My first real vacation, many years ago, was a six day trip on the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Natchez and back, on board the steamboat Delta Queen. I could go on for many paragraphs about what a delightful trip it was, but suffice it to say that after five nights of sleeping in my bunk, and listening to the steam engine thumping away, sounding for-all-the world like a heart beat; I know why Mark Twain loved steamboat'n so much.
Did you know Dallas has a bit of steamboat history? It had been long thought that the Trinity River could be made navigable, and it was to a certain extent, so back in the early 1890s some enterprising Dallas businessmen got the bright idea of buying a small steamboat to carry goods between Dallas and Houston. The boat was named the H. A. Harvey Jr., but the river was full of snags and sandbars and a round trip took weeks, so when the north, south railroad came to town the little Harvey was sold and forgotten. All that is left are a few old photos and a hand full of documents and that is too bad because for a while, in the late 1800s, that little boat was a big deal here in Dallas.
Here are a few photographs to show what I mean.
The next time you are down at the Old Red Courthouse, take a moment, and walk out to the intersection of Commerce and Houston Streets and look toward Fort Worth. The Trinity River used to run at the bottom of what is now Dealey Plaza, until it was moved back in the 1930s. Commerce Street crossed over the river at that point by way of a long stone and iron bridge. Beneath that bridge was the dock for the Harvey. When the steamboat came to town folks would rush out on the bridge to watch. If you look closely in the upper right hand section of the photograph you will see the Old Red Courthouse.
Apparently, merchandise was not the only thing carried on the H. A. Harvey Jr., in
one photo we find a happy group of young people having a picnic party. All dressed up in their heavy, long dresses and tall starched collars. Where better to stir up a breeze, and maybe a romance, on a warm Dallas afternoon than on the deck of a riverboat zipping along at maybe five miles per hour.
Finally, if you will take a close look at the full length photograph, at the top of this newsletter, of the Harvey you will notice that she seems a little beat up. I think this is a testament of how hard her life fighting the river must have been, because she was not in service that many years. I do not know where this shot was taken, probably some where near downtown, but look at how narrow and shallow the river was at that point.
With all the plans being made for the new Trinity River Corridor Project I think some 21st century businessman should consider launching a new H.A. Harvey Jr., it would still be a great place to catch a breeze on a warm Dallas afternoon and the view of downtown at night would be spectacular!