Site submitted by: Steve Lee
River Mile 816.00 — On the Water
In the early 1900's a company named Streckfus gave genteel cruises on elegant side-wheel steamboats on the Upper Mississippi. ("Paddling & Piloting")
The famous riverboat J.S. was named after Captain John Streckfus, the man most responsible for developing the connection between dance music and riverboats on the Mississippi. Streckfus began his Acme Packet Company in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1884, concentrating on the transport of freight and passengers until the impact of railroads redirected the company's focus around the turn of the century. The original J.S. was launched in 1901 and was the first riverboat on the Mississippi specially outfitted for the "excursion" trade. The J.S. traveled from New Orleans to Saint Paul, Minnesota, offering short trips of a day, or an afternoon, or an evening to customers who wanted dining and dancing whilst "rolling on the river." Thus, excursion vessels such as the J.S. had no passenger staterooms, and the normal cabin space was devoted instead to a large dance floor and bandstand.
Captain John Streckfus was a fiddle player, and, along with his sons Joseph, Vernon, Roy, and John, Jr., took a personal interest in the music which was performed on the excursion boats. The J.S. burned, with over 1,000 passengers fleeing, on June 25, 1910 ("Streckfus"). The J.S. made its first trip to Saint Paul in 1905 and returned 2-4 times per season, doing moonlight excursions down the river, to Minnehaha Falls, or up the St.Croix. On June 25, 1910, the J.S. caught fire north of Victory Wisconsin, and beached itself on Bad Axe Island. 1,500 passengers and crew fled to the island or the shallow water. Two passengers died. One had been a drunken passenger who had been locked in the hold by the crew and who was found in the burned wreckage several days later. The company speculated that several such drunken passengers may have started the fire trying to find their way about the dark hold, which also held oil stores, hemp, rope and other combustibles. (SPD. 27 Jun 1910. p. 2 and 30 Jun 1910. p. 2)