The Arrival of the Omaha at the Sioux City
"Steamboat a comin' " was a long-awaited shout heard from the
downstream. As a resident of any frontier community, your desire to see
the new growth of spring accompanied by the rising temperatures was
rivaled by your desire to see the spring rise in the river. You knew
rising river precluded the site of those magnificent tall chimneys, the
sound of the incessant hiss of the steam exhaust, and the glorious tone
produced by the whistle. The winter-weary, western settler was anxious
for the arrival of the steamboats.
For the new frontier community of Sioux City, the arrival of the Omaha
meant supplies, visitors with news from back East, new settlers, and
the arrival of a long-awaited family member.
The Omaha was commissioned in 1856 by the firm of Tootle and Jackson
to carry $70,000.00 of merchandise to the western frontier. Her
consisted of food, fabric, hardware of all types, china, silverware,
mirrors, jars and glassware of all kinds, firearms and gun powder,
reading glasses, liquor, sawmills, prefabricated buildings, and the
As the Omaha tied off to the bank, she marked the end of a 771-mile
journey from St. Louis on one of the most unpredictable rivers in North
America. The Missouri River was referred to as the "river of sticks."
floods would wash thousands of trees into the river which, at times,
huge logjams. The large trees would become waterlogged and their roots
would sink to the river bottom and become silted into the mud. With the
limbs stripped away by the current, the tree would become an underwater
projection waiting to impale an unobservant steamboat. The hidden
unpredictable currents, violent storms, heat, and cold were among the
factors dreaded by the early river travelers.