Lee Line advertising mirror circa early 1900’s

This advertising mirror is a recent find.   The maker was the Whitehead and Hoag Co. Newark NJ.

Lee Line Mirror  11     .

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1901 Lee Line pass

A recent EBay purchase.  D. A. Loomis was quite a traveler as numerous passes from this era bear his name or he made a hobby of collecting railroad and steamboat passes.  Comping executives of railroads and steamboat companies was a common practice in the transportation industry.  Thankfully these passes were preserved and are sold from time to time.

1901 Lee Line pass

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STACKER LEE 1907/8 family pictures

These pictures are from a family album dating from 1907 1908 and were sent to me by Susan Lea whose family members are pictured.  They are the Schott and Ruppel families.  The man in the lower two pictures is thought to be the Captain of the STACKER LEE.  Thank you Susan for sharing these old family pictures.  I am always looking for old pictures such as these.

The STACKER LEE was nicknamed Stack-O-Dollars by her crew.  She was build following the demise of the St. Louis New Orleans Anchor Line a St. Louis major competitor.  Prior the end of the Anchor Line, the Lee Line went no further than Cairo Il.  Following the end of the Anchor Line, the Lee Line built 3 large packets, the STACKER LEE, JAMES LEE and the PETERS LEE.   JAMES LEE ran to and above St. Louis.  The STACKER LEE likewise ran the St. Louis trade while the PETERS LEE ran up the Ohio River to Cincinnati Ohio.  However these boats ran various routes as needed and competition allowed.  The Lee Line built several smaller packets in the late 1890’s in addition to the above boats.

Stacker Lee ladies under sign 1907Stacker Lee ladies beside bell 1907Stacker Lee ladies front of bell 1907 Stacker Lee ladies and captain 1907

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Memphis river front winter circa 1906

Mphs Lee Line river front color reduced

The original picture was taken from a glass negative and colorized by my friend Josh Gamble Photo Shop maestro.  The first REES LEE was completed 1899 at Howard Shipyard Jeffersonville Ind., she sank and was lost at Tiptonville Tenn. June 6, 1906.  http://leelinesteamers.com/?page_id=1549 tells of a January 1906 sinking.

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Made in Memphis the BOB LEE Jr. July 1912

BOB LEE Jr. MemphisThe BOB LEE Jr was built on the levee by the Southern Tank & Boiler Works.  She was 145 ft long x 32 ft wide. A fire destroyed her upper works in Aug. 1913.  She was sold to Standard Oil which made a towboat out of her and renamed her CORONA.  Later she was sold to a subsidiary of Standard Oil, the Transcontinental Oil Co. and taken to the Panuco River Mexico where she was renamed ROBALO.  Eventually she was brought back by Standard Oil and renamed CORONA.  Pictures in the Univ. of Wisconsin LaCrosse collection show her pushing gasoline barges.  Interestingly, a few days after the BOB LEE Jr. was completed, my great uncle Robert E Lee in a Memphis newspaper was quoted as saying “his company would never build a side-wheel boat, the day of the big boat is gone.”  Later modifications added an additional smoke stack along with four boilers replacing the origional single boiler.

The above newspaper clipping was taken from Capt. William Tippitt’s History of the Lee Line.

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Steamer Ferd Harold 1920


This history of the FERD HAROLD was complied by Capt. William Tippitt as part of his history of the Lee Line and is found at the end his 1920 report.  The FERD was operated along with the GEORGIA LEE as part of the Memphis and St. Louis Transportation Co.  My great uncle G. Peters Lee was Vice President of this company.  Of interest is the mention of Capt. Milt Harry who at various times in Capt. Tippitt’s History of the Lee Line was mentioned as a friend, a shewed competitor, “friendemy” and finally enemy.  Capt. Harry was a man who seemingly always had plan a, plan b and plan c when he encounter numerous setbacks over the course of his long career.  The loss of a Milt Harry boat proved to be a stepping stone to the next boat and backers for Capt. Harry.  He landed on the Lee Line enemy list when he bid on a one year mail contract at no cost to the Post Office; taking the contract from a Lee Line boat.


Ferd Harold 1920

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Burning of the James Lee Oct. 4, 1893 an addendum

My grandfather S. Rees Lee woke his father James Lee Jr. with the news that several Lee Line boats were burning.  Great grandfathers response was “there is nothing I can do about that” and rolled over and went back to sleep.  His response sounded like a man who knew exactly where he could put his hand on the insurance policy covering the James Lee.

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Burning of the James Lee October 4, 1893

The JAMES LEE had survived two previous fire episodes one while undergoing repairs to her pilot house while tied up at the Memphis river front, the other when a near by steamer caught fire.   Capt. James Lee Sr. who lived aboard his namesake prevented her from being pushed into the river when the fire was discovered, this fire was the first fire encounter.   During the pilot house fire, he forbade the steamer being pushed into the river.  Standard procedure was to push a burning steamer into the river so as to avoid burning nearby moored steamers.  He was carried ashore by brawny mate Tom Claggett who lifted 300 pound Capt. Jim in his hickory chair and proceeded down the gang plank all the while Capt. Jim bellowed in protest.  Mate Claggett later became a Lee Line captain.  The second fire encounter occurred when a Lee Line steamer ignited when a careless night watchman dropped a match while lighting his lantern.  Again, brawny mate Tom Claggett was able to secure the JAMES LEE when he sparred the steamer into the river allowing her to escape the conflagration.   She was caught by a harbor tug and returned to shore since her boilers were cold.

Capt. Tippitt gave a detailed account of the arson fire that burned the JAMES LEE from the Memphis Appeal and the Commercial Appeal.

Appeal Oct. 4, 1893; “The JAMES LEE was burned last night at her mooring at Hopefield Bend, just 3 ½ miles above the City on Arkansas shore. The fire occurred shortly before 11 o’clock, its origin is a mystery, she had been out of service for a year on account of the dull times. During this period she has lain in the bend.

Capt. Peter Lee, Mr. Lowe, the steamboat agent secured the tug of the Pittsburg Coal Co., and ran up to the scene. On arrival there was nothing but a mass of roaring flames, the GAYOSO tied up just above the JAMES LEE was not damaged.

The JAMES LEE, a four boiler boat was built at Pittsburg by James Rees & Sons in 1878 at a cost of $60,000 by Capt. James Lee, Sr., for whom the boat was named and her first commander, then Capt. S. Stacker Lee was in command and he made several record runs with her. She was always in the Friars Point trade going down one day and up the next.”

Commercial Appeal reported; “The JAMES LEE took fire last night at 10:30 pm and burned to the waters’ edge. She was lying up 3 miles north of Memphis on Arkansas side. The fire was incendiary origin no doubt, organized and set by a bunch of fire bugs operating on the river. For several months it has been laid up and was just put into condition to return to operation.

Our reporter was returning from the fire at 2:15 am, this morning in a skiff when a blaze of flame shot across the river side of deck of the C.B. BRYAN, we were within 100 yards of scene and hasten to the burning boat, as we approached an oil can wrapped in sack and an empty skiff was passed, the boat man Wm. T. Thompson was left to secure the skiff and oil can. On the BRYAN watchman T.A. Murray, J.S. Gillespie and Vic Johnson were setting on the head of the boat when they heard a crash in deck room and immediately flames arose, they went to work and quickly extinguished the flames.

Our reporter on approaching the scene of burning JIM LEE found the GAYOSO a short distance above, approaching her he was stopped by two men on the GAYOSO who threatened to shoot him if he came any closer, no information about the JAMES LEE could be secured from them.”

Commercial Appeal Oct. 5, 1893; “It is now thought that Joe Williams, a colored ferryman, who has been a habitué of the river front and whose body was found under the wheel of the BRYAN is the fire bug. His sister stated that he left home Tuesday night with a can of gasoline or coal oil, the skiff found was rented by him at Golden Gate earlier in the evening.

The watchman on the JAMES LEE, Dennie Thomas and W. Jones state the fire broke out on shore side, the only fire on the boat was on the other side in cook house, and they discovered the blaze too late to save the boat. She was insured for $25,000.

The MARY ANN was moored just above the JAMES LEE and burned at the same time; she was valued at $1500 and not insured, owned by the Lee Line and used in Upper St. Francis River as feeder boat and during low water. “


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3 Jinxes sink the H W BUTTORFF


To view the text, click on the image and you should be able to scroll up the image to read this old account of the sinking March 1, 1899 of the BUTTORFF.  Way’s Packet Directory recorded this steamer entering the Lee Line fleet January 1911.  This article was taken from Capt. William Tippitt’s History of the Lee Line.

Buttorff sinking

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H W Buttorff at Nashville TN 1913 postcard

The H W BUTTORFF is the steamer in the foreground.  The BUTTORFF entered the Lee Line fleet January 1911 and was renamed the JOHN LEE.  Evidently, this picture was taken prior to 1911.  This postcard is another EBay purchase in the quest to find new pictures of Lee Line steamboats.  The steamer to the rear of the BUTTORFF was a Ryman Line packet, which was a Nashville based company.  The Ryman family owned what is now the Grand Ole Opry House.  Capt. William Tippitt reported Mr. H.W. Buttorff was President of the Ryman Line.  Additionally, Capt. Tippitt noted that Mr. Buttorff was a director of the N.C. and St. Louis Railroad which was controlled by the L&N Railroad.

H W Buttorff Nashville

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