In the spring of 1837, Lt. Robert E. Lee, at this time a thirty-year-old veteran of eight years in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, was ordered west to save the harbor of St. Louis from impinging snags and sandbars and to improve navigation to the upper Mississippi by attacking the Des Moines rapids. These rapids masked an eleven-mile outcropping of limestone extending from Warsaw on the south to Commerce (later Nauvoo) on the north. When Lee was compelled to conclude his river operations, he sold the equipment used, including a steamboat.
The anticipated influx of new population for Nauvoo and the surrounding area created important commercial opportunities for river traffic. Thus, it is not surprising that prominent Mormon entrepreneurs were interested in acquiring the steamboat and keelboats that Robert E. Lee put on sale in Quincy the following month.
This article follows the events connected with the sale of the steamboat Nauvoo.