Jackson County, Illinois
of the Big Muddy a Century Ago
1810, Wm. Boone built a keel
boat for use on the Big Muddy river. That
is the first boat known to have floated on the Big Muddy, but in 1814 one Byars
built a boat and floated it down to the Mississippi.
For several years thereafter what little commerce that was carried on
between the scattered population of the Big Muddy valley and the outside
world was by keel boat.
first steamboat that appeared on the river was the Omega
in 1843. That was the year of
the founding of Murphysboro and the Omega
made the trip up to this city. The
Walk-in-the-Water was the next to
venture up the Big Muddy. She
came up in 1851 and took a tow of coal from the Jackson County Coal Co..
mines at Murphysboro. The boat
and two barges were loaded and preceded to St. Louis, where the coal was
pronounced to be the best west of Pittsburg.
The coal company then bought the boat and used it transport the coal
from its mines down to the Mississippi, a distance of 58 miles by river, 15
miles by land. Owing to the
shoals the boat could get to the mines only when the Mississippi was high.
The boat would come up stream one day and descend the next, and made
regular trips this way until the Grand Tower & Carbondale railroad was
1852 the Jonesboro entered the
Big Muddy trade and a Chester man put an engine on a flatboat and joined in
the business. The Big Muddy is
celebrated for its short turns and is a swift stream when the water is deep,
and the Chester boat was put out of business by being carried against a tree
by the current one night. A
dead limb on the tree poked into the cabin and lifted a passenger out of his
bunk. It also swept away the
cabin boiler and paddle wheel and sent the unwieldy craft to the bottom of
the river. No one was hurt..
the Illinois Central was built down to Carbondale in 1858 many small
steamboats were used in carrying machinery, men, material, and supplies up
to DeSoto from the Mississippi and the first two engines used on this part
of the I.C. were taken up the Big Muddy on steamboats and landed at the
railroad by means of track built out to the boats.
After that year, Walk-in-the
Water had the Big Muddy to herself for a number of years.
have plied the Big Muddy occasionally since that time, but the railroad and
wagon bridges keep them out in high water and the shoals in low water.
In the last three years many gasoline launches have been built at
Murphysboro and used on the Big Muddy, some being commodious cabin launches,
but steamboating on the little river is a thing of the past.
the lower Big Muddy is some of the finest scenery in the world, and the
recreation and pleasure gained by trips down the stream are coming to be
appreciated by Murphysboro people more and more.
A camping trip to any point below Swallow Rock, or just a one day run
down stream and back is worth a week at any health resort.
William Boone who built the
first boat, was a brother to Daniel Boone,
the noted frontiersman, and a grandfather to Daniel Boone
of Murphysboro. He was one of
the first settlers in Jackson county. He
cleared a tract of timber on the Big Muddy a few miles above its junction
with the Mississippi and lived there a number of years.?Murphysboro
(Jonesboro Gazette, Jonesboro, Illinois, Saturday, 6 Dec 1907)
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