The 234 miles long waterway, built artificially within 12 years, opened in 1985, connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River, allowing a tremendous shortcut to the Gulf of Mexico, actually to the port of Mobile, AL. The 39 miles canal section of the Tennesee-Tombigbee Waterway itself naturally doesn’t have a steamboat history by its own, but the Tombigbee River has.
Today, it holds a real treasure at Carrollton, AL: the US snagboat MONTGOMERY.
The Tombigbee River is part of the Mobile/Tombigbee/Alabama/Warrior River System. A steamboat was first constructed on the lower river at St. Stephens, Alabama, in 1818 and steamers were on the upper part of the Tombigbee by 1822.
Tombigbee River History
Historian Rufus Ward, project coordinator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum, which is being developed in Columbus, MS, has identified approximately 200 boats as having at one time been on the Tombigbee River. One of them was the John Quill – a 270 ton stern-wheel built 1907 in Jefferson, Ind. She was 168’ by 35’ by 4.9’. In August 1908 she was the Tuesday and Saturday Mobile packet for Demopolis. She was in the Columbus, Mississippi, trade in 1912. On January 9, 1913 she rescued survivors of the James T. Staples after the boilers exploded on the Staples. On June 12, 1916 she sank after striking a rock in the Warrior River but was raised. She sank in the Mobile River at 12 Mile Island in 1929.
Another steamboat with some Tombigbee River history was the Magnolia – a 325 ton side-wheel built in 1852, with 1400+ cotton bale capacity. In a collision with the steamer Maluka on the Alabama River 2/16/1854, 3 died. In 1859, she was the Tuesday evening packet from Mobile to Vienna and Warsaw on the upper Tombigbee and Pickensville-upper Tombigbee trade 1863-64 season. She carried the survivors of the Steamer Eliza Battle disaster to Mobile in 1858. She sank at Selma in 1867.