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The Steamboating Poes

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    The Steamboating Poes

    H’lo. Recently, I’ve become a member of so I want to introduce myself as a descendent of the steamboating Poes from Georgetown, PA. Although the S&D Reflector discussion was a tempting place to start, I submitted a new string because as I searched the site I failed to find references to Poes or Georgetown in the current discussions.

    I’ve come to you searching for info and photos of 50 steamboats and their captains who carried troops and supplies on the western rivers during the Civil War and worked the Missouri River trade from 1866-1870. The captains and packets, well known to Capt Frederick Way Jr, steamed from Georgetown, PA, a tiny borough on the Ohio River within site of West Virginia and Ohio. The Civil War transports are also listed in the "Dictionary of Transports and Combatant Vessels Steam and Sail Employed by the Union Army 1861-1868" compiled by Charles Dana Gibson and E Kay Gibson. Without these captains/pilots and steamers, the Union armies in the western theater could not have taken the field, nor could they have been sustained. Without these captains/pilots and steamers, expansion of the western territories would have required another 50 years.

    Their stories are fascinating. For example -- The str Kenton was owned by Capt George W Ebert who quite possibly was also one of its pilots. On Jan 12, 1863, the Kenton was moored near the mouth on the White River according to a personal letter by Lt Cushman K Davis of the 28th Wisconsin Regiment. Lt Davis was the aide-de-camp to Gen Willis Arnold Gorman. Approximately 18,000 troops had been transported to the White River from Helena or Napoleon by a fleet of 30 steamers. The Kenton steamed five difficult miles up the swollen White River on Jan 13. According to Lt Davis, the old General spent most of his time in swearing at the pilot. On Jan 15 the 28th Wisconsin was visited by a terrific snowstorm. After finding no fight on the White River, the 28th Wisconsin was ordered to Vicksburg for the purpose of another attack.

    The Amelia Poe snagged on the upper Missouri on 24 May 1868 attracting 1,500 swarming Indians in a riotous salvage operation.

    The Nick Wall ended on Sunday night 18 Dec 1870 in a tragedy written about by Samuel Clemens in “Life on the Mississippi”.

    Other civilian captains from Georgetown were: Jacob Poe, Adam Poe, Thomas W Poe, Thomas S Calhoon, and Jackman T Stockdale. My packets of interest are: Amelia Poe, Clara Poe, Georgetown, Mary E Poe, Nick Wall, Belfast, Big Foot, Argyle, Belmont, Jacob Poe, Kenton, Mollie Ebert, Yorktown, Sallie, John C Fremont or Horizon, Ida Stockdale, Katie Stockdale, Queen City, Virginia ...

    I recently inherited a journal of a steamboat trip up the Missouri in 1869 and some other family steamboat memorabilia. Much of my information has been posted on a website, although I continue to process boxes of old photos and letters.

    Georgetown Steamboats

    Have a look. I think you will find it entertaining.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Fran Nash

    Your website

    I just took a quick glance at your website and it is indeed interesting. I have some pictures of a few of your boats of interest. Please email me at:


      Museum information request.

      I am planning an Ohio River museum tour. My intent is to visit as many river museums as possible in one week between Pittsburgh and St Louis. My prime interest is searching for data on the Poe captains from Georgetown, PA from 1850-1870. The current list of museums follows:

      Brownsville, PA
      Steamboat and Museum of Mississippi River History
      Pittsburgh, PA
      Heinz History Center
      Carnegie Library PA Room
      Sewickley, PA
      Sewickley Valley Historical Society
      Wellsville, OH
      Wellsville Ohio River Museum
      Marietta, OH
      Ohio River Museum
      Parkersburg, WV
      Trans Allegheny Books
      Pt Pleasant, WV
      Pt Pleasant River Museum
      Cincinnati, OH
      Cincinnati Historical Museum
      Covington, KY
      Behinger/Crawford Museum
      Vevay, IN
      Life on the Ohio River Historical Museum
      Jefferson, IN
      Howard Steamboat Museum
      Louisville, KY
      Farnesley Moremen Landing
      Paducah, KY
      River Heritage Museum
      Cairo, IL
      US Customs House
      St Louis, MO
      Missouri History Museum
      Union Station

      Do you have recommendations for museums I have missed? Or suggestions for listed places I should omit?

      Appreciate your advice.
      Fran Nash


        Also between Cincinnati and Jeffersonville is the Life on the Ohio River Museum, at Vevay, Indiana.
        Vevay River Museum


          There is the Behringer/Crawford Museum in Devou Park (part of Covington, Ky) but do not know the current state of their collection/expertise. When I was growing up, Ellis Crawford was the curator and his Grandfather was Henry McClanahan, long-time chief engineer on the CITY OF LOUISVILLE. Ellis KNEW a great deal about the river and river men though he never (I think) worked the river himself. But Ellis, I regret to say is long gone from there. The museum is celebrating 60 years of service and I knew him "Back then". There are about nine Poes listed the Way's PACKET BOAT DIRECTORY and about five listed in his TOW BOAT DIRECTORY. Two great museums are the one you list in Marietta and Cincinnati Library. A visit to the Cincinnati Museum Center should be added to your list (Mrs M'lissa Kesterman at that place). The Howard Museum is a treasure and you need to mine the S&D Reflector for which Alan Bates has supplied an index.


            Museum Info

            Mr S

            Thanks for the museum info. The smaller museums and historical societies are the places I enjoy most.

            I indeed have many volumes of the S&D Reflector dating back to Dec 1965. Capt Way was a fequent visitor to Georgetown,PA (not far from Sewickley)and provided copies of the magazine when Georgetown people were involved.

            Again, thanks for the museuminfo.
            Fran Nash


              Georgetown Captains and Pilots

              Ms Patsch

              I thought I had sent an email to your account

              Not sure it arrived.

              I am always looking for photos of both the boats and their captains and pilots and engineers. I have inherited boxes of photos of strangely dressed men who I assume are Georgetown captains and pilots and engineers. Problem -- I can't identify them.



                Ditto to what Tom Schiffer has to say. The Cincinnati Library houses the Inland Rivers collection--a chance to hold in your hands some rare volumes on river history. You could spend a LOT of time there alone--indeed, you could spend loads of time at ANY of the museums on your list! Each one is worth the visit. Be sure to check with each place beforehand about policies. For instance, some will let you take digital photos (no flash) of some of their collections under certain circumstances; some ask that you let them copy for a fee. Some will ask you to enter their rare collections with pencil and gloves only! The Cincinnati Library's collection is indexed online, which might save you some time. Good luck with your research--which is one of my favorite things to do!! Be sure to ride BB Riverboats when you are in town.


                  Account of Capt Adam Poe, Sr. River Experiences

                  I posted a wonderful account of the life and river experiences of Capt Adam Poe. Full of swash and buckle. The account was written by Adam Poe in 1887. It was printed in a serial form in the East Liverpool Crisis in 1889 or 1890. I have added a few comments, mainly dates highlighted in blue print, to add perspective. It is a wonderful read.

                  River Experiences Georgetown Steamboats

                  A copy of the Poe account is found in the Poe folder at the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center in Beaver Falls, PA.


                    The Book

                    Labor Day weekend my aunt lent me a hand written book identifying every steamboat built in Pittsburgh from 1811-1904. Its author was BM Laughlin (Benjamin M Laughlin) and it was presented on 20 Sep 1904 to his brother, RD Laughlin (Robert Dawson Laughlin). At that time, Robert D Laughlin was a steamboat steward who lived in the home built by Thomas W Poe. Benjamin M Laughlin credits "Mr Snowing" of the US Custom House in Pittsburgh for collection of the data. BM Laughlin also provided personal info such as

                    "I remember the flood on February 10th 1832."
                    "I commensed steamboating Augt 1844 sixty years ago."
                    "My first boat was the Rhode Island captain RD Dawson."

                    Last week I visited the National Archives in DC to do Enrollment and License research and cross check the data in the BM Laughlin book. The archives in DC have the Certificates of Enrollment for the US Custom House in Pittsburgh from 1831 - 1901. I am still trying to determine whether records before 1831 have been lost. Thursday afternoon at the National Archives, I looked at nine books with enrollment records. On Friday, I reviewed the Vessel Files in the military records for the Civil War. More on that visit in a later post.

                    This hand written book is a real find. It presents original source data I have not seen in any river museums and libraries that I have visited. The book has essentially eleven distinct chapters with personal notes about some of the Georgetown boats. As you will read, not all the data came from US Custom House records.

                    (1) SBs built at Pittsburgh 1811-1904
                    (2) SB Name Changes
                    (3) SBs built below (ie Marietta, Cincinnati, Louisville, Paducah)
                    (4) Record of High Waters in Pittsburgh
                    (5) Old Pitt Cin Packet Line
                    (6) Names of SBs Dismantled
                    (7) Diasasters
                    (8) 23 Str Burnt in St Louis
                    (9) 10 Str Burnt in Pittsburgh
                    (10) Names of Capt Deceased
                    (11) Names of Pilots Deceased

                    I have not yet decided what to do with this data in this book. The book is too fragile, and too thick, to scan each page.
                    Attached Files


                      Civil War Indemnity Requests

                      Based on the material found during a visit to the National Archives, I posted a couple pages on my website regarding the requests for indemnity for two steamers from Georgetown, PA lost during the Civil War. The steamers were the Clara Poe and the Horizon. The end results are compelling. Follow the links.


                        BM Laughlin Book v The Lytle-Holdcamper List

                        I am comparing The Lytle-Holdcamper List and the Benjamin Mackall Laughlin hand written book. A report comparing the names and features of the steamboats built at Pittsburgh between 1811-1834 has been loaded as an Excel 2003 spreadsheet on my website. The report will be updated as build years are processed. I plan to review "The Book" through 1848.

                        In the spreadsheet, a row of data from The Lytle-Holdcamper List is followed by a row of data from the BM Laughlin book for ease of comparison. In most cases, the two rows on a named steamer are harmonious. Cells with a red font indicate the data inconsistency. So far, approx 10 % of the boats listed by BM Laughlin are not listed in The Lytle-Holdcamper List.

                        I do not understand the differernces. Maybe the Laughlin book included canal boats/barges omitted by Lytle and Holdcamper. A number of small steamers (rated at 21 tons or so) are listed by BM Laughlin. The Little Beaver Creek which empties into the Ohio River opposite Georgetown was the route of The Sandy and Beaver Canal designed in 1828 to connect the Ohio River to Lake Erie. Canalboats/barges were built at boatyards on the Ohio River to transport goods to and from the Ohio interior. Pure speculation on my part!

                        This file can be downloaded for local artful analysis. The link to the spreadsheet is: Laughlin v Lytle-Holdcamper Comparison.

                        Corrections/comments/additions/theories/etc welcome.


                          In lieu of a Christmas card, I want to share a Christmas Eve dinner invitation with you. Unfortunately, this dinner took place more than 120 years ago at Georgetown Landing. The invitation to Capt Jacob Poe and family was written from the officers of the steamer Katie Stockdale. The dinner, featuring oysters, was a surprise party for Capt Thomas S Calhoon.

                          Wishing you a most Merry Christmas.
                          Fran Nash
                          Attached Files


                            That's a neat invitation. I love old stuff like that. Merry Christmas from me too.


                              The Benjamin Mackall Laughlin Book

                              There it is. There it absolutely and positively is.

                              The Benjamin Mackall Laughlin Book
                              The BM Laughlin Book listing every steamboat built at Pittsburgh between 1811-1904 has been loaded for your review. The Book has been loaded on six pages for ease of viewing.

                              The Book Scanned p1-43
                              The Book Scanned p45-85
                              The Book Scanned p87-125
                              The Book Scanned p127-163
                              The Book Scanned p165-205
                              The Book Scanned p207-294

                              Credits for the photography go to George Hellmann, a good friend.