White River articles by John Quincy Wolf, Sr.

Early Days On White River
Our River---A Valuable Asset
Early Days - Steamboats on White River
River Traffic Revived After Civil War
River Boats, Owners, and Captains
Shoals, Captains and Crews

Early Days On White River

Many Anecdotes of Steamer Transportation and River Life Survive, Despite the General Decline in Traffic by Water During the Past 40 years
By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Arkansas Gazette, November 3, 1940.

The Trader, a Memphis boat, came up White River in 1874 with freight for Buffalo and a good list of passengers. It was an ideal time to make such a trip, for the trees were putting on their leaves, and the woods were aflame with redbud and dogwood, while many of the hillsides were covered with fragrant wild pink honeysuckle. The river at Batesville showed a good boating stage, The Josie Harry but by the time the Trader reached North Fork the water was getting thin. After passing over the shoal just above the mouth of North Fork, one of the shallowest on the river, and going on to Shipp's Ferry, six miles above, the captain decided to turn back. Consequently the boat's prow was pointed downstream. It was dark when the boat got back to North Fork shoal and the pilot thought it unsafe to try to take his boat through the shoal in the dark. He therefore gave orders to tie up until next morning and he eased the boat over to the long gravel bar on the right bank of the river, and went to bed.

At 5 o'clock next morning the boat was high and dry on the gravel bar and 30 feet from the water! And that was not the worst of it, for the long drouth of 1874 set in right then, and the helpless Trader sat there on that treeless gravel waste for 13 long, weary, monotonous months before there was a sufficient rise in the river to go out on. Some of the officers and part of the crew took one of the boat's yawls and went to Batesville, while the others stayed with the boat, putting in their amble time painting, repairing, and caulking the boat. The welcome rise came just one year and one month after the Trader parked on the gravel bar, and she went down the river with colors flying.

The John F. Allen was caught above Buffalo shoals by low water once and was detained by Old Man River for one month, which included Christmas, 1884. When the bewhiskered officers finally got back to Batesville they looked like the House of David baseball nine.

An important item of steamboat life is the matter of fuel and fueling. Cordwood, principally of pine, was the fuel used. Enterprising farmers would haul it in from the woods and stack it in cords on the riverbank during the summer and fall, when the boats were not running and when there was little farm work to do.

A cord of wood is eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high. The price paid by the boats was $4 per cord. Pine was very plentiful and it was the best fuel to be had. A rich pine knot ignites quickly and makes a brilliant light and a hot fire, which lasts a long time. A cord of pine did not consist altogether of knots, but they made up a considerable part of every cord. They required no splitting or chopping as did other cordwood, and were therefore inexpensive and desirable. We used to read by the light of pine knots in my old home in the Leatherwood mountains. This was before coal oil lamps were commonly used. The steamboats always wanted pine for fuel; it made a quick, hot fire and a quick head of steam.

When the fireman saw that his stock of fuel was about to become exhausted, he would warn the mate, who would keep a sharp lookout for cordwood along the shore and have the pilot make a landing at the first woodyard he came to. This might be in a town like Calico Rock, or it might be on the bank, far from any regular landing. The owner of the cordwood might or might not be present-it made no difference. He would present himself and his bill at some convenient landing on the next trip of the boat. Strangely enough, such a thing as stealing cordwood, corded up on the riverbank, was unknown.

It sometimes happened that on account of accidents and other delays, the fuel on the boat would become exhausted, with no woodyard in sight. In such cases the boat would land alongside of a farm (there was always a farm on one side of the river and bluff or mountain on the other), and proceed to take as many panels of the farmer's rail fence as needed-at a stiff price. On one occasion I recall that far in the night a steamboat landed at the lower end of our farm and took 2,000 red cedar rails! Farmers do not make rails out of red cedar trees now-they make cedar chests out of them at $20 apiece.

When a boat stopped to take on fuel, the deck hands would fly into the corded wood and fling it down the riverbank; then they would go down and gather it up and carry it aboard and stack it as close around the furnace as they could for the convenience of the fireman.

Sam Ivy had been a schoolmate of mine at Spring Creek. While I was working at Calico Rock one autumn, Sam thought to turn a few honest pennies by hauling cordwood to the river. The river was too low for boating, so he corded up his pine on the bank until he had several cords. He hauled it about three miles with a yoke of oxen. After bringing in a load, he would sit down by it and look wistfully down the river, vainly hoping to see a steamboat. (From Calico Rock, one has an unobstructed view for two miles down the river.) This went on day after day and week after week, and still no boat came. There was no prospect of a boat as the river was too low.

One day, late in the fall, Sam brought in the usual load of pine, corded it up nicely and sat down at the end of it to watch and to wait and to hope for a boat. In my early enthusiasm for steamboats I had learned to imitate the whistle of a steamboat. My imitation was so perfect that it would almost deceive the elect.

Seeing the disconsolate Sam sitting out by his cordwood, watching, waiting and yearning for the coming of a boat so he could cash in on his investment, it occurred to me to pull a joke on him. I slipped around to the other end of his cordwood and emitted three perfect imitations of a steamboat blowing for the landing-first a moderately long blast, then a short one, then the long-drawn-out one. Sam jumped up, sure that the boat was coming. He hurried to his wagon, jumped in and cracked his whip over the heads of his lazy oxen, yelled out "git up" and away he went for another load of pine knots. When he returned late in the afternoon and found no boat, and no one who could offer any explanation of the mysterious boat whistle he had heard, he was sorely amazed and disappointed. He was so badly disappointed that I did not have the nerve to tell him I had perpetuated a joke on him. Besides, he was bigger and stronger than I was.

Sam had to wait several weary weeks before he sold his cordwood.

Every method of travel and transportation has its dangers: teams run away; trains collide or run into open switches; engines fly the track; ships strike hidden reefs or icebergs and sink; they are wrecked by storms; automobiles plunge over embankments; they collide; airplanes crash every day; steamboats are endangered from several sources. Many boats burn; many are sunk by striking snags; some are wrecked by drunken pilots; some are wrecked by windstorms. In high water there is constant danger that a log may get in the wheel or in the rudder, rendering the boat helpless; sometimes something goes wrong with the machinery; boilers sometimes burst.

Once I was in the Steamer Home's pilot house with Captain Stallings, who was at the wheel. We had just succeeded in negotiating the celebrated Buffalo Shoals by "jumping" the boat over the last ledge at the head of the shoals and were getting into deep water, about four feet, but still very swift, when he heard a peculiar noise in the engine room and the big wheel suddenly stopped. I did not know what had happened, but Captain Stallings did. He said excitedly: "Here, take this wheel; keep her headed straight up the river!" He bounded out of the pilot house and down the stairs to the hurricane deck, where there was a large coil of new cable that had not been used, and, with almost superhuman strength he heaved it over the banister to the boiler deck below and then ran down the stairs at about two bounds. By the time he reached the prow of the boat the deck hands were tying the cable on to the anchor, making ready to heave it overboard, although not a word had been spoken by anybody. They had sensed the danger and were using their heads. They dragged the anchor quickly to the edge and heaved it overboard. The river's bottom here and all along its mile of shoal water is a mass of boulders. Before the boat had drifted 40 seconds the anchor caught a large boulder and held fast. The boat had already drifted back into the swift current and had the anchor not held, she would have been wrecked in that crooked, narrow channel in less than five minutes more. What had happened to the machinery was that the valve had "slipped"-at least that was what they called it in steamboat parlance, and the engineer could not turn on the steam; consequently the wheel had gone dead.

Steamboats are, as a rule, short-lived. The hazards of navigation are so many that most of them fall victims at an early age. There are some notable exceptions, however, but they are few.

The John D. Perry was burned at Des Arc in June, 1869.

The Batesville sank in the St. Francis River, near the mouth.

The Argus sank at Poke Bayou, near the mouth.

The Alberta burned at Point Ferry, one mile below Jacksonport.

The Cora Belle sank or burned in Black River.

The De Smet burned opposite Newport in 1886.

The Josie Harry burned 18 miles below Memphis in 1893.

The Cherokee was dismantled at New Orleans.

The Winnie sank in the St. Francis River.

The Arch P. Greene sank in Goose Neck Bend, 12 miles below Batesville.

The Milt Harry was lost in Black River.

The Alberta No. 2 was burned just below Jacksonport.

The Alberta No. 3 burned in Indian Bay. A tragedy of her destruction was the burning to death of Capt. W.T. Gibbs, her clerk. Everybody had gotten safely ashore when Captain Gibbs remembered some valuable papers on his desk that he wanted to save. Against the vigorous protest of Capt. A.B. Smith, he returned to the boat, entered his office amidst fire and smoke and never came out. His charred body was found in the wreckage. His home was at Sulphur Rock, Independence County.

To give an insight into Capt. Albert B. Smith's religious belief, I heard him say that no human agency could have saved Captain Gibbs, for it was decreed by Providence that he should die in just that way, and that was why his protests against Captain Gibbs' return to the boat fell on deaf ears.

The Chickasaw was wrecked in a storm, and was repaired and made into a towboat.

The Thomas P. Ray was wrecked in a furious storm, but was repaired and put back into serve.

The Dauntless was burned.

The Lady Boone was dismantled and her machinery went into the Home.

The Home was burned at Newport in August, 1886.

The Whitewater sank in the lower river.

The Duck was rebuilt and renamed the C.B. Warner.

The discovery of mountains of zinc ore on Buffalo River in Marion County and of extensive zinc and lead deposits in Baxter, Marion, and Boone counties led to the agitation for better transportation facilities for the upper river country. White River was the natural outlet for these mineral deposits, since there was no railroad within 100 miles. Pressure was brought to bear on Congress for improvements on the river to enable steamboats to navigate it all the year and carry out the ores and bring in the supplies of every kind that the country needed. Locks and dams seemed the only feasible way to provide this transportation. After the federal government engineers had made thorough investigation and had made a favorable report to Congress, recommending the project, an act was passed authorizing the construction of a system of 10 locks and dams, beginning at Batesville and ending just below the shoals at Buffalo City. This would provide slack water navigation the year around to McBee's Landing, 100 miles above, for boats drawing not more than three and one-half feet of water.

Work was begun on Lock No. 1 just below Batesville in 1901-the year of one of the worst drouths we ever had. It took nearly two years to complete it. Lock No. 2 was constructed at Earnhart's, eight miles up the river. Lock No. 3 was built just below the mouth of Lafferty's creek. When this last lock and dam was completed, there was a fine lake in White River, extending 30 miles above Batesville, and the outlook for a great future for steamboating on this beautiful river was promising indeed. But before the third dam was completed, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, seeing the freight possibilities in the mineral section I have referred to, began building the White River extension of its road from Batesville to Aurora, Mo., paralleling the river for a distance of 100 miles. Within five years the road was opened to traffic and the steamboat business on White River received a death blow.

With the passing of the steamboats, those noble and stately edifices which added so much of the glamorous and romantic to life on the river, business made a gain, but our idealism suffered a grievous loss-and we are still bereft.

On Saturday, May 18, 1907, more than 33 years ago, the last commercial steamboat to visit the port of Batesville landed just below the power house. It was the Liberty, from Alton, Ill. She left St. Louis on May 11, 1907, loaded with shoes from the Peters Shoe Company branch of the International Shoe Company, destined for their customers in north Arkansas. J. Wallace Byler, representative of the Peters Shoe Company in north Arkansas, had sold these shoes and it was the bold and original idea of Mr. Byler to make delivery of the goods by steamer, both for the saving in freight and for the advertising value to his house of shipping an entire steamboat load of shoes at one time.

The Liberty was in command of Capt. W.M. Sauvage, with Mr. Byler second in command. The pilots were Capt. Austin Joyce and Bob Walters for the Mississippi, and Capt. "Billy" Joyce and Will C. Shipp for the White River.

Several thousand people welcomed the Liberty, both at Newport and at Batesville. In fact, she received ovations at every landing during the entire trip down the Mississippi and up the White. Below Newport she was met by the Steamer Miriam and a fleet of smaller craft.

On reaching United States Lock No. 1 at Batesville, the Liberty was delayed one hour on account of not being able, because of her width, to enter the lock gates until a strip four inches thick was taken off the gunwale on the port side. The she was barely able to squeeze through the gates.

The successful working out of the scheme was a triumph for Wallace Byler, who was well known in Batesville. He was reared in Izard County and he married Miss Eugenia Butler, daughter of Judge and Mrs. J.W. Butler of Batesville. When the Liberty came into port at Batesville Mr. Byler was in full command-a distinction that he prized very highly.

The Liberty was a beautiful boat and her visit to Batesville was appreciated and enjoyed by our people. As she disappeared from view on her return trip we little realized that at least a third of a century would elapse before we saw another commercial boat in Batesville harbor.

A large, handsome steamboat coming into port, her bells jangling in the engine room, the United States flag floating gaily from the flagstaff, two long ribbons of jet-black smoke in her wake, the hurricane deck lined with passengers, exchanging noisy greetings with friends on shore, the master standing out by the big bell on the forward pilot deck, giving orders and signals to the pilot and the mate, as she pushes into the shore, is a gladsome sight, a picture to hang on memory's walls.

We call the change to trains, automobiles and airplanes progress, and it is progress. But we wonder if the people are any happier, any better, any wiser, or any more prosperous than they were when steamboats provided their relaxation, recreation and rest, and the freight and passenger service.

Those beautiful, stately boats with the musical whistles and happy deckhands are gone; the glamorous life which they imparted to White River is gone-perhaps forever.

But hold! The old pilot of the bygone years, sitting on a pile of crossties on the high bank of the river at Calico Rock, hears the familiar noise of a steamboat, laboring in the Sam's shoal, three miles below. He listens, watches, waits. Presently he seems to see the dim outlines of a boat as she comes around the bend at the lower end of Calico mountain; now she enters the long, narrow, swift channel that sets in just below the old Wolf ford. It is hard going here and it takes the boat 10 minutes to negotiate the rapid current and come out over the shoal at its head and into deep water. She is now at the lower end of Calico Rock bluff, a full mile away. Suddenly a column of white vapor pierces the air directly over the pilot house and hangs there a moment; as it disappears he hears the musical sound of the whistle; then another column of white vapor appears and is quickly snuffed out, followed by a short blast of the whistle; now a third time this white column is seen, going straight up and it lingers for several seconds; as it disappears, the long final blast of the whistle is given. It echoes, re-echoes, and reverberates through the hills and against the bluffs for a full half minute after the pilot closes the throttle. The boat is blowing for the landing at Calico Rock.

While the boat is yet half a mile away, the fireman opens the furnace doors and chucks in several rich pine knots, and almost instantly the two large smokestacks begin to pour forth volumes of dense black smoke, which trail off into two long, black lines behind the stacks; the exhaust pipes far back on the pilot deck are sending up alternately jets of steam or vapor; the master appears on the pilot deck; he is joined by several passengers; the pilot rings the deep bell and all mechanical noises on the boat cease; in a moment he rings it again and the big wheel responds with a few vigorous turns, when it is stopped again by the deep bell. Then the high or backing bell is run, the engineer reverses his engine and the big wheel turns backwards until it is silenced by the deep bell. The boat now glides in gently and eases up to the bank. Someone on board catches sight of the old pilot on shore and calls out loudly: "Hello, Captain," whereat the old pilot wakes up, rubs his eyes, looks around and remarks: "I must have been asleep." And so he had been, and in that brief nap he had lived over again some of the happy days of the past; had been through some of the happy experiences, heard some of the familiar noises, and seen some of the pleasant sights of yesterday.

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Our River---A Valuable Asset

By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Batesville, Arkansas Weekly Record, July 14, 1938.

It is a great advantage to a town or city to be located on a river. There is romance, and charm and utility in the proximity of a river, or creek or lake. It is not to be wondered at that so many of our large cities, nearly all of them in fact, and hundreds of our smaller cities and towns are located on rivers, creeks and lakes. A running stream comes in handy in a hundred ways-an abundant water supply, for man and beast, sewage disposal, cheap transportation, fishing, boating, bathing, etc. Fortunate is the town located by a riverside. Sweeping by our city of Batesville is one of the finest rivers in the United States. If the White river, with all its natural beauty-lofty mountains, overhanging bluffs, sweeping valleys, and crystal clear waters, winding its circuitous way through the Ozarks, were in a northern or eastern state, it would be exploited far and wide as a fisherman's paradise and a scenic fairyland, to say nothing of the advantages it offers for industrial and economic uses.

Clear Most of the Year

White River is a clear mountain stream, from Batesville to its source in the northwest corner of Arkansas, and most of the year it is clear as far down as the ancient city of Jacksonport. At Jacksonport, once the head of navigation for New Orleans and Memphis steamboats, and once the largest and busiest city north of Little Rock, Black River, a deep, muddy, slow-running river, empties into White river, and from there on, clear to the Mississippi, it is not a clear stream any more at any time. But the upper river, being fed by clear, cold, mountain streams, issuing from the hills and coves and caves and mountain gaps, and having for the most part sandy or gravel bottoms, is ideal for boating, fishing and bathing, and, for natural scenery, Frozen White River, January 1918 it is unsurpassed. Some fine, large tributaries empty into it, beginning with the James river in southwest Missouri; then the Buffalo River, in Marion county, Arkansas - that wild, turbulent little river that rushes down, headlong out of the Buffalo mountains; next Big North Fork, a beautiful river, one-fourth as large as White River, joins the latter at the town of Norfork, making it henceforth a large river. After it receives the Black River just above Jacksonport, it is navigable all the year for large steamboats, clear to the Mississippi. In addition to the tributaries named, there are hundreds of creeks that augment its volume, of which I name a few of the more important ones: Polk Bayou, Wolf Bayou, Lafferty's Rocky Bayou, Sylamore, Wideman, Moccasin, Crooked Creek, Little North Fork and Music.

Dams form 230-Mile Lake

The three U.S. locks and dams make of White river a beautiful, navigable lake for a distance of thirty miles above Batesville. Such a river and lake, if located in the north or east, would have excursion steamers, fishing boats, canoes galore, family launches, sail boats, bathing beaches and specially equipped fishing grounds. Many everlasting springs along the river offer inviting locations for summer homes, club houses, camping parties, etc. Many of the creeks that empty into the river are stocked with game fish. Along the shores of White river are a good many places of historic interest. Batesville itself, is a historic town, 128 years old, the home of three of Arkansas' governors; site of Arkansas College -- oldest college in the state; location of the Masonic Orphans' Home, army headquarters during the Civil War. The mouth of the Rocky bayou was the first semblance of a town ever built on White river. At the mouth of Piney bayou there was once a town of some 350 inhabitants and was the second county seat of Izard county. The town was called Athens. Mount Olive was the third county seat of Izard county. Sylamore was a live town before the Civil War. Calico Rock, famous for its wonderful calico bluff, was the most popular steamboat landing above Batesville. North Fork was the first county seat of Izard county. Here still stands the historic Wolf house, built by Major Jacob Wolf over one hundred years ago, and recently repaired and dedicated as a memorial and museum in honor of its builder. Buffalo City was one of the very earliest settlements ever made in north Arkansas. It is here the mountains and bluffs that make the river so attractive, reach their climax, culminating in the highest bluffs and the loftiest mountain on the river.

Floods Will Be Controlled

With the U.S. government getting ready to begin the construction of two ten million dollar dams-one on Buffalo river and the other on North Fork, it is confidently expected that the stage of White river will be so controlled as to provide navigation all the year from Buffalo City to Guion, where the lake, formed by the locks and dams ends. If these expectations are realized, we shall once more see beautiful and stately steamboats plying White river, as in the days of yore. White river played a monumental part in the development of North Arkansas from 1840 to 1900. For sixty years the steamboats were the only means of transportation of freight and passengers, from Batesville to the head of navigation other than dirt roads, which for certain months in the year were almost impassable. They were also the only outlets for the cotton raised in those upper river counties and for other raw materials of that section, seeking markets. The river is still here; it has as much water now as it had then; it has the same potential industrial power, and far greater need for it. It has the same scenic beauty and recreational possibilities it had then. Let us make freer use of our wonderful river, our beautiful river-its bathing, camping, fishing and excursion opportunities and possibilities. Nature has been lavish in her gift to us-prodigal in her benevolence towards us. Let us appropriate and put to practical use this munificent gift.

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Early Days On White River

Steamboat Traffic on the Upper Part of This Picturesque and Strategically Located Stream Provided an Interesting Chapter in Transportation History
By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Batesville Guard, January 9, 1941.

Did you ever take a trip on a steamboat? If not, you have missed a thrilling experience and have deprived yourself of some pleasant memories. There is romance and sentiment in a trip on the river by steamboat; there is a charm and a fascination about it that one does not experience on train or automobile. A trip on a steamboat is quiet, comfortable, restful, and if the river winds its way through mountains and hills, past precipitous bluffs and frowning cliffs, as does the White River in its upper reaches, the pleasure is enhanced a hundredfold. When one travels overland he does not usually expect quiet relaxation, either of body or mind, nor does he expect to feast his eyes on scenic beauty. But when he buys a ticket by steamboat he knows in advance that it is to be a leisurely trip, and he is prepared to enjoy the romance of it and the beauty of the ever-changing scenes.

To stand out on the pilot deck of a fine steamboat, spick and span in its whiteness and its freshness, by the side of the master, or by the big bell, or to lean against a spar or clutch a guy rope as the boat glides gracefully into port, and to exchange greetings with friends on shore gives one a very deep satisfaction and a pleasure that time does not erase.

To one with any romance in his makeup or any love for beauty, traveling by steamboat on White River cannot become tiresome or monotonous. Every mile brings a new delight. Here a stately mountain slopes back from the water's edge to its blue summit a thousand feet above; there a stupendous bluff of gray granite towers hundreds of feet high; yonder a wide bend in the river discloses a fertile valley with mountains in the background; and when a landing is made at some river town, the bustling activity of the boat's officers and crew as they unload the cargo or load on the cotton provides a new interest and a new picturesqueness.

The outstanding physical feature of the Ozark section of north Arkansas, comprising, roughly, the present counties of Independence, Izard, Stone, Baxter, Marion, and Boone, is the White River, which traverses all of the counties.

The Cherokee Indians named it the Unica River; the early French traders called it "la Rivière au Blanc," both names meaning white river, because its waters are crystal-clear the year around, from its source at the village of Boston, three miles east of Pettigrew, Madison County, in the northwest part of the state, to its confluence with the Black River, its largest tributary, in the southeastern corner of Independence County, except when muddied by heavy rains. It winds in and out among the mountains, hills and valleys through this entire distance, playing hide-and-seek with Arkansas and Missouri in its upper course, crossing the state line no less than eight times.

Flowing out of its native Madison County into Washington, then into Benton and Carroll counties, it leave Arkansas in the northwestern corner of Carroll and enters Berry County, Missouri, then into Stone and Taney counties, successively. Here it breaks over the state line and back into Arkansas, in the northeast corner of Boone County, when it quickly shuttles back and forth twice into Taney County, Missouri. It then flows back into the northeast corner of Marion County, Arkansas. Just north of the village of Peel, in Arkansas, it reluctantly leaves Arkansas for the last time and barely goes over the line into Ozark County, Missouri, and finally bidding farewell to Missouri, it returns to its native state in Marion County, and does not again leave Arkansas until it pours all its waters into the Mississippi. The distance from its mouth to Forsythe, Mo., which the United States government considered the head of navigation, is 521 miles.

The junction of White and Back Rivers occurs just above the ancient city of Jacksonport, once one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the state, but now little more than a memory, which vanished when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway Company failed to build a bridge across White River at that point.

At that point where the two rivers unite, Black River loses its identity and the combined steam is called White River from there to its two mouths. The stream, however, is seldom clear after receiving the muddy waters of the Black River.

Seventy years ago, steamboating was a highly developed and profitable industry on the upper White River from Jacksonport to Buffalo City, a distance of 126 miles. Buffalo City then was considered the head of navigation. There was no other mode of travel or traffic in all north Arkansas except by dirt roads, and at some seasons of the year these were well-nigh impassable. There was no railroad within 100 miles of north central Arkansas. Loading Cotton on the Woodson in 1897 Obviously steamboat service was of the utmost importance to that section of the Ozarks. The people had to have salt, sugar, coffee, rice, flour, molasses, furniture, hardware, bagging and ties, and it was almost out of the question to obtain these supplies by wagon over such long distances. The expense of such transportation was well-nigh prohibitive.

But all the needed supplies could be brought up by river to the upper country at very low cost. A single large steamboat from Memphis or New Orleans could bring up 1,000 barrels of salt at a time-enough to supply the whole section for a year, at a fraction of a cent a pound; whereas, it would take a wagon at least two weeks to make the round trip to Little Rock, the nearest railroad, and it could have carried only 10 barrels.

There was pressing need also for transportation of the products of this section to the markets: cotton, cottonseed, corn, wheat, livestock, hides, furs, eggs, lime and minerals, and also for transportation of the traveling public. The steamboats accommodated a two-way traffic.

The first steamboat that ever came into the port of Batesville was the Waverly, Capt. Philip Pennywit, master. This historic event fell on January 4, 1831. Batesville was a substantial town of Arkansas Territory at the time, second only to Little Rock in size. Many of the men whose names were to figure prominently in the making of Arkansas history were living in Batesville at the time, and doubtless they joined the crowd which thronged the river's bank to look at the strange contraption in the river. Few people in north Arkansas had ever seen a steamboat before, and it was a great treat to the whole community to have such a visitation. We can well imagine the riverbank lined with men and women, boys and girls-the Beans, the Ringgolds, Nolands, Dickinsons, Searcys, Millers, and others-viewing with wonder this epoch-making visitor from the Mississippi.

Captain Pennywit's visit occurred only 2 years after Fulton's Clermont, the first steamboat made its famous trip from New York to Albany, and only 19 years after the first steamboat, the New Orleans, entered the Mississippi.

During the period from 1831 to 1840 steamboating on the White River went through an experimental stage. Until the Waverly landed at Batesville it was not known whether White River could be successfully navigated. Even then, little was known about the boating stages of the river during the summer and fall, and nothing was known about the navigability of the upper river. But throughout the 1830's, more and more boats were making trips to Batesville, and daring masters and pilots were venturing further and further up the river until they had reached Buffalo City, nearly 400 miles from the river's mouth. It was then they realized that the White was one of the finest rivers of the country for steamboating. The great steamers of the Mississippi could, at any time, come up the full length of the river to Jacksonport, 37 miles below Batesville and 264 miles from the Mississippi, and for half the year they could navigate it to Buffalo City, 130 miles above Jacksonport.

The period from the 1830's to the Civil War was one of great activity and progress for the entire upper river section. Land was being cleared, towns were springing up, counties were being organized and county seats were being established. As the primitive stage of pioneering began to pass and more settled and stabilized conditions were ushered in, the needs of the people for goods, agricultural implements, machinery, especially mill and gin machinery, wagons, tools, furniture, bagging and ties, sugar, molasses, flour, rice, coffee, and a hundred other things, became very urgent. The need was met by the steamboats, bringing in freight from St. Louis, Cincinnati, Memphis and New Orleans and discharging their cargoes at such towns as Batesville, Wild Haws, Sylamore, Athens, Mount Olive, Calico Rock, North Fork, and Buffalo City. On their return trips, the boats brought down cotton, cottonseed, corn, wheat, oats, hides, furs, eggs, and livestock for the city markets.

Throughout this early period, only large Mississippi riverboats plied the trade on the White, and in the late summer and fall months they could not navigate the upper river because of shallow water. As a result, in the middle 1850's boat builders began to construct vessels of lighter machinery and lighter draft, designed especially for low water navigation. The large boats then came up as far as Jacksonport, the dividing point between the upper and the lower river, where they transferred to the lighter draft boats all freight consigned to upper river points.

During the winter and early spring the large New Orleans and Memphis boats would dash in occasionally and go as far up as Buffalo City, but the bulk of the trade was carried by the White River boats.

By 1855 the arrival of a steamboat at Jacksonport had ceased to be an event. There frequently were five or six steamboats in port there at one time. And in Batesville it was not unusual for more than one boat to land during the course of a day. I note in a newspaper published in April 1858, that the Thomas P. Ray of Jacksonport, the Eve from Cincinnati, and the Persia from New Orleans all arrived at Batesville on April 9.

Prior to the Civil War steamboats charged the following rates on freight from Memphis:

Salt (to Jacksonport), 50 cents per sack; flour, 50 cents per barrel; sofas, $.50; cotton gins, $8; fanning mills (for wheat) $4; pianos, $8; bedsteads, $2; buggies $5; carriages, $7; passengers Memphis to Des Arc, $5; Memphis to Batesville, $10.

Occasionally the masters of the boats grew uncommonly generous towards shippers. In 1869 Capt. J. Floyd Smith of the Malta, brought a cargo of freight from Jacksonport to Batesville and shocked local merchants no end by making no charge at all for the service.

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River Traffic Revived After the Civil War

By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard, January 18, 1941.

During the Civil War and immediately following, practically all traffic on White River was abandoned. The North had enforced the policy of suspending all trade on the Mississippi and its southern tributaries, except that which was carried on by the federal government or with its consent.

When the war ended, the upper river country was in ruins. The pioneers who had ventured into that wilderness, cleared the land, built homes and established law and order, had been ruined. Many had been killed, and all had lost practically everything they owned except their farms. Such flourishing towns as Athens, Mount Olive, Sylamore, Calico Rock and North Fork were all but deserted. Farms had grown up in briars and sprout. There was no money in the country to buy the things so badly needed; hence there was no inducement for the boats to resume their trade.

By 1873, after the country had enjoyed several good crop years and cotton had been sold at profitable prices to buyers in the North, the country was well on the way to recovery. Once again there was a large demand for household goods, sugar, coffee, rice, molasses, furniture, bagging and ties, and many other things which only the steamboats could bring in, and once again cotton, oats, wheat and other produce was hauled south by the boats on their return trips. During the next 30 years the steamboats enjoyed their golden age. Many magnificent boats plied the trade, doing a successful and prosperous business until the early years of the twentieth century, when all river traffic by steamboat came to an end.

When the Iron Mountain railroad was built through Arkansas from St. Louis to Little Rock in 1873, the steamboat business between Memphis and the lower river towns fell off enormously. Upper river boats, hitherto connecting at Jacksonport with the Mississippi steamboats, now began turning their cargoes over to the Iron Mountain at Newport because of the quicker and more convenient delivery. But while the lower river suffered a heavy decline, the upper river was not affected. This situation continued until 1883, when the Iron Mountain extended a branch of its road from Newport to Batesville, which all but killed steamboating between these two towns. After this extension was built, the upper river boats no longer carried their freight to Newport, but delivered it to the railroad at Batesville. Near the station at Batesville the railroad built a freight elevator through which all river freight, both incoming and outgoing, passed.

For nearly 20 years after the building of the Newport-Batesville railroad, the steamboats flourished on the upper river between Buffalo City and Batesville; in fact, until the construction of the White River line from Batesville to Aurora, Mo., they were an important and picturesque part of the life of the White River valley.

Many large and fine boats plied the river in the early days-mostly from Memphis and New Orleans, and they were veritable floating palaces. Including the pilot houses, they were four stories high.

First there was the boiler deck, on which the machinery as installed, and on which most of the freight was carried. Above this was the hurricane deck, where the cabins, offices, dining room, bar, cook's pantry and storage rooms for the boat's supplies were located. Next above the hurricane deck was the Texas deck, supporting the staterooms, where the officers and passengers had quarters. This section was called the "Texas". On top of the Texas was the pilot house, from which vantage point the pilot steered the vessel by means of the pilot wheel, connected with the rudder by wire tiller ropes.

The builders of these early steamboats employed three cardinal Masonic virtues: wisdom, strength, and beauty-wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn, for their boats were wisely planned, strongly built, and beautifully finished. No expense was spared to provide for the comfort and convenience and safety of the passengers. Each stateroom was provided with two large cork life preservers for the use of passengers in case they had to take to the water. In later years the three virtues mentioned were all but sacrificed in the futile effort to build boats that would run in shallow water. To be sure, they could build short, narrow boats that, when launched, would draw only a foot of water, but when the machinery was installed and a load of freight added, they sank deeper in the water than the long, wide boats. To illustrate, the Albert No. 2 was the lightest raft boat I ever saw on the upper river, yet she was one of the largest. Fifty tons of freight distributed about on her lower deck made little difference in her draft, whereas a small boat would have shown a very decided settling.

Properly equipped steamboats were provided with spars to push them off the mud banks and sand and gravel bars they might run into. They were also provided with capstans and large stageplanks, placed out on the forecastle of the boiler deck. The capstan is used to manipulate the heavy stage-plank and to pull the boat over shoals and reefs.

The famous steam whistles forever linked in memory with the boats were stationed above the roof of the pilot house. They usually had three prongs, each prong keyed to a different tone, and were very musical, attracting almost as much attention as all the rest of the boat. If at Josie Harry had a five-prong whistle that could be heard, so it is said, 50 miles.

A feature that made steamboat traveling very popular and the boats themselves centers of attraction in those days was the bar, where retail drinks were dispensed to passengers suffering from thirst, acute or chronic, or both, and to drouth-stricken natives assembled at various landings. There were (and still are) a good many snakes-water moccasins-along the river, and they were very poisonous; while back from the river, in the rocky hillsides, there were rattlesnakes and copperheads. It was true that folks were seldom bitten by these venomous reptiles, yet one never knew when a snake was going to bite him; hence, to be in a state of preparedness for such a terrifying contingency by having an ample supply of snake-bite antidote at hand was the part of wisdom and foresight. From time immemorial doctors have prescribed whiskey, in liberal doses, as an infallible remedy for snake-bite. Moreover, they have held to the theory that if a good and useful citizen were pretty well tanked up, he would be practically immune to the poisonous venom of all kinds of snakes; that if a snake strikes him while he is in that happy state, the bite will be null and void and of no effect. Hence, it turned out that quite a large percentage of the citizens who came ostensibly to see the steamboats or buy a barrel of salt, really came to lay in a supply of snake-bite remedy at the steamboat's bar, with a view to keeping themselves in a state of perpetual immunity in anticipation of being struck by a moccasin or copperhead-a precautionary measure, a "stitch in time", you might say. Forward-looking men, those sturdy pioneers!

If the boat was going to land, it gave three blasts from the whistle, while yet a half mile or three-quarters away-one fairly long blast, one short one, and then a long-drawn-out one. I think this custom was changed in later years to four blasts; one long, two short, then a very long one. When it was ready to depart, two or three taps of the bell out in front of the pilot house warned everybody who did not belong on board to get off; likewise it was a warning to passengers loafing on shore to get aboard.

The first steamboat I remember seeing was the Malta, a small side-wheeler. I was three years old and my comment was that it was "a wagon in the river." The first boat I was ever on was the Argus, when I was four years old. She was landed at Calico Rock, and my father took the whole family across the river from the farm hard by to see the boat. I had heard that steamboats sold pineapples. I was familiar with pine trees, but had never seen the fruit that grew on them. I soon escaped the vigilance of my parents and was found 15 minutes later in the engine room, inquiring for pineapples.

Lingering in my memory is the refreshing wholesome odor of the early steamboats. I like the smell of a steamboat; it is a smelly place. The dining room with its rich furnishings and decorations and its superb service contributed its full share of delightful, hunger-exciting odors. In front of the dining room was the office on one side of the hall and the bar on the other side. Stocks of good-smelling candy, apples, oranges, lemons, pineapples, raisins, and figs were kept for sale in the office, while over on the opposite side of the hall, the preparation of eggnog, mint juleps, rock and rye, cocktails, sour toddies and other mixed and fancy drinks involving the use of sugar, rock candy, lemons, whiskey, water (not very much), nutmegs and other spices produced a sugary, spicy odor that kept the olfactory nerves worked up to a very pleasant and agreeable state.

I like the smell of a steamboat.

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River Boats, Owners, and Captains

By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard, January 25, 1941.

Old newspaper records indicate that the boats named below operated on White River mainly below Jacksonport, but made frequent trips to the upper river prior to 1870. Some of them ran regularly to the head of navigation.

Thomas P. Ray, Captain Maffit, master, had the distinction of being the first boat to go as far up as the mouth of the James River in Missouri, H.C. Shipp being the pilot. The only other boat to go that far up was the Batesville , piloted by Capt. Ed. B. Warner.

In the middle 50's the Julia, Frank Hicks, master; the North Star , Jacob Hazelip, master, were in the trade. In 1857 the Jesse Lozear and the J. Morrissett were making regular trips from Batesville to Napoleon, at the mouth of the Arkansas.

In 1858 a United States mail line was established between Memphis and Batesville. The steamers Kate Frisby and the Langley left Memphis on Mondays and Fridays for Napoleon, at the mouth of the Arkansas River, where they made connection with the Sam Hale and Fortune for White River and Batesville.

The Sam Hale, J.D. Adams, master, and the W.H. Langley, D.B. Price, master, made special concessions to the liquor dealers in Batesville, cutting the price to $1.25 per barrel from Memphis to Batesville. This indicates there was a lively trade in whiskey at that time. The inhabitants of Batesville might have been reduced to dire extremities but for the aforementioned concessions, coupled with the watchfulness of her enterprising merchants in keeping adequate supplies of wet goods on hand. On March 31, 1857, Burr & Co., Batesville merchants, announced through the Independent Balance, a weekly newspaper, that they had just received by the steamers Sam Hale and Atlanta, 150 barrels (7,500 gallons) of whiskey, and somewhat later, Henry C. Smith announced through the same paper that he had just received 100 barrels (5,000 gallons) "of high-grade whiskey". Such heavy imports of whiskey, together with the stocks carried by local saloon keepers, of whom there were several, showed remarkable solicitude for the comfort and wellbeing of Batesville's 1,500 inhabitants, of whom at least 1,000 were children and women!

The Daniel Boone and A.S. Hancock brought freight from Memphis and New Orleans in 1856. The Return, Joe Riley, master, and the W.M. Lawrence were in the trade early in 1858. The Lawrence, on her maiden trip, brought up the furniture for the new Masonic hall. The Fortune, M.M. Batesman, master, and the John Briggs also were in the trade. In the winter of 1858, the Europa and the Audubon entered the trade. The Oakland was bought and brought here by local interests in January 1859, because of light draft, to run from Batesville to Buffalo City. In February 1859, the City of Knoxville, the Nebraska, and the Monongahela Belle were running from Jacksonport. In this same year, the Monongahela Belle, one of the finest boats on western waters, was destroyed 12 miles below Baton Rouge. She had 400 passengers on board when four of her boilers exploded, killing and drowning 200 passengers. It was one of the worst and most destructive disasters that ever occurred on western rivers. The fact that she was carrying 400 passengers attests the popularity and extent of steamboat travel in the years of its highest development.

About 1860 the Hard Cash, Bedford, Belle of Ottawa, Wild Boy, Titania, Arkansas, Reuben Hayes, and Harriet M. were operating on White River.

During the period of the Civil War, steamboating on the river was all but dead. It revived in 1866, and from that year to 1870 the J.S. McCone, Justice, Centralia, Des Arc, Petrolia, J.R. Hoyle, Zouave, Fairy Queen, Lena, Harry Dean, Claremont, A.F. Brooks, Norman, G.W. Brooks, Liberty No. 2, Malta, John B. Davis, Tempest, Lilly, Laura, Argus, Trader, and John D. Perry were in the trade more or less regularly.

On July 20, 1866, the J.S. McCone arrived at Batesville with a large amount of freight for federal troops stationed there. And this in midsummer, when the river is supposed to be well below steamboating stage. But in 1877 the Alberta made regular trips from Batesville to Newport and back three times a week, carrying the mail. This showed the feasibility of all-the-year navigation.

Beginning with 1868, I remember seeing the following steamboats operating on White River:

Malta, J. Floyd Smith, owner and master.
Music, W.J. Andrews, master.
Agnes, owner unknown.
Laura, owner unknown.
Batesville, J.O. Randall, owner; A.B. Smith, master.
Alberta, A.B. Smith, owner and master.
Argus, Thomas Cox, owner; W.C. Shipp, master.
Arch P. Green, C.B. Woodbury, owner and master.
Whitewater, C.B. Woodbury, owner and master.
Jennie Stinson, Pete Bach, owner; sold to J.T. Warner.
Trader, Pete Bach, owner, dismantled and named Jennie Stinson.
Cora Belle, Fred Inman, owner and master.
Jessie, owner unknown.
Duck, John T. Warner, owner and master.
Alberta No. 2 and Alberta No. 3, A.B. Smith, owner and master.
Chickasaw, Ed. C. Postal, owner and master.
Cherokee, P.J. O'Reilley, owner and master.
Winnie, A.B. Smith, master.
Ralph, W.C. Shipp, master.
Pond, Pond-Decker Manufacturing Company, owners.
Lady Boone, T.B. Stallings, owner and master.
Home, T.B. Stallings, owner and master.
Lady Baxter, Abe C. Cornell, owner and master.
C.B. Warner, John T. Warner, owner and master.
Tom Hess, John T. Warner, owner and master.
De Smet, Milt Harry, owner and master.
Josie Harry, Milt Harry, owner and master.
Milt Harry, Pete McArthur and Co., owners; Milt Harry, master.
Tompkins, A.B. Smith, owner and master.
John F. Allen, C.B Woodbury, owner and master.
Governor Eagle, C.B. Woodbury, owner and master.
Woodson, C.B. Woodbury, lessee and master.
Ozark Queen, C.B. Woodbury, owner and master.
Dauntless, W.T. Warner, owner and master.
Ralph B. Warner, John T. Warner, owner and master.
A.D. Allen, Ed. Botchford, owner.
Huff, Mount Olive Stave Company, owners.
Tycoon, Western Tie and Timber Company, owners.
Cleveland, Quapaw, Picayune and Stallings, United States government boats.

The foregoing list is not quite complete, as I have forgotten the names of some few of the boats that were in the trade from 1878 to 1883, and perhaps a few later boats that made irregular trips.

Capt. Albert B. Smith was perhaps the most popular and successful steamboatman known to the upper river trade. He was a genial, affable, joke-loving man. He died at Newport 50 years ago. He owned and operated the Batesville, Alberta, Alberta No. 2, Alberta No. 3, the Tompkins, and Winnie.

Capt. Charles B. Woodbury owned the Arch P. Green, Whitewater, John F. Allen, Governor Eagle, and Ozark Queen, besides operating the Woodson , a leased boat.

Capt. Milt Harry and associates owned and operated the following boats on White River: Bannock City, Argosa, Commercial, Liberty No. 2, Rowana, Quickstep, Ruth, City of Augusta, G.W. Cheek, Legal Tender, Ella, Milt Harry, and Josie Harry.

The Josie Harry was built at Pittsburgh at a cost of $55,000. Her cabins were carpeted in silk velvet at a cost of $11 a yard. She carried the first electric lighting system ever used on the river. Her bell weighed 1,800 pounds and the clapper 110 pounds. The whistle was a group of five prongs and could be heard, so its owner said, 50 miles! She was the most beautiful steamboat the writer ever saw. In 1893 she was destroyed by fire 16 miles below Memphis. She was insured for $35,000.

The total number of steamboats in the upper White River trade was well over 100. Nearly that many names can be found in the list above. If they could be assembled for a grand parade on the river today, hundreds of thousands of onlookers would throng the banks to view the spectacle. What an array of boats they would be! Their gross cost would total not far from $2,000,000. And if they passed at short intervals of 50 yards, the procession would be over five miles long!

I did not know personally very many of the pilots on White River. I was acquainted with Capt. Will C. Shipp and his brothers Hardin C. and John C. Shipp; Albert, son of Hardin C.; Capt. John T. Warner and his brothers, Ed. B. and Will; Jess Daugherty, Capt. Albert Cravens, Charlie Engles, Capt. "Billy" Joyce, Capt. Ed. C. Postal, Capt. T.B. Stallings, Joe Ruminer, Dick Prater, Si Daugherty and C.O. Teter.

Capt. Will C. Shipp, the Nestor of White River pilots, began his career by piloting keelboats, the forerunners of steamboats. He was reared on the upper river and followed the river trade as master and pilot all his adult life. He knew my parents well, and in order to please the children of the family, he always blew the whistle of his steamboat for Calico Rock landing when the boat was exactly opposite our home, which was one mile below the landing, and on the opposite side of the river. His example was soon followed by other pilots, and in due time all boats blew the whistle for Calico Rock when they reached the extreme lower end of Calico Rock bluff.

It used to be facetiously said of Captain Shipp, as indicating his thorough knowledge of the river, that if one should break off a small limb from a tree anywhere along its banks and show it to him, he could identify it at once and tell where it came from. In his long life he spanned the entire history of steamboating on White River, its beginnings, its rise and its decline, from 1835 to 1905-a space of 70 years. He was well known in every town from Forsythe, Mo., to the mouth of White River, and almost as well known in St. Louis, Cairo, Memphis, Helena, Vicksburg, and New Orleans.

Next to Captain Shipp, Captain John T. Warner had the longest record of service as pilot on White River. First and last he owned four or five boats and served as master and pilot on a dozen more. In addition to his long service on White River, he served many years, both as master and pilot, on Black River. He was mayor of Batesville for several years.

Capt. Ed. B. Warner, who lives in Memphis, was reared in Batesville and piloted many White River boats. He was considered the most brilliant pilot on the river, as well as the most daring, when he was a young man. He had such complete confidence in himself that he would take chances on dark nights and on dangerous stretches of river, and come through safely, where other pilots would decline the risk. I heard Capt. Tom Stallings relate how he saw Captain Ed pilot his boat down through the famous Buffalo Shoals, noted for its swift and tortuous channels, shallow waters and dangerous boulders, one night when it was dark as pitch, yet he never scraped the bottom nor touched a boulder. In 1878 he was the youngest licensed pilot on the river.

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Shoals, Captains and Crews

By John Q. Wolf
Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard, February 13, 1941.

It seems incredible that a boat drawing say, three feet of water, can be literally “jumped” over a shoal where the water is only two and a half feet deep, but such is the actual fact. I have witnessed it several times. The first time was at Wolf Bayou, 16 miles above Batesville. The steamboat Home was heavily loaded and ran aground in this swift shoal. Captain Stallings ordered the mate to lay a line to a tree some 350 feet up the river. With the other end of this cable around the capstan, the steam was turned on and the cable was wound around the capstan until it was very taut—almost to the breaking point. In the meantime the pilot had slow-belled the engine, so that the big stern wheel was turning forward very slowly, keeping the water pulled from under the boat as she lay hard on the bottom. Then the pilot rang the stopping bell and immediately rang the backing bell; the engineer reversed his engine and quickly backed with all his power. The result of these maneuvers was that the backing of the wheel forced a great volume of water under the boat, lifting her clear of the bottom, at which time the tautness of the cable literally “jerked” her forward several feet; the slack in the cable was quickly taken up to hold what had been gained, and the performance was repeated as often as necessary to clear the reef. Verily, there are tricks in all trades.

Capt. Albert Cravens, retired pilot, was once coming down the river above Buffalo City with two companions in a canoe when the river was almost out of banks. The three men considered themselves in luck when they spied the Lady Boone, Capt. T.B. Stallings, master, coming up and meeting them. They signaled the pilot that they wished to be taken on board. The pilot promptly gave them a favorable response with three short blasts from the boat’s whistle. The mate gave the deckhands hurried instructions to stand by and to seize the men in the canoe as soon as they came within reach. The current was very swift and the canoe was bearing down on the steamboat rapidly; there was no time for planning. The Lady Boone was a square-bowed boat, like a ferryboat, and this made it difficult and dangerous to take passengers off a canoe in midstream with the river at flood stage. Captain Cravens was seated in the stern of the canoe, steering. His two companions were crouching in the bow, ready to leap aboard the steamer with the assistance of the deckhands. When the canoe was within three feet of the steamboat, they reached forth their hands and were seized by the deckhands and yanked safely aboard. At the same instant, the bow of the canoe was sucked under the square bow of the Boone while the stern was thrust high in the air, catapulting Captain Cravens into the river, just about the center of the steamer’s bow. He was instantly sucked under the boat and felt himself bumping up against the bottom as the swift current rushed him along on his 95-foot submarine journey. In a moment he heard the paddles of the wheel at the boat’s stern and knew he would be killed by them unless he managed to get clear of the wheel. To use one’s head in such a critical time as that would be expecting almost too much, but that is precisely what Captain Cravens did; he dived down, down it seemed to him 50 feet, as he stated afterwards; he heard the wheel pass directly over him and knew he was safe. By this time his breath was about gone and he swam desperately for the surface, coming up right in the midst of the big waves that follow in the wake of a steamboat, spouting water like a whale, and struck out for the shore. He seized the overhanging limb of a willow tree and clung to it until a yawl and two men from the Boone rescued him. It was a terrifying experience, and not one man in 50 would have had the presence of mind to think of diving to get away from the wheel.

Captain Cravens died in the Confederate Home at Little Rock several years ago.

Captain Albert B. Smith was the first master to risk his boat, the Batesville, above Forsythe, Mo. Capt. Will Shipp steered her to the mouth of Bull Creek, 16 miles above Forsythe, in 1876, and brought out 2,000 bushels of wheat.

The first boat to venture above this point was theThomas P. Ray, when Hardin C. Shipp piloted the vessel to the mouth of the James River in Stone County, Missouri. Later, young E.B. Warner steered the Batesville to the mouth of the James.

Capt. Tom Stallings took his boat, the Lady Boone, four miles up the Buffalo River and brought her out safely. This was the first attempt to navigate that dangerous mountain stream, full of boulders small and great, but Capt. Will Warner eclipsed that record by steering his boat, the Dauntless, up Buffalo River 12 miles, carrying a large shipment of machinery for one of the zinc mining companies near the mouth of Rush Creek. This record probably will stand for all time.

To the folks living along and adjacent to the river, the coming of a steamboat was a noteworthy event. Warned of its coming by the loud whistle while the boat was yet many miles away, people would flock to the river towns and other landing places well in advance of its arrival. Farmers would often bring their whole families to Calico Rock, the most popular landing on the upper river, to see the boat. They were permitted to roam all over and see its novel equipment: the great wheel, the motive power that turned it, the boilers that generated the steam, the decks, the dining room, the pilot house, the whistle, the big bell; and then to watch the unloading of the cotton, to see the deckhands, the engineer with his greasy clothes, the fireman feeding the furnace with pine knots, and a hundred other interesting features. The educational value of such a tour of inspection to children and young people, and the sight of this majestic structure, certainly a masterpiece of man’s handiwork, was well worth the farmer’s loss of time and the expense involved.

Most of the people living along White River had never been more than 30 miles from their birthplaces and knew only vaguely of the luxuries of metropolitan life. Their world was a crude one of log cabins, split-log seats, homemade clothes. Their one glimpse of the world of riches and ease—New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Cincinnati—was obtained when the boats from these cities steamed up the river, bringing with them romance and grandeur and mystery.

Even in the large river towns where the steamboats were a common sight, they never failed to win attention or to create excitement. The newspapers of the 1870’s bear witness to this fact. For example, the Batesville Republican of December 17, 1873, reports: “The Steamer Mary Miller from New Orleans arrived Monday night. The young folks had a dance on her last night and are in ecstasies over the generous treatment of the officers to them. She leaves today for New Orleans.” This is one of three similar notices in the same issue of the Republican.

The officers of a steamboat are the master, pilot, engineer, clerk, and mate. Of course there are a second pilot, second engineer, and a “mud” clerk, and in addition the head fireman and his assistant, the steward, the cook, the night watchman, and the cabin boys.

The master is the executive officer of the boat; he is in command; he hires and fires; he is usually, but not always, the owner of the boat. When the boat is running he is not much in evidence, but when a landing is about to be made, he is always seen out in front, on the hurricane deck, giving signals to the pilot and the mate. Landing a steamboat is a delicate operation, especially if the shore is rocky or rough or a strong wind is blowing. A steamboat cannot be jerked about as a railroad engineer jerks and bumps his train; the boat must come in to the shore slowly, cautiously, and must hit the bank gently.

The pilot is about as important a person on a boat as is the master. Sometimes he is more so. When he is at the wheel he is supreme. Even the master of the vessel may not give him orders about the navigation of the boat. When the pilot decides the night is too dark, or the fog too thick, or the wind too strong to navigate safely, and gives orders to tie up, there is nothing the master can do about it but to acquiesce. The office of pilot is one of great responsibility. The pilot must not be nervous or excitable—must not lose his head, and he must stay at his post of duty, the wheel, even though the boat be on fire from end to end, until he effects a landing or grounds his vessel. Also, if the boat be sinking, he must stay by the wheel until the waters are surging about him. Moreover, a pilot must know the river—every shoal and reef, every submerged boulder and snag, every tow-head, every band and point. In high water he must be familiar with the currents and know how close in shore he can safely steer his vessel. In going upstream in high water he must shun the middle of the river, where the current is swift and strong; consequently, he is constantly shifting the boat’s position, first crossing to one side, then to the other, to get in the lee of a point or an island and away from the swift currents.

To know how to manipulate and steer a boat is but a small part of the pilot’s equipment. To know the river and to know how to take advantage of its currents at its different stages, and to know what his boat will do under varying conditions—these go to make up the major parts of his qualifications.

The pilots on White River were required to go to Memphis to be examined for pilot’s license. They were examined as to ability to maneuver a boat, familiarity with and understanding of the signals to the engineer, and to pilots of other vessels in passing them. They were tested as to colorblindness with various lights. Many serious accidents have occurred on the water because pilots were not able to distinguish the color of lights on other vessels.

The pilot must be familiar with the United States regulations as to navigation in fogs and murky weather and with signals to be exchanged with passing vessels and those crossing each other’s bow. These signals are given with the whistles of the respective boats, and they must be understood and responded to by the pilots before they can proceed so as to avoid accidents.

The pilot and engineer navigate the boat, the former occupying the loftiest perch on the vessel—the pilot house, on top of the uppermost deck, where he can see up and down the river and both sides, while the engineer occupies the lowest quarters—the engine room, in the hull, at the stern of the vessel. Pilot and engineer communicate with each other mainly by bells, which are just over the engineer’s head and are connected with the pilot house by small wires. There is a deep bell and a high bell. The deep bell is known as the “come-ahead and stopping bell,” while the high one is the slow and backing bell. When all is in readiness for the boat to start, the pilot rings the come-ahead bell. The engineer turns on the steam and the boat moves off. When this bell rings again, the engineer shuts off the steam. When the pilot wishes to back up when the boat is going ahead, he first rings the deep bell to stop the engines, then he rings the high one for her to back. She keeps on backing until the pilot rings the deep bell again. If the boat is lying still and the pilot wants to back, he rings only the high bell. Sometimes the pilot rings the “come-ahead” bell and immediately rings the high bell; this means to come ahead gently. There is also a speaking tube running from the engine room to pilot house, through which pilot and engineer can communicate should anything go wrong with the bells.

Engineers also go to Memphis to be examined for license. Both engineer and pilot may have their license renewed without making this trip.

The mate has charge of and directs the work of the deck hands in loading and unloading the cargo. He must be familiar with the various landings, so that in loading on the miscellaneous freight for upriver points, he can store it according to the landings, putting that which is consigned to points farthest up the river as far back on the boiler deck as possible, while that which is to be put off at nearer landings is stored well up front. This method of handling makes for efficiency in unloading.

One of the outstanding qualifications of the mates in those early days was the ability to “cuss” fluently. After the mate got the freight all stored properly and the boat started on her voyage, he had little to do while the boat was running, so he spent most of his time with the deck hands, spinning yarns for their entertainment or playing seven-up with them.

But the minute the boat landed—even before it landed—he became a dynamo of energy, rushing out on the forecastle, blustering and cursing and storming at the men furiously, calling them all sorts of vile names, some of which reflected on their maternal ancestors. However, the men did not take seriously his violent profanity, for they knew it was mostly stageplay for the benefit of the passengers and the visitors who were grouped along the shore, watching the boat come in. In fact, the deckhands rather approved of the mate’s boisterous exhibitions, for they knew that he was a kind-hearted fellow and that he didn’t mean anything personal by his lurid outbreaks.

The clerk was a very busy person, as he had to check on every item of freight, make out his “manifest” or list of all the freight and where it was to be put off, and then check it off as the vessel arrived at the various landings. Likewise, he checked on all freight on the downward trip, showing its destination on his manifest.

Once while I was clerk on the Steamer Home, we left Batesville for the upper river with a rather heavy list of freight, about 9 o’clock at night, and I began at once to make out my manifest, seated on a high stool at the office desk. About 2 a.m. I dropped my head forward in my hands on the desk for a brief respite. An hour later I was awakened by a thousand pains darting hither and thither in my head, and every bone in it protesting vigorously. I had gone to sleep, had relaxed and had let my head drop down until the whole weight of it rested on the end of my nose, which was flattened out on the desk before me like a pancake.

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