The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, March 06, 1910, SECTION FIVE, Page 2, Image 56

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Steamboating on Oregon Streams in Early Days Rich Field for
Verse and Story.
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THE steamboat traffic of the Missis
sippi lias 1)3611 recounted In song,
versa and story until now the
famous old steamers plying: between
Sc. Louis and New Orleans are almost
' well Jcnown by name as those cross
ISngr between New York and Liverpool,
ut there have been but few to tell of
the glories and histories of the steam
boat of the Northwest. With the ex
ception of mention in histories and log
looks, the story of the boats that piled
on the Willamette and Columbia has
yet to be narrated.
ThU srap. that probably will some day
filled, has attracted the attention of
''Frank Smith, of the Open River Trans
portation Company, and an old river
man of Portland, who has compiled an
Admirable collection of photographs
that plctorially tell the tale of the
vjrrowth and development of the fresh
water fleet of the Northwest.
While some are but reproductions of
' rtnt, many are original photographs
j taken of the boats when they were
, either at their best, as reclining hulks
Hn obscure parts of the rivers, or as
they are still fulfilling minor duties.
Old-Timers Still In Use.
Io r It Is a ourlous and much-corn-,
tnented-oa fact that even today there
re many and many old-time river
Utmr still to be found taking their
part in. the carrying trade where rail
roads have not yet come to remind the
rlverman the day of his glory-is- almost
:pat. Sea-going boats find their way
in 20 years or so to the boneyard, the
xlver boat plugs along until she breaks
her b&ck or blows up. and often, in
, either or both eventualities, they patch
i her up and force the groaning hulk to
' yet a day's work. The river history
full of many such Incidents.
And the river boats were highly spe
thHsed. Theirs must be a light draft
-although but few can approach the
little Chester, with her draught, un
loaded, of eight inches, and of 14 inches
.leaded with her 60 tons capacity yet
J with powerful engines able to force the
-steamers against Winter flood and
I Springe npida. Just how powerfnl the
i musiOMt mutt be. those who have taken
the trip in the Gatzert to the Cascades,
when the has had to buck the rapids
below the locks, will appreciate. And
with this power, the weight had to be
light, and well distributed, mainly
above the water level. - -
Probably it la due in no small measure
to the steamboat - traffic that - Portland
located where it did. The steamship
lines had to have a logical meeting point,
and while from divers other sources
Portland was most suitable, it is more
than probable that had there been una
nimity in making some other port, "Van
couver, for example, the City of Roses
might have been delayed in . gaining her
presant proud position.
Towns- Made by Boating.
That the boats did make and unmake
towns la unquestioned. The town of Mil
waukie. Or., flourished with a large saw
mill and the reputation of being able to
make a first-class hull; and when the
hull was made, Jacob Kamra would be
ready to fit in the engines right by the
town that gave the boat birth. When
thS railroads came and missed Mllwau
kle, and the mora important steamer
traffic was driven, from the river, the
fate of Milwaukee for many years wag
in the balance. '
In Mr. Smith's collection of pictures
the gradual development of ihe river
boat is shown; how it grew in sise and
speed; how stern-wheels and side-wheels
came to take their final positions; and
how boats almost buckled up in the mid
dle were still made good for service by
extra hog-frames and chains stretched
fore and aft. While most of the pictures
were taken by Mr. Smith himself, many
were contributed by Attorney Chris BelL
In the list of river boats are two that
stand out paramount when the old river
glories are up for discussion the Wide
West and the Telephone. As to which
was the speedier when both were at their
best is a doubtful question. But when
the Telephone took her place on the river,
the Wide West was rather past her prime
end encounters between the two were
somewhat apt to end in favor of the for
meryet there are many old-time resi
dents in Portland who will vigorously
dery the implication.
A short life but a. merry- ctve was Abat
or the Wide West. Launched in Port
land in the Fall of 1S77, the steamer was
palatlally fitted up as a first-class- pas
senger steamer, yet the need for her
services was so great she was promptly
pressed Into service between Portland
and the Cascades as a freighter, not be
ing completely fitted up for passenger
accommodation until the following year.
When the last final touches were added
she was proclamed a wonder, and steam
boat men In the Northwest say she has
not been equaled to thig day.
. In 1880 the Wide West made the Portland-Astoria
record of five hours,, which
lor many years remained undisturbed and
was considered at that time remark
able. She remained on the Cascade route
with occasional side trips to Astoria. .In
1SS7 she was sent to the boneyard and her
engines and most of her fittings trans
ferred to the new T. J. Potter. Two years
later she was sold to Puget Sound own
ers, a weak engine was put in her, and
in a few months she broke her back on
Destruction Island, ending the career of
perhaps the most romantic of the river
While gambling never obtained the hold
on the river boats of the- Northwest that
It did on the liners of the Mississippi, it
Is said the Wide West was one of the not
able exceptions. Her palatial equipment
lent Itself to the art of professional card
playing, and high, stakes were not consid
ered an exception aboard her.
' Telephone Speedy Craft.
The career of the Telephone is no less
remarkable. Made for speed and captur
ing two notable records, she carried the
great bulk of ihe Astoria trade. Her
record of 4 hours 84 minutes from Port
land to Astoria and her round trip record
of 11 hours and 4 minute were long unbeaten-
In making the record run to As
toria the last 40 miles was in the teeth
of an on-shore gale. '
In November, 1887, the Telephone took
fire and was run ashore at Tongue- Point,
Astoria. The efforts of the Astoria bri
gade left enough hulk for a second Tele
phone to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes
of the old. Telephone No. 2 is now in
service on San Francisco -Bay, being re
cently pLsrchased. Tb plctur of the
second Telephone accompanies this ar
ticle. In the Carrie Ladd the mighty Oregon
Steam Navigation Company had Its nu
cleus. A smart little boat with plenty of
power, the Carrie Ladd did not go In for
making records, but she, could buck the
Columbia flood right to the foot of the
Cascade rapids. She was constructed by
Jacob Karam and Captain Alnsworth,
both of whom were later financially In
terested in her. She was built at Oregon
City and Intended for the Oregon City
traffic, but the Oregon Steam Navigation
Company decided she was too valuable
a property for anything other than the
boom run the trip to the Cascades. She
was wrecked on a rock In the Columbia
River, and was later raised and convert
ed Into a barge. Her strenuous life had
weakened her and her later existence was
short. The. Carrie Ladd was at her prime
In the early '60s.
For Just a year the steamer Great Re
public was a factor in the marine life of
Portland. She entered the San Francisco
Portland trade in 1878, leaving the New
York-to-China route. She was a vast
side-wheeler and signified her advent by
a period of cutting rates. The following
year she was wrecked on Sand Island at
the mouth of the Columbia. In two days
she was knocked to pieces, the career of
the largest vessel to enter the Columbia
River up to that time being ended.
"Tlie "Snail" Makes Money.
The old side-wheeler TUlia Anderson
made records in a way different from the
other boats. She was often nicknamed
"the snail" by reason of certain leisurely
propensities, but despite that she has a
record for money-making never equaled
by so slow a boat. She was on' the
Olympla-Victoria run and had things
much her own way for several years prior
to 1S70. From that date she ran as a
spare boat till 1S77. In 1SS2, she sank at
her wharf In Seattle, was raised and put
on the Victoria and New Westminster
route. She is now lying in the Snohomish
River, it is said.
One interesting incident connected
with the Anderson was the marriage on
board, of her of Jacob Kamm and bis
wife. Young Kamm had gone to
British. Columbia, to get married, but
according to the laws had to be a resi
dent two weeks to obtain a marriage
license. To escape this provision , the
Kamms decided to : get married on an
American boat and going on board the
Anderson, with a preacher, she put to
sea. As soon as they were outside the
three-mile limit, the nuptial knot was
The steamboat men on the River
Clyde in Scotland are apt to boast their
light draft steamers can run on a
heavy dewfall, but even at that they
would have much to watch for from
the Chester. The Chester 'was built at
Joseph Supple's shipyard at Portland.
The Chester rifns on the Cowlitz, from
Castle Rock up, and as can be seen ,in
the accompanying illustration may be
loaded from a cart alongside.
It 'was in anticipation that the whole
wheat crop of the Willamette Valley
could be placed In Astoria at ii a ton
that the Willamette Chief was put ' on
the run from Corvallls to Astoria.
Built in 1874. on her Initial trip she
loaded 200 tons at Corvallls, taking
130 tons more at Albany, carrying the
load through to Astoria. Her first- run
was made the occasion of a consider
able Jollification on board and speeches
were made indicating the salvation of
the,Willamette Valley had been found
in a boat capable of taking great loads
on a. very light draught, for whenever
freight might demand it was Intended
to take the Chief up to the head waters
of the river. The year following that
In which she was built the Willamette
Chief was run up to the very foot of
the Cascades, a full mile farther than
any boat had previously been.
Willamette Chief Burns. .
In 1878 she ''was sold to the Oregon
Steam Navigation Company and In her
later years rather degenerated. At
any rate those who tell of her exploits
prefer to dwell on her earlier doings.
After being rebuilt, the Willamette
Chief acted as a railroad ferry, prior
to the construction of the steel bridge,
and was accidentally burnt at the
boneyard In the early nineties.
The Willamette Chief achieved some
little fame by badly beating the One
onta in the only race In which the two
boats came Into conflict. The Oneonta
wae built for the Oregon Steam Navi
gation Company after the pattern of
the old Mississippi steamboats, and
probably approached her models more
closely than anything else on the Wes
tern rivers. Well fitted, and intended
for passengers as well as freight, she
was placed on the middle river until
the declrne of trade forced her owners
to run her through the Cascades and
place her on the Portland-Cascades
run. The year after she was placed on
this run she was used In a record
breaking competition between Port
land and Vancouver and in this capa
city carried passengers free and freight
at the rate of $1 a ton. Kventually
her machinery was removed and the
Oneonta was transformed into a barge.
With the Albany, the Dayton was built
at Canemah, above Oregon City, and
destined for service on the Upper Wil
lamette route. They were both the prop
erty of the People's Transportation Com
pany, which. In the early '60s, had the
key to the Upper Willamette business by
a private basin it , had constructed at
Oregon City. This transportation com
pany, being a monopoly, made no attempt
to reduce rates, but the very rich traffic
then coming from the Willamette Valley
which had not been invaded by the
railroads, caused the formation of a com
pany to build the locks, which was event
ually etate aided. The Dayton, was a
fine little steamer, but she remained
only a few years in service.
Although there was a later Multnomah,
built 1885. and one of the fastest boats
on the river, the. Multnomah shown In
the Illustration Is the one of '61. The
picture was taken at the foot of Wash
ington street and Illustrates the freedom
of the east bank from buildings of any
The Multnomah was what was termed
a "hooped boat." Built in the East, she
was sent out in sections in the bark Suc
cess, and put together at Oregon City.
She was often termed the "barrel boat."
because she was constructed of stave
like timbers, bound together outside. She
was strengthened Insipi with a special
For a longer prlod than any othwr
boat, the Multnomah retained her pion
eer reputation and was an excellent river
steamer 25 years ago. Her first run was
from Canemah to Corvallis. indeed, the
Multnomah was the first river boat ta
ascend as far up the river as Corvallis.
The Multnomah enjoyed quite a profit
able trade on the upper river, bringing
down from 1000 to 1500 bushels of wheat
every trip.
The frightful explosion and blowing up
of the Elk is the incident by which the.
old-time steamer lives best in the minds
of past rver men. The Elk? was a small
sternwheeler intended to be placed in the
Yamhill River trade. When one mile be
low the Yamhill, there occurred a ter
rific explosion that tore the boat to
pieces and sent much of the boat sky
ward. That every one on board was not
killed was one of the marvels of the day.
Instead, while there were a number in
jured, not one person was killed.
Captain Tossed Into Air.
Among the marvelous escapes was that
of - Captain George Jerome, who wae
blown to a great height. On the way
down he was caught in the branches
of a cottonwood tree and escaped scot
free. Even now, it is said, the river
men can point out the identical tree.
Passengers sitting immediately by the
boiler escaped free from injury, although
flung -a considerable distance. The Elk
had been sold and was to be delivered to
her purchasers at the end of the trip.
Her purchasers were to collect for the
freight. . Although the boat was never
actually delivered, she had to be paid for.
The story of the Gamecock and the
Staghound is comparatively recent. Built
and sold to the Alaska steamship com
pany, they left the Columbia River in
tow. They had barely got as far as Puget
Sound when they had to buck their first
gale and with but little success. Both
boats we-.-e practically wrecked. Not
strong enough to stand any sea they
buckled in the center, but were suc
ceFfifully towed back. Both boats wer
built at Portland and although an at
tempt was made to repair them for use
again, it was practically unsuccessful.
The S. G. Reed was built at Portland,
In 1878. for the Portland-Astoria run. She
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