Thursday, November 30, 2023

More Memories from Buz Egan

Those of you who follow this blog know that I have spent a lot of time researching Smithland, Kentucky and its residents. One of the town residents I enjoy most is Ben F. Egan, more commonly known as Buz. I've written about him several times. This article was originally published 27 Mar 2014.

Buz was a steamboat captain on the Ohio and Cumberland rivers for many years and knew just about everyone in the business or connected to the business.  He also knew the men who reported the news of steamboats. So, when he was in a town, he visited the reporter who wrote the river news and talked. And talked and talked some more. He talked about old steamboat men in Smithland, calling them "old mariners." He talked about which ones were buried on "graveyard hill" in Smithland, which was often called "mouth of the Cumberland" or "mouth of Smithland."  Because of his talking, we get an inside look at people he knew in Smithland and on the rivers. Thank you, Buz!

Below are some of the news items found in the Evansville, Indiana Journal, which is available on microfilm at Willard Library in Evansville:

15 December 1884:  Speaking of his life-long friend, A.J. Duncan (deceased), Ben F. Egan says: Allen and I were boys together at that good old town at the mouth of the Cumberland river. When I first learned to know him well he and I were officers, in 1855, on the Nashville and St. Louis packet, Aleonia ... Capt. Duncan married  the niece of Capt. J.V. Scyster, of Smithland ... The widow of Wm. Mantz, a favorite engineer on the Cumberland river, is the niece of Capt. Duncan.

22 April 1885: [Speaking of J.W. Mills] His earthly voyage is ended, and he now sleeps on the graveyard hill down at the mouth of Smithland, and near him lie his old-time friends R.C. Weston, J.V. Throop, D.G. Fowler, N.F. Drew and Blount Hodge.

11 October 1886:  When a boy down at the mouth of Smithland, I played with the Matheny boys, Clem, Will, Tobe and Jim. Clem died at the pilot's wheel of the W.A. Johnson; Will committed suicide; Tobe was executed at Paducah by a military order issued by Gen. Payne, and now comes the intelligence from Evansville that Jim died there a few days ago, a victim of that dread disease, consumption. All of these boys were boatmen, and all, except poor Jim, died with their boots on. W.S. Gupton, a well known pilot, is their nephew.

3 December 1890:  Recalling ante-bellum days, Buz says: In the long ago Dixon Given drove a stage and kept a tavern on the point opposite the Mouth of Smithland. The old gentleman is dead and forgotten, and not a vestige of that house, nor of the ground on which it stood, remains. It has tumbled into the Ohio River. H.F., D.A., Mildred, Emily and Kate are dead. Judge W.P. Fowler married the oldest daughter. There [sic] sons are Dick, Joe, Whyte and Gus. Only Joe survives.

This is just a sample of what Buz had to say. 

Published a second time 30 Nov 2023, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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