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Steamboat Captain David McBride Tipton


David McBride Tipton was born on a farm on the banks of Muskingum River in Ohio in 1828. For fifty years he served as a Mississippi River Boat Captain. He naturally took to the river at a young age and for a time began his career first as a mate and later a captain for the Northern Line Steamers on the upper Mississippi river.

Captain Tipton pictured with his dog Toby who traveled with him on the boats while he worked.Photo obtained from Micheal Conner

In 1873 he entered service with the Government Engineer Department as Master and Pilot until his death in 1904. He never married but had many friends including the infamous writer Mark Twain. He was noted as having a kind and and happy demeanor which "endeared him to all associated with him". He loved the company of children and animals and they in turn loved him too. His dog Toby , pictured with him left, traveled with him while he worked aboard the ships. He was held in great esteem by his associates and coworkers.





Captain Tipton died instantly on September 22, 1904 after having a massive stroke at the wheel of the government snag boat* Colonel Alexander Mackenzie on Lake Pepin near Reads Landing, Minnesota. He was buried in Chippianock Cemetery in Rock Island, IL two days later. The boat he died on was renamed for him shortly after his death.


The U.S. David Tipton renamed after the Captain that died at its wheel. Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library


Daily Moline Dispatch, August 1, 1906

Two years later the large anchor pictured above was placed by his crew in front of his headstone as a memorial. The anchor's origin was a mystery as it was found near Montrose, Iowa in 1899 during government dredging. There was no memory of any such thing going missing and it was said to resemble an older type of anchor used on Sea Vessels many many years before it was found. Locals theorized that in the pioneer days it was probably lost by a boat in the river rapids.


Captain David Macbride Tiptons headstone and memorial anchor in Chippianock Cemetery, Rock Island, IL

* Snag Boat Definition-

a steamboat with an apparatus for removing impeding debris (such as snags) from inland (shallow) waters

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