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Accident on the Ben Hur

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▼ Newspaper Article

- from Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Feb. 3, 1896, p. 2


The Ben Hur was Hard Aground on a Dyke, Saturday,


A Passing Towboat, for Aid, but No Attention was Paid to the Distress Signal. Unfavorable Comment on the Action of the Towboat — A Chat with the New Woman Pilot, Mrs. Gordon Green, Notes on Navigation and River News.

The Parkersburg, Wheeling and Pittsburgh river packet, Ben Hur, had a narrow escape from being wrecked down the river on Saturday. However, even if the boat had been lost it is probable the owners of the towboat Wash Honsell would have had to "pay the freight." The story is an interesting one.

Coming out of Parkersburg Friday night the Ben Hur had been kept back by the intense darkness of the night, which had been followed by a dense fog in the early morning. At 9 o'clock Saturday morning she was making the crossing at Belmont, the old time oil town, below St. Mary's. The fog was still pretty dense and it soon developed that the crossing had been made too low. In fact, the pilot was out of his reckoning and and the boat soon went hard on the dyke at the head of the Brothers' island, which extends from the island to the West Virginia shore.

Everything possible, almost, was done to get off, but without avail, and as the river was falling, the situation was dangerous. If the boat could not be pulled off the dyke, she would surely be broken in two when the river had fallen a few feet more.

About an hour after the packet had met with the mishap, a steamboat was sighted coming down stream. The Ben Hur gave the usual signal of distress, five short blasts from her whistle, which were repeated. The other boat, which proved to be the Huntington & St. Louis Towboat Company's towboat, Wash Honshell, however, paid no attention to the distress signals and went on down the river without even inquiring what was the trouble.

Had the Ben Hur been lost or badly damaged, this break of the rules of the river would prove rather costly to the Honsell's owners. The government regulations provide that a passing steamer must invariably answer signals of distress and render any assistance possible, for which of course, the boat would be remunerated. No explanation is yet forthcoming of the reasons for the strange action of the Honshell's captain in paying no attention to the signals.

The stranded steamer was finally floated without outside assistance. A warp line was laid to the foot of the island and the boat's head was pulled out into the stream, after which the spars were set to wark at the stern, with the result that the packet was floated at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

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