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RAILROADS & RIVERBOATS
ON DISPLAY
IN LOCAL LIBRARIES
By:     Toni C. Collins
Levy County Historical Society
Deceember 4, 2017
DEC 7 LCHS TONI Little Lilly.1
 

After the close of the 2nd Seminole Indian War in 1842, many settlers made their way into the Territory of Florida.  On March 3, 1845, Florida was granted statehood and one week later, Levy County was formed.           

Many vessels ~ sloops, schooners, and brigs, made their way up the Suwannee River carrying varied cargoes of salt and general merchandise intended for settlements along the banks of the river.  The cargo on the return trip was cotton from the large and flourishing plantations.  Sawmills also started to spring up on or near the river, increasing the demand for good transportation.          

A news article which appeared in the St. Augustine News on October 25, 1845, brought joy to the hearts of many when it was announced that a sternwheeler, the Orpheus, would carry the U.S. Mail from the Cedar Keys to the flourishing town of Columbus.  The Orpheus was described as a “most beautiful vessel,” 136 feet in length, and fitted with 18 staterooms.     

The Orpheus remained in operation until 1847, when she met her end in some manner on the Suwannee River.  A newspaper of the day advertised an auction for her remains where she lay.          

However, this was the beginning, so long awaited, of regular and dependable transportation for the whole Suwannee River region.  It also was the beginning of what has often been called the “Golden Age of Transportation.”          

Currently Levy County’s five libraries are exhibiting displays of some of the Suwannee River steamboats, the vessel captains, and railroad schedules with their histories.  Why not plan a trip to your local library and be transported back to the days of ladies with parasols in hoop skirts on the arms of moustached men who looked like Rhett Butler!  

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