The Steamboat Arabia

I received this fascinating story in an email from a friend, I have no idea where it originated

In 1856, the Steamboat Arabia left the banks of Kansas City on a routine supply trip up the Missouri River. Onboard were two hundred tons of precious cargo en route to 16 different towns along the frontier.

Steamboats were common in those days, as they were the best method of traveling up and down America's river systems. These boats were a big business at the time and were absolutely essential for trade and commerce.

Unfortunately for the Steamboat Arabia, a fallen walnut tree was waiting just below the surface of the water, hidden from sight thanks to the glare on the water from the setting sun. The impact instantly tore the hull and the boat sank in minutes. Thankfully, everyone on board was able to swim to safety, except for one poor mule who was tied to the deck and forgotten in the chaos.


The soft river bottom quickly engulfed the boat in mud and silt and in just a few days, it was swept away entirely due to the force of the river. Over time, the river shifted course and for the next 132 years, the Arabia was lost to the world until it was discovered in the 1980s, 45 feet deep underneath a Kansas farm.

Legend of the sunken ship had been passed on through the generations in the area and inspired local Bob Hawley to find it in 1987. He and his sons used old maps and sophisticated equipment to eventually find the boat half a mile away from the present-day river. The farmers who owned the land agreed to let them dig it up - as long as they were done in time for the spring planting season.

All manner of heavy equipment was brought in, including a 100-ton crane. 20,000 gallons of water had to be removed into 65-foot-deep wells.

After two weeks of excavation, the first parts of the boat appeared - the remains of the left paddlewheel and this small black rubber shoe that was lying on the deck.

They also recovered fine china, fully preserved along with its yellow packing straw. It had all been preserved perfectly thanks to the airtight mud.


On November 26, 1988, the full boat was uncovered along with its 200 tons of buried treasure.


With no air to cause spoilage, thousands of items were recovered completely intact. Jars of preserved foods were still totally edible. One brave excavator even tested it out by eating a pickle from one of the jars and found it to still be fresh.


Today, the artifacts are all housed in a museum in Kansas City called the Steamboat Arabia Museum. One of their displays is the fully preserved skeleton of that poor mule.

These jars of preserved fruits are just some of the relics recovered from the Arabia.



Though most of the hats recovered from the Steamboat Arabia were wool felt, this hat is one of a rare few that were made of beaver fur, which is naturally water resistant.

All manner of clothing was found. Much of it could still be worn today.

The ship also had over 4,000 shoes, all packed up and ready for delivery. Some shoes were even lined with buffalo hair for extra warmth.

A keg of ale from 1856.

These bottles of French perfume were still fragrant when they were recovered. Ever wondered what the 1800s smelled like?

Also used to hide 'smells' as people were not quite as hygenic in those days.

Just a few of the 29 different patterns of calico buttons found on the Arabia.

Calico fabric was a type of cotton printed with small, repeating patterns named after its point of origin, Calcutta, India. The fabric was quite popular in England and the Western world and the Steamboat Arabia had several calico dresses that sadly did not survive that much time underwater. The dresses did have porcelain buttons printed in the same patterns as the dresses, however, which shows us what kinds of designs people were wearing back in those times.

A variety of (mostly unidentified) vintage medicines.

Other relics found on the Arabia  

Ossian is the narrator and purported author of a cycle of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson from 1760. Macpherson claimed to have collected word-of-mouth material in Gaelic, said to be from ancient sources, and that the work was his translation of that material. Ossian is based on Oisín, son of Finn or Fionn mac Cumhaill, anglicised to Finn McCool, a legendary bard who is a character in Irish mythology. Contemporary critics were divided in their view of the work's authenticity, but the consensus since is that Macpherson framed the poems himself, based on old folk tales he had collected, and that "Ossian" is, in the words of Thomas Curley, "the most successful literary falsehood in modern history."

Text: Wikpedia

From 1808 to 1825 there was no communication with Albany except by team, and in winter cotton and supplies were hauled from New York at a cost of one dollar per hundred pounds. After the opening of the canal a boat owned by this company transported for years goods to Albany and returned with cotton and supplies. In 1813 Benjamin S. Walcott, jr., in connection with Gen. George Doolittle, whose daughter he married, organized the Whitestown Cotton and Woolen Mill. This company at once occupied the grist mill known as the Buhr Stone Factory, which was in operation until 1878, when it was taken down. In  1839-40 there was erected near this building a mill of stone, now known as Mill No. 3. In 1825 Mr. Walcott still further extended his operations by forming a partnership with Benjamin Marshall, a wealthy merchant of New York, under the style of Marshall & Walcott. In this year another factory was erected which now forms part of the group of the New York Mills. On the first of June, 1839, Mr. Marshall sold to Benjanlin S. and William D. Walcott part of his interest in the middle and upper group of mills, the lower group being owned and operated by them and for about forty five years afterwards by the Oneida Manufacturing Society. On the 1st of January, 1847, Mr. Marshall conveyed his entire remaining interest in the mills and business to Benjamin S. and William D. Walcott. On the same date Benjamin S. Walcott conveyed a part of his interest to his second son, Charles D. Walcott, and at the same time William D. and Charles D. conveyed a part of their interest to Samuel Campbell, the firm at that time consisting of Benjamin S., William D., and Charles D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell. Its style was the New York Mills. Charles Doolittle Walcott was born in Whitestown September 14, 1818. He was placed in charge of the upper mill and thus continued until his death September 15, 1852. On the 1st of May, 1856, Benjamin S. Walcott sold his interest in the upper mill to William D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell and on the same day they formed a new copartnership under the style of Walcott & Campbell, but retaining as the trade mark of their fabrics, the New York Mills. On the 12th day of May, 1856, Benjamin S. Walcott, William D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell, executors under the will of Charles D. Walcott, deceased, conveyed the interest of his estate to William D. Walcott and Samuel Campbell. Benjamin S. Walcott died January 12, 1862, in his seventy-sixth year, leaving a high reputation for business ability and lofty moral principles. 

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