Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

A LADY WRITER REPORTS SOME
INCIDENTS OF STEAMBOAT TRAVEL

MRS. ELIZA STEELE

[Mrs. Eliza Steele is not to be relied on for some of her historical statements: Kaskaskia, for instance, was not settled by La Salle in 1683 but was established as a Jesuit mission in 1703. Her riviere au vase was merely a Muddy River. But she reported details not often set down by male travelers. These pages describing scenes aboard and along the way are from her A Summer Journey in the West (New York, 1841, pp. 199-214, 219-20, 220-29). The visit to the West was in 1840.]

At two o'clock we went on board the steamboat Monsoon, in which we were to go to Cincinnati. Every minute we expected to go, but hour after hour passed away and still we did not move. To our questions the captain gave several reasons for the delay which seemed very vexatious to him. We endured the day, as hot as it was, by amusing ourselves with reading, writing, looking at the opposite shores, which we should have visited by means of the steam ferry boats which were crossing continually to Illinois town, had we not imagined we were soon to depart-and in watching the busy crowds upon the wharf, among whom was an old negro before an auction store attracting customers by ringing a bell instead of using a red flag as with us-but when night came, and we were obliged to pass it in our hot narrow berths, among mosquetoes which no net would keep off—listening to the noise and profane converse of the crew of the boats around, and imbibing the perfume of a dock, we became very much vexed and very impatient to be on our way.

July 15th— It was ten o'clock this morning before we started, and then discovered it was the arrival of a large party of St. Louis

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