Genealogy Trails
Pottawattamie County, Iowa

Steamboat Emma Found

Missouri River Gives Up an Old River Packet

A mild excitement has been running here for a few days over the discovery by Hugh Bond a farmer living near the Missouri River southwest of Loveland, of about eight feet of the gunwale and side of what is apparently an old river boat of considerable size. The river had cut into the old bed of Pratt Lake, and as the water went down it left a part of the boat exposed.

Tradition has it that a river steamer, in November, fifty two years ago struck a snag one night at this point and sank just at the outlet of the lake. Will Allen Jones, J. M. Daugherty and members of the William Stodgel family recall having seen the boat with the prow sticking out of the water and a part of the cabin showing. They say that when the water went down the cabin and other parts of the boat were salvaged.

When the news was first brought to town, the story was, that it was the long sought whisky cargo boat that was supposed to have gone down about that time, but Jack Harris, veteran printer at the Times office declares that the whisky boat sank in the vicinity of Decatur. He recalls that his father, the late Judge D.M. Harris, his brother, Jim, and a few more financed a group of river men who made an exhaustive search for the boat near Decatur, but never found it.

The wreck discovered the other day by Bond shows a good state of preservation. The timbers are of two inch oak, and the ribs, some five of which show, are firmly bolted to the plank that formed the side of the hull.

It lies about a mile northwest of Grable, a little station on the Illinois Central north of Council Bluffs, and is just west of the section line road running north and south. The road ends at the river.

[Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Published December 6, 1926, submitted by Ann]

Hulk of Steamboat Emma, owned by Platte Overton's Father, Is Found

That old classic story of the river bottoms, "the booze ship," a mythical craft which has been given more publicity during the past ten years than any other river boat that ever went to the bottom, was revived again a week ago when the battered hulk of a ship was found protruding from the sand in the wake of the receding river on the Leo Eckrich farm near Loveland.

First, it was the Bertrand, which foundered on a sand bar near Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, in the 60's, that was reported years later to have been freighted with booze.

Then another hulk showed up through the shifting sands near old Trader's Point at Lake Manawa and this was acclaimed the booze boat of legendary farm.

Now the Loveland hulk has appeared and is said to be the "only booze ship that ever was sunk."

But Platte Overton, 1109 Fourth Avenue, sent this story hurtling into the limbo of lost ships when he recalled Wednesday that the Loveland hulk is none other than the remains of the good ship Emma, piloted and owned by his father, Capt. A. Overton, in the picturesque days when the blast of the steamboat sirens echoed and re-echoed among the bluffs. "And there never was a drop of liquor aboard for the simple reason that my father touched his last drink when he was a wild and wooly shoeblack on a Mississippi steamboat at the age of 10 years, way back in 1850," Mr. Overton said. "The captain never touched another drop of liquor after that day and would not allow it on his boat in bottles, although at times his crew was known to sneak a load on board under their belts."

Platte Overton is not sure that he remembers his father saying what the Emma was carrying at the time but considered that it was either lumber or grain, most of which was salvaged, the boat sinking only on a bar. Proof that the ship was the Emma may be obtained at Modale, where the pilot house from the Emma has been doing duty as a well house for years, he said. The pilot house was salvaged from the hulk and still bears the name of the craft, Mr. Overton said.

Another ship that was acclaimed as the legendary booze freighter, sunk off Trader's Point when Lake Manawa was the river, also was owned by Captain Overton. This was the R.M. Bishop, and was freighted with a cargo of corn, all of which was lost. In this wreck, Platte Overton says he remembers his father saying, the first mate was drowned and the crew was rescued from its precarious position in the middle of the swift river channel by the picturesque old steamboat man, Captain Brown, who name was known from St. Louis to the Dakotas.

[Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Published December 8, 1926, submitted by Ann]

  • Return to the Homepage
  • Copyright © Genealogy Trails
    All data on this website is Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.