Upland or mountain boats were the product of the mountain regions of most of the eastern seaboard states. This craft was designed in direct response to cargo type and operating environment. Cargoes were heavy and bulky 136 kg (300 lb) cotton bales and 363 kg (500 lb) tobacco hogsheads, yet the rivers were narrow and swift. The resultant craft had an extreme beam to length ratio, a responsive steering system, and light, limber construction.
The basic mountain boat design appears common to other areas of Europe where similar operating environments existed. Design and function parallels are easily found in Findland's "Tar Boats" (C.O. Cederlund, personal communication 1991)and in the wine boats of Portugal's Douro River (Filgueras 1988). Both types of vessel transported barrels down mountain rivers and utilized a long narrow length with a narrow beam and a large steering sweep. Historian Howard Chapelle (1951:34) credits the form with a Medieval origin in Europe, and particularly in France where the type was known as the bateau. Chapelle believed the craft and its name were adopted by early colonists, and certainly by the French in Canada where the vessel type is known to have been in use from 1680 to well into the nineteenth century.
A similar craft of narrow beam and extreme length called a Durham Boat was used in the American northeast. The craft was in use prior to the American Revolution and is mentioned in numerous sources as the type of vessel used to transport General Washington across the Delaware during the conflict (Ringwalt 1888:13-14). Certainly after the war the vessels were used extensively on the Mowhawk River in New York to transport tobacco barrels. According to Ringwalt (1888), the Durham Boats were patterned after early eighteenth century ore boats used by mines on the upper Delaware River.
Author Ruby Rahn (1968:15), using local newspaper sources, also describes a local variation of the craft called Petersburg Boats operating on the Savannah in the early nineteenth century.