Dubuque County Historical Society Images

Achievement Award Winners

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Captain William H. Leyhe

Captain Leyhe was born in 1873, 12 years after his father and uncle founded the Eagle Packet Company with the Young Eagle at Warsaw, Illinois in 1861. At an early age he decided that his career was to be a river man, and became a licensed Master at the age of 22. His youthful nickname stayed with him and he was known the rest of his life as Captain Buck.

The company expanded by building and operating many boats, including the Grey Eagle, Spread Eagle, Bald Eagle, War Eagle, and Golden Eagle. During the great flood of 1903 the Eagle Packet Company was recruited to move mail, passengers and freight between Alton, Illinois, and St. Louis, keeping St. Louis in touch with the outside world. He developed excursion business for the Company during the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904, running daily trips between Alton and St. Louis, Missouri.

Despite the tragic loss by ice gorges of four packet boats in 1917-1918, Captain Buck and his brother Henry bought a New Orleans cotton boat, renamed it the Golden Eagle and continued in the river trade. Recognizing in the late 1920s that the freight business was doomed, Captain Buck decided to concentrate on the passenger business.

Captain Buck loved planning cruises for the public, including a special trip from St. Louis to St. Paul in June 1939. Other notable excursions that received nationwide attention were Chattanooga on the Tennessee River to Nashville, on the Cumberland River, and to the Shiloh Civil War Battlefield on the Tennessee.

Captain Buck passed away in 1956 at the age of 83. He was pleased to live to see that the Eagle was kept flying under the name of Eagle Marine Industries, Inc. run by members of his family and carrying on the tradition of the river he loved and respected.

Honored in 1987.



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