Saving America’s Wheeled History

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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I recently noticed that the same folksthat found and uncovered the Steamboat Arabia in 1988 (with the Peter Schuttler running gear) now appear to have located anotherburied steamboat.  From all indications,this time it seems the Hawley family has discovered the “Malta.”  History shows that the Missouri River has claimed at least 400 steamboats, most of them in the 1800’s.  Thisparticular steamer went down in 1841 on its way out West with as much as onehundred tons of trade goods.  It will be extremelyinteresting to see how the story unfolds. In the meantime, as the Hawley family prepares to dig this comingwinter, they’ve shared a few short videos about this new find.  

Additionally, below is an excerpt froman excellent article published March 2, 2016 by the Marshall Democrat-News.  There’salso another video at the end of the piece that chronicles the core samplingprocess. 
“…Drilling at Backes' farm conducted Feb. 27 and 28 further confirmed the presence of the steamboat, buried 37 feet beneath the ground. If it is the Malta, Hawley estimated that parts of the steamboat could be buried as deep as 52 feet beneath the surface. Testing of the drill samples revealed the presence of vivid red and black woven fabric, and wood the museum believes came from boat's deck and paddle wheel…”

The whole ‘search and rescue’ concept isintriguing as, overall, there's a great deal of America’s western history stillwaiting to be discovered and told.  Againand again, we’ve been fortunate to be a small part of uncovering and sharing ourcountry’s early wheeled history. Recently, we’ve come across a few additional pieces of our past and areexcited to see where the artifacts take us.Over the last two decades, there havebeen plenty of other trails we’ve followed. I’ve stood inside the walls where the famed Kentucky-brand wagons were once made by thehundreds of thousands, walked the historic grounds of the Luedinghaus,Espenschied, and Weber & Damme shops near the mighty Mississippi, followedthe trail north to the hallowed remains of Studebaker, searched for the exactlocations of M.P. Henderson’s coach factory in Stockton, found the last wagonparts that will ever be recovered from the Gestring Wagon Company site, helpedrescue literally thousands of early transportation artifacts, and ran my handsover the lingering fingerprints and ink-filled impressions made by none otherthan legendary St. Louis wagon maker, Joseph Murphy.  Still, it’s not enough.  There’s too much out there.  Too much to recover and too much tolearn.  Most of all – there’s too littletime.  What drives me is more than thancuriosity; more than the unknown; and more than countless sets of oldtracks.  What pushes me forward is thechance to help set records straight while delivering a clearer picture of earlywestern travel.  Every day, we have theopportunity to make a difference; meeting amazing people while finding andgiving back to America’s history books something that should never have beenleft out.

Today, I’ve begun a new chapter in theseefforts; a redoubling of our focus - a hunt we hope will bring even morediscoveries and greater appreciation for the wheels that built the Americanfrontier.  As we embrace an even strongerresolve to uncover more history, we’ve added some new apparel to our website aswell.  Take a look.  If you seesomething you like, we’d appreciate your support.  If you don’t, please let us know what you’d preferto see.  If there’s sufficient interest,we’ll do all we can to make it happen. To those who have encouraged our work in the past, ‘Thank you.’  You’re helping bridge a gap that is savinghistory and, hopefully, building a stronger future for these incredible woodenmachines... wheels that bore more than things – They carried the deepest ofdreams for a nation and its people. 
Back to the discovery of the SteamboatMalta… it seems clear that there are strong parallels to the wheeledhistory so many enthusiasts search for. For generations, farmers have plowed and walked over the field coveringthe Malta.  For generations, no onerealized what treasures might lay below. Today, there is a great deal of excitement as many wonder just what will beuncovered.  Similarly, there are volumes of information (and lost vehicle brands) from America’s firsttransportation industry just waiting to be discovered.  We may have walked by some rare pieces and never even noticed them.  Ultimately, every day is a new opportunity to uncover andshare more of what is still out there.  So, if you see something you’ve never seenbefore, do some homework.  It could besomething we’ve all been searching for. 

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.
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