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Steamboats on the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers

Some notes on the Steamboats that used to travel up and down the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers:

There were steamboat landings at Skullyville, Tamaha, Webbers Falls, and Nevins Ferry. Nevins was up at the mouth of the Grand and Verdigris rivers.

When the boats whistled for the landing the whole village would turn out to meet and to greet it. They carried both passengers and freight. The merchants would cart their merchandise away from the landing about as fast as it was unloaded by the roust-a-bouts.

Some of these boats came from as far as New Orleans, Memphis, and Little Rock when the river was up, this being usually in the month of June. Most of the boats, however, from Little Rock and Ft. Smith tried to run on a schedule of once a month. Sometimes some of these boats would steam on up the river as far as the Nevins Landing with merchandise for Ft. Gibson and Muskogee, Indian Territory. If the river was so that the boats could not get up the river due to low water the freight was unloaded at Webbers Falls and then hauled by freight wagons to Ft. Gibson and Muskogee.

Names of boats and captains:

Mary “D”, Capt Blakaly
Border city, Blakely
Lacy Walker, Joe Vann
Jennie May, Walter Huff
Memphis Packet, Unknown
John Matthews, Unk.

The Myrtle “B” was owned and operated by Captain Blakely. This boat I helped to build in the mouth of the Poteau River. It had a stern wheel and two side wheels and was so built that it could land bow first or sidewise with ease.

The Lucy Walker, ran by Joe Vann, had a boiler explosion. Two or three of the deck hands were killed and Captain Joe jumped into the river and was drowned.

The John Matthews, loaded with shelled corn from Webbers Falls, ran into the bridge piers at Van Buren, Arkansas. The impact cracked the hull and the boat and cargo was sunk. This was the only trip the John Matthews ever made up the river and it was the largest boat I ever saw come up the river.

The old steamboat landing at Skullyville passed away and back from the river on the railroad was built the present town of Spiro.

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