Dr. Franklin (1847)
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Final Voyage


Tuesday evening at 12 o'clock, May 16, 1854. The paddle wheel steam boats Dr. Franklin and Galena collided at Maquoketa slough, near McCartney, Wisconsin, about 15 miles north of Dubuque, Iowa. The Dr. Franklin was proceeding down the Mississippi River and the Galena going up; in rounding the point of the island located at the foot of the Slough, the bells of both vessels gave the signal for a pass to the starboard side of each other. Before the signals could be changed, the Galena ran into the Franklin just forward of the boilers on the starboard side. The Dr. Franklin sank at once to her boiler deck. No one was injured, and no blame was attached to any of the officers of either vessel. The Dr. Franklin was valued at $8,000 and was a total loss.
Today


In the 1902 Annual Report Of The Chief Of Engineers, War Department, the Dr. Franklin was listed as a present hazard to navigation, located at (then) river mile 259 at the foor of Maquoketa Chute. Correspondence with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District on March 14,1990 indicates that this would be present day river mile 585.5. Way (1983) reports that the wreck of the Franklin was encountered by a U.S. Dredge in August 1932, and was "removed".As this was not necessarily a complete salvage of the hull involving refloating, it is possible that much of the Dr. Franklin wreck remains.
Service History


The sidewheel steam paddle boat Dr. Franklin was built in 1847 at Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). Not to be confused with the Dr. Franklin No. 2 which was built a year later and somewhat larger, better and speedier. The "Old Doctor" was almost a match for the new Dr. Franklin No.2, but not quite. The two vessels were known for "tearing up the river bed in a port to port race". (Steamboating On The Upper Mississippi River by William Peterson). The Dr. Franklin was well known to the Indians who referred to the vessel as the "Great Medicine".

Originally, the Dr. Franklin was part of the Wheeling-Cincinatti Line in 1847, but later sold (their first boat) to Galena, Dubuque, and Minnesota Packet Company for trade between Galena, Illinois and St.Paul, Minnesota. Cargo would include passengers many of which could be immigrants with all their possessions. The Indians were especially fond of any opportunity for a ride on "Old Medicine". Livestock was often included as well as most any type of freight.
"A precious cargo of freight carried by the Dr. Franklin in 1853 listed three barrels of whiskey, one barrel of brandy, one barrel of Old Rye whiskey, one barrel of crackers, a ten gallon keg of gin, a keg of port wine, another of dark brandy, some St. Cruse rum, peach brandy, and Holland gin together with an appropriate number of flasks, tumblers, and decanters in which to serve such refreshments." Steamboating On The Upper Mississippi River by William Peterson.

Dr. Franklin was noted to be the first boat on the Upper Mississippi River to have a steam whistle which on occasion caused somewhat of a stir.
In 1849 the Dr. Franklin collided with the Amaranth near Clarksville, Missouri pushing a hole thru the side of the vessel causing her to sink.
© 2017 - Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Historical Society