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Pocahontas [Steamboat]

The Pocahontas was a steamboat that ran between New Orleans, Louisiana, and cities along the Arkansas River. In 1852, the vessel suffered two fatal accidents, the second of which resulted in its destruction. The Pocahontas was a 397-ton sidewheel paddleboat that was constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849. By early 1852, the vessel was one of only three steamboats “running in the Arkansas river and New Orleans trade,” with Captain H. J. (or H. S.) Moore offering service to Little Rock (Pulaski County), Van Buren (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The Pocahontas’s first accident occurred on March 14, 1852, as the steamboat left the woodyard at Hog Thief Bend on the Arkansas …

Remmel Dam

aka: Lake Catherine
Remmel Dam is situated on the Ouachita River at Jones Mills (Hot Spring County). It was constructed in 1924 by Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), now Entergy, in response to the growing demand for electrical power in southern Arkansas and surrounding states. The dam impounds Lake Catherine and, together with Carpenter Dam in Hot Springs (Garland County), provides hydroelectric power for southern Arkansas. Part of a three-dam project on the Ouachita River along with Carpenter Dam (completed in 1931) and Blakely Mountain Dam (completed in 1953), it played an important role in the early development of AP&L. In 1916, former riverboat captain Flave Carpenter met with Harvey Couch, who founded AP&L in 1913, to discuss the possibility of building dams on …

Rob Roy [Steamboat]

The Rob Roy was a steamboat plying the route between Louisville, Kentucky, and New Orleans, Louisiana, when it suffered a fatal boiler explosion near Columbia (Chicot County) in 1836. This was not the first deadly accident involving the Rob Roy’s boilers. On July 19, 1835, the steamboat was approaching the shore to drop off a passenger about fifteen miles above New Madrid, Missouri, when it hit an underwater snag. The collision raised the Rob Roy’s bow several feet above the surface of the Mississippi River, causing a connecting pipe to break in two places and the boilers’ contents to spill out, scalding several deck passengers. At least four people died from the scalding, and three who jumped overboard to escape …

Shreve, Henry Miller

Henry Miller Shreve was a steamboat captain and inventor who is noted for performing much-needed clearance work on America’s major river systems during the first half of the nineteenth century. This work included using his own specially designed snag boat to clear large obstructions from the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County), greatly aiding steamboat travel and trade in the state of Arkansas. Henry Shreve was born on October 21, 1785, in Burlington County, New Jersey, to Isaiah Shreve and his second wife, Mary Cokely. He had four half-siblings from his father’s first marriage to Grace Curtis. Henry, the fifth child born to Isaiah and Mary, was barely three when, in 1788, his father …

Snag Boats

As American settlers pushed westward following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, their goals of settlement, civilization, and trade were hindered by the hazardous nature of the western rivers. The pioneers found the Mississippi River and its tributaries, such as the Arkansas and Red rivers, filled with obstacles and debris. Snag boats, tasked with the removal of sunken trees and the clearing of the rivers, were one of the first answers to the growing loss of life and property. The navigability of the rivers became a priority to settlers, who believed the future prosperity of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the western frontier, including Arkansas, was acutely tied to the safety of river trade. As western river trade became more important …

St. Joseph [Steamboat]

The St. Joseph was a steamboat that burst a boiler on the Mississippi River on January 23, 1850, resulting in the deaths of between fifteen and twenty passengers and crew members. The St. Joseph was a 217-ton sidewheel paddleboat built at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1846 that ran a route along the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans, Louisiana. The St. Joseph was heading up the Mississippi River on January 23, 1850, with a load of passengers—many of whom were immigrants—and cargo when, while apparently racing with the steamboat South America, its larboard boiler burst as the vessel neared the mouth of the Arkansas River. The boiler blew backward, killing a boy and mortally wounding the ship’s second engineer. …

St. Nicholas [Steamboat]

The St. Nicholas was a steamboat that ran between St. Louis and New Orleans, Louisiana. It suffered a catastrophic boiler explosion on April 24, 1859, and caught fire on a stretch of the Mississippi River near where the Pennsylvania had met a similar fate a year earlier. Sixty passengers and crew members were killed in the accident. The St. Nicholas was a 666-ton sidewheel paddleboat built at California, Pennsylvania, in 1853 for James Wood, P. R. Friend, and P. O. Scully of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By 1859, it was owned by Ambrose Reeder of St. Louis, Missouri, and Ben V. Glime, who served as clerk on the St. Nicholas. Oliver H. McMullen was captain. The vessel was headed toward New Orleans …

Steamboat Disasters

Steamboats were the primary vehicles for moving goods and passengers long distances in the nineteenth century, prior to the widespread availability of railroads. They continued to be used well into the twentieth century, but they were often involved in accidents that resulted in multiple casualties.  Paul F. Paskoff, in Troubled Waters: Steamboat Disasters, River Improvements, and American Public Policy, 1821–1860, analyzed data on steamboat wrecks between 1821 and 1860, with the exception of the Civil War years, and determined that 3,165 steamboats were lost in American waterways during that period, with snags being the cause of 593 wrecks, burning causing 582, collisions causing 199, and boiler explosions responsible for 113. Steamboats fell victim to all of those dangers in Arkansas …

Steamboats

The steamboat played an important role in Arkansas from the earliest days of the Arkansas Territory. Before being superseded by the railroad in the post–Civil War era, steamboats were the primary means of passenger transport, as well as moving raw materials out of Arkansas and consumer goods into the state. The inland rivers steamboat, invented in the Mississippi River Valley in the first half of the nineteenth century, eventually connected every person on or near a stream to the larger world. The first major historian of the steamboat, Louis Hunter, saw the steamboat as the “most notable achievement of the industrial infancy” of the United States, not to mention the chief technological means by which the frontier advanced and by …

Sultana

The Sultana steamboat disaster in 1865, at the end of the Civil War, has been called America’s worst maritime disaster. More people died in the sinking of the riverboat Sultana than on the Titanic. However, for a nation that had just emerged from war and was still reeling from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the estimated loss of up to 1,800 soldiers returning home on the Mississippi River was scarcely covered in the national news. The remains of the steamboat are believed to lie buried in Arkansas. Those aboard the boat were mostly Union soldiers from Midwestern states such as Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. Having been taken prisoners of war, they were sent to the notoriously overcrowded Confederate prisons …

Telegraph No. 3 [Steamboat]

The Telegraph No. 3 was a steamboat used as a transport by the Union army during the Civil War. It suffered a boiler explosion, hit a snag, and sank near Osceola (Mississippi County) on November 23, 1863; three men drowned because of the accident. The Telegraph No. 3 was built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1853 for the U.S. Mail Line. The vessel was fast, having made a speed trial from Cincinnati to Louisville, Kentucky, in nine hours and fifty-one minutes. The U.S. Army was using the Telegraph No. 3 as a transport vessel during the Civil War, and the steamer was heading down the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois, toward Memphis, Tennessee, on November 23, 1863, with a cargo of …

Webster [Steamboat]

The Webster was a steamboat that caught fire near Island 86 in the Mississippi River off Chicot County on May 2, 1851, resulting in the deaths of forty passengers and crew members. The Webster, a 324-ton sidewheel paddleboat built in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1848, was 182 feet long and twenty-seven feet wide with an eight-foot draft. Commanded by Captain Samuel Reno, the Webster was steaming up the Mississippi with about 100 passengers and crew when it caught fire around 3:00 a.m. on May 2, 1851. The flames spread rapidly, and a newspaper portrayed what happened as “a scene ensued which it is impossible to describe, and, mingled as it was with the burning boat, from which the flames were spouting …

White River

The 722-mile-long White River flowing through northern Arkansas and southern Missouri is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. The river begins in northwestern Arkansas in the Boston Mountains and flows east toward the Fayetteville (Washington County) area, where it then turns north. Near Eureka Springs (Carroll County), the river enters Missouri. It then flows southeast back into Arkansas past Bull Shoals (Marion County), Mountain Home (Baxter County), and Calico Rock (Izard County). At Batesville (Independence County) begins the second section of the river, known as the lower White. From Batesville, the White River flows south for 295 miles through Arkansas’s Delta region, past Augusta (Woodruff County), Des Arc (Prairie County), Clarendon (Monroe County), and St. Charles (Arkansas County), before …

Wilmington [Steamboat]

The Wilmington was a steamboat that burst a boiler while traveling on the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Arkansas River on November 18, 1839, killing several passengers and crew members. Baltimore’s Watchman & Bratt firm built the Wilmington for the Raleigh Rail Road Company, working from a design by shipwright Langley B. Culley and launching the steamboat in early September 1839. The $60,000, 400-ton steamboat was 182 feet long and forty feet wide, with a ten-foot draft. Powered by a 135 horsepower Watchman & Bratt engine, the Wilmington (according to promotional material) “has one of Raub’s patented double self-acting safety valves, the first which has ever been introduced to operate successfully, on board of any boat on our …