By: Taelor Rud
Winona Levee 1870s
First Steamboats movement
At first the movement was slow. In terms of commerce, steamboats had mostly been employed in the transport of furs and lead. They were also useful in the delivery of goods for the resupplying of forts and encampments. Eventually, they came to be used in the removal of Native Americans to a variety of reservation sites. But, it was the creation of the Minnesota Territory in 1849 and the influx of immigrant settlers that resulted in what one historian refers to as, "THE HEYDAY [sic] of steamboating on the Upper Mississippi.
For the first time in history, the brute strength of human muscle, beasts of burden, and natural forces necessary to propel a craft at painstakingly slow speed was replaced by the steamboat. People could now travel in comparative luxury. They could travel great distances at speeds once thought impossible -sometimes in excess of eight miles per hour! And travel they did. Just over 22,000 inhabitants were counted in what is now Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota in 1836 when the original Wisconsin Territory was formed. The majority of these were squatters in the mineral region where the three state's boundaries now meet. By 1850 that number had grown to approximately one half million. And in the next twenty years it exceeded two and a half million people. Minnesota acquired a greater population in twenty years than had New York State in a century and a half.
Winona Levee 1870s
Smith's str.Nominee was one of many steamboats that brought the new immigrants and their families to Winona and other communities along the Upper Mississippi River. Of course these boats did not only carry passengers. They also delivered goods and freight of all kinds to the Winona landing. Many were also contracted by the U.S. Government to carry the mail. The Nominee and other boats that you can see in this small collection of photographs are good examples of the packet boats that landed at Winona during the Minnesota Territorial period. During this time, most of the boats were being built at cities along the Ohio River. This is, of course, because these towns had long since been settled, had iron works, lumber yards and the skilled laborers necessary for the manufacture of such wondrous specimens. As the Upper Mississippi was developed they eventually had boatyards of their own that built many fine boats for the local trades Sidewheel packet wood hull built at Shousetown, Pa. (hull), and completed at Pittsburgh, 1848. Originally built for the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati trade, she only ran there for the 1849 season. She was then sold to Orrin Smith who brought her to the Upper Mississippi in 1850. She was the first boat to arrive at St. Paul in that season. She was the first boat to pass through Lake Pepin in the 1852 season. In 1853 she made 29 trips between Galena and St Paul. She was again the first arrival in St. Paul in 1854. When under the command of Capt. Smith, a Sabbath observer, she was always laid up on Sundays.