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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Traffic, commerce continues to grow on the Savannah River
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is part of a series of columns exploring the use of rivers in the early history of Georgia and Bulloch County.

Despite all the efforts, the Savannah River was never conquered. Executive Documents (1886) included the report of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Capt. O.M. Carter, in which he wrote that "during the low-water season there are ... low-water depths of not more than 3 feet ... (and) the chief obstruction to navigation consists of sand and gravel bars, overhanging trees, snags, and sunken logs."

This Executive Documents (1891) included the "Report on the Savannah River," undertaken by George W. Brown, assistant engineer in 1889, performed under the guidance of Carter.

As Brown wrote, "A house-flat, for use on the survey ... was built at Augusta. ... It was 30 feet long by 10 feet wide and about 2 feet deep, and was not decked over. The flat, when loaded, drew about 8 inches."

Brown explained that "on it was a house 17 feet long, 10 feet wide, and about 8 feet high ... (with) two rooms accommodations for eight men. The flat was intended to drift with the current, two sweeps and a long steering-oar furnishing the guiding."

The report added, "The party consisted of the assistant engineer, in charge as transitman, a rodman, pilot, four boatmen, and a cook ... (and) the transitman was the pilot (who did the sounding)."

Carter's reports stated that the U.S. snag boat Toccoa, repaired in Charleston, had resumed operations clearing the Savannah River and that 25 "logs, snags, and stumps and 59 "overhanging trees" were removed.

An article in the journal International Marine Engineering (1915) reported that a new river boat, which it identified as the Richmond, was a "Shallow-Draft ... river barge ... 150 feet long ... with a cargo capacity of 300 gross tons."

The 1889 Brown report stated that at this time, "the Richmond, developing a speed of about 8 miles per hour in slack water ... carried 46 percent of the total amount of freight handled by boats on this stream (the Savannah)."

In comparison, reports show that the combined traffic on the Altamaha River system, including the Ocmulgee and Oconee, equaled that with a total of 47,000 tons per year.

The Congressional Edition (1916) listed the steamboat companies still operating on the Savannah River as being the Augusta and Savannah Steamboat Company and the Augusta-Savannah Navigation Company.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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