Kate Adams (first of three) 1882

Way’s Packet Directory has the following history of the KATE ADAMS (the first) as follows; built Sewickley, PA, 1882. 250 feet long x 37 foot width x 8 foot draft.  Five boilers .  Boat built entire under contract to James Rees & Sons., Pittsburg.  Built for Maj. John D. Adams and named for his wife.  He headed the Memphis & Arkansas City Packet Co..  Had an Edison electric light system, one of the first so equiped.  This boat and the WILL S. HAYES were completed side by side at the Rees shop bordering the Allegheny River near the Point, Pittsburg.   The hull origionally intended for the KATE was sold to the Lee Line, Memphis, to become the JAMES LEE whereupon a second hull, almost identical was built for the KATE.  These two side-wheelers, alike in many respects, vied for the speed championship between Helena Ark. and Memphis, 90 miles.  On Sunday March 18, 1883, the KATE ADAMS “went over the track” in 5 hours 18 1/2 minutes.   The previous record was held by the JAMES LEE at 5 hours 33 minutes.  The owners of the JAMES LEE handed over a elegant set of deer horns which the KATE wore the rest of her career.   Fred Way also wrote “She Takes the Horns” which recounts various steamboat races and disasters.  Deer horns went to the fastest boat and were prominently displayed by the winning steamboat.  Compare this picture to the JAMES LEE at shipyard picture.

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32 Responses to Kate Adams (first of three) 1882

  1. Billy Montgomery says:

    The beautiful Kate! I grew up, even in the 70’s, hearing her name. A street in Arkansas City is named for her, as is the old landing, now a lake since the Mississippi river has moved over the years. What a magnificent picture of her laid up in the yard.

  2. Billy Montgomery says:

    On second consideration, she may not be in the yard. Another photo on this same site shows her at a different angle, with the same wooden scaffold near her bow. The caption says she’s aground due to falling river waters, circa 1918.

  3. Andy McWilliams says:

    My grandparents used to ride the Kate Adams from Friars Point to Memphis. The Kate Adams brought the mail and everything else the town needed.

  4. Andy McWilliams says:

    Blues man , Honeyboy Edwards, did a great song about the Kate Adams. He was a boy when the Kate ran the Mississippi. It’s on Earwig records.

  5. Recently my neighbor, who has relative that still live in Rosedale, where talking about my grandfather, from Lee County Mississippi. We were remembering stories about my grandfather and my neighbor…who is about 15 years older than me, but still a good friend. We bother have farming interest and have a lot in common.

    Anyway, I was telling my friend about an old car (I think it was a Crysler) that my grandfather had in the mid 50’s. I was too young to know much about the car, 7 or 8 I guess. But I do remember vividly that my grandfather called the car Kate Adams. I never really thought much about it until after his death. and I was remembering all the good times we had together. I ask my grandmother one day (she was in her late 90’s then and her health and memory failing) why my grandfather, her husband, called the car Kate Adams? She had no recollection. But my grandfather was always naming his vehicle possessions…the car, a John Deere Tractor….and other items.

    When I told my friend about the cars name, he said there was once a river boat in Rosedale called the Kate Adams. That had to be the connection. My grandmother had a sister that lived in Buelah, just south of Rosedale. My grandparents would sometimes make a couple of trips to Beulah to visit. He must have seen the river boat Kate Adams at some point when it would be parked at Rosedale and named his car by the same name….it was big and long as a river boat too.

    Glad to have finally made the connection. No one in the family has been helpful for knowing why grandad called the car Kate Adams….now I know.

    • Marian D. Fortner says:

      To William W. Long. What a coincidence! My grandfather was born in Rosedale and my great-grandfather farmed in Beulah at one time. My father talked about The Kate Adams and told us stories about pretending to be on the Kate Adams as a child. The Kate Adams must have been quite famous in her day!

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  7. Mike says:

    Several paintings of the Str Kate Adams are on my mother’s website.

  8. leelinesteamers says:

    Marian, thank you for your interest in the Lee Line and the Kate Adams. The founder of the Adams Line, Major John D. Adams was a friend of the Lee’s and shared office space with them in the 1880’s. Years later the Kate Adams (3rd) became part of the Valley Line run by my great uncle Peters Lee. Thanks again for your interest.

    Jim Lee

  9. Mary Kidd Holt says:

    My Daddy told us to always remember that he worked on the Kate Adams Steam Boat! He was so glad he had. James William (Pete) Kidd was his name and he loved the Kate Adams for some reason! I don’t know what year or years he worked on her. Wish I did.

    • leelinesteamers says:

      Ms. Holt, thank you for your interest in my web site. The 3rd Kate was a steel hull
      steamer. There are quite a number of pictures of the Kate Adams in the University of
      Wisconsin LaCrosse collection. I will post a picture of the 3rd Kate showing her on
      land. Did your grandfather work out of Memphis. Of interest concerning the first Kate,
      she made 600 trips 200 miles each during her working life. Thanks again for your interest
      in steamboat history.

      Jim Lee

      • David Rayburn says:

        I am repairing a whistle that I was told came off “Kate Adams”
        I have been trying to verify if the whistle was actually on Kate Adams as the pictures I see show a verticle whistle and the one I am working on is horizontal. I have had the whistle approx. 25 years and it was given to me by a gentleman who had towboats that hauled logs on the Mississippi in Missouri.

      • Mary kidd holt says:

        Yes he worked out of Memphis it was my Daddy.

  10. David Rayburn says:

    I can not supply picture at this time as it is a work in progress at the machine shop. The reason it has taken so long to repair the whistle is due to the fact the missing bell of the whistle is 7 inches in diameter and is not a common size for material available for repair. The material was recently purchase. If all goes well we plan to blow the whistle in the spring of 2016 when the steam powered sawmill and railroad(Nelson Mills Railroad) in Panola County Mississippi will be operating for the spring show. I am curious as to weather you can hear the whistle for 20- 25 miles as has been said of the Kate Adams whistle in some of my reading of the Kate Adams. The sound of the whistle should carry well as the mill where it will be blown is on the bluff of the Tallahatchie-Mississippi delta. I will try to get picture made by the first of the year and forwarded if you would be kind enough to inquire again in January 2016 I would appreciate it.

    • leelinesteamers says:

      David, I will check back with you early Jan.2016. Fred Way author of Way’s Packet Directory also reported
      being able to hear the Kate’s whistle 20-25 miles away as well.


  11. Charles Young says:

    My family has a negative if the Kate Adams, very old no idea what year or where the picture was taken

  12. Jim Holt says:

    I believe my Great Grandfather Joseph Barton was the pilot on the last Kate Adams.

  13. leelinesteamers says:

    Jim, thank you for the info on your Great Grandfather. Do you have any other family recollections on his service as a KATE pilot? The last KATE was merged with the remaining Lee Line boats forming the Valley Line.

    Thanks again,
    Jim Lee

  14. Jim Holt says:

    No I just know he was the pilot on the Kate when she burned south of Memphis in 1888. Perhaps that was not the last Kate Adams. I am not sure. A news story in the paper credited him with running the boat ashore when the fire broke out.

  15. Andy McWilliams says:

    I have a photo of The Kate leaving out of Friars Point, Ms. from the Milton Painter Collection. It’s different from the ones I’ve seen. Where can I post it?

    • leelinesteamers says:

      Andy, if you will email me a copy, I will take a look at it and probably post
      it to my site. I will respond to your address with mine. Thank you for your

      Jim Lee

  16. Mary Payne says:

    My great grandfather, as I understand it, bought the salvage rights to the Kate Adams. The whistle was placed on the Planters Oil Mill in Clarksdale, MS where it was the morning, noon and go home whistle for the entire town. When the mill was sold the paperwork to the whistle was discovered and the whistle went home with my grandparents. As a child, I accidentally knocked it over and broke my dog’s tail with it (I was only a toddler). My grandfather loaned the whistle for a brief time to the welcome museum in Greenville. We retrieved it back from the museum after the state took it over. The whistle now sits in a case in my home.
    I’m happy to post a picture but can’t seem to do so in the comment box.

  17. Richard Washburn says:

    The kate is laying at rest at mi.10 on the white River I got some old parts from the river bank cool to have I’m from Rosedale

    • leelinesteamers says:

      Richard, thank you for your interest in the KATE. I would love to see pictures of your salvaged parts. It will be approx 2 weeks before I am able to post pictures if you would like them to be displayed on my web site. Rosedale certainly had a number of steamboat companies competing for freight and passengers. Again, thank you for reaching out to me.

      Jim Lee

  18. Evan Helgason says:

    I have a picture of Kate Adams from J Mack Moore collection

    • leelinesteamers says:

      Evan, thank you for reaching out to me. I would love to see a copy
      of your picture if you are able to scan and email a copy. I am always
      interested in seeing pictures of the various KATE’S.


  19. Jessica hammond says:

    I have a friend who was given a painting from her grandmother, it was painted by someone Adams.. I think in 1884 or 86.. can’t remember the artist name other than the last, but could be male or female I remember… I’ll have to go by and get the name again.
    We originally assumed it was 1984 until she realized it hung at her grandmother house forever… took even longer for us to realize the painter had the same last name! Oh hahahaha! Book marking this to share with her. Enjoyed everyone’s comments as well

  20. Beauvais Mccaddon says:

    I’m interested in what the whistle sounded like? How many shorts or longs? The boat was a legend in Rosedale & my grandparents left on it for their honeymoon around 1910. I do have an early picture that I can send. The Compress’s whistle in Rosedale sounded like the Kate Adams as the manager requested that. I used to hear it but forgotten the sequence. Would love to hear.

    • leelinesteamers says:

      Thank you for your interest in LeeLineSteamers.com. Sorry to say, I have no information on what the
      Kate Adams whistle sounded like nor the sequences of whistles to signal landings or other steamboats.
      I certainly am interested in a picture of the Kate since the Adams Line was a friendly competitor of
      the Lee Line and shared office space for a time.

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