header

Northern Kentucky Rivers

The very first steam boat that ever passed down the Ohio River was the New Orleans.
She encountered swarms of migrating squirrels swimming across the river, snow when she got to Louisiana,
  Indian attacks, The Great Comet of 1811, and the biggest earthquake ever known to hit the Midwest.
The Wikipedia article is here; lots more sources are at this site.  Northern Kentucky connection is here.

In 1811, The steamer New Orleans, stopped at Maysville, where 1035 people boarded the boat for a closer look, 
at Manchester, 486.   School children toured at a 20 minute stop in Vevay, Indiana.  The New Orleans tied up for the night at Madison.

Our image is a drawing, obviously not a picture.

While 1811 saw the first steam boat, the idea caught on very quickly. Witness this list of 60 (!) steamers plying the waters of the Ohio a mere 8 years later. from The Brooksville (Indiana), Enquirer, August 13, 1819, reprinting from the Cincinnati Gazette. Sorry, it was the best quality we could get.

frill

“A MIGRATION OF SQUIRRELS A migration of Squirrels is not a common occurrence, yet there are few old men among our readers who have now witnessed several instances of the kind.  We remember hearing some of the older citizens of Bracken county telling of a migration of squirrels from Ohio to Kentucky, when many thousands were killed on swimming the river.  On reaching the shore they were so exhausted that they were easily dispatched with clubs.  The Rising Sun (Ind.) Recorder says that a similar migration is now occurring, only this time its from Kentucky to [Indiana]. The Recorder says Harrison Co., Ind., and some portions of adjoining counties are being overrun with squirrels.  They are daily crossing the Ohio from Kentucky, and soon seem to be extending themselves across the country in northward direction.  There was a similar but greater migration in 1833.”  From the Covington Daily Commonwealth, September 30, 1877

Do squirrels really migrate?  One scientist's conclusions, at this site.

frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
A Keel Boat
 from a painting by Karl Bodmer
Flat Boat, a.k.a.
a Kentucky Boat
Raft
Many Northern Kentucky Settlers came down the Ohio River in the days before steam boats in boats like these.  They usually came as far as Maysville, where the boats were either sold for timber, or set adrift to float off downstream. 

frill
For a description of the types if boats on the river in 1810, we suggest this account (pdf)
from from Christian Schultz' 1810 Travels on an Inland Voyage

frill

“Capt. T.B. Johnson, of Hamilton, Ky., started his flatboat for New Orleans and the lower coast trade, Saturday. It was purchased from and fitted up by Mr. J. F. Keeling for $550, and will be loaded with hay and produce at Rising Sun, Indiana, and below that point. Mr. Wm. Miller, of New Orleans, left Sugar Creek Saturday, for New Orleans, with a flatboat laden with corn, hay and produce.” Courier-Journal, March 10, 1874

frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
These maps show the Licking River from Covington to Falmouth, and were drawn by 
Major W. H. Bixby, of the US Corp of Engineers in 1899.

 frill

A wonderful Ohio River Steamboat site is the Cincinnati Public Library's Inland River Photographs.  They estimate 19,000 photographs, not all of which seem to have been imaged.  See that site here. On the other hand, the Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire houses the DuPage collection, and includes over 40,000 steamboat photographs.  You can find their site here.

frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
The H. P. Wells ran packet
service along the Maysville/
Augusta/New Richmond
part of the river
The Dixie hauled coal along
the Kentucky River in the
1910-15 era

The first schedule packet services on the Ohio River was in 1794.  Read the ad here

frill

General Pike

The General Pike docked at Covington

The steamer General Pike delivers emergency relief in the flood of 1884 from Lawrenceburg,
Ind. to Madison, including the towns on the Kentucky side. Story here.

frill

Snag Boats Snag Boats Snag Boats
The Ohio and the Oswego
June 5, 1888
The Ohio, at Marietta
July 17, 1891
The E. A. Woodruff
November 22, 1882
These are snag and dredge boats. Before today's Ohio River levels, downed trees and other debris could effectively prevent river commerce, making it necessary for a small fleet of boats that cruised the river to remove debris, and dig out channels. These “snag boats” were common sights on the Ohio at one time. None of these were taken in Northern Kentucky, altho these exact boats could be seen in the area.

frill

Cincinnati's Noah Meeker kept a book that visually lists every city, landing and boat wreck on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Louisville.  The Cincinnati Library has made it into a pdf, and you can see it at their site, here. Remember the first major crowd with fireworks on the Cincinnati/Covington/Newport riverfronts?  No, not WEBN in 1977;  Millard Fillmore in 1856. Read an account of it here.

A chart of the distances along the various points along the Kentucky River is here, a brief chart with details of the locks and dams along the Kentucky is here, and a more extensive chart is here.

Henry Clay's funeral steamer came down the Ohio past Northern Kentucky, and was a sight to behold. A writer aboard the steamer Granite State goes from Cincinnati to Maysville in the 1884 flood, and describes conditions here. Mostly, not exclusively, Ohio towns.
The role of Captain Anthony Meldahl during a 1905 Congressional Tour of the Ohio River, in contemplation of building a series of locks and dams, is explored here. (pdf) “There are about 300 steamers plying on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh, Penn., and Carrollton, Ky.  These boats during the past year carried 2,367,659 passengers.”
from Maysville's Evening Bulletin, January 12, 1897
A detailed, contemporary map of the Kentucky river is here (pdf).    
Reminiscences from a career on the Kentucky River, here. (pdf) Otto Smithers talks about Kentucky River steamers, here. (pdf) Years of the 15 Worst Cincinnati Floods, here.
Brooksville's Leila Willis Poage wrote a thesis at UK about the Red Cross in Campbell County in the 1937 Flood. We've reproduced an excerpt (pdf) that deals with a description of the flood itself. A traveler describes the Ohio River between Covington and Carrollton in 1912, here. In 1775, Nicholas Cresswell rafts down the Ohio.  His journal entries on passing Northern Kentucky are here.
Glenn Finch's Floating Palaces of the Ohio River is here. (pdf) Did the early floods bring out tourists?  You bet.  Read about it here. Wm. Lytle travels from Maysville to Louisville in
1780; encounters Indians.  Story's here.

 

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
A graphical view of the maximum and minimum Ohio River water levels, since 1858. Please note that flood levels and dams have no correlation whatsoever, altho minimum pool levels get much more consistent.

 

  Northern Kentucky Rivers

Map of the Extent of the 1884 Flood

frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers

THIS CHART tells you everything you need to know about the severity of the 1937 flood.

frill

“The currents come riding in, at first picking up straws and dead leaves, and little sticks, and then boards and pieces of firewood and whole logs, and then maybe the hen house or the barn or the house itself.  As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea, the water rose and filled all the airy spaces of rooms and stalls and fields and woods, carrying away everything that would float, casting up the people and scattering them, scattering or drowning their animals and poultry flocks.  The whole world it seemed was cast adrift, riding the currents, whirled about in eddies, the old life submerged and gone, the new not yet come.”  Wendell Berry, in Jayber Crow


frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers

 

 

 

Northern Kentucky Rivers

Kenton County Ludlow Newport Dayton / Bellevue Silver Grove / Melbourne
The extent of the 1937 Flood in various communities. These are all from a 1936 map by the A. C. Wagner
Company, which added some shaded areas and re-published it after the 1937 Flood. 

List of the highest Ohio River levels for every year for which there are measurements,  here.

1937 Flood levels by the hour in Cincinnati, here. You'll note the chart lists the highest measured water level at 80.0 feet. The official high water mark is 79.99 feet at 2 am on January 26. We've heard that the official mark is fudged below 80 feet because there were insurance policies that would not pay if the water was over 80 feet, but that makes little sense to us. We've also read that the number was kept below 80 feet to make buying flood insurance in the future easier. We await a definitive explanation.

1937 Flood levels, height and duration at various points along the Ohio, here.

Was the Ohio River at 112 feet in 1789? Maybe.
Also over 100 feet in 1774?  The Indians said yes, here.
One man describes floods from 1772 to 1832, here.

wicket Ohio River Scene at Covington, Kentucky
Low water in 1887
from the Vanishing Cincinnati Facebook Page
The Ohio River, August 24, 1883, at 1 foot, 11  inches,
the all time record low water mark. 
More on this picture is here.

You could also wade across the the Ohio in 1895.

“It is said that the Ohio river can be waded at many points.” Boone County Recorder, September 30, 1908

 

Today we have Markland and Meldahl, but these two dams
replaced nine - 9! -  earlier locks and dams.  Details here.

wicket

This is a bear trap or wicket style lock used by the early Ohio River Dams.
To lock thru, they lowered the gate, and you floated over it.

line

There are a series of video's that Cincinnati's Channel 12 produced on the 1997 Flood
This one covers Silver Grove, Falmouth, Newport, and other areas, and is the first of a
multi-part series on YouTube.

 

There's motion picture footage of the ice of the winter of 1917-1918!

 

Northern Kentucky Rivers 

An appendix to Zadok Cramer's The Navigator (Wikipedia), listing the items shipped
down the Ohio to Louisville from November 24, 1810 to January 24, 1811,
on 197 flat boats and 14 keel boats.  It's a fascinating view of what people
 were buying and selling at that time. (Understand that "do." meant "ditto.")

frill

Ferry Map

A map of the various Northern Kentucky Ohio River Ferries
from the Facebook page of the Behringer-Crawford Museum

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
Tom and Mary Greene The Chris Greene, left, Vs.  The Betsy Ann
  Read about the race here.
You can find lots more about Tom Greene, Mary Greene, the Greene Line, and the many different
steamers they owned, at Don Prout's Cincinnati Views, here.

Northern Kentucky Rivers

“Painful Rumor — Reported Explosion of the Steamer Dove. — We learn from Capt. Chas. F. Reynolds, who came down on the Cincinnati mailboat, that a gentleman came on board at Warsaw, who stated a report had reached there that the Kentucky river packet Dove had exploded at Drennon last evening, by which Capt. Saunders, Robert Hetton, the pilot, and John Bowen, the barkeeper, were killed, and three persons were missing. Capt. Reynolds inquired at Carrollton, when the mailboat arrived there, but could hear nothing of it. There is, however, no direct communication, except by river, between Drennon and Carrollton, while there is a good road between Drennon and Warsaw. The Dove left Frankfort yesterday for this port, and as she had not arrived at 1 o'clock this morning, we fear that the rumor may prove true.— Louisville Journal” Sacramento Daily Union, July 2, 1857

frill

“Ferries. - Since the completion of three bridges over the Ohio. the ferries have lost most of their former business.  The usual fare for pedestrians is two cents; but the ferries make half-hourly trips between midnight and daylight, during which time the fare is five cents.  There are now four lines, as follows: Anderson's Ferry, six miles down the river, used principally by Kentucky farmers bringing their produce to market; Covington Ferry, with its Cincinnati landing at the foot of Central Avenue; Ludlow Ferry, starting from the foot of Fifth Street and landing at the eastern limit of Ludlow; and the Newport Ferry, with its landing in this city of at the foot of Pike Street.  Skiffs and small craft carrying passengers at reasonable rates are available at all places on the river from Columbia to Riverside.”  King's Pocket-Book of Cincinnati, 1880

 links frill

“The principal places we passed, for the first sixty miles, were Columbia, Point
Pleasant, Neville, Higginsport, Ripley, and Aberdeen, in Ohio; and Mechanicsburg,
Belmont, Augusta, and Charleston, in Kentucky. ”- an early, unknown travelogue

 Northern Kentucky Rivers

In 1866, George Hawes published a directory of cities up and down the Ohio.  Here are his comments about the ones in Northern Kentucky.

Maysville Charleston Dover Augusta Fosterville / RockSpring Belmont
Dayton Newport Licking River Covington Claysville Petersburg
Belleview Big Bone / Hamilton Warsaw Ghent / Carrollton Prestonville  

 frill

Northern Kentucky Rivers Ice Ice
The John Dana, in the ice at Sugar Creek Bend, Gallatin County, December, 1892 February 7, 1918
That's the steamer Julius Fleischmann tied up in the Licking
January 4, 1918, Mouth of the Licking

 

The riverboat Calumet (of which we are unable to find a picture), was built in Madison, Indiana in late fall of 1876. Her initial voyage was to Cincinnati, where she encountered ice, was frozen in, and drifted with the ice back to Madison, where she sank, and lies to this day at the bottom of the Ohio.  Sad details here. (pdf) In 1918 there was a huge ice dam that formed at the big Ohio River bend at Sugar Creek, in Gallatin county.  It effectively dammed up the Ohio, creating high water all the way back to Cincinnati.  Nothing scared the old time river men like ice, because when an ice dam breaks, and they always break, they create fast moving torrents not only of water, but of giant pieces of ice that will destroy a steamboat or anything else in their path.  When the 1918 dam broke on January 30, 1918, the water in Cincinnati fell from 62 feet to 20 feet in 2 hours, destroying any number of steam boats.  Imagine what was happening downstream. More on the ice of 1917-1918.
Fourteen steam boats wrecked in the ice of 1917-18, here.But the revised count is 36, here.

You can read about the ice of 1879 here.(pdf)

Read about the destruction by the ice of 1856 here and here and here.

The ice reports of 1918 from the Boone County Recorder are here.

Dispatches about the 1873 ice are here, here, and here.

frill

The Merchant Boats
 

Northern Kentucky Rivers New Era Grocery Boat Printers Boat
Price's Floating Opera, somewhere on the Kentucky River
Showboat New Era, at unknown location Grocery Boat Printer's/Jeweler's Boat
Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
The Barrette
 Portrait Co.
A Preaching Boat,
The Messenger
Floating Theatre in Maysville Museum

One old-timer recalled “gathering up old horseshoes and other scrap iron around the shop and taking them to the dish boat, where his mother then collected dishes in trade” Another one remembers as a boy that the arrival of a dish boat “was a signal for all the boys to start cleaning up the town. The attics, sheds, and smokehouses were soon disgorged of all the scrap metal (an in some cases good things our fathers had laid by), papers, rags, etc., and there was a steady stream of wheelbarrows and other kid-type rolling stock toward the river and the junk boat. Of course we were rewarded with few pennies for the proceeds from our pilfering and were then encouraged to reinvest our pennies in some item of stock from the boat store. Our mother’s always seemed pleased with the present of a dish, which didn’t match anything, which we had bought especially for her.”  Note the stuff on the roof's of the two Glass Boats below.

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
Photographer Umbrella Maker Saw Mill Boat The
 Mary H
., c. 1895
Glassware and Queensware
Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers

Up and down the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers, towns were visited by all kinds of merchants, services, and attractions passing by on various riverboats. In addition to those shown, there were boats for prize fights, taverns, tinware, classical musical shows, scrap metal buyers, prostitution, camp meetings, groceries, and much, much more. Of any type of business of the period, somebody likely tried it on a boat.

Photographer

The Ivory Wood #4, a.k.a.
 The Glass Boat
...because it sold glassware
up and down the river.

frill

The locations of these steamer images are unknown, although we're certain each of them, at one time or another plied the Kentucky River. All of the receipts are from the boats pictured, and each is for a resident of Owen County.
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
The Alys Gray. The Cando.
(think C & O RR)
The Dick Brown.
     
     
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
The Donca The Helen M. Gould. The Dick Brown.
     
     
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer Kentucky River Steamer
The Lena May. The Rescue. The White Dove.
     
     
  Kentucky River Steamer  
  The Steamer Mabel & Barge.
(for which we have not found a picture)
 

frill

 

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
Maysville

 

Augusta

 

Foster

 

Melbourne

 

Cincinnati

 

Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
Constance Petersburg Sugar Creek Ghent    Milton Wise's Landing

Detailed maps of the Ohio River, showing every little landing and creek name. 

 

Ohio River Ohio River Ohio River Ohio River Ohio River
Springdale Maysville Augusta Foster Newport

1877 maps of the Ohio River, showing every little landing and creek name, and then some.
They only covers the eastern side of NKY Views.

frill

Kentucky River Ma

Kentucky River Map, showing Locks and Dams, 1975

n October 9, 1924, Whitlock and Hoosier Boy set a never-to-be equalled distance record for a round trip between Cincinnati and Louisville. The craft covered the 267 Ohio River miles in 267 minutes and 49 seconds."

Northern Kentucky Rivers  

For a brief time, The Kentucky River was going to be the boundary of the British Territory of Vandalia.
You can read more about it at Wikipedia, here.

frill

Hoosier Boy Northern Kentucky Rivers Northern Kentucky Rivers
On October 9, 1924, Hoosier Boy set a never-yet-equaled long-distance record  from Cincinnati to Louisville and back to Cincinnati. Owner/driver, Rising Sun, Indiana's inventor J. W. Whitlock covered the 267 Ohio River miles in 267 minutes and 49 seconds, or just a  shade under 60 miles per hour.  He was bitterly disappointed that he fell 49 seconds short of making it to 60 mph. The judges, impressed, offered to fudge the data and give it to him, but Whitlock wouldn't have it. The record has yet to be equalled.

frill