Winnebago County, Illinois
The Steamboat Rockford
The "Rockford" was operating at Rockford and between Oregon and Rockton IL during the period 1857 – 1862.
A "Rockford" was operating in the Quad Cities area (between Andalusia, Rock Island and Davenport in 1864. This may not be the same "Rockford" or may be another similarly named "City of Rockford" (Shovar, M. 1983. Home on the River in Andalusia, IL. Moore Printing Co. Davenport, IA. Pages 9-10).
The "Rockford" was a wood hull sternwheeler built by Inman & Pennock on the banks of the Rock River at Rockford, IL at the site of the city water works. Owned by Pennock, Sterling & Company. Hull dimensions: Unknown. Cabin: 16 ft x 30 ft. High pressure steam engines by Clark & Utter Machine Shop of Rockford (20 hp). Drew only 9-inches of water. Cost: $6,000-$7,000. In winter of 1858, converted to sidewheel and given new, more powerful engines. The length of the hull was increased by 10-feet. Two decks. Capacity: 150 persons. Master: Capt. Harmon Hill. Engineers: A.G. Springsteen & William Roach. Clerk: G.H. Burch. Trial trip: May 25, 1857. (averaged 7 mph upstream). Maintained a regular schedule from Rockford to Rockton on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday carrying passengers and freight. Arrived at Dixon. IL in August, 1858. (July 30, 1859?). Sold in 1859 to James B. Skinner. March, 1861: snagged 4 miles above Byron on the Rock River. All passengers and crew saved. Cargo of wheat was lost. Suffered a collapsed flue in December, 1861. No injuries. Began a regular schedule from Rockford to Oregon on October 3, 1861 and continuing through (1862?). Did intermittent excursion work. Entertainment: The Sax Horn band, Forest City Band. Later ran Dixon to Oregon (1863?). Wrecked below the dam in 1864. Machinery removed. Hull was used for a ferry boat. Hull was abandoned in 1869 on the bank of the Rock River between Dixon and Oregon where it was left to rot. (J. Canavit, pers. comm.)Published Information
State of Illinois 8th Annual Report of the Department of Public Works and Buildings, Division of Waterways, July 1, 1924 – June 30, 1925. O. R. Miller Director
"J.H. Davey, Rural Route No. 1, tells of building the Steamer Rockford." It was built on the river bank on the site of the present city waterworks in 1857. The contractors were Steven Inman and the owners were Potter & Finnick of Rockford. The boat was a double decker with side paddle wheels and piled above the city for four seasons, trafficing among pleasure seekers. Later it ran between Dixon and Oregon, doing the same sort of business. After being badly damaged the machinery was removed and the hull used for a ferry boat, when running between Oregon and Rockford it carried many loads of wheat to the mills at Rockford. In 1857 the Steamer Rockford advertised a schedule of regular trips to Rockton on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, leaving Rockford at 7:00 A.M. and arriving at Rockton at 11:30 A.M. Leave Rockton at 3:30 P.M. and arrive Rockford at 6:00 P.M. Passengers landed at intermediate points. Freight of all kinds taken on reasonable terms." --Rockford July 1, 1857, Pennock, Sterling & Co.
STEAMER ON ROCK RIVER--A couple of our enterprising mechanics, Messrs. Inman & Pennock, we understand, are engaged in rather a novel enterprise, but one which we have no doubt they will make a paying one. They are building at an expense of between six and seven thousand dollars a small steamboat to ply between this city and Rockton. The boat is to be provided with a 20 horse power engine--is to be of light draft--drawing only about 9 inches of water, and is to have a cabin of 16 by 30 feet. The engine was constructed at the Machine shop of Clarke and Utter, and the craft is to be set afloat in a few weeks. Now for pleasure excursions and picnic parties up the river. --Rockford Republican (Rockford, IL), 5/7/1857, page 2
EXCURSION TO ROCKTON--Last Friday a large company of our citizens took a pleasure excursion to Rockton on the steamer Rockford. We were favored with an invitation from its gentlemanly owners for the excursion, but very much to our regret, imperious engagements prevented our attendance. We are informed that the company on board had a very pleasant time indeed of their trip, as indeed it could not be otherwise. P.S. Since the above was in type, the Regulator has been issued, containing and account of the excursion, in which its editor participated, and from its account we make the following extract: We should not omit to mention that on the return trip, just before reaching Rockford, a meeting was organized by calling C.I. Horsman, Esq., to the Chair, after which the following resolutions were presented by Dr. Lyman and unanimously adopted:Resolved: That the officers and all attached to the Steamer Rockford, by their gentlemanly conduct and courteous bearing during the Excursion to Rockton, are entitled to the unanimous thanks of all fortunate enough to be of the party.Resolved, That only by a trip on the steamer Rockford can the beauty of our own Rock River be properly seen and appreciated.Resolved, That our thanks be tendered to the Sax Horn Band for their well selected and executed music during the trip.Resolved, That these resolutions be published in the city papers.
Following this M. Smith was called out and made a few pertinent remarks. The Rockford soon after reached her dock, and the excursion ended. --Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 6/16/1857, page 3
Excursion to Rockton
About 120 of our citizens, ladies and gentlemen took a pleasure excursion to Rockton on board the steamer "Rockford" on Friday of last week. Business arrangements were such as to preclude the possibility of our making one of the joyous party, but we did what we were able toward it--we saw them off. The steamer left her moorings here in gallant style--and what with the lively strains of music by the band and the radiant countenances of the good steamer's company we predicted for them just such a time as they are represented to have had. Our neighbors at Rockton, it is said, gave their guests a cordial and substantial welcome, a fact which contributed greatly to the pleasure of the occasion. The following resolutions were offered by Dr. Lyman and passed unanimously by the company on the return trip:Resolved, That the officers and all attached to the Steamer Rockford by their gentlemanly conduct and courteous bearing during the Excursion to Rockton are entitled to the unanimous thanks of all fortunate enough to be of the party.Resolved, That only by a trip on the steamer Rockford can the beauty of our own Rock River be properly seen and appreciated.Resolved, That our trip has been much enlivened by the cheers and hearty reception at Roscoe and Rockton.Resolved, That our thanks be tendered to the Sax Horn Band for their well selected and executed music during the trip.Resolved, That these resolutions be published in the city papers.
Following this M. Smith was called out and made a few pertinent remarks. The Rockford soon after reached her dock, and the excursion ended. --Rockford Republican (Rockford, IL), 6/18/1857, page 2
The steamer Rockford brought down five tons of paper from Rockton last Saturday, to be shipped by rail from this point to Galena. We understand that she now makes tri-weekly trips to Rockton--Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, and promises to do a very fair freighting and passenger business between these two points--Rock River Democrat [Rockford Republican (Rockford, IL), 6/25/1857]
RIVER PASSENGER AND FREIGHT TRAFFIC
By the politeness of Mr. G.H. Bush, clerk of the steamer Rockford, we have been furnished with the following list of the passenger and freight business of the steamer from the week ending June 27th: We should state that the above list comprises but three days work out of the week for the steamer. The other three she is engaged in freighting stone to out city, for which she has several very heavy contracts. These facts seem to demonstrate pretty clearly that the steamer will do a profitable business, and we congratulate her owners upon the success which promises to attend their enterprise. P.S.--The Rockford takes a pleasure excursion to the Roscoe rapids this evening. It promises to be a beautiful evening for such a pleasure trip. --Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 6/30/1857, page 3
We learn from Mr. Bush, the Clerk of the steamer Rockford that about two hundred of the citizens of Rockton and vicinity intend visiting our city to participate in the coming celebration. They will take the Rockford and arrive here in ample seasons for the festivities. We can assure them a pleasant ride down the river, every attention from the gentlemanly officers of the streamer, and a cordial welcome from us Rockfordians--such a welcome as neighbors should receive, and as is appropriate to the day which they unite with us in honoring. The arrangements for the celebration are now all perfected, and it will undoubtedly be a very fine one. The fire works are purchased, and are on quite an extensive scale. In addition to the societies and companies announced in the programme, the following companies are expected to participate: The Boone Rifles, of Belvidere; the Engine Company, of Pecatonica. It is expected that the Rockford City Greys will also be out that day in full dress uniforms. --Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL) 6/30/1857, page 3
"O Gull"--We extract the following from "Ye Historie of O Gull Countie," which appears weekly in the Ogle Co. Banner, in regard to the reception of the Steamer Rockford by the citizens of that county upon her first trip.--To be better understood, we will state that the editor of the Polo Advertiser has been writing and publishing a history of that county, and that Dick Redfield of the Banner had in his inimitable way been burlesquing said Historie. It is a good thing, but Richard, we think has drawn largely upon his imagination, for we don't know of any one, much less a steamboat captain, up this way, that "smiles."
The year 1811 is distinguished as one in which the mammoth stern-wheel steamboat Rockford was built, the first steamer that was ever built this side of Grand de Tour. This steamer, which was the first to navigate Rock River, arrived at Oregon in the same year, where it was received with great demonstrations of joy. The ladies of the city, accompanied by the Mayor, were upon the levee awaiting its arrival, as a despatch had been received by 'clothes line' or 'fish line' announcing its departure from Rockford. The ladies were beautifully attired in pink dresses fastened about the waist with turkey-red sashes embroidered with oyster shells and goose quills. Upon the arrival of the steamer, the captain was presented with a clean shirt, and a splendid banner, bearing the appropriate motto-
"Oregon am all Right on the Goose Question!"
The captain went ashore and mounted a dry goods box in from of a resturant, and commenced an eloquent and pathetic speech, but owing to the frequency that he had "smiled" during the trip, his tongue refused utterance, and he was carried back to the boat on a shutter! [Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 3/15/1859, page 2]
THE STEAM BOAT ROCKFORD
Will commence running from this City to Oregon on next Monday, at 2 1/2 o'clock, P.M., in time to take passengers from the afternoon Chicago train. It will make three trips per week from this City, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and returning, will leaving Oregon on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays, in the morning, but at what hour, we are not informed. The Rockford has had ten feet added to her size, and the owners expects her speed will be much increased. Mr. James B. Skinner is the owner, and Harmon Hill, the Captain. [Rockford Daily News (Rockford, IL) 3/17/1859, page 2]
Under this heading the Dixon Republican and Telegraph notices the arrival in that city of the Steamer Rockford, Capt. Hill. That paper states that Captain H. is desirous of making regular trips to that place and would do so provided certain conveniences were made for the landing of freight. This boat, during the past winter, has been much improved. She has been re-modified from a stern wheel to a side wheel steamer, and with increased power, in a new engine, now makes good time against the strong current of our river. Last season she transported a large amount of produce, goods &c., between this city and Oregon, and it is fair to presume with increased facilities and greater speed, her business will be largely increased this season. [Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 5/3/1859, page 3]
STEAMER ROCKFORD WRECKED -- NO LIVES LOST, OWING TO THE SEAMANSHIP AND INTREPIDITY OF CAPT. HILL
We regret to be compelled to record the sinking to the bottom of Rock River of the fast sailing, high pressure Steamer Rockford, H. Hill, Captain. It is gratifying to us to be able to state that no lives were lost, as through the superior seamanship of Capt. Hill, they all succeeded in reaching terra firma, glad to escape the boiling and turbulent waters that ever moment threatened to engulph them. We understand that a series of resolutions were passed and signed by all the passengers fully exhonorating Capt. Hill and his crew from blame, also testifying to his great coolness and darting the the hour of peril. The Ogle Co. Reporter thus narrates the accident. It is from the pen of their special reporter who took passage upon her expecting that she would go under and thus afford an item: Last Monday afternoon the steamer Rockford started from this place to Rockford, with three passengers and (?)000 bushels of wheat and a quantity of oats. About 9 o'clock, when she was four miles above Byron, in attempting to cross an island that was overflowed with water, she struck a snag and capsized, in about nine feet of water. We have not learned what amount of damage was done, but presume she will be an almost total loss, as the current is said to be very swift at that point, and she is very lightly built. The passengers and crew were all saved by swimming ashore. The wheat, which belonged to Potwin & Stone, J.H. Ratledge and Louis Williams, of this town, will probably be a total loss. [Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), Mar 19, 1861, page 3]
AN EARLY DAY STEAMER
How Navigation From Rockford to Rockton Was Opened
RIVER PARTIES WERE THE RAGE
Some Recollections of the Famous Old Steamer, The Rockford--Her Trial Trip and Excursion to Rockton
A little company of old residents of Rockford, while returning from a river party one evening last week turned the conversation to the subject of early boating on the Rock. All recalled the "Belle of Rockford" or "The Rockford"--it was known by either name--and dwelt upon the popularity of this, probably the most famous of the craft that has plied the Rock in this vicinity.
In the early fifties there were a surprisingly large number of boats traversing the river between Rockford and points south. Rockford was a regular port of entry and clearance for small craft up the river from the Mississippi and the navigation interest were of respectable proportions. But the stately river was found so valuable for water power that the flat boats and small stern wheel steamers soon disappeared and the port of Rockford became only a memory.
In 1857, a new steamer made its appearance on the Rock and for a number of years its popularity was unbounded. It was the one to which reference is made in the foregoing and with which it is the purpose of this article to deal. "The Rockford," as it was perhaps best known, was built and owned by the firm known of Pennock, Sterling & Co. It was quite a pretentious affair and was made entirely in this city. It was equipped with a twenty-horse power engine which was made in the establishment of Clark & Utter, under the supervision of A.G. Springsteen, who was the first engineer of the boat. The steamer only drew nine inches of water and was considered a substantial craft.
The trial of the Rockford was made Monday, May 25, 1857. She left her moorings at noon, with a private party on board, and steamed up the river against a strong current, making about seven miles an hour, which was all her builders had anticipated. Mr. Springsteen quickly discovered where some improvements and changes were necessary. By June 6, these were completed and one the evening of that day the staunch little steamer took out her first pleasure party. An early day writer thus describes the trip:
As we left the port the sun was sinking to rest in the far west in a sea of glory, its resplendent rays bathing spire, tower and residence with the rosy light of a western sunset. It was matchlessly beautiful, and the bright eyes of the happy throng, who crowded the deck of the good steamer were turned in admiration upon a scene as enchantingly lovely as ever poet of old dreamed of. Under the guidance of the man of steam we sped upon the bosom of the river, passing now a splendid residence, the abode of luxurious ease and comfort, and perhaps happiness; anon the cottage of some husbandman hove in view and was passed with mental ejaculations of "how beautiful"; aged elms whose foliage bathed itself in the waters which washed its base; noble oaks whose ragged limbs pointed heavenward, and mossy banks covered with nature's verdure; we shot by and naught broke the stillness of the hour save the merry voices and the music of the Saxe Horn band, who discourse most excellent music. All was mirth and jollity. A ten-mile trip was taken on this occasion which required three hours time.
"The Rockford" was the first steamer to open navigation between Rockford and Rockton and the event was a notable one. A company of one hundred or more, ladies and gentlemen, chartered the steamer for a trip to Rockton. The people in the latter town heard of the excursion planned to give their visitors a cordial reception. The excursion took place on June 12, 1857. The boat left its dock at 10 o'clock in the morning and it was figured that it would arrive in Rockton soon after the dinner hour. The Saxe Horn band was along, of course, and the boat steamed away amid the strains of music. "The Rockford" proceeded up the river without delay until Roscoe was reached. There, owing to a misunderstanding about the channel and a strong current, the boat was stalled and Rockton was not reached until the afternoon was well advanced.
The Rockton people, who had waited patiently to see the steamer come 'round the bend, had made complete arrangements for the entertainment of their guests. A flag was planted at the landing and as the steamer pulled up she was greeted by salutes of a canon, which might have been the blacksmith's anvil in disguise.
A committee waited upon the excursionists and escorted them to the Mansion house, where an elaborate dinner was served. The Rockton people spread themselves on that meal and the long journey has sharpened the appetites properly for it.
At 7:30 o'clock the steamer cast off and turned her nose homeward amid a parting salute of the cannon and the cheers of the Rocktonites gathered on the river bank. Roscoe was passed without delay and in three hours time party was landed at home, safe and sound.
There was dancing and speech making on the homeward trip and as they neared Rockford the excursionists organized by electing C.I. Horsman chairman and adopted the following resolutions:
"Resolved: That the officers and all attached to the steamer Rockford, by their gentlemanly conduct and courteous bearing during the excursion to Rockton, are entitled to the unanimous thanks of all fortunate enough to be of the party.
"Resolved: That only by a trip on the steamer Rockford can the beauty of our own Rock river be properly seen and appreciated.
"Resolved: That our trip has been much enlivened by the cheers and hearty reception at Roscoe and Rockton
"Resolved: That our thanks be tendered to the Saxe Horn band for their well selected and executed music during the trip."
River parties then became all the rage and the "Rockford" had all the business she could handle. The following year the boat was improved and made regular trips to Rockton, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week, carrying passengers and freight. In 1858 she began plying the river between Rockford and Oregon and did a large business. Rockford people remember how one night she stuck on a sandbar and staid there all night with a large number of passengers. Captain Hill ran the boat for a long time and on July 30, 1859, took her as far south as Dixon. She occasionally went wo Grand Detour, but her regulary trip was between Rockford and Oregon.
William Roach, of Elm street, was engineer of the boat for a time. She was wrecked below the dam and there her career ended. [Morning Star (Rockford, IL), 8/14/1898, page 3]
Rock River and Its Varied Flotilla
The use made of Rock river for water power has the effect of making a beautiful lake because of the slack water, which sets back many miles up the river, increasing its breadth and giving a good channel for boating. In former years considerable sport was had from a boat club, and races on the river. As there is a fine course here it is not unlikely that the exhilarating pleasure of aquatic sports may again be brought into play. The general uses of the river for comfort and pleasure have greatly increased of late years, and have led to the building of a suitable equipment of steamers and other craft for the enjoyment of the privilege bestowed by the presence of a body of water. The banks of the Rock are varied and picturesque, and permanent residents as well as visitors enjoy the pleasure of the rise through the changing scenes, forming a winding lake about 15 miles long.
It is over 15 years since the Arrow was bought from parties at Janesville and brought tot his city by a number of Rockford gentlemen, who used it for their own pleasure and to some extent made it available for the use of public. Later it was devoted principally to general service, but was finally put out of commission. Its engine and boiler are still doing duty for power purposes on land. The steamer Queen was built at Dubuque for Theodore O. Largent in 1891 and is in service here today, being employed especially for clubs which make weekly use of pleasure grounds up the river. It is owned by C.C. Lloyd and R.E. Dewey. The steamer May Lee was built here for the river service by r. Largent about seven years ago. It has had its capacity enlarged to that of carrying 400 people, by lengthening its hull, and is doing a general excursion business.
The steamer Illinois was also built here to meet the demand for increased capacity, the builders being the present owners, J.T. Buker and ex-Mayor Amasa Hutchins. It has a carrying capacity of about 1,000. The three steamers together comfortable provide for 1,500 to 1,600 people. During the summer all of the boats are called into service for Sunday school and other large excursions. Of late the river at Rockford has come into request for large parties from out of the city. It has proved a favorite point for society and other excursions from towns within 100 mile of Rockford. There is a large variety of attractions here for visitors, the river trip being, of course, the leading one. The variety of the scenery along the banks is held to be fully as interesting and attractive as that of Lake Geneva. The pleasure parks and picnic grounds at various points afford inviting places for the picnic dinners, and for such games as the people car to indulge in for their outing.
The owners and managers of the steamers pay especial attention to the pleasure of visiting parties, and their interest for the welfare and enjoyment of out-of-town people has won many friends for Rockford as the objective point for excursions over the large territory from which the river here can be conveniently reached. In addition to the steamers, which give the residents of the city the daily privilege of the river ride at small expense, during the heated term, there are many citizens who have their private launches and vary the tedium of the summer months by afternoon or evening rise, according to their pleasure, either by themselves or with invited guests. There is no public registry of these boats but the number is large, estimated to be in the neighborhood of 30. The pioneer of this list of pleasure boats was built by Fletcher Barnes. This was followed by bringing to Rockford the official electric launch of the world's fair at Chicago, the Electra, the boat which won the concession for the lagoons for its owners, and was subsequently used by the officers of the explosion in the public functions and the tender of the hospitality of the association to distinguished visitors. The Electra has been out of commission this season but its owners expect to put it into service again.
Most of the launches use gasoline power, the two owned by W.F. and John Barnes and the Electra being the principal exceptions. Among those who are interested in this form of pleasure to the extent of ownership of private launches are M.A. Beal, Paul Schuster, T.D. Reber, M.A. Love, E.H. Keeler, T.H. Clarke, A.E. Henry, Charles Reitsch, Herbert Lewis, George C. Spafford, Harry Williams, Harry Winter, George Cormack Jr., Oscar Ross, A.V. Comings, Fred Neumeister, George Sorenson, Orrin Carpenter, John McDermain, Dwight Many, W.B. Taylor, Fred Savage, H.M. Johnson, the Jeanmaire brothers, the Berg brothers, the Atwood brothers, H.Snow, and a number of others.
The launches cost from $300 to $500 each. The total investment in the craft of all sorts on the river is about $30,000, of which something more than one-half is in the steamers built for general public use. Not the least important privilege which people here derive from the river is that of the evening parties on the steamers, and the river concerts, sometimes on the steamer decks, sometimes at the picnic grounds. Many an evening of delight has been passed in this way when the heat of the summer forbade such enjoyment on land. Altogether the presence of the river enteres into the daily life of the people of the city to a degree which is scarcely appreciated by those who have never known what it was to be deprived of such pleasures. In this issue will be found illustrations of the principal river craft. [Daily Register-Gazette (Rockford, IL), 12/16/1904, page 34]
WHEN THE "STEAMER ROCKFORD" SAILED ROCK RIVER 48 YEARS AGO
J.H. DAVEY TELLS OF THE BUILDING OF THE STEAMER AND HOW IT CARRIED PASSENGERS UP AND DOWN THE ROCK IN THIS VICINITY--LATER IT WENT TO OREGON AND DIXON--HOW GEORGE KEELING JUMPED IN THE WATER AFTER HIS PAINT BRUSH WHEN THEY WERE FIRST PAINTING BOAT
The steamer Rockford, a two decker built for pleasure but suitable for freight, was on of the first to attract attention on the river here. It was built on the river bank of the site of the city water works, in the year '57. Steve Inman, father of Billy Inman, was the contractor, and he had working with him William Inman, a brother, and Captain Weldon. The latter two did all the corking on the hull. The owners were Potter and Finnick, both of whom lived here at that time.
The decking and wood work for the boat was furnished by Wool and Company, who were in the sash and door business then. Their shop was on the water power on ground where the electrical power plant of the Emerson company stand.
A funny incident connected with the building of the steamer that is yet remembered and laughed at was told the other day by J.H. Davey, of Rural Route 1, who plainly remembers the boat. George Keeling, who was one of those painting the boat, dropped his paint bruch in the water. Without hesitating, he jumped head first in after it. There was about twenty feet of water at the spot, but Keeling got the brush, came to the top, swam ashore and began painting again as if nothing had happened. His fellow workmen laughed so much about the incident they could hardly work the rest of the afternoon. Keeling was a relative of J.H. Keeling, the druggist.
The boat was a double decker, with side paddle wheels. It plied about the city about four season doing considerable trafficking among pleasure seekers. Later it went below the dam, using the chute that then gave access to the stream below that barrier. It plied for two seasons between Oregon and Rockford, doing a freight business. Later it went between Dixon and Oregon, doing the same sort of business. Lastly, the machinery was taken out after it was run on an eddy, and the hull was used for a ferry boat. When its useful life was over it was pulled up on the bank between Dixon and Oregon and left to rot. Some remains are still there.
J.H. Davey, who tells the story of the boat, brings to light the trafficking in wheat between Oregon and Rockford, that used to form an important factor in river business when this steamer was in existence. It carried away many loads of wheat from Oregon to this city where the grain was ground. [Rockford Daily Republic (Rockford, IL), 7/26/1905, page 1 & 2]
[Although this newspaper article is dated 1929, it refers to a letter dated 1860 and therefore pertains to the Steamer "Rockford" built in 1859.]
Ed. J. Thompson, Rockford man, who does business for Isler-Tompsett Lithographing Co. from 168 N. Michigan blvd., Chicago, is owner of a letter written Feb. 29, 1860, by a group of Ogle county pioneers at Oregon, to James B. Skinner, who had a shipping interest in the Steamboat Rockford. These early Ogle county business men beg Manufacturer Skinner to induce Capt. Hill to remain master of the Good Ship Rockford. The letter which follows recalls the commercial grandeur of Rock river when it was a passenger and freight lane for this part of the world:
J.B.Skinner, Esq., Rockford, Ill.,
Dear sir: We were happy to see the Rockford again last evening. As by the boat is the only way to forward anything to your city at present. But we regret to hear that Capt. Hill is not going to remain on the Rockford as master of her.
From the fact that Capt. Hill is well acquainted with the farmers and has managed their sales so well that they will ship by him, rather than by anyone else. As he has often got a better price for grain than the owner could. All who have had anything to do with him have entire confidence in him, either to sell or buy for them, and we think if he can be induced to run the boat it will be to our interest as well as yours. Respectfully, four obedient servants,
E.P. Sexton - James V. Gale - Daniel Etnyre - Phillip R. Bennett - W.F. Stewart - C.H. Stone - C.R. Potter - C.H. Palmer - J.W. Snowden - Light & Schultz, apothecaries - Michael Nohe
THE MEN named here were grain men and store keepers of the Ogle county seat.
Philip R. Bennett was grandfather of former mayor, W.W. Bennett, and sat opposite John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet, in the house of representatives of Massachusettes and was also brigadier-general of Massachusetts troops that escorted Gen. Lafayette on his second visit to America and Boston.
James B. Skinner was one of the early manufacturers of farm implements in Rockford, one of the most substantial citizens of his day. His home in those days was at the north end of the block now containing the Palace theater. The late Mrs A.C. Gray and Mrs. C.F. Henry were his daughters.
Who reading these paragraphs remember the Steamboat Rockford? [Rockford Republic (Rockford, IL), 4/16/1929, page 1]
(This article while dated 1932 refers to a 1857 article pertaining to the Steamer "Rockford".)
EXCURSION TO ROCKTON
Navigation between Rockford and Rockton was established on June 12, 1857, and the Register of June 13, had this story:
"The steamer Rockford made her first excursion to Rockton yesterday, having on board nearly a hundred excursionists, including many of our prominent citizens and a goodly portion of those important requisites--the ladies. We had the good fortune to be one of the party. The day was cool amid the strain of the Sax Horn band, who discourse most excellent music during the trip to enliven interest in the occasion. The scenery of our noble river and its beautiful banks covered with the velvet verdure of spring, and studded with magnificent trees just in the brightness of new dress, with the landscape on either hand stretching back to cultivated farms, formed a view a enchanting as it was imposing. Soon after leaving port a pleasing incident occurred in the swimming across the river of a deer, at first supposed to be wild, but which proved to be tame. The primitiveness of the scene was also heightened by observing a boy with a bow and arrows, preparing to give the deer a warm reception. The waving of handkerchiefs and tablecloths from the dwellings along th e way, the cheers of various parties on the shore who had flocked to see the novelty of a steamer on Rock river, formed the chief item of interest in the passage up."
Rockton greeted the excursionists with a salute by the town's cannon. "The fact is now established that Rock river is navigable from Rockford to Rockton", the Register said. [Register-Republic (Rockford, IL), Oct 3, 1932, page 6]
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