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The River: The Verne Swain

Transportation in Wheeling Icon

▶ Newspaper Article

- from The Wheeling Intelligencer, Oct. 23, 1960. © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.

Verne Swain

The River

- by Ralph Conley

Clarence Fette, local news dealer, and who once was a drummer in the orchestra aboard the excursion steamer Verne Swain can recall many old memories when the Verne Swain, Homer Smith, East St. Louis and other excursion boats visited this area regularly throughout the summer. The Verne Swain was a ssidewheeler and was operated in the Wheeling area in 1923 -- possibly one or two seasons after -- by the one and only J. Orville Noll. The boat often doubled as a packet and excursion boat. Being operated out of Wheeling meant that the musicians and all other employes of the boat were generally Wheeling people. The Verne Swain was smaller than her opposition on the upper Ohio but she was a pleasant boat to ride and we think Orville made some money with her, especially during the 1923 season. At the present time we have but one excursion boat that comes to this area, the Avalon, and it is interesting to note that both the Avalon and Verne Swain were built the same year -- 1914. The Verne operated on the upper Mississippi for several years before Noll either leaser or purchased her and brought her to the upper Ohio. The Homer Smith, her chief oppponent, was a sternwheeler and a much larger boat, and operated out of Point Pleasant. The Homer Smith catered to a wide clientele of customers and was usually heavily loaded with passengers on all of her trips. Orville operated the Verne Swain to make money and the general assumption of those on shore when she docked was "that a good time was had by all." Clarence and others might be interested in knowing that the Verne Smith became the Rose Island, then the City of Memphis and then Roosevelt and on Aug. 17, 1932 sank just below the Louisville, Ky. Locks with a good load of passengers on. All 781 persons aboard were saved.

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