"River boat Men: Dan River, 1792 - 1892"

"River boat Men: Dan River, 1792 - 1892" (HM16U8)

Location: Eden, NC 27288 Rockingham County
Country: United States of America

N 36° 29.402', W 79° 45.86'

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A Tribute

The mural of the river boatmen is a tribute to the men who were responsible for the economic development of the vast interior region along the Dan River. The most prominent figures in the mural, the African American boatmen in the foreground, reflect dignity and the community's respect for them. The little known role of these boatmen is honored by this mural, which proclaims their important legacy to the community.

Throughout the nineteenth century in an era of poor roads, goods were transported by the bateaux until the arrival of railroads. Prior to the Civil War the batteaumen were primarily enslaved and free blacks and some whites. There is evidence of some boats being crewed entirely by slaves, including the captain. Regardless of their personal status, boatmen were respected for their boat building expertise and especially for their skills as pilots on the river. The figure in the mural with his hand on the sweep (tiller) is the batteau captain and pilot, responsible for the safe arrival of the boat's crew and cargo.

After the Civil War, batteaumen were the region's most important black entrepreneurs, continuing their dominance as builders, captains, and crewmen of the vessels, and becoming the owners as well. By 1870 there were some 200 batteaux on the river. The boatmen lived mostly in the river ports of Madison, Leaksville, and Milton in North Carolina and in the Virginia ports of South Boston, Clarksville, and especially in Danville, the river's largest city. Edward Pollock of Danville wrote in 1870 that the boatmen were "important persons" valued for their skills who "wielded a certain amount of influence in the community."
Lindley Butler
Rockingham County Historian
HM NumberHM16U8
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, October 18th, 2014 at 4:07pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17S E 610677 N 4039012
Decimal Degrees36.49003333, -79.76433333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 29.402', W 79° 45.86'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 29' 24.12" N, 79° 45' 51.60" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)336
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 660 Washington St, Eden NC 27288, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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