On the weekend of September 14–15, members and friends of the Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen (S&D) will gather by the rivers at the historic river city of Marietta, Ohio.
The 79th annual meeting of the organization literally gets under way on Friday evening with a “moonlite” excursion aboard the sternwheeler Valley Gem, departing from the landing opposite the Hotel Lafayette at 8 p.m.
The September 15 activities begin with the annual business meeting (9 a.m. at the hotel) with adjournment to the Ohio River Museum for special joint ceremonies of the Ohio History Connection and S&D to celebrate the centennial of the steam towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. Highlights of the festivities will include a rechristening ceremony and perhaps several surprises to delight steamboat enthusiasts. A special exhibition of photographs chronicling the fascinating history of the Snyder will be displayed at the museum.
At 6:30 that evening is the banquet (served in the hotel ballroom), after which the featured speaker for the evening program will be Capt. Clarke “Doc” Hawley, well known as the retired master of the New Orleans excursion steamer Natchez; he previously served on the Delta Queen and Belle of Louisville, as well as the steam towboat Sam Craig.
Regarded as America’s iconic steamboat captain, Hawley will regale the assembly with colorful stories of his six-decade career on the river, which started in 1952 as calliope player and popcorn popper aboard the excursion steamer Avalon.
For further information, visit the S&D website at www.riverhistory.org.
W.P. Snyder Jr.
The stalwart sternwheeler was built in 1918 for the Carnegie Steel Company as the W.H. Clingerman by the Pittsburgh firm of James Rees & Sons—the same builders of the steamer Idlewild (1914), which survives today as the Belle of Louisville. The original steel hull of the Clingerman measured 151.1 feet in length by 28.4 feet in width, with a depth of 5.2 feet. The hull was later widened to 32.5 feet.
Four boilers supplied steam to compound engines, also constructed by Rees, which had cylinders of 14 and 28 inches with a 7-foot stroke. The whistle was recycled from the towboat Charley Jutte.
In early 1938, the name was changed to J.L. Perry and, for a brief period in 1945, the vessel was renamed A-1. The Crucible Steel Company purchased the boat in the autumn of that year and named it W.P. Snyder Jr.
Retired on September 23, 1953, the riverboat was laid up until the owners agreed to donate it to the Ohio Historical Society to become part of the River Museum at Marietta, Ohio. With Capt. Fred Way as master, the boat was delivered under its own steam, arriving on the afternoon of September 16, 1955; it was the last steamboat through Muskingum River Lock No. 1.
During the following six decades, the venerable vessel has been permanently moored as a floating museum. In recent years, an extensive restoration program has been implemented to ensure that the historic steamboat remains extant for its second century.