A 50 year perspective 1881 versus 1931

This humorous 1881 comparison to 1931 was found in papers belonging to my great uncle Robert E Lee (no kin to the other more famous Robert E Lee).

1881 1931 changing times

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JAMES LEE Memphis Commercial Appeal Mid-South Memories 100 years ago 1914

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported a 100 years ago, “A new steel steamer, costing $100,000, to take the place of the James Lee for the Memphis Friars Point trade, will be 245 feet long and capable of carrying as many tons of freight as the James Lee, which sank in 10 feet of water last week end 80 miles south of Memphis after striking a hidden snag.  All passengers and crew were saved.”

Captain William Tippitt recorded in his history of the Lee Line the following accounts taken from the Commercial Appeal and other newspapers of the day.

August 3, 1914  Some time Sunday the James Lee settled on a piling and punched a hole in her bottom.  The watchman was unable to keep her pumped out and she settled in 6 ft. of water.

Aug. 4, 1914  The hole in the James Lee’s bottom has had a box built around it and she has been pumped out and batton placed over the hole.

Aug. 11, 1914 The James Lee left of Friday to move a levee outfit, on her way back up the river shortly after midnight yesterday she struck a snag at Asher Landing 80 miles below Memphis and sank in 10 ft. of water.  Capt. Bender ordered the pilot to shore, but she sank before reaching the shore.  No lives were lost and she had only a few hundred sacks of seed on board.

Aug. 11, 1914 Reports have it that if James Lee is not quickly raised she will break up.  Capt. Peters Lee has gone to her with men and equipment to raise her.

Aug. 15, 1914  The hole in the James Lee’s hull is a small one and has been batten down and pumps have been started to raise her.

Aug 19, 1914 The James Lee passed up on her way to Mound City to have her hull repaired, she is expected to be pulled out shortly.

October 14, 1914  The James Lee has been returned to her regular run to Friar’s Point

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1898 race between the GEORGIA LEE and DICK FOWLER Cairo, ILL.

Recently this postcard depicting an 1898 race between the GEORGIA LEE and DICK FOWLER was added to my Lee Line postcard collection thanks to another EBay seller.  The postcard reverse format indicated the card was made around 1907 since it has a split back for the address and message.

1898 Georgia Lee and Dick Fowler race postcard

1898 Georgia Lee and Dick Fowler race postcard

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JAMES LEE leaving Galina IL area

This picture is also from my recent EBay purchase of 9 postcards depicting the JAMES LEE unloading and departing this town.   The just departing picture and this photo are unusual pictures.  Postcard and regular photos of steamboats as far as I have seen show boats moored while idle, unloading or underway.   Prior to these two pictures, I have not seen boats maneuvering as they depart.


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JAMES LEE postcard picture

JAMES LEE ILLINOIS - CopyRecently this postcard along with 8 other cards depicting the arrival, unloading and departure of the JAMES LEE and the JOHN BERTRAM were available for purchase on EBay.   I was able to purchase these 9 cards for my growing Lee Line collection.  Another of these cards shows several very small local trade stern-wheel boats with the home port of Galina IL painted on the stern of one of the small steamers.   This picture would have been taken prior to 1912 since the JOHN BERTRAM was retired from service in 1912.  Further research reports the JOHN BERTRAM was build to ferry rail cars for the Illinois Central Rail Road.

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Lee Line Tourist Guide circa 1900

This is another EBay find


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James Lee House UK Daily Mail artice

Excellent article on the restoration of the James Lee House 690 Adams Ave. Memphis TN.  Congratulations Jose and Jennifer.


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Steamer VERNE SWAIN newest addition to collection

This VERNE SWAIN postcard recently was offered for sale on EBay and I was able to add it to my collection of boats owned by the VALLY LINE.  This picture would have been taken well before the VALLEY LINE owned this boat.  There are pictures of the VERNE SWAIN taken at the Memphis riverfront sometime in the 1920′s.  The Valley Line was formed by the merger of Lee Line boats bought by Peters Lee, my grandfather S Rees Lee and the KATE ADAMS.  Way’s Packet Directory list three boats named the VERNE SWAIN, this is boat 5552 in Way’s listings.


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St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Co.

The St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Co. was a fierce competitor of the Lee Line.  Recently I was able to purchase this interesting piece of history.  The gentleman who sold this plate received it as a gift from an elderly friend whose family was from west Tennessee.  The friend of the seller had received it from his grandmother who likely travelled on a St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Co. steamboat.  The makers mark on the back of the plate was the Shenango Pottery Co. New Castle PA.   Having watched Ebay for such items for a number of years, I was very happy to be able to purchase this rare plate.  Are there any Lee Line plates, cups and other serving dishes waiting to be discovered?  When the Lee Line Wharf-boat anchored at the foot of Beale Street Memphis burned in 1923 or 24, any such items would have disappeared.  However my hope is that there are a few dishes waiting to be discovered.

St. Louis Tenn River Packet Co plate

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REES LEE postcard Homewood Iowa Aug 1913


REES LEE as origional

Josh Gamble thank you for your Photoshop skills used to remove the crease from this old picture while maintaining the original patina and adding sharpness.

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