Maysville Kentucky Blog

The Maysville Kentucky Blog is your guide to the beautiful and historic small town of Maysville Kentucky, snuggled into the rolling hills along the Ohio River. Though this blog has been discontinued, you can get your Maysville Kentucky fix over at Ken Downing's Mason County Kentucky Blog @

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Simon Kenton's Flatboat Faced Many Hardships

Edna Kenton wrote in her book Simon Kenton, His Life and Period, 1755-1836 (first published in 1930) of the hardships Simon Kenton's party faced as they traveled by flatboat from Pennsylvania to Limestone, Kentucky (today Maysville), in the chilly October of 1783.

According to her book, the party consisted of 41 people, 19 horses, a cat, and sundry supplies. All of this fit onto one a flatboat that was "...much larger than the usual thirty or forty-foot one." The flatboat was a regular Noah's Ark. It even had a small roofed cabin complete with a fireplace and stock pens. When they'd stop to collect firewood, Simon Kenton and the others would hunt to replenish food supplies. At one point they even returned with a bear.

Robert Reid, in his book Always a river: the Ohio River and the American Experience, explained why they traveled in October, despite the cold weather:

"Despite [George Washington's] optimism about the convenience of navigation, the natural Ohio was an imperfect highway on several counts. Over its 981 miles, the river dropped only 430 feet, an average of less than six inches a mile. In low water, it was so shallow in places that a child could wade across. It remained low in the dry months of summer and in winter before the snow melt, rising high enough for ready passage only in the rainy months of spring and fall. On his way down the Ohio to rendezvous with William Clark in 1803, Meriwether Lewis had to pay local draymen two dollars to haul his boat over riffles- an exorbitant fee, he complained- and at gravel bars his men often had to climb out and shovel a passage, until the languid current swept a channel clear. Even in high water, sunken trees, rocks, sand bars, and the wrecks of earlier boats made travel hazardous. Drift ice was a problem most winters, and about once in every ten years the river froze solid."
Source (Thanks to Ken Downing for the lead)


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