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On the River


Muscatine, Iowa



Part III

compiled and copyrighted by
Georgeann McClure



photo McClure

Mississippi Queen steamboat under the Muscatine, Iowa bridge.



To all the rivermen:
“May the waters that took you away bring you back to me.”

Boats of Muscatine

Boat Owner


Interesting Facts

The "Apex"


Capt. Fimple & Capt. Pettibone. Driven by horsepower

The "Bell Knapp"

Bell Knapp Lumber Co.


The "Ben Hershey"

Musser Lumber Co.

Capt Dolson & Capt. Cyprian Busson.  Pilots Henry Buissan & Anton Rock.

The "Brother Jonathan"

Knapp Stout Lumber Co.


The "Collectra"


Capt. Jodie Hediger; Later Capt. Eaton. Engineer Jodie Hediger. Pilot George Arnold.

The "Cowles"



The "Decalion"


1858-Feb. 16, 1868

The "E. L. K."

Conrad Koehler

Engineers John Bear & B. R. Litwilder.

The "Favorite"


Capt. Walters & Capt. Jones

The "Glemont"

Van Sant & Musser Transportation Co.


The "Helen Shulenberg"

Shulenberg & Boeckeler Lumber Co.

Capt. George Brasser

The "Hersey"

Hershey Lumber Co.


The "Holston"


Capt. George Arnold

The "Ida May"


Capt. Davidson. Engineer William Ewing. Pilot Smokie Zediger. May 24, 1875 - May 1891

The "Iowa"


Capt. John Phillips, 1842 - 1845

The "James Fisk

Van Sant & Musser Towing


The "J. B.

Burlington Furniture Co.

Capt. Hysel

The "J. W. Van Sant"

Van Sant & Musser Towing


The "Katy Keen"

Leonard Arnold


The "Lamartine"


Capt. C. L. Phelps & Capt. J. M. Marsh

The Le Claire Belle"

John O'Connor, Musser Co.


The "Lotus"

 Ben Hershey Co.


The "Louise"

Shell Ruby, Andalusia (Ferry R. I. to Muscatine).


The "Monongahela"


Ball Master, C. Weed, Agent

The "Muscatine"


Capt. Thomas Rhoades, Capt. Trunick, & Capt. Green (The Turtle).

The "Musser"

Musser Lumber Co.

Capt. Thomas Dolson

The "Northern Illinois"

Capt. Pyeatt brought her to Muscatine. Sold to Capt. Arnold. Later owned by Capt. Giles Pettibone.

Olie Pyett engineer, Smokie Zediger, pilot.

The "Osprey"


Capt. T. S. Battelle, Marx Block, Agent

The "Oriole"


Capt. George Arnold; Ewing Downer Pilot;
Bowley Will, Cook; Kohler Conrad,. Will

The "Pearl"


Capt. Fisher. Sank by New Boston

The "Polly Keith"


Capt. Charles Warfield,  1839

The "Silver Crescent"

Musser Lumber

Capt. Van Sant

The "Silver Wave"

Musser Co of Muscatine Sold to Van Sant in 1881


The "You & I"


Capt. Phillips {ferryman) also the “76

Capt. Smoker

1834 TO 1909


The steamer Dubuque, {commanded by} Captain Smoker, exploded about seven miles below Bloomington, August 18th, {August 22d,} by which twenty-two lives were lost, all deck passengers. The Dubuque was towed to Bloomington by the steamer Adventure, and seventeen of the dead were buried in one grave in the old cemetery, at the very spot where the school house {Jefferson schoolhouse} in the Third Ward now stands.
Source: History of Muscatine County Iowa, Historical Section, 1879, pages 501-555


A terrible accident occurred on the river about seven miles below Bloomington, August 18, 1837. The steamer "Dubuque" exploded its boiler, killing twenty-two persons. Capt. Smoker was in command of the ill-fated craft. Seventeen of the victims were brought to the town and interred where School- house No. 1 now stands. William Gordon performed the sad duties of undertaker on that occasion. The records of the Commissioners' Court show that he was allowed $136, for his services and for the seventeen coffins furnished by him. The remains of the dead were removed when the schoolhouse was erected, and re-interred in the cemetery.

On the 18th day of August, 1837, the steamer Dubuque, Capt. Smoker, exploded about seven miles below Bloomington, by which twenty-two lives, all deck passengers, were lost. The Dubuque was towed to Bloomington by the steamer Adventure, and seventeen of the dead were buried in one grave in the old cemetery, at the very spot, where the school house in District No. 1 now stands.

The Burlington Hawkeye 2006 August 18,

Sinking of the Dubuque: Bob Hansen

Steamboat travel on the Mississippi River in the 19th century was certainly not without risk. Snags and wandering sandbars could send the proudest boat to the bottom, fires cold sweep the tinder-dry superstructures, while rowdy crew and thieves of all sorts added yet another element of danger.

But the most feared of all river hazards was the horrific failure of the boat’s boilers that could send a column of scalding steam flashing through the decks. Riverboats seemed to explode with a frightening regularity that claimed many lives.

This was especially the case with the earliest boats, for the water to create the steam was drawn directly from the river, allowing mud and other impurities to clog vital safety valves.

Such a failure may have led to the loss of the steamboat Dubuque that stopped at Burlington on August 14, 1837, to offload cargo from St. Louis. Throughout most of that evening, the crew had carried barrels and crates from the boat and loaded them in wagons of waiting merchants and now, as dawn approached, the boat made ready to continue its journey upstream.

There was a fog that morning and the captain held the boat at the levee, waiting for it to clear. On the lower decks, passengers bound for the lead mines at Galena stirred uneasily, anxious for the boat to be under way.

Finally, the pilot called for steam and slowly the boat pulled away from the shoreline. The river was low that summer and heavy with snags and bars, so the Dubuque was forced to proceed cautiously upriver with moderate pressure, and by late afternoon the boat was still 10 miles below Muscatine- then known as Bloomington.

The afternoon heat was oppressive as the sun beat upon the exposed decks and turned the small upper cabins into ovens. Most of the passengers gathered listlessly along the rail, seeking the meager breeze.

Suddenly, without warning, the boat gave a convulsive shudder and then there was a mighty roar as the port boiler blew apart. A tremendous geyser of steam ripped from the bowels of the ship, carrying gear and superstructures skyward, and then it cascaded down upon the exposed passengers.

Scalded and blinded, some passengers leaped overboard in a vain attempt to escape, but were battered to death by the still flailing paddlewheels. Others huddled on the shattered deck, screaming in pain.

The pilot swung the riverboat downstream and ran the shattered vessel onto the nearest bank, where yet more of the scalded victims sprang shore and ran blindly through the woods.

injured crew and passengers brought the burn victims, many mad with pain, back to the island beach and tried to help them, but it was more than two hours before the steamer “Adventure’ would arrive with medical help. In those days, little could be done to help burn victims, and 22 passengers and crew died that afternoon on the river island, others were horribly burned and would survive with disfiguring scars.

The engine crew mercifully died instantly. Officials would later guess that the flow of the water to the boiler had been interrupted, causing the flue to become red hot, weaken and then rupture.

The Dubuque did not have fusible plugs in the boiler that would melt out and allow water to flow into the boiler fires when an unsafe water temperature had been reached. This flow of water would have extinguished the boiler and prevented an explosion.

At the time, the explosion of the Dubuque was the worst disaster to hit the steamboat industry, but in 1849, a much worse disaster, occurred when the Louisiana exploded at the St. Louis levee and killed 150 people and left scores maimed.

These similar actions led to a federal commission to oversee the construction and operation of riverboats, and slowly safety returned to the river. But the memory of the Dubuque explosion and its scalded victims would become a part of river legend.

*Personal note the bodies from the explosion were moved several times and at one time were what is now the playground of Mulberry school. A number of people have told me that at different times you can see indentations where graves still exist there. GMC





      "The undersigned respectfully informs his old customers, and the traveling community, that he has established a FERRY at Bloomington, Iowa, with the Steam Boat IOWA, well known as a ferry-boat at Burlington, where she formerly run, Bloomington is the landing for Iowa City and the central part of the Territory; the road and slough in the bottom opposite Bloomington are bridged and in good order, and travellers may rely on coming to the Ferry without difficulty where they will be transported across the river as cheap and speedy as at any ferry on the river."

     "N. B. --- Market people are respectfully invited to call, as the price of ferriage shall be satisfactory."


Wagon and two horses, $1.00
Man and horse $0.37  1-2
Hogs and sheep $0.06  1-4

Other things in proportion



         The Chicago Democrat and Peoria Register pub to $2, and in this office.

     March 25 ---21tf

Muscatine was Bloomington first


*This information was compiled in a book by Georgeann McClure descendent of steamboat Pilot E. Jerome Ruby


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