what's this number 18 counterweights

Jim Goodman farms northwest of Crescent, Iowa, and wonders what he found.

Four of these objects were uncovered by a track hoe under about three feet of mud in an old river bed on the Missouri River bottoms. Each is 12 inches tall and has a 5-inch diameter. They are made of cast iron and each weigh about 20 pounds. The bottle shaped objects have a groove on the top with a half-inch hole perpendicular to the slot.

The steamboat Bertrand, carrying cargo up the Missouri River to Virginia City, Mont., Territory, sank on April 1, 1865, after hitting a snag in the river north of Omaha, Neb. Half of its cargo was recovered 100 years later. Today, the artifacts are displayed in a museum at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge between Missouri Valley, Iowa, and Blair, Neb.

One of these weights was on display at DeSoto, but no one could identify what it was used for. Could it be part of the cargo on the Bertrand?

So, Jim Goodman asks: What’s This? Do you know if these objects had a specific function? Any ideas?

Send your responses, with name and hometown, to terry.anderson@lee.net.