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 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 upper river.

  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. G. Morrison.”

  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.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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