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On the River


Muscatine, Iowa


compiled and copyrighted by
Georgeann McClure


Eugene Bachelor

JANUARY 27, 1941

Capt. E. A. Batchelor, River Veteran Dead

Capt Eugene A. Batchelor, colorful river figure in this section of the Country for some 75 years died at the home of Hugh B. Holcomb in Blue Island Ill. At 11:30 a.m. today, he had attained the age of 94 years. His home here was at 509 East Front street.

Even the infirmities of his advanced age failed to keep the well-known riverman from his favorite diversion, plying the Mississippi river. He spent his summers here but had been going to the Holcomb home for the winter months for several years.

Capt. Batchelor came with his mother from Michigan in a covered wagon. He had made his home in numerous cities along the river, residing here since 1892. He worked first as an operator on floating rafts, before the days of the steam driven boats. He earned his title of captain on several small boats, which plied the waters in and around Muscatine. For several years Capt. Batchelor operated boat liveries here and piloted many small craft up and down stream, particularly in the Upper Mississippi regions.

He was a member of the Friends church and an honorary member of the Muscatine Power Boat club.
Surviving are one son, Ben Batchelor; six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
The body will be brought to Muscatine by the Fairbanks Home for Funerals Tuesday. Arrangements for rites are indefinite.
Transcribed by Georgeann McClure


Thomas S. Battelle, Capt.



At Monte Vista, near Los Angeles, Cal.,
Nov. 26, 1892, CAPT. THOMAS S. BATTELLE, aged
80 years, 3 months and 6 days.

The old settlers of Muscatine will recognize in the above announcement that another of the early pioneers among them has passed away. While it is true that he and his family did not remain there as long as many, yet he and they made and left an impression for good which the many years since they left have not erased from the memory of those who knew them. Soon after moving to Muscatine, in the 40’s, he bought and ran the then large steamboat ,”OSPRY.” in the trade from St. Louis to St. Paul, and no captain of a Mississippi steamer was ever more popular than he. Afterwards, he kept the American House, which stood on the corner where Olds Opera House now stands, and he and his good wife, with her sister, Miss Sue Culbertson, were a tower of strength to Methodism there in the early days. The power of Capt. Battelle’s excellent voice, which almost always led in song from the “amen” corner, and Miss Culbertson’s eloquent and heartfelt prayers, during protracted meetings, will never be forgotten by the writer, who was then only a lad, and doubtless the same is true of hundreds of others.

In 1852 the Captain and family removed to Northern California, coming across the plains in that primitive way which required great hardships and privations. Settling in Sierra county he was a prosperous “rancher” and a prominent and very influential citizen for many years. Here their children grew up, and there oldest son, Thornton, and daughter, Mary, now live, while a younger son, George, now lives at Sacramento. The second son Albert, having died several years since, as did his wife. He finally sold out and removed to Los Angeles early in the 1885, and here married her who is left as his widow to mourn her loss of as kind-hearted and noble a Christian man as it has ever been our lot to know. A peculiarity of his religious life was that he was always a better man than he claimed to be, and his religion was never used as a cloak to hide his shortcomings. It was the writer’s privilege to know and admire him, as a boy might know a man, in his early life, and to keep him in mind as a sort of model to try to attain , and now , for the past seven years of his riper age, to know him intimately and love him dearly for the pure and beautiful life he had lived. Shortly before he passed away he asked his good wife to bring his scrap book and had a friend copy there from the following beautiful poem, as expressive of his life and hope in death, and asked that it be read at his funeral which was done. It bears on its space that sweet spirit of unselfish humility. Which all who knew him must recognize as true to his life as if composed by him.

The Staunch, elegant and popular
Passenger, and Freight Steamer,
O s w e g o
Capt T. S. Battelle Master

Will run as a regular packet from St Louis to the above all intermediate ports, during the season of 1850. Every exertion will be made to render entire satisfaction to all who may favor the boat with their patronage---her passenger accommodations are unsurpassed by any boat on the river and every attention will be given to the comfort of passengers and the interest of shippers






Marx Block
Steamboat Agent
Mary Nietzel 1949

Marx Block, a native of Baden, came to Muscatine in 1842. He was in the “Forwarding and Commission” business. When the Northern Line Company of Steamboats was organized he was appointed as their agent, and was one of the popular agents along the river.

In 1849 we find him living in the house that stands on the east side if Pine street between 2nd and 3rd streets (back of Chester Richards).

 The directory of 1866 lists Mr. Block living on the N. W. corner of Third and Pine Streets. Mr.  Block built this house. It still standing very little changed in appearance.


W G Block
Steamboat agent for the Diamond Jo Line.
Father of Marx Block.



Blugh (Blough)

Captain Blough

~ Source:
History of Muscatine County Iowa, Volume I, 1911, pages 260-262
Captain Downer, Noah Fiauk and "Old Man Blough" were famous pilots and ferried the boys across the river and up the different sloughs.
From Charles Braunworths memory
Published by Randalman
“Another great, good man to accommodate our merchants. After the river was impassable, Captain Blough, with one boat, made the necessary trips. “

Muscatine Journal August 6, 1862
River Intelligence

For F. Madison Kate Cassel, Davis
For Rock Island Jennie Whipple, Morrison


Jennie Whipple Morrison, Rock Island for Keokuk
Kate Cassell, Davis, Keokuk for Rock Island
Henry Clay, Buford, St. Louis for St. Paul

Kate Cassel, Regular for Fort Madison Packet Today


-Our readers will please bear in mind that Capt. B. W. Davis will sail into port at about noon. This day, with his magnificent and decidedly popular steamer Kate Cassel, bound for all points on the Mississippi to Fort Madison. Close connections made at that point with the packets for St. Louis. The Kate for speed, comfort, safety and accommodations, has no superior in this trade, and but few equal her. Her officers Capt. Davis and clerk S. Powers are gentlemen, who by their untiring efforts to render all on board a pleasant And agreeable trip. Have won for themselves a Host of friends. We most cheerfully recommend The Kate Cassel to all bound down stream--   Remember, off today.

George (Brasser) Breasseau, Capt.

Capt. George Brasser

Helen Shulenberg.........................................George Brasser
owned by Shulenberg and Boeckeler Lumber Company, Muscatine
Blairs A Raft Pilots Log transcribed by Joan Bard Robinson

Davenport Democrat
Dec. 11, 1902

THE RIVER (obituary)

Captain George Brasser (Brasseau), one of the oldest river pilots on the upper Mississippi, is dead at his home in Stillwater of cancer, aged 70 years. He was until recently captain of the steamer Gypsy and a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers since 1857. He had been a resident of Stillwater for the past 46 years. During the past season he worked on the Mississippi as a raft boat pilot.

Captain Brasseau was the builder of the rafting steamer Robert Dodds, which boat towed logs for the Joyce Mills of Clinton and Fulton until she was sold last year and was taken into southern waters, and which often passed here. He was master of the Dodds for 17 years while the craft was towing logs for a St. Louis firm. He also ran on the rafter Cyclone, remembered by our people, but which has not been seen in these waters of late years, having been taken north for the packet business between St. Paul and Wabasha. Captain Brasseau was well known to numbers of the local river men, all of whom learned with regret of his death.

Blairs “A Raft Pilots Log”

When we got out of Lake Saint Croix in the morning and below Prescott we found Captain R.J.Wheeler with the steamer ' Henrietta' and a large excursion barge, the 'Robert Dodds' and raft in charge of Captain George Brasser and the 'Menominee' and raft, Captain S.B.Withrow all tied up and lying quiet. I could see some small boat down below in the cut. So we landed on the right above the others. I took a skiff and visited the other boats, and learned that Dan Rice with his little side-wheeled 'Ben Hershey' and half raft for Red Wing had caught his right hand bow corner on that side of the cut and then the stern swung over and rested on the sand on the other side. The captains all thought he would soon get loose and drop out of our way.


Capts. Brooks & Reece

The Palimpsest
Bloomington Comes of age
Pg. 352

“On April 23, 1841, the town recorder advertised in the Herald that the ferry lease would be let to any one furnishing a “good and sufficient” steamboat. Captain John Phillips was granted the ferry license when he provided the diminutive steam ferry Iowa, a vessel which was condemned and dismantled at the close of 1842. For the next two seasons Captain Phillips had to resort to a flatboat with oars. In 1845 a horse ferry was introduced by Brooks & Reece. It was not until July 1855, that the steam ferry Muscatine was placed in service. With the opening of the high bridge in 1891 ferry service was discontinued.


River Commerce

The record Mark Block, agent of the Keokuk Northern Line at this place is an astonishing exhibit showing the largest season in point of imports and exports for a number of years.

 The business opened with the arrival from St. Louis of the Arkansas on the 11th of March, and closed with the departure of the Belle of La Crosse for St. Louis, November 15 - a season of 250 days, and 14 days shorter than the season of 1879.

 The following tables show the totals of the business of the line at this point this year:



Packages merchandise

Barrels of apples

     “       of sweet potatoes  

Packages of oat meal

Head stock

Doz. Wash boards    

Bales of hay

Sacks of grain  

Bundles of wagon brakes

Cases canned goods


…………   25,514

..………      2,500

...…….       5,000

.…………    1,000

.…………    1,500

.…………       300

..……….        570

.……….      2,587

..………         312

………….     1,120

………….   50,000




Barrels of flour

Packages of oatmeal

Sacks of potatoes

Barrels of sweet potatoes

Sacks of grain

Bales of hay

Empty barrels

Head of stock

Feet of lumber

Boxes of clay pipe

………..         554

…...…..      2,124

…………      8,741

...………     1,500

………….   11,320

.…………     2,361

………….        800

…………..         59

.………… 150,000

………….     2,500



Joseph Buisson, Capt.

Cyprian Buisson, Capt.

Capts Buisson (Captains of the “Ben Hershey” owned by Hershey lumber muscatine


Joseph Buisson was born in Wabasha, Minnesota, February 17, 1846. His father, a French trader from Canada, was one of the founders of the town beautifully located on Wabasha prairie and named after a noted Sioux chief whose people made their home at the mouth of the Zumbrota river.

Joseph took more to school and books than his brothers who were fonder of outdoor sports and hunting, and as he grew up developed a great fondness for reading, especially works on history and biography, and was a well informed man. He belonged to several fraternal organizations including Masonry in which he was a close student and

his life exemplified its teachings. His family were Episcopalians and while not a member he was an attendant of church, and for many years he was the faithful Peoples Warden of Grace Memorial Chapel in Wabasha. His life work on the river began when he was fifteen years old. When nineteen he began piloting himself and as he soon demonstrated his skill and ability in handling rafts and men, he was constantly employed and by the best companies as long as the business lasted. We recall the excellent work he did on the side-wheeler 'Clyde,' then on the side-wheeler 'J.W. Barden,' running lumber for the Daniel Shaw Company, then on the new stern-wheeler 'Gardie Eastman,' several seasons running logs for Gardiner Batcheler and wells of Lyons, Iowa; then on the fine large 'C.W. Cowles,' owned by Fleming Brothers of McGregor and later bought and operated by
the Valley Navigation Company of which Captain Joe was president, and as master and pilot of the 'Cowles' he ran logs to the Hershey mill and Muscatine and several others until the finish.

When rafting played out he operated the 'C.W. Cowles' as a regular packet between LaCrosse and Dubuque, but realizing little profit in this, he sold her and went piloting the big packets of the Streckfus Line in the Saint Louis and Saint Paul trade and remained on them for awhile after they were converted into exclusion steamers. He gave up this work to take the position of Deputy United States Marshal at Saint Paul, and while filling it most acceptably the final summons came to him October 29, 1918, and he was laid to rest in the town of his birth.


There were four of the Buisson boys. Antoine, the second, only made a few trips on floating rafts, and then went in the Dakotas and took up farming. The other three, Henry, Joseph and Cyprian, stuck to the rafting game as long as it lasted, except that Henry enlisted in the Fifth Minnesota Infantry and served during the Civil War. Their grandfather was Lieutenant Duncan Graham who commanded the small detachment of British troops that with their Indian allies, defeated the United States force under Colonel Zachary Taylor at the battle of Credit Island near Davenport on September 5, 1814.

Lieutenant Graham married an Indian wife, probably of the sac tribe, and their daughter was born on or near Credit Island. Lieutenant Graham's duties took him to Minnesota for many years and this daughter married Joseph Buisson, a French Canadian trader, who was an early settler in Wabasha.

Whether Mrs. Buisson, the mother of these four sons and three daughters, was a Sac or a Sioux, is in doubt, but one thing is sure: she had children of whom any mother could be justly proud. They all stood high in their old home town.

Cyprian, the third son of Joseph Buisson, was born in Wabasha, Minnesota, September 25, 1849. His youth was spent mostly in learning and playing the games of the young Sioux who were his chosen companions. He was fond of hunting and
trapping and became very skillful in using a gun or a canoe and always had both with him on the 'B.Hershey.' Joseph, his next older brother, took more interest in school, but hard as he tried, he could not keep young Cyp at his studies when condition were favorable for

hunting or trapping. He told me Joe gave him many a licking for running away from school. But if Cyp did not learn much in school he leaned a lot outside. Perfectly at home in the woods, he knew more about animals, birds, fishes, flowers and
plants than anyone I ever had the good fortune to know. When only sixteen he began his work on rafts, pulling an oar for David
Craft on a lumber raft to Saint Louis. He quickly learned the river and began piloting himself. His first practice running a raft was when he and Jack Walker chartered the little 'Novelty' in the late sixties. Then he and his brother Joe went on the 'Clyde' for three seasons.

In the spring of 1877 he came out as master and pilot of the fine, large, powerful raft-boat 'B. Hershey,' built at Kahlkes yard at Rock Island for the Hershey Lumber Company of Muscatine, Iowa. For twelve successive seasons he ran their logs from Beef Slough, West Newton and Stillwater, making a record that nobody could beat. Then the Valley Navigation Company was formed by Captain Cyprian, Joe and a few others. This company bought the 'B. Hershey' of the Hershey Lumber Company, the 'C.W. Cowley' of Fleming Brothers and the 'Lafayette Lamb' of C. Lamb and Sons and Cyp remained on the 'Hershey' for eight years
more running logs for Hershey Lumber Company on contract, making twenty years of service on the one boat, clean, skillful, satisfactory service, all of it.

Then he wanted a change and going to Dakota he tried farming six years, but the lure of the river brought him back and he put in a few seasons rafting, working government boats, had charge of the steamer 'Helen Blair' in the Davenport and Burlington trade, and

wound up his steamboating on the big side-wheeler 'Morning Star' in the Davenport, Saint Paul and Stillwater trade, until the end of the season 1917, when ill health developed into serious and painful sickness terminating November 24, 1920. He was first married August 18, 1876 to Elizabeth Stone of Wabasha, who died November 17, 1906.

In 1913 he married Lillian Enber of Saint Paul who gave him constant and loving care through his long illness and survives.
There were no children by either marriage, but they adopted, raised and educated three children who needed homes and parents and were fortunate in having such care and guidance.

Captain Cyp was a handsome man, very modest and gentle in speech and action but not afraid of anything or any person. A better pilot or more pleasant companion one could not find. He was the highest type of gentleman, whose memory we will always prize.

The 'Hershey' was in charge of that prince of pilots and thorough gentleman, Cyprian Buisson, of Wabasha, Minnesota. There were four of these Buisson brothers, of whom three, Henry, Joseph, and Cyprian, took to rafting, and were very successful pilots and masters.

Transcribed by Joan Bard Robinson
Blairs “A Raft Pilots Log”

Cyprian Buissons was called “Zip Buzzsaw”

The steamer 'Hartford' under Captain Henry Buisson, was busy dropping out half rafts to places of safety, where they would lay at owner's risk until taken away by some other boat.

Transcribed by Joan Bard Robinson
Blairs “A Raft Pilots Log”


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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