MARSHALL — Board members of Marshall-Saline Development Corporation recently approved up to $150,000 for a feasibility study to bring a steamboat museum to Marshall junction at I-70 and U.S. 65. Saline County native and former state Sen. Bill Stouffer is spearheading the effort to land the Arabia Steamboat Museum, now in Kansas City, as a visitor attraction to the junction. Its lease expires in Kansas City in 2026, according to Stouffer, who now works for governmental lobbying group Flotron McIntosh. Board member and Saline County Southern Commissioner Monte Fenner told KMZU last fall he had been in discussions with Jim Backes, the land owner where the steamboat Malta lies buried, a few miles from its namesake Malta Bend. Initial core tests indicate the boat, which sank in in the Missouri River in 1841, might have been going upriver with household goods. Remnants of colored wool were discovered, according to a 2016 Columbia Missourian article. When the Arabia sunk, it was full of goods and wares, which made it worthy of exhuming. Those items are now on display at the steamboat museum.
Part of the study’s cost is being paid by a $15,000 Tri-County Community Foundation grant and a $30,000 three-year forgivable loan by Wood & Huston Bank. The group plans to also apply for a $50,000 Buckner grant, according to the Nov. 20 meeting minutes. Stouffer, who requested the funding, says he will try to raise remaining funds for the study’s costs, minutes indicate.
The 6-0 vote to approve the study was done by board president Jene Crook, vice president Bud Summers, Fenner, Sandy Hisle and Greg Swift, according to minutes. Board members Tom Blumhorst and secretary/treasurer Jeff Bergstrom were not present.