert has a very handsome engine room.
1900 Pg. 9
“Capt Perry M. Ruby of the
steamer Alert belonging to the government fleet in charge of United
States Engineer W. A. Thompson, was in the city last Monday, the guest of
Capt. H. Beedie of the steamer Dubuque, and paid his respects to this
1900 Pg. 9
Perry M. Ruby, the gentlemanly and clever master of the government steamer
Alert remembered us substantially this week.
The government fleet has been laid up in black river at La Crosse,
Wis., and the Alert at Fountain City. Capt.
Ruby says his better half cannot keep house without the JOURNAL.
We are always on the ladies’ side.”
11, 1900 Pg. 9
“Capt Perry M. Ruby, who is in the Government service on the
Upper Mississippi, wrote us a pleasant letter on the 6th inst.,
requesting the address of his paper to be changed, and asking to be remembered
kindly to all the boys. He also
said “Mrs. R. says she can’t get along without the Waterways Journal.”
this we consider as exceedingly
fine compliment, for when the ladies are on our side we are safe.”
1900 Pg. 1
The Alert, doing Government work on the Upper Mississippi is in charge
of that prince of good fellows, Capt. Perry Ruby, with Chas Harvey, engineer.
Mrs. Ruby enjoyed a few days visit with her husband, and has returned
home to Buffalo, Ia.
M. Ruby, who was recently in the Government service at Fountain City,
wrote us on the 18th from Buffalo, Ia, saying “Owing to the
kindness (?) of Mr. Tom Carter of Montana I have been obliged to leave the
City of Fountains to find “ three squares” per day.
This accounts for my charge of address to my home in Buffalo.
With best wishes for yourself and the success of THE WATERWAYS JOURNAL.
I remain yours truly. “
9, 1910 Pg. 9
Perry Ruby of the snag boat David Tipton called on us last
Thursday. He is temporarily in
charge of the boat this trip owing
to Capt Martin stopping off to attend to other government matters.”
HOMER SHELDON RUBY
8, 1900 Pg. 9
“Capt. Le Claire is in charge of the Rock Island Davenport ferry Augusta,
with Capt. “Shell “ Ruby as partner and
L.A. Day as engineer.”
Journal April 1894
opinion of Capt. Ruby, the well known pilot, that there will be a short
river business between now and harvest time.
As for the state of the river he says:
“ In my opinion it will be best if the river does not rise any higher
than t is at present, because at this season a rise falls so fast and leaves
so much sediment that the channels are either filled up or considerably
altered, while in places the river would be completely dry.”
21, 1894 Pg. 5
Prichard, steward on board the Dora, looks innocent, but nevertheless
has a mighty tough imagination. While
Capts. Ruby and Tessen were talking about the altering conditions of
the river he chirped in with the following remarkable statement.
“Speak about your mud deposits in the Mississippi.
Why, it’s nothing to what used to happen on the Illinois ‘river,
where the mud went down so fast that it formed islands, and we used to stop
the boat to let the cattle out to feed on the grass, which grew up just about
as fast as the mud.” Then
everybody laid down his hand and passed out, Prichard solemnly reaping in the
28, 1894 Pg. 10
S. Ruby, of the steamer Dora, reports an incident which deserves
attention in regard to navigation. It
happened in regard to navigation. It
happened at Hamburg, Ill., Sunday. A
frail little craft was seen crossing the river; its propelling power was a
white ash breeze. The port side
was handled by a woman and the starboard by a man, with a woman at the rear
end acting as pilot.
The craft was used in the capacity of a ferry boat, on which was a team
of horses being transmitted from the Illinois to the Missouri side.
1894 Pg. 13
Ruby reports coal very scarce and
says the Dora is burning wood exclusively.
He thinks it would be a good idea for all the steamers to use wood, as
it would circulate money with the farmers along the Mississippi and that would
naturally, make times better on the river.
1894 Pg. 7
Ruby, pilot on that fast little steamer Bald Eagle, is coming to
the front as a writer and we would be pleased to hear from him soon.
Ruby says a woman is like a
steamboat, because she is contrary.
SMOOTHLY FROM THE CARONDELET WAYS LAST SATURDAY AFTERNOON
At 3 o’clock last Saturday afternoon the Bald Eagle, with
Capt. A. B Hall in command, Capt. E. D. Young in the office and Mr. H. S.
Ruby at the wheel, steamed out from the foot of Washington Avenue with a
select party of Ladies and
gentlemen on board, the guests of the Schwartz Bros.
commission merchants of this city, to witness the launching of their
new steamer from the ways of the Sectional Dock Company at the foot of Mareau
the Steamer Carrier, formerly of Davenport, Ia. Made her initial trip in the
The carrier is owned by Captain Walter Blair of Davenport, ia and has
been running in the upper river trade for several years, sometimes as a
regular packet and sometimes as an excursion boat.
Capt. T. G. Isherwood is in command and Capt. E. D. Young is in the
office, with Zolle Block as assistant. H.
S. Ruby has control of the steering apparatus and Frank Bucheite is in
command of the forcastle.
“Shell” Ruby, for many years in the St. Louis and
Clarksville trade on the steamer Dora and Bald Eagle, is now pilot on
the ferryboat Augusta, running between Rock Island and Davenport.
1898 Pg. 1
basking in the shade of the old Diamond Jo warehouse at Rock Island, the
ferryboat Augusta whistled to pass some boat as she was coming across
the river. And such a whistle!
Even the old mules hauling sand look at each other and have to laugh.
All the people along the bank, even if in a hurry, stop, look around in
amazement, and then break out, anything from a grin to a “haw-haw.”
Ben Lamont says she caught cold the night of the fire, and has not been
well since. Capt. Fuller Smith
says: “Hear that blankety,
blankety, blank, blank noise that old pirate of a washtub makes, trying to
scare people so that they will
keep out of her way!” And it is
a fearful and wonderful sound. First
you hear a noise like a lot of geese hissing: that is water gathered in the
pipe. After a minute of this the
steam comes till the string puller gets tired of holding on to it, and as he
lets go and the steam is gradually shit off on the tail end, like a poor
little groan it manages to let out a sound the like of which was never heard
before in the heavens above, the earth beneath or the waters under the earth.
Gentlemen, for the Lord’s sake, take the fares for one good trip
across and buy a decent whistle!
Don’t be the laughing stock of everybody.
You waste enough water and steam in a week to run your boat for a day .
Geo. M. Waters
the Burlington Saturday Evening Post
by Captain E. H. Thomas of South Ottumwa
August 19, 1911
Recollections of a Veteran
At one of
the river towns I met an acquaintance, Jerome Ruby, who was ten or
twelve years my senior. He asked
me what I was doing. To him I put
my tale of woe that I had quit my job in the country town and was looking for
something new, a position which would have more
of the adventure in it, and where I could see the people on the move
and mingle with the crowd.
man,” said Ruby “Come with me, and I will give you all of the
adventure you want.”
My friend Ruby
was a pilot on the steamboat New Boston, a passenger packet then operating
between Rock Island and Montrose, a distance of 120 miles.
There were two of these steamers, the New Boston and the Keithsburg,
one up and one down every day except Sunday.
The pilots were O. M. Ruby, Jerome Ruby and Sheldon Ruby, brothers,
and L. C. Alley. I have
reason to remember these men, for they were good to me, my true and steadfast
friends through all of the years I was on the river.
Iowa and Cedar Rivers Navigable
(speaking about working the Iowa and Cedar rivers in Iowa)
commenced there in 1865, on the steamer Young Eagle, owned and operated by Dr.
T. G. Bell, John Atchinson and Geo. Bell. The boat was built by the Eagle
Packet Co. With this fleet
we had a large and paying business for three seasons.
The second season we navigated these rivers up and down, night and day,
and at my request, the owners employed Mills Ruby as my assistant, and
Dick Dickson was in the engine room.
During this time the railroad and mill interests made a move
to have the Iowa and Cedar rivers declared not navigable.
To beat this movement our clerk made a sworn affidavit for each trip,
showing the number of tons of freight carried and the number of passengers,
myself also made affidavits as to the stage of water on these trips, and to
beat the game we were very careful to do good work, and we did it.
Our record of 26 round trips on the Iowa and Cedar, with the steamboat
and two loaded barges, showed the average stage of water to have been 3 ½
feet, and that we were aground but once, when we went to the gravel bar below
Golden Days On River
“But very many have passed (pilots)
away. My old friends, Jerome
and Miles Ruby, with whom I was first associated, are numbered among the
dead, and sleep at Rock Island and Buffalo.”
In the Rock Island cemetery at the head of a mound of earth,
may be seen a large steamboat anchor which marks the resting place of Dave
Tipton, who spent his entire life in the pilot house.
Jan 27, 1912
When Montrose was a Live Town
“The passengers who congregate around the pilot house of a
steamboat are usually loaded up with questions for the pilot.
Among other things the travelers want to know are the following:
The depth of the water? Does
the pilot run by compass? What is
his object in crossing the river so many times?
Why does he not take a straight course and keep to ti?
Why does he tot his whistle when meeting other boats?
Why does the boat go slow at certain times, etc.
On one occasion I heard an interesting conversation between a passenger
and pilot O. M. Ruby. The
pilot answered all the forgoing questions and then the passenger wanted to
know if he would not rather work on a faster boat.
(We were going against the current and a head wind and towing two
barges.) Ruby answered this
last question in the negative and said that he would prefer the slow boat for
the reason that it gave him a better opportunity to get acquainted with the
farmers along the shores of the river !”
BRIDGES MENACE TO NAVIGATION
Capt E. H. Thomas
An incident: One dark, stormy night
we reached Burlington on the down stream at 12 o’clock.
There was a strong wind from the west.
Our captain was an excitable temperament and his hair was red.
He had been a freight agent of one of the towns along there and what he
did not know about a steamboat if printed would have made many large volumes.
But he had a pull with the company and was transferred from the freight
house to the boat, and given the rank of captain.
On this bad night we backed away from the Burlington levee, and pointed
the boat toward the draw of the bridge. My
partner, Mills Ruby was at the wheel, and I was out on the roof with
one eye on the bridge light and the other on a light on the North hill.
This for the purpose of aligning the light on the draw and the light on
the hill and by such alignment I could tell when the wind was flanking or
sliding the boat toward the Illinois shore, and away from the draw.
When we were opposite Bogus Hollow the wind hit us and the boat
made a slide on the water. As we
were going she would have missed the draw and went under the next span of the
bridge. I yelled at Mills and he
stopped the engines and backed her up stream.
We then went some distance above the landing and made the second run
for the bridge, but with the same result.
The wind flanked us away from the draw.
Then for the third time we steamed up the river, turned around and went
at it again, this time holding the boat more into the wind, or closer to the
Iowa shore. In fooling around
there the engineer had accumulated big steam.
The safety valves were jumping up and he had reached the limit allowed
by law, but we used it all. We had
resolved to get thro that bridge on this third run.
Mills held her close up to the wind and I watched the lights.
When near the bridge she was sliding but little.
I yelled at Mills to let her go and then jumped into the pilot
house and took one side of the wheel. We
got her more into the draw, and as we passed through it we were going some.
We had told the engineer to give us all the steam he had, and he did
it. We barely missed the draw
pier, but were through the bridge and plowing ahead for the “Lime Kiln”
crossing. Then came our red haired
captain to the roof. He was
excited, badly frightened, away up in the air and proceeded t hand us a few
packages. “Great God” said he,
“never do such a think as that again. You
should have worked her slow through that place, but instead you were going at
the speed of an express train. From
where I stood on the guard I could have touched the draw pier.
You are the most reckless men I ever saw.
Mills Ruby was one of he best pilots on the river.
He was also a man of but few words, but what he said was always to the
point and he gave it back to the captain this way:
“Say, old man,
you are now in no danger, for we are at least one mile below the bridge.
But you lost the opportunity of your life.
Why in the devil didn’t you touch that pier when you were so close to
Silas haight was a profane man
ran steamer countess
in Burlington trade.
Exclusively for this Paper by Captain
Thomas of South Ottumwa.
I think Capt.
Haight’s last service on the river was as commander and owner of the steamer
“Countess.” As I remember
it the countess was a side wheeler and equipped with six turbulent boilers.
It was during the 50’s or 70’s.
At that time there were four passengers boats in operation between
Keokuk and Davenport, and great rivalry between all fighting for the business.
As the veteran Haight stood on the shore and watched the contest, he
concluded to take a hand in it and he went around on the Ohio river and
purchased the Countess, and put her into the Davenport, Keokuk trade.
He employed Deck Dickson as chief engineer knowing that Deck was not
afraid of the steam and low water, and I remember that Mills Ruby was
one of the pilots. With this boat
Captain Haight commenced the contest, declaring that he would whip the four
passenger packets and whip then to a finish, and he made good.
He took them by turns, and with big steam, the Countess would keep from
one to two miles ahead of her rival every day in the week.
Captain Haight would not wait for a large lot of freight and never made
a tie at any of the towns. Holding
the steamer up to the shore with the outside wheel, he would take the light
packages and being far in advance of the other steamer, would get all of the
passengers. He was skinning the
packet companies six days in the week, and it made them sore, but this cut no
figure with the veteran Haight. He
whirled the Countess up and down the river, and got the business.
The people always ride on the swift boat, regardless of the danger.
Dickson was carrying an enormous steam pressure, the boilers were old
and steamboat men along there who knew the danger, were expecting the old
tubulars to go up in the air. I
was standing on the Keithsburg levee one day, when the countess rounded in to
the landing, on her down steam run. The
boat was enveloped in a cloud of steam, and every timber on her was trembling.
Through this cloud of steam Mills Ruby came ashore, and he was
carrying his grip. He told me he
had quit his job in the pilot house. I
asked him why he did it. “The
trouble is,” said Mills, “The boat has a d--m fool for an engineer, and I
will not ride another mile over his boilers.
I shall take the train for my home in Fort Madison.”
From the engine room door thro the cloud of steam, I saw the familiar
face of Dick Dickson. He was
laughing, swinging his hat in the air and roasting Ruby for leaving the boat.
But Mills was justifiable in going ashore.
The way things were running, I would not have accepted a free round
trip ticket, with meals included, and rode on the Countess.
We were all expecting to hear of her being blown to pieces.
But Dick Dickson enjoyed these trips.
Knowing no fear he regarded it as great amusement, to be cutting the
water and leading all other boats along there.
After whipping all competitors, the countess was laid up.
One or both of the packet companies, purchased the steamer and tied her
to the shore in order to get rid of Silas Haight.
I was told that Captain Haight cleaned up about $10,000 on this deal,
that he purchased the boilers at a low figure, and then unloaded on the packet
companies at a good big price.
CRUISE OF A BANKRUPT STEAMER
CAPTAIN AND CLERK DESERT-
WITH ALL THE MONEY.-
Pilots and Engineers Took Turns
On the Roof--Old River Men
It frequently happened that a crew
with some kind of a grievance would desert a boat, call for their pay and go
ashore. This was expected as a
part of the business. But for the
captain and the clerk, owners of the boat, to desert the crew, 500 miles from
their homes, and leave a steamboat on their hands was regarded as a new
departure. This is what happened
to a gang of us in the city of St. Louis.
It was sometime in the 70’s during the cholera period.
The steamer and two barges were owned by the captain and clerk, and
cost them about twelve thousand dollars. ‘We
had a good trip of freight and passengers from Davenport to St. Louis.
W. H. Pierce and his son Frank were the engineers and Mills Ruby and
myself were the pilots.
The river was at a low stage, and we had some trouble in getting over
the bar at Cape Angris, but otherwise had a very successful run.
We landed at Alton. Here
the clerk asked me to fill his place from that point to St. Louis.
Said that he was not feeling just right, and feared that he would get
the cholera if he went into St. Louis. I
took his word for it, and he took the train north for his home.
Arriving at St. Louis. I
checked out the freight, and then turned the bills over to the captain, who
left the boat just after dinner to go out in the city and collect the freight
charges. He did not return to the
boat that night, and was not with us for dinner on the following day.
There was much discussion among the crew as to what had become of our
captain. A clerk of one of the
boats had went ashore, on a similar mission, and he was slugged and robbed.
Some of the men feared that our captain had met the same fate, but I
had my suspicions. I had been on
the boat for three seasons and was familiar with the business.
The boat had been making some money, but I knew that a certain
capitalist up the river held a claim against the owner for 46,000.
The clerk had taken what money there was in the safe when he left us at
Alton, and the old man had about $2,500 in his jeans, and it looked woolly-as
though they were making a clean up, going out of business, and leaving the
crew out of business, and leaving the crew and the capitalist to hold the
sack. Just before supper, on
the second day, we had a message from the missing captain.
A receiving clerk, who worked on the levee brought a note from him to
the crew. The note informed us
that the captain had received a telegram that one of his children was
dangerously ill, and that he was about to take the train for the north.
He instructed us to bring the boats on up the river, and that he would
met us at some point above. The
humorous part of the deal was, that he sent us the sum of ten dollars as
expense money, which would just about pay our coal bill to the head of Sawyer
Bend. However, we took the ten
dollars from the receiving clerk, and then called a meeting of the crew to
discuss the situation. At the
meeting it was decided to take on some coal and leave St. Louis at once.
I did not believe that we would find the captain on this up stream
trip. His home was inland, 50 or
60 miles from the river, and I had a notion in my head that he and the freight
money would remain there, but I finally submitted to the rule of the majority.
They all appeared to have great confidence in the captain.
It was also agreed that Pierce, Ruby and myself
were to take our turns in being captain of the boat and paying the
bills. That when a man’s money
run out, he was no longer captain, but must come down and let the other fellow
go on to the roof. In the matter
of money I was short. At
Muscatine, on the down trip, I had drawn $250, about all that was due me, and
sent the money home. With me this
was the one fortunate feature of
the trip getting that $250 at Muscatine. I
had the honor of taking the boat out of St. Louis and paying for the coal and
commissary stores. I landed at
Alton, where we secured a few hundred pounds of freight, but on leaving a wood
yard, just below Clarksville, we were out of fuel.
My pockets were empty, and I’d had lost my position as captain of the
steamer, Mills Ruby assumed command of the steamer, purchased some wood, and
we steamed along, reaching Quincy about five o’clock one evening.
Here it was announced that we had neither coal nor provisions, and that
Captain Ruby was in a bankrupt condition.
It was now up to Pierce, the engineer, and Ruby went into the engine
room to see him about it, and they had a spat.
Pierce said that he had no money, but Ruby did not believe it, and
neither did I. I had been with him
for several seasons, and knew that he always carried a good roll.
When Ruby returned to the cabin he was sore.
He said the engineer was not giving us a square deal.
Now, Bill Pierce was a good engineer and a good fellow, but his bump of
self esteem was very largely developed. He
was a fine looking man, a good talker and liked to be at the head of the
procession. Knowing this, Ruby and
myself commenced calling him captain Pierce that night and this gave us the
desired result. On the following
morning Pierce flashed up light on ten $20 notes, and I noticed, that he had
some more of the long green in his big pocket book.
He at once purchased the necessary supplies, and the boat backed away
from Quincy levee, with the commanding, majestic figure of Capt. W. W. Pierce
on the roof, passing signals back to the pilot.
We reached Muscatine in good time, but the captain was not there to
greet us. At the suggestion of the
crew, I sent him a telegram-and he answered, instructing us to take the boat
on to Davenport. The we had a
mutiny among the deck hands and firemen. They
were tired of promises to pay and refused to sail for Davenport, but we
finally induced them to go.
When we reached Davenport, the captain was not there, but the sheriff and the capitalist gave us a very cordial reception and tied the fleet to the shore on the claim of $6,000. The matter was compromised, the capitalist accepting the three boats as payment in full on his $6,000 claims. As I had suspicioned it was a clean up. The capitalist got the boats at a bargain, and the captain and clerk received about the same amount out of the earnings, and went out of business. Wm. Pierce was the heavy investor on our excursion trip from St. Louis to Davenport, but it made him feel good to be called captain, and then he got even with the game by chartering and operating the boats for several months. Ruby and myself had no complaint to make on our investments between St. Louis and Quincy. Did not even attempt to collect our claim. We had been on the steamer for several years and had drawn a lot of money at the clerk’s office, and concluded that it was all right, as a closing feature in the service of the owners, to have an excursion trip at our own expense. Mills Ruby W. W. Pierce, the captain and the clerk, my old time friends and associates on this steamer, with whom I spent many of the happiest hours of my life, have all passed away. With many others of my river friends they are sleeping the sleep of death. If there is a second life and another world, and I believe there will be, I hope to meet them all again. Dec 23, 1911