Perry-Spencer collaboration preparing for 2028 Flatboat Trip

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By Don Steen ~ Staff Writer • reporter@psci.net

Katie Pappano of Scenic Lincoln Way paid a visit to the Spencer County Historical Society at their March 5 meeting, bringing with her a scale-model flatboat and good tidings for 2028. The Perry County-based Scenic Lincoln Way is building a replica of the flatboat used by a young Abe Lincoln and Allen Gentry to haul goods to New Orleans. Named “The Abraham” in honor of the 16th President, the flatboat will be used in several activities over the coming years to foster appreciation for Lincoln’s Indiana heritage and the history of pioneer life in our corner of the state. The main event, however, will be a recreation of Lincoln and Gentry’s famous journey to New Orleans to mark the 200th anniversary of that adventure.

Planning for The Abraham was derailed by the pandemic in 2020 and the project was shelved for a time, until Pappano realized that 2024 was upon us and 2028 would not be too far behind.

“If we don’t get on this project the opportunity is going to pass us by,” she said.

Fortunately, Scenic Lincoln Way still had the contact information for boat builder John Cooper of Tennessee, who built the flatboat used in Spencer County’s last re-enactment of the New Orleans trip in 2008. There are few people qualified to build a flatboat to spec in this day and age, and fewer still with experience crewing one. Pappano said that everything hinged on his involvement, and his reply to the offer was, “I always love a new adventure.”

That just leaves the question of money. The plan for this year is to raise funds for construction, with the bulk of that investment coming from Perry County’s volunteers. In return, the boat will remain on that side of the county line through 2025, 2026 and 2027. Scenic Lincoln Way has many plans for the boat during the months of August, September and October. These include weekend rides, educational visits to area schools and other venues to show off the ingenuity of pioneer river craft.

“I love history,” said Pappano. “And I feel like the pioneer history is getting lost. I’ve been talking to educated adults about flatboats and they don’t know what they are. They’re picturing rafts.”

The Abraham will showcase the unique architecture of the flatboat, which offered a surprising amount of cargo space and shelter for the crew on their long journeys. This elegantly simple craft could deftly navigate around sand bars, debris and other hazards and make its way to market using only the power of the Ohio River itself. Naturally, the original flatboats could not make the return journey on their own, a limitation that will not be shared by the replica.

Read more on this story in this week’s issue of the Spencer County Leader!

Featured Image: The model of the proposed recreation of the flatboat used by young Abraham Lincoln and Allen Gentry to haul goods to New Orleans during the early 1800s

Discussing the trip: Katie Pappano of Scenic Lincoln Way speaks to attendees of the meeting about the details of the trip and presents the model of the flatboat