Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The River People

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Diamond Jo Reynolds

Diamond Jo Reynolds, founder of the famed Diamond Jo Steamboat Line, was one of the most colorful rivermen on the Mississippi River.

Characterized by his contemporaries as a "born trader", Jo Reynolds entered the Steam boat trade with one boat, the Lansing, in 1862. Recognizing the potential for the bulk shipment of grain, Reynolds became the leading grain shipper on the Upper Mississippi, and by 1873 his fleet consisted of five boats and twenty barges.

Diamond Jo Reynolds turned to the passenger and freight business in the 1880's and within a decade came to dominate the packet trade between St. Louis and St. Paul. Diamond Jo Line Steamers such as the Mary Morton, Dubuque (IV), St. Paul, and Quincy plied the Upper Mississippi until 1911, surviving cut-throat competition from other lines and opposition from the railroads to become the last regular operating packet line between St. Louis and St. Paul.

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