Joseph Breeck, a packet steamboat pilot from Madison, Indiana, built the first Dixie in 1914. He owned a cottage on one of Webster lake's small islands. The island (formerly known as Breeck's Island and now known as Dixie Island) was the first Dixie's main dock. Prior to the Dixie, Breeck had a smaller sternwheeler named the City of Webster which also docked at the island.The Breeck Era
The shores of Webster lake were sparsely populated in the early 1900's. Breeck's boats provided several services to lake shore residents. The City of Webster, which operated from around 1906 to 1913, delivered mail and groceries around the lake. The first Dixie continued this service.
The first Dixie operated from 1914 to 1928. Like the City of Webster, it was a wooden-hulled vessel. The wooden hulls required significant maintenance. The boats had to be winched onto dry land and caulked each spring.
The first Dixie was approximately 65 feet long. It was constructed using the "swayback" design of traditional wooden-hulled riverboats. The swayback design employed a series of hogchains and hog trusses to give the vessel structural support. The two "main" hogchains extended from the stem to stern; passing up through the top deck and back down to the paddlewheel spars.The Powertrain
From the time it was launched until about 1918, the first Dixie was powered by a one-lung 8-horsepower reciprocating steam engine. Sometime around 1918 the steam engine was replaced with a single-cylinder 15-horsepower gasoline engine. By the early 1920's the gas engine had been replaced by a Fordson tractor.
By 1928 the first Dixie's hull was in very poor condition. Breeck decided to build a new boat with a steel hull. According to Breeck's grandson, salvagable items, such as the paddlewheel hardware, were removed from the first Dixie before it was intentionally burned to the waterline in 1929. Much of the wooden superstructure was salvaged used in the construction of two cottages. It is also believed that portions of the pilot house was salvaged and used on the new Dixie.
In a 1981 interview, Breeck's grandson explained what he remembered of the boats destruction. First, large field rocks were placed in the hull. Then the boat was towed to deep waters and set on fire. The rocks caused the remaining portion of the wooden hull to sink when the flames reached the waterline.