« PreviousContinue »
Barges cost about five dollars for each foot of length, and
- with keel-boats — were the most rapid of all conveyances for water travel. They were used by business men whose time was valuable, by land speculators and government officials. Under ordinary circumstances they could make from four to five miles an hour with the current, and when going in the contrary direction attained a speed of about two miles an hour.1
Barges had covered enclosures for passengers. Sometimes the protection thus given was in the shape of a house built in the center of the boat, supported by timbers at its four corners and surmounted by a gable roof. At other times the vessel was almost completely covered by a flat-topped superstructure of bullet-proof construction containing loopholes and even embrasures for the firing of small cannon. During troublous times the barge was anchored at night and sentries were posted.*
The Ohio packet-boat was a magnified barge, or keelboat. In size it ranged from seventy-five to a hundred feet long by fifteen or twenty feet wide, with the passenger cabin usually in the stern. The steersman stood on the cabin roof. It had a mast and sails, was equipped with many pole-men, and on occasion the crew even went ashore and towed the boat by means of a long rope. Such packets, carrying both passengers and freight, plied regularly between Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville before the beginning of the steamboat era in the West. By travelling on a swift packet-boat a man could go from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh and back again in a month, and even have a day or so to devote to business before starting on the return trip.
1 Even more if the wind was from a favorable quarter.
8. All river craft carried anchors, and night navigation on western rivers was not usually attempted until about 1800.
- Especially during periods when trouble with the Indians was feared.
A RIVER JOURNEY THAT ENDED IN TRAGEDY MANY VOY
AGERS IGNORANT OF WILDERNESS EXPEDIENTS - THE
O extensive accounts exist by which the amount of
flatboat travel on western rivers from about 1788 until its final disappearance can be approximately reckoned. It began at a still earlier date, when a journey of the sort was folly and its consequences almost sure disaster. One of the first important organized trips of the sort was made by about two hundred and fifty people then living on the upper waters of the Tennessee, who had decided to remove to a locality on the Cumberland River in North Carolina. They proceeded by water in order to avoid the shorter but more laborious overland march, and started in the winter of 1779-1780.
Thirty boats — probably keel-boats or batteaux — were built to carry the people, and the voyagers did not reach their destination until April 24th of 1780, after enduring much hardship. Their new home was separated from the nearest neighbors by more than two hundred
81.-A little Aatboat, equipped with a sail, used for down-stream journeys on
some small and shallow rivers of the East.
miles of wilderness, and so out of touch with the world did the self-exiled party find itself that its members organized a little republic, similar to the one of Wautaga, and also based on a written document. Disease, the Indians and social isolation proved fatal to the venture so bravely yet foolishly begun.' But twenty of the original party remained in the settlement in 1792, and of those twenty only one is credited by tradition with a natural death.
About three hundred Kentucky boats are believed to have passed down the Ohio during the year of 1780,” and
1 Clannish migrations, limited to one party however large, have not generally been successful in any period or country, and have not had a lasting influence on the occupied territory. All permanently important migrations have originated in a widely distributed public interest prior to the movement itself, and the first travellers in such cases have carried with them a confidence or certainty that others were to follow. That feeling of support has often been more valuable than mere numbers in sustaining pioneers in a new country. • Those who made the trip before 1788 were bound for Kentucky.
82.-An Orleans or Mississippi boat. Constructed on the lines of the covered
Ohio boat, but larger and heavier. Used in descending the Mississippi, and often equipped with a sail. From a drawing by the American artist, Henry Lewis.
a small but increasing flow of travel continued westward on the river thereafter until 1788. Then came the onrush of a whole people; the first national surge of the tide destined to continue under many different aspects of movement, but always due to similar impulses and purposes, .until the oceans were united. The people did not then, nor for long afterward, have the shores of the Pacific as their avowed objective. What they wanted was new homes, wealth, and soil over which they could become the individual proprietors. Impelled onward by those aspirations they made their periodic advances, using each time, as an aid to their westward progress, the transportation method best fitted for the journey immediately at hand. This time they built boats; floated with the currents of the rivers; pushed themselves along by poles; lifted sails to catch the breezes; pulled themselves onward by ropes. Any way served as long as they made visible progress over the waters bearing them into the new country. And as they moved they fought, sang, fished, swore dreadful oaths, quarrelled among themselves, aided one another when in peril or distress, brought new children into the world, and buried their dead in haste that they might not lose an hour of the precious daylight or a favoring wind.
By the later part of the year 1788 a human flood was upborne by the flood beneath. Flotillas of fantastic craft dotted the surface of the winding rivers. New settlements sprang up along the banks of the Ohio,' and all those scenes attendant on the evolution of a wilderness frontier into a region suffering its first acute attack of civilization were again in progress of repetition.”
Practically all the invaders who so suddenly poured over the mountains and launched themselves headlong into extensive voyages on the Ohio and Mississippi systems of rivers were lacking in knowledge of the country through which they were to journey. Those who came from cities and towns of the East were also ignorant of the many expedients by which wilderness life, especially on a river trip, could be made more safe and easy. As a consequence they sought advice and aid before embarking, and
1 Cincinnati and Marietta were founded in 1788. Cincinnati, then called Losantiville, at once became the most important western outpost, and its big timber fortification was named Fort Washington. The own was afterward a headquarters for all the white men's campaigns against the Indians until the natives gave up their struggle.
? The line where primitive races and civilization meet in final contest for supremacy is distinguished for a' time by a display of the worst qualities of both those states of society. The more highly cultured combatants lapse from the standard elsewhere slowly attained and, as a class, resort to many of the cruder methods which they are avowedly seeking to eliminate.