Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 4 - Page 15, Submitted by Submitted by Cheryl Sheets March 20, 2012

Majestic Mississippi Was Source of Worry, Pride in Olden Days

Temperamental as a prima donna—demonstrating its majesty and power in the traditional spring floods and its complete subjugation when ice locked from bank to bank during Iowa’s severe winters—the mighty Mississippi river has been a source of never-ending concern and fascination for Muscatine residents.

To the very early pioneers, who depended upon the river to a great extent as a means of travel and even more important as a means of bring necessary provisions from distant markets, its performance was watched zealously.

Over 19 Year Span.

Taken from the records of T. S. Parvin, who is credited with having inaugurated one of the most complete weather reports to be found in the state of Iowa, the following reveals the performances of the mighty stream over a 19 year span and a steady gain in steamboat trade.

Records of 1837 were only partially complete, the last steamer making its appearance on Dec. 9, with the river closing Jan. 30 of the following year.

In 1838, the stream remained closed for a period of 53 days, opening March 24 and being clear of ice on March 3, while the closing date was Dec. 4. River navigation season was in progress from March 30 to Nov. 7.

During the navigation season of 1839, a total of 31 steamboats docked at the local port, representing 38 different craft. In that year the river was ice locked a total of 78 days.

The ice locked period of 1840 was of shorter duration, 45 days, the first steamboat making its appearance on March 3 and the last on Nov. 25, with a total of 339 docking here—35 different craft.

Records of 1841 show the river opened on March 1 and was clear of ice on March 13. It remained closed for a total of 60 days. River traffic was in progress from March 15 to Dec. 20, with 314 steamboats stopping here, representing 29 different craft.

In 1842, the number of boats docking aggregated 420 with the river ice locked but 56 days. It opened that year on Feb. 28 and closed on Nov. 26.

Record Long Period.

A record-long freeze-over was recorded in 1843—a total of 113 days. Statistics show the river opened on April 8, was ice clear on April 26. Running ice was first noted on Nov. 30 and 23, 1844 but despite the long and severe winter season, records show another good gain in steamboat travel. Thirty-six different boats were in port, the number docking for the season totaling 449, with the first boat arriving in April 12 and the last departing on Nov. 27.

Another gain in boat history occurred in 1844 when a total of 610 boats docked here—34 different craft. In that year the river opened Feb. 23, and then close on Dec. 27—representing 31 days of ice-locked weather.

In 1845, the stream was ice-bound for 52 days in contrast to 72 in 1846, 62 in 1847, 60 in 1848, the same number in 1849; 62 in 1850 and a mere 20 in 1851. For the year 1852, the river remained closed 70 days, just one more than in the following year. For 1854, the river was closed for 60 days and in 1855, for 49 days.

A steady gain in the number of boats stopping here was recorded in succeeding years. For 1845, the total was 630; in 1846, 620; for 1847, 605; for 1849, 649; for 1851, 672; for 1852, 714; for 1853 a total of 758. Then in 1854 the number jumped to 1064 and in 1855 touched a high mark of 1359.

Opening dates from the 1854 to 1855 period averaged generally between mid-February and early March.

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They Had Faith Muscatine Would Show Discretion

“In looking forward to future operations, your committee cannot but hope that the darkest days, with us, have passed over. Amidst a population of 600 and over, as intelligent and enterprising citizens, perhaps as any others, who can doubt for a moment that good order, peace, virtue and freedom from the thralldom of intemperance shall ultimately prevail—“

The excerpt was gleaned from an extensive report of the attainments and activities of the Bloomington Temperance Society in the early days of its existence just 100 years ago.

In a lengthy dispatch to the editor of The Bloomington Herald, this early crusading society, told in detail of its purposes in the days when the temperance fight was gaining strength. Meeting in 1841, the group named the Rev. John Stocker as its president; Samuel Lucas, Esq., vice president; John A. Parvin, secretary and William Brownall, Z. Washburn, and Thomas Morford on its executive committee.

Expecting only a dozen to sign at its inception, the founders were amazed when the enrollment reached 27 and in the first year 112 more joined the ranks. An explanatory apology was given by the author of the article for those who fell by the wayside.

Pointing to the temperance situation as it then existed, the report went on to state:

    “In our midst are 11 places where intoxicating drinks are vended, while some only well the fountain of intemperance by the barrel, and gallon, others keep up the small stream by the small measure of the glass, and where a man can get drunk on from 6 to 25 cents, according to the strength of his caliber. To sustain these places that sell drinks by the dram, it takes from 50 to 75 of our citizens who drink daily.”

And, in an adjoining column in an early issue, when a notice was inserted calling those interested to the society’s meeting, appeared an advertisement of one, H. Musgrave, calling attention to a special of 6 bbls. of Monongahela whiskey and 10 bbls. of Old Rectified.

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Operated Store Here

Photos of Anderson Chambers and Mrs. Anderson Chambers

General Merchandise, furniture, hardware, shoes and other items were carried in the stock of Dunsmore & Chambers, early business firm situated at 208-210 Second street in the middle of the 19th century, history records. Onde of the partners in the establishment was Anderson Chambers, naive of Indiana, who came here in 1836 and whose death occurred in Englewood, Ill., on Nov. 4, 1895. His first wife was the former Susan Pace, born in the year 181 in Verginia and who lived until Feb. 27, 1874.

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