Eighty years ago this week, Nashville Banner Managing Editor Marmaduke Morton continued his 12-part series on “The Colorful Eighties in Nashville,” reflecting on the city he had encountered as a cub reporter a half-century earlier.
19 Oct. 1930: “Last Days of Real Steamboating on the Cumberland”
It was the custom for all the Negro hands to gather on the swinging gangplank as the boats backed out and started on their journey, and sing boat songs and spirituels, while a leader gestulated and led the singing. No one, who has stood on the Woodland Street Bridge as a steamboat passed down stream, and has witnessed the scene described and heard the wonderful chanting of these natural-born musicians, will ever forget the thrill of it.
The New York Times carried this profile of Capt. Tom Ryman, steamboat impresario and tabernacle builder, on 26 December 1892. Note that Morton disputes the tale retold here of a converted Ryman smashing the saloons on all of his vessels and pouring their whiskey into the Cumberland.