Among the old time flatboat men was J. M. Plumer, who was born in 1799, and lived for a few years on what is known as the Hendershot farm. He began keelboating when quite young, going up the Big Kanawha after salt which was evaporated in large kettles from salt water secured from wells.
The wells were cased with hollow sycamore logs and the salt was clarified by putting tar into the kettles of water. I have heard my grandmother, who was born before the Revolution, say that the people thought the west would never be settled because there was no salt there. What they did have was made on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and sold at from 25 to 40 cents a pound in Pittsburg.
Mr. Plumer and John Anderson, who lived on what is now known as the Stephenson farm, made a trip with a flatboat to New Orleans in 1828, and among the articles they took with them was a lot of woolen socks which they had bought from Mills and Willison who kept store. The firm secured them from the woman who knit them in exchange for goods. Mr. Mills was the father of W. W. Mills, president of the First National Bank of Marietta. Mr. Plumer was the father of J. A. Plumer.
Stephen Davis was another flatboatman. He began his career on the river in 1824. He was an expert pilot and told me that he had made about seventy-five trips down the river. Mr. Davis was well known on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and was the father of Capt. Clem Davis, who is well known in Marietta. Another well known pilot was Abram McGee who lived at Sand Hill. Vincent Payne has made seventeen trips down the river and came into possession of the wharf boat in 1840. He is still living, being now in his ninety-eighth year.
I had two uncles who made a trip from Pittsburg with a load of flour. One of them loaded a ship with flour at New Orleans and went to Havana, Cuba, where he sold it and received his pay in Spanish gold. He then went to Mobile and in company with two other men started home afoot passing through the Nations of Cherokee Indians. The party struck the Ohio river at Limestone Station, now Marysville. At this point they found a keelboat ready to start to Pittsburg and helped to pole it up the river home. The craft was put together with wooden pins and the lumber was cut with a whip saw, which I [think my brother] still has. My uncle carried his gold in a belt and there was great excitement when he arrived home.
Abram Roach was one of the best of pilots and made the quickest flatboat trip on record never landing between Marietta and New Orleans. Mr. Roach lived on the Sheets farm at Lower Newport, and left here in the fifties. He was an expert rifle shot and killed many a deer and turkey and also a few bears. The house where he lived has since gone to rack and ruin.
George Barker began boating about 1830, and made a number of trips to New Orleans, walking home several times. He was highly respected by his neighbors and was sheriff of Washington county. Mr. Barker accumulated a great deal of property. He has one son, Gage, who lives near Marietta. His brother, Joseph, began boating in 1820 and sent boats down the river nearly every year until 1857. Joseph Barker had the largest apple orchard in this county and some years ago would send down two boat loads in charge of his son, Rufus. Rufus had the reputation of being absolutely fearless. Several years ago he was found dead beside the road in Montana and the cause of his death has always remained a mystery.
Mr. Barker had an oil mill on the bank and here were made flax seed and castor oil, which were sent down the river when made. I do not know what the castor oil was used for but perhaps it was for the darkies when they had the colic. All of his children are dead with the exception of Miss Buell, who lives in Marietta. Mr. Barker was highly respected having served as judge of the courts. He left a large estate.
The Battelle boys, of Newport, began boating in 1820. They sent a number of boats down the river in charge of Aaron Edgell, who brought back sugar, coffee, molasses and rice in exchange for his cargo. The descendants of the Batelles are scattered over several states.
We[s]t Brown was an old-time pilot. He has been dead for several years.
Mr. Racer was an old-time boatman and made several trips to New Orleans. He had several boys who followed the business until the Civil War. Their descendants are scattered from Dan to Bersheba.
Gus Crane was an old-time boatman and the Posey boys also followed the river. The Poseys are all dead with the exception of George who is about ninety years of age.
William Thorn[i]ley was an old boatman and some years would be interested in five or six boats. He got his flour at what was known as the Clay Bank Mills on the banks of the Little Muskingum. The mill was torn down several years ago and the yard used as a garden.
F. V. Thorn[i]ley also made a business of boating and began work in Ohio as a whip saw man in Knox's boat yard.
He made a number of trips down the river and never lost money on any of them. He accumulated a great deal of property. Mr. Thorn[i]ley had six boys all of whose names began with "W." I suppose it took all the letters of the alphabet to spell their names. This beats mine which only takes thirteen of the twenty-six of the alphabet.
William West sent several boats down the river and one of his sons died of cholera in the fifties, having contracted the disease in the south.
M. McColister and Henry McKibben did a great deal of boating before the war. I think McKibben's family is dead.
Pat Roach was a pilot living near Marietta. He is about eighty years of age. The Rowland boys have done considerable boating, and one of the boys, Thomas, is still living although very feeble on account of his age.
Our people came to this state from near Pittsburg in 1814 and some of my they [sic] came here and followed it until the Civil War. They have walked home several times. When the boatmen started home they usually formed party of from three to ten men and camped out on the way. At night a guard was usually stationed armed with a rifle as the country was infested with outlaws and thieves.
J. S. Stowe was born in 1805, and came to this country in 1825. He commenced boating in 1829, and made a trip every year until 1861, and also a few trips after the war. His experience along this line was very profitable.
Mr. Stowe was well known on the sugar coast as he always had an assortment of goods such as flour, meat, lard, beans, butter, etc. During the troublesome times at the beginning of the Civil War he was at Lake Providence where his lines were cut after dark. He has boated on the Ohio, Mississippi, Red, Yazoo and Clack rivers and on several of the Bayous. His labors at flaboating were rewarded by a large fortune. Mr. Stowe's family was a large one and among them is S. S. Stowe, now a hustling business man of Marietta. S. S. Stowe has also flatboated and served in the Civil War. In addition to this he served on the staff of the National Commander of the G. A. R. and on the staff of the Department Commander. Mr. Stowe was the "runt" of the family weighing a pound and a half when born. He could be put into a half-gallon cup. He now weighs in the neighborhood of two hundred and always [illegible] you can't always tell a cat by the way it jumps.
William Harris was an old timer. He used to have a son who built flatboats and has made several trips to New Orleans. I think he also has a son in St. Louis.
The Reppert boys used to run boats, coming to this country from Pennsylvania. They formerly owned what is now known as the Dye farm below Marietta. They were kindly men and their children inherit the trait.
The Greenwood boys were Newport boatmen. All were upright and honest men and left good property as well as a good name.
Mr. Stacey came to Ohio in 1810, and began boating in 1822. He has made several trips to New Orleans and always came out ahead of the game. Some of his descendants are living near Marietta.
Lewis Putnam was an old time boatman. He was a gruff, kindly man and would take almost any kind of chances in running his boats. He had considerable trouble down the river at the beginning of the war.
There are a number of others who boated in the early days but space prohibits mention.
In the early times money was very scarce. The Crams, Ryans, Woodbridges, Curtises, Buells, and many others of Marietta were not directly interested in boats, but were always ready to assist those who were boatmen.
A. A. Middleswart