Sunday, March 9, 2008

A steamboat arrives in Marianna - 1861


To look at the beautiful and pristine Chipola River today, it is hard to believe that our ancestors considered it an important avenue for commerce and transportation.
Soon after they first began clearing land in Jackson County, however, early settlers started navigating the Chipola with large pole boats and flat-bottomed barges. The Florida Territorial Council required residents of the county to spend a few days each year in helping to clear the river of fallen logs, establish a hope of developing the Chipola that would continue for many years.
A landmark day in the history of Jackson County came on January 27, 1861, when the first steamboat specially built to navigate the Chipola steamed upstream to Marianna and took on cargo from the farmers of the region. The steamboat was the Jackson, built in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1860 and owned by Captain Fry of Apalachicola.
According to an article at the time in the Columbus, Georgia, Enquirer, the Jackson was 100 feet long and a "model of symmetry and beautiful proportion. Her accommodations for passengers, though limited, are of the most comfortable kind – the berths wide and airy, and the passages arranged to secure the best ventilation."
The captain and crew of the boat were treated at a banquet in Marianna and then, on January 30th, the paddlewheeler set off back down the river with a cargo of 274 bales of Jackson County cotton.
The Civil War soon interrupted commerce on the Chipola, however, and the Jackson was used on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers to move troops and supplies for Confederate troops. Steamboat commerce was not reopened on the Chipola until 1867.

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