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Riverboat Men of Dubuque, Iowa

~ Researched, compiled and transcribed by Georgeann McClure and Sue Rekkas

Deggendorf-Dolson Farley- Parker Ryder- Specht Tibbals- Webb Wellington-Young

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The History of Dubuque County Iowa, Chicago, 1880, page 786-787


J. P. FARLEY, is a native of Tennessee, and was born April 2, 1813, and in 1817 his parents moved to St. Louis, which was then a small French town, and did not contain a single brick house; the first steamboat landed at St. Louis during the year; when only 14 years of age, Mr. Farley came to Galena and landed there in April 1827, and began working in the mines; after two years, he went into partnership with his brother-in-law, and engaged in smelting; in the fall of 1832, he came with others to Dubuque, but did not remain; in the spring of 1833, he opened a stock of goods in Galena, and in the month of May, that same year, he came to Dubuque and made a contract for building a house, and also a store, and in the following September he opened a stock of goods here; in 1837 he moved his family here; he continued in mercantile business from 1833 to 1858, a period of a quarter of a century; since then, he has been connected with railroading, and has been extensively engaged in building railroad.  Mr. Farley has always been an enterprising business man, and actively identified with the interests and growth of the city; he is largely interested and principle owner of the Key City Planning Mills, and also of the Key City Steam Bakery; Mr. Farley has been three times elected Mayor of the city of Dubuque, and held that office for three years; he has also served in the City Council.  In 1833, Mr. Farley was united in marriage to Miss Mary P. Johnson, from the city of Baltimore; she died in 1844, leaving four sons—Charles W., John P., George W., and  Francis A.  In 1845, Mr. Farley married Miss Mary L. Johnson, from Danville, Ky.; they have five sons—Harry G., Edwin B., Jesse K., Fred H. and Warren C.


Twelve Generations of Farleys by Jesse Kelso Farley Jr., page 138

“In 1850 he established a line of steamboats between St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Louis, Missouri and thereby Dubuque became the most important city on the Mississippi River between these places.


Twelve Generations of Farleys by Jesse Kelso Farley Jr., Page 123

J P Farley wrote…”I have been a lead miner and a lead smelter, a steamboat captain 22 years, a merchant in Dubuque, and for the last 25 years have connected with various railroads.”


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The History of Dubuque County, Iowa, Containing a History of the County Page 787


JOHN P. FARLEY, agent of the Keokuk Northern Line Packet Company, No. 2 Levee, Dubuque; is a son of Jesse P. Farley, one of the earliest settlers and most honored citizens of Dubuque; he was born in Galena, Ill., Nov. 2, 1836; his parents came here when he was only a few months old, he grew up to manhood here and attended school here and at Mt. Morris, Ill., and Mt. Vernon, Iowa; he has been engaged in steamboating since 1862; he has held the position of agent of the Keokuk Northern Line Packet Company since 1869, and is one of the oldest steamboat agents on the river. He was united in marriage, July 18, 1861, to Miss Bertha Markle, a native of Dubuque, and daughter of J. W. Markle, one of the early settlers; they have two children - Glenn M. and Carl T.


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1870 US Federal Census Mortality Schedule

Ward Four City of Dubuque, County of Dubuque, State of Iowa


Name                       Age    Sex     Race     Martial Status   Date of Death   Occupation      Cause of Death

Karrick George O   69      male   white   married              July 1869            miner                Dysentery 


The Dubuque Herald, July 11, 1869

…”emigrated to Missouri territory about the year 1818, when he engaged as first clerk of the steamboat Mandan, under his and the writer’s valued friend, the late U. S. senator from Wisconsin, Gen. Henry Dodge, captain-to which position, then one of great importance, the deceased was appointed, the lower Mississippi river between St. Louis and New Orleans being the theatre of his operations.

  Capt. K. after retiring from the command of the steamer Mandan turned his attention to mining for lead ore at the mines in Missouri…”

…”The deceased immigrated to this country from Missouri, with his large, interesting and excellent family, in the month of July 1836.  He again turned his attention to mining in our adjoining counties in Wisconsin and Illinois, but rather after a few months became the proprietor of Jordan’s ferry—now the Dunleith & Dubuque, becoming at the same time a mail contractor, hotel keeper, & etc.”


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History of Dubuque County Iowa page 532


CAPTAIN THOMAS LEVENS, a resident of Dubuque since 1843 and one of the most prominent citizens of that city, died on the 4th inst. aged 65 years.  Captain Thomas Levens died July 4th, 1883.  He was early employed in lead mining, but about 1843 located in Dubuque and became the owner of some of the best mines of this region.  His lob of 185 1 on the first day of hoisting yielded 127,000 pounds of ore and was then worth $26 per thousand pounds.  He was interested in the old ferry company, when the boats were Peosta and A L Gregoire.  He was for a time captain of the steamer Franklin No. 2.  He left a widow, 2 sons and a daughter.

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Davenport Democrat, March 5th, 1879, page 1



  The burning of the K. N. L. steamers, Lake Superior and Dubuque was announced yesterday.  The loss on the former is $20,000 and on the latter $15,000.  No insurance.  The loss falls heavily upon the company.  The Dubuque ran on the Upper Mississippi last season, but the Lake Superior has not been in these waters for a couple years.  The Dubuque Telegraph gives a short history of the burned boats:  The Dubuque was built at some point on the Ohio River, probably Pittsburgh, during the winter of 1876-7, and in the spring of the latter year made her trial trip to St. Louis, where she received her first load of freight.  She immediately entered the trade on the upper river and arrived at Dubuque in June, receiving a welcome which has not been accorded to any boat since.  Among the presents received by her on this trip were a stand of colors from the citizens and a pair of fine deer horns from Capt. Levens.  Her first commander was Capt. Parker of Dubuque.  She has been a very successful boat and has put quite a sum of money in her owner’s pocket.  She was built at a cost of $49,000.  The Lake Superior made her first appearance at our levee in the summer of 1870.  She was considered one of the finest boats on the river when she first came on, and had the honor of being one of the swiftest on the river.  She was somewhat larger than the Dubuque and cost $60,000.  The Dubuque was 233 feet in length, thirty-six feet beam, and five foot hold.  She had four boilers, twenty-six feet long and thirty-eight inches in diameter.  She had two cylinders, sever feet stroke, twenty inches in diameter.  The Superior was 210 feet long, 39 feet bean and six feet in the hold.  She had five boilers, 26 feet in length and 38 inches in diameter.  She had two cylinders, seven feet stroke, 22 ˝ inches in diameter, working two water wheels, 28 feet in diameter.



The Davenport Daily Times, Monday, February 27, 1893 page 4.

  Capt. Joshua W. Parker, one of the old-time skippers of the Mississippi,

died at his home in Dubuque Saturday.


Daily Herald, Sunday, February 26, 1893

With regret we announce the death of Capt. Joshua Wyatt Parker which occurred yesterday afternoon at three o’clock.  A man with the elements of friendliness most prominent in his nature, general in disposition, through all the trials of a long and busy life he found the sunny side.  Such men are mourned, as contact with their optimisms go far towards making life worth living and with them some light goes out.  Mr. Parker was born at Rutland, Ohio, February 19th, 1832 to Miss Eliza McQuigg, of Rutland.  He began steamboating in 1837, running in the Ohio and Lower Mississippi river trade.  In 1837 he built the General Harrison, a fine side wheel boat, and soon after built other boats, remaining in the lower river trade until 1855, when he came to Galena, and was connected with the Minnesota Packet Company until 1857.  He bought the steamer Fred Lorenz and ran her until 1860, when with others he formed the Northern Packet Company, and in which year he also removed to Dubuque.  In 1867 he bought the steamer Dubuque around from Pittsburg, brand new, and christened her in honor of this city.  When the steamer arrived in this port the people made the event a subject for a great celebration and presented her with a set of colors as a token of their appreciation for the honor conferred on the city in naming the boat “Dubuque.”  He continued to command the Dubuque until the blowing up of the steamer Lansing, by which his son-in-law, Mr. Curtiss, lost his life.  This occurred a few months after the Dubuque had been bought here.  Capt. Parker then left the river and has not taken part in any steamboating since.  Among the boats which he commanded were the Canada, Golden Ear, Lady Franklin, Alhambra, all famous boats in their day.  During the 35 years he was on the river he never had what might be termed a serious accident, and he never permitted gambling on any of his steamboats commanded by him.  Besides his wife he survived by five children, Mrs. Jennie West, Mrs. Fannie Curtis of Tacoma, Wash., Mrs. Carrie Anderson of Dubuque, Charles of California, and Frank of Chicago.  Another son, Will died in Denver.  He served as an alderman from the fourth ward two different times, the last time in 1887.  Funeral 28 Feb 1893, burial in Linwood Cemetery, Dubuque.

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