The steam towboat Gregory on the ways at Madison, Ind., in February 1920.
Old Boat Column

The Towboat Gregory

Built by the Sweeney yard at Jeffersonville, Ind., in 1910, the Gregory was completed in nine months for a cost of $16,915. Reportedly, the cost of outfitting for the towboat was an extra $2,685.

The wooden hull measured 131 feet in length by 22 feet in width, with a depth of 4.4 inches. Displacement was 240 tons. The Western Rivers lever-type engines, with California cut-off, had 11-inch cylinders with a 5-foot stroke. The sternwheel was 15 feet in diameter and had 15 bucket planks, each one 25 feet long. The paddlewheel normally turned 28 revolutions per minute running light, and 26 revolutions with a tow. The two boilers were 22 feet long and 40 inches in diameter. Each boiler had four cylindrical return flues 14 inches in diameter; they had 32 square feet of grate surface and 623 square feet of heating surface. The riverboat’s towing capacity was rated at 1,200 tons.

Constructed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the boat belonged to the Second Cincinnati District during the period when Cincinnati was not only the division office for the Ohio River and tributaries, but also was headquarters for two district engineer offices. Inasmuch as the Second Cincinnati District included the Kentucky River, the Gregory saw much service on that stream. The normal crew of the towboat was composed of eight people. Capt. W.M. Pryor was the longtime master of the steamboat, with Capt. Allen B. Wood, pilot and Harry Pullem serving as chief engineer. The boat was later under the command of Capt. N.M. Mullen. During the early 1970s, when this writer was a crew member of the steamer Belle of Louisville, Chief Engineer David Crecelius told me that he began his lengthy river career aboard the Gregory in 1922.

A sampling of the Gregory’s work, taken from a report for the period ending on June 20, 1912, is as follows: “Tended the Carrollton (dredge) for a total of 48 days; tended dredge Frankfort 40 days; towed barges; also towed four pieces of floating plant from Frankfort, Ky., to Point Pleasant, W.Va., and return for drydocking and repairs to hull. Cost for the year’s operation, $8,151.85, of which $5,086.18 was for crew wages, $894.48 for subsistence and $1,005 for coal.”

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In April 1917, the Gregory moved four barges of coal from the head of Kentucky River navigation at Beattyville, some 255 miles above the mouth, through the 14 small hand-operated locks, one barge at a time, to Carrollton, Ky. On January 10, 1925, the Gregory sank near Owensboro, Ky., while working at the construction site of Ohio River Dam No. 46. All of the crew members jumped overboard and, despite icy river conditions, safely made it to shore.

Information Wanted

It has been reported through “the sternline telegraph” that the upper works (boiler deck, smokestacks and pilothouse) of the former steam towboat Mamie S. Barrett, beached since the mid-1990s in a cutoff at Deer Park, La., were destroyed by fire in late 2017. Anyone having information and/or images of the derelict sternwheeler is invited to contact the Old Boat Column editor.

Editor’s note: For questions or suggestions regarding the Old Boat Column, Keith Norrington may be contacted by e-mail at, or by mail through the Howard Steamboat Museum at P.O. Box 606, Jeffersonville, Ind. 47131-0606.