Riverboats of Capt. Joseph LaBarge
Submitted by Matt Rowley

This list is derived from Way's Packet Directory - 1848-1994. The numbers listed are the reference numbers. I have also divided it up into boats owned versus boats chartered. The name is spelled two different ways; as one word (LaBarge) and as two words (La Barge), throughout the book so I have copied it directly the way I found it in each article.

SW = Side wheel, Stw = Stern wheel, p = packet, wh = wood hull b. = built


0570 Ben Johnson
SW p wh b. Metropolis, Il (hull), and completed at St. Louis, 1866. Chartered in 1866 , took a US peace commission to Fort Sully to treat with the Sioux. Burned in the steamboat fire at St. Louis, Mar 29, 1869. Seven boats burned that night: Ben Johnson, Henry Adkins, Carrie V. Kountz, G.B. Allen, Only Chance, Fanny Scott, Jenny Lewis

3983 Missouri
Stw p wh b. Reeds Landing, Minn, 1880. Originally named Minnie H. which went to the Missouri River. She became a U.S. Army survey boat renamed Missouri. In 1885 left Fort Benton, Capt Joe La Barge on July 20, for an extended survey of the river. Later in the Power (Block P) Line. Hit a rock at Blue Blanket Island, ND, Oct 4, 1889, and was lost.

4776 Robert Campbell, Jr.
SW p wh b. Jeffersonville, Ind, 1860. Ran St. Louis to New Orleans for Capt Robert Shaw. In the summer of 1863 Capt Joe LaBarge loaded her out for Fort Benton, Mont. but had to turn back at the Yellowstone River due to low water. Caught fire in Milliken's Bend on Sept 28, 1863

5102 Shreveport
SW p wh b. Louisville, KY, 1860 ....During her career she made a trip from St. Louis to Fort Benton and return, under charter to Capt Joseph LaBarge who also had the Emilie under charter (earlier in the book it says that the Emilie was owned by and named for the daughter of Capt Joseph LaBarge - MR). Both boats arrived at the fort June 17, noon, 1862, with Capt John LaBarge in charge of Shreveport. Off the lists in 1871.


De Smet - 14 KByte JPEG Image
The De Smet

1514 De Smet
SW p wh b. Mound City, IL, 1872. Built and ran by Capt Joseph LaBarge. This was the boat that the Capt was on when he was arrested for selling alcohol to the indians (mentioned in Chittenden's book). The De Smet was sold to the Eagle Packet Co. in 1874. Burned June 12, 1886, opposite Newport, AR. A detailed account of this boat appeared in the Waterways Journal, issue of Dec. 13, 1942.

1731 Effie Deans
Stw p wh b. Madison, IN, 1863. Owned in 1865 by the Keokuk Packet Co. 1/2, and Capt Joseph LaBarge, John LaBarge and others. Named for Sir Walter Scott's character Effie Deans in his "Heart of Mid-Lothian". The Capt commanded her on trips to New Orleans and up the Missouri to Fort Benton. She was burned and lost at St. Louis on Apr. 7, 1866.

1803 Emilie
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO, 1859. Owned and commanded by the Capt and named for his daughter. The first side-wheeler seen at Fort Benton, arriving there June 17, 1862, making the round trip in 32 days. Sold to the Hannibal & St. Joseph RR and lost in a tornado at St. Joseph on June 4, 1868. She was completely stripped to the hull and the wreck towed to Atchinson, Kansas.

1804 Emilie La Barge
SW p wh b. Mound City, IL, 1869. Built by Capt Joseph LaBarge, and others for Missouri River. Sold at St. Louis Apr 12 1871. Snagged and lost in Nashville Bend, 8 miles below Providence, MO, June 6, 1874.

2636 Highland Mary
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO 1848. Bought by the Capt in 1852, he ran her on the lower Mississippi the entire season 1853. Lost in ice at St. Louis, Feb 26, 1856.

3091 John M. Chambers
Stw p wh b. Mound City, IL (hull) and completed at St. Louis, 1875. Built for Capt Joe La Barge and others. Made one trip, at least, to Fort Benton. Badly burned at St. Louis Feb 1876. Sold to Capt L.T. Belt of New Orleans-Bayou Teche trade. Struck a snag July 1884 and burned as she sank.

3210 Kansas
SW p wh b. St. Louis, Mo, 1847. Ownership not mentioned but since it was built in St. Louis it can be assumed that it was built for the Capt. Ran on the Missouri River. Capt Joe La Barge brought a Kentucky delegation aboard to Marthasville, MO, when the remains of Daniel Boone were to be removed from there to Frankfort, KY. Snagged and lost in Kansas Bend, above Linden Landing, Brownsville, NE, Apr 25, 1853.

3770 Martha
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO, 1847. Built for Capt Joseph La Barge and others. Made a trip up the Missouri first season and La Barge took his wife along (Pelagie) who is reputed to be the first white woman in the Dacotah Territory. Burned in the steamboat fire at St. Louis, May 17, 1849.

4267 Octavia
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO, 1866. Capt Joe La Barge her in the south first fall and winter, returned her to St. Louis and departed May 7, 1867, for Fort Benton. On this trip to the mountains the boat cleared him a reputed $45,000. In the fall of 1868 the boat was sold to the U.S. Her demise is not mentioned. The Capt had a daughter, Octavia, and perhaps this boat was named for her.

4910 St. Ange
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO, 1849. Unique in that she was built on the ways complete, ready to go. Capt Joseph La Barge made trips St. Louis to Fort Union on the Missouri annually until 1853 for the American Fur Co. In 1850 she made the trip in 28 days, considered a record. In 1851 went up to the mouth of the Poplar River, first steamboat there. Named for St. Ange de Bellerive, first French military governor of upper Louisiana. Father De Smet was aboard in 1851 when cholera broke out aboard. Lost in ice at St. Louis, Feb 2 1854.

4955 St. Mary
SW p wh b. St. Louis, MO, 1855. Capt Joe La Barge piloted her up the Missouri River 1855 and that winter had her on the lower Mississippi. Bound up the Missouri, the Sioux City EAGLE noted on June 4, 1856: "We venture the assertion that the Railroad Packet ST. MARY left for Omaha Saturday night with the largest passenger list ever before crowded on any steamer on the Western Waters. She had 900 passengers aboard, 735 of whom were Mormons on the lower deck. But very few of the Mormons took cabin passage, probably less than 50, but the decks were one living mass of humanity. What a fearful responsibility rested on the pilot and the engineer! Just think! Nine hundred souls entrusted to their care." In August 1856 she returned to St. Louis with "22,000 buffalo robes, two ponies, two grizzly bears, two buffalo calves, and some strange looking birds." Enroute form St. Joseph to Omaha she was snagged and sunk at Hemmes Landing, Sept 4, 1859, broke in two and was lost. Capt Mot Morrison was master.

5140 Sonora
SW p wh b. St. Louis, 1851. Ran St. Louis-Missouri River, Capt Jos. LaBarge. She sank and was lost in ice at Portland, MO, on Missouri River, Feb 26, 1856. Machinery and brass were taken out in 1916 and the wreck was still visible during the low water of 1927. In March 1940 the US dredge Keokuk removed the wreck, and her crew reported finding steam pipes joined with hand-wiped lead, and her pumps were faced with leather.

5167 Spread Eagle
SW p wh b. Brownsville, PA, 1857. Built by Capt Ben Johnson who sold her on arrival at St. Louis to Capt Jos. LaBarge and the American Fur Co. Spent her career on the Missouri River. Sank and lost in Pinckney Bend, three miles above New Haven, MO, March 20, 1864. The location was know thereafter as Spread Eagle Bend. Capt William Rodney Massie, who went to the mountains on her in 1861, said years later that her wreck lies buried in sand a mile from the river.

5692 War Eagle
SW p wh b. Cincinnati, OH, 1858. Built by H.L. White and others. A dispatch from St. Louis dated Apr 2, 1867: "Thornburg sold the WAR EAGLE to Joseph and John B. LaBarge for $20,000..." Burned at St. Louis, Aug 24, 1869.


4993 Saluda (This was not one of the Capt's boats in any way but is an interesting story none the less and does involve his brother, Charles S. LaBarge.)

SW p wh b. St Louis, MO, 1846. Started for Council Bluffs with Mormon emigrants and upon arrival at Lexington, MO, Apr 9, 1852, her boilers exploded, killing 27. The children of some of the victims were adopted by residents of Lexington and grew up to be respected citizens. Capt Francis T. Belt was master. Charles S. LaBarge was pilot, and was killed, brother of Capt Joseph LaBarge. The roof bell went to the Christian Church, Savannah, MO, The Machapella Cemetery, Lexington, still contains graves of at least 25 victims.


Way, Fredrick Jr. Way's Packet Directory, 1848-1994. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.

Chittenden, Hiram Martin. History of Early Steamboat Navigation on the Missouri River: Life and Adventures of Joseph LaBarge. Ross & Haines, 1962.

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