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Corrispondence about the riverboat


The following is the corrispondence between Carl O. Smarley, site visitor and contributor, and yours truly, Riverboat Dave, starting with Carl's note in the riverboat site's logbook.

2000-02-04 16:27:10
Looking for anything on the boat "Old Bullion". She was on the Missouri Riverbetween St. Louis and Brunswick prior to the Civil War. I have some of her trip manifests and freight books, but I know nothing about her.


Thank you for stopping by my riverboat site and for signing in on the logbook.

I have been in the process of entering Missouri River boats. In your note you mention OLD BULLION, which may have been a nickname as I can find nothing on her in my references.

Many Mo. R. boats carried large quantities of gold "bouillon" from the Montana fields.

You also mention that you have further information on her, logs and manifests and such. Can you tell me anything about her operators, owners, captains, ports, dates and such? This information might lead to her true identity, if it was not OLD BULLION.

Thank you,
Riverboat Dave

Hi Dave -- Thanks for the response. The information I have is on microfilm and the next time I take it (the microfilm) to the library I'll copy out some of the information, on crews and so on which I know is there.

The only page from the boat pages that I have copied out so far is the cover page of one of the journals which reads "Freight Book of Steamer'Old Bullion'". I believe that the boat owner, or at least part owner, was James Keyte of either St. Louis or Brunswick, Missouri.

Perhaps with the further information we can dig deeper.

Best regards, Carl Smarling


Looking into Keyte, I found a Capt. W.H. Keyt (almost too close for coincidence) who was active on the upper Miss. and Ohio Rs. between 1860 and 63, only 2 mentions, one as Capt. and the other as a clerk.

But what is more interesting is a note in another boat's listing in Way's Packet Directory which says with regard to the NAOMI, which was, ". . . snagged and lost at the mouth of the Grand, Brunswick, Mo., 1840. A man digging a well three miles from the river about 1924 found a Bible from her. The Keytesville cut-off left Brunswick about four miles inland. . . . "

The plot thickens . . .

Yours truly,
Riverboat Dave

Hi Riverboat Dave --

Regarding Keytesville, Missouri. You are absolutely in the right neighborhod.James Keyte at first according to lore was a Methodist circuit riding preacher who quickly turned into quite venture capitalist land baron and all around entrepreneur among which activity was some boat ownership.

Chariton County, Missouri, the first county seat was at Chariton. Given floods, the seat was moved to higher land donated by James Keyte, and hence called Keytesville. That was in 1832. 1836 he gave more land in a different place, and that is now the town of Brunswick (the pecan capital Missouri). Keyte owned, at various times and in various ways, a good deal of the land north of the meandering Missouri River.

By way of interest he died 1844. . He "was returning from St. Louis by boat (to Brunswick) and was taken with cholera. He died at Jefferson City, his body embalmed in brandy and brought home." I dont know name but suspect it one his. . Was that the standard method of embalming on the river?

He did have brother, William A. Keyte, but he was not a captain as far as I know. But I'm still pursuing the story of this man and his family.

I appreciate the interest, I will get some more information on the "Old Bullion" very soon!

Regards, Carl

Hello again Dave --

As promised a bit more on the "Old Bullion".

In the papers I have films of, there are two sets of books for the "Old Bullion" in the year 1852 on the Missouri River. The sets are for Trip One and Trip Two (back to back in June) and the books are 1)The Freight Book; 2) The Portage Book; and, 3) The Passage Book. The trip is from St. Louis to Brunswick and Return

The contents:

The Freight Book is a Ledger with columns for: Shipper, Residence, Consignee, Destination, Marks, Description of Freight, Weight, Rate, Amount, Charges, Cash Received, Unpaid, Remarks. The first consignment for trip one was a shipment by Woods Christy and Co., in St. Louis, consigned to J. Brinker, in Brunswick, with the mark "I.B.", 1000 sacks of salt and 2000 sacks of coffee, the rate was $1.00 a sack for both, the cash received was $3,000.00.

The Portage Book has the names, wages and dates of the crew. The first line is "W.K. Gordon, Captain, $200.00 per month, employed from June 1st to the 8th, with the total amount owed $52.00". The other crew members were:

James S. Gordon, Clerk
Lewis M. Applegate, Clerk
Ferd. Henderson, Mate
John Westlake, Mate
George Cameron. Pilot
Jacob Spillman, Pilot
O.P. Owen, Engineer
James M. Dempsey, Engineer
William Jones, Blacksmith
Archibald Collins, Striker
Pelahiah Shattuck, Steward
Eliza Krauntz, Chambermaid
Felix Grundy, Fireman
Jacob W. Coons, Fireman
E.G. Barret, Fireman
C.I. Cook, Fireman
E.B. Cone, Fireman
Amas Looney, Fireman
Jason Kingsburg, Deckhand
William C. Rooney, Deckhand
Patrick Wood, Deckhand
Charles Broom, Deckhand
Abiel C. Grant, Deckhand
A. B. Chase, Deckhand
Abram Bronk, Deckhand
Lewis Meyer, Deckhand
C. Keating, Deckhand

All of the deckhands were paid at $15.00 a month for trip one and $30.00 for trip two. There were some significant crew changes between the two trips. The lower orders seemed all to get raises and the senior people wage reductions. I'd think this a sizable boat from the crew and having a chambermaid?

The Passage Book lists the passengers by name, embarkation, destination, fare, remarks, and dates.

So the first line for trip one is 1852, June 1, W. Haliburton of St. Louis going to Jefferson City, $10.00 fare, Remarks were"Representation". Now, Applegate was the junior clerk and the last three names entered here are "Apple W. George", "Gate W. Apple" and "W. Gate George" each being charged four dollars for a trip from St. Charles to St. Louis.

The passenger list for trip two is even weirder. The first page listing starts like this:

A. Pigg
B. Hogg
C. Dogg
D. Cow
E. Horse
F. Carte
G. Goose
H. Hugg and down to
P. Digger
S.C. Scratch
O.W. Foolscap
with an X. Xerxes there as well.

Along with these books there are Shipping Documents for goods, generally in 1855, for items like sacks of wheat and boats with names like Australia, Herald, David Tatum, Sam Clemens, Elvira, Winona, Tropic, Keystone, Clara and A.C. Goddin.

That's pretty much it for the "Old Bullion". Anything that you can tell from this in general?

Thanks, Carl Smarling


Facinatin' logs. Kinda makes one wonder if the boat was real or the elaborate figment of somebody's overactive imagination, doesn't it?

When looking over the following information, bare in mind that a licensed Captain often took other positions on a boat when no captain's berths were open.

Let's see, there is a William (no middle initial given) Gordon listed in 1877 as a pilot on the BLACK HILLS. Could be our William, aged, and taking a pilot berth when a captain's berth wasn't available. Who knows.

Then in 1851 a fellow simply called Capt. Gordon was master of the VENTURE,
Pittsburgh-Beaver, Penn..

And a Capt. James Gordon was part owner and master of the 1848 PEYTONA (there were 5 PEYTONAs) , Pittsburgh-McKeesport.

A Capt. Cameron was part owner of the 1845 LECLEDE, running under the colors of the Keokuk Packet Co..

The wife of the Rev. J.K. Spillman, of Marysville, died when the BOSTONA No. 3 burned in 1866 at Maryville.

A Capt. Henderson was aboard the D.H. BLUNK , Louisville-Madison in 1863, and again in 1863 the VIOLA, Pittsburgh-Wheeling, W. Va..

An Owen was an engineer on the 1895 VIRGINIA. OLD BULLION's Owen would have been an old man by then.

There were 2 Capts. Henry "J". Brinker, Sr. and Jr., out of Shreveport., a Capt "J." W. Brinker of the SUNRISE on the Red R., 1897 or so, and a Capt. Jack Brinker of the GLEANER, 1873, Red R. trade. These folks are all in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That Sam Clemens was a mere pilot in training in 1855, places much doubt as to the reality of the SAM CLEMENS boat mentioned, but all of the other boats mentioned with it were real and in the right time frame and place.

Those are the only crew members of import whose sir names appear in Way's Packet Directory. But there are enough in the proper time and location frames that OLD BOUILLON was probably a real, albeit curious, boat. I still wonder if it was a nickname.

I will place her when I get the time, sometime within the week, I imagine. I'll let you know when it happens. Will probably also place the information you sent in an "About Boats" section.

Regards and thank you,


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