Chester in the Cowlitz River, 1897
|Out of service:||1917|
|Fate:||Abandoned at Kelso, Washington|
|Length:||101 ft (30.78 m)|
|Beam:||20.9 ft (6.37 m)|
|Draft:||5.5 in (140 mm)(1897) 7.5 in (190 mm) (1901)|
|Depth:||3.8 ft (1.16 m) depth of hold|
|Installed power:||twin steam engines, horizontally mounted, cylinder bore 6.0 in (150 mm) and stroke of 2.0 ft (61 cm).|
|Speed:||30 miles per hour maximum under highly favorable conditions|
Chester was built to an unorthodox design. When Chester was built it was widely predicted that the boat would be a failure. Instead Chester was a success, and was said to have paid for itself many times over.
Although one of the smallest steamers to operate on the Columbia river system, Chester had an important role to play in connection with the Cowlitz river basin, because it made a connection at Kelso, Washington with larger steamers running to Portland, Oregon.
- 1 Name
- 2 Construction
- 3 The Cowlitz route
- 4 Operations
- 5 Sinkings, ice, and floods
- 6 Drownings
- 7 Consideration for other routes
- 8 Dredging operations
- 9 Low water seasons
- 10 Disposition
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Chester was built in Portland, Oregon by Joseph Supple for Joseph Kellogg. Chester was constructed to draw as little water as possible to be able to operate on the Cowlitz River in southwestern Washington.
Chester was designed to have the greatest bearing service on the water to keep its draft as little as possible. The weight of the materials used to build the boat was kept as low as possible. On Chester the planks were cut from red cedar. This had the additional advantage of reducing the power needed to drive the vessel. Chester was the first of these types of steamers to be launched.
The hull of Chester was flexible, being kept in its proper shape by system of hog posts and hog chains. This combination of posts and chains held up the boiler, stern and foredeck, and held down the points where the hog posts were stepped. The hull was designed to bend without breaking any of the joints or causing the caulking to break out from between the planks.
It was possible for Chester, when passing upstream over a sandbar where there was less water than the boat’s draft, to flex over the bar, so that the forward part of the boat would rise on to the bar, while the spinning of the sternwheel excavated the bar sufficiently to allow the boat to pass.
As built, Chester had sides to its lower structure area (called a “house”), only tarpaulin covers. Later, apparently by 1907, sides had been added to the lower house and an upper cabin had been added. This increased the vessel’s draft.
Chester was driven by a stern-wheel turned by twin steam engines, horizontally mounted, cylinder bore 6.0 in (150 mm) and stroke of 2.0 ft (61 cm). Alternatively, the engines have been reported to have had a bore of 8.0 in (200 mm) and stroke of 3.0 ft (91 cm). The boiler was a locomotive firebox type.
Chester was 101 ft (30.78 m) measured over the hull excluding the extension of the deck over the stern, called the “fantail” on which the stern-wheel was mounted. The beam was 20.9 ft (6.37 m). The depth of hold was 3.8 ft (1.16 m).
Chester was reported to have been perhaps the lightest-draft steamboat in the world. As built, Chester drew only 5.5 in (140 mm) of water. By July 1901, the draft had increased to 7.5 in (190 mm) of water.
In 1910, when loaded to full capacity, 60 tons, Chester drew 16 inches of water. This was after additional weight had been added to the original vessel, in the form of added cabins and other structure.
The overall size of Chester was 130 gross tons, a measure of volume and not weight, and 98 registered tons.
The official merchant vessel identification number for Chester was 127201.
Model for other steamers
The design of Chester was used to construct the Yukon river steamer Koyukuk in 1902. The Tanana and other Alaska sternwheelers were also influenced by the design of the Chester. These steamers were built in Portland and shipped to Alaska in “knocked-down” form to be reassembled on site.
The Cowlitz route
The mouth of the Cowlitz river was on the Columbia river, near Kelso, 45 miles from Portland. The normal head of navigation on the Cowlitz was the town of Toledo, Washington which was 40 miles upstream from the mouth of the river.
The Cowlitz river was also subject to tidal changes. At its mouth the tides could change the water level as much as four feet. This tapered off to zero at a point nine miles up from the river mouth.
Floods, called “freshets” on the river could be extreme, raising the river level as much as 22 feet.
In 1905 Chester was owned by the Kellogg Transportation Company and was running on the Cowlitz River between the towns of Castle Rock and Toledo, Washington. At Castle Rock, Chester made a connection with the larger sternwheeler Northwest running out of Portland.
Toledo was the head of navigation on the Cowlitz River. Chester was the only vessel running on the Cowlitz in May 1905, and when it was taken to Portland that month for repairs at the Supple yard, there would be no steamboat service on the river in the absence of Chester.
By 1910 Chester had been replanked several times because its hull was worn out from contact with the river bottom.
In early December 1910, Chester was reported to have made a 15-mile run downstream on the Cowlitz to Castle Rock in the time of 30 minutes. This would have been a usually fast time for Chester, and it was reportedly due to a rapid flow in the river.
Sinkings, ice, and floods
Sunk near Olequa Bridge
On Friday May 31, 1906, Chester sank in shallow water near the Olequa Bridge after being struck with a large log. The steamer Northwest helped refloat the Chester. Capt. Orrin Kellogg was at the wreck site superintending the work.
On June 8, 1906, Chester was refloated and brought down to Castle Rock for repairs. It was thought that the company might bring legal action against the loggers who had turned loose the log which sank Chester, as this had been done contrary to law and because Chester had recently been sunk from the same cause.
Chester was quickly returned to service, but within a few days had still more trouble with floating logs.
Coming back downriver from Toledo on Sunday, June 10, 1906, the boat encountered a “river full of wild logs.” One of the logs struck Chester, making a hole in the hull, but the officers and crew were able to prevent the boat from sinking. The Morning Oregonian commented:
It is said to be against the law for loggers to set logs adrift without accompanying them, but the loggers up this way seem to think they own the river and can do as they please; but after they pay damages a few times it is hoped they will respect the law.
In mid-November 1906 Chester was nearly destroyed in a flood on the Cowlitz River when the Kelso rail bridge was carried away. Chester had been moored downstream from the Kelso bridge, and just managed to avoid the debris by escaping down river to a safe place on the opposite bank. With the rail bridge down, the plan became for Chester to transfer rail passengers across the Cowlitz river until the bridge could be reconstructed.
In mid-January 1907, ice on the Cowlitz prevented Chester from engaging in operations because of danger to the boat.
A.P. McKenn 1906
Arthur “Kelso” Pscherer 1908
At about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of April 11, 1908, Arthur “Kelso” Pscherer, a deckhand on Chester, went missing and was presumed to have fallen overboard and drowned. Pscherer was last seen by the night watchman of the steamer Kellogg crossing the deck of the Kellogg over to the Chester. Pscherer was not thought to have left back across the Kellogg to shore, because all of his effects were still on Chester.
Under the impression that Psherer had fallen in the river and drowned, river men were dragging the river in an effort to recover his body. A reward of $100 was offered for recover of the body. At noon on May 2, 1908, two deckhands of the steamer Nestor, Louis Lindstrom and John Fleshman, found Psherer’s body near the Coweeman River, a tributary of the Cowlitz. The body, although badly decomposed, was identified as that of Psherer by local residents who had known him.
Consideration for other routes
In September 1905, the Oregon City Transportation Company was reported to be considering using Chester on the Willamette River between Portland and Salem, Oregon during low water, but then decided not to do so. The OCTC considered Chester to have too small a carrying capacity, and to be too lightly built, to be hauled over the bars on the Willamette River.
Navigation on the Cowlitz was often dependent on government-funded dredging and improvement work.
In the Rivers and Harbors Act of June 25, 1910, Congress authorized $22,000 worth of dredging and other navigation improvements to the Cowlitz River to begin in the spring of 1911. The June 25, 1910 act provided for a channel four feet deep from the mouth of the Cowlitz to Ostrander, and from there to Castle Rock the channel would be 2.5 feet deep. Between Castle Rock and Toledo the channel was to be 40 feet wide.
The channel improvements were expected to draw away some business from the railroads and to allow another light-draft steamer to be operated on the Cowlitz river. The work was to be supervised by Maj. J.F. McIndoe, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In April, 1917, lack of government funds for dredging on the Cowlitz and Lewis river forced the dredge Monticello to be tied up at Kelso. Capt. Nelson Delude, who had been in charge of Monticello, shifted over to command Chester temporarily, on the Kelso-Toledo run. Delude had previously worked for the Kellogg company, commanding Chester and Northwest.
Low water seasons
The water was often so shallow in the Cowlitz that cargo could be simply loaded and unloaded from Chester with a wagon. Typically during low water seasons (usually late summer and fall) Chester would be repaired at Portland, generally at the yard of Joseph Supple (1854–1932), or worked on some route other than the upper Cowlitz.
Low water 1901 and 1902
In July 1901, Chester was brought in to the Supple yard in Portland for repairs, having been on the Cowlitz route for five years. On Thursday, September 12, 1901, steamboat inspectors Edwards and Fuller inspected Chester at Rainier.
In June 1902, Chester was undergoing repairs, including replanking, at the Supple yards. The Morning Oregonian predicted that once the repairs were complete “she will then be good for another six years.”
Low water 1906 and 1907
On October 19, 1906, following several months of low water, Chester became the first steamboat to able to navigate on the Cowlitz River.
Low water 1909 and 1910
On Saturday, November 8, 1909, the water level had risen sufficiently on the upper Cowlitz for Chester to begin the navigation season.
On June 29, 1910, the Cowlitz had fallen so low that the Kellogg Transportation Company decided to take Chester off the route, even though the steamer drew only 12 inches of water.
Congress had recently appropriated $34,000 for improvements to navigation on the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers, but there was not much hope that dredging would make any different before a natural rise in stream flow restored navigability.
In mid-October 1910, repairs to Chester were ordered to be made so it could be ready to operate once the navigation season on the Cowlitz resumed. At that time freight could be shipped by water to Kelso on the Joseph Kellogg, but no further upriver due to low water on the Cowlitz. Chester was finally able to return to service on November 10, 1910, having been out of operation since July 2, 1910.
Low water 1911 and 1912
On February 6, 1911, the water at Toledo was only 11 inches deep. This was unusually low for that time of year. With Chester then drawing 14 inches of water, the closest it could get to Toledo was four miles downstream.
On February 9, 1911 the water in the Cowlitz was so low that Chester was forced to suspend operations to Castle Rock and tie up at Kelso. However, by February 16, 1911, heavy rains had raised the river level so that Chester could at least reach Castle Rock again. It was not until March 29, 1911 that the river had deepened sufficiently, to 5 feet at Kelso, to allow Chester to attempt to reach Toledo again. Still by April 4, Chester still could not make Toledo, and freight bound for that town had to be off-loaded at a point four miles downstream and taken into Toledo on wagons.
Low water persisted for a long time in 1911, and Chester, following a period of repairs in Portland, was only reported to be able to resume operations to Toledo on Tuesday, November 21, 1911.
In 1912, low water in the upper Cowlitz forced Chester to make its last run for the season from Kelso to Toledo on August 1, even though the boat drew only 12 inches of water.
Low water 1916
In 1916, low water prevented from July 29 to November 8 prevented Chester from running from Kelso to Toledo. The water was so low on the Cowlitz in 1916 that the steamer Kellogg could not come up to its usual dock at Kelso. Instead, Chester had to be used as a transfer vessel, running freight between the Kellogg, moored at the mouth of the Cowlitz, and Kelso.
- "Repairs to the Chester". Morning Oregonian. 42 (12,940). Portland, OR. June 2, 1902. p.8, col.5.
- "Chester Has Made History — Alaska Steamers Built on Lines of Light Draft Model". Sunday Oregonian. 30 (46). Portland, OR. November 12, 1911. sec.2, p.18, col.
- "Navigation Ends on Cowlitz River — Little Steamer Chester Cannot Reach Toledo Though Draft is One Foot — Funds to Improve Ready — Falling Waters Close Three Streams to Portland Shippers Withiin Month and Will Not Be Reopened Until Fall". Morning Oregonian. 50 (15,472). Portland, OR. June 29, 1910. p.18, col.1.
- "Capt. Kellogg Dies — Pioneer River Pilot Starts on Last Voyage — Helped Build Lot Whitcomb — Took Leading Part in Early Navigation of Willamette and Columbia". Morning Oregonian. 43 (13,408). Portland, OR. December 1, 1903. p.16, col.3.
- "City News in Brief … Mrs. C.O. Kellogg Better". Morning Oregonian. 55 (16,972). Portland, OR. April 17, 1915. p.7, col.1.
- Bollinger, Scott (April 10, 2009). "Orrin Kellogg, Jr". Find a Grave. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- Kletsch, Albert Gustav (1953). "Steamboating in Its Heyday". Cowlitz Corridor — Historical River Highway of the Pacific Northwest. By McClelland, John M., Jr. Longview, WA: Longview Publishing Co. p. 44. ASIN B00LR3W2A0.
- C.S. “Sam” Jackson, ed. (March 31, 1906). "Along the Waterfront". Oregon Daily Journal. 5 (22). Portland, OR: Journal Pub. Co. p.6, col.3.
- "Marine Notes". Morning Oregonian. 54 (16,846). Portland, OR. November 21, 1914. p.14, col.4.
- Affleck, Edward L. (2000). "Columbia River Waterways — List of Vessels". A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Alexander Nicholls Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-920034-08-X.
- Howard H. Brown, ed. (November 1, 1910). "Shallow Draft Boats in the Pacific Northwest". International Marine Engineering. 15. New York, NY: Marine Engineering Inc. p. 463.
- Mills, Randall V. (1947). "East Side, West Side". Sternwheelers up Columbia – A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country. Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska. p. 173. ISBN 0-8032-5874-7. LCCN 77007161.
- "Very Light-Draft Steamboat". Morning Oregonian. 41 (12,674). Portland, OR. July 26, 1901. p.10, col.1.
- C.S. “Sam” Jackson, ed. (May 27, 1905). "Repairs to Chester — Lightest Draft Sternwheeler in World Will Cease Running for a Time". Oregon Daily Journal. 4 (71). Portland, OR: Journal Pub. Co. p.6, col.1.
- "Work on Portland Boats". Morning Oregonian. 42 (12,931). Portland, OR. May 22, 1902. p.5, col.7.
- Newell, Gordon R., ed. (1966). "Maritime Events of 1897". H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: Superior Pub. Co. pp. 19–20. LCCN 66025424.
- "Cowltiz Channel To Be Deepened — Dredge Will Leave Lewis River Soon to Commence Operations — Estimated Cost $22,000 — Work of Cutting 40-foot Course is to Be Started 40 Miles Inland at Toledo — Steamer Chester is Plying Stream". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,743). Portland, OR. May 11, 1911. p.18, col.1.
- C.S. “Sam” Jackson, ed. (May 28, 1905). "Along the Waterfront". Oregon Daily Journal. 2 (11). Portland, OR: Journal Pub. Co. p.12, col.2.
- "Marine Notes". Morning Oregonian. 50 (15,550). Portland, OR. September 28, 1910. p.20, col.2.
- "Chester Kellogg, manager of the Kellogg Transportation Company …". Morning Oregonian. 56 (17,516). Portland, OR. January 11, 1917. p.20, col.1.
- "Al Kruse and J.D. Wharton, pursers of the steamers Northwest and Kellogg …". The Oregon Mist. 13 (18). St. Helens, OR: Beegle & Davis. April 24, 1896. p.3, col.2.
- Carroll, June (November 6, 2003). "Capt Albert Otto Kruse". Find a Grave. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
- "Steamer Chester Makes Speed". Sunday Oregonian. 39 (49). Portland, OR. December 4, 1910. sec.2, p.16, col.4.
- "Chester to Be Raised — Sunken Craft Will Be Repaired at Castle Rock". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash., June 7 (Special)). 46 (14,196). Portland, OR. June 8, 1906. p.14, col.1.
- "John Churchhill Ainsworth". Find a Grave. March 12, 2002. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "Steamer Chester Floated — Vessel Is Now Being Repaired at Castle Rock". Morning Oregonian. 46 (14,197). Portland, OR. June 9, 1906. p.14, col.2.
- "Accident to Chester — Twice Sunken Steamer Hits Another Log Near Toledo". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash., June 12). 46 (14,200). Portland, OR. June 13, 1906. p.12, cols.1–2.
- "Cowlitz Is Destroying Many Homes". Morning Oregonian. 46 (14,334). Portland, OR. November 16, 1906. p.1, col.1 and p.6, col.2.
- White, G.A. (November 18, 1906). "Cowlitz River is Falling Fast … Citizens Not In Distress". Sunday Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash., Nov. 17 (Staff Correspondence)). 35 (46). Portland, OR. p.1, col.2.
- "Coldest Weather in Twenty Years …Zero Weather at Castle Rock". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash., Jan. 15 (Special)). 46 (14,386). Portland, OR. January 16, 1907. p.7, col.1.
- "General News". East Oregonian. 19 (5,840). Pendleton, OR: East Oregonian Pub. Co. December 4, 1906. p.2, col.1.
- "Deckhand Is Missing — May Have Fallen Overboard — River Being Dragged". Sunday Oregonian (Dateline: Kelso, Wash., April 11 (Special)). 37 (15). Portland, OR. April 12, 1908. p.5, col.4.
- "Recover Body of Arthur Pscherer". Sunday Oregonian (Dateline: Kelso, Wash., May 2 (Special)). 37 (18). Portland, OR. May 3, 1908. p.10, cols.3–4.
- "Personal and Local … It is said that the Kellogg company will put their little steamer Chester …". The Oregon Mist. 14 (41). St. Helens, OR: Beegle & Davis. October 1, 1897. p.3, col.3.
- "Chester Taken Off the Run". Morning Oregonian. 45 (13,962). Portland, OR. September 7, 1905. p.7, col.4.
- "Dredge Monticello Out of Service". Sunday Oregonian (Dateline: Kelso, Wash., April 14 (Special)). 36 (15). Portland, OR. April 15, 1917. sec.2, p.16, cols.1–2.
- "Shipbuilder, 78, Dies — Joseph Supple Active for More Than 40 Years — Business Started Under Cottonwood Tree Grows to Big Wartime Project". Sunday Oregonian. 51 (47). Portland, OR. November 20, 1932. p.16, col.5.
- "Marine Notes". Morning Oregonian. 51 (12,717). Portland, OR. September 14, 1901. p.10, col.4.
- "Resumes Run on Cowlitz". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash., Oct. 19 (Special)). 46 (14,311). Portland, OR. October 20, 1906. p.5, col.2.
- "Cowlitz Too Low for Steamer Chester". Sunday Oregonian. 36 (31). Portland, OR. August 4, 1907. p.11, col.4.
- "Boats Run on Upper Cowlitz". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Castle Rock, Wash. Nov. 8). 49 (15,273). Portland, OR. November 9, 1909. p.18, col.5.
- "Chester Is Being Overhauled". Morning Oregonian. 50 (15,563). Portland, OR. October 13, 1910. p.11, cols.2–3.
- "Steamer Chester Starts Tomorrow". Morning Oregonian. 50 (15,586). Portland, OR. November 9, 1910. p.21, col.2.
- "Low Water Halts Chester". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,668). Portland, OR. February 7, 1911. p.12, col.5.
- "Chester Stops Running". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,666). Portland, OR. February 10, 1911. p.18, col.2.
- "Cowlitz River Rises". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,671). Portland, OR. February 16, 1911. p.18, col.4.
- "Chester Resumes Today". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,706). Portland, OR. March 29, 1911. p.18, col.1.
- "Marine Notes … Unable to ascent the Cowlitz River to Toledo, the steamer Chester …". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,712). Portland, OR. April 5, 1911. p.18, col.2.
- "Repairs having been completed on the steamer Chester …". Morning Oregonian. 51 (15,907). Portland, OR. November 18, 1911. p.16, col.2.
- "Upper Cowlitz Water Low". Morning Oregonian (Dateline: Centralia, Wash., Aug 2 (Special)). 52 (16,129). Portland, OR. August 3, 1912. p.16, col.5.
- "Cowlitz River Open Again — Steamer Chester to Operate Following Long Period of Idleness". Morning Oregonian. 56 (17,461). Portland, OR. November 8, 1916. p.19, col.3.
- Affleck, Edward L. (2000). A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Alexander Nicholls Press. ISBN 0-920034-08-X.
- Kletsch, Albert Gustav (1953). "Cowlitz River Navigation with Respect to the Development of the town of Toledo, Washington (a thesis)". Cowlitz Corridor — Historical River Highway of the Pacific Northwest. By McClelland, John M., Jr. Longview, WA: Longview Publishing Co. ASIN B00LR3W2A0.
- Mills, Randall V. (1947). Sternwheelers up Columbia – A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country. Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska. ISBN 0-8032-5874-7. LCCN 77007161.
- Newell, Gordon R., ed. (1966). H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: Superior Pub. Co. LCCN 66025424.
- Timmen, Fritz (1973). Blow for the Landing – A Hundred Years of Steam Navigation on the Waters of the West. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers. ISBN 0-87004-221-1. LCCN 73150815.
- Wright, Edgar W., ed. (1895). Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Co. LCCN 28001147.