The Steamboat Era began in America in 1807 when Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston built the Clermont. The Steamboat Era began on the Sabine River in 1836 when the steamboat Laura evacuated Texans in the Runaway Scrape.
Other boats such as the Velocipede, Ceres, Wisconsin # 2, and Angelina also made history on the Sabine River. From 1836 to the steamboat Harry Lee # 2 in 1951, about forty steamboats used the Sabine River.
The Pride of the Sabine River and of Vernon Parish was the Neches Belle. She was an inland passage sidewheel wooden hull packet.
She brought much-needed cargo to the people on the Sabine River and took cotton to market.
Her huge size was measured in cotton bale capacity, which was about 500 bales. Empty she weighed 130 tons, loaded she weighed 242 tons.
The Neches Belle also served as an excursion boat. When she tied up at Burr Ferry, people came from miles around.
She had many luxuries including electricity, gourmet food, a saloon, music, and some reports of gambling. George Harris of Belzora was known for his fine cooking. The second deck was for male entertainment.
Bands were known to perform time-to-time.
The Neches Belle was owned by Samuel Allardyce and John Lyles of Burr Ferry. Samuel was from Galveston, but he made Vernon Parish his home, where he died in 1937. John was from South Carolina, but he also made Vernon Parish his home, where he died in 1918.
John served in the Civil War in Co. C, 27th LA Inf. and was Burr Ferry's postmaster. He married Ellenor Burr, daughter of Gilman Burr, owner of the steamboats Era # 8 and Flora.
As with many things, there comes an end. The coming of the railroad lessened shipping costs and steamboats found it difficult to make ends meet.
Because of unpaid debt, the Neches Belle, along with the Maude Howell and Extra, was docked at Logansport in 1897. Eventually, they weathered away and sank.
Their remains can be found there today.