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Collected and Transcribed by

Sue Rekkas


Steamboats and Steamboatmen of the Upper Mississippi

by George B. Merrick,

The Saturday Evening Post of Burlington, Iowa,

July 25, 1914, page 1.




     Built at St. Louis, Mo., 1872; 485 tons; 162 h. p. Captain Joseph La Barge, in his memoirs published under the title; “Early Navigation of the Missouri,” edited by Captain (now Brigadier) M. H. Chittenden, relates the history of this boat as follows:  “ I remained at home all the winter of 1871-1872, when I again got tired of doing nothing; and being bred to the steamboat business, and not daring to turn my hand to anything else, commenced building another boat.  She was completed by the middle of summer, named “DeSmet,” in honor of the distinguished Jesuit missionary.  I at once took a contract to transport freight from St. Louis to Shreveport, La., for the construction of the Southern Pacific railroad.  This enterprise was disastrous in the extreme.  I found the Red River without water enough at the mouth for me to enter, all of it going down the Bayou Atchafalaya.  I did not get away from there until January, having had to import one hundred mules at my own expense to get the freight through, bales of cotton for my return trip.  The enterprise was so disastrous that I was released from the contract.  I secured fifteen hundred bales of cotton for my return trip to St. Louis, but the winter was severe and I was stopped by ice at Helena, Ark., and had to send the freight on by rail.  Take it all in all the season’s venture was a most ruinous one.”


     The DeSmet did not arrive at St. Louis until February, 1873.  Captain La Barge again contracted to go to the Red River for the railroad company, and this time made a profitable run.  Returning to St. Louis he put his boat into the Missouri River trade, making a trip to Fort Benton, and getting back to St. Louis in July, and entering the Alton trade in opposition to the Eagle Packet Company for the balance of the season.  In 1874 he again entered the Alton trade under an arrangement with John S. McCune, who long controlled the trade on this part of the river; but in March of this year--1874--while Captain McCune was in Jefferson City on business, he was taken sick with pneumonia, and died on day after his return to St. Louis.  The death of Captain McCune disarranged Captain La Barge’s plans, and he sold the “DeSmet” to the Eagle Packet Company.  She was running in the Alton trade in 1875 and 1876, Captain Leyhe in command.  Do not know what became of her afterward.


EMILIE (First)


     Pronounced “Emily,” although spelled in the French form--a side wheel boat with independent engine--one of the first.  Owned by the American Fur Company of St. Louis.  In 1841 she was at St. Peters, now Mendota, Minn., for a cargo of furs for the owners, Joseph La Barge master and pilot.  Captain M. H. Chittenden, United States Engineer Corps, in his “Early Navigation on the Missouri,” which is in effect a biography of Captain La Barge, says that she was running on the Missouri on 1840, and that Captain La Barge was then pilot.  The “Emilie” was snagged and sunk in Emilie Bend, Missouri River, 1842.  She was named in honor of Pierre Choteau’s wife.


EMILIE (Second)


      A very fine side-wheel boat, designed, built, owned and commanded by Captain Joseph La Barge, and named for one of his daughters, who in turn had been named in honor of Pierre Choteau’s wife.



Collected and Transcribed by

Sue Rekkas

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