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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Wrecks, explosions make steamboating a dangerous job
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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.

C.C. Jones' "Memorial History" records that "about 70 steamboats navigated the Savannah from about 1820 to 1865. As many as fifteen in a week would arrive and depart, but the dangers of the voyage were many. About thirty were destroyed, some thirteen burned, six blown up, and eleven sank."

The Charleston and Savannah Line (or Charleston Line) had 15 boats. Of these, the Henry Schultz blew up at the Augusta Bridge, the William Lowndes blew up at Flour Gap, the Cain burned up at Riverside Mills, the Caledonia sank at Riverside Mills, the St. John sank at Gray's Point, the Edgefield sank at Burton's Ferry, and the Duncan McCraig blew up at the dock.

In addition, S. Moore and T.N. Philpot ran the Fashion Line. Their vessels were the J.A. Moore, which burned up at Edisto Island; the Talomico, which sunk at Blanket Point; and the Columbia.

Many independently owned steamboats suffered similar fates, including the Christopher, which burned at Blanket Point; the Governor Troup, which burned at Half Moon; the Ell Cell, which burned off the South Carolina coast; and the Sylvan and the R.H. May, both of which burned south of Augusta.

Continuing this tale of woe, the Amazon sank at Sand Bar Ferry, the Elize sank at Old Keefe's Point, the Leesburg sank at Gray's Point, the Hard Time sank at Kirk's Bar, the R.E. Lee sank within a mile of Savannah, the Eclipse blew up at Mill Stone Landing, and the J.G. Lawton blew up at Gum Stump Landing.

Still, according to newspapers in the mid-1800s, a number of boats did survive. These included the Caledonia, the Chatham, the Cherokee, the DeRusset, the Duncan McRae, the D.W. St. John, the Elbert, the Etiwan, the Ivanhoe, the John D. Mongin, the Oglethorpe, the Forester, the Santee, the Fashion, the Columbia, the Union, the Express, the Inez, the Baudry Moore, the St. Claire, the Mary Summers, the William Gaston, the G.B. Lamar, the De Rosett, the Governor Taylor, and the William Seabrook.

Jones wrote that "since the war, the boats put on the river have been the W.T. Wheless, which burned at Savannah; the Alice Clark, lost on the Carolina coast; the Mary Fisher, sank at Parachucla; the Katie, the Ethel, New South, Progress, and Advance."

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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