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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.



Palmer, Jim

Source: History of Muscatine County Iowa, Volume I, 1911,


A frame building was built by Suel Foster on West Second street, just east of McQuesten & Sawyer's store in 1838. It was one story high and the roof sloped down to the front and over a porch, which was supported by posts or pillars. It stood a little back from the street. This became Captain Jim Palmer's tavern. Captain Jim was kind and courteous, like Landlord Stein, but his house was not quite so quiet, as he kept a bar. But Captain Jim knew his business and usually kept his customers in hand. It was a good place to stop. When a man had no money he was treated as well as the man who had plenty. His sign, erected on a crooked stick, was the most prominent object on Second street.
Captain Jim Palmer was a large, rather fat old man. He was a good customer at his own bar and was a character in a way.

Capt. James Palmer, known as " Capt. Jim," was a large, rather fat old man. He was a good customer at his own bar. Here is a sample of his advertisement in the Bloomington Herald of 1841:


Whereas, I, Capt. Jim, long a dispenser of food to the hungry and a couch to the weary, as well as a "horn" to the dry, having taken possession of the large and commodious house on Second street, Bloomington, Iowa, formerly the residence of His Hon. J. Williams, do hereby declare and make known to the world that I am now prepared, at the sign of "Capt. Jim," to accommodate those who may call upon me in a satisfactory manner, otherwise they go scot free. That this statement may the more prove fully true, I hereby declare and make known that the following are my charges, for all of which the best the market can afford are furnished; Single meal, 25 cents; board per day, with lodging, 75 cents; three days, per day, 62 1/2 cents; per week, $3; one horse feed, 12 1/2 cents; horse, per night, 25 cents; horse per week, $1.62 1/2 cents.

All other bills in proportion. I, the said Capt. Jim, do hereby further declare to those indebted to me for eating, sleeping, drinking, or upon contract of any kind whatsoever, that unless they come forward immediately and make settlement, Michael Scott was never in Scotland if I don't sent a constable after them to bring them to "taw." so look out for Conklin or Ward.

Thankful for past favors, he hopes to receive a share of public patronage corresponding with his efforts to minister to the tastes and render comfortable those who may favor him with their patronage. Capt. Jim Palmer Bloomington, Dec. 3, 1841.--6tf.
Pardon me for relating an anecdote told by Dan Rice, the noted showman. He says that when he first started out he visited Bloomington, and stopped with " Capt. Jim," and had his exhibition at his hotel. "Capt. Jim" insisted on having his pay in advance, but he compromised by making the Captain door-keeper. At the close of the entertainment he reported no money. Dan inquired how it came. The Captain's reply was, " he had so many friends that he had to invite whom he could not charge, and thus he received no money." This left Dan $6 in debt, and no money to pay with.



Peto, Capt.

Davenport Democrat August 13, 1901

Muscatine Journal;

Capt. Peto returned to Rock Island this morning where he is running the Ocean Wave. He said that he did fairly well in Burlington, but not as well as he will in Rock Island. He reports the Muscatine people who are living in Burlington are very much disgusted with the city. And that they nearly all signified their intentions of returning to Muscatine as soon as convenient. The captain was much elated over what he said was a fact, that he had ordered a new automobile of a St. Louis firm. He said it would carry six people and that he would have the pleasure of being the first to purchase one of the “infernal machines.” He will take in the Winfield

*Capt. Petos home and picture of his family can be found in the Grosshiem collection, at the Musser public library.


Giles Pettibone, Ferryman

Giles Pettibone, born January 10, 1812 in Connecticut married Asenath Day, born 1816, in Vermont. They had three living children, in 1850; Harriet 8, Francis 6, and Jonathan then 2. In 1836 he was one of the earliest settlers to what was then Bloomington. He had many accomplishments, farmer, Street commissioner , and he along with his partner L.C. Hine built the first jail. In 1856 We find him as ferryman in the Muscatine city directory. He aligned his ferry business with A. J. Fimple, creating Fimple and Pettibone steam ferry boat service.. After remodeling the ferry boat into a packet he went into the south, according to the old settlers volume1, where his boat sank and Giles was never heard from again.

(*Catherine Gaines, 25, from Pennsylvania and Theresa Day 18 from Vermont live with the Pettibones in 1850.)



C. L. Phelps

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album, Muscatine County, Iowa,
1889, page 404

JOSEPH P. PHELPS, photographer and proprietor of Phelps' Lightning Enameling Process, was born in Muscatine, April 1, 1848, and is a son of Capt. Clark and Pascolina ( Paul ) Phelps. His father was born in Hartford Conn., in 1816, and his mother in Natchez, Miss. They were married in the latter city in 1842. His father was a steamboat captain, and was master of various steamboats on the Mississippi River. Prior to 1855 he was engaged in merchandising in Mississippi. After spending many years on the river he retired on account of old age, and spent the last ten years of is life at Cairo, Ill., where his death occurred in November, 1885. His wife died in October, 1881.

Joseph P. Phelps was reared in Muscatine and educated in the public schools. In 1862 he began learning photography, and in 1865 bought out his former employer, and has connected with this line of business ever since. He was married at Natchez, Miss., in June, 1871, to Miss Louisa Walter, a native of Natchez, and a daughter of Jeremiah Walter. Five children have been born of their union---Florence, Effie, Ruth, Vivian and Laura. Mrs. Phelps is a member of the Presbyterian Church. Politically, Mr. Phelps is a Democrat. Since 1886 he has devoted his time to handling his lightning enameling patents, of which he has made a great success.

1856 City Directory Muscatine Iowa
Phelps, C. L. Master steamer Lamartine? ns Third e Iowa Avenue

1860 Muscatine County Census Sweetland Township

  Phelps Clark head of household captain
Lillian wife wife keeping house
Lorenzo 19 son asst pilot

In the 1856 City Directory of Muscatine

Capt. C. L. Phelps is listed as the master of the steamer “Lamartine“. He lives at NS Third & Iowa Avenue.

Capt. Clark Phelps was born in 1816 in Hartford Connecticut. His wife, Pascolina nee Paul from Natchez, Mississippi, and he were married in 1842.

They have four children in 1860; Lorenzo, 19, asst. pilot, Alamanser ,17, Charles, 13, and Nancy, 6. Mary Riley, 38 from Ireland lives with them. Their post office is listed as Fairport. Three other children died in childhood.

After many years on the river Capt. Clark Phelps retired to Cairo, Illinois where he died in November of 1885. The Captain’s wife died in October 1880.


John Phillips, Capt.

The Palimpsest
Pg. 152

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 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. 


Muscatine Journal
March 7, 1895

Capt. John Phillips, whose name was notorious in the early days of our city, died at Lettsville on Thursday, 25th. He was about sixty years of age. Capt. Phillips came to Muscatine (then Bloomington) from Burlington in 1843 with an old steam ferry boat, and having a charter for the ferry he ran it a number of years in a manner unsatisfactory to the citizens, causing a great deal of trouble and strife. Phillips was charged with nearly every crime in the catalogue, but he was shrewd and wary and always succeeded in escaping conviction in the numerous suits brought against him. On the morning of May 23rd, 1849, a German named “Old Nick”, was found dead near the old ferry house w3hich still stand on the opposite side of the river and which was then the dwelling of Phillips. His death was attributed by Phillips to a mob from the city, who he said, attacked his house during the night, and killed “Old Nick” in mistake for himself; but, on the other hand,, the murder was charged on Phillips in order to get the unfortunate man out of the way as a witness against him. The mystery has never been cleared up. The same cloud of uncertainty hangs over other unlawful acts attributed to Phillips and his associates, such as burning of houses, bridges, & in order to avenge himself on those who opposed his claim to the ferry franchise. About 1850 Phillips removed to Rock Island, and our citizens saw and heard but little of him for ten years. He then returned to this city and pursued a comparatively peaceable and quiet life, devoting his time mainly to obtaining soldiers pensions and picking up business as an attorney. On the 31st of October, 1868, he came again prominently before the public as a party in an affray with Jap. Hampton on the ferry boat, in which he shot Hampton, who narrowly escaped death. For this Phillips stood trial but was acquitted.
As we commanded to say nothing but good of the dead, we will say that the deceased was Plausible and pleasing to all he desired to win. He had a good share of natural talent, and under other circumstances might have been a man of much useful influence.

Transcribed by Georgeann McClure


Capt. J. A. Pyeatt

Mar. 1, 1903
Source: History of Muscatine County Iowa, Biographical Section, 1879, page 651

J. A. PYEATT, machinist and steamboat engineer, Nichols; born Sept. 6, 1822, in St. Louis; in 1836, commenced learning the blacksmith, Machinist and engineer's trade at Gaty's Foundry in St. Louis; in 1842, engaged as engineer on the steamer Bowling Green, under Capt. John J. Rowe; the following spring of 1843, she ran on a rock at the mouth of Osage River and sunk; crew all got off safely, soon after, went on the Pearl, running on the Illinois River, since which time, he has run on the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio and all their navigable tributaries except Red River; most of the time on the Missouri River; was on the steamer Columbus in 1850, as engineer, when she collapsed her flues and blew out, killing and wounding about twenty persons; in 1857-58, followed farming near St. Louis, then went down to De Soto, Mo., on the Iron Mountain Railroad, where he worked at blacksmithing, and commenced building a steam grist-mill, but, on account of war, had to suspend; in 1862, engaged in the employ of Captain Eads in building gunboats at Carondelet; in 1864, again went on the river as engineer; in 1868, came to Muscatine on the ferry-boat Northern Illinois, which he ran for seven years, and the Ida May one year; since then, ran on the Diamond Jo most of two seasons. Married Miss Pina W. Lendrum, of Grayson Co., Ky., Nov. 27, 1847; she was born Sept. 22, 1823, in Madison County, Ky.; have an adopted son--Oliver Reynolds Pyeatt, a son of his wife's sister, whose mother died when he was about a year old. Mr. P. is the only one left of three or four engineers on the river who commenced when he did; he now owns a residence in Muscatine, valued at $2,000; is at present in company with his brother-in-law, J. W. Lendrum, running the St. Nichols Hotel. Member of M. E. Church
*The original Pyeatt home was on Bismarck Street


Pyeatt Home

West Third Street


*The original Pyeatt home was on Bismarck Street



Reece and Brooks

The Palimpest
Pg. 152-153

“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.”

Muscatine Journal
Jan. 13, 1865

At St. Louis, Mo., on the 6th instrument, HENRY REECE.

The deceased was born in Philadelphia, on the 19th day of April, 1815, and removed to this place in 1836, thru becoming one of the pioneer settlers of Muscatine County. He was well known to our citizens as a man of property and honor, having satisfactorily discharged the duties of several positions of public trust. He was Postmaster for this city during the administration of Mr. Pierce. In the political contest over the Kansas and Nebraska Bill, he arrayed himself on the side of Freedom, and there remained. He was not a perfect man, nor was he exalted above all others, but in his relations with his fellows, upright, and in the family circle best known and most beloved. He removed to St. Louis sometime in 1863, to enter Government employ. After a long illness, on Friday last he said to his family, “I feel very much better today, but for fear I exert myself, I will lie down.” He reclined upon his pillow, gasped, and while the “Old settlers” of Muscatine were commemorating, one of their number peacefully fell asleep, and joined the company of a loving daughter who had preceded him but a few weeks. May his family, alone in a strange land, thus bereft of its chief support, be comforted in this their hour of sorrow.

Muscatine Journal
Oct. 6, 1870
Pg. 4 (Mr. Brooks)

Sad result of Intemperance--

A Victim of Mania Potu Commits Suicide-- this morning our community was shocked by the report that Sherman Brooks, an old and once quite wealthy citizen of this place, had terminated his career on this earth,-- Starting out to investigate the report we found it too true. The facts in the case, as near as we can learn are as follows; Last evening about 10 o’clock Mr. Brooks was discovered by Mr. D. Washburn standing on the porch of A. Farnsworth’s residence, near school house No.1, fiercely brandishing a hammer and evidently laboring under an attack delirium tremors. Mr. Washburn immediately notified A. F. Adams, a neighbor of Mr. Farnsworth, of the condition of Mr. Brooks when the assistance of the police was summoned to take charge of him. Policemen La grille and Maurice soon appeared and, with Mr. Adams, preceded to take the unfortunate man in custody. He offered no resistance, but seemed almost paralyzed with fear, declaring that “they” wanted to kill him and that he was only protecting himself. He was lodged in jail for safe keeping and nothing more was thought of him until this morning, when Deputy Sheriff Hawley visited his cell and was horrified to find him lying across his bed, with face downward, in a lifeless condition. A handkerchief, with a stick twisted in it, was around his throat, furnishing almost conclusive evidence, that he had committed suicide, by strangulation. The body, was still warm, showing that death had taken place but a short time before,-
Several small wounds were visible on the head, supposed to have been caused by deceased falling or striking the walls of the cell. “the coroner was hastily summoned and an inquest was held over the remains, resulting in a verdict in accordance with the facts given.

The deceased was about forty years old and a bachelor. He had no relatives living here except a niece-Mrs. Stephen Knott. The only other relative he had to our knowledge is a brother in California. A few years ago he was regarded as among our wealthiest citizens, but his insatiate appetite for alcoholic stimulant gradually swept away his property until, at the time of his death he had comparatively little, and most of that is covered by mortgage. His untimely end furnished a sad commentary on the evils of intemperance.

Muscatine Journal
June 3, 1906

Jessie Mosier, a deck hand on the Helen Blair, fell overboard last evening, about a half mile above Fairport and was drowned before assistance could reach him.


Rhodes, Stephen T. B.

Captain Rhodes

Source: History of Muscatine County Iowa, Volume I, 1911, page 84

From the Journal of April 1, 1864, we glean that "the new Northern Line steamer Muscatine” arrived at our levee yesterday afternoon. She was delayed on her upward trip (from the Ohio river) some seventy-two hours at the lower rapids by high water. Her arrival was announced by peals from the cannon answered by a piece on board the boat. Hundreds of our citizens were on the wharf to welcome her. Immediately on her arrival, she was formally presented by Henry O'Connor, Esq., on behalf of the merchants of Muscatine with a beautiful set of flags, consisting of an ensign, a banner with the name of the boat, two side-wheel flags, a Union jack and a streamer. They were made of the finest English bunting at Buffalo, New York, and cost $95. Captain Roach was accorded the floor and responded by inviting the company into the cabin, where refreshments were provided to them and where for a time everything went merrily. The boat is a magnificent large "side-wheeler," one of the best of the Northern Line Company's packets. She was built by the company at Wheeling, West Virginia, last summer, under the superintendence of Captain Robinson, who is to be commander. Her dimensions are as follows: Length, 201 feet; breadth of beam, 34 feet; cylinders, 18 inches in diameter, with 6 1/2 feet stroke; length of buckets, 10 feet; diameter of wheel, 38 feet; and tonnage, 600. She draws twenty-five inches light. She can also accommodate with comfortable staterooms, 100 passengers and carries cots for forty more. Her cabin is an elegant affair, richly and tastefully ornamented. She is furnished magnificently and all modern improvements for comfort and convenience are used. From her build and power we judge she will be a fast boat. Altogether, Muscatine has reason to be proud of her namesake. Captain Rhodes is a brother of T. B. Rhodes, president of the line. Clerk Jenks is also well known on the upper rivers. They will remain with the boat until the completion of the “City of Burlington“, now in course of construction at Wheeling by the Northern Line Company, of which boat they are to take command."

On March 21, 1864 it was reported that the “Muscatine” is expected some day this week. She is a splendid boat and is at the present time commanded by Capt T B Rhodes. He finally arrived on March 31, after having been delayed 72 hours on the lower rapids by low water and strong winds. “Her arrival at our levee was announced by the peals from a cannon, and answered by a piece on board the boat. Hundreds of our citizens were on the wharf to welcome her.

1870 Federal Census Le Claire Iowa transcribed by Paul Pruden
Rhodes Stephen 36 M W Raft Pilot Mo
Rhodes Sarah 21 F W Keeps House . . La
Rhodes Charles G. 3 M W . . . Minn .
Rhodes Mary Bell 2 F W . . . Mo


Elijah Sells

Elijah Sells
Old Settlers
March 13, 1890

Death of Elijah Sells
Steamboat agent

Muscatine county’s pioneer representative to the first general Assembly held in Iowa in 1846, Hon Elijah Sells, died at Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 13th of March, at the age of 81 years. The deceased located at Fairport, this county in 1840, and ten years later moved to Muscatine and became a steamboat agent. He always took an active interest in politics, in 1844 serving as a member of the first constitutional convention, which met at Iowa City, and in 1856 he was elected twice to that position. After retiring from office he located in Vinton and in 1870 removed to the Mormon country and under grant’s first administration, secretary Harlan appointed Mr. Sells commissioner of Indian affairs. He was popular, ambitious, successful and ever honorable. Luke Sells, formerly of this place, but now residing in St. Louis, was a nephew of the deceased.


Capt. Moses Shellhammer

Bloomington Herald
Nov. 4, 1890

Capt. Moses Shellhammer of West Liberty, Lately visited Burlington. The Gazette says:  “Capt. Shellhammer, of West Liberty, was a visitor on the ferryboat this morning, where to moss-grown matters that were new away back in 1841-1-3 when Capt Shellhammer ran the first ferry that ever operated at Rock Island, Ill.”

Pneumonia Fatal to Earl Tinkey
at St. Paul, Minn.

Muscatine Journal
August 7, 1941

New Boston Earl Tinkey, lock master at lock and dam No. 17 at New Boston, received word Monday of the death of his brother, Arnold Tinkey, He died at a hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, following a short illness of pneumonia.

Mr. Tinkey was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Dave Tinkey of Guttenberg, Ia. At the time of his death he was employed as captain on the “Tri-Cities“, one of the largest tow-boats on the Mississippi, which runs between St. Louis and St. Paul. He had worked for a number of years for the U.S. engineers on government boats and for a time was channel inspector.

Mr. Tinkey is survived by his wife and twin sons who reside in Keokuk. transcribed by Georgeann McClure

Spring 1858
River News

The steamer “Muscatine” (old ferry-boat,) Capt Tunick in command, is making daily trips to Ballads slough, (about 8 miles above the city bringing down cargoes of railroad ties and cooperage, with occasional shipments of wheat from Drury’s landing. This is the trade which Capt. Phillips is so ambitious to secure for the “76” (!)
Transcribed by Georgeann McClure


Capt. Frank Walter




Muscatine Journal
July 18, 1903


Floating Button Plant to be Placed In River Next Week

The large floating button plant which Frank Walter is building on the levee for Victor Monson will be launched next week if the weather is favorable.

This factory will have sixty machines when completed and will be floated on the river so it can be taken wherever the shells are the most plentiful. The dimensions of the boat are 75x18 feet. A living section 18x 16 feet will be fitted up in which Mr. Monson will make his home. The rest of the boat will be used for the factory. The motive power will be a gasoline engine.

It is expected that this plant will soon be in shape that a few of the saws may be used. About twenty will be placed in operation as soon as the arrangements can be made for running them.

August 10, 1903

Mohnssen Brothers launched their new floating button factory Saturday afternoon near the foot of Chestnut street and it rides the water nicely. It will probably be moved up the river a few blocks as soon as entirely completed.

*Capt Walter is a licensed pilot.

Muscatine Journal
November 20, 1941

Frank Walter Resident Here 80 Years, Dies

Frank Walter 88, resident of Muscatine for more than 80 years, died at his home, 1203 East Front Street, Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Walter was employed at the Laurel building from 1914 until two years ago, when he retired, and prior to that had served as a Mississippi river pilot for many years.

He was born at La Salle, Ill. May, 6, 1851 and married Miss Minnie Hillmer on March 4, 1881 at Muscatine. He was a member of the MacCabe Lodge.

Surviving are six sons, Frank Walter, Henry G. Walter, Herbert F. Walter, Ed A. Walter, and Clarence L. Walter, all of Muscatine; two daughters, Mrs. Bertha Diercks of Muscatine and Mrs. Alice Webber of Somera, Ia. and one sister, Mrs. Jennie Payne of Los Angeles. His wife’s death occurred on July 22, 1933.

The body is at the Hoffman Funeral home and will remain there for rites at the Trinity Church at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Rev. Stanley Fullwood of Trinity Episcopal church will be in charge, Burial will be in Greenwood cemetery.

August 7, 1903

The Muscatine Journal

Largest Floating Button Factory Ready for Launch



The largest floating pearl button factory in the vicinity of Muscatine will be launched either Saturday or Monday, and will, as soon as the machines can be installed, be operated along the banks of the Mississippi river. The boat is seventy feet long by eighteen feet wide, and is tree feet in depth. Thus it will be readily seen that the sixty machines contemplated will find plenty of room. Bruno and Victor Mohussen are the owners of it.

Nearing Completion

The huge factory which has been under course of construction on the levee for two months is almost complete. The hull is finished and the cabin erected on it, and now the work of painting and putting in the windows is being pushed as rapidly as possible. The boat is without question the largest for its purpose along the river near Muscatine, and as far as can be learned is larger than any floating button factory along the Mississippi.

A Description

The boat is built very much like an ordinary cabin boat though the dimensions are much larger. Plain pine lumber is used for the upper work, while the hull is constructed with heavy oak timbers, making it strong enough to withstand the rougher weather. A window has been placed directly in front where the machines will operate giving excellent light and good ventilation.

The boat will be moved from its present place within a few days, but the exact place where the factory will be operated is not known though it is thought that it will be at a point near the foot of Mulberry street. Mohussen brothers now operate a factory not so large near that place, and it is their intention, it is understood, to place the new one near it. The number of button factories operated in cabin boats along the river from the bridge on up is surprising. Every little distance one will hear the pumping of a gasoline and it turns out to be one of the small factories. Every one of them seems to prosper and it is claimed the sanitary conditions are excellent.


J. R. Zediker


J. R. Zediker

Died: April 8, 1895

  (Zedeker) Family Stone

1880 federal Census first Ward Muscatine, Iowa
Zediker John 38 pilot on river Ohio
Lizzie wife 33 keeping house Louisiana

1877-1878 Muscatine City Directory
Zedeker- ferryboat “Ida May”

Smokie Zediker / Daniel Zediker D 1-13, 1881

Muscatine Journal
April 9, 1895
John R. Zediker

DIED At his home in South Muscatine of general debility, at 7:15 on the evening of April 8, 1895 John R. Zediker quietly passed away, at the age of 54 years.

Deceased was born in Dayton Ohio, February 29, 1841, and served during the late war as a private in Co. H, 11th Iowa. He leaves, besides his loving wife, three sisters and a brother, being Mrs. Mary Gett of Milan, Ills; Hillabeth Zediker and Mrs. Stuart Keating of Muscatine, and Douglas Zediker, of Cedar Rapids.

Funeral to be held from the house on Wednesday at 2 o’clock P.M.

Zediker, Douglas
Muscatine Journal
Nov. 13, 1923

Douglas Zediker, inmate of the county home since July 14, 1920, who died yesterday morning, was buried at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon in the county home cemetery.

He was born in Ohio and is survived by a daughter and a son, neither of whom could be found.

To all the rivermen:

“May the waters that took you away bring you back to me.”

*This information was compiled in a book by Georgeann McClure descendent of steamboat Pilot E. Jerome Ruby


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