March 3, 1898 offer to sell one used steamboat

Another EBay find from March 1898. My great uncle Robert E. Lee (no kin) became the general manager of the Lee Line sometime in the mid 1890’s. His grandfather James Lee Sr as well as his father James Lee Jr. were very quick to pivot when business conditions changed as witnessed by the offer to sell the ROWENA LEE (named by his father for his sister Rowena). Of interest, is the address on the envelope – no street address – no need for street address since postal workers knew where everyone lived.

Rowena Lee circa 1900 younger sister of Robert E Lee
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REES LEE glass negative location unknown

This image was sent by David Reed, Chief Curator Reno County Museum and Strataca Hutchinson Kansas. David emailed the following about the collection of glass negatives,

David, thank you for allowing me to use this great image of the REES LEE going about her business. I am always on the look out for old images of LEE LINE boats.

I wish I could give you more information.  The box contained 32 plates.  With the exception of this one, they were all of recognizable locations in Reno County.  I’d say half of them were of the downtown area and events downtown in the early 1890s.  There are some that are earlier.  Reno County had (and still does) numerous salt plants.  There are photos of at least 3 different plants and the buildings located around them.  The Arkansas River flows through Reno County and Hutchinson in particular, but I don’t know of any depots we ever had on the river.  This has always been a rail town.  Looking at the photos, the river is much too wide and far too many trees to be in this area.  I also think it is unlikely to be Wichita as well.  I live in Wichita, and again, it was mainly a rail town.  The Arkansas just isn’t wide enough to support a ship of this size.  

Several years ago, a lady in Northeast Arkansas purchased at a local auction a collection of glass negatives. Included in the collection (which she graciously sold me) were 5 negatives of the REES LEE on the Mississippi River during January or February picking up the last of that previous years cotton crop as well as delivering the large iron tractor rims to a farmers landing somewhere on the Mississippi.

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H. W. BUTTORFF in a bad way March 1899

This postcard is a recent EBay find. March 5, 1899 the BUTTORFF struck a bridge pier abutment at Clarksville Tennnessee on the Cumberland River. One account noted that all that was needed to put a steamboat back into service was to gather up all the pieces and nail them back together. As this picture shows, the BUTTORFF suffered more damage than hammers and nails could repair. She was purchased by the Lee Line January 1911 and renamed the JOHN LEE.

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Sinking of the GEORGIA LEE and the JAMES LEE January 1918

Both of these pictures were found in the archive of the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse Collection. Prior to wide spread dredging of the Mississippi River, ice gorges developed due to slow moving currents with the result that steamboats that could not be moved to safe harbors where crushed. (Use Control + to enlarge the image so as to have a copy large enough to read)

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Captain Milt Harry one time friend of the Lee Line and failed attempt to restore the James Lee House into a museum circa 1962 however later turned into the beautiful James Lee House bed and breakfast.

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Pat Cleburne photo from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Tulane University

Post Civil War boat used in the Lee Line fleet
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Lee Line silver sugar dish

Thank you Lola Culler for sharing these pictures of your Lee Line sugar dish.

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Stylish Ladies on Lee Line steamer Princess day excursion 1918 or 1919


This picture is of my grandmother on the right and the child is my grandfather. The Princess originally named the HW BURTOFF and the the JOHN LEE before being turned into the PRINCESS which was an excursion boat once packet boats business was taken over by rail roads.

My grandmother is second from the right.two of the young women were cousins of my grandmother. This picture was taken in 1919.
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Lee Line Serving Dishes

Justin B., thank you for sending these pictures of Lee Line serving dishes. These silver plated dishes were made by Reed and Barton. Last year I was able to purchase an identical creamer pitcher that had lost just about all its silver plating. When my grandfather was asked how many boats the Lee Line operated, he would reply “We have more boats under the water than on the water.” I am always excited to see new\old Lee Line items turn up as most of the items such as these reside under the water.

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SADIE LEE sunk at Dennis Landing Mississippi Nov. 15, 1912

Way’s Packet Directory recorded the SADIE hit a snag at Dennis Landing. Of interest is the stern sign SADIE LEE of NEW YORK. Sometime after the death of Capt. James Lee Jr., (Feb 1905) the Lee Line reincorporated in New Jersey. I suspect a tax dispute over the value of the assets of the company between the executors of his estate and the state of Tennessee led to the Lee Line reincorporating as a New Jersey corporation. Additionally, my great aunt Rowena Teagle’s husband Walter who was the chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey became the President of the Lee Line. Walter Evans Edge the wife of Lady Lee Philips Edge became the Vice President. Lady Lee Philips Edge was the daughter of my great aunt Sara Lee who married Capt. Sam Philips in 1905. Walter Edge was a newspaper publisher, governor of New Jersey and an ambassador to France. Way’s Packet Directory records Sadie Lee as the daughter of Capt. James Lee Jr. Actually Sadie Ardinger Lee was the daughter of James Lee Jr.’s son James Lee III and Capt. James Lee Jr.’s law partner Hiram Warinner and Bodien Warinner. Capt. Tippits History of the Lee Line seems to be missing pages for 1912.

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