|MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT MEN IN MARK TWAIN'S WRITINGS|
One of the greatest steamboat pilots of his day. He met Clemens in 1857
aboard the steamer PAUL JONES and later agreed to take him on as an apprentice.
Clemens comments: One day, on board the ALECK SCOTT, my chief, Mr. Bixby, was crawling carefully through a close place at Cat Island, both leads going, and everybody holding his breath. The captain, a nervous, apprehensive man, kept still as long as he could, but finally broke down and shouted from the hurricane-deck:
"For gracious' sake, give her steam, Mr. Bixby! give her stream! She'll never raise the reef on this headway!"
For all the effect that was produced upon Mr. Bixby, one
would have supposed that no remark had been made. But five minutes later,
when the danger was past and the leads laid in, he burst instantly into
a consuming fury, and gave the captain the most admirable cursing I ever
listened to. No bloodshed ensued, but that was because the captain's cause
was weak, for ordinarily he was not a man to take correction quietly.
On May 7, 1882, the New Orleans Times Democrat printed an interview with Horace Bixby wherein he provided the reporter with text from a letter he had received from Clemens:
|Thirty tons of paper have been used in publishing my book Innocents Abroad. It has met with a greater sale than any book ever published except Uncle Tom's Cabin. The volumes sell from $3 to $5, according to finish, & I get one-half the profit. Not so bad for a scrub pilot, is it? How do you run Plum Point-a son-of-a-gun of a place? I would rather be a pilot than anything I ever tried.|
In her book Memories of a Southern Woman of Letters, writer Grace King
recalled discussing Bixby with Clemens when she visited with Clemens in Florence,
Italy. King wrote:
After Clemens' death in 1910 one of Horace Bixby's interviews was published
in the Waterways Journal on April 30, 1910. A special acknowledgment
to Dave Thomson for providing the text of this article:
Pilot wheel of Bixby's Horatio G. Wright. The Wright was built 1880 at Carondolet, MO by Western Iron Boat Co. for the U.S. Engineers. It was dismantled in 1941.The man at the wheel is unidentified. Photo from the Dave Thomson collection.
Related item of interest: Horace Bixby was pilot of the steamboat
Bertrand when it sank in April 1865.
Read the story about salvaging the wreck of the Bertrand.
More information about Bixby's career is found in :
Loges, Max. "Horace Ezra Bixby: The Life and Times of a Frontier River Pilot." Mark Twain Journal (Spring 1998).
Horace Bixby is also featured in:
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