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George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

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The Stanislaus Navigation Company

In 1868 a number of citizens of Stanislaus County incorporated and formed what
was known as the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Navigation Company. Their capital stock
was $7,000, with shares at seventy dollars each. The directors for the first year
were John W. Laird, Henry Covert, F. Meinecke and Henry James. The company
was formed for the purpose of running a steamer between Tuolumne City and Grayson,
carrying both freight and passengers. They made a contract with Stephen Davis, a
shipbuilder at Stockton, and he built them the steamer Tuolumne City at a cost com-
plete of $9,000. The steamer was ninety feet in length, twenty-nine feet in breadth
and four feet deep. Her engine was made at the Globe Iron Works in the same city.

Clearing the River Stanislaus
All of these rivers were very dangerous to navigation. Through the floods of
ages past the river bottoms were filled with snags, the limbs of old trees deep buried



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 83

in the shifting sands, with sharp projecting points, and the low branches of trees liable
at any time to carry a steamer's smokestack, so the pilot had to be on his guard
at all times. To remedy this evil the Legislature, in April, 1868, authorized the
formation of a company "for the purpose of clearing the Stanislaus River of overhead
trees, snags from the stream, and purchasing a boat for the trade." They were also
authorized to collect such tolls as were permitted by the supervisors. The company
began work at Burneyville and cleared the Stanislaus of all obstructions to its mouth.
Having completed their work, in May, 1869, they invited the supervisors, Caleb Dorsey,
T. T. Hamlin and Henry G. James, to meet them at Stockton and sail up the river
to inspect the work. Only one supervisor appeared, Col. Caleb Dorsey. With him
as their guest the company left Stockton at nine o'clock, May 1, and that night they
tied up at Taylor's Ferry. The following day the steamers touched at Gibson's landing,
Henderson's Store, Murphy's and Bailey's Ferry, Cady's Rancho and on arrival at
Burneyville they were welcomed by a large crowd of citizens.

Terminal River Points

The first steamer to run up J:he Stanislaus River as far as Burneyville, now called
Burney, was the Clara Crow, transporting from that point forty tons of grain. The
following year she ran up as far as Dallas ranch, now called Hickman, and obtained a
cargo of wheat. The little boat of forty-five tons register was built by J. W. Crow
and J. W. Smith, his brother-in-law, the Crow family being among the earliest settlers.
In May, 1868, the steamer Fresno, then under command of Joseph Ward, ran up the
Tuolumne River as far as the J. D. Morley Ferry, twenty-five miles above Paradise
City. This was the highest point ever reached on that river, and this was only accom-
plished during the highest tides. The largest steamer ever running up the Tuolumne
River was the Empire City, 125 tons, running as far up as Paradise. This steamer
has the credit of making the run from Paradise to Stockton in seven hours. She was
transporting at this time 150 sacks of grain, and was towing a barge containing 1,220
sacks of wool weighing 336,000 pounds. It was the most valuable cargo ever brought
down the river in a single trip, February, 1869. At this time, 1893, the merchants of
Fresno were trying to reduce their freight bills by shipping by steamer instead of by
rail, the scribe saying, "It is the intention of the Fresno merchants to save freight
charges by shipping it by river as far as possible and freight it to the Raisin City."
With this object in view the Empire City took on board at Stockton for Fresno and
ran up the San Joaquin as far as Firebaugh's Ferry. This steamer was running up the
Tuolumne River as late as 1893, and in March of that year she landed 200 tons of
cast-iron pipe at Modesto for the new waterworks. It was the first steamer to go up
the river as far as Modesto since 1869. On April 1 of the same year she again ap-
peared at the town, landing with a load of freight. The largest steamer up any of
the rivers was the 400-ton steamer Centennial, built in 1876, Simon Newman, then
of Hill's Ferry, was one of the largest stockholders. She made her trial trip up the
San Joaquin River and s"eaming up as far as Hill's Ferry took on a load of 6,000
sacks of wheat.

The Shoaling Waters

The up-river navigation usually commenced in January and ended in August or
September. Gradually the wate* of the rivers would shoal and by the end of September
it would be impossible to ascend the streams and bring down any profitable loads.
The highest waters usually were during June, July and August. Then there would
be a rush of business, all of the farmers would have their wheat harvested and begin
hauling it to the points of embarkation. Along this line the editor of the News wrote in
September, 1868, "Nearly 3,000 tons of vheat is stacked up along the river banks above
Tuolumne City awaiting shipment from different points to market. If the water falls
rapidly much of it will have to be stored in the warehouse until next year." The fol-
lowing year the same paper stated, July 4, "The streets of our little town are perfectly
jammed with wagons and teams hauling grain for shipment. Much of this rush is due
to navigation being discontinued above this point, which compels the farmers to ship
from Paradise City. Steamers as large as



Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 11 of 177)