Steamboat Wrecks on the Missouri River

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ElkPoint High School's Post Card Collection
Site now defunct.

The following information is taken from A Century in Review. This book was published in 1959, the year of the Elk Point Centennial.

Steamboat Wrecks on the Missouri River

In the Annual Report of the Missouri River Commission for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1897, Captain Hiram M. Chittenden published a compilation showing the loss of 295 steamboats on the Missouri River from the beginning of steam navigation to the date of the report. Of these, 20 were lost within the boundaries of the present state of South Dakota. Captain Chittenden’s report may be found by those interested as Appendix W. W. of the Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers of the Army for 1897.

Following is an account of one of these wrecks that took place in the Elk Point vicinity.

The first wreck noted is that of the Kate Swinney (usually written Sweeny) which occurred August 1, 1855, at what has since been known as "Kate Sweeny Bend", between Vermillion and Elk Point, where the line dividing Union and Clay counties meets the river. The boat was a side-wheeler of 328 tons and was returning to St. Louis from a trip to Fort Union and was loaded with fur. She was owned by Captain Pierre M. Chouteau. George Anderson, her mate and Henry Dickson, her fireman started to walk from the wreck to Sioux City and were never again seen and were supposedly killed by the Sioux. The boat was named for Miss Kate Swinney, daughter of Captain W. D. Swinney, of Glasgow, Missouri. From the St. Louis newspapers of the period we are enabled to get some of the particulars of the wreck; Fetco the pilot and Black the carpenter got away in a lifeboat and reached St. Joseph in safety. Before leaving the wreck the Captain sold the salvage to "some nearby settlers" for $300.1

1South Dakota Historical Collections, State Department of History, Vol. 9 (Hipple Printing Company, 1918, Pierre, South Dakota.)

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