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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 Daily Times, Friday, March 24, 1905, page 12.






Captain Norman E. Tibbals, a pioneer river captain, died this morning at his home in Dubuque at the age of 71 years, according to a special telegram received from Dubuque today.  Captain Tibbals was known up and down the river by every steamboat man who has been in the service for more than a few years.  He has commanded some of the best boats on the river.


~Ferry Boats on the Upper Mississippi River by Capt. Fred. A. Bill, Saturday Evening Post, July 12, 1924, Burlington Iowa.

~Transcribed by Georgeann McClure


“After the death of Capt. Yates, Norman Tibbals was in charge and handled her until she went out of commission, as we remember.  “Norm” was a brother of Captain, W. Tibbals now living in Dubuque and the present “Dean of rivermen” having just celebrated his 92nd birthday.

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1870 Dubuque Iowa City Directory


Tibbals, Wm. R.  steamboat pilot, res Eleventh se cor Spruce


Davenport Daily Leader, February 3, 1895, page 3


Capt. William R. Tibbals of Rock Island, was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday, as supervising inspector of steam vessels for the Fifth Upper Mississippi district.  Capt. Tibbals has for many years been master of the government snag and tow boat J. G. Parke.


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History of Dubuque County Iowa page 893


MARSHALL WALKER, a native of Dummerston, Windham Co., Vermont, was born on a farm in 1832, son of Reuben Walker.  When 18 he went to Boston, but in early life came west and operated a sailing barge on the Mississippi river north of Dubuque, transporting and trading.  He was of striking personality, over 6 feet tall, broad in proportion, genial, easily approved, optimistic and enthusiastic, sympathetic, a staunch friend of the deserving regardless of politics, religion, wreath or position.  In 1858 he married Cornelia Fairbanks.  He died in 1904.



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Researched by Susan Rekkas


Capt. N.F. Webb of steamer “Itasca” of Northwestern Packet Company was engaged to point out those places at which the greatest obstacles to navigation were usually found.  His long experience as Captain of steamers on the river made him familiar with the needs of navigation as well as the difficulties attending it.  His good sense and kind, manly character endured him to us all. He subsequently lost his life, by an accident, in the public service.”--Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War by United States Army, Corps of Engineers, Mississippi River Commission



“Captain N. F. Webb was master of the “Itasca” in 1863, with Charles C. Mather chief clerk….Captain N. F. Webb again was in command of the “Itasca” in 1867, and may have been in charge in the intervening years, but of this I have no evidence.


~George B. Merrick, Steamboats and Steamboatmen of the Upper Mississippi.  The Saturday Evening Post of Burlington, Iowa, May 27, 1916, page 4.


 “My season’s work was on the “Itasca” with Captain Webb whose home was in LeClaire.  He had come from the Ohio River at an earlier date and was rather a peculiar man in some respects but we became very good friends.  He was perfectly bald and wore a wig.”


~Captain Hanks, “The Life and Adventures of Stephen B. Hanks.  The Saturday Evening Post, Burlington, Iowa, “Recalling the Dred Scott Case. 

~ Collected and Transcribed by Georgeann McClure.


The Davenport Democrat, Thursday, August 18, 1870, page 1.

Sad News--Probable Death of the Steamboat Veteran, Capt. Webb.



The Dubuque Times of yesterday contains the following account of a fatal accident to Captain N. F. Webb of the Northern Line.

Last Monday the Montana got aground at a point known as Robinson’s bar, about ten miles below St. Paul.  She had thrown out a line to the shore, and with the aid of the “dummy” engine was attempting to haul herself off, when the steamer Milwaukee came in sight, and as the line was stretched over the main channel, she was obliged to pass over it.  Instead of slacking their line, the officers of the Montana kept it taut, and through this carelessness the accident ensued.  The Milwaukee steamed down slowly and passed over the rope, stopping her wheels entirely in order to avoid all danger of tangling with it, but caught the line with the rudder, and, of course, pulled it down with great violence.  The check holes through which the line passed from the Montana were unable to bear the pressure, and gave way allowing the rope to sweep down over the deck with great force.  Captain Webb chanced to be standing on the boiler deck.  Before he could make a motion to get out of the way or even think, the rope struck him full in the stomach and threw him up in the air a distance of TEN FEET.


He was a large, portly man, and he struck the deck with a sickening thud, lighting on the back of his head.  When picked up he was insensible and a hasty examination revealed the fact that his skull was badly fractured.  He was soon removed to St. Paul and shown every attention possible.  In passing Winona Capt. Buford received a dispatch stating that Mr. Webb was just alive and that was all.  We regret to write it, but we must.  There is no doubt that the noble, hospitable, chivalrous Capt. Webb is numbered with the dead ere this time.


Capt. N. F. Webb was a universal favorite in Dubuque, and the news of the accident that caused his death will be received with profound sorrow.  He was one of the old veterans in steamboat circles and has made the bosom of the Father of Waters his home for more than forty years.  He first commenced his career as cabin boy, and worked up to the post of engineer, and from that captain.  About two years ago he was commissioned to take charge of the government steamer Montana, a responsible position, the duties of which he performed with much acceptability.


The wife of Capt. Webb, who has been an invalid for many years, resides at LeClaire and is nearly frantic over her terrible loss.  We hope soon to gather fuller and more accurate information in regard to the sad accident.



The Daily Dispatch, Wednesday Morning, August 24, 1870, page 4.



The body of the veteran Steamboat Captain, N. F. Webb, late of the United States steamer Montana, arrived at Dubuque Monday evening, on the steamer Alex Mitchell.  The corpse was in charge of and received by a committee of Knight Templars, of Siloam Commandery, of Dubuque.  Yesterday morning the funeral took place from the Tremont House.  The religious ceremonies were held in the Congregational Church.  Dr. E. A. Gnibert pronounced a eulogy upon the deceased, after which the interment took place at Linwood Cemetery, according to the Masonic ritual.  The funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Dubuque.


To Circuit Court of Scott County, Iowa


In the matter of Amelia Webb (Insane)

                      Received of the Clerk of the Court of Dubuque County.  Personal property belonging to the Estate of  N. F. Webb, (Deceased) for the maintenance of Amelia Webb, To Wit

Cash  -- $590.00 Five hundred and ninety dollars, 1 Pitcher, 1 Platter , 1 Cup, 2 Gobbets, 1 picture, 1 cane and 1 album.

  The above property has been in my possession since January 24, 1876-and is subject to the order of the court.

                                                Wm F Gault -- Guardian

Dated LeClaire, Iowa.  February 1st 1876



Scott County Death Record Volume 4 1897 to 1909


Name                         Sex              Age                                   Date of Death             Martial    Where Born

Webb  Amelia G.     Female       77ys 8mon 9dys            January 26, 1898        Widow     New Abany, Ind.

Place of death     Cause of Death           Place of Burial

LeClaire                   Pneumonia                    LeClaire


Davenport Weekly Republican, Wednesday, February 2, 1998, page 6.





The death of Mrs. Webb, wife of Captain Webb, a well-known river man on the Mississippi years ago, took place in LeClaire Thursday with burial the next day in the LeClaire Cemetery.


Mrs. Webb had no children.  For some time she has lived with the Blairs in LeClaire.  She died from the effects of a severe cold.


Mrs. Webb, who was a very cultivated and intelligent woman, had a most peculiar and eventful history.  She was married to Captain Webb when she was only 14 years of age.  He put her in school and gave her the best education the times allowed, and afterward brought her to LeClaire to live with him.  The captain was engaged in the packet trade for some time, and was then made captain of the United States steamer Montana, on which steamer he met with an accidental death.  The shock was such that his wife never entirely recovered from it, her mind having been since unbalanced though she has remained a very companionable person.


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