MISSOURI RIVER STEAMBOATS
HELLO! and WELCOME!
STEAMBOATS ON THE MISSOURI
1819 to 1969
One hundred and fifty years! That's how long steamboats were in operation on the Missouri river!
The Missouri River was our country's most important road west. We hear a lot about the overland trails that carried vast numbers of people to settle the western half of our continent, but historians seem to have forgotten that before those pioneers set off in covered wagons, they came to the "jumping off" places, like Independence and St. Joseph, aboard the myriad of steamboats which were plying the Missouri river at that time.
For the past 12 years, we have been researching the history of those boats, and have thus far documented over 1500 different steamboats that made at least one trip up the Missouri!
Some of the boats only made one trip...the perils were great. Snags, in places so thick they looked like a drowned forest, were responsible for the majority of steamboat wrecks. Today's Missouri River bears little resemblance to the way it looked in the 1800s! Explosions, fire, wind, ice and collisions also claimed a share of steamboats. Over 400 boats are known to have sunk, and some estimate the number much higher. Most wrecks were never recovered, others were removed to clear the channel, and some were salvaged. Many remain deeply buried under sediment deposited by years of flooding and channel changes.
Much has been written about steamboats on the Missouri. However, over the past 150 years many of the "facts" have become distorted. Our primary goal is to assemble a comprehensive source of information which is as factually accurate as possible, and make it available as a reference source for future historians and genealogists. This is a daunting task! Over 200 different sources have been used in compiling information, and we aren't done yet! In fact, it's doubtful we will ever "finish" collecting information--new tidbits constantly come to the surface--sometimes from very unexpected places!
You are invited to come along on the adventure...and to share information you have about ancestors who worked or traveled aboard the Missouri river steamboats. Check out our blog and upcoming events pages for more informaiton about what's going on. Osage river steamboat research is also continuing, with plans to have a book out later this year.
We may not be able to bring back the shrill whistle or the excitement of a steamboat arrival at a small river town, but we CAN keep this important part of our history from being completely lost.