In the several cases of the Minnie (as
well as many other boats) Captain E. E. Heerman, who built,
owned and operated them, has personally written their
histories, thus relieving me of a great deal of work, but what
is of more importance, has contributed more than I possibly
could have gained from other sources.
I thereby tender my thanks to the Captain for his
assistance, and take pleasure in presenting his history of the
Minnie H., the Captain speaking in the first person singular,
Minnie H. was built at my boatyard at Reeds Landing and
finished in the spring of 1880, she being inspected at St.
Paul April 17, 1880.
She was 133.0 feet long, 25.0 foot beam. And 3.0 feet
hold; measuring 130.24 tons.
She was built out of the steamer Minnietta, having that
steamer’s machinery but was a larger boat.
contracted to take a colony of settlers from St. Paul to the
upper Missouri, the destination of the colony being the Judith
Basin, in Montana.
“We left St.
Paul in the afternoon, arriving at the head of Lake Pepin in
the evening, where a very severe wind storm caught us and put
us to the bank near Maiden Rock, and I got her into a cove at
the mouth of the little creek that empties into the lake at
that point, and we had fairly good protection for a while.
The wind soon changed slightly on to
the shore. The
engine room bells fro that time rang almost continuously until
break of day. The
crew put in a full night cutting trees and making spars to
keep her from being wrecked.
The excursionists, to a man or woman, had deserted the
boat, climbed the bluff, and put in the full night in a cabin
on the hillside.
At the break of day the wind lulled and everyone was soon on
board and we were able to get out in time, as the wind now
shifted on to the shore, and blew with great velocity.
However, we made the Minnesota shore where we got some
protection, and got out of the lake safely.
“We loaded at
Dubuque with baled hay, potatoes and beans for St. Louis,
unloading there, and proceeded to reload for ort Benton,
developed that the cargo that I had anticipated was not ready,
and I either had to wait or take a cargo of kerosene oil in 10
gallon, uncased cans. I choose the latter and commenced to
load. It now
transpired that the underwriters had been negligent in doing
their work, and after an examination I was advised that I
would have to dock the Minnie H. and four furlocking strakes
between the bulkheads before she would pass the examination.
I may add that I did not go on the dry dock nor add the
strakes—but I got the insurance.
Davidson had advised me to take for pilots Captain James L.
Bissell and another by the name of Davis.
I soon found the men.
I had for chief engineer Al
Stokes with Orval Smith, then of Reed’s Landing for
second; Harvey York was mate, George Bee watchman, C. C.
Burger was steward, Mrs. C. C. Burger was cook and Miss Burger
cabin girl. We
left St. Louis the evening after loading.
Sioux City in safety where we took o a number of delayed
colonists, together with a good passenger list, and arrived at
Bismarck without a mishap.
At Popular Grove agency I was taken very sick.
The boat laid there one day waiting for the agency
doctor who was absent.
He did not return the next morning
so we pulled but had to return to the agency to find
the doctor. The
only squabble we had on the trip came in just there, the
foundation for the difference being the conclusion that I
could not possibly live, hence the contention as to who should
be master after I was laid out.
I certainly knew that I was a very sick man to put it
“The doctor came, the boat over one day
more, and then I took the doctor with me for several days
until I recovered.
I then sent him back on a steamer bound down, and this
broke up the muss over a prospective master for the Minnie H.
With the exception of this mishap there was no trouble.
It was a nice clean trip as ever could be on the raging
was a boat behind us that had trouble with an outbreak of
smallpox, and that was worse than my trouble.
We had a continuous trip to Buffalo Shoals as it was
called, because it was the only place on the river, nearby,
where the river could be forded.
Here we ran into a small herd of buffalo fording the
river. There was
plenty of guns on board and plenty of en to use them and every
man was sure of a buffalo.
One man said that if I could land him he was sure that
he could get one.
I put him on shore, but he was very glad to get on board again
without unnecessary delay.
If he had not been quick about it the buffalo would
have helped him on board.
appearing to be no show of getting a buffalo with guns, the
handy man on board got a four hundred line on a reel, and the
boat was so managed that one could be lassoed from the boat,
and this was done successfully.
Then all hands and the passengers thought they could
pull him on board by hand, and everybody tailed onto the line
for that purpose; but the buffalo got where he could touch
bottom and he scrambled for shore.
It was necessary to back the boat so that she might not
ground, and the buffalo and boat were separating rapidly.
This caused the line to run though their hands so fast
that it became so hot for them, and they were letting go of
the line, and it looked as though the buffalo would take the
whole four hundred feet with him; but the linesman stepped
behind them all threw a turn around the steam nigger, and the
buffalo was soon alongside, hoisted up, and his throat cut and
then lowered into the water until
he was bled, and then hoisted up by the derrick until
he was in front of the cabin.
At this every man, woman and child rent the air with
buffalo was soon dressed and we had fresh meat in plenty the
balance of the trip to Fort Benton.
“On our return trip our first landing
was at Coal Banks, where we took on a good passenger
list, among them General Louis Riel, who kicked up a little
rebellion of his own in Manitoba in 1870, and got himself hung
by the Canadian government about 1884.
He had a number of aides with him, and tons of pemmican
for his troops.
He was landed some miles above Bismarck where he was met by
many half breeds
with carts to carry away his stores.
The General was rather an intelligent man, I had many
talks with him while he was aboard.
“Another notable taken on at Coal
Shoals was a practicing physician from Montreal.
His daughter had married a lieutenant in the Canadian
The Indians had stolen his daughter’s child, and he had gone
to her assistance and recovered the child.
“About 250 miles below Fort Benson we
ran into a large herd of buffalo, lying down on both sides of
the river just at daybreak.
The passengers were soon wakened and when all were
ready we came ahead on a
slow bell and blew the whistle, stampeding the whole
herd down both banks of the river—a most inspiring sight.
I should at a conservative guess, that there were five
thousand animals in sight.
I think that there were more than double that number.
“We were out seventy-seven days on this
trip, and finished all the business we had planned.
I left the boat and came home from Bismarck, leaving it
in charge of Capt. Bissell.
In October of that year I brought her to Sioux City and
laid her up at that point.
In March 1881 I sold her to the United States and she
was named the Little
She was used on government work on the Missouri, and some
years later I was told that she was wrecked in an ice gorge
but the machinery was saved.
“After a trip of this distance, about
four thousand miles, thirty-two hundred of it in a very hard
river to navigate, I must say I felt grateful that I had been
free from accidents, especially from the nature of the cargos
of baled hay and kerosene oil in uncased tin cans of ten
gallons each. One
experience that I had, was sufficiently
On the upper part of the Missouri,
at a wood yard just
above Hell’s Half Acre we picked up a tramp,--a very unusual
occurrence in that part of the river.
He possessed nothing but a dirty face, an old pipe and
a jack knife. He
said he came there on one of the Benton boats, and he wanted
to go onto to Fort Benton, and out of pure charity I took him
on board. I soon
became suspicious of him and placed a close watch over him,
and on the next morning found he had punctured two caps of the
oil on the boiler deck, and it had run through the deck, and
down onto the main deck.
Had he not been discovered he would soon have been on
the lower deck,
and a lighted match thrown in the oil after lighting his pipe
would have finished the job—and it would all have been an
was put ashore at the next wood yard.”
And so ends
the story of the Minnie H.