McDavid Mystery: Steamboat Pulled From The Escambia River

June 19, 2011

A McDavid mystery was pulled from the Escambia River Saturday — what the discoverers believe is the remains of a late 1800’s era steamboat.

The boat was first discovered by L.B. Malone barely sticking out of sand and debris near McDavid, and it was pulled to a sandbar by the Greenwell family.

Mark Greenwell believes, based upon some of his research, that the hull is from the late 1800’s, partially based upon the square nails used in the construction and an area of the hull that would have contained the large steam pipe.

“When you look at it up close, you can tell what  (the steam pipe) would have been there.  The steam side is on the part of the boat that had deteriorated the worst,” said Cindy Greenwell.

The family hopes that they will be able to find an expert to further identify the vessel and that an area museum will be interested in preserving their find.

“It was exciting for all of us,” Cindy Greenwell said.

For a photo gallery from the discovery, click here.

Pictured above and below: Remains of a boat pulled from the Escambia River at McDavid on Saturday. Pictured inset:  Mark Greenwell and Timothy Greenwell with their discovery. Submitted photos by Cindy Greenwell for, click to enlarge.


29 Responses to “McDavid Mystery: Steamboat Pulled From The Escambia River”

  1. j c on July 12th, 2011 8:15 am

    If the authorities can’t produce people that were alive from certain dates of sites where discoveries have been made, or produce a company still in business from the era, they need to keep their noses out it and quit tring to bully people out of their discoveries. They are the ones spending their time and money bringing these discoveries to the light of day.

  2. 429SCJ on June 21st, 2011 10:25 pm

    Amen! Bluff Boy

  3. AStalvey on June 21st, 2011 7:55 pm

    A saw mill used to be here in the Walnut Hill, Molino area back in the 1800’s. It had ties to the Whitmire family aka Whitmire cemetery. They used to slide the timber down from these areas and flaot them all the way down to the bay. There were 3 fairies aswell and also they floated cotton and other supplies down these waters. Im sure if you dig up some old walnut hill and molino history u will find some information. The Whitmires had sold alot of the land to a bunch of different families who are well known in the Walnut Hill and Molino areas still today… Good Luck!

  4. David Huie Green on June 21st, 2011 3:27 pm

    I did it before the law was passed but I’m pretty sure I disturbed an historical site in my earlier youth while playing in the branch back of the house. I found a sign saying BLUFF SPRINGS TELEGRAPH OFFICE. I used it in a dam I was making downstream of the swimming hole. It’s still back there somewhere, disturbed by me and by the years of occassional flooding.

    History starts yesterday. Some parts interest us, some don’t. An abandoned boat becomes of historical interest mainly because no other examples seem to have survived. This one wouldn’t have survived without action. There may be hundreds of others nobody has noticed yet, might not.

    My grandfather gathered arrowheads along the banks of the Suwannee River while fishing and gator hunting. People made arrows by the thousand and lost them by the thousand over the centuries. He found the ones unearthed by erosion and before they were washed into the river.

    David for history’s mysteries
    wishing I had saved the sign

  5. bluff boy on June 21st, 2011 7:49 am

    Every body a professional now ill be dang

  6. mercyme on June 21st, 2011 4:44 am

    Thanks so much to Mr. Malone and the Greenwell Family for giving us a look at a piece of our maritime history. This is an amazing discovery. I look forward to learning more about the boat as research is done. Mr. R.L. “Leslie” Smith from Stockton, AL, is an excellent State and National resource for local river craft and Southern history. You might want to contact him as well as Bob Bradley at the Alabama Archives in Montgomery.

  7. Tim Greenwell on June 20th, 2011 10:10 pm

    We have been in contact with a maritime archeaologist and she is going to try to get a team together to come record and possibly find a way to conserve it. The vessel is still in the water so that it will not be damaged or destroyed. It was pulled up far enough to take the pictures then returned to the water. We did not intend to break any laws that were mentioned by FYI Guy in the statutes. However had the vessel not been moved it would have been destroyed when the river rose back to its normal stage again. All the mud and sand that had covered it for years had been naturally washed off by the river current. There was nothing to prevent it from washing away.

  8. joe on June 20th, 2011 6:01 pm

    laws and red tape aside,
    this is still a very cool story. I look forward to learning more about it and the history behind the boat. it makes me wonder about the by gone years and all the stuff that was floated up and down the river as it was the easiest way to transport goods in those days.
    still a very cool story!

  9. just because on June 20th, 2011 1:53 pm

    I don’t see what the big deal is. If the family were picking up trash off the river, would that be a problem? This family was curious and never meant any harm by getting this piece of history off of the river. Actually, if you read the comments, it says it is still on the river and if it had stayed where is was no one would have got to see it. I am quite sure that no one was trying to break any law or destroy any property. That is rediculous. There are laws broken everyday, laws that really need to be taken care of. Not a family that had no bad intentions.

  10. FYI Guy on June 20th, 2011 1:34 pm

    On 28 April 1988, President Reagan signed into law the Abandoned Shipwreck Act (43 U.S.C. 2101). The purpose of ASA is to give title to certain abandoned shipwrecks that are located in state waters to the respective states, and to clarify that the states have management authority over those abandoned shipwrecks. This law gives title to shipwrecks in Florida waters to the people of the State of Florida. The Bureau of Archeological Research manages Florida’s shipwrecks for the people, ensuring no shipwreck be wantonly destroyed through human action, providing for shipwrecks to be scientifically studied to gain knowledge of Florida’s maritime past, and encouraging public access and enjoyment while making sure future Floridians have the same opportunity.

    State Laws
    Florida Historical Resources Act
    Florida’s antiquities law (Chapter 267, Florida Statutes), and administrative rules (Chapters 1A-31 and 1A-32) govern the use of publicly-owned archaeological and historical resources located on state property, both on land and in the water. Administered by the Florida Division of Historical resources, the law establishes programs and policies to encourage preservation of historic resources for the public benefit. State-owned underwater resources are those that are located on the bottom of navigable rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and offshore (in the Gulf of Mexico out to 10 miles, and in the Atlantic out to 3 miles).

    Major goals of Florida’s historic preservation program are to identify, register, protect, and preserve significant historical resources which belong to the public. Divers are encouraged to participate in the identification, recording, and reporting of underwater sites in order to preserve them. However, disturbing or digging of publicly-owned sites is illegal unless permission is obtained in advance from the Division of Historical Resources. Intentional excavation of underwater sites without written authorization is considered a third-degree felony. Its best to record and report what you find, and seek help to proceed with further investigation.

  11. S. R. Scott on June 20th, 2011 1:10 pm

    These well meaning folks have more than likely destroyed this piece of history. Archaeology departments work within budgets and schedules like everyone else and can’t stop everything they are doing to salvage this boat. Laws have probably been broken too. The river and the history there belong to all of us. It would have been best to contact a professional before doing anything with something like this.

  12. JIM W on June 20th, 2011 1:06 pm

    Regardles of who found what it is a great piece of history to have found. I think the way it sounds credit is being given all the way across the board for all parties. I just hope it can be preserved for our future generations to see what it use to be like.
    Thanks to all concerned for their efforts in getting this on shore for everyone to know about. By the way thanks to William for seeing to it that the story goit in the news for us to know about it. For it is news worthy.

  13. Della Scott-Ireton on June 20th, 2011 11:12 am

    Hello, I’m Dr Della Scott-Ireton with the Florida Public Archaeology Network in Pensacola (affiliated with UWF). I am a maritime archaeologist and would be very happy to chat with you about options for the vessel and can facilitate getting staff and students with UWF’s Maritime Archaeology Program to record it. Please contact me at

    In the meantime, please keep the timbers wet! You can cover it with a tarp and turn the water hose on it, or perhaps put old sheets or empty grain/feed sacks on it and wet them down. If the timbers dry out, it will begin to deteriorate right away.

  14. no one special on June 20th, 2011 9:42 am

    A bit of concern about the old boat being brought to the surface after all those years of being under water. You may want to check with an expert about whether bringing it out of the water will damage it it not done properly. Just a thought.

  15. Jason on June 20th, 2011 8:44 am

    Awesome find!!! I hope it can be preserved and put in a museum where it belongs for future generations to enjoy and learn about the past. Great job to the Malone and Greenwell families!!!

  16. Darryl on June 20th, 2011 8:16 am

    Was it UWF or FSU that was doing a dig near Fort Pickens a few years ago. I’d contact one of them. They will have the resources or know where to get them to do the historical research, and may want to know where it was pulled up to do further digging.

  17. Cindy Greenwell on June 19th, 2011 10:51 pm

    Hey, Just Wondering:

    If you read the beginning of the article, you will see that it says the first person to find the boat was Mr. L.B. Malone. At the time that he saw something sticking up, nobody was exactly sure what is was. My family managed to get it out of the muck and on land so that it can be conserved as part of history. My husband is a history fanitic and wanted to have our grandchildren see how so many things from our past end up in the river and other places, then materalize years later. Originally we thought it was part of a ferry since all yo could see sticking out was the metal part at the top of the boat.

    You are right, it was an awesome piece of history to come across and hopefully wil be able to be preserved for others to see.

    My husband’s family and the Malones have known each other for years and we have no problem with Mr. L.B. being credited for the find. We were just happy to be able to be involved in preserving a piece of the past.

    If you want to see it up close, the boat was wenched up on the sandbar across from the public boatramp in McDavid. I would love for Mr. Malone to have his photo taken with the boat also.

    Cindy Greenwell

  18. Tim Greenwell on June 19th, 2011 8:05 pm

    Mr. Malone told my grandfather about the possibility of an old boat sticking up out of the water. Afterwards my Grandfather told my Dad and we were able to get it onto the sandbar

  19. Daniel greenwell on June 19th, 2011 6:53 pm

    Mr malone contacted my family and said that he spotted an old boat. So my grandpa told my dad and the took a look at it from across the river and the following day they went and pulled it up on land

  20. SHO-NUFF on June 19th, 2011 5:37 pm

    Escambia and Conecuh rivers both saw a lot of traffic years ago. Was long before the log jams and shallow areas on them today.

    My Father remembers Cotton being loaded on old paddle wheel steamers up around Brooklyn Alabama headed to Pensacola. My Grandfather use to float rafts of sewn timber from an old sawmill in Andalusia all the way to the Port of Pensacola, then catch the Train back home. I bet that was an adventure!

    The old steamer mentioned in the story most likley was salvaged soon after it sank. It was common practice to recover the boilers and steam engines, shafts and propellers, to be used on other boats during that time.

    There is no telling what all is in Escambia river up on the north end!

  21. BarrineauParkDad on June 19th, 2011 5:04 pm

    Get in touch with the Archaeology department at UWF and let them look at it.

  22. Just wondering on June 19th, 2011 4:48 pm

    Just wondering that if L. B. Malone found the boat, why is the other family credited with the discovery? Not to take anything away from them. Where does Mr. Malone fit into the picture? Did he tell them about it or when he found it did he just forget about it and the other family found it later?
    It’s an awesome find.

  23. Mary Greenwell on June 19th, 2011 9:56 am

    I’m so proud of y’all daddy! It took a couple of hours but the work paid off. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY=)

  24. 429SCJ on June 19th, 2011 9:49 am

    Hello Weaver, you are absolutely right! an enlightening thought. I guess Im thinking about gold bars in international waters.

  25. KB on June 19th, 2011 9:11 am

    That is just too cool for words!!

  26. Weave on June 19th, 2011 8:47 am

    Great job, Mark. That wreck is in remarkably good shape. I hope it can be preserved for all to see and enjoy.

  27. 429SCJ on June 19th, 2011 8:41 am

    I never could understand salvage laws, if the authorities are so interested in artifacts and treasure, why do they not form a salvage company and go to work, instead of trying to take what others labor to find?

  28. just saying on June 19th, 2011 2:46 am

    Might want to research Florida law regarding “discoveries” found in the river. I’d probably recover it too but ….. I’m just saying…watch out for Big Judy.

  29. dola on June 19th, 2011 1:27 am


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