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River transportation in 1879

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▼ Riverboat History

from "History of the Pan-Handle," J.H. Newton, 1879


The approach to the river from about the foot of Eleventh street, almost to the freight department of the Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Kentucky railroad, is now substantially paved and in excellent order, the fine buildings lining Water street above and over-looking the river, presenting quite a commercial importance, while across the stream, on the Ohio side, the banks are conspicuous for fine suburban residences that go to complete the happiest contrast between active business and retirement. At the foot of the slip, in close proximity to the Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Kentucky railroad depot, are moored two capital wharf boats. The senior of which, "Booth's Old Reliable" has held its own many years and chiefly accommodates the steamers "Reliable," "St. Lawrence," "Andes," and "C.W. Bachelor," while the "People's Wharf Boat," owned by Mr. H. Seamon, is mainly devoted to the interests of the "Stockdale," "Emma Graham," "W. H. Chancellor," "Buckeye State," "Granite State" and "Hudson." In regard to regular boats running to and from Wheeling, we may mention the following: The "Phaeton," owned and commanded by Captain Dillon, runs daily to Sistersville, fifty-two miles down the river. The "Telegram," commanded by Captain Thompson, daily to Clarington, twenty-eight miles down the river. The "Abner O'Neal," commanded by Captain George O'Neal, daily to Steubenville, twenty-three miles up the river. The "Welcome," Captain Davis, runs three trips a week to St. Mary's, as also does the "Diurnal," in command of Captain Muhleman. The "Courier," commanded by Captain Harrison makes three trips weekly to Parkersburg, ninety-six miles down the river, as also does the "Mallie Ragon," commanded by Captain Booth. The "Science" takes the "Courier's" place in low water — having a much lighter draught. At this port there is also as fine a fleet of towboats as run on the river, including the "Hornbrook," and "Kelley," owned by Captain E. Hornbrook; the "Nail City" and "Monitor," owned by Captain Armstrong, and the "Whale," which is the property of a private company. We further understand that Captain W. Prince is also constructing another towboat to take the place of the "Iron Valley," recently lost.

The C. P. Brown, H. J. Leasure, J. W. Schultz and Woodruffe boat clubs have floating boat houses along the river bank, and the Nail City boat club has a capital permanent building located on the bank of the river about the foot of Twenty-third street.

A small dry dock, owned by Dressel & Bro., worked by pumps, is located at the west end of the suspension bridge, which appears to be freely patronized, while all through the summer the banks of river present a scene of special activity in the line of boat building. At favorable stages of water it is now a common custom to witness from fifty to seventy steamers leaving and passing this wharf, the business at which —railroad facilities notwithstanding — forms a leading feature in Wheeling's present prosperity.


Few, then living, will fail to have striking recollections of the shocking gun-powder explosion on the Wharf in the year 1855. Mr. W. Kimberly, brother of Philo L. Kimberly of this city, was driving his horse and cart with a load of twenty-five kegs of gunpowder to be shipped, when, from some unexplained cause, the whole exploded with a terrrific report, instantly killing the driver, but happily not inflicting any other serious injury.

It was Captain W. W. Wilson who built the "New State," steamer, at Wheeling.

The "Great Republic" was the largest steamer that ever passed here, down river.

Captains S. Mason, Jno. McLure and Wm. Dillon, are the oldest commanders now resident here.

Joseph Forsythe, the present wharf-master, has filled the position for the last sixteen years.

The "Willliam Butler," was burned to the hull in October, 1868, while moored at the landing above Twelfth street.

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