Boeuf River Steamboat Days

Boeuf River

Boeuf River Steamboat Days, in “By the Boeuf with Beth,” ca., 1963

The Richland Beacon-News,. Rayville, Louisiana
09 Feb 1963, Sat  •  Page 4

BY THE BOEUF WITH BETH – Boeuf River steamboat days were happy days. I can tell by the twinkle in Doctor Jordan’s eye as he relates about the Era 10, the steamboat with the most beautiful whistle he’d ever heard. Some weeks he said, as many as three steamboats came up Boeuf River. Besides the Era 10, there was the Tom Parker, the Saline and the Stella Black.

The City of Alto and Parlor City (a nickname for Monroe) are also known to have made the Boeuf River run. For many years the river was the “Mainstream” of life in Boeuf River Country and up to Prairie Mer Rouge. Can’t you imagine the excitement of the people when the shrill whistle of a steamboat Pierced the tranquil wilderness?

All who could, probably went hurrying and scurrying headed for the boat landing. For the children, the whistle meant candy, a banana or maybe a steamboat ride around the bend to the next landing. For the farmer, it meant shipping his cotton crop and getting more seeds and supplies. For the young lady “here was the thrill and suspense -f getting a letter from her beau. To Mr. George Purvis down Nelson Bend’s way, it meant getting timber already cut and notched down in New Orleans and shipped by steamboat up to his place on Boeuf River. His daughter, Mrs. S.W.B. Colvin, affectionately known as “Miss Tot”, has related the story with the construction of the two front rooms of her home.

The house was built in 1879, while I’ve been under the impression that the pre-fab houses of today are a 20th-century innovation. In a history of Franklin Parish, written by Elizabeth Womble in 1922, I found an interesting Boeuf River account of the small craft, the keelboats that ran on the river.

Small craft called keelboats ran in the rivers at low stages. Keelboats are about six feet wide, twenty-five or thirty feet long and have an open top.

A 2-inch plank was arranged for a walk on top of each side of the boat for men to walk on with a ten-foot pole in their hands. Two or three men on each side of the boat with a pole in his hand drop one end to the ground and push the pole and walk the plank to the end of the boat then trot back to the front end or bow of the boat and start again. In this way, the boat vas shoved up and down the stream.

In deep places where the bottom of the river could not be reached with poles, oars were used. Tn this way traffic was carried on. Canvas was used to protect the goods from the weather. Tallow and sperm candles and grease lamps were used for light.” Ferries were operated at the road junctions and charged “two-bits for horse and rider, a dime for “foot passengers, and 12 cents a wheel for wagons and carriages…”

The Richland Beacon-News,. Rayville, Louisiana
09 Feb 1963, Sat  •  Page 4

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