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Steamboat: Minnesota-General Allen-Cotton Blossom

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    Steamboat: Minnesota-General Allen-Cotton Blossom

    All, one in the same, this steam driven, coal fired paddlewheeler was built in1916 at the Howard Boat Yard in Indiana for the Mayo Bros of Rochester, Mn, & named the Minnesota then sold in 1922 to the Upper Mississippi U. S. engineering Dept & re-named the "General Allen". the boat was retired from government service in the 1940-41 time era at the corps Boat Yard at Ft City, Wisc & then sold to a firm or indivdual from St Louis & renamed the "Cotton blossom". I am interested in history, pictures, articles & whatever from 1941-1978 when a local newspaper said it sank due to "mysterious circumstances"???. Would like to know what the boat was being used for at that time?. Boat originally had two structures on the top deck & the pilot house had a large, gold painted eagle on top, very distinctive. Any information appreciated.
    Thanks
    Ronald

    #2
    General Allen/Minnesota

    The General Allen was sold as surplus by the Rock Island District in 1943. Bought by Central Barge Co. and towed on the Tennessee River. Dismantled in 1944 and used as a landing boat at Joliet. In 1966 the remains were towed to St. Louis and became a restaurant boat called the River Queen. Sank in 1978, at St. Louis, with name of Cotton Blossom.

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      #3
      Cotton Blossom-River Queen

      Thanks much Bill on the information I have requested. On top of the pilot house was a large gilded Eagle in flight. Would you know if that survived or if it was still there at the time it was a resturant at st Louis????. I had heard that the two top structures, (pilot house & Chart room), had been removed at a earlier time??. Any pictures that would be available when it was the River queen resturant?
      Thanks

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        #4
        The domed pilothouse was long gone, but the other structure atop the boat was intact to the end. They added some fake stacks near it to make it appear a pseudo pilothouse. For a short time the boat served as a restaurant at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, named REBEL QUEEN. I don't know about the eagle, but the whistle survived and was blown and recorded aboard the Str. JULIA BELLE SWAIN at La Crosse, Wisconsin, several years ago. The whistle is now on display at The Riverside Museum (608-782-1980) in La Crosse. Perhaps they would also know about the whereabouts of the eagle. You might also contact the office of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN (www.juliabelle.com) for information.

        An excellent source of pictures of the MINNESOTA / GENERAL ALLEN is the Murphy Library at La Crosse, where over 50,000 steamboat images are on file and where prints can be purchased. The website address is www.uwlax.edu/murphylibrary/ which will take you to the section where the special collections are listed.

        I saw the boat at St. Louis numerous times, but was never aboard it. For a time she was moored between the Eads and Veterans Bridges, but had been moved further down the levee below the south leg of the Gateway Arch at the time of the sinking. I recall seeing the remains of the hull being scooped out of the river by a big crane on a barge during the early summer of 1978.

        We had a visitor at the Howard Steamboat Museum several years ago who showed us some color photographs of an excellent model he has built of the MINNESOTA.

        A book, entitled A Passion for the River; Mayo and the Mississippi by Matthew D. Dacy, was published in 2004. There are some fine pictures of the boat in this limited edition publication, which is often available on EBAY and through book dealers.
        Last edited by Keith Norrington; 05-23-2007, 07:50 AM.

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          #5
          General Allen

          Keith: WOW, thanks much for the information. My father, who went on the river around 1922 when he was 15 years old started & finished, (when he got married), on the General Allen. I think he perhaps got off around 1929, I have a lot of pictures he took at that time of the Allen & many other steam boats pertaining to the U.S. Corps of Engineers. That is the reason for my interest in the history of the boat & the Eagle. I will follow up on the whistle & whatever else comes along.
          Thanks Again for your response.
          Ronald Lietha

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            #6
            Ronald, you are most welcome! I think I have several photos of the boat at St. Louis and, if I can locate them, I'll scan and post those images for you.

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              #7
              General Allen

              Kieth: That would indeed, be SUPER.
              Ronald

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                #8
                This is supposed to follow Ronald's posting, don't know if it will.... did your father work with Capt. Walter Karnath on the ALLEN? He was the grandfather of Dick(Butch) Karnath, recently 'retired' pilot on the AMERICAN QUEEN. Walter Jr. was well-known to many of us as a pilot on the DELTA QUEEN after his retirement.

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                  #9
                  Capt of the General Allen

                  Judy; Could be, dont remember if my father ever mentioned that name. My father was on the boat from the 1922-1929 time period, so whoever was the captain at that time is who it was. I remember that my father started out as a fireman & deck hand & ended up piloting the boat, I imagine while the Captain was sleeping?. Remember he said that one night while he was piloting, I believe they ran aground of a sandbar in Lake Pepin??, no radar in those days!. Also remember him saying that he was way up on a ladder, (I have a picture of this), painting the stacks while the boat was underway when it hit a sandbar & he came down all the way to the top deck, apparently unhurt!!!, lucky man.
                  Ronald

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                    #10
                    It seems in the dark recesses of my mind that the eagle was in the possession of Walter Karnath. I was at his house once and believe I saw it. But that was a long time ago. Maybe this will get a response from a member of the Karnath family in order to deny or confirm what I've said.

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                      #11
                      Is there another Butch Karnath because I thought he was the son of Capt. Walter?

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                        #12
                        I'm with you, Lex, and thought "Butch" was his nickname, his real name being Richard. He also goes by "Dick".

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                          #13
                          Walters Sr. and Jr.....

                          Richard Dick Butch Karnath is the son of Walter Karnath, who is the son of Walter Karnath... in other words, our generation's Karnath had both a father and grandfather named Walter! Sorry I didn't make that less muddy in my posting. Here is a picture of Walter Jr. and Walter Sr., probably taken in the pilothouse of the ALLEN, where Sr. was Captain. Its hard to think of our Capt. Walter as a Junior, considering his age when we knew him.
                          Attached Files

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                            #14
                            General Allen Eagle

                            Great Board, what a wealth of information, more than my father knew, I am sure, even while employed on the boat!!. Yes, I hope someone posts as to the whereabouts of the Eagle, if it still exists. I think perhaps if the whistle exists, so does the Eagle?. Anyone know if the Eagle was made of metal or wood?. I have many pictures of the General Allen my father took & amoung them is a picture of the coal fired boiler room. One of the boats regular stops was Mcgregor, Iowa & that is where he met my mother & married there. Also have a picture of the Mayo Brothers "North Star" yacht, which replaced the Minnesota, going down the river, I am sure my father took the picture from the General Allen.

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                              #15
                              Thank you, Judy. I'm so dense I'm sure if Capt. Karnath were reading or hearing this, he would be after me with his cane about now!

                              Comment

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