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*No. 1 Memoirs of John C. Howard*

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Old 03-08-2013, 03:51 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573
Default *No. 1 Memoirs of John C. Howard*

Steamboating colleagues:
The 'Reminiscences' of John C. Howard were begun in the year 1903/1904 in his advancing years. His own style and idom typical of the era and his youth. Herein I will type excerpts from this fascinating manuscript being as crisp, clear as when he either wrote or dictated. [* Indicates possible side comments.]
* * * * * * * * * *

"My first trip down the Mississippi was in the summer of 1854. I went to Memphis on the FANNY BULLITT, on a collecting tour, reaching there about ten o' clock at night. [*Collecting tour probably to settle financial accounts with the yard at home.] Just as I entered the hotel, two men were fighting in the lobby; one man was cut across the abdomen with a bowie knife, letting out his bowels and killing him. This happened right before my eyes as I was walking up to the office.

"The next morning, on my way to the dining room, I bought a paper, and the first thing I saw was large headlines, announcing Cholera was declared epidemic in the city. I had to stay there a week, then took passage on the NATIONAL for St. Louis, with a very light trip of freight and passengers.

"On the way to St. Louis there were eight deaths from Cholera, and having no suitable lumber aboard for coffins, we tore up the dunnage in the hold to make them. We buried them on the shore, always being particular to get above high water mark, but not at all particular about the depth under ground. It was a trip never to be forgotten, and a very great relief to reach St. Louis, where there was but little Cholera at that time. These Cholera epidemics were dreadful, and those living at the present time, 1903, cannot begin to realize the horrors of the situation.

"I have seen a great deal of Cholera--was an apprentice in Cincinnati during the epidemic of 1849-'49 and worked all the time. In the summer of 1855, I had a very severe spell of sickness, and afterwards brain fever [*Possibly Menningitis]. On two occassions during this illness, they sent for Jim and Uncle Billy Lackey to see me die, but such was not the case and here I am yet.

"This [*Possibbly meaning 'that'] summer we built a boat, THE CARRIER, at 200 feet long, 33 foot beam, 6 feet hold, for Captain Draffin, a particular friend of mine, and to recuperate from this illness, I went to St. Louis on his boat, and from St. Louis for the Missouri River, and at that time the river was alive with steamboats and business at its very best. I made a hand and helped to receive the freight at St. Louis. We took 300 tons and got $2.50 per hundred for ererything that went ashore above St. Joe. About October 1st, we started for Council Bluffs, at that time considered about out of the world. We ran only in the day time, taking a gang of wood choppers who chopped wood all night to run the boat the next day. The river was low and sometimes in drift piles we got good dry wood. This was the most remarkable trip I ever made. Council Bluffs was then considered the head of navigation for steamboats, but afterwards they went 2,000 miles further up the river.

"The present Kansas City, under the hill, was then a good shipping point, and I well remember a remark made while there, that "They were going to build a city up on the hill." The boat was crowded with passengers, most of them Mormons on their way to Utah. They left the boat with their wagons and plunder [*Term for baggage/equipment] at St. Joe, and then took across the plains, at that time a hard and uncertain trip. I felt sorry for the women and children when they left the boat. On the return the first day after leaving Council Bluffs, we backed into the bank, injuring the stern post, but patched it up and went on. We were gone from St. Louis 32 days and had to dock the boat to repair the stern post, a cost of $1,650 and then came jout $5,200ahead on the trip. The whole cost of the boat was $34,000. We should have made the trip in 14 days. That is the way boats made money in those days." TO BE CONTINUED.

R. Dale Flick
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati
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