The City of Corinne

One of Lou Blonger’s obituaries makes an interesting claim that has heretofore slid under our radar:

In the early ’70s, Lou and Sam built and ran the first steamboat that ever plied on the Great Salt lake in Utah. Dancing was among the entertainment features on the boat. The venture lost them money.

Time to shed a little light on this assertion.

A collection of letters sent from the mining camp at Dry Canyon, some forty miles south of Salt Lake City, recently became available. The Blongers did business there, with the requisite mining claims and hospitality businesses, in the early 1870s.

In surveying the area, the correspondent climbs a nearby peak, and comments on the spectacular view.

A trip to Dry canyon may be said to combine a great many attractions at a small cost, as it carries one around the point of the west mountains, skirts the Great Salt Lake for several miles, and offers a panorama of islands and distant shores of the mainland, as Black Rock and Profile Rocks are passed, while further on the “City of Corinne” may at times be seen at her pier at Clinton’s landing. The silent moan of the surf and the beautiful blue waves dancing in the summer sun combine to furnish food for, enjoyment to the observing traveler.

Leaving the lake the road passes E. T. City and Tooele with its wealth of fruits and grain. Six miles from the latter place you reach Stockton, and as my business commences here, I propose to give you some idea of what they are doing in this town.

Stockton, as is well known, is the creation of general Connor and his command, in 1863. It boasts of a few stores, dwelling-houses, and a fourth-class hotel. The many evidences of broken-down smelters show that the early anxiety for the mineral development of Utah was premature. None of the smelters have been successful thus far. General Connor has very wisely, by a liberal policy, offered facilities to H. S. Jacobs & Co. for the construction of their very fine new smelter, which up to the present time has proven a complete success. I visited the building and accepted the very courteous invitation of H. R. Durkee, the assistant-manager for H. S. Jacobs & Co., to show me round; and was surprised to learn that the company had disbursed, in the development of mining interests in Utah, the sum of $300,000, including the purchase of the “City of Corinne” and some sixteen mines.

A quick search revealed the following article:

A steamboat called City of Corinne has been called the “most imposing boat that has ever sailed the Great Salt Lake”.

In 1871, the Steamboat City of Corinne was launched into the wide channel of the Bear River near the settlement that shared its name. Financed by a group of businessmen under the auspices of the Corinne Steam Navigation Company, the vessel ended up costing more than $40,000. Its engines were built in Chicago and then were shipped around South America to California, where they were transferred to a Utah-bound train. When it was finished, the boat was 150 feet long and stood three decks high. At its stern was the broad paddlewheel that would propel it through the briny waters of the Great Salt Lake.

So, taken at face value—H. S. Jacobs & Co. had the City of Corinne built. It would be easy enough to include the Blongers among the businessmen investing in this particular venture. It is possible that the Blongers could indeed have been involved in the area as early as 1871.

City of Corinne

It becomes even more likely in light of the brothers’ involvement with one J. Frank Jacobs in the Eureka hotel in Jacobs City, the small settlement that eventually sprang up to cater to the denizens of Dry Canyon. Frank was apparently the son of H.S. Jacobs, town founder and general grand poobah of Jacobs.

On the other hand, The Corinne wasn’t, in fact, the first steamboat on the lake.

The City of Corinne was not the first steamboat to ply the lake’s waters. In 1868, Patrick Edward Connor, formerly the commander of the California Volunteers stationed at Fort Douglas, launched the Kate Connor to haul railroad ties and telegraph poles across the lake. But in the end, the Kate Connor was too small and underpowered to prove effective. With new mines in Tooele County digging hundreds of tons of gold and silver out of the ground each month, but with no railroad connection nearby, a boat like the City of Corinne stood to make a killing in the shipping business going between Lake Point near present-day Stansbury Park and the railhead in Corinne. On her first trip to the lake’s southern shore, the boat returned north with 45 tons of ore.

The Blongers were working numerous of those claims, including the George B. McLellan, Diamond Cross, Motive Power, Three Guardsmen, and the Roaring Lion.

For its part, the Corinne was eventually converted to an excursion boat. That’s not a bad fit for the Blongers, either.

Fluctuating lake levels eventually made it difficult for the City of Corinne to continue anchoring in its home port of Corrine and it began a new life as an excursion boat docking at Lake Point. When presidential candidate James A. Garfield rode the boat while on a visit to Utah, its new owner renamed it the General Garfield in his honor. In 1904, the vessel burned to the water line and was buried under I-80.

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