The Hattie Brown
Few Folks there be in this river town
Who do not remember the Hattie Brown
Whose heart ne'er leaped with joy no end,
When she came whistling, round the bend?
Of all the steamboats running between Louisville and Cincinnati, from the gay 90's to the 1920's, none was more loved by both young and old, than the little steamer Hattie Brown that for many years plied between Warsaw, Ky., and Madison, Ind.
The Hattie Brown was built and owned by the Brown family of Hartford, W. Va., and began her career as a packet plying between Maysville and Augusta, Ky. until the C & O Railroad was completed in that area, then she was purchased by the Louisville and Cincinnati Packet Co, and put in the trade between Warsaw and Madison.
She left the wharf at Warsaw at 6:00 a.m. and arrived at Vevay and Ghent at 7:00 a.m. She reached Madison at 10 a.m. and would leave there at 2:00 p.m., giving her passengers four hours in which to shop, have a good dinner, meet friends and relatives arriving on the train and see the sights of Madison.
The career of the Hattie Brown noted only one thrilling experience in her log book: that was the disaster which came near being a tragedy, and which ended the days of this trim little craft in the old trade.
It was before the locks, which covered the sandbars with water, were built. It happened on that section of the river between Carrollton and Craig's bar, where, in windy weather, the river gets pretty rough.
In midstream the waves were high and angry, so that Hattie was hugging the shore. Suddenly, a gust of wind struck her and drive her sideways toward the trees, that, when the river is high, stand in the water.
The pilot lost control of the craft and she crashed into a large tree. The stage swung overboard and the smoke stacks crashed down on the hurricane deck. Some of her log chains broke and let the wheel drop into the water. The passengers were screaming and running from the cabin, but the crew managed to quiet them when they found that the boar was not sinking.
She drifted downstream for perhaps a quarter of a mile and was again blown against the shore where the crew managed to get her tied to a tree. There she spent the night. Next morning, when the steamer Kentucky passed, the Hattie Brown's officers hailed here, but like the self righteous Pharisee, the Kentucky went on her way.
Some of the crew finally got to shore and walked to Ghent where they telephoned to Commodore Frederick A. Laidley, of Covington, president of the Louisville and Cincinnati Packet Co., and he had Captain Meeks of the Reba Reeves come and tow the Hattie into the Kentucky River. Sometime later her machinery was removed and installed in a new boat called the Vim.
But the public never took to the Vim, even though she had the Hattie's beloved whistle; and they never forgave Commodore Laidley for not naming her the Hattie Brown II.
The career of this little packet came to an end in the ice gorge of 1917-18. She was laid up in the Licking River at Covington when the ice swept her away. She passed Markland, Ind., when the ice gorge broke at Sugar Creek and hit the rocks on the bank just below that town. For years thereafter, her hull could be seen, when the river was low, sunk in the mud near Clifty Creek.
But there are thousands still living in towns between Warsaw and Madison, who cherish tender memories of the old Hattie Brown.
Many a wedding party followed the bride and groom down to the wharf to shower them with rice as they started on their honeymoon on the decks of the Hattie. Many a funeral car has drawn up to the wharf to receive the dead, brought back by the old Hattie, to find a last resting place somewhere near their hometown.
Excerpted from an item in Cincinnati Enquirer of May 13, 1962, by Russell Dufour