The original Alice Dean, which had a capacity of 411 tons, was a side-wheel, wooden-hulled packet steamer. It was launched from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1863, running a scheduled route between Cincinnati and Memphis, Tennessee. Its captain was James H. Pepper.
In July of that year, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry undertook a large scale raid from Tennessee through Kentucky and then across Indiana and Ohio. While crossing the Ohio River into Indiana at Brandenburg, Kentucky, the raiders captured the Alice Dean. Using the Alice Dean as a ferry, Morgan's troops were transported to Morvin's Landing, near Mauckport, Indiana. Morgan's Raiders had already appropriated a small packet named John T. McCombs and used her as a decoy to hail down and capture the Alice Dean. After using the two boats for their purposes, Morgan's men burned the Alice Dean. The McCombs was spared because its owner/captain was a friend of Morgan's second-in-command, Basil W. Duke. The machinery was salvaged in the fall of 1863 and auctioned off to the C.T. Dumont Co. for $4,500. Part of the Alice Dean is on display at the Battle of Corydon battlefield.
Associated with this affair was "Sherman's Ride," in which a self-appointed Paul Revere, Jacob Sherman, mounted a horse and galloped upriver to head off the down-bound Grey Eagle to prevent her from falling into the hands of Morgan. He succeeded. The grateful owners of the Grey Eagle presented a bell to the citizens of Mauckport in appreciation, and it still is there.
The second was launched from Cincinnati in 1864. Built to replace the original, it was a smaller boat than the original, at 395 tons. It also ran a route between Cincinnati and Memphis. The second Alice Dean made her maiden trip from Cincinnati on February 25, 1864, with the same captain, James H. Pepper. "Commodore" Thompson Dean was aboard for the occasion, as well as other noteworthy gentlemen. On March 25, 1864, she hit bank ten miles below Cincinnati on a down-bound trip and sank with her stern in 12 feet of water. She was on her third trip. The Jennie Hubbs and Lady Pike took off her freight, and her passengers boarded the ship Kate Cassel. It was later successfully raised.
In March 1865 Captain Charles A Dravo became the ship's master. In late December 1865 she hit the suspension bridge at Cincinnati and tore down both stacks. In December 1869 about 40 miles above Memphis she hit a log and would have sunk save for a cargo of cotton which buoyed her up until the Thompson Dean came along to assist.
In 1866 the new captain was C. Dan Conway, with William Dunlop as clerk. Rounding out from Cincinnati on April 26, 1870, there was a mistake in signals between pilot and engineer. She hit the Covington, Kentucky pier of the suspension bridge and again knocked down both stacks. The Robert Burns took her passengers to Memphis. She was retired in 1872. The machinery went to the Thompson Sherlock and the hull was used as a wharfboat at Lake Providence, Louisiana, with the upper work still intact until a gale blew off the cabin during August 1875.