The Hallie was a shallow-draft steam packet built in the spring of 1873 to trade along the waters of the Arkansas River. It was scuttled during the Brooks-Baxter War in 1874 after the Battle of Palarm.
Captain A. M. Woodruff built the Hallie in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the spring of 1873 to provide reliable transport services on the Arkansas River, which was often difficult to traverse because of low water. He named it for the young daughter of Captain J. N. Jabine, who also commanded steamboats on the river. It made its maiden run to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in early April, with the Arkansas Gazette reporting on April 13 that the vessel “proves to be one of the fastest boats on this river.…She left for Fort Smith one week ago yesterday, at 6 o’clock, and arrived here at 12 o’clock yesterday.” The newspaper stated on May 1 that “the boat has fully come up to the expectations of her owners, and is a complete success as a low-water craft,” and as the vessel continued to successfully travel the Arkansas, the Gazette further praised it on May 24.
On July 5, 1873, the Hallie left Little Rock for St. Louis, Missouri, and the Gazette reported on August 13 that “the Hallie has been up there to have a heavy oak bottom put on in obedience to the inspector of the underwriters. She is the best low water boat that comes here.” With its bottom section better protected, the Hallie was soon once more running regular loads of cargo from the Mississippi River to Fort Smith and ports in between. James Bowlin took over as captain of the Hallie in February 1874, with Woodruff staying on as the ship’s clerk.
The Hallie became embroiled in the Brooks-Baxter War in April 1874 when the Fort Smith Weekly Herald reported that the vessel “was gadskilled by Mr. Baxter’s guards.” On May 7, 1874, a party of supporters of Elisha Baxter boarded the vessel in Little Rock and headed upriver to seize a load of weapons reported heading for Joseph Brooks’s forces in the capital city. A force of Brooks’s men ambushed the Hallie at Palarm Creek, killing several men and seizing the vessel, which returned to Little Rock and was moored behind the Old State House; the Gazette reported that “the boat was completely riddled with bullets.” Early on the morning of May 10, a group of Baxter men tried to retake the Hallie, and while both Brooks and Baxter supporters blamed each other for sinking the boat, the Gazette reported that Colonel Jack Brooker of Brooks’s militia scuttled her in the Arkansas River behind the capitol.
On July 15, 1874, the Gazette noted that “the steamer Hallie—or what’s left of her—will be sold by the quartermaster-general on Saturday next,” adding on August 1 that “the sunken steamer Hallie is being taken to pieces.” Woodruff, Jabine, and two partners purchased a new steamboat, the Mamelle, from a builder in Indiana in September and continued their river trade.
For additional information:
“All About Town.” Arkansas Gazette, April 13, 1873, p. 4.
DeBlack, Thomas A. With Fire and Sword, Arkansas, 1861–1874. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.
Fort Smith Weekly News, April 25, 1874, p. 2.
“Local Abbreviations.” Arkansas Gazette, August 1, 1874, p. 4.
“Local Abbreviations.” Arkansas Gazette, July 15, 1874, p. 4.
“The New Arkansas River Steamer on Her Way to Little Rock—Capt. Jim Nowlin in Command.” Arkansas Gazette, September 24, 1874, p. 4.
“Personal.” Arkansas Gazette, June 13, 1874, p. 4.
“The Rebellion.” Arkansas Gazette, May 9, 1874.
“River News.” Arkansas Gazette, February 25, 1874, p. 4.
“River News.” Arkansas Gazette, March 11, 1874, p. 4.
“River News.” Arkansas Gazette, May 1, 1873, p. 4.
“River News.” Arkansas Gazette, May 23, 1873, p. 4.
“Up Town and Down.” Arkansas Gazette, April 1, 1873, p. 4.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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