Oneonta was one of the rare examples of a Mississippi-style riverboat built on the Columbia River. Typical of the Mississippi-style were the two funnels forward of the pilot house, with sidewheels instead of sternwheels at the preferred design, and the pilot house itself being located near the middle of the boat.
1865 newspaper advertisement for Oneonta running on the middle Columbia
Oneonta ran on the stretch of the Columbia River between the Cascade Rapids eastward to The Dalles, where another longer stretch of whitewater. The rapids east of The Dalles were generally known as Celilo Falls. There were portages around both sets of rapids. Originally these just tracks, but they were gradually replace first railways, first drawn by mules and then by steam engines. Oregon Steam Navigation Company built Oneonta in an effort to control both the portages and the middle river route connecting them as the only feasible transport line to the gold rushes that were going on in Eastern Oregon and Idaho in the 1860s. When this business tampered off, in 1870, the president of O.S.N., John C. Ainsworth took Oneonta down through the Cascade Rapids at high water to run on the lower Columbia.
^ abcMills, Randall V., Sternwheelers up Columbia - A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country, at 199, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE (1977 reprint of 1947 edition) ISBN 0-8032-5874-7)