"On the River"
Davenport Democrat and Leader
March 13, 1932
By Capt. Walter A. Blair
Capt. Walter Blair Reviews More Famous Upper Mississippi Rafters
Built at the
Le Claire Boat Yards
Le Claire Belle built at the Van Sant yard, came out in spring of
1873, and took her place in the growing fleet of rafters and held it
with credit and profit for 17 seasons of steady work with scarcely
an interruption. Her hull was 127”x 22”x 4’; her engines 14”x 4’
had been on the gun boat Benton during the Civil War. The Benton
was later used as a ferry boat at Alton, Ill. For a while then laid
up, neglected and sunk in Alton slough. Her engines, shaft, doctor
(pump) and engine and some other parts were fished out and bought
for $1,000 and installed on the new boat. She had a nice
comfortable cabin with four staterooms on each side, a small neat
office in front and a kitchen, panty and mess room aft. She had a
skylight over her hall but the roof only extended a few feet forward
and aft of the cabin.
only 27 inches in draft and when running light was very fast, but
loaded she was only a 7-mile boat.
and Son, Jonathan Zebley, John McCaffrey
and R. F. Isherwood each
owned one fourth at the time she was complete but Mr. Zebley and
Capt. “Bob” Isherwood soon sold out to the other owners, Van Sant
and Son and Capt. John McCaffrey.
spring (1873) she was chartered to Capt. Cy Bradley
and she started out in charge of Sam Hitchcock
of Le Claire as master and pilot. Ben Wilson
of Rock Island, chief and James Henry Harris,
this charter expired Capt. McCaffrey
took charge as master and pilot and ran lumber for Pound Holbert and
Co. later the Union Lumber Co. and Will Irvine
was clerk on her.
winter, 1878, Capt. McCaffrey sold his half interest to S. and J. C.
Altee of Fort Madison, and she was to run Altee logs from
Van Sant as managing owner started her out in March in charge of
James Huginun as master and
pilot, George Tromley,
pilot; R. B. McCall Mate;
Thomas Wright, chief, and
Add Mikesell assistant engineer.
A. Blair as clerk and nigger
runner began his long career on the river when he resigned a
teacher’s position on the Princeton public school and took service
on the “Le Claire Bell.”
year or two Capt. Van Sant sold his half interest to Altee; then
later bought the whole boat back at a great bargain and put her in
the Van Sant and Musser Transportation Company where she rendered
excellent services and made a lot of money until she was dismantled
at Le Claire, Ia., in 1891.
of her old hull, boilers and other parts brought as much as they pad
for her machinery when she was built.
“Belle” was a nice easy boat to steer and handle. She was easy to
fire and lighter on fuel than the other 14”x 4’ engine boats.
counted a “lucky boat.” was always popular; and the pride of her
crew, and her owners must hold her in pleasant memory.
In 1873 a
new hull 125’x 25’x 4’ was built for the “Market” by Zebley and
Son. The Saw Mill Co., furnished the lumber and Thomas H. L. Lee,
its president qualified as “managing owner” when she was finished
and enrolled in 1874 Milton Parkhurst
(long time merchant in East Davenport) then secretary of the Mill
Co. invested $2,000 in her on which he got a good return. Zebley
retained a builder’s interest.
But as no
buyer appeared the builders of this fine new hull took it to Rock
Island early in the spring of 1874 and under the direction and
supervision of a very competent engineer, Elisha P. Bartlett,
she was fitted out with 2 large new boilers and a pair of engines
15”x 4’ that they bought in Cincinnati.
inspected July 13, 1874, with O. P. Mc Mann
as her master.
information obtainable indicates that she ran under charter to
Durant and Wheeler until sold to Anawalt, Kenkmann & Co. (later the
Rock Island Lumber Co.) about 1880.
one, possibly two seasons with no cabin. Then a small texas cabin
was given her and later this was enlarged and her roof extended aft.
time in her career the old engines were removed and replaced by a
pair of 15”x 5’ that came off the Arrow, and in 1882 her two large
boilers allowed low steam pressure were replaced by three boilers
allowed much higher pressure.
rendered faithful and profitable service until she was dismantled at
Rock Island in 1891 and her engines and boilers went on the new E.
Rutledge, built at the yard of Kahlke Bros. Rock Island. During
her 18 years service O. P. McMann, James Huginin,
A. M. Carpenter, J. M. Hawthorn, E. J. Lancaster and George
Tromley, Jr., had charge of her in
the order named as master and pilot.
“Pilot” built by Martin Von Hein
of Le Claire for D. F. Dorrance
and John McCaffrey was
intended primarily for a rapids boat but was occasionally used on
long trips during good water.
was 115’x 22’x 3’ 8” and she was given the engines of the dismantled
“Wild boy” which were 10 ½’x 4’ 4” and of excellent pattern.
had a small comfortable cabin with roof extending forward but not
aft. She was a nice handy boat and of very light draft. She was
later owned by the Pilot Steamboat Company of which Hugo
Becker was the head. Orrin
Smith was master and pilot and
T. F. Long her engineer for
several seasons on jobbing work around the rapids, which included
helping raft boats over, and towing stone from the quarry above town
to the Abel Line and Cement Co., of Davenport.
1898 she was sold to parties at Evansville, Ind. They changed her
name to “Peerless” and in 1901 sold her to H. M. Flagler for use
among the Florida Keys in building the extension of his East Coast
Railway to Key West.
Eclipse had a nice hull 125’x 25’x 4’. Her engines built by the
Iowa Iron Works of Dubuque were 13”x 5’ and her two boilers were
built by Grupe and Murray of Davenport.
John McKinzie who had been in
charge of the William White several seasons, superintended the
construction of the Eclipse and went out on her as master and pilot
when she was finished.
A year or
two later he (McKenzie) was relieved by E. J. Lancaster, who
remained in charge and did all the running for the two companies
until they shut down for good in 1904.
Capt. Lancaster had her hull rebuilt, giving her a longer sharper
bow, and made changes in her already fine cabin to fit her for a
short packet trade.
he bought from Capt. John Streckfus
his warehouses and good will in the Davenport and Clinton trade and
tried to revive it but the Interurban was new, and its good service
took nearly all the trade.
the struggle here Capt. Lancaster put her in from Prairie Du Chien
daily to Dubuque. The Eclipse was fast. She could and did make a
round trip a day, but it took a lot of fuel to do it. She had many
friends but lost many, and was laid up in Cat Tail for about two
years when she was sold to a party on the Ohio who used her to tow a
showboat. She was finally destroyed by fire after along, busy and
of the Musser was built at the Le Claire yard under the supervision
of Mr. J. W. Van Sant. It was 140’x 25’x 4 1/2’ and of very nice
model and workmanship. That fall she was towed to Dubuque where she
was completed, and came out in the spring of 1886, in charge of
Capt. Thomas Dolson and
George A. Galloway,
Iron works built and installed her engines (13”x 6’) boilers (38”x
20’); shaft, doctor, all piping and sheet ironwork and they did an
cabin, built by the Diamond Jo Boat yard, was larger than usual and
very handsomely finished and painted.
Musser was a great success. She was fast, a good handler, and very
light on fuel. She must have made a lot of money for she was always
busy towing rafts or barges of lumber or carrying excursions.
no serious mishap during her 21 consecutive season’s run.
dismantled at Wabasha, Minn., in 1907, and her cabin rebuilt and
extended, with her boilers, engines, wheel, pitmans, and pumps were
place on a new hull of the same length but 30 feet wide and came out
as the Keokuk in 1908. The entire job of rebuilding was done by
Samuel Peters and son of the Wabasha yard to the order of Capt. W.
A. Blair, acting of which he was manager and in which Capt. Sam Van
Sant was a large stockholder.