Life on the River in Frontier Days

Here is a selection of books and articles on this website about life on the river and the importance of water transportation during the early days in the Great Lakes States. The last selection is an imaginary modern employee performance review for Mike Fink, the legendary keel-boat man.


Navigation on Great Lakes & Rivers page

Baldwin, Leland D., The Keelboat Age on Western Waters (1941)

Berry, Rev. Chester D. , Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors (1892)

Blair, Walter A., A Raft Pilot’s Log. A History of the Great Rafting Industry on the Upper Mississippi 1840-1915 (1930)

Cochran, William C., “Perils of River Navigation in the Sixties” (1918)

Coleman, Christopher B., “Transportation and Traffic on the Ohio and the Mississippi before the Steamboat” (1920)

Hall, James, The West: Its Commerce and Navigation (1848)

Hodge, William ed., Papers Concerning Early Navigation on the Great Lakes. 1 Recollections of Capt. David Wilkeson. 2. The Pioneer Lake Erie Steamboats, “Walk-in-the-water” and “Superior” (1883)

King, I. F., “Flat Boating on the Ohio River” (1917)

Merrick, George Byron, Old Times on the Upper Mississippi; the Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854 to 1863 (1909)

Newbert, Millard, “History of Steam Boats of Fox River Valley” (1930)

Palmer, Mary A. Witherell, “The Steamer Walk-in-the-Water” (1881)

Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


Indiana Economic History page

Covington, Samuel T. , “Pioneer Transportation on the Ohio River” (1908)

Daniels, Wylie J., The Village at the End of the Road, a Chapter in Early Indiana Railroad History (1938) (This is not about waterways. It is a collection of newspaper articles from Indiana’s early days about the difficulties of traveling on land.)

Harlow, Alvin F. Indiana’s Canal Heritage (1926)

Indiana Historical Bureau, “Canal Mania in Indiana” (1997)


Great Lakes Explorers & Travelers page

Bishop, Nathaniel H., Four Months in a Sneak-Box: A Boat Voyage of 2600 Miles Down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and Along the Gulf of Mexico (1879)


Great Lakes Social History page

Thorpe, Thomas Bangs, The Hive of “The Bee Hunter”, a Repository of Sketches, including peculiar American Character, Scenery, and Rural Sports (1854) (See the chapters on the Mississippi River and the one on Mike Fink, the Keel-Boatman.)


Website: Performance Review for Mike Fink


Your comments and feedback are welcome!