1890 Sharp elbows and sharper competition

With numerous boats competing for freight, the Lee Line was at various times in fierce competition for business.  Capt. Tippitt’s History of the Lee Line reported the following news report from January 1890.  Jan. 1, “Yesterday coming up from Polk Landing, the LADY LEE landed to take on some corn for which she signed a bill of lading, the CUMBERLAND a short distance behind her also landed, she landed along side the LADY LEE , claiming the corn on the strength of transportation order.  The officers of the CUMBERLAND seeing the corn in their sacks, ripped open the sacks, took their sacks and left the corn on the ground.  Neither boat got the corn and things were squally for a while.  These two boats can never run in the same trade peacefully, there is not any large extent of brotherly love between the owners, Neff and Lee.  The corn, well it is still on bank.”

The Memphis Ledger reported the following, Feb. 25, 1890 “The Lee’s have the JAMES LEE in front of the CUMBERLAND the LADY LEE running with her and the GAYOSO ‘skip-jumping’ landings with LADY LEE, no chance for CUMBERLAND to get away with two boats on her tail.  The fight nears a showdown and waxes hot.”

Further, Capt. Tippitt added the following history, Commercial Appeal May 3, 1890, “A lively steamboat rate war has been declared by the Lee Line against the Neff Line in the Helena trade, and a long bitter fight is predicted.  The trouble dates back two years ago, when Capt. George W. Neff entered the Steamer ROB ROY in the Walnut Bend trade in opposition to the JAMES LEE.  That did not amount to much, as the Lee’s had a larger and finer boat in JAMES LEE, she got the bulk of the business.  Realizing that he was losing money, Capt. Neff cast his weather eye about and finally purchased the steamer CUMBERLAND.  He placed her in good condition and with her again entered the fight, extending his trips to Helena.

The Lee’s retaliated by building the LADY LEE and running her in the Helena trade.  The boats would watch each other like hawks, and if one remained in  port the other one also would remain.”  Both lines reduced passenger and freight rates.  The Commercial Appeal noted the end of the war between Capt. Neff and the Lee’s when it reported the estate of Capt. Neff was offering the CUMBERLAND and the steamer CITY OF CHARLESTON, October 19, 1890.

The Appeal October 14, 1891 reported, “The Lee Line is boxing in the little ED DURANT with the ORA LEE stopping at Fulton and the  ROSA LEE at Ashport, one of their boats runs just ahead of her of up trip and other lay for her on down trip.  The Lee’s just can’t stand competition.”

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