Steamboat Rowena
Of The Cumberland River
"The Rowena"

The Steamboat Rowena first appeared on the Cumberland River around 1912.

Alexander Massey, a native of Burnside, was the first man to successfully develop a system of transporting cargo down the Cumberland River. He used temporary barges manned by a small crew to ship merchandise downstream. Massey started the foundation for future steamboat navigation and formed the Massey Transportation Company.

The Steamboat "Warrenn" was purchased and rebuilt into the "Rowena." The "Rowena" and the "Celina" the sister of the two were the most popular Burnside Steamboats used as freight, cargo and passenger steamboats.

Towns below Monticello like Albany and Burksville, had no roads except muddy roads, so the steamboats were the only source of dependable transportation for poultry, lumber and things of that nature and the list of cargo would soon increase.

The "Celina" and "Rowena" frequently overlapped the territory of the Nashville boats between Carthage and Celina, however they seldom traveled to the Nashville wharf. The steamboats went on to transport merchandise for farmers and livestock , staples, food, clothing, varieties of merchandise, skins and furs that were traded down the Cumberland River. The "Rowena" was unique because it also transported passengers and had well remembered tasty meals served to them as well included in the price of the passenger fare. The dining room of the "Rowena" consisted of one row of tables with space to feed twenty people at one time. Click Here to see the dining area!

Picture of Porter Dunbar and The Crew of The Rowena Click Here!
The "Celina" steamboat sister to The "Rowena" steamboat Click Here!

In 1928 highways and good roads were built and the early 1900's brought the coming of motor trucks, and put an end to river navigation and the riverboats were no longer needed or in demand. The steamboats are remembered to this day as being responsible for the growth and backbone of the economy and trade all along the Cumberland River.

According to a log book owned to this day by Stewart Porter, the "Rowena's" last arrival at the Greasy Creek Landing was December 10th, 1933. An entry in the log says the "Rowena" started from Paducah on June 19th, 1934 and sunk at the head of the Greasy Creek shoals on June 20th.

Both the "Rowena" and "Celina" were purchased in 1932 for $150.00 and $100.00 from a Burnside firm, "Burnside & Burksville Transportation Co" by H.P. (Paul) Dunbar. In 1934 the two steamboats were sold to Paducah's John F. Cline The "Rowena" also has its own landing named after it.

The "Rowena" Memory Lives on Today!

The "Rowena" steamboat sank and died in the Cumberland River more than 65 years ago. But an important part of her still lives on and is very much alive and stands high in Russell County today.

Thanks to Jamestown's Stewart "Windy" Dunbar, his brother Porter, and some employee's at the Union Underwear Company. The whistle of the "Rowena" was salvaged and repaired. It was tuned best to the ablility of the group of men and now blows the memorable sounds well remembered and known by so many. Its sits proudly ontop of the Union Underwear Company in Russell CountyThe "Rowena" will always be remembered as the lifeblood of the enviroment in its own time and place. . Travelers passing on U.S. 127 can see the nostaligic whistle. Everyday that the Union Underwear plant is in operation, the old "Rowena" steambot whistle will blow at 6pm.
Click Here to See The Rowena whistle at the Union Underwear Plant.

Information Obtained From The Cumberland Machine Shop & Supply Co., Purchasing Dept.

April 23rd, 1932

File Machinery Equipment K_3,
Mr. F.W. Ahsen,
Pilot Town, La.

(The description went as follows);


Dear Sir,

The Packet Boat (Steamboat Rowena) is 168'-5" over all in length, 29'-7" over all in width, 5' depth of hold. Wood hull of pine and oak, flat bottom, straight gunwale sides, model bow, duck breast, square stern with easy rakes, center Bulkhead entire length of hull, closely spaced floor and rib timbers, registered tonnage 187 tons, carrying capacity 250 tons, number of decks two, height between decks 10' draft light with 50 tons of coal 30", draft loaded to capacity of 250 tons 5'.

Allowed 60 passengers, 20 state rooms, 56 berths, large unobstructed cabin, cook house and recess. Skylight, no texas.

Stern wheel, engines steam, 275 indicated horse power, cylinders 11" diamoter, 6' stroke, California cut-off, average revolution of wheel 35 per minute, average speed per hour ten miles, consumption of coal in heavy packet trade 12 1/2 bushels per hour. Boilers two, allowed 199- lbs. steam. Complete electric light plant and lighting system, including 2-1000 candle power searchlights. Steam capstand on head, stage power operated, hand power seering gear. Deck, fire and boilers supply pump, two stationary smoke stacks.

The "Rowena" Ferry:

Among other Ferries, history records show that there was also a "Rowena" Ferry boat. It was owned and operated by: William Lair in 1848, J.A. Vaughn 1901-1919, and Dr. M.M. Lawrence in 1920. The fees charged were as follows:

1. 6 horse wagon with driver -------------------------------------- .65 ¢
2. 4 horse wagon with driver ---------------------------------------.45 ¢
3. 2 horses, light wheel wagon with driver ----------------------.25 ¢
4. 2 wheel carriage with driver-------------------------------------.25 ¢
5. Horse and rider-----------------------------------------------------.10 ¢
6. loose cattle per head------------------------------------------------.5 ¢
7. Hog per head----------------------------------------------------------.5 ¢
8. Stud horse or Jack--------------------------------------------------.25 ¢
9. Hogshead of Tobacco----------------------------------------------.50 ¢
10. Sheep or Goats each-----------------------------------------------.1 ¢

The Ferry regulations and prices were determined by the Fiscal Court and all laws pertaining to these operations were strictly enforced.

After the completion of KY.35, in the early thirties, the Ferry at Rowena came under the control of the State Highway Dept. cable was strung across the river to stay the Ferry and a Motor Launch replaced the Oars of earlier days. The Ferry operated until the filling of Lake Cumberland and thus became the last Ferry to operate on the Cumberland River in Russell County.

Community Feedback

March, 2001


I am 25 years old, I teach first grade at Albany Elementary. I live in Clinton Co., Kentucky. My father, David G. York, is a retired history teacher. Dad is now 53. His parents passed away when he was a teenager.

My grandmother (Docia McWhorter York) was raised in an area on the Clinton / Russell County line. It was the community of Indian Creek. It wasn't far from Rowena Landing (maybe 5 miles at the most from their residence). When the Wolf Creek Dam was built life on Indian Creek ended. The community is now under a water and completely forgotten by many. Rowena was (and still is) the name of a community in Russell County. Before the dam was built a post office was located in the community as well.

Here are two websites that can tell you more about the dam:

Rowena would bring supplies and goods to Indian Creek where it was picked up and distributed local stores. The Rowena would stop near Creelsboro . The goods were hauled to the town by mule and wagon. On your webpage you have a picture of the Rowena seen from the Rock House .

There are two places where you can find more information. One is the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park (Russell County, Kentucky). They have a small exhibit on the history of the lake and river. There was a few things there about the steamboat. My father also said that there is a place in Burkesville, Kentucky that is located at city park that has a lot of information on the Rowena. Dad visited the museum last summer and he said that there was probably 50 pictures and some information on the steamboat in the museum. The Women's Club of Cumberland County take care of the small museum. You may want to call the chamber of commerce in Burkesville to find out more.

If you come to Kentucky all of the places I mentioned are about an hour and a half or less from Burnside, Kentucky. It is all very easy to locate.

My dad has an old article from a newspaper about the steamboat Rowena and a picture of the steamboat. He has the article in storage so it may be a while before he can find it. I'll try to send you everything that he has.

I hope I have helped some way.


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