The Early History of Steamboats on the Missouri River
Published: April 8, 2014
Presentation by Barbara Giles
Originally presented, April 8th, 2014 at Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro in Rocheport, MO
The Missouri River was never kind to steamboats, but for several decades the river served as a highway to the west, with steamboats being the main conduit of settlers and supplies for the western expansion. Barbara Giles shared her research into the development of steamboat travel on the Big Muddy, from the intricate and evolving design of these impossible river crafts to the stories of the people that transformed this dangerous journey up the Missouri River into a
phenomena of western movement and shipping.
Barbara Giles is a retired molecular biologist whose interest in early Missouri River history turned into an obsession of sorts when she discovered that one of her ancestors was famous Missouri River steamboat pilot Joseph M. LaBarge. Her and her husband Roger now own and operate a steel-hulled sternwheel paddleboat named the “Joseph M. LaBarge” which is moored at Cooper’s Landing in Boone County.
Her alternate title for this presentation is: “Lessons Learned from My LaBarges: the Captain and the Sternwheeler”.
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The Big Muddy Speaker Series is a monthly series of presentations about Missouri River topics. It is currently held each month in three locations: Kansas City, Rocheport and St. Charles.
This statewide series is hosted by Missouri River Relief and Friends of Big Muddy with a long list of local partners at each venue.
Resources and Links
Here are some links for further research on this fascinating topic:
- Event flier for download (pdf)
- “A Brief History of Steamboating on the Missouri River with an Emphasis on the Boonslick Region” by Robert Dyer, Boonslick Historical Society
- “Steamboating on the Missouri River” – Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society
- List of Missouri River Steamboats
- Maps of Missouri River Steamboat wrecks on Riverboatdaves.com
- “Missouri’s First Superhighway” – video (44 min) hosted by Cole County Historical Society.
- Missouri River Steamboats Facebook page
- Two great steamboat museums: Steamboat Arabia (Kansas City) and Steamboat Bertrand (DeSoto Bend National Fish & Wildlife Refuge)