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On the River


Muscatine, Iowa



Part III

compiled and copyrighted by
Georgeann McClure



photo McClure

Mississippi Queen steamboat under the Muscatine, Iowa bridge.



Koehler, Conrad

Greenwood Cemetery,

Muscatine, Iowa

Conrad Koehler


April 12, 1923


Believe Water in Hull and Sand Caused Tragedy


Body Not Recovered up to 2 O’clock
Accident Occurs at Koehler Gravel Pit in River

Conrad Koehler, 71 former mayor of Muscatine and one of the best known river men along the upper Mississippi, was drowned about 10 o’clock this morning when a barge on which he was working turned over in the Mississippi river at his gravel pit four miles below Muscatine. The body had not been located up to 2 o’clock.

Eli Atkins, 1101 East Seventh street, with Koehler on the barge escaped by jumping safely to the “E. L. K.” Koehler’s boat to which the barge was tied. Two other members of the boat’s crew. B. R. Litwelder, 307 Chestnut street and John Bear, 419 East Front street, witnessed the tragedy from other boats.

Exactly what caused the barge to turn over is a matter of conjecture. According to Litwelder there was considerable water in the bottom of the barge, which is about 80 by 20 feet. It was about two-thirds loaded with sand pumped from the pit., Litwelder says, the load being on one side. A tilt of the barge, which sent the water in the bottom to one side, is thought to have caused the craft to turn over on its edge. The ropes holding it to the “E. L. K.” were snapped off and the side of the barge glanced off the pilot house of the steamer.

When the barge tilted Atkins succeeded in jumping to safety. He was near the steamer. According to him, Koehler was on the far side of the barge and although he made a gallant attempt to climb the precipitous incline as the craft turned over on its side, he fell back into the river. Life preservers and ropes were thrown to him as he appeared above the surface some distance from the sinking barge. He succeeded in grasping one rope, Litwelder says, only to let go when he apparently made another attempt to reach the barge.

Rises but once

Koehler rose but once after he was thrown into the water, the men who witnessed the tragedy say. The current at this point is swift and the water extremely deep because of his pumping operations which have been going on at Koehlers gravel pit, located about one-third of the distance across the river out from the Iowa shore.

The barge, says the men, did not turn completely over but sank after tilting at a steep angle and precipitating most of its cargo of sand into the stream.

Drag for Body

The three men summoned aid after finding their efforts to reach Koehler fruitless. Dragging was started soon after the tragedy. The boat crew brought the E. L. K. back to Muscatine late in the morning to secure additional help in searching for the body. It is believed that the swift current may have carried the remains some distance from the scene of the accident.

The Koehler gravel pit where operations were being carried on is located at the head of what is known as “Freeman’s” crossing and on a line out in the river from the pits of the Automatic Gravel company.

Koehler carried on an extensive sand and gravel business renting part of the levee at the foot of Mulberry avenue for unloading and distributing purposes. Word of his tragic death spread quickly and was a shock to the entire community.

Native Resident of City

Koehler was born March, 1852, in Muscatine, and resided here his entire life. He married Miss Hattie Griffith, to which union three children were born, two of whom preceded him in death.

Not only was Mr Koehler a prominent local sand and gravel dealer for more than half a century, but he also was a leading figure in city politics for years. He was elected mayor in 1912 on the democratic ticket and served one term.

Besides his widow he is survived by a daughter, Mrs. George Daut of this city; two sisters, Mrs. Gus Althaus and Mrs. Christ Vogel also of Muscatine; three brothers/George and John Koehler of this city and Ed Koehler of Aberdeen Wash.


Middleton, John

Thomas Middleton

Capt. Middleton
Attend Musserville Island Church

Middleton, Benjamin

Middleton, Julia

Middleton, Lydia

Middleton, Thomas

Middleton, William

Middleton, W. A

1866 Muscatine City Directory
John Middleton steamboat captain . res Island 1 3/4 mi w Court House

1876-1877 Caffee’s County Directory
Middleton T. L. fisherman res Musserville

Submitted by: Juanita Buckley Sapp
Date Submitted: Monday, February 05, 2001 12:26 PM
Source of Obituary: "MUSCATINE JOURNAL", Muscatine, Iowa, Monday, June 24, 1929
Thomas Middleton, 76, died at this home 207 East Third Street, at 4:20 Sunday afternoon following an illness of almost six months with heart disease. Mr. Middleton was born in Lancaster County, PA., February 6, 1853. He came to Muscatine when a child and had resided here since that time. He married Lydia Purcell, November 1, 1876 and she died about 22 years ago. He married Mrs. Hattie Fahey October 26, 1910. He was a member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church and the AOUW Lodge. Survivors are his widow; two sons, Roy L. of Atalissa and William T. of Sterling, Illinois; two sisters, Mrs. Emma Mock and Mrs. Kate Comstock, both of San Francisco, California; one half brother, Chris Middleton of Muscatine; eight grandchildren. Funeral services will be conducted at the First Presbyterian Church by the Rev. J. B. Rendall Tuesday afternoon at 2:30. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery. The body was taken to the Wittich Funeral Home and will remain there until services.----- Submitter's Note: Thomas was the son of Benjamin Middleton and Mary M. Hoove.


Morehouse, Capts
• more on Morehouse brothers in Buffalo, Iowa rivermen
• on celtic cousins


Morehouse  Stone

Greenwood Cemetery, Muscatine Iowa



Jonathan Morehouse

Died: Oct 1, 1839

Age: 59 yrs 8 mos 6 dys


Died: August 23, 1835

Age:  10mos 23 dys

D. B. Morehouse

Died: April 19, 1869

Age: 63 yrs 10mos 9 dys



Died: July 18, 1868

Age: 26 yrs 12 dys




Died:  April 20, 1843
Age: 6 yrs 4 mos 5 dys.




Died: August 1, 1843

Age: 1 yrs 5 mos


Loretta Morehouse

Died: May 3, 1870

Age: 85 yrs 1 mos 18 dys


Died: January 18, 1844

Age: 5 yrs 10 mos

Charlotte Morehouse

Died: May 6, 1858

Age: 45 yrs 2 dys

Captain D.B. and Captain Legrand Morehouse are well known on the Mississippi River. Legrand was on the main boat during the Grand excursion.

The Morehouse memorial stone can be found in Greenwood Cemetery in Muscatine, Iowa. I was told the stone was brought in from the Morehouse farm near Buffalo, Iowa. (The Morehouse family are not at this site. Their Biography can be found in History of Davenport and Scott County Iowa by Harry Downer Vol.

Glendale Cemetery Leclaire Iowa transcribed by Paul Pruden
Moorehouse, Dickerson B., 1844-1913
Moorehouse, Mary Ellen, 1851-1901
Moorehouse, Stella C., 1881-1947


James W. Neally

The Palimpsest
Sept 1964
Pg. 351-352

“On July 2, 1838, the county commissioners granted James W. Neally a Bloomington ferry license good for one year.’ The rates prescribed were each footman, 25 cents; man and horse, 50 cents; wagon and two horses or yoke of oxen, $1.50; each additional horse, 25 cents; cattle 25 cents; sheep and hogs 6 ¼ cents. These first ferries were crude flat bottomed skiffs propelled by poles and oars.”

“On December 14, 1838, the territorial legislature granted Joseph Williams and Charles Warfield the right to establish a horse or steam ferry across the Mississippi at Muscatine. Their first ferry was the flat boat Polly Keith built in 1839 by D. C. Cloud and George Leffingwell. According to the Bloomington Herald the Polly Keith was kept in “the Slough“, with ropes to propel it, so that travelers coming to it can ferry themselves, their wagons and stock across without difficulty.”

“This service was so inadequate that the Herald on December 11, 1840, carried an open letter regarding the “approaching forfeiture” of the ferry privilege by Warfield and Williams who, it was prophesied, could not obtain a renewal unless in “open defiance of the unanimous will of our citizens.” since the ferry would soon become a “valuable privilege” the writer believed Bloomington should either be granted the charter or else a stock company of citizens should be organized. In answer to this plea the Territorial legislature passed an act on December 29, 1840, authorizing the president and trustees to “establish and keep a ferry” across the Mississippi for “one mile above and one mile below” Bloomington. The town officials had “full and entire control” of the ferry and could lease it for any period not exceeding ten years on terms “most conductive to the welfare of the municipality.”

Bloomington Herald
Dec. 11, 1840



Messrs. Editors-- As the period approaches which determines the forfeiture of the ferry privileges granted to Warfield & Williams, by first Legislature of Iowa, it behooves the citizens of our town to take the subject into consideration, and devise such plans as will be productive of the most good to the town and the citizens at large.

That those gentlemen named will obtain an extension of the time within which they were to have put the ferry afore said into operation, cannot for a moment be supposed, without seriously doubting the disposition and interest of our citizens as well as the good sense of our legislators. In fact I do not believe they will for a moment think of applying for what they know cannot and will not be granted, unless in open defiance of the unanimous will of our citizens and those of the adjacent country, on either side of the Mississippi.

In this state of things what shall be done. It seems to me that one of two courses should be taken: Either that the town, through its corporate authority, should apply for the charter, or that it should be invested in a stock company; care being taken that the shares be of the proper size, and confined to the citizens of the town.

That the ferry privilege will in a few years become valuable, no one will pretend to doubt. The interest and growth of the town materially depends upon our securing the immediate interest to ourselves, either corporately or collectively, and no longer suffer the whole town and its interest to be absorbed or kept in check by those4 who either have not the means or disposition to advance them. H. J. P. T.

Muscatine Journal
August 18, 1889

Ten of the prominent young men of the city have guaranteed sufficient funds to secure the elegant steamer Josephine and its magnificent barge for Thursday evening, and a select dancing party and excursion of the elite of the city will our thereon. The Josephine and barge are the finest excursion outfit afloat on the Upper Mississippi, and the event will be of the most elegant character throughout. Invitations have been issued signed by the committee of arrangements. Messrs Williams, McColm and T. H. Fitzgerald, and the price of tickets placed at $1.50 ticket to include dancing. It required considerable expense to secure so fine a boat and barge, and there will need to be a large attendance to keep “the ten” from coming up short.


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