St. Louis Mercantile Library

P-21: Kanawha River Steamboat Ledgers and Logbooks Collection

 

HISTORY: The Kanawha River also known as the Great Kanawha River is a major natural tributary of the Ohio River, and is wholly within West Virginia and the state's largest inland waterway. Other rivers join to form the Kanawha River, one of which is the New River considered by many to be one of the oldest rivers on earth (1). The Kanawha River is actually the lower course of the New River (2). The cities of Point Pleasant and Henderson, West Virginia are on either side of the Kanawha River as it meets the Ohio River, and Gallipolis is nearby on the Ohio River. Besides having a state capitol building on a river, Charleston marked the division between upper and lower Kanawha River trades. A few miles above Charleston is a ten mile area of Kanawha Salines, (now Malden) that with the salt's brine strength and transportation developed into America's largest salt production area at the beginning of the 19th century (3).

At the same time of the emergence of Kanawha Salines, projects to connect the east with the west by improvements of the James River and Kanawha Canal / Turnpike (The Waterway to the West) met with varying degrees of success. The Kanawha Valley was the source of natural resources that besides salt included timber and coal, used in salt production and by mid century was the major industry in the area. These resources near the Kanawha River became an area of commerce for the river industry(4). River improvement and steam technology applied to boats allowed for significant movements of goods and people in comparison to earlier times. Steamboat transportation was so important on both the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers for both travel and commerce that newspapers regularly reported river conditions and boat schedules.

HOLDINGS: The seven volumes in the Kanawha River Steamboat Ledgers and Logbooks Collection were purchased in one lot at auction. They are associated with transportation on the Kanawha River of the rich supply of coal and salt. These volumes spanning over fifty years bear witness to the active role Kanawha River steamboats and the people working on them took, and as reported in a November 6, 1915 article in The Waterways Journal this role continued into the 20th century: There were 17 steamboats and four showboats in sight at one time at the mouth of the Kanawha River*."

*Silver Bridge

ACCESS: This is Special Collection P-21. Some of the collection may be photocopied, digitally scanned, or photographed, depending on condition.

Chronological Range of Volumes

Undated
Coal Company Ledger Book

December 25, 1833 - March 5, 1834
Str. Daniel Webster (1829) Account Book

April 27, 1850 - May 15, 1882
Kanawha Salines Bills of Lading Book
Image

April 23, 1851 - October 4, 1851
Freight Book

Before March 29, 1853 - August 13, 1875
Str. Aurilla Wood (1852) Cabin Register and John F. Hubbard Entry

February 6, 1863 - February 22, 1886
Kanawha Salt Association Shipping and Salt Production Book

February 13, 1888 - August 23, 1888
Str. Rozelle (1878) Freight Book

1. Sutphin, Gerald W. and Richard A. Andre, Sternwheelers on the Great Kanawha River, 2.

2. Johnson, Leland R. An Illustrated History of the Huntington District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1754-1974, 54.

3. Stealey, John E. The Antebellum Kanawha Salt Business and Western Markets, 1.

4. Sutphin and Andre, Sternwheelers on the Great Kanawha River, 13.

Further Reading:
Bates, Alan L. "A Genuine Kanawha River Snake," The Waterways Journal, March 14, 2005, p. 22.

Hale, John P. History of the Great Kanawha Valley. Gauley Bridge, WV, 1994.

Harris, V.B. Great Kanawha: A Historical Outline. Charleston, WV: Harris, 1976.

Johnson, Leland R. An Illustrated History of the Huntington District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1754 - 1974. [Huntington, WV: Dept. of Defense, Dept. of the Army, Corps of Engineers, Huntington District], 1977

Kemp, Emory Leland. The Great Kanawha Navigation Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Silver Bridge Over the Ohio River: Completing the Ohio-West Virginia Trail by way of the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia. 1928.

Stealey, John E. The Antebellum Kanawha Salt Business and Western Markets. Lexington, KY : University Press of Kentucky, 1993.

Sutphin, Gerald W. and Richard Andre. Sternwheelers on the Great Kanawha River. Charleston, WV : Pictorial Histories Pub. Co., 1991