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More on Steamboats in New Bern

[From: The Daily Journal, July 16, 1882]

We have heretofore stated the Wayne commenced running on the Neuse in 1843. She was burned, rebuilt, then blown up, and her name changed to the North State, and Dr. R. Berry informs me she was taken by the Federal authorities in the war, run to pieces, then the engine was put in a small gunboat on our rivers. The hull of the old boat for years was near the railroad bridge on the Trent.

Not very long after the Wayne was brought here by the Messrs. Dibble a steamboat of some more power and slightly larger, though in all other respects similar to the Wayne, of which we have heretofore given a description, was built in Connecticut for a company composed chiefly of citizens of the counties of Johnston and Wayne, was also put on the Neuse. A.T. Jerkins, Esq., of Newbern, was the agent of the company, and managed the steamer and the large fleet of flatboats towed by her on the river. These boats were carried up the Neuse by the steamer, turned loose at the different landings where desired for freight, and were then either poled or allowed to drift down to Newbern. By this means thousands of tons of freight could be moved, which otherwise could not have been. The freight on the Neuse now coming this way would be a joke compared to what it was when the Wayne and Johnston commenced running, and when in the height of their business. They were particularly designed for towing, and consequently their capacity for carrying freight was small. What the Dibbles made by their boat will probably never bee known. The stock of the Johnston Steamboat Company was all sunk, we learn. There was a side-wheel steam flat also purchased by this company in Connecticut, which carried about three hundred round barrels and was quite a success. Afterwards the engine was taken out of the old flat and put in a larger one with a sharp head, which being too large and heavy for the engine never did as well as before the change. That is generally the trouble with all our steamers--too much boat for the engine. We are anxious to carry it all at once without power. Even the great Shenandoah is in the same condition. But, Mr. Senior Editor, you may not be aware that to this steamboat, The Rough and Ready, are you indebted for your experience as the commander of a steamer on the Neuse. This is the boat that so impressed you in your youth, and, undoubtedly, if you had to draw a picture of it as it then appeared to you, the Shenandoah would not have much the advantage in magnificence or size. We often catch our inspiration when children from comparatively trifling scenes which lead us away from professions or occupations that it would seem natural for us to pursue.

The Rough and Ready was an open flat boat, with side wheels and engine in the center. The Johnston was perhaps the quickest steamer ever owned here or run regularly to this place. She could run twelve miles an hour with ease about our harbor. The iron from which the fence around the capitol square in Raleigh was made was brought here from the North, and carried up the Neuse by the Johnston. Where it was landed the church bells could be plainly heard in Raleigh, and some of the citizens of that city made a visit to the steamer during the landing of the iron, which was in pigs. The fence was made in Raleigh, by a Mr. Burns, and he need never be ashamed of his work. The Johnston met the same fate as the Wayne. She was carried to Beaufort Harbor, and while the property of Mr. Josiah S. Pender during the war was blown up at the Fort wharf, in consequence of carelessness--no water in the boiler. We are informed by W.H. Howland that she immediately sunk after the explosion and was never resurrected. I am not informed of the casualties, though rumor has a number killed by the explosion.

In 1858 we had a side wheeler steamer, called the Post Boy, running from this place to Hyde county, the property of the Hyde County Steamboat Joint Stock Co., S.A. Long, President, and Wm. M. Creadle, Secretary. The stock was owned by some of our citizens and the citizens of Hyde county, all of which was sunk in comparatively a short period.

Of course the ocean steamers of Goodspeed, the Dell & Hughes [i.e. Dill & Hughes], and afterwards Whitford, Dell & Company [i.e. Whitford, Dill & Company], will be remembered as those of the latter firm ran up to 1872. These ships made the trips with great regularity of the trains, and were of great profit to our town and surrounding country. They relied more upon getting their cargoes from the two rivers, Neuse and Trent, than from the Railroad, and it proves to our people these great channels of trade should be kept constantly in view. It would astonish those not aware of it to see photographs of those heavy ocean steamers at the foot of Craven street, with the flats around them with cotton, naval stores and produce piled high among them. This business has been transferred to the Sound boats simply for the want of united action on the part of our merchants to run steamers direct to New York. The thing was done for years, and can be done again, and should be done without delay, if we desire the permanent prosperity of Newbern. Let us add by all means, as we are doing to our river steamers. The steamer Neuse or Trent is worth more to Newbern in substantial benefits than all the thousands of bushels of corn loaded at the Railroad wharf for transportation, or all the cotton that may come over the road on its way North with through bills of lading. All that aids the road, but not Newbern.

Newbern was among the earliest settlements in the State. The natural advantages for commerce in the State were never remarkable. But Newbern became the centre of trade, and at an early day the capital of the Province under the Colonial Government. This gave her an importance and a decided advantage. Her business men were enterprising. As the country was settled in the counties on the river west of her she naturally commanded all their trade. Had the Neuse been open and deep our merchants would have retained this trade, and the W.&W. Railroad could never have cut it off and turned it to Wilmington and Norfolk. Railroads can not successfully compete with certain river navigation. Then improve our rivers, and Newbern must again be the place of deposit of a good portion of the trade of the counties of Lenoir, Greene, Wayne, Johnston, Jones and Onslow.

Any main line of railroad should and would put the rails on any side line of road when prepared for them by the people in the counties through which it was run, as did the W. and W. R.R. for the road to Scotland Neck, and as also did the Richmond and Danville railroad for the University road. Yet the trade on a railroad is not as certain for Newbern as trade on the rivers, and moreover we get much of this trade now which railroads could only offer speedier means for transporting--the cotton and produce, and which our country friends should have if they desire it. The merchants of Snow Hill should have the same facilities as the merchants of Kinston to ship direct to Norfolk or New York and the merchants of Trenton should also have [the] same facilities as the merchants of Newbern without the expense and aid of middle men. We agree to all this and as a railroad officer unite with them on the subject. We cannot conceive of any management of the A. and R. C. R.R. that would not encourage in every way the construction of side lines. Yet it must be admitted from what I have said that we can have but little increase of trade in Newbern from the railroad until it is carried west and out in a country from which we have heretofore had no benefit. Let the road go up to Wake and the counties beyond on the line to Salisbury and it would give us new trade and new life. Mechanics, merchants and property holders would all feel it and we would see our ocean steamships departing for and arriving from New York as our steamers do now from Elizabeth City. D.

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