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RivermenandRiverboats > Bio. Sketch-Jacob Von Scyster > Bio. Sketch-Jacob Von Scyster Go to subcategory:
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Date Posted:02/19/2009 12:24 AMCopy HTML


           Feb 10, 1898          

Biographical Sketch of Jacob Von Scyster………

Perhaps there are but few men now living in Livingston County that were born within her borders three quarters of a century ago but occasionally we find one who has passed from here and ten years, who was born and raised within the limits of this county. When a native Livingstonian of that age can be found, it is always interesting to hear him recount the many changes that have taken place in this county since the days of his childhood. It is always interesting to hear him tell of his "ups and downs" of life and the habits and customs of the people that inhabited this country in the long ago. Like mankind the world over, he thinks there is no place like home; and there is no place so dear to him as the one where, as a barefooted boy, he attended his father's flock or did the errands about his mothers household.
To hear him tell of the days of the horse-mill, of spring branch tan-yards, of keel-boat navigation and reap-hook harvesting, and then compare those with the many modern improvements that we now enjoy, we can but wonder at the ingenuity of man. When we stop to consider that within the single life of man we have passed from days of wooden mould board to the modern sulky plow, from reap-hook to the self binder, from the rail pole to the steam thrasher, from the horse-mill to the patent, from the keel-boat to the modern steamer, from the stagecoach to the Pullman sleeper, from the tallow candles to the electric light, and so on, ad infinitum, we cannot conceive of what the next century will produce. Yet within the memory of him about whom we write these things have occurred, and his knowledge of the growth, progress and history of Livingston County is of itself an encyclopedia of it.
On the north bank of the Cumberland River, at the mouth of Clay Lick creek, about one mile above Pinckneyville on the farm now owned by P.A. Clarke, on the 2nd day of August 1823, Jacob Von Scyster first saw the light of day. Born of poor parents, he had no one to aid him in the battle of life. Without means, without education, and without influential friends to help him, he began to battle for himself at the tender age of ten as a cabin boy on the steamboat Passenger, one of the first boats that ever plied the waters of the Cumberland River, her run being between Nashville and Louisville. For five years he followed the humble vocation of cabin boy, but during that time he spent his leisure moments in study, and by the time he was fifteen he had, by close application to his books, prepared himself for a clerkship and was so employed by W. H. Hill, one of the pioneer merchants of Smithland. After working for Mr. Hill for a short time, he was next employed as a bookkeeper for the firm of Jewett & Whitmore who ran a large foundry near the ferry landing in the north part of town. At that time Smithland was the best town on the river between Louisville and Memphis. All the steamboats plying between Louisville and Memphis would lay  ???  and at that time at there was a large shipyard here; also one of the best ship stores anywhere on the river. The old iron furnaces in the upper end of this county were then running, consequently the foundry of Jewett & Whitmore did a magnificent business and young Scyster's position as bookkeeper there. After working for Jewett & Whitmore for a while, he accepted a position as chief clerk and bookkeeper with the firm of H.C. and J.L. Hodge, who were the leading merchants of Smithland.
In 1840 Mr. Scyster again went on the river, this time as head clerk, and for seven years he ran the river as head clerk or captain. He was owner and captain of V. K. Stephenson, an elegant little steamer which ran between Paducah and Nashville, and was also half owner of the Nettie Miller, which ran in the same trade, Capt. R.G. Ferguson being the other one half owner, In those days, steamboating was a paying busniess, and Capt. Scyster made quite a smug little fortune.
Tiring of the river and a life away from home, he sold his boats and engaged in the mercantile business at Smithland, buying out the firm of Given, Hayes & Co. He ran a successful business until 1861 when he sold his stock of goods and moved to a farm near Pattersons Ferry on the Tennessee River where he was engaged in farming until 1864, when he returned to Smithland and again engaged in the dry goods business in partnership with C.B Davis and J.W. Cade, under the firm name of Davis, Scyster & Co. This firm continued until 1869 when it was dissolved, and Scyster continued in business alone, also running a hotel in connection with his dry goods business. In 1884 he sold his hotel to J. M. Clark, but continued his dry goods till 1895 when he retired from mercantile life. 
Since his return to Smithland in 1864 he has been Wharf-Master and Express Agent, in which business he is still engaged.
Captain Scyster has been married twice, his first wife being Miss Martha Ellis to whom he was married in 1849. His second wife, who is still living, was Miss Barbara A. Morrison, to whom he was married in 1872. He is the father of four children, all of whom are living and are as follows: Mrs. Mary E. Throop, wife of Capt. Troope of Evansville, Ind., and John E. Scyster, the well known dry goods drummer of Carmi, Ill., children of his first wife, and Miss Flora who is at home, and Capt. Von Scyster of the Cincinnati Packet Co, children of his second wife.
Socially no man stands higher than does Capt. Scyster. Scrupulously honest, dignified and courteous, his every act is that of a gentleman. In religious affairs he is a devout Methodist, and his daily walk and conversation bespeak the sincerity of his heart. Politically he is a gold standard man but not rabid and unreasonable in his views. Being a very conservative man, he is willing to accord others the same degree of honesty he claims for himself. As a friend and a neighbor no man is more highly respected and when we shall have been gathered to his fathers it may well be said of him "a good man has gone"-----

The Livingston Banner   Volume 3, Number 38       Smithland, Kentucky   

This article was republished in the Livingston Ledger    July 23, 1971    Volume 7, Number 29  

               Smithland (40281) Livingston County, Kentucky

This Notice is from the Smithland Banner. Approx. Date Sometime just before August 29,1913 (Friday)

Veteran Steamboat Man

Relatives and friends of Capt. J.V. Scyster, Smithland's "Grand Old Man", gave a dinner at the Heather House Sunday last, in honor of the Captain's ninetieth birthday. A feature at the dinner was a cake presented by Miss Laura Abell, set with ninety candles representing the number of years the honored guest had rounded out.
He is the oldest person in Smithland, and being possessed of a remarkable memory relates many interesting reminiscences of ante-bell am days, when Smithland was a thriving center of River Commerce.

You can also email Joan Fugina to inquire about these
relatives of hers. If you would like more information
on this line. Thanks for visiting!
Fiddlinsue a.k.a. Suzanne

Capt. Jacob Von Scyster
Picture Courtesy & Property of J. C. Fugina

Capt. Jacob Von Scyster & Family
Picture Courtesy & Property of J. C. Fugina

Evansville, Paducah & Tenn. River Packet Co. Pass
Picture Courtesy & Property of J. C. Fugina

All backgrounds and graphics were
created by me Fiddlinsue. Information
contributed by Joan Fugina.  No part of
this set is to leave this site. Main image
is from my own personal collection.


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