Steamboat Snag Boats, Page 1



Elevation drawings of snag boat General S.M. Mansfield 1904

Dimensions within drawn rectangle: 14 1/4 X 17 3/4 inches

"Improvement of Trinity River, Texas
Plan and Section of Sternwheel Snag-Boat

Drawn under the Direction of Edgar Jadwin
Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Scale 1/8" = 1'

Chas. Schuster, Supt D.A. Watt Asst Eng'r

March 1 ~ 1904

Forwarded to the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army with report for fiscal yeard ending June 30 -1905 Edgar Jadwin - Captain, Corps of Eng'rs, U.S. Army"




Snagboat DAVID TIPTON circa 1904 - 1923 hard at work

Sidewheel Snagboat
Way's Packet Directory Number 1471

Built at Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1900 by Howard Ship Yards, under the name Col. A. MACKENZIE; renamed DAVID TIPTON circa 1904

Owned by the U.S. Engineering Department

Her skipper, Captain David Tipton, died at the wheel of the MACKENZIE on Lake Pepin, near Reads Landing, Minnesota September 22, 1904 and the boat was renamed in his honor. The U.S. Engineers operated her on the upper Mississippi River until 1920. Captain Frank Martin was her last master. She was sold at public sale conducted at Rock Island, Illinois, to Meyer Katz, St. Louis, and John F. Klein, Pittsburgh. In late 1923 she was sold to two Memphis, Tennessee railroad men, named Peel and Bachelor; who renamed her URSIE BOYCE. She was converted to a packet and put in the Memphis-White River trade and later became the CITY OF CAIRO.

Percy Ruby pilot, circa 1912
Levi King, Jr. chief engineer, 1916
Charles De Lisle pilot, March 1917


U.S. Corps of Engineers snagboat C.B. REESE circa 1939

Another new/old 8 x 10 print that arrived today, the 2nd of February 2017. On the back it is rubber stamped Memphis Tennessee COMMERCIAL APPEAL and the date written in pencil is April 23, 1939, 3 years prior to the REESE being sold and her hull recycled to built the towboat I.A. O'SHAUGNESSY.

The photo was taken at a tilted angle and the cropping on the east & west was very close to the bow and stern of the REESE. I plumbed up the photo during scanning then expanded sky, shore line and water in the river on the left and right sides to give the boat breathing room then cropped in above and below to give the picture a wider aperture. All original images are scanned at a high resolution to enable restoration then upon completion they are reduced for display here.

Sternwheel Snagboat

Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number T0310

Built in Carondelet, Missouri in 1879. Assigned to the United States Corps of Engineers, Memphis District (1879); later assigned to Corps in Little Rock District; Globe Oil and Refining Company (1942)

1906: Captain W.J. Ashford (commander), Captain Rees V. Downs (pilot)
1929: Captain Alex Ramsey (master)

Worked on the Arkansas and White rivers.

In 1906 the C.B. REESE went up the Arkansas River to clear away wrecks of boats destroyed by Confederates in the Civil War. Most wrecks were about 65 miles south of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The loot included many cannon and a fair cargo of brass and copper. A whistle, made from brass, was later put on the C.B. REESE and stayed with her until her end. The boat wrecks removed were largely old packets, including the CEDAR RAPIDS, BRACELET, DISPATCH, ONLY CHANCE and BIG HORN.The C.B. REESE was working in the upper White River in 1927 and because of the failure of a railroad bridge at Georgetown, was forced to stay there two years, she got back out in March, 1929. In 1942 she was sold and taken to Slidell, Louisiana where her hull was used to build the towboat I.A. O'SHAUGNESSY.

recent acquisitions

A scan of my favorite from a group of press photos taken on Lake Washington east of Seattle in 1970.

The camera angle, the beautiful sky & water, the perfect contrast and focus showcased the snag boat W.T. PRESTON beautifully.

While visiting Anacortes, Washington in October 2006, I was not aware that the Preston was retired there and only a short distance from an antique store . . . After leaving Anacortes (which I erroneously assumed was named after a lady named "Anna Cortez" I was not able to return. Maybe someday I'll get back up there and see the boat.

Below is an edited-down version of an online article on the Anacortes Museum & Maritime Heritage Center website:

The snagboat W.T. PRESTON was built in 1929 and retired in 1981, the last sternwheeler to work in Puget Sound.

Her crew aboard the PRESTON removed navigational hazards from the bays and harbors of the Sound and from its tributary rivers.

The W.T. PRESTON was named in honor of a distinguished civilian engineer who worked for the Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.

The PRESTON operated as far north as Blaine and south to Olympia and Shelton. She worked 11 months out of the year, retrieving thousands of snags, piles, floats and other debris, including a damaged airplane, fish boats, derelict scows, and houseboats. In addition to her snagging chores, she was used as a pile driver and icebreaker, and dredged about 3500 cubic yards of material in an average year.

By the 1960s recreational boating increased on Puget Sound, necessitating more maintenance of these wider waters. In these circumstances, the W.T. PRESTON as a shallow-draft river vessel found itself vulnerable. One noted storm with a prevailing 40-knot wind blew the boat sideways during a hair-raising passage to Port Townsend.

The PRESTON continued to run until the costs to operate and maintain the snagboat became prohibitive.

The W.T. PRESTON was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1979. In 1981, the Corps retired her from duty and solicited proposals to preserve the snagboat.

Impressed with the plan offered by the city of Anacortes, Washington the Corps transferred title to Anacortes in March 1983. The city allocated $40,000 to prepare a waterfront site for the PRESTON beside its old Burlington Northern Railroad Depot.

After being towed to Anacortes, the PRESTON was taken out of the water and on June 22, 1983, hauled overland to her new resting site. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
W.T. Preston Steamboat Full Video Tour in Anacortes, WA


Pilot house of the U.S.S. MANDAN circa 1891 - 1925

The sternwheel snagboat MANDAN was built with an iron hull at St. Louis in 1891
for service on the Missouri River. She made a trip to Fort Benton, Montana, in 1921.
Dismantled at the U.S. boatyard, Gasconade, Mo., after 1925.

In this photo of 3 men in suits may have been company executives who came up the Missouri with the boat on an inspection tour and to take turns at the pilot wheel in order to have photos of themselves posing as Captains.


Sternwheel snagboat MANDAN
Taken at Wolf Point, Montana in 1918
Written in pen and ink on the back of the card:

"This is the government snag/dredge boat that goes from St. Louis, MO to Fort Benton, Montana once a year. It starts out in the from St. Louis and gets back just before it freezes up. It is swell inside. They always stop here and coal up both ways. We have been all through it a couple of times."

recent acquisitions

Pilot house interior of the snagboat Horatio G. Wright featuring huge and impressive pilot wheel, what a Jim Dandy! The Wright was built 1880 at Carondolet, MO by Western Iron Boat Co. for the U.S. Engineers. It was dismantled in 1941. The man at the wheel is unidentified.

Horace Bixby spent the last years of his long career on the river as a pilot at the wheel of the Horatio G. Wright. Bixby was the pilot who "learned the river" to young Sam Clemens from 1857 until 1859 when Sam was awarded his Pilot's License.


COLUMBIA Sternwheel snagboat 1894—1917

Fred Way's Steam Towboat Directory
Originally the COLONEL HOOKER built in 1877 at Gainesville, Mississippi.
Purchased in 1888 at Shreveport, Louisiana by U.S. Engineers Dep't and renamed again in 1894 following a rebuilding with a new hull at Jeffersonville, Indiana. 116 x 24 x 3. Rebuilt again in 1900 at Madisonville, Louisiana, then measuring 121 x 26 x 3.3. Was at Vicksburg District through 1917.


Atmospheric river city landing with the Lee Line steamer LADY LEE center and the snagboat HORATIO G. WRIGHT on the right.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*

All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.