Boat-building in Wheeling
- from The Wheeling Intelligencer, Dec. 20, 1960. © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
by Ralph Conley
Wheeling's boat building industry began in 1815 and is still in progress with Jack Yates now putting the final touches to his latest Wheeling-built diesel towboat. But to compile an orderly history of boat building in Wheeling would be a monumental task because of several things. Arthur M. Phillips moved to Wheeling and opened a boat works in North Wheeling in 1832, but he had begun building steamboat machinery at Steubenville in 1815. Elijah Murray opened a boatyard at Steubenville in 1818 and came to Wheeling about 1833. Phillips built the machinery but Murray built the hills. In 1836, the combined talents of the two produced the A. M. Phillips. They built several boats but ran into financial trouble in 1843 and sold the works to Phillips' sons and Hans W. Seestable. The firm was doing good business in 1845 when Anthony Dunlevy arrived to build hulls. The firm of Phillips and Dunlevy was as well known as any of our present day concerns. In 1852 the firm became the property of H. W. Phillips. In 1874 this plant was taken over by Wilson and Sons who operated it until 1888 but no boats were built there after 1880. It was sold in 1890 and the site converted into a railroad yard which still stands today. Sweeney, another famous name in steamboat machinery, was located in Wheeling but prior to 1882 built only machinery. They began building complete boats in 1882. The firm built many famous boats but some of them were built at Freedom, Pa. and some at Belle Vernon, Pa. Sweeney operated in a much more modern era than did Dunlevy and Phillips but both firms were well known. It wouldn't surprise us to learn that there is some Sweeney machinery still in operation somewhere because it was of that quality.