Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Ever-Lovin' Kate Adams - Part II

Several months ago, I wrote a post on my original blog Attala County Memories about the Kate Adams, a steamer that traveled down the Mississippi River in the early 1920's, and one on which my paternal grandfather, Clark Commander Branch, worked for a time. A photograph of the steamer, from the American Postal Museum, courtesy of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, appears here. According to other information posted there, the steamer was actually built in 1882 to be used as a U. S. Mail Steamboat on the Mississippi River.

On Tuesday of this week, I received an email from a reader in Ohio who was searching for
information out on the web about the Kate Adams, and she found my post. Here is an excerpt from her email:

"I was surprised and pleased to see your information on the Kate Adams Riverboat. My grandparents were co-owners of a road construction company that built many roads in the area of Marietta, Ohio. They lived not far from the Ohio River and enjoyed seeing and hearing the boats, especially those with a calliope. Among their pictures from their road building days is one my dad took of an Ohio River boat. My grandmother had written the name of the boat on the back. I decided to try to find more about it on the internet. When I typed in its name, Kate Adams, it went right to your website. I was surprised to hear that it had started as a Mississippi Riverboat before coming to the Ohio. When I saw it had burned in 1927, I was even more surprised. Grandma wrote that the picture was taken in 1927. It may be the last picture of the Kate Adams. Do you know where it burned?"

Unfortunately, I did not know the answer to the reader's question. I had failed to find that piece of information myself before writing the post. So yesterday, I again searched for something that would reveal where the steamer burned. What I located is included in this post today.

According to The Arkansas City Journal, published in
Arkansas City, Arkansas, on December 23, 1882 (Vol 4, No. 9), the Kate Adams made her maiden voyage from Memphis down the Mississippi River. An excerpt from the article states:

"AT THE LANDING As soon as she was made fast, people flocked on board in crowds, and all confessed that no prettier or more complete steamboat ever touched at this port. Her magnificent cabin was an especial theme of admiration. The whole boat, from pilot-house to the railway tracks in the hold, were carefully inspected and the verdict was She is a good one, and no mistake! LANGUAGE WOULD FAIL...were we to attempt a full recital of the beauties and excellencies of the bonnie Kate. Suffice it to say she is more than equal of any boat in the river in point of fittings, furnishings and equipment.
Built at a cost of $95,000, she lacks absolutely nothing that goes to make up a literal floating palace. ROSTER OF OFFICERS All of the officers of the Dean Adams, except Steward Matson, were transferred to the new boat. Their long and faithful service in the line entitled them to this recognition, and certainly the patrons of the Dean will be glad to find on board the Kate Adams all their old friends. The roster is as follows: Mark R. Cheek, Master; A. L. Cummins, Chief Clerk; W. Outlaw, Second Clerk; A. L. Cummins, Jr., Bill Clerk; Henry Powers, Chief Mate; Thomas Kelly, Second Mate; Louis Botto, Chief Engineer; John Botto, Second Engineer; William Hopus, Pilot; Elisha Evins, Pilot; Frank Norris, Steward; Joseph Flynn, Barkeeper. Every one of them well known and deservedly popular in the trade."

Further searching led me to an article about the Kate Adams that appeared in the New York Times just a few years after her maiden voyage. The article detailed a serious fire with a number of fatalities that occurred at Commerce, a Mississippi River port just south of Memphis. Apparently, when the steamer suffered the fire in 1927 that sealed her eventual fate, she had already burned at least once before. Unfortunately, for a second time, I was unable to find the location of that fire.


  1. Hi Janice.

    The Kate Adams' fate vacillated once she retired to the Ohio from her mail route between Memphis and Arkansas City, AR. She eventually wound up a movie set for the silent version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." By that time, the once-grand interior that had boasted the first use of electric lights throughout was pretty much gutted. Though fires were pretty common on mail and cotton packets, the Kate was basically derelict when fire finished her off in '27.

    I would have given anything to have seen the Kate, even more to have seen Arkansas City in its heyday before the river changed course. Today, Lake Kate Adams separates the dying town from the Mississippi by more than a mile. Thank you for posting these colorful reminisces on your wonderful site.

    Billy Montgomery
    Virginia Beach, VA

  2. who was Kate Adams husband? I believe it was Elijah Evins. Can anyone confirm this?
    Was he a riverboat captain?

  3. Elisha Evins, b, 1841, was one of the pilots on the Kate Adams. He was married to Lizzie Gist of Shelby Co TN. He died in 1895. They named a daughter Kate Adams Evins.

  4. After the 1927 fire only the hull of "The Lovin' Kate" survived. The hull was converted into a barge which sank at Memphis in a violent storm in 1931. The remains of the hull can be see at the riverboat graveyard on President's Island in Memphis.