Our Rivermen Ancestors
I recently had lunch with Gary Johnson who has an interest in Cincinnati’s history as a naval center during the Civil War. You heard that right – we were a naval center. He has been researching this topic for quite a while and has been invited to give presentations on the topic.
I immediately became interested because I knew my gg-uncle, Robert Willis Darby, had served in the Navy at the end of the Civil War. Part of his obituary mentions his service:
R.W. Darby was in River Fighting at Close of Conflict. Robert W. Darby, 81 years old, 726 Whittier Street, last surviving member of the crew of the United States steamer Carondelet, active at the close of the Civil War, died at his home late Saturday. He had been ill several months. At the beginning of the Civil War, Mr. Darby enlisted with the One Hundred and Ninety -- first Ohio Regiment and later became a member of the crew of the Carondelet, operating on the Mississippi River. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Naval Veterans and Knights of Pythias. Surviving him are five daughters and three sons. Mr. Darby was born in Cincinnati.
Mr. Johnson is interested in speaking with members of the Hamilton County Genealogical Society whose ancestors may have served in the Navy or in the boatbuilding infrastructure of Cincinnati at the time. With enough information, he may write a book. Here is his letter:
I appreciate your offer to communicate with the Hamilton County Genealogical Society to see if your members have ancestors who were involved with the Navy during the Civil War or the Cincinnati area infrastructure that supported the riverboat industry. Here are some professions who supported the industries below for which there may be some existing histories of the Cincinnati people who did the work.
- Steamboat pilots
- Steamboat engineers
- Steamboat company owners/operators
Supportive infrastructure for riverboats
- Foundrymen (iron or brass)
- Machinists (like Miles Greenwood's Eagle Iron Works, etc.)
- Iron miners and furnace operators from the Hanging Rock iron area in Ohio
- Coal miners, coal processors, coal tipples and suppliers who brought the coal to Cincinnati
If you have an ancestor who was a riverboat man, Navy man or worked in related fields, contact Kathy Reed, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get you in touch with Mr. Johnson.