Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The River People

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Captain Thomas P. Leathers

Captain Thomas P. Leathers, a native of Kentucky, began his river career on the Yazoo river in 1836. He had great financial success in the lower river cotton trade and built many steamboats, among them seven named Natchez. The Natchez (VI) made 401 trips without accident in the New Orleans to Vicksburg trade route - an great accomplishment in an era with little or no safety regulations.

In 1870 as owner of the Natchez, Captain Leathers participated in what was to become the most legendary steamboat race in history, pitting his Natchez against Captain Cannon and the Rob't. E. Lee.

A shrewd, conservative businessman, Captain Leathers was known for his flamboyant appearance and personality. He was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy and is said to have defiantly flown the "Stars and Bars" on his boats for many years after the Civil War.

Captain Leathers died in New Orleans at the age of 80 after tragically having been run over by a bicyclist, thus ending one of the most successful careers in steamboat history.

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