Background Information

(Excerpted from "Steamboats Brought New Life to the Allegheny" by John R. Evanetski, Jamestown Post-Journal, December 2, 1987 and Whistles Round the Bend: Travel on America's Waterways by Phil Ault)

            In 1807, Robert Fulton tried out the first U.S. steamboat on the Hudson River. It was a success, and just four years later, the first steamboat trip down "western waters" was attempted from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Unfortunately, difficulties in design prevented the steamboat from being able to make the trip back up the river. However, by 1816, new designs and innovations were making steamboat travel on the Mississippi and its tributaries practical. Steamboats, unlike other crafts, used mechanical power to travel upriver as well as down. No longer did people have to rely on horse or man-power to move crafts upriver against the current.

Warrenites had the chance to see their first steamboat on April 22, 1830, when the steamboat Allegheny arrived from downriver. From the 1830s to the 1860s, steamboats like The Wave, The Clara Fisher, and The Allegheny Belle regularly ran to and from Warren, bringing cargo, people, and excitement to the community.

Despite increasing use, steamboat travel could still be a dangerous business. Boats could run aground or hit snags and floating debris, and steamboat engine explosions were not uncommon. Even other boats could present dangers. In the spring of 1850, the Warren Mail noted, “Capt. William Hannah of the Steamboat Allegheny Belle No. 2 reported he passed at least a hundred rafts--making it very difficult to steer his steamboat.”

The steamboat era, in Warren, lasted only about 30 years. Bridges built across the Allegheny made travel increasingly difficult for steamboats (as many steamboats were too tall to safely go beneath them, especially in high water) and railroads largely took over the role steamboats played as carriers of passengers and cargo.  By the early 1870s, the chugging sound of a steamboat, once a familiar sound, could no longer be heard on Warren's waterfront.


Additional Resources:

A Steamboat Trip Story


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society