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On the River


Muscatine, Iowa



Part II

photos by McClure

Mississippi Queen going under the Muscatine Bridge and out the other side.



J. A. Eaton

Muscatine Journal
Feb. 7, 1914


Mr. and Mrs. J. A, Eaton, venerable Couple Recite Experience of Days Gone By
(Capt. Eaton)

A visit full of entertainment and pleasure this week at the comfortable home of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Eaton, 1512 East fifth Street, a bride and groom of sixty years ago, (their anniversary falling on February 2), revealed many delights and exciting incidents which the happy couple experienced during their long wedded life. Both are in excellent health, and comfortably seated last night beside a large baseburner, Mrs. Eaton “piecing together the small blue and white squares of a beautiful old fashion quilt, told of the days when the now aged husband was captain of the “Ida May” at that time one of the most popular boats of the Mississippi. Mr. Eaton was in a talkative mood and his face lighted up as he told of his experiences with his “pet” “I was in my prime in those days,” he said, “and those were great steam boating days too.”

Ferry Captain 12 years

“the twelve years I spent as captain and pilot of the little craft were twelve of the happiest years of my life, and If I do say it myself, I never had an accident in all the time. I bought my half interest in the little vessel from old Captain A. Davidson, now deceased. In 1879, and continued the ferry until the bridge was open to traffic in 1891. The other half interest in the boat was controlled by S.G. Stein, Sr.. Some days business was poor especially on stormy days, but the slack was amply made up on a circus and show day in Muscatine, and on one occasion I remember I brought over as high as nineteen teams in one trip. On one show day, I think it was the time when the great Forepaugh circus was scheduled to appear here, I took in a high as a hundred dollars. And speaking of the circus reminds me that was the day of the big fire at the Chambers mill, near where Huttigs factory is now. That was an awful fire, and I was on the Illinois side loading on passengers who were coming over for the circus, when I first noticed the blaze. The fire was small then, but inside of ten minutes the entire mill was wrapped in flames. The blaze was so fierce hat the water in the creek boiled, and the bridge over which the circus was to pass burned out, so that there was no performances. An immense crowd witnessed the fire which occurred at eleven o’clock in the morning.



“ One experience I’ll never forget took place on the Ida May while I was captain. It was a funny experience too, and as I think of it, I can’t help but look on the humorous side of it and enjoy another hearty laugh. It was a custom in those days, for various parties to take river pleasure trips on the ferry up or down the river whichever the direction may be in which the boat had business. We did a good deal of towing in those days. On this particular day, which was during the last year or two of my ferry experience, a party of twelve young married women boarded the boat for one of there little trips, expecting to return before evening as my trips were generally short ones. I had promised Captain Arnold to tow a barge of stone from the quarries up near Montpelier so that I could meet it. After we started, one of the party of women asked me how long it would take to make the trip, and when I told her that it all depended on whether I had to go to Montpelier, in which case, I would not be able to return until perhaps the next day, she was frantic, and told me that she had left her small baby with her husband at that time a prominent Muscatine grocer. Well, it happened that I met the barge near Fairport, but on the return as we enter the Iowa chute, a terrific storm arose and struck just before we came to Geneva Island. It was one of the worst storms I ever experienced, and it grew so dark that I could not see the water. We tied up near the island and it was not until mid-night we found the faithful husband and tiny baby, anxiously concerned as to the wife and mother.


“Before I went in to the ferry business I spent one year just previous as marshal, and four years before that as sheriff of Muscatine County. We lived in the old jail building, and my wife and I took care of the prisoners. It was as sheriff that I had another interesting experience which resulted in the escape of the only prisoner that ever got away from me. The Keokuk county people did not have a jail, so they asked me to keep their prisoners for them. This prisoner that escaped was one of those from Keokuk county and was awaiting trial on the charge of stealing a pair of boots. I had been called away to Wapello for the day, and left my wife in charge. It was another bad, stormy day, and I can still hear the rain beating down on the roof of the jail. Of course, the prisoners realized that I was gone, and this particular Keokuk county prisoner told the others he was going to get out and if they wanted to they should follow. He fashioned a saw from a common case knife, which he had in his possession, and sawed the lock off the large door. Because of the rain pattering on the roof, my wife could not hear the sawing, and he got away. None of the other prisoners tried to escape. As soon as my wife, however, discovered he left she hastened down and locked another door. The man was never found.


Both Mr. and Mrs. Eaton are much younger in appearance than in years. Mrs. Eaton was but eighteen when she was married and the groom in his twenty first year. They are the parents of seven children, who with their families are the following:
Mr. and Mrs. D.T. Eaton and son Arnold; Mr. and Mrs. Cal Eaton, Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Lawrence, and son , Harold; Mr. and Mrs. M. f. Eaton and son, Horace; all of Muscatine, Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Bird and daughter, Miss Marie, and son, George of Warsau, Wis,; and Mrs. C. T. Tyrell and sons, Lawrence and James Hoyt Tyrell, of St. Paul, Minn., and Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Braun and son, James, of Kansas City, Mo. The latter spending the winter at Palm Beach, Cal.
transcribed by Georgeann McClure


Ewing William



Greenwood Cemetery


William Ewing was the engineer of the ferry “Ida May” from 1875 -1891.

1880 Federal Census first ward Muscatine, Iowa

William Ewing 31 head Steamboat engineer Penn.
Alice wife 31 keeping house Ohio
Jennie 9 at school Iowa

William Ewing Family Home

309 W. Third



A. J. Fimple

Old Settlers
March 19, 1880
Pg. 92

Death of A. J. Fimple

Readers of the Journal have had their minds prepared for the sad news that at a late hour last evening Andrew A Fimple, one of our oldest and best known citizens, departed this life. He had been suffering from a severe attack of typhoid-pneumonia and for several days his death was almost hourly apprehended.

Mr. Fimple was born in Delaware county, Pa., Feb 19, 1814, and was consequently aged 66 years and one month at the time of his death. He came to Muscatine in 1840, and for eight years kept a tailor shop, part of the time in partnership with M. M. Berkshire. In 1848 he quit the business and with Giles Pettibone ran the ferry-boat several years, after which he engaged partly in farming and partly in managing a stone quarry on a tract of land owned by him a few miles above the city; meantime, however, keeping his homestead in this city in the same house where he resided for about thirty years.

Mr. Fimple was a frank, genial man, who endeavored to square his conduct by

“that old, old creed of creeds,
The loveliness of perfect deeds.”

And whose life was a blameless one--Although a non-church member, those who had access to the inner temple of his thoughts know that he held in veneration the teachings of revelation and had a genuine respect for true Christian character. Politically, he was an unswerving Democrat, and was frequently nominated for places of trust and honor, by his party, though by no means an office seeker. The deceased leaves a wife and son Andrew.

The funeral will take place at 2 o’clock Sunday, from the family residence on Fifth Street.


Absalom Fisher
(once lived at 417 W. Third St. )

Greenwood Cemetery

Muscatine, Iowa


Old Settlers 1879
Page 82

Captain Absalom Fisher
In Muscatine Tuesday, June 10th,1879, Capt. A Fisher, in the 71st year of his age.

Funeral at the family residence on Front street, to-morrow (Wednesday), at 3 p.m., under the auspices of the Masonic Fraternity.-- Friends are respectfully invited.

Thus has passed away another of the old pioneers of Muscatine county. Capt. Fisher settled in Muscatine in 1845 and formed a partnership with Levi Goldsberry, under the name of Fisher & Goldsberry, brick makers and builders. The present Commercial House, the old No. 1 school house, a portion of the Scott House, and many other of the early brick buildings of this city were erected by them.

Mr. Fisher served as ferryman for many years, with the old ferryboats “Muscatine” and “Decalion.” He afterwards purchased the little steamer Pearl, which now lies sunk in a slough near New Boston. It was while guarding this boat that he contracted his last illness a malarial fever.

He was a member of the Baptist church and sang in the choir for many years.


Fry Capt.

*The American house was a tavern. In 1852 before Capt Battelle left for California. He sold the tavern to Captain Fry. Capt. Fry died shortly afterward. See Capt. Battelle.


Jodie Hedicker

Joseph Hedicker

From Charles Braunworths memory
published by Randalman

“Next the ferry landing of the Northern Illinois, Petty bone (sic) Captain, Olie Pyeatt, engineer, Smokie Zediger, pilot. Later the Ida May, Captain, A. Davison, another good citizen, pillar at the M. E. church. Smokie Zediger, pilot, William Ewing, engineer, Collectra, Jodie Hediger(sic).

Later Captain Eaton, pilot, George Arnold, engineer, Jodie Hediger, (sic) Collector.”

Feb. 26, 1905

Funeral of Joseph Hedicker This Afternoon At His Home

This afternoon at the family residence, 304 East Second street, the funeral of the late Joseph Hedicker was held at 2 o’clock. The services were conducted by Dr, W. J. Beatty, pastor of the United Brethren church. Pieces of roses and carnations were banked around the casket. Two songs were song by a quartet composed of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Schoemaker, Mrs. Bert Hine and A. W. Hine. The pall bearers were taken from the two lodges of which Mr. Hedicker was a member. Those from the yeoman were Amos Hopkinsen, F. W. Swain, C. H. Garnes and from the Modern Brotherhood of American Messrs. Norton, Connoers and Slight. The internment was made in Greenwood cemetery.


The large, Swift and elegant
Passenger steamer



Ball, Master, will run as a regular packet between the above points, leaving Rock Island and Muscatine every Monday evening with regularity, and reaching St. Louis in 40 hours. The Monongahela is the largest and most conveniently arranged packet in the upper trade, and every pains will be taken to accommodate passengers and shippers.

Muscatine            C. WEED Agent


photo McClure


Muscatine High Bridge
New lighting
May 2008


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