Page images
PDF
EPUB

commodations they afforded were of very scanty extent. All they guaranteed to do was to float and move onward with whomsoever entrusted himself to that means of progress. The boats making regular trips usually started early in the morning like stage wagons, and when the time of departure was near at hand the patron' blew loudly on a horn to summon his intending passengers. A man who embarked for passage either carried his own blanket and rolled up in it at night or else got off and

[graphic][ocr errors]

88.—The batteau was a big boat with the lines of a skiff. It was employed by those who were in a hurry, if a barge was not available. By the

Philadelphia artist and wood engraver, Henry Robb.

slept in some tavern or neighboring farmhouse, resuming his voyage when the horn again tooted at early dawn. At a later day the Delaware River and other eastern passenger keel-boats were transformed into barges by the addition of house-like structures designed to furnish greater comfort and shelter. With these cabins there also appeared rude sleeping bunks, one above another, and thus developed the first germ of the future sleeping-car. But the traveller still carried his own bedding.

The packet-boats of the Ohio, which furnished the

i Captain. : The very earliest regular passenger keel-boats had no covered shelter.

first periodic travel facilities in the interior of the continent, were keel-boats of twenty or thirty tons burden and came into use in the year 1794. They ran regularly thereafter between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. At the time such packets were introduced the Indians were engaged in their last effort to prevent the westward progress of the white race, and real danger to defenseless boats still existed. As a consequence the packets were stoutly built and heavily armed. An understanding of their character and accommodations can best be obtained through the advertisement printed in Cincinnati’ to announce the inauguration of the service. It read:

OHIO PACKET BOATS. “Two boats for the present will start from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh and return to Cincinnati in the following manner, viz.: First boat will leave Cincinnati this morning at eight o'clock, and return to Cincinnati so as to be ready to sail again in four weeks from this date. Second boat will leave Cincinnati on Saturday, the 30th inst., and return as above, and so regularly, cach boat performing the voyage to and from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh once in every four weeks. The proprietor of these boats having maturely considered the many inconveniences and dangers incident to the common method hitherto adopted of navigating the Ohio. and being influenced by a love of philanthropy," and a desire of being serviceable to the public, has taken great pains to render the accommodations on board the boat as agreeable and convenient as they could possibly be made. No danger need be apprehended from the enemy, as every person on board will be under cover made proof to rifle balls, and convenient port holes for firing out. Each of the boats is armed with six pieces, carrying a pound ball; also a good number of muskets, and amply supplied with ammunition, strongly manned with choice men, and the master of approved knowledge.

"A separate cabin from that designed for the men is partitioned off in each boat for accommodating the ladies on their passage. Conveniences are constructed on board each boat, so as to render landing unnecessary, as might at times be attended with danger. Rules and regulations for maintaining order on board, and for the good management of the boats, and a table accurately calculated for the rates of

1 In the Mississippi valley.
? In the "Centinel” newspaper of January 11, 1794.

* Quite an early appearance of that beneficent impulse as a motive for business enterprise.

freightage, for passengers, and carriage of letters to and from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh; also, a table of the exact time of the arrival and departure to and from the different places on the Ohio between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh may be seen on board each boat, and at the printing office in Cincinnati. Passengers will be supplied with provisions and liquors of all kinds, of the first quality, at the most reasonable rates possible. Persons desirous of working their passage will be admitted, on finding themselves subject, however, to the same order and directions from the master of the boats as the rest of the working hands of the boat's crew. An office of insurance will be kept at Cincinnati, Limestone, and Pittsburgh, where persons desirous of having their property insured may apply. The rates of insurance will be moderate.”

The armed keel-boats took about twelve days to go from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, stopping at Limestone, Marietta and a few other settlements on the way. They and the similar unarmed craft soon to follow were the best means of moving through the interior until the year 1811, and remained the only reliable up-stream conveyances on the rivers until 1817. But almost all water travel beyond the Alleghany Mountains was in the opposite direction - down-stream and toward the west. Few of the immense number of emigrants who floated to the new settlements in the Northwest Territory during the first generation of the influx ever returned to the East again. They took up government land for home sites and farms, and in less than twenty years the country had been overrun. The woods of Ohio and the groves and prairies of Indiana and Illinois were in their turn dotted with log cabins; territorial and state governments laid out roads between the principal towns; Conestoga wagons and stage-coaches appeared on land routes of travel and the Ohio valley had ceased to be a frontier. New arrivals still came drifting down the river in ever increasing numbers, but they found established communities and an organized society, although it was a rough and boisterous one.

A short time after western river towns sprang into existence the flatboat demonstrated its versatility in a new way. Having served as a travel vehicle, a domicile, a fort and a barnyard, it finally appeared as a retail business establishment stocked with dry-goods, crockery, bon

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

89.–Boat used by the artist, Henry Lewis, during his trip down the Mississippi.

The superstructure was erected on a platform which in turn rested on two large canoes. This type of boat combined cheapness, swiftness, safety, a considerable carrying capacity and a minimum of labor in its navigation. From a drawing by Lewis.

nets, paint, cutlery, real boots and shoes, ready-made clothing, big colored handkerchiefs, tinware and all those other notions, fabrics and household articles then to be found in the small dry-goods, hardware and general stores of the East. There was a lack of such useful things in the earliest days of the river settlements, and a shrewd trader who fitted up his flatboat in the semblance of a rural dry-goods shop and filled it with appropriate merchandise received an enthusiastic welcome.

Formalities worthy of such an important event were observed in the approach of a trading boat to a newly established community. When within a short distance of his anchorage the Admiral of the department store mounted to the roof, and, striking a posture in which dignity and philanthropy were judiciously mingled, he announced his presence by repeated blasts on the familiar tin horn. It was a sound that by common agreement sig. nified either the arrival of news or an important occurrence of some sort, and was sure to bring to the landing place a group that would scatter information of the arrival. Forthwith all the women folk of the little hamlet dropped their other affairs and hurried to the boat to enjoy again the almost forgotten delights of shopping, comparing patterns and buying the things they needed. A store-boat was fitted with shelves for the goods and counters for their display. The indefinable aroma of fresh, clean fabrics filled its creaking cabin, and the dignified Admiral of half an hour before, transformed into a smiling merchant with a huge pair of shears, snipped his calicoes, bargained with customers and told them the doings of the outside world. After he had accumulated all the money the population had on hand he once more assumed his nautical rank, blew a farewell blast and disappeared down the river. The floating merchant of the Northwest Territory tried to collect in his craft the standard articles ordinarily sold in half a dozen kinds of retail shops, and such an enterprise was the progenitor of today's universal emporium.

All long-distance travel on the interior streams was performed with almost incredible slowness until the gen

« PreviousContinue »