Page images

navigate the keel-boat down-stream, but its progress against the current was effected by the wind or the labor of men at setting-poles. The cost of such a craft was from $2.50 to $3.00 for each foot of its length. Keel-boats were extensively used on every navigable stream in the country. They originated in the East, probably by independent development in several localities, and gradually assumed certain standard sizes and shapes. Introduced on western waters at the outset of the great migration which began in 1788, they were long employed there both in their original form and with modifications to be related in connection with the barge and Ohio packet-boats.?

Mohawk boats were the sort of keel-boats used on that river, or any similarly shallow stream.

Schenectady boats were Mohawk keel-boats. Both were names used in New York.

The Durham boat was a keel-boat shaped much like an Indian bark canoe, and it acquired its name from a celebrated eastern builder of river vessels. He was Robert Durham, of Pennsylvania, who began turning out his product about the year 1750 for use on the Delaware River, where the craft became very popular. A description of them? reads:

"Durham boats were 60 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 2 feet deep, and when laden with 15 tons drew 20 inches of water. The stern and bow were sharp, on which were erected small decks, while a running board extended the whole length of the boat on each side. They carried a mast with two sails, and were manned by a crew of five men, one steering, and four pushing forward with setting-poles, two being on each side.”

The ark was a type of boat originating either on the Susquehanna or Delaware River. After Indian warfare

1 The keel-boat was also the immediate ancestor of the canal boat. 2 From Pearce's “Annals of Luzerne.

3 Running boards were a necessary feature of all keel-boats. On these long, narrow platforms the pole-men walked while they pushed.

[graphic][ocr errors]

79.—Another group of travellers smoking and telling stories on a flat-boat. Showing the knee-breeches, hunting-shirt, moccasins, coon-skin cap and long clay pipes of the period; also, a small hatch leading

down into the boat. Sketch by Joshua Shaw.

ceased in the West the ark was very popular on the Ohio, Mississippi and all other streams in that part of the country. It was usually from seventy-five to a hundred feet long, fifteen to twenty feet wide and from three to five feet deep. Heavy timbers and planks were necessary for its construction, and the lumber necessary in building one cost about a hundred dollars. The ark had vertical bulwarks all around, and both bow and stern ended in a broad V-shaped point. So huge and unwieldy was the vessel that it was much at the mercy of the current, and only a general guidance could be given to it by side sweeps and steering. The steering oar was a wide sweep about forty feet long, requiring the strength of two men for its manipulation. An ark could never go up-stream. On reaching its destination it was sold for what the timber would bring — ten to twenty-five dollars — or else broken up for metamorphosis into a cabin and furniture. On western waters the ark usually had a wooden house for the family near one end, and an enclosure at the other for the live stock. It was never roofed entirely over, and, because of its inability for defense, was not widely adopted until the country was tranquil and travelling was freed from the incidents of warfare.

A Susquehanna boat was an ark used on that stream.

The flatboat was the standard water vehicle for travelling families, and was a creation of the Ohio River valley. In size it varied greatly, each craft being originally built or bought in accordance with the needs of the party intending to occupy it. Due consideration was given, in its construction, to the nature of the stream or streams to be navigated, the length of the trip, the purpose to which the timber was to be put at the end of the voyage, and probability of attack by hostile natives. It was never

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]

80.-The broadhorn was an Ohio or Mississippi family Aatboat with three steering oars, two of which stuck out, like huge horns, from the

sides of the structure. The fag was exceptional.

less than twenty feet long by ten feet in width, and sometimes developed into a huge floating domicile sixty feet in length and eighteen or twenty feet wide. The hull of such a boat was made of big square timbers of hard wood, and it drew from a foot to two and a half feet of water when full laden. Its timber hull rose, under like conditions, three or four feet above the surface of the river sometimes even more — thus making it an oaken fort with sides often eight or ten inches thick and impervious to rifle fire.

Upright timbers four feet high and four or five inches thick were set on top of the hull, and the whole was then enclosed, like a house, with heavy planks. A similar roof completed the structure, which contained a barricaded entrance, loopholes; a window or two and a trap-door for upward egress. The flatboat floated at the mercy of the current, and was steered by a big sweep as long as the vessel itself. A small craft of the sort required the attention of three men. Its cost was about three or four dollars for each foot of length. The top was occasionally - but not often — built in a slightly arched form, and after the time of Indian hostilities had ceased the live stock was kept out-of-doors, in an open yard added to one end of the boat. The family wash was hung out to dry on the roof, and sometimes a fond parent would also fence in a space on the upper deck to serve as a playground for the children.

The Kentucky boat was a small or medium-sized water conveyance like the one just described. The name was given to such as were bound for the Kentucky region or lower Ohio.

New Orleans boats were big flatboats destined for the lower Mississippi.

A broadhorn was a similar craft whose movements were habitually regulated, as far as possible, by two big sweeps that projected like horns from each side of the boat. Vessels of the flatboat type rarely proceeded upstream.

The barge was built somewhat after the style of a ship's long-boat, and closely resembled the keel-boat previously discussed. It was from thirty to seventy feet long, seven to twelve feet in width, and carried a mast, sails and rudder. Its down-stream progress was accelerated either by the wind or by four of the crew who wielded long oars. When going up a river the motive power was supplied by numerous men who used the familiar iron-tipped poles.

« PreviousContinue »