Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers– Part IV

Continued from the last post, regarding the flat-bottomed boats that were all the boats that could move along the Mississippi prior to the dredging and deepening of the inner waterway system in North America. 
The Side Sweeps nicknamed these flat-bottomed river boats as "Broadhorns"

It should be kept in mind, since man entered North America, the only way to travel on any inland waterway system within what is now the United States, was by flatboats, which could move over extremely shallow waters. For navigation, these flatboats were rigged with 30-55ft sweeps on the sides, that resembled horns from a distance, which gave rise to the name "broadhorn." These side sweeps were used for directing the flatboat into the current when moving along the river, or for pulling into slack water when landing.
    In addition, the flatboats had a rudder or steering-oar, and a short front sweep called a “gouger.” The great side sweeps, resembling horns from a distance, gave rise to the name Broadhorn, thus they were called “flatboat broadhors.” The side sweeps were used for directing the flatboat into the current, or for pulling into slack water when landing, rather than for propulsion. Some flatboats also had hawsers mounted to reels; the hawser (rope) would be attached to a tree or stump and wound in to "warp" the boat off a sandbar, or to assist landing. An average of 3,000 flatboats descended the Ohio River each year between 1810 and 1820. Abraham Lincoln twice piloted a flatboat carrying produce from Illinois to New Orleans (1828, 1831). Although the flatboat preceded the steamboat, it was in regular use for many years after steamboats had become prevalent. Flatboat numbers actually increased until about the mid-1850s, carrying ever more goods and settlers West, while the steamboats provided a quick and easy passage upriver for those involved in downriver trading. Mark Twain in his book Life on the Mississippi, referred to a flatboat as a 'trading scow.' In some cases, boats would lash together and make the voyage to New Orleans, sometimes navigating months in company. There would be songs and dances; the notes of the violin—an almost universal instrument among the flatboatmen—sounded across the waters by night to the lonely cabins on the shores, and the settlers would sometimes arrive in their skiffs to meet the unknown voyagers, ask for the news from the East, and share in their entertainment.
    In 1816, before the steamers held sway, 1,287 flats arrived in New Orleans; the number had more than doubled, to 2,792, in the November-to-June shipping season of 1846-1847. Since a great many flatboats stopped short of New Orleans or in other ways remained uncounted, one can estimate that there were at least 4,000 flats operating annually during the 1840s, carrying some 160,000 tons of produce, and manned by more than 20,000 boatmen. The trade began to decline in the 1850s, but quantitative studies of antebellum river commerce show that throughout the 1823-1847 period, flatboating was profitable, competitive, and provided a viable alternative to downstream steamboat shipment.
    With the settlement of the Mississippi Valley and admission of new states into the Union, flatboating increased on the Lower Missouri River, the Arkansas and Yazoo, the Illinois River, and on the Upper Mississippi. Flatboats were not so crucial to the growth of the upper Midwest, yet much of the lead from mining regions was first transported by flats and keels. Because of the treacherous Upper and Lower Rapids and continual low water on the Upper Mississippi River, farmers preferred flatboats to steamers when they started exporting their first agricultural surpluses in the late 1850s.
    In fact, retrieving salvage from steamboats sunk by a snag was a lucrative part of the flatboat's role throughout the era of steam-driven paddlewheelers. Because of river improvements begun in the 1823-1861 period, flatboating ceased to be a perilous adventure. Not only did flatboatmen complete their trips much more quickly than before, but flatboats often could be seen "running day and night" during the Steamboat Age. During the early days of boating, most rivermen would have considered this practice of running all night sheer madness. Even as late as the turn of the century, flatboats continued their trade. Along shallow, isolated tributary streams where steamers could not always navigate, flatboats, keels, and lumber and log rafts continued to prove useful. Thousands of flatboat operators gave up the profession during the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s.
    The point is, life and transportation on the Mississippi River was based almost solely on the flatboats because the inland rivers, and especially the Mississippi River were so shallow, with numerous sandbars that moved with changes in the current, that nothing with a draft larger than a flat-bottomed boat could move along the river in any direction. To consider that any type of keel boat, let alone a deep-ocean vessel like Nephi built, could have sailed up the Mississippi is ludicrous and any detailed history and information of the Mississippi makes that abundantly clear.
    In addition to the Mississippi River, numerous of these Heartland and Great Lakes theorists claim that Lehi could have sailed not only up the Mississippi, but then taken the Ohio branch upriver to the Great Lakes area. However, what has been said of the Mississippi River is also the same that could be said of the Ohio River. In fact, an average of 3,000 flatboats descended the Ohio River each year between 1810 and 1820, because of its lack of depth that precluded any normal type of vessel.
    So let’s take a look at the Ohio River, which streams westward from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, emptying  into the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. It is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippin River, and at the confluence, the Ohio is considerably bigger than the Mississippi, and thus is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system.
    The Ohio is 981 miles long and flows through or along the border of six states and its drainage basin includes parts of 15 states. Its largest tributary is the Tennessee River, and its name in Iroquoian or Seneca, which is Ohi’yó, (Ohi’yó’h) means “Good River.” Though it is ice-free at its confluence with the Mississippi, it regularly freezes over in the winter at Pittsburg, with the furthest northern port that is ice free is at Paducah in Kentucky, only 36 miles north of the river’s confluence with the Mississippi River.
    In Pittsburg heading north, the Ohio River at the Forks, splits into the Allegheny River on the west, and the Monogahela River on the east. Of the 35 tributaries of the river, none flow into or from the near Great Lake.
    Movement along the Ohio, before private groups began dredging and deepening the river was highly restrictive in areas, with only flat-bottomed boats drifting with the current could negotiate the river.
The locks along the side canal built to bypass The Ohio Falls at Louisville, about 200 miles upriver from the confluence with the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois

At Louisville, the only major natural navigational barrier on the river that restricted all boating, was the Falls of the Ohio, where the river drops 26 feet in a stretch of two miles. Here the river flows over hard, fossil-rich beds of limestone, creating these falls that obstructed any passage of boats through this area.
    However, there were other problems to early boating along the Ohio.
The locks necessary alolng the Ohio River to have moved any kind of boats upriver toward the Great Lakesan impossible feat before the locks were built

(See the next post, “Pathway to the Heartland and Great Lakes Landing Sites – the Ohio and St Lawrence Rivers– Part III,” for more on what it took to make the Mississippi and inland waterways navigable for anything other than flat-bottomed, shallow-draft boats)

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