Captain Uriah Bonser Scott was born in Sciotoville, OH on the Ohio river, in the year 1827. At the age of ten he had to help make the family living, so he apprenticed with an ironworker, and eventually became a master of the trade. An ironworker was much more than a village blacksmith shoeing horses and mules - he was a combination of practical engineer, mechanic, and machinist. An artist in iron, steel, brass and bronze, he designed, made, and repaired not only a wide range of metal products and implements used by the settlers, but the tools and machinery to make those items.

In 1850, Uri and his older brother Perry opened a "mechanic shop" and axe factory in the brand new town of Ironton, Ohio; serving the metalworking needs of the townsfolk, iron smelters and passing steamboats on the Ohio River. Scott Axes quickly became famous among the wood choppers at the iron smelting furnaces of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of southern Ohio. Each of the twenty or so furnaces in the area required one hundred or more cords of wood per day for the charcoal to melt the iron out of its ore. That made for a lot of chopping and the need for a lot of axes.

Ironton Register, Jan. 27, 1853 - Scott, Brother & Co. are doing a driving business at Axe Manufacturing, on Third street - Their shop is now altogether too small, such has been the increase in their business, and they are contemplating the erection of a more extensive building the coming spring. Their success is richly deserved, as they are very industrious and very superior mechanics. We recently heard a chopper from Ohio Furnace say that he had used their axes for three years, and had never known one to FAIL; and the popularity of their axes may be known from the fact that their orders are constantly in advance of their ability to supply.

In the spring of 1851, 24 year old successful businessman Uri Scott began courting 18 year old Clarinda Lionbarger, who's father, Peter, had owned part of the land on which Ironton had been built. Peter died in June of 1851. Uri and Clarinda were married in October of the same year. Over the next 25 years they would raise seven children, only two of which, however, would live to maturity.

Uri wasn't satisfied with just being a successful businessman, husband and father. He wanted something more out of life. Because of his mechanic's training and skills he was familiar with the design, construction and repair of steam engines. Between 1850-54 he also became a part-time steamboat engineer, and learned the rudiments of steamboat navigation and management. The Ohio and other rivers were the superhighways of the time. Steamboats carried passengers and freight thousands of miles in relative comfort at high speed - 10-15 miles per hour. The lure of traveling on the river and the excitement of being involved with the "high technology" of the steamboats drew Scott like a magnet.

In 1854 Uri sold the axe factory and "went steamboating" full-time as captain of the LILY, a small steamboat which he probably rebuilt from an abandoned wreck. The LILY was sort of a "waterbus" packet. She had a wider range than a normal ferry - not just across the river, but up and down both shores to villages ten miles or so from Ironton - making several trips per day. More conventional packet boats carried passengers and freight perhaps a hundred miles per day, making round trips in their "trade" every day or so.

Between 1855 and 1873 Capt. Scott was the designer, engineer, captain and master of a dozen steamboats of varying sizes from 90-200 feet in length, including the VICTOR's #1 #2, #3 and #4, and the famous sidewheelers CHESAPEAKE and FASHION. He was instrumental in helping develop the class of small, fast shallow draft sidewheel packets which became the hallmark of Ohio river steamboating. During the Civil War, Scott served as a civilian contractor, his boats transporting troops and supplies throughout the inland rivers which drain into the Ohio and Mississippi.

Portland Oregonian, Nov. 11, 1906 - ...When the Civil War came he had already built and sold several packets for the trade and was owner of one and master of another when the Government impressed them for military service. During the Rebellion he ran his boats in the Ohio, Mississippi and Cumberland rivers, transporting troops and supplies for the Federal armies. He was in the midst of war's alarums for four years, and his service though in a civil capacity, was at times more hazardous than if he had been a soldier.

After losing his money in the bank failures and business reverses which presaged the Cooke Panic of 1873, Capt. Scott and his family took Horace Greeley's advice and went west - to Oregon. Even before the Civil War, thousands of Ohioans had been moving to the fertile valleys and mild climate of Oregon and Washington. Capt. Scott and his family had friends in the Portland area, and it was there that they settled.

Since 1850, steamboats on the Columbia and Willamette rivers had been built as deep-draft oceangoing vessels rather than the "thin-water" riverboats used on the Ohio and Mississippi. Capt. Scott found that the two companies which monopolized the steamboating business on the Columbia and Willamette weren't interested in his years of experience or his "crazy" ideas about shallow-draft river boats. Rejected by the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. and Peoples Transportation Co., Capt. Scott decided to go into business on his own, as he had done back east.

In 1874 he borrowed $3000 from some Ironton friends who had come to Oregon to operate the Oswego Iron Foundry, bought the machinery from an old steam dredge, and began building the sternwheeler OHIO to use on the Willamette river. The Willamette flows 185 miles from Eugene to Portland, it's junction with the Columbia river. There, a major "seaport" gave access to the world. The Willamette Valley was the "breadbasket" of the entire west coast in those days; before modern irrigation techniques turned California's deserts into croplands. But shallow water during the majority of the year made it impossible for the usual deep draft steamboats to bring the Willamette Valley's crops to market before the winter rains swelled the river in November or December.

Scott didn't have much money, but he did the best he could with what he had. The OHIO was 140 ft. long x 25 ft wide X 3 ft. depth of hold, and not particularly pretty. In fact she looked like a shoebox with a smokestack coming out of the top and a sternwheel tacked on one end. The old timers sitting around the riverfront laughed at the strange looking craft being built, and declared she wouldn't float. When the OHIO floated, they said she would never go upstream against the current. When she went upstream and came back loaded with cargoŠ they quit laughing and wanted to buy a piece of the action!

Empty, the OHIO sat only 9 inches deep in the water, and loaded with 100 tons of freight she drew only 18 inches. Such a shallow draft boat could go up the Willamette as far as Corvallis or Eugene long before the deeper draft "Company" boats could go more than a few miles from Portland. Between October and December of 1874, Capt. Scott cleared $10-$12,000 hauling wheat and other produce from the Willamette Valley to Portland's deep water port on the Columbia.

Portland Oregonian - Nov. 27, 1874 - Captain U.B. Scott's boat, the Ohio, is now lying at the foot of Alder street undergoing a few temporary repairs...On account of being extremely light draught the boat is able to make regular trips during the lowest stage of water. She has ascended the river as high as Corvallis without the least difficulty, and brought down about twice a week large quantities of wheat and flour. One hundred and seventy tons of freight are brought down on an average each trip, which during a low stage of water. may be regarded as something remarkable. As yet the Ohio has not ascended further than Corvallis, but when the river rises a little more she will make the attempt to reach Eugene City.

With the money he made that first year, Capt. Scott then built the sternwheeler CITY OF SALEM. The jeers and unkind remarks at his expense caused by the appearance of the Ohio determined Capt. Scott that he would never again own anything but the finest, most beautiful boats that money could buy or build. When she was launched in 1875, the CITY OF SALEM was the prettiest and most lavishly furnished steamboat on the Willamette if not the entire Northwest.

Like the OHIO, the CITY OF SALEM was a shallow-draft boat. Capt. Scott once took her eighteen miles up the Santiam river, a narrow tributary of the Willamette, to the town of Jefferson - a stretch of river so shallow that a rowboat would often run aground! The CITY OF SALEM also became a popular summer excursion boat for picnics and other group outings around Portland.

Within a year or two, other boatbuilders began copying Capt. Scott's "radical" ideas of boat design, and he turned his interests to other areas. He had proved his point - that shallow draft boats could be built and run successfully on the Willamette by independent operators. The Companies that had refused to hire him now tried to buy him out and remove him as a competitor. But he refused to be bought, and continued his private "war" against the monopolies for over thirty years.

In 1881 Capt. Scott designed and built the FLEETWOOD, a fast propeller-driven passenger steamer that made him a small fortune (and cost 'the Companies' that same fortune). She started on the Columbia, taking passengers from Portland to the Cascades, then shifted to the Portland to Astoria run. Later she was moved to Puget Sound. In 1889 the FLEETWOOD raced from Olympia to Seattle, WA, setting a speed record while bringing firemen and a pumper to help put out a massive fire that was ravaging the city.

In August of 1887 the telephone came to Portland, and the U.B. Scott Steamboat Co. was one of the first thirty subscribers to this marvel of modern technology. However, two years earlier Capt. Scott had launched a technological marvel of his own - the sternwheeler TELEPHONE. On July 2, 1887 the TELEPHONE became the "fastest sternwheeler in the world".

Ironton Register Jul. 14, 1887 - FAST TIME - Capt. U. B. Scott, formerly of Ironton, enjoys the distinction of having the fastest sternwheel boat in the world. It is the Telephone, built by himself, and now running on the Columbia river, Oregon. July 2, she made a trip from Portland to Astoria, 110 miles, in 4 hours and 34 3/4 minutes.

Twenty-five miles an hour was a phenomenal speed in those days! His steamboat designs made Capt. Scott so famous that he and they were written up in a now unfortunately lost supplemental issue of Scientific American magazine.

On the evening of November 20th, 1887, the TELEPHONE caught fire just as she was coming into Astoria. In a dramatic attempt to save his passengers and cargo, Capt. Scott rammed the flame engulfed boat ashore at full speed. The passengers were saved, but the boat and cargo burned to the waterline within just a few minutes. She was towed back to Portland, re-built, and went on to serve the passenger and freight needs of the Columbia river and Puget Sound until 1905!

In 1891, Scott merged his Columbia Transportation Company with John Leary's Seattle Steam Navigation & Transportation Co., and Capt. Scott became president of the new Columbia River and Puget Sound Navigation Company. Leary had built the sternwheeler BAILEY GATZERT for the Puget Sound; but the new company brought her to the Columbia River, and sent their speedy new propeller steamer, the FLYER, to the Sound. The moves were made to better their chances in competitions against rival steamboat companies. The BAILEY was not only beautiful, but fast, and she became so well-known and popular with Portlanders that a song was even written in her honor. For nearly 22 years the FLYER made four trips a day between Seattle and Tacoma, so regularly that people often set their watches by her arrival times. During that time the FLYER traveled nearly 1.5 million miles and carried almost 4 million passengers, a record that has never been beaten by any other river or sound steamer in the world.

Capt. Scott and the Columbia River and Puget Sound Navigation Company also designed and built the TELEGRAPH, CITY OF EVERETT, and other boats on the Sound and the Columbia. Captain Scott died in 1913 at the age of 86. In some sense, he was the last of that breed of Victorian inventor-entrepreneurs who believed, and often proved, that they could do or make anything they set their minds to regardless of the obstacles. Scott's nearly 70 year career was truly ubiquitous -- ironworker, inventor, steamboat designer, engineer, captain, and businessman -- any one of which would have been career enough for most men. His efforts made significant contributions to the history and development of steamboating on the Ohio, Columbia and Willamette rivers, and Puget Sound. In modern times, two US Postage stamps have honored his boat designs. The "History of Mail Delivery" series shows his sidewheel mail packet Chesapeake, and the "River Boat" series pictures the sternwheeler Bailey Gatzert.