The large crowd gathered at the St. Louis iverfront included several Indians. Indians roamed in and out of town in those days, trading with the white men who kept headquarters there. The crowd wanted to see the latest in river transportation. When it arrived, smoke rolling out of its single stack, furnaces glaring, uncovered paddlewheels churning the water into a froth, the Indians fled and would not return as long as the riverboat stayed in St. Louis. There were doubtless a few white man who trembled too. What they had seen that day was the ‘Zebulon M. Pike,’ the first steambat to reach St. Louis. The Indians called it “the big thunder canoe.” They thought it supernatural that any craft could navigate upstream on the Mississippi without oars or paddles.

AOWM – July 27