Friday, April 12, 2013

First Steamboats of the Season Arrive in Lewiston

On April 12, 1863, correspondent “Rover” wrote another letter from Lewiston, as he had done on the 7th. A couple days earlier, he had witnessed the arrival of the first steamboats of the season. The newer Kiyuse, the People’s Transportation Company steamer, led its competitor, the Tenino, by a minute or so, although the latter had started out ten hours ahead.

The Tenino belonged to the hated Oregon Steam Navigation Company (OSNC). Rover noted that, “Every one expressed the hope that the People’s Company would be able to successfully compete with that thieving monopoly, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, who robbed the honest miner of so many of his hard-earned dollars last season.”
(Competition did result in more reasonable rates, but only for a year or so. Then the OSNC bought off People’s Transportation, and regained their monopoly.)
Steamer Tenino. Oregon Historical Society.

The commander of the Kiyuse was Captain Leonard White, one of the most famous steamboat men on the Columbia and Snake rivers. He had actually worked for the OSNC, until they dumped him because they thought he was paid too much. White had, in fact, captained the first steamer to ascend the river to what would become Lewiston.

Correspondent Rover wrote, “Capt. White determined to make his boat the pioneer in the navigation of Snake river above this place.”

With Rover aboard, the Kiyuse chugged up the river to near the mouth of the Salmon River. There, White scouted ahead in a canoe. Rover said the captain “Found a very bad rapid a short distance above the mouth of [the] Salmon, which he thought it prudent not to attempt to go over.”

References: “Capt. Leonard White (1827-1870),” The Oregon Encyclopedia, Portland State University (2008-2013).
“Letter from Lewiston, W. T.,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (April 28, 1863).

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