Old Times on a Steamboat on the Upper Mississippi (Illustrated)

Old Times on a Steamboat on the Upper Mississippi (Illustrated)

by George Bryron Merrick

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The majesty and glory of the Great River have departed; its glamor remains, fresh and undying, in the memories of those who, with mind's eye, still can see it as it was a half-century ago. Its majesty was apparent in the mighty flood which then flowed throughout the season, scarcely diminished by the summer heat; its glory, in the great commerce which floated upon its bosom, the beginnings of mighty commonwealths yet to be. Its glamor is that indefinable witchery with which memory clothes the commonplace of long ago, transfiguring the labors, cares, responsibilities, and dangers of steamboat life as it really was, into a Midsummer Night's Dream of care-free, exhilarating experiences, and glorified achievement.

Of the river itself it may be said, that like the wild tribes which peopled its banks sixty years ago, civilization has been its undoing. The primeval forests which spread for hundreds of miles on either side, then caught and held the melting snows and falling rains of spring within spongy mosses which carpeted the earth; slowly, throughout the summer, were distilled the waters from myriad springs, and these, filling brooks and smaller rivers, feeders of the Great River, maintained a mighty volume of water the season through. Upon the disappearance of the forests, the melting snows and early rains having no holding grounds, are carried quickly to the river, which as quickly rises to an abnormal stage in the early part of the season, to be followed by a dearth which later reduces the Mississippi to the dimensions of a second-rate stream, whereon navigation is impossible for great steamers, and arduous, disheartening and unprofitable for boats of any class.

To most men of our day, the life of those who manned the steamers of that once mighty fleet is legendary, almost mythical. 14 Its story is unwritten. To the few participants who yet remain, it is but a memory. The boats themselves have disappeared, leaving no token. The masters and the mates, the pilots and the clerks, the engineers and the men of humbler station have likewise gone. Of the thousands who contributed to give life and direction to the vessels themselves, a meager score of short biographies is all that history vouchsafes.

The aim of the present volume is to tell something of these men, and of the boats that they made sentient by their knowledge and power; to relate something of the incidents of river life as seen by a boy during eight years of residence by the riverside, or in active service on the river itself. While it may not literally be claimed, "All of which I saw," it is with satisfaction, not unmixed with pride, that the writer can truthfully assert, "A part of which I was."

Product Details

BN ID: 2940150101746
Publisher: Bronson Tweed Publishing
Publication date: 11/28/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 1,146,853
File size: 1 MB

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