Steamboat Washington: An 1866 Account
-from "Old Time Steamboat," by Chas. W. Batchelor, The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, July 10, 1886.
OLD TIME STEAMBOAT
WHEELING'S FIRST STEAMER
The Washington, Capt. Shreve's boat — A Flag Presented by the Ladies of Wheeling — A Terrible Accident on Board — Her Famous Fast Trip — Log Book.
To the Editor of the Intelligencer.
Sir: — For some years I have been gathering information in reference to the first steamboats that navigated the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and from time to time have given the results to the newspapers, that they might publish them for information of the present and use of future generations.This collection in reference to the steamboat Washington has never been published by me, and I send them to your paper because the subject is of a local character, interesting to your citizens.The Washington was a remarkable boat in her day, and was the sixth boat that was built to run on the Western waters. She had a high pressure engine and four single-flue boilers. From all the information obtained, it appears that Capt. Shreve designed the engine and boilers. He is supposed to be the inventor of the cut-off cam, and was also the inventor of the apparatus for removing snags from the channel of the river. In 1834 he built the snag boat that removed the celebrated raft on the Red River, hence the name Shreveport, called for him.The steamboat Washington was built at Wheeling, W. Va., in 1816, Captain Henry M. Shreve; owners, Niles Gillespie, Robert Clark, of Brownsville, Pa., Noah Zane and George White, of Wheeling, W. Va., and Henry M. Shreve. First enrollment at
The steamboat Washington was built at Wheeling, W. Va., in 1816, Captain Henry M. Shreve; owners, Niles Gillespie, Robert Clark, of Brownsville, Pa., Noah Zane and George White, of Wheeling, W. Va., and Henry M. Shreve. First enrollment at port of New Orleans, 1816; seocnd enrollment, January 12, 1821. She was altered in dimensions and tonnage at Louisville, Ky., in 1820 — length 136 feet 8 inches, breadth 21 feet 9 inches, depth 6 feet 8 inches; tons 211 51 95. She then changed owners, William Fowler, David Fowler of New Orleans, James Gray of Louisville, H. W. Conway, of Arkansas, William Taylor, of Baltimore, Md., and Capt. Henry M. Shreve being the new proprietors.The Louisiana Gazette of July 5, 1816, says: "On Monday last the steamboat Washington sailed from Wheeling for New Orleans under
The Louisiana Gazette of July 5, 1816, says: "On Monday last the steamboat Washington sailed from Wheeling for New Orleans under command of Captain H. M. Shreve. She got under way at 5 o'clock and in forty-five minutes made nine miles, since which time she has not been heard from. The steamboat Washington was built at Wheeling by George White; he keel was laid on the tenth of September last. In August all her timbers were growing in the woods. Her main cabin is sixty feet; she has three handsome private rooms besides a bar-room. Her steam power is applied upon an entirely new principal and is exceedingly simple. She has no fly wheel, and her engine possesses a power of 100 horses, weighing only 9,000 pounds. It is the invention of H. M. Shreve.
A PRESENT FROM THE WHEELING LADIES.
"The ladies of Wheeling presented to Captain Shreve a handsome flag, on which was embroidered the figure of Fame, holding in her right hand a trumpet, in her left a scroll on the side of which was this motto: 'Our friends shall not withhold what we have wrested from our enemies' [A good motto for West Virginia at the present date], on the other 'Don't give up the ship.' This motto alludes to Livingston's vexatious claim to the exclusive right of navigation on the Mississippi River within the State of Louisiana. The forfeiture of other vessels in the penalty for attempting to navigate incurred under the law of the Louisiana Territory conferring this extraordinary privilege. The company has a very good legal opinion from P. Doddridge, Esq., against the validity of Livingston's claim."The citizens of Wheeling wished Capt. Shreve to call her the Andrew Jackson, but he. . .[text missing]
"The citizens of Wheeling wished Capt. Shreve to call her the Andrew Jackson, but he preferred the name of Washington."
The Louisiana Gazette of July 3, 1816, says: "A letter dated Wheeling, the 11th ult., gives an account of the steamboat Washington's boiler bursting. She left Wheeling on the third with twenty-one passengers on board. On that or the next day, at or near the town of Marietta, Ohio, the boiler burst, and seventeen out of the twenty-one were either killed or wounded, the Captain only slightly. It is strange the boat is not injured, except the loss of the boiler. We shall probably soon hear more of this truly melancholy accident.
From the old Wharfage Book, New Orleans, the fact is learned that the Washington arrived for the first time at the port of New Orleans, October 7, 1816; she is registered only twice during 1816.
THE CELEBRATED QUICK TRIP OF THE WASHINGTON.
The Louisiana Gazette, of Tuesday, May 6, 1817 says: "The steamboat Washington, commanded by the indefatigable Captain H. M. Shreve, arrived at the levee last Saturday night, only seven days from the Falls of the Ohio, but six of which she was under way. The Washington made the trip up in twenty-four days, so that in going and coming we was thirty-one days in running 3,000 miles. We have been favored with a Louisville paper of the 26th ult., received by the Washington.
Extract from a Louisville paper, April 26, 1817: "The citizens gave Captain Shreve a grand dinner on Wednesday at the Union Hall, in honor of the quick trip he made with the steamboat Washington, from New Orleans to this port, in the unprecedented time of twenty-four days. The address of the citizens was as follows:
"Captain H. M. Shreve.
Sir: —The undersigned, in behalf of their fellow citizens of Louisville, avail themselves of this occasion to express their sincere gratification at your speedy return to this place, and beg you to accept their congratulations at the very expeditious voyage you have performed from Louisville to New Orleans and back. While they view with the liveliest interest the revolution that the application of steam to the navigation of our rivers is effecting in the commercial relations of this country, they fully appreciate your exertions for the success of an undertaking once heard by many to be of doubtful issue, but whose practicability they deem by you in particular to be established in certainty, and felicitate themselves in being the organ through which is made known the esteem in which your undertakings are held by their fellow citizens.
[Signed] Levi Taylor, James A. Pearce.
Louisville, April 21, 1817.
Capt. H. M. Shreve returned thanks to the citizens of Louisville and predicted that the trip from New Orleans to Louisville would yet be made in ten days — a prediction that was regarded as visionary. The trip has been made in less than six days.
THE WASHINGTON'S LOG
The Louisiana Gazette of Tuesday, May 6, 1817, given an extract from the log book of the steamboat Washington:
"Monday, March 24, 1817, sailed from New Orleans, for Louisville, Ky., at 5 p. m.
"25th, spoke steamboat Harriet [I cannot find any official record of the "Harriet."] at noon, fifty miles up the coast.
"29th, arrived at Natchez at 2 p. m.
"Thursday, April 3d, spoke a brig from Cincinnati in Cypress bend.
"Off Arkansas river. Sunday.
"Monday, 7th, off Chickasaw Bluffs at 5 p. m.
"Tuesday, 8th, spoke, off Plum Point, keel boat Western Trader, bound for Nashville.
"Wednesday, 9th, spoke, off Island 21, barge Eliza Mary, Capt. Butter.
"Thursday, 10th, touched at New Madrid.
"Friday, entered the Ohio.
"Saturday, touched at the mouth of Cumberland.
"Monday, 14th, touched at Henderson
"Thursday, 17th, off the mouth of Indian Creek at 8 p. m.; spoke the Buffalo, for New Orleans.
"Arrived at shipping port after a passage of twenty-four days."
Note — The Washington continued to be advertised and registered in the old wharfage book until 1824, when she must have worn out, as I do not find any account of her sinking.
Chas. W. Batchelor
Pittsburgh, Pa., July 8
Steamboat Washington | Riverboats | Transportation | Wheeling History Home | OCPL Home