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Sequoyah Research Center

Captain David Miller

“Seemingly on the pinnacle of success, disaster struck the steamboat line (Montgomery, Miller, & Company) in June 1833. Cholera was raging along the Mississippi River Ports when Captain Miller and the Reindeer left the plague-ridden city of New Orleans, bound for the mouth of the White River. Several passengers boarded the boat at Vicksburg, Mississippi, one of whom spread the disease to the other passengers and crew. When the Reindeer docked at Montgomery’s Point, Captain Miller took sick suddenly. After an illness of only four or five hours he succumbed, and the boat left for Little Rock with Captain Cochran in command.

When the vessel reached the capitol city (Little Rock) on June 23, 1833, she was in a distressed condition, having lost six of her passengers and crew from the ravages of cholera. Another of the passengers was at the point of death, and almost everyone on board was “more or less affected by the disease.” Passenger Matthew Coffee was lost on June 18, and steward A. Nedad, fireman James Rea, passenger John Allen, pilot George Norris, and chief engineer L.H. Edson died on June 19. Nevertheless, the Reindeer was thoroughly scrubbed, another pilot and engineer hired, and the boat left for Fort Gibson. Passengers who remained at Little Rock told when the Reindeer left New Orleans, cholera was raging with between 150 and 200 persons dying daily and business was at a standstill. The disease was rampant all along the Mississippi, with the woodyards becoming burial grounds. No casualties were reported on the Volant, but Captain Turner replaced Charles Kelly as master, so he may have become ill.”

Source: Duane Huddleston, “The Volant and Reindeer Early Arkansas Steamboats,” Pulaski County Historical Review, Little Rock, AR, June, 1976. Volume XXIV, No 2

Updated 8.4.2010