LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF
CAPT. STEPHEN B. HANKS,
A REVIEW OF EARLY BOATS AT ST. PAUL.
Oct 27, 1921
Boats were now increasing in number
faster than pilots and it become necessary to make more pilots
so the company was anxious that the old pilots should each
take on a “Cub” as a learner was called.
The one I had this season was named
Jim Black who was a brother-in-law of John Arnold,
my first partner when I commenced working for the Company.
The cubs were allowed small wages while learning, some twenty
to twenty five dollars per month. Some of the pilots did not
relish the idea of coaching new men in some instances, no
doubt, due to unpleasant disposition, but others argued that
we were teaching men who would cheapen or under bid us and
spoil our trade.
The mail and express business had
increased to such dimensions that we had to provide separate
rooms for each department that would give space for work and
the required privacy and an agent or messenger was in charge
of each branch of the business. Both the mail and express
were handled under contract by Buroank and Blakely who used
the boats in the summer and carried their stuff on their
stages in the winter. It will be remembered that Blakeley was
my first Captain but he left the river to engage in this
business and was now branching out with lines into the various
parts of the fast settling country as rapidly as the business
would warrant. During the winter they ran their stages, using
runners when the sleighing was good, much of the way on the
river. In many cases they made their own roads built bridges
and kept them in repair as long as they were operated. Capt.
Blakely was a Virginian and a very pleasant and capable man
and I liked him very much as a Captain. He became very
wealthy from his business and early investments in St. Paul
and did much to aid in the development of the Northwest.
Note: supplementing the Captain’s
recollections we quote the following form Captain Russell
Blakeley in the Minnesota Historical society collections Vol.
VIII, part 3, published April 1, 1898, to show our readers the
situation a little more in detail at the commencement of heavy
traffic on the upper Mississippi.
Navigation was opened at St. Paul on
April 18th by the steamer Lady Franklin, Capt. M.
E. Lucas. The Galena, Dunlieth and Minnesota, Packet Company,
of which Capt. Orren Smith was President and J. R. Jones,
Secretary, ran the following boats: War Eagle, Capt. D. S.
Harris; Galena, Capt. Kennedy Lodwick; Golden Era, Capt. J. W.
Parker; Northern Belle, Capt. Preston Lodwick; Lady Franklin,
Capt. M. E. Lucas; Ocean Wave, Capt. E. H. Gleim; City Belle,
Capt. A. T. Champlin; Granite State, Capt. J. Y. Hurd and
Alhambra, Capt. W. H. Gabbert.
The Dubuque and St. Paul Packet Company
ran the following boats. Fanny Harris, Capt. J. Worden;
Excelsior. Capt. Kingman; Kate Casssel, Capt. S. Harlow;
Wyamdotte, Capt. Pierce; and the Flora.
“The Northern Belle was a very fine
boat built at Cincinnati under the supervision of Capt.
Lodwick, and was especially adapted to the trade, being 226
feet long, 29 feet beam, beautifully finished and of light
draught. She became a very popular boat.”
“Navigation opened at St. Paul May 1st,
the latest date ever known up to this time; the first arrival
being the Galena, Capt. W. H. Laughton.”
The great activity in steamboating
during the years 1855 and 1856, and the promise of immediate
railroad connections at Prairie du Chien this season, the
reputation which the Territory had acquired for its climate
and fertility of soil, and the commerce that had grown up so
fast between Galena, Dubuque, and the upper Mississippi, so
stimulated everybody connected with it that the Galena,
Dunlieth and Minnesota Packet company, realizing that more new
boats would be necessary to control the trade, resolved to
build three larger and nicer boats to meet the trade of 1857
Capt. Orren Smith went to the Ohio in the Fall of 1856 and
contracted for the construction of the Grey Eagle, Milwaukee,
and Northern Light almost at the same time the Dubuque and
Minnesota Packet Company made its appearance on the Ohio to
build two new boats as well. Each company had supposed that
it was the only one to have new boats in the Spring of 1857.
The mutual discovery that each of the Companies was building
large and expensive boats put a damper on the outlook for the
coming seasons business, and resulted in a reorganization of
the Companies under the name of the Galena, Dubuque, Dunleith
and Minnesota packet Company with Capt. Orren Smith,
President; Jesse P. Farley, Vice President; J. R. Jones,
Secretary; and Capt. Russell Blakely, General Agent at
Dunleith. All the boats were transferred to the new Company.
“The following is a description of the
fine new boats; Grey eagle, 250 feet long, 35 feet beam.
Milwaukee, 240 feet long, 33 feet beam; Northern Light, 240
feet long, 40 feet beam; Itasea, and Key City, each 230 feet
long, 35 feet beam. Their tonnage measurements were from 550
to 400 tons each and no better boats were ever built for the
The business season commenced with the
following boats and Captains; grey Eagle, D. S. Harris;
Milwaukee, Stephen Hewitt; Northern Light, Preston Lodwick;
Itasea, D. Whitten; Key City, Jones Worden; War Eagle,
Kingman; Galena, Wm. H. Laughton; Northern Belle, J. Y. Hurd,
City Bell, Kennedy Lodwick; Granite State, W. H. Gabbert;
Fanny Harris, Anderson; Alhambra, McGowen; Golden Era, Scott;
Ocean Wave, Commanded by the successor to Capt. E. H. Gleim, a
very popular master who dien in Galena in 1856.
“When the Milwaukee and Prairie du
Chien Railroad was ready for business, the Milwaukee, Itasea
and Ocean Wave were assigned as the packets for that line.
The other boats formed double daily lines from Galena, Dubuque
and Dunleith to St. Paul some of them being special packets
and others for freight.
“The St. Louis and St. Pal steamboat
men deeded to divide the time between them so as to forma
regular line to St. Paul. Prominent in this line were the
following boats and Captains: Canada, James Ward; W. L. Ewing,
M. Green; Denmark, R. C. Gray; Metropolitan, T. B. Rhodes;
Minnesota Belle, Thomas B. Hill; Pembina, Thomas H. Griffith;
Northerner, P. Alford; Lucy May, J. B. Rhodes; Aunt Letty; O.
We have quoted at length both on
account of the interest of the reader in those early days as
well as to show the surroundings in which Captain Hanks was
working. F. A. B.