Note: The following is part of a series of columns exploring the use of rivers in the early history of Georgia and Bulloch County.
The Enterprise suffered a horrendous explosion. The Savannah Republican reported in its Sept. 19, 1816, edition on the "Dreadful Disaster On board the Steam-Boat Enterprise."
That article announced, "Public opinion is much divided as to the cause of this awful accident, most (believed) ... at the first blush of the thing that the boiler had exploded from being overcharged with steam."
According to an examination, it was actually caused by lightning.
"The electric fluid, which is believed to have burst the boiler, descended the chimney, perforated the boiler ... (and) found vent by bursting the under part of the boiler, immediately over the fire," the newspaper reported.
What justified this explanation? The paper reported, "The body of one of the deceased ... was entirely black, dry, and hard, not a blister upon, and as cold as clay ... the effect of the lightning."
In 1817, brothers Samuel and Charles Howard acquired another charter for the Steamboat Company of Georgia, in which the state gave them a 20-year monopoly on river boat traffic on the Savannah River.
The Savannah Republican on Aug. 11, 1818, listed several "boats" making the journey from Augusta to Savannah. They included the Viper, the Superior, the Two-Friends and the Georgiana, all loaded with bales of cotton and hogsheads of tobacco.
Most steamboats going upriver towed freighting pole-boats behind them. That way, when they ran aground, the steamboats, loaded with passengers, could have their boats with their freight finish the trip on their own.
Pole-boats mentioned in the newspapers included the Flight and the Hercules, which on one run in 1821 carried 422 bales of cotton and 41 hogsheads of tobacco.
According to C.C. Jones' book "The Memorial History of Augusta," Howard's fleet expanded to include the Samuel Howard, the Savannah, the South Carolina, the Georgia No. 1, the Tugalo, the Tennessee, the Edgefield, the Ockmulgee, the Columbia, the T.S. Metcalf, the D.L. Adams, the Altamaha No. 1, the Augusta No. 1 and the Augusta No. 2. Both Augusta steamboats burned, No. 1 at the City Bridge and No. 2 at Gray's Point.
Upon the Altamaha's first arrival in Augusta, the Augusta Chronicle remarked that "several of the freighting boats (had) to be lightened (and yet) she has reached (Augusta)."
Indeed, according to the Savannah Republican on Aug. 21, 1819, the Steam-Boat Company announced that "justifying the belief the steam boats will be able to reach Augusta ... one will be immediately be sent out."
It continued, however, "Hands, with poles and lighters, are arranged at proper places to carry the freighting boats on without delay."
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at email@example.com.