Steamboat Rowena
Of The Cumberland River

March 3, 2003
From Claude Crowley

Dear Rowena,

  Your picture of the Rowena is enclosed. When cleaning up my Aunt Myrtle Crowley's Goss's house in Jamestown after she entered a nursing home, I found an original print of this picture.   On the back, an almost illegible pencil note said: "Methodist on an outing, (illegible) in office" (by which I think the writer meant the pilot house). I don't have a clue as to where she got the picture.

  I've studied the picture long and hard. By the women's clothing, I judge it was made around 1915, give or take a few years. Look at the woman's hat, directly under the whistle. The boat is sitting high on the water, like a duck, so it wasn't busy carrying cargo, at least that day (compare with the pictures of the Jo Horton Fall and R. Dunbar). The outing was on a hot day, as we can see two men with fans in the foreground. I was interested in the winch on the fore deck, as well as the spar that handles the gangplank. No doubt the spar was used to load the heavy cargo too. The searchlights look right modern. The wooden chairs look like the ones teachers used to have in grammar school.

  I have no doubt that the picture was made on the Upper Cumberland at a community with a pretty large Methodist Church. Celina or Granville, maybe? Burnside?

  I wonder what the railroad tracks in the water mean? Maybe this is one clue that can determine where the picture was made. Are the tracks there to pull boats out of the river to work on the hull? I don't know. Do you have any ideas?

  My family lived in Cookeville, Tennessee, 1903-1967, and Mom had relatives, the Suttons, in Granville. Mr. Ben Sutton operated a huge country store and undoubtedly received many on his products over the years by steamboats, including the Rowena. We frequently went to Granville to visit, and I have a dim, almost dreamlike memory of seeing the big white stern of a steamboat disappearing downstream around the bend.

  But someone told me that the last packet went off the Cumberland in 1929, and as I was born in 1927, I figured it must be just a dream--I couldn't have remembered. According to the history on your site, however, the Rowena plugged along until 1933 or '34. So I could, indeed have seen her at the age of three or four.

  Also enclosed are two pictures of the R. Dunbar and one of the Jo Horton Fall. I don't know much about these boats, except that they did serve the Upper Cumberland some. The Jo Horton Fall was one of the last packets. In the pictures, these boats were surely prospering. They are "flattened out" with cargo.

  Have you seen the book Steamboatin' on the Cumberland, by Byrd Douglas? (Tennessee Book Company, Nashville, 1961, Library of Congress Catalog number 61-18350.) This book has the history and pictures of a great many Cumberland steamboats, including the Rowena. One picture shows the Patrol, which look identical to the Rowena. If you could get your hands on a copy, I think you would enjoy it.

  Thanks again for creating the Rowena site--it is a big thrill to me to correspond with someone who knows about this fine boat. I have a strong feeling that stern-wheel was the last to roil the waters of the Upper Cumberland (with the exception of the reproductions and excursion boats).

Take care,

Claude Crowley
Fort Forth, TX

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