Julia Belle Swain Photos


JULIA BELLE SWAIN tied up at an island in the Mississippi near Galena, Illinois. Captain John Vaughn took me out in his outboard motor boat so I could take photos of the BELLE from the water.



Attached portrait of young Captain John Vaughn (circa early 1990's) as the wheel of the JULIA BELLE, a close up detail of the pilot wheel (with a brass plate which is difficult to read but I was able to make out the words BARKER BARGE LINE - LOCKPORT, LOUISIANA in this photo).

The wheel had originally been in the pilot house of the lower Mississippi steam ferry CITY OF BATON ROUGE that was built in 1916 and the engines from the ferry were installed in the JULIA BELLE in 1971. The ferry CITY OF BATON ROUGE has served as the wharf boat for Dennis Trone' boats JULIA BELLE SWAIN and TWILIGHT on the Mississippi LeClaire, Iowa.

An article in the Chicago Tribune from 1990 (link to that story below) said that the island west of Galena where Captain Vaughn tied up the JULIA BELLE is called "Mark Twain Island" (!) Don't remember being told when I was there.

May 06, 1990|By Edward Baumann, Special to The Tribune.
A Trip Back To Twain's Day In Comfort, chicagotribune.com

The photo of the JULIA BELLE steaming off into the distance was another picture I took from LeClaire the morning I got back from the JULIA BELLE cruise to Galena.


John Vaughn's distinctive silhouette is recognizable through the pilot house windows.


Took this of the portside stack and running light on the JULIA BELLE SWAIN while she was tied up at an island west of Galena, Illinois.

Have always liked the detail in this image which you seldom see in photos taking in more or all of these steamboats.



Attached files made from two negatives I haven't seen in years that I took of the JULIA BELLE. The full length profile I shot when Captain John Vaughn took me out in the river in his outboard motor boat while the JULIA BELLE was tied up at an island west of Galena after Dennis Trone took the touristas to town in a mechanized barge.

I stayed behind with the jolly good crew . . . you can see a couple of them on the main deck posing. That was a real treat to roam about the boat with no passengers other than myself. The other photo I took early the next morning at LeClaire, Iowa as the Julia Belle began her voyage back up river to Galena again. Wish I had booked that cruise also, could not get enough of traveling that way.



An excellent photo taken of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN for a 1997 feature article about the Upper Mississippi in MIDWEST LIVING magazine. This particular image was not included in the article but is copyrighted 1997 by the magazine's publisher Meredith Corporation.


Square version of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN at La Crosse that I took in Oct 2007, think that was her last season before going into moth balls for some years.

Julia Belle Swain

The Captain of the Julia Belle Swain piloting north of LaCrosse, Wisconsin during a supper cruise I took in Oct. '07. - Dave


Howard Keil kindly shared the attached photo taken aboard the first steamboat to be named JULIA BELLE SWAIN which was originally built as the sidewheeler CHAS. E CESSNA in 1913 in Florida.

The Swain family was involved in her construction and when she got into financial difficulties they repossessed her in 1916, moved her to the Illinois River and renamed her the JULIA BELLE SWAIN.

This original JBS was lost in a fire while she was in winter quarters on the Monongahela in Dec. 1931.

From Howard's messages:

I saw your collection (online) so I thought I'd send this. Leona McMurry was a distant relative—this picture was in with many of pictures from my grandmother Marie Meyer-Keil.

I have somewhat been keeping up with the rebuilding of the new Julia Belle on Facebook—glad she's not deteriorating anymore. I especially like the fact that she's got the old steam power—not like the look-alike type boats.

Howard Keil

Julia Belle Doug Connell from Bridge 29 June 2006 X 2 EXP

Last December, Doug Connell, local historian of La Crosse (which is Ralph Du Pae's hometown and the Murphy Library) kindly shared the attached files of photos he took of the Julia Belle at La Crosse in 2006. I first saw them on Flickr, the online photo resource.

Since Doug advised (below) to put these photos to use, it would be appropriate that they be included in our next museum upgrade.

Know you will reduce them to fit your page format when the time comes.

Link to Doug's book True Tales of La Crosse below.

From: Douglas Connell
To: David Thomson"
Sunday, December 16, 2012

I was happy to hear that you liked those bridge views of the Julia Belle from 2006 and I hope you can put them to use.

True Tales of La Crosse : Unusual Stories from Old Newspapers of La Crosse, Wisconsin
compiled and edited by Douglas Connell (La Crosse, Wis. : D. Connell), 1994

Compiled from old La Crosse newspapers, this popular book brings together over 200 interesting, unusual and bizarre stories from La Crosse's past not deemed suitable for a general history book about the city.

The chapter topics are animal kingdom, children, domestic disasters, fun & games, ghosts, grief & sorrow, naughty folks, odds & ends, transportation, weather.


Six widescreen frame captures of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN as the "RIVER QUEEN" from the 1973 musical film version of TOM SAWYER. The movie was filmed on the Missouri River at Arrow Rock, Missouri. Captain Dennis Trone is at the wheel in the pilot house upper right. In 1971 Cap'n Trone designed and supervised the construction of the JULIA BELLE at the Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works where she had the distinction of being the last boat to be built there.


Don Taylor (director)
Mark Twain (based on his novel)
Robert B. Sherman (screenplay and lyrics)
Richard M. Sherman (music for the songs)
John Williams (musical score)

Starring: Johnny Whitaker (Tom Sawyer)
Celeste Holm (Aunt Polly)
Warren Oates (Muff Potter)
Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn)


I saw the Mormon history film "Joseph Smith" movie in 2005, the first year it was screened at the Legacy Theatre in Nauvoo, Illinois. The JULIA BELLE SWAIN is immediately recognizable as the steamer "MEMPHIS" as it would have been in 1844. The online version on YouTube (link below) is evidently the revised 2011 version of the movie which is quite different than the one that I saw.

Attached one screen capture (top) of the JBS paddling away in the river and below that two photos taken while the JBS was tied up along the shore during a break in filming.



Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration is a 2005 film that focuses on some of the events during the life of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, which was both filmed and distributed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The film was shown in the Legacy Theater of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building from its opening on December 17, 2005 until early 2015, and opened in several LDS Church visitors' centers on December 24, 2005. The film used 65 mm film and is currently being projected digitally. It also took advantage of the new and developing digital intermediate process. In March 2011, the church released a revised cut of the film, which is available to watch in select visitors' centers and online at Youtube. The steamer MEMPHIS circa 1844 was portrayed by the JULIA BELLE SWAIN, filmed on the Upper Mississippi River in 2005.

Visit the Julia Belle Swain Foundation to find out how you can help!


With the exception of images credited to certain institutions,
most of the images on this page are from a private collection.
Please request permission before reproducing our images in any publication.*