Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 324


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


In recent decades, a group of maritime historical archeologists has, through meticulous examination of sunken ships, enhanced existing work by traditional archeologists and historians. Eastern Carolina University's History Department has built North America's strongest program in maritime archeology. It was an ECU team, supported by a score of public {and two} private groups, that gathered the data for this book about the nineteenth-century Missouri River steamboat Montana. Coauthors Annalies Corbin and Bradley A. Rogers write, "The Montana's history and subsequent archeological investigation can be utilized as a case study for understanding and appreciating the development of the trans-Mississippi West."

Built in Pittsburgh in 1878-79, the 280 ft. x 58 ft. Montana was the largest steamer in the Rocky Mountain West. For five years the Montana worked the difficult Missouri River trade, hauling freight between St. Louis and upper river ports. On June 22, 1884, near St. Charles, Missouri, the Montana collided with a railroad bridge and sank. Everything above the waterline was salvaged and the rest left to rot beneath the muddy waters of the Missouri. But in September 2002, a team of East Carolina University underwater historical archeologists began a "dig" of the Montana. This book is a result of their labors.