Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cincinnati in 1840

From the previous post, we know that Lillian wrote in her family history that "I think Alexander Jones worked on boats that sailed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, but what his job was, I forgot to ask mother."  For a long time, I interpreted this comment to mean that my gg-grandfather literally worked on the boats as a member of the crew.

It wasn't until I looked for Alexander in the Cincinnati City Directories that I realized that I may have misinterpreted Lillian's statement.  After all, she got her information from her grandmother Elizabeth, Alexander's daughter.  Elizabeth was only two years old when her father died.

Alexander is first listed in the City Directory in 1843.  His occupation is listed as "carpenter," and he is living on Race between 14th and 15th Streets.  By 1856, the family has relocated to 592 E. Front Street (later known as Eastern Ave. and now known as Riverside).  Throughout his life, Alexander is a carpenter.  This was a time when one of the main occupations in Cincinnati was boatbuilding -- steamboats in particular.  It occurred to me that Alexander was in all probability a boatbuilder, using his skills as a carpenter.  It certainly fits with the family record which states that he "worked on boats."

Cincinnati's Public Landing, 1833

The 1891 Sanford Fire Insurance Map shows a frame house located at 592 E. Front Street (highlighted in red). This street was literally located on what was then the riverfront. The house is located just west of Collard Street.

Alexander died in 1862. Lillian was told that he died of "inflammation of the bowels." Given the reality of the times with drinking water often taken directly from the Ohio River, this really should come as no surprise. Cholera was an all too commonplace illness of the time.  Since Alexander died just as the Civil War was gearing up, I wonder what impact, if any, the war had on his business interests and his young family.

Note:  The two pictures of the early Cincinnati Riverfront are "From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County."  They are used with their written permission.


  1. Beautiful job, Kathy! I love the narrow focus and the layout. Very much looking forward to reading more.

  2. Very interesting. My great grandfather was a carpenter and he also died of inflammation of the bowels. He worked on houses thought, not boats and he was in Montgomery. I like the map.

  3. Susan and Kristin,
    Thanks for commenting. I can always count on your support, as you can on mine. Thanks!

  4. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow I just happened across your blog. I was looking up info on steamboats on the Ohio River in the 1840's and found you. You have some wonderful pictures and great info.