This episode originally aired May 23, 2008.
This episode’s audio file may be found at http://www.utahhumanities.org/BeehiveArchive.htm
© 2008 Utah Humanities Council
One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, the steamboat City of Corinne was launched into the wide channel of the Bear River near the settlement that shared its name. Financed by a group of businessmen under the auspices of the Corinne Steam Navigation Company, the vessel ended up costing more than $40,000. Its engines were built in Chicago and then were shipped around South America to California, where they were transferred to a Utah-bound train. When it was finished, the boat was 150 feet long and stood three decks high. At its stern was the broad paddlewheel that would propel it through the briny waters of the Great Salt Lake.
The City of Corinne was not the first steamboat to ply the lake’s waters. In 1868, Patrick Edward Connor, formerly the commander of the California Volunteers stationed at Fort Douglas, launched the Kate Connor to haul railroad ties and telegraph poles across the lake. But in the end, the Kate Connor was too small and underpowered to prove effective. With new mines in Tooele County digging hundreds of tons of gold and silver out of the ground each month, but with no railroad connection nearby, a boat like the City of Corinne stood to make a killing in the shipping business going between Lake Point, near present-day Stansbury Park, and the railhead in Corinne. On her first trip to the lake’s southern shore, the boat returned north with 45 tons of ore.
Fluctuating lake levels eventually made it difficult for the City of Corinne to continue anchoring in its home port of Corrine and it began a new life as an excursion boat docking at Lake Point. When presidential candidate James A. Garfield rode the boat while on a visit to Utah, its new owner renamed it the General Garfield in his honor. In 1904, the vessel burned to the water line and was buried under I-80.
See the Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1871. Also see Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1947), 294-200; David E. Miller, “The Great Salt Lake,” Utah Historical Quarterly 27 (July 1959): 297-311; Brigham D. Madsen, Corinne: The Gentile Capital of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1980), 157-169; Peter G. Van Alfen, “Sail and Steam: Great Salt Lake’s Boats and Boatbuilders, 1847-1901,” Utah Historical Quarterly 63 (Summer 1995): 194-221; Ouida Blanthorn, comp., A History of Tooele County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998), 156-158; and Frederick M. Huchel, A History of Box Elder County (Salt Lake City: Box Elder County Commission and Utah State Historical Society, 1999), 135-139.