Lizzie Townsend Burns at Wheeling: 1904
- from The Wheeling Intelligencer, July 9, 1959. © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
- by Ralph Conley
While there have been a number of steamboat fires in the vicinity of Wheeling, none more equalled the one that destroyed the Lizzie Townsend on Jan. 23, 1904 while she was tied up in a flood in the back river at the foot of Wheeling Island. The boat, used as a railroad transfer vessel for the Cleveland, Lorain and Wheeling Railroad, (now the Baltimore and Ohio), was tied up with three barges. The flood conditions prevented firemen from reaching the scene and between 8 and 9 p.m. the old boat burned furiously. Two men were aboard the towboat when the blaze started. Joe Cutler, an engineer, and Charles Rennels, assistant engineer. The two men jumped into the barges when the fire flared up on the towboat. Fire burned into the lines and set the barges free while the boat itself floated to the point of the island and lodged there. There was much heavy running ice in the river and due to the flooded conditions, few desired to venture out into the stream to attempt the rescue of the two men. They were reported passing Bellaire and then Moundsville but nobody tried to rescue them. The next afternoon the barges drifted downstream toward Sistersville where the towboat Sam Brown was tied up because of the flood. Crewmen, seeing the flight of the men, grabbed a yawl and put out. They rescued Cutler and Rennels. The latter was in his shirt sleeves and was nearly frozen. Cutler had no overcoat with him. Despite the ordeal, both men survived and were rivermen many years afterward. The Lizzie Townsend was built in 1882 by William Dillon.