STEAMBOATS, FEMALE PILOTS, AND THE RIO GRANDE! by Darlene Franklin

The Mississippi River dominated Blanche Douglass Leathers’ life. Although we don’t know exactly where she was born in 1860, it was probably along the river basin. She married the son of famous steamboat captain T.P. Leathers. Captain Leathers commanded the Natchez in its historic race with the Robert E. Lee. The Lee won the race, besting the Natchez’s time from St. Louis to New Orleans by three hours and forty-four minutes.

In 1894, at the age of thirty-four, Blanche Leathers decided to earn her steamboat pilot’s license. She became captain of eighth Natchez. By then, steamboats were on the decline as trains multiplied. Trains provided faster and more dependable modes of transportation, and by the end of the nineteenth century, had eliminated much of the steamboat trade.

I discovered Blanche Leather’s story while I was investigating steamboat traffic on the Rio Grande River. Steamboats attained grew to prominence during the war with Mexico in 1846 but dwindled by the beginning of the 20th century.

Steamboats could only navigate a small portion of the Rio Grande. The river flows from Brownsville at on the Gulf Coast, then dips south through Big Bend National Park before it reaches El Paso and beyond. However, the steamboats only traveled as far as Roma, 110 miles from the mouth of the river.

Roma, the Rio Grande and steamboats, Blanche Leather and female steamboat captains—fertile ground for a writer’s imagination. In A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas, my Blanche inherits a steamboat from the father she never met—along with the resident gambler. And yes, she earns her pilot’s license.

 

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Welcome Darlene,great post,I love steamboats an anything to do with female pilots,,maybe in my next life I can fly,,

  2. An interesting topic and one I’ve never read about before. I love variety!

  3. Interesting topic about steamboat. Your Blanche sounds fascinating!

    Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  4. Very intereting!!! First I didn’t know you needed a steamboat pilot license and that there were few women who were trained as one. What little I know about steamboats comes from “Showboat”, the musical and the novel.

  5. I enjoyed the information about Steamboats. I also love the cover of A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas! 🙂 Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy! 😀

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  6. Hi Darlene! Welcome to P&P. We’re so happy to have you here. What an interesting subject. I’ve lived in Texas a long time and know most of the history but I’ve never heard of steamboats being on the Rio Grande. I’m happy to say that I learned something new.

    Wishing you much success with your books. A Bride’s Rogue looks like a fun read. Have a wonderful Labor Day!

  7. Interesting post. I didn’t know there were steamboats used on the Rio Grande.

  8. Hi Darlene! This story is a wonderful example of a bit of history leading to compelling fiction. I can see a whole series about women and steamboats. Thank you for visiting P&P today!

  9. How interesting, Darlene. I does, indeed, set the mind to plotting. 🙂 Thanks for dropping in today.

  10. Hi Darlene,
    I enjoyed reading your post. Your book sounds like a fun read, I will look for it.
    Have a great Labor Day weekend!!!

  11. Enjoyed reading the comments. It really did take strong women to settle the West, didn’t it?
    Your book sounds like a fun read

  12. Sounds like an interesting topic for a book. I have never read your work before so I must check it out.

  13. Another bit of women’s history that has remained rather unknown. It is amazing just how much women have done over the years that was not recorded or recognized. Thank you, Darlene, for this bit of history. Best of luck with the release of A BRIDE’S ROGUE IN ROMA.

  14. I love how much I always learn here at P&P what a neat story Blanche’s is. Are you considering writing a book based on her? Love the book cover too.

  15. My apologies for missing all of you earlier! I’m glad you all agree Blanche’s story was as fascinating as I found it to be. I always associate steamboats with the Mississippi so was surprised to learn of the role they played in the War with Mexico. They’re also mentioned in histories of Dallas. . . things we never knew.

  16. My interest perked up at the title of this post Darlene. Is this a brand new release? I don’t think I’ve heard of it before. Don’t you love the things that pop up in research? Writers and readers of historical fiction accumulate a lot of knowledge.

    The plot sounds delicious, and I’d love to be in the drawing if there is a giveaway. Thank you!
    debraemarvin at yahoo

  17. Sounds like Blanche led an interesting life. I didn’t know that steamboats ever navigated the Rio Grande. I lover your cover, btw.

  18. Debra, yes, A Bride’s Rogue is a brand new release (Sept. 1st) from Barbour. I didn’t know that steamboats navigated the Rio Grande, either, until I was doing background research on Roma, Texas. (I had chosen that location already) The graphic artists at Barbour did a great job with the cover. I love the mischievous smile on my heroine’s face!

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