Most steamboats on the lower White River were built 4 stories in height, while those on the upper White were only 2 or 3 stories high. Steamer captains were known as "kings of the river." When they approached a landing the captain would give an approach signal with a steam whistle: loud moderate long blast, short one, long drawn-out one.
With the need for a fire on board to create the steam, steamboats were prone to catch on fire or explode. However, they were a cheaper and faster method of transportation for heavy products, such as cotton and lumber on the way to market.
A steamboat traveling downriver from Batesville to New Orleans traveled 300 miles on the White River, then another 600 miles on the Mississippi River. Some well-known boats on the upper White River from 1866-1870 were: Justice, Fairy Queen, Harry Dean, Claremount, A.F. Brooks, J.D. Perry, Lilly, Tempest, Batesville, Argos.
At the turn of the century another well-known steamer was the Ozark Queen. In 1899 it was reported that the Ozark Queen brought down 222 bales of cotton and 35 tons of zinc ore from Oakland, along with a number of passengers.
Passenger travel by steamer on the White River was both comfortable and adventurous. The steamer Batesville was described in 1870 as having "an elegant cabin fitted in the most approved style for the accommodation of the traveling public. She is making regular trips from Jacksonport to here and above."
Another account stated, "Exchanges of visits between river towns, such as Buffalo City, Batesville, Augusta, and Jacksonport were adventures taken with eager anticipation and relived when completed."
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