The Bertrand was during a Missouri River paddle year…the turn of the year…in the spring of 1865. She was making her first voyage up the Missouri River to resupply the gold mining camps in Montana. It was not only the Bertrand first trip up the river but she was the first boat to fully make it up the river that year. The Bertrand was about 162 feet long about 30 feet wide and had a hold that was about five feet deep. She was very solidly constructed, made from cotton wood planks that were about four inches thick along the bottom.

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The steamboat Bertrand sank on April 1, 1865, The wreck was discovered in 1968 within the boundaries of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, IE/NE. Credit: USFWS

She had been built the year before in Venice West Virginia and had floated down the Ohio and then off to Mississippi then to St. Louis where she picked up the cargo for Montana. She made her way up Missouri with a list of about 22 passengers, several crewmen and the caption. On April 1, 1865 as she was rounding DeSoto band, she struck a snag that ripped open her bow and she sank almost immediately.

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Map of the area from about 1865. Cited: Historical Map Preservation Alliance

The story goes that the passengers and crew reach the little village called, DeSoto Landing. The inhabitants first refused to believe that they were from a shipwreck because it was April fools day. Indeed, the ship had sunk and was resting on the bottom of the Missouri but her super structure, the pilot house and the smoke stack, still protruded form the water. She sank right in the middle of the channel between Iowa and Nebraska, resting crosswise in the channel.

Over the passage of time the river had shifted its course many times. The haul became covered in sand and her location was eventually forgotten. However, the story still remains. The story had it that she carried a treasure of several hundred bottles of valuable Mercury. This Mercury was to be used in separating any gold found in the mining camps. Plus, her caption was said to have had something like $40,000 in gold coin on the trip. She was also said to have had a valuable cargo of whiskey bottle or whisky kegs… barrels.PhCarlos Bertrand_LSO

Finding of the Bertrand