steamboat adventures goodhue



James Goodhue (1810-1852) established the first newspaper in Minnesota. He was the editor of the Minnesota Pioneer in St. Paul and a great publicist of the Minnesota Valley. He published accounts of four exploratory steamboat excursions in 1850. About the journeys, he said: "We went into this work, not as some did, for the pleasure of it, but as a necessary … preliminary to obtaining an appropriate from Congress, for the negotiation of the Sioux treaties."

James Goodhue's account in the Minnesota Pioneer, 1850

The frist trip: Never was a lighter hearted band of adventurers propelled by steam than the gay multitude thronging in the cabin and decks of the Anthony Wayne, as she turned her bow into the mouth of the Saint Peter [Minnesota] River, to explore that rich valley in the Southwest, along which the covetous eye of the white man has long gazed with prying curiosity …

The delightful weather, the stirring music of the band, the majestic scenery, everything, conspired to exhilarate - to say nothing of the iced brandy. The current of the river seemed sluggish, winding along through a vast alluvial intervale, like a silver eel. Uniformly about 150 feet wide, without a snag, a sawyer, a rock, a riffle, or an indenture in either bank, the river really seemed more like a work of art, a ship canal, constructed by the labor of wealth of a great state, than like a natural stream of water, draining an immense area of fertile lands …

Each shore was a fresh, perpendicular, crumbling bank of alluvion, being more elevated than the grounds more remote from the river, which … were so much depressed as to form lagoons, filled with water and tall grass, the home of numberless waterfowl; while still more remote from the river, the land rose by a gradual ascent and spread away in the rich luxuriance of a waving inclined plain, its sides crowned with small clustering groves, and a few trees scattered over the whole expanse, upon the east side of the river; while upon the west side, the same description of intervale was walled in at a distance from the river of about one mile, or often less, by a high, steep, grass-covered bluff. So crooked was the river, that we seemed all the time to be just at the end of it; but the pilot, a labyrinth of interminable twistings, apparently confident that wherever he could direct the bow of the boat, he could sweep her stern gracefully around and bring up the rear without conflicting with the bank of the river.

Source: Jones, Evan (1962) The Minnesota: Forgotten River. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York.

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