[ Future of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co Boats ]

Date: January 12, 2003 at 11:38:20
From: R. Dale Flick
Subject: Capt. Mary B. Greene in the cabin of the Str. GORDON C. GREENE Part II

Mary & Gordon married and settled down aboard the Str. H.K. BEDFORD, fall 1890. [*This hands on live-aboard approach to Greene management would continue for their entire married life. Such management style--called MBWA in the GM Corp.--guaranteed a guiding hand and keen eye on boat operations, cargo, finances, crew and the main cabin and 'cook house' expenses. Gordon & Mary did have homes ashore but spent a great deal of the year aboard one or the other of their boats. A legend persisted here in Cincinnati until around 1970 that the Greenes still "lived aboard the DELTA QUEEN entirely."]

Part II - Early Growth & Family.

Capt. Greene soon increased his business to a point where another boat was needed to accommodate the growing trade. The ARGAND, a 150 ft. steamer, was built and put in charge of Capt. Flesher for the Wheeling-Parkersburg run. Competition was stiff; the ARGAND was unable to make money. Mary Greene, who had earned her Pilot/Master's papers in 1892, persuaded her husband to let her take command of the ARGAND in 1897. This 'Petticoat-Skipper' made her first round trip from Wheeling to Parkersburg.

Speed and comfort were essential to a successful packet service and these Capt. Mary provided by having her deck hands ready to unload cargo before the boat landed, and by offering the best food on the river, combined with clean cabins and skillful navigation. During this period, the Ohio River country had just passed out of the backwoods stage, and the inhabitants were inclined to be somewhat crude and rough in manners. Some steamboats carried an unsavory reputation. However, the steamboat with the lady commander had an air of refinement which many boats did not possess and this helped to build up a large following of the better class of travelers and business men. Within six months the ARGAND cleared $2,500 profit.

The next year a new and larger boat, the GREENEWOOD, was ordered and within 90 days from the keel laying the 180 ft. boat was completed at a cost of $16,000; her career ended in 1925 when she sank in a collision with the CHRIS GREENE II.

Son after the turn of the century, the GREENELAND, the first luxury packet owned by the Greene family, was built. She was fitted with 56 staterooms, was 215 ft. long, and cost the then enormous sum of $40,000. A suite of five rooms on her Texas deck provided living quarters for Gordon, Mary and their three boys, Wilkins [*died, 1907], Chris and Tom. This side-wheel packet ran between Cincinnati, Pomeroy, and Charleston and made, in 1904, an 'excursion' from Pittsburgh to St. Louis for the World's Fair, a distance of 1,200 miles. This was an outstanding achievement, since slackwater navigation had not yet been realized and a voyage of this sort required unusually skilled navigation for its successful completion. [*'Excursion' was the term before the days formal 'cruises' or 'voyages' were adopted on river steamers. The Greenes were 'experimenting' with this new medium which would bear fruit in coming decades.]

Mr. Espy: "Will you give us in your own words the story of this trip?"
Capt. Mary: "It was early in May in the year 1904 that we left Pittsburgh with a full passenger list. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, no rain or storms marred the pleasure of our cruise. Our youngest son, Tom, was but three months old, so you can well imagine that my time was pretty well taken up with the care of this young man and the duties required of the Captain. Our only stop enroute was Cincinnati where we picked up a few passengers.

"Seven days after leaving the public landing at the foot of Wood St., Pittsburgh, we dropped out stageplank on the levee at the foot of Olive St., in St. Louis. As the excursion was to last three weeks, the passengers had seven fill days to enjoy the wonders of the St. Louis Exposition. Unfortunately, I found time to spend only three hours at the Fair; the duties in connection with the boat required my presence, likewise feeding the baby [*Tom] since he did not take his meals from the bottle.

"The passengers used the boat as their hotel, starting out early each morning for the Fair. In reality, I didn't miss much of the Fair, for what I didn't see was told to me by the passengers when they returned dead tired to the boat each evening."

Espy: "Capt. Mary, how was your trip home?"
Capt. Mary: "Well, Mr. Espy, again fortune smiled on us and we had good weather the entire way back to Pittsburgh. Our only problem was to keep off the sand bars as the river was low. We did not have the locks and dams in those days, something that has helped river navigation tremendously. The trip was so successful that we made several more of them before the season was over. My, how I'd like to live those old days over again."
Espy: "Thank you very much, Capt. Mary."
Capt. Mary: "You are very welcome, Mr. Espy."

Next: Part III - Consolidation and adaptation to changing times.

Edited/submitted by,
R. Dale Flick

[ Future of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co Boats ]

Copyright by Franz Neumeier