Before hundreds of miles of highways crossed the state of Florida, even before railroads took over the nation, steamships were used in Florida for travel, transportation, and trade (Robison). Steamships were faster than sailboats and could travel longer distances. Historian Arthur E. Francke Jr. wrote that steamships were a vital part of the Second Seminole War. Camp Monroe was the southernmost point for steamships to transport troops and supplies as the Seminole War was going on. The camp was later renamed to Fort Mellon, the name honored Captain Charles Mellon who was killed by Seminoles during the war (Robison). Nine named steamships alongside thirty other unnamed steamships served Fort Mellon in 1837. The steamships were chartered by the army during the Second Seminole War. This was the first extensive use of steamships in warfare, according to Francke (Robison). They were also used to trade goods from Tampa Bay to Cuba and the Caribbean. Flagler in the 1890s built hotels along the Biscayne Bay and used steamships to carry passengers to the different hotels (Gannon). Steamships contributed to the Florida economy by attracting rich northerners to come and enjoy nice, warm Florida weather so they could get away from the cold (SJRWMD). By 1885 cities along the river grew as the local economy flourished (St. Johns Riverkeeper).
The St. Johns River which runs in a northernly direction, interestingly, was discovered in the early 1500s by Spanish seamen. After warfare over the years with the French, the Spanish named the river Rio de San Juan which means St. Johns River (SJRWMD). The name has stuck and many people live along the river, traverse the river for pleasure and of course the Barbara-Lee travels along it daily twice a day. Since 1890 many changes have occurred to the local economy transitioning businesses away from just using the river as a source to transport goods such as lumber and citrus. The Barbara-Lee contributes to the local Sanford economy since guests spend money in beautiful Sanford.The river has such an interesting history that in 1998 it was designated an American Heritage River by President Clinton. The St. Johns is the only river in Florida and one of only 14 rivers in the entire United States to receive this prestigious national recognition (St. Johns Riverkeeper).
The Barbara-Lee is a beautiful experience on the St. Johns River with delicious home-made food and known for their sticky buns. Seeing its huge paddles move the rivership as you have lunch or dinner on the St. Johns River is amazing. The age of the paddle boat is passed, however, the company is popular and many people from all over Florida and elsewhere book trips aboard it (Kellam). Besides their own website, many people learn about this experience via word of mouth. The Orlando Sentinel also featured this interesting boat cruise available on the St. Johns River out of Sanford, Florida.