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To Nebraska in 1857
A Diary of E.F. Beadle

. . . Thursday, August 20

Still no boat up today. The Dan Converse, running between this point and Sioux City, is down today and may go on to St. Louis in the morning. She is a small cockle-shell of a stern-wheeler. I shall, however, be tempted to take passage on her. The fare will be no more, and if the time is longer shall get more corn and bacon and bed-bugs and no extra charges.

To Homeward in Mr. Bristow's web site,
which contains the Dairy's full text, August 21 - September 30

Friday, August 21

Nine o'clock this morning, rode up with Mr. Griffin three miles to his farm. Had a good supply of melons, received directions to purchase and forward seeds and trees. After dinner, walked back to Omaha. Found no boats up. The Dan Converse, however, was just ready to leave. Would wait half hour. Hurried up to F. Gridley & Co's Bank and got a money package. I was to take east. Dodged into Cook's to say I was off and away I went, Tuttle taking my things to the boat. In an hour after my mind was made up, I was on board, bag and baggage, and at quarter after four we shoved off into the "Big Muddy" once more to try the uncertainty of this treacherous river.

It was with feelings of deep regret that I saw the city fade in the distance. I have seldom been in a place I have formed such an attachment for as Omaha. The evening was delightful and we sped down with the current rapidly, laying up for the night at a wood yard a mile below Plattsmouth on the Iowa side. Our supper was hard and did not tell well for the first meal.

Saturday, August 22

At daylight, got under way and returned to Plattsmouth for passengers. Remained two hours. Went three miles and run upon a sand-bar, where we remained until after 4 o'clock p.m., when the packet Watossa, running between St. Joseph and Omaha, came along and was hailed to take on three of our number who were disposed to abandon the Dan Converse. We had all of us worked more or less to help get off the boat, but seemingly to no effect.

The captain of the Watossa came on board, and from him we learned what we had previously began to fear: that the chances were against our getting off at all, as the boat had run into the wrong channel, or what seamed to be the channel, and passed over bars which rubbed hard with the current to assist. The water had fallen, and to get back seemed impossible. Add to this the Converse had her last stick of wood under the boilers and her miserable fare had almost starved us. As fast as the Watossa's small boat could carry them, the passengers left tile Dan Converse to the number of over forty leaving, but about fifteen on board, who I think will be obliged to abandon at last. The boat was poorly manned and only wanted to get to St. Louis to be delivered to her creditors. Some of the passengers on the Dan Converse had paid only to St. Joseph--ten dollars--while others, myself among the number, had paid to St. Louis-twenty dollars. Not one dime would the Captain refund, all plead and expostulated with him but to no effect. It was thought best, however, to leave and lose what we had paid. I was personally acquainted with the clerk, and when he saw me leaving, he called me into the office and on his own responsibility paid me back ten dollars with the injunctions of secrecy from the other passengers.

All that were disposed being aboard the Watossa, we left a cord of wood for the Dan Converse and went on our way like a racer. The contrast from the Dan Converse to the Watossa was like changing from life on the plains to the Astor or St. Nicholas, N. Y. Although smaller than the Dan Converse, the Watossa was a perfect palace, and the supper we got, which was ready as we went aboard, had an injurious effect on some of the passengers who partook too freely trying to make up for their fasting on the Dan Converse.

The Watossa only running to St. Joseph, we could only pay to that point. The price was the same as from Omaha, ten dollars, making double fare. We made a fine run the balance of the day. At night we were many of us obliged to take a mattress on the floor, but they were clean and without bugs, while on the Dan Converse we found bed bugs on the table cloth at supper, even.



The information below was supplied by Jerry Cavanit:

1946-67. I grew up about a mile from where she was - I crawled around on/in her rotting hulk a lot before she burned in 1967. Old man Kahlke used to chase me out of his boat yard pretty frequently. The W.J. QUINLAN: She was built at the Kahlke Yard by Peter Kahlke in 1904 as the sternwheel ferry DAVENPORT.

Hull: 112.5' x 36.5' x 3.5' Engines: 14" x 5' stroke (200 hp each) by the Clinton Novelty & Iron Works of Clinton, IA. Paddlewheel: 18.5' x 15' Boilers: (2) 18' x 42" Marine-type/water tubes. Coal-fired. Michaelman Boiler Co., Quincy, IL 195 tons.

She originally was a single-deck boat. Two stacks: one on each side of the pilot house. Lots of gingerbread trim and a fancy crown atop her pilothouse. A second deck was added in 1910.

Originally owned by the Rock Island-Davenport Ferry Co..
Capt. Harry F. Young was her pilot from 1911-1924.

Enlarged from a Postcard

She was sold to William J. Quinlan in 1924 and was completely rebuilt at the Kahlke Yard. Both decks were completely enclosed. She was given a big single stack just forward of her pilothouse. The enclosed second floor was a large, spacious dance floor. She was a wide boat - probably about 45+ feet wide on deck.

In the 30's she featured gambling and bingo games. Later, live bands performed regularly and she literally became a floating night club. Many musicians performed on her before they became famous. Bix Beiderbecke performed on her and June Haver was a featured singer before she became a Hollywood star. She was a popular vessel during WWII.

Many would ride her all day on the week-ends (you could ride her all day for a nickel) to drink and dance. The QUINLAN ran back and forth between Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA (5/8 mile) - from March 15 to December 1 - giving 18 hr. service from 6:00 am till Midnight, seven days a week. She carried about 1/2 million passengers every year. Capacity: 528 persons.

Capt. Harry F. Young was her pilot from 1926-1936.
Capt. John (Hans) Witt from 1929-42.
Capt. Arthur L. Quinn from 1942-1946.
John Kerkering was her chief engineer from 1929-1946.

She was condemned in 1945 by the USCG and taken to the Kahlke Yard where she remained until 1967 - when vagrants set her afire (April 8, 1967) and she was completely destroyed. I've been writing her story (on and off) for about 10 years. I have about 50 photos of her at various stages and post cards and other memorabilia. Not too many folks know much about this unique vessel. Anyway, I thought you might find this interesting and it might be a nice addition to your site.

Thank you Jerry

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