Steamboat utensils. Spoons from the The St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company, KATE ADAMS, Lee Line and Eagle Packet Company.

These steamboat spoons are from the collection of my friend Ed Provine’s collection. The spoon on the left is stamped with the names of 2 boats the St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company, a fierce competitor of the Lee Line. The first packet this spoon was used on was the WILL J CUMMINS and then re-stamped with SHILHO following the sinking of the CUMMINS (thrifty owners). The second spoon from the KATE ADAMS, third from the Lee Line and 4th spoon from the Eagle Packet Company also a St. Louis Company.

WILL J CUMMINS from the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse Collection

  • BUILT: 1895 at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yard
  • FINAL DISPOSITION: Snagged and lost at Beech Creek below Clifton, Tennessee on the Tennessee River in April 1901
  • OWNERS: Captain J. Mack Gamble (1897); Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company (1899); St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company (1901)
  • OFFICERS & CREW: Captain Tim Armstrong; Captain James Till (master, 1899); William Hunter (first mate, 1899)
  • RIVERS: Cumberland River; Ohio River
  • OTHER INFORMATION: Ways – 5792; She ran in opposition to the Ryman Line in the Cumberland River making trips to the headwaters at Burnside, Kentucky. She once raced the R. Dunbar. New owner Captain Gamble entered her in the Wheeling-Cincinnati trade on June 13, 1897. About a week later she was tied up by low water. In the fall of 1897 she ran low water in the Louisville-Cincinnati trade with the H.K. Bedford as her partner. She then went back to the Wheeling-Cincinnati run but was laid up by ice in the Muskingum. In 1898 she ran Pittsburgh-Cincinnati. In 1899 the owner, Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, took her to the Tennessee River. The St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company was running her when she was lost at Beech Creek in April 1901
  • Will J. Cummins (A)

SHILOH description also from the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse Collection

  • BUILT: Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yards, 1902
  • FINAL DISPOSITION: Sank at the Memphis wharf, December 1913
  • OWNERS: St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company
  • OFFICERS & CREW: Captain Lon Kell (master); Charles R. Beard and Ed B. Beard (pilots); Sam G. Smith (purser); Tommy Latham (chief engineer); Al Aiken (second engineer); Charles Lewter (second clerk); John Hamilton (carpenter); J. R. Koger (deck watchman); Bill Stull (mate); Captain Ed Nowland, Jr. (master, December, 1913)
  • RIVERS: Tennessee River
  • OTHER INFORMATION: Ways – 5097; Original price was $9,250 and home port or owner’s residence circa 1902 was St. Louis, Missouri; machinery out of the Will J. Cummins. She was launched September 2, 1902 and came out in the Danville-Savannah trade on the Tennessee River. In December 1913, she was under charter to the Delta Navigation Company, Memphis, when she hit the levee while landing at Memphis with a heavy cargo, sank and was lost

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Memphis mosquito fleet, water taxi, hauler of freight from Mississippi River tributaries

This picture as well as the pictures of the KATE ADAMS are from the collection of fellow steamboat collector Ed Provine who sadly passed away recently. The ELIZABETH most likely was a one cylinder gas fired engine that powered her sternwheel. The LEE LINE owned at least one very small steamboat that travelled up small rivers to bring out cotton and other freight to feed her larger boats who would gather freight from multiple farmers landings. As railroads built out their networks, all river traffic declined.

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Kate Adams passenger cabin

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KATE ADAMS friendly competitor and later partner

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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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