Induction Category & YearGeneral 1978
Home TownMcKeesport, PA
BirthAugust 29, 1839
McKeesport, PA
DeathMay 27, 1896
Yankton, SD

   Sanford Coulson
Champion of Excellence

 Sanford Bell Coulson, with his brothers, John, Martin, and William operated the Coulson Packet Line of steamboats in the late 1860’s. They ran their boats on the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to St. Louis.

Considering the increase in western migration, the gold rush, and the need of government supplies to the Indian agencies and military posts on the upper Missouri River, the Coulson Packet Line was prompted to expand their river trade beyond St. Louis. They expanded their runs, to not only include the Ohio River, but also the Missouri River. From St. Louis, the Coulson Packet Line headed to Ft. Benton, Montana, the head of the Missouri River. Supplies were needed along this entire route, known as the Upper Missouri.<p>In 1870, the Coulson Line changed its name to the Missouri River Transportation Company. This is when they built their first steamboat, the Far West. It was one of ten steamboats that they were to build at Pittsburgh to operate on the upper Missouri River. <p>It was the Far West, under the command of Captain Grant Marsh, which became forever famous in steamboat history. Captain Marsh established the steamboat record for speed, never to be equaled in the annals of steamboating, when he brought the wounded soldiers of Custer’s Army under Major Reno to Fort Lincoln. The distance of 920 miles was covered in fifty-four hours.<p>In June 1875, the year before Captain Marsh performed his feat with the Far West, he made another invincible record for the Coulson Line. Marsh had pioneered up the Yellowstone River farther than any steamboat had ever attempted to go, to a point which is now Billings, MT. It was from this feat that Billings had its inception in the name of Coulson, Montana. The settlement went under the name of “Coulson” until a railroad reached this point. To honor the president of the railroad, the people changed the name from Coulson to Billings. <p>The Coulson Company built and operated more steamboats than any other company operating on the Missouri River. They operated as many as fourteen steamboats some seasons by chartering boats from other companies. This was necessary at times, depending on the government supplies to be transported, for they won most of the government contracts every year. <p>It is not possible to calculate the role that the steamboat played in the development of this country. Had it not attempted to navigate the waters of the “Wild Missouri,” homesteading and development may have been delayed by many years. <p>From Pittsburgh to Ft. Benton, Sanford was known only as “Commodore Coulson.” His warm nature and pleasing personality won for him a host of friends everywhere he was known. <p>As a citizen of Yankton, he was among the foremost in public spirit and was recognized as one of the substantial and most prominent citizens. He was interested in every promotion of the city’s interest and his strong arm was found backing whatever promised to be of public benefit. <p></td>

Home Town (McKeesport, PA)
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