Built in 1902 in Dubuque, Iowa, she was the largest towboat ever built. Her early beginnings, however, were rocky. On her maiden voyage she collided with a showboat and only a year later had to have her engines replaced. It was difficult for pilots to see over the stern and she had to be reconfigured. Her early years were so tempestuous, Captain James G. Beazell left her in disgust. He later returned and mastered her until 1913. She did finally live up to expectations and towed record breaking loads on the Ohio River. She earned the nickname "Big Mamma" but she hadn't overcome her jinx, having at least two more major accidents, one in 1913 and another in 1916. In 1927 she was the victim of an explosion that killed four people and caused the loss of four barges. She continued to tow monumental loads until 1948. She was then docked at Vicksburg as a tourist attraction. In May of 1974 the "Sprague" caught fire. There was talk of sabotage but nothing was proven; in 1981 her remains were dynamited putting a final period to the story of the "Sprague". Photograph taken circa 1920
River to Rail and Lemen Collection
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Piers & wharves
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