Back in the days before vehicles became ubiquitous, several different lines of ships carried cargo and passengers to and from various points along the St. Johns River.
One such line was the DeBary Merchants Line. It was founded by Frederick DeBary, a New York wine merchant who had acquired hundreds of acres in Volusia County. DeBary sought to use the line of ships to carry cargo back and forth from Volusia County to Jacksonville, but quickly expanded to offer passenger services as well.
Jacksonville was of great importance to the DeBary line because of its location along the river and its rapid rate of growth. The city was also of personal importance to DeBary, as his ships often ran from Jax to his hometown of New York City as well.
It’s no surprise, then, that when DeBary commissioned his grandest ship yet, it was dubbed the “City of Jacksonville.”
The “City of Jacksonville” was a two-engine, iron-hulled steamship that measured at 165 feet long with a 32.5-foot beam. It was built by Harlan & Hollingsworth of Wilmington, DE, a prominent shipbuilding firm; construction cost somewhere between $90,000 and $100,000. Construction was supervised by William A. Shaw, who would later serve as the ship’s captain.
The “City of Jacksonville” featured 32 staterooms and could accommodate up to 275 passengers. The ship was utilized for both local travel on the St. Johns River as well as summer voyages to the Northeast.
Soon after the ship’s commissioning, the DeBary line merged with another line, expanding its services to Sanford, FL.
In 1889, the DeBary line was absorbed by Clyde Steamship Co.; the “City of Jacksonville” continued operating as part of the Clyde line for multiple decades.
By the 1920s, passenger ships were waning in popularity and multiple bridges had been built in Jax, alleviating the need to transport cargo via ship. The Clyde line went out of business, with the “City of Jacksonville” taking its final voyage in 1928.