"The ferry consisted of a small keel-boat, which was managed entirely by Frenchmen. Every portion of the body--every muscle, in fact--was brought into play...the vessel rocked so that the trace-chains at the end of the tongue often dipped into the river...so that the enterprise seemed a dangerous and hazardous undertaking."
Mr. Wiggins soon acquired some 900 acres of land along the Illinois banks of the river directly across from present day St. Louis, Missouri. Not only did the ferry company operate a service for individuals wanting to cross the river, but it also developed boat yards, depots, warehouses, railroad tracks, and elevators. Soon, the Wiggins Ferry Company became a major connecting point for the many railroads terminating at East St. Louis, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.
From those small beginnings and makeshift rafts, the Wiggins Ferry Company built an empire transporting people to and from St. Louis. By the 1820s, Wiggins had a fleet of ferryboats with names fit for battleships, such as the Sea Serpent, Rhinoceros, and Antelope. He even experimented with ferries by horses on treadmills. In 1830, the company upgraded to steam power, with the St. Clair and the Ibez ferries making two regular daily river crossings. By the early 1870s, the company was averaging river crossings of 1,500 people, 10,000 bushels of coal, and 750 wagons each day.
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