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National Rivers Hall of Fame Inductees

Hall of Fame inductees are the pioneers, explorers and artists in America's river history. They were movers and shakers from the days gone by and the recent past. These men and women made significant contributions related to America’s rivers, which is why we honor them.


The River People

Capt. Stephen Beck Hanks

Inducted in 2018.

Capt. Stephen Beck Hanks spent 50 years on the Mississippi River working in all phases of 19th-century steamboating. Hanks saw his first steamboat in 1832, at the age of 11, near Shawneetown.  Before he was 20, Stephen and his uncle were building flatboats and barges on the riverbanks of Albany, Illinois, a busy upper Mississippi River port. Stephen Hanks and Abraham Lincoln were first cousins and knew each other well.

Hanks' career began with the birth of the great lumber industry in the St. Croix Valley in 1842, as he piloted one of the first floating lumber rafts downriver to St. Louis.  The following year, he guided the first log raft safely out of Stillwater to St. Louis.  He was one of only two pilots to run rafts on a contract, a trade he followed until 1854.

Then Hanks made the transition from floating raft pilot to steam packetboat pilot. From 1854 to 1874, Hanks was employed by the Minnesota Packetboat Company and the Diamond Jo Line Steamboat Company, and he was responsible for piloting nearly all of the large popular steamers of that era, carrying passengers and cargo.

In 1874, Hanks returned to the rafting business, operating towboats for Chancy Lamb and Company of Clinton, Iowa.  During the winter, he towed barges of rock, lumber, and coal for the government improvement work near Plum Point, Tennessee.  Hanks brought his river service to a close in 1892, retiring from Jo Long, a packetboat in the Davenport to Clinton trade. During his retirement, he dictated recollections of his river service, which were published in the Burlington Saturday Evening Post in 1921. His recollections are a rich source of primary information for historians and river buffs alike.