By now, you’ve probably seen the widespread news reports that have noted the appearance of a 130-year-old shipwreck in a section of the Missouri River in North Dakota. Built in 1884, the Abner O’Neal spent most of its time ferrying wheat grown in the state across the Missouri River. On July 17, 1892, the steamboat was loaded with 9,000 bushels of wheat from the city of Washburn when it struck a submerged rock or snag on the river some 30 miles north of Bismarck. Its wreck in the Missouri is now visible again, due to severe drought conditions.
Steamboats on the Red
Riverboats like the Abner O’Neal were the fastest means of transportation for people and goods traveling North Dakota’s rivers and lakes. Towns along major waterways—like Grand Forks and Fargo on the Red River and Bismarck on the Missouri—grew in size as they served as ports and refueling stations. While the Missouri was a larger player in the steamboat era, the Red River of the North had quite a run as well.
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