Steamboat Heroine

The steamboat Heroine is an archaeological site near the Red River on the Oklahoma southern border. The Heroine traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Kiamichi River to deliver supplies in 1838. It contained a large amount of cargo that was going to Fort Towson for the soldiers there. The steamboat Heroine was one of the first five boats to go up river after the Red River had been cleared of the “great raft” by Henry Miller Shreve. The steamboat was stranded many times along the way by low water and had to sit and wait for rainstorms to raise the water level. When it was twenty minutes away from landing at Fort Towson, the Heroine struck a submerged snag in the river and sank. All of the people on board survived, but the ship sank into the sands of the Red River. This is an important site because there is little underwater archaeology done in Oklahoma, and it is the only shipwreck in the state.

Before archaeologists excavated, they surveyed the underwater site and looked for evidence of artifacts and features. After surveying, they excavated the site and found several artifacts. Some of the artifacts found in their matrixes were barrels of salted pork, soap, empty wooden barrels, ceramic saucers, and clothing. Unlike other sites, there were no features because they were able to remove all of the artifacts they found. More examples of the artifacts found include a hand truck, a block for leading the tiller rope, hasp from the companion hatch at the stern, mechanical pieces related to the engine, and items from the stern compartment. After excavation, the archaeologist went back to the lab and placed the artifacts into classifications, typically using seriation, so they could better understand the evidence.

Kevin Crisman. Heroine. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society.


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