The Queen of St. Johns

09 Apr
The Steamer Queen of St. Johns

The Steamer Queen of St. Johns




The Queen of the St. Johns to Ply the Cape
Fear – The Propitious Excursion Season
About to Open.

Wilmington’s boom is not confined in any one direction. It is a live, healthy boom that takes in everything.

The outlook for the excursion season in our city is more propitious than ever in the history of the place.

There is Captain Harper’s elegant steamer the “Passport,” which is now making her regular trips to Southport and is ready for excursion parties. There is the splendid new steamer, Sylvan Grove, which the New Hanover Transit Company will have on from New York in a few days, and now it is settled that the large and magnificent steamer “the Queen of the St. John’s” will ply the waters of the Cape Fear this summer.

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The owner of “the Queen of the St. Johns,” Mr. J. G. Christopher, was in the city yesterday and with a party of gentlemen went down to Southport on the Marie to make arrangements to run his steamer between this city and that. The arrangements were perfected, and in a week or two the Queen will be brought out and will begin her trips under command of that well known, thorough-going and efficient officer Captain R. P. Paddison. The Captain’s boat will be the most magnificent and the largest that ever ran on the Cape Fear. She has a carrying capacity of 1500 passengers, has sixty-eight staterooms and can sleep 150 people. She has three decks, and a saloon 170 feet in length. The length of the steamer is 200 feet and her breadth is 56 feet. She draws three feet fore and aft, is a side wheeler with double engines and her speed is fourteen miles an hour.


With such a steamer in our waters, ample accommodations will be offered to excursionists this season and with the other steamers on the river our thousands of visitors this summer will have great opportunities for enjoyment. The Queen has been running on the St. John’s river, Florida, from Jacksonville to Sanford and Enterprise, and during the past season in the Land of Flowers has done a large business. She is one of the most popular vessels in Florida, and in the winter season will run there, and hereafter will be run through the summer season on the Cape Fear river.

With the Seacoast railroad to carry the people out to the Sound every few minutes, the Sylvan Grove to transport them to Carolina Beach, and the Passport and Queen to ply the river and carry excursions, outside, it will be seen that it will be worth one’s while to be a resident in our visitor to Wilmington this summer!

In addition to the steamers mentioned, it may as well be stated here that Mr. Dozier of the firm of Dozier & Wiggs, of Southport, is now in New York, where he has purchased an elegant steamer to run between Wilmington and Southport to carry mails and passengers. A letter from Mr. Dozier conveys the information that their steamer will be brought out in a few days as also will the Sylvan Grove which sails from New York for Wilmington this morning.

Mr. Christopher who owns the Queen, is also proprietor of Murray Hall, Pablo Beach, Fla., which is one of the most magnificent hotels South.

[Wilmington Messenger – April 28, 1888]

The Queen of St. Johns.

The steamer Queen of St. Johns is expected to arrive here either to-day or to-morrow. Capt. R. P. Paddison is in command, and Mr. W. H. Christopher, a clever and courteous gentleman, who is a brother of Col. John G. Christopher, the owner of the Queen, is her Purser. The News and Courier of yesterday says she was at Charleston on Friday en route for this city. Her length is 200 feet. When light she draws three feet six inches of water and when loaded six feet. She has accommodation for 300 cabin passengers and a total capacity for 1,200 to 1,500 people.

[Wilmington Messenger – July 1, 1888]



Another Excursion Boat for Trips on the Cape Fear – The First Excursion To-day Something About the New Comer.

The long looked for, much talked of and extensively written of steamer Queen of St. John’s has arrived in Wilmington at last. She steamed in yesterday afternoon at 12:05 and was greeted with salutes from all the steam whistles of the boats in the harbor and of the saw mills along the river. She came up the river slowly, and responded to the salutes with her musical chimes whistles that awakened the echoes along the river and struck the ears of the busy people in the city. The whistles were a signal to the people that the Queen must be coming, and when she steamed up to the wharf several hundred people, white and black, big and little, had gathered to get a glimpse of her. She moored at Walker’s wharf, between Dock and Orange streets, and when she came alongside, the crowd greeted her with cheers and rushed aboard in a mass. For the moment it seemed as if the crowd considered that the boat belonged to them, as the people without ceremony scattered all over her, taking possession of her decks, saloons, cabins and state rooms.

The principal of the Queen’s crew aboard were Captain R. P. Paddison, master and general manager, Mr. W. H. Christopher, purser, Mr. Frank Kurtse mate, Captain C. C. Morse, pilot, and Mr. William Hearn chief engineer. All of the crew came around with the boat from Jacksonville with the exception of Captain Paddison and Mr. Christopher, who came through by rail and had been here several days. They, and some ladies, went down the river yesterday morning on the Passport, and met the Queen about half way between this city and Southport and came back upon her.

The Queen having left Fernandina, Fla., on Wednesday, June 27th, arrived at Southport yesterday morning at 7:40 o’clock, and leaving there at 9:20 arrived in Wilmington at 12:05 p. m. A MESSENGER reporter, who boarded the new comer found her to be a side-wheel steamer one hundred and ninety-three feet length of boiler deck and fifty-nine feet length of boiler deck and fifty-nine feet over all across decks. She was built in 1884 at Cincinnati, Ohio, and rebuilt in 1885 at Jacksonville, Florida. She is a wooden hull vessel of 413 68 100 tons net burthen, and is run by two high pressure engines of twenty-inch cylinder and seven feet three inches stroke of piston. The engines are fed by four steel boilers twenty-four feet in length and 3 2-12 feet in diameter. The steam pressure allowed is 191 pounds. She carries life lines, three life boats, one life raft, 274 cork life preservers, 300 feet of hose and other fire apparatus. She draws 3 ½ feet of water and 4 ½ feet when freighted. She is owned by Capt. J. G. Christopher, the clever proprietor of the Pablo Beach Hotel, near Jacksonville, Fla.

The queen is licensed to carry 1,500 passengers, and has 60 state rooms with 180 berths. The state rooms are on the promenade deck and open from each side of an elegant saloon 170 feet in length. Altogether she is quite well suited for excursions, and will no doubt be a popular boat during the season which has set in so auspiciously.

Her first excursion down the Cape Fear will be run this evening as a compliment to the Chamber of Commerce and Produce Exchange. She will leave her wharf at 2:30 o’clock, and will return about 7 p. m. The Cornet Concert Club, the Germania Cornet Band, the Wilmington Light Infantry, the Mayor and other representatives of the municipal government, a large number of ladies and other citizens have been invited.

[Wilmington Messenger – July 6, 1888]

— The lower Cape Fear is now well supplied with passenger boats. Besides the Sylvan Grove, running to Carolina Beach, there are four steamers running regularly between Wilmington and Southport—the Queen of St. Johns, Passport, Louise and Bessie.

[Wilmington Star – July 10, 1888]

Fun on the Cape Fear.

There was a little fun on the Cape Fear yesterday. The Queen of St. Johns and the Sylvan Grove were both announced to leave at 2,30 p. m. But the time of departure arrived, and neither boat was in a hurry to get off. The Queen was probably delayed on account of the immense crowd going on board. But the Sylvan is usually so prompt with her schedules that some surprise was expressed at her provoking tardiness. In response to the interrogatory of a lady Captain Harper said he was waiting for a little boy who had gone home after his bathing suit. People stood on the wharves and watched and wondered. Heavy columns of black smoke shot upward from the “stacks” of the two steamers, au{inverted character – and}d it was evident that somebody was pitching wood into the furnaces.

Finally, the suspense was relieved. Slowly and gracefully the Queen backed off from her wharf until she reached a point about midway of the stream, where she remained almost motionless for a moment. Then the veteran Captain Morse, who stood in the pilot house, rang his bells, and it was “forward on the port and back on the starboard wheel.” This soon brought the bow around to the South, and away went the Queen with her thousand excursionists.

The gallant Harper, who was at the wheel, then gave the signal to cast the Sylvan loose from her moorings and his proud craft stood out from her wharf.

For nearly thirty seconds the Sylvan Grove remained almost stationary. But the Queen of St. Johns having gotten under headway, Harper gave his bell wires a quick jerk, the beam began to move rapidly, and all was excitement on board as she “walked the waters like a thing of life.”

It is estimated that the Queen started about a quarter of a mile in the lead, but this only served to heighten the excitement of those on board the Sylvan.

There was music, and there was waving of hats and handkerchiefs, and there were shouts on the old Cape Fear as the two boats went humming down the stream. The Queen’s people crowded to the stern of their boat, while those of the Sylvan hurried to the bow. Remembering the old axiom, “a stern chase is a long chase,” doubts were expressed as to what would be the result. But the pace of the Sylvan was too hot for her rival, and it was soon discovered that the boats were getting nearer together. Finally, just as they reached the “dram tree,” about two miles from Market dock, the Sylvan Grove passed the Queen of St. Johns with a rush; and then there was more music, and more wild hurrahing, and more waving of hats and handkerchiefs and a might sound from the steam whistles.

It is not for the STAR representative to call this little “spin” a race, but as a faithful chronicler of events, he took some notes and concluded to “print ‘em.”

[Wilmington Weekly Star – July 13, 1888]


The Queen of St. Johns Fire.

It was reported on the streets yesterday that there was insurance on the steamer Queen of St. Johns to the amount of $10,000, but insurance agents in the city know nothing of it. One of them said that application had been made a short time ago for a $12,000 policy on the vessel, but it was not issued. The machinery of the boat is thought to be worthless. There were sixty cords of lightwood in the hold of the vessel.

Mr. J. O. Bowden’s wharf, to which the steamer was moored, was destroyed by the fire, and a large shed adjoining. Mr. Bowden estimates his loss at $1,000, upon which there was no insurance.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Friday, July 12, 1889]

Burning of the Queen of St. Johns.

The steamer Queen of St. Johns was burned at her moorings just above the city last night about 9 o’clock.

The Queen was owned by Mr. J. G. Christopher, of Jacksonville, Fla. She was built to run on the St. John’s river, and was brought to Wilmington last summer, where she ran #### excursion boat to Southport; but ### enterprise did not pay and she ## withdrawn and tied up to the river bank, where she remained during # winter and the present summer, # charge of a watchman. The Queen was a costly boat, had a magnificent saloon and staterooms for several hundred passengers, and her equipments in furniture and machinery were first-class in every respect.

Nothing could be learned as to the cause of the fire. The boat was ablaze amidship when attention was first directed to her by the bright light which illuminated the river and sky, and the flames spread rapidly fore and aft until the boat was entirely enveloped. The fire burned with such brilliancy that hundreds of people, including many ladies were attracted to the river side to witness the grand and beautiful sight afforded by the conflagration of the luckless steamer.

The steam tugs Marie and Philadelphia went up to the burning vessel but could do nothing to save her. The Marie, however, got her hose into play and extinguished the fire that had spread from the Queen to Bowden’s naval stores yard adjoining among a lot of dross, and as usual did excellent service.

The watchman who has had charge of the Queen ever since she was tied up, was on board when the fire broke out. He said that he thought that the boat caught on fire from sparks from a passing steamer.

Mr. Elisha Warren, who went up with the young men to the burning vessel, got on her deck and threw the anchors overboard, and then with others cut a hole in her side to let the water in.

[Wilmington Weekly Star – July 12, 1889]

Sale of the Queen of St. Johns.

The submerged hull and boilers of the steamer Queen of St. Johns, which was burned to the water’s edge and sunk near Point Peter some time ago, were sold by auction yesterday for $95. The chains, hawsers, etc., saved from the vessel the night of the fire were also sold, and brought about $80. Messrs. Cronly & Morris were the auctioneers.

[Wilmington Star – August 23, 1889]

For a brief history of the Queen of St. Johns, and how John G. Christopher became her owner, see the following court record involving Maritime Lien Law: Circuit Court N. D. Florida December 13, 1886  Federal Reporter pp. 24-28.

For a detailed history of the Queen of St. Johns, read pp. 88 – 95 of Edward A. Muller’s St. Johns River Steamboats which was digitized and is available online at the Florida Heritage Collection:  “Western River Steamboats on the St. Johns“.  There is also an excellent picture of the steamer Rockledge (former Governor Worth) in this chapter.

Queen of St. Johns after being converted from a propeller to a sidewheeler (note regarding Capt. C. H. Brock).

Capt. Richard Porson Paddison and wife.

On her first excursion trip on the St. Johns river, the Queen of St. Johns became stuck on the Volusia Bar.  The steamer Governor Worth came along and helpded her off (*according to info in Edward A. Mueller’s book, St. Johns River Steamboats 1986).  Possibly this was Capt. Paddison’s first encounter with the “Queen.”  The Governor Worth’s name was changed to the Rockledge.

The Cape Fear River Steamers

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Posted by on April 9, 2009 in Uncategorized


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