Capt. Pliny Bliss

Capt. Pliny Bliss

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Pliny Bliss was born 16 November 1776 in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Bliss and Catherine Brewer Bliss. Pliny married Rhoda Jennison, daughter of Jonathan and Rhoda Ashley Jennison, in Walpole, New Hampshire on 4 June 1812. The couple moved to Cincinnati in 1815. In 1817, the couple moved to Newport, Kentucky where Pliny built a horse ferry-boat – which was said to be the first of its kind on western waters. In 1818, the couple moved to Covington and resided in a house at the corner of Front and Kennedy Streets. It was here that Pliny put his ferry-boat in operation between Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport. In 1820, Pliny and Daniel French of Hamilton County, Ohio applied for a patent described as “propelling boats, horse power.” Pliny later built a steam ferry which was used up until the time the Roebling Suspension Bridge was completed. Research also indicates that Pliny was the first captain of the steamer “General Pike”, built in 1818, which ran between Maysville and Louisville. He is also noted as running a steam ferry-boat across the Tennessee River at Florence Alabama.

Pliny Bliss’s home in Covington must have been a respectable abode, as in July 1834, the Covington city commission formed a committee to report as to the cost of erecting a fence around the public square “similar to that before the door of Pliny Bliss.”

Pliny and Rhoda had three children. Their daughter Harriet Louisa Bliss was born in 1813 in Wilbraham. She was married three times, first in 1836 to Bowling S. Leathers, son of John Leathers and Jane Starke. Bowling Leathers died in 1842 in Havana, Cuba. Harriet then married John Williams of Cincinnati in 1844. Mr. Williams died in 1847. Harriet’s third husband was John G. Glenn, whom she married in 1848. Harriet died in Quincy, Illinois of pneumonia in January 1881.

Pliny and Rhoda’s other two children were twins Oliver Hayes and Catherine Brewer Bliss. They were born 7 January 1821 in Covington. Oliver Bliss married Caroline Douglass. The couple also had twins, two girls, but unfortunately both children died in infancy. Oliver and his wife moved to California before 1860. Oliver had a reputation for growing local fruits and native plants. For several years Oliver served on the Los Angeles city council.

Oliver eventually moved to Santa Cruz, where he died 20 June 1902.

Catherine Bliss married John Brown, a native of Scotland, and had three children. Pliny Bliss lived with the Catherine and her family in Covington according to the 1850 federal census.

Rhoda Jennison Bliss died in Cincinnati in May 1849 of cholera. Pliny died 4 March 1854. A local obituary for Pliny has yet to be found.

Sources: Genealogy of the Bliss family in America, from about the year 1550-1880 by John Homer Bliss (1881); List of Patents for Inventions and Designs, Issued by the United States, from 1790 to 1847: With the Patent Laws and Notes of Decisions of the Courts of the United States for the Same Period (1847).

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