• The Illinois Riverboat

  • By Elizanne Lewis

    I visited Connie Cogswell the other day she showed me around her lovely garden which is on the grounds where the old paddle wheel excursion boat “The Illinois” docked bringing passengers to picnic on the west side just south of Mud Creek. In the 1900’s this area “Nebeshone Acres” was a lovely meadow with Oak trees scattered through it. It may have been a grazing ground for livestock. Connie’s great grandfather bought the land from the state, and this property and the property to the south by Browns beach and the industrial park have belonged to one or another branch of the Brown family almost ever since.

    Quoting from the Rockford Register Star, Sept. 26, 1979: “The Illinois was built in 1900 by Amasa Hutchins, a former Rockford mayor, and his partner, Capt. John R. Buker, a colorful riverboat character with a white handlebar mustache.” It carried 400 passengers, had an orchestra and soft drinks. Size? It was 125 feet long and 26 feet wide. It burned.”

    In 1908, it sank where it was moored at the foot of Mulberry Street – a rock the size of a man’s head tore a hole in the bottom. No passenger’s were lost. The boat was raised, repaired, and put into service for many more years.

    Another boat the May Lee was docked just south of the east side of Jefferson Street Bridge. It held 200 passengers and took people up to Loves Park – just north of Shorewood Park where some lovely homes are presently located.

    Both boats burned up. The Illinois was destroyed March 3, 1924.

    That was the end of the excursion boat era – as automobiles came into being and enabled people to drive to their summer cottages along the Rock River.


    The River Boat Illinois on the banks of the Rock River, Riverboat Illinois, circa 1920’s., Meredosia River Museum Collection, Donated by the Berniece (Mrs. Howard) Edlen estate. Photograph courtesy Meredosia River Musuem, Meredosia, Illinois

    History of Steamers on the Rock.






    The 1st steamer on the Rock River appeared in 1857. The Rockford, a two decker was on constructed on the banks of river. For almost 25 years the Illinois was an institution on the Rock River. Afternoon trips were made daily in season from the landing at the foot of Mulberry Street up the river and back, making a stop a en route at the Harlem Amusement Park