The frozen Muskingum River at Marietta, Ohio, in early 1905.
Old Boat Column

An Icy Day At Marietta In 1905

Happy New Year!

Now that winter is officially here, we begin the Old Boat Column for 2019 with a frigid photo. Taken in the mouth of the frozen Muskingum River, this wintry scene was captured by Marietta, Ohio, photographer H.P. Fischer in early February of 1905.

Prominently in view is the ferry Pioneer City, which had recently ceased operations due to the opening of the new bridge (seen in the distance) between Marietta and Williamstown, W.Va. Built in 1891 by the Knox yard, the sternwheeler was constructed on a wooden hull that measured 90.4 feet in length by 24.5 feet in width. One boiler supplied steam to engines having 9-inch cylinders with a 3-foot stroke. Owned by Beman Dawes, the boat was under the command of Capt. John W. Ryder.

The vessel was sold in November of 1905 to Martin F. Noll and, after alterations to remove the guards and install towing knees, was leased to tow a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad transfer barge in the Little Kanawha River at Parkersburg, W.Va.

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The Pioneer City was again sold in the spring of 1907 to the Central Wharf & Ferry Company, of Central City, W.Va., of which Ellis C. Mace was managing owner. The boat was rebuilt at Point Pleasant and renamed Central City the next year. The ferry boat operated at the lower end of Huntington for two years before moving to 26th Street, successfully run by Paul Thomas and his brother-in-law, Ed Smith.

The steamboat was again sold, to Kline O’Neil, of Augusta, Ky., who dismantled it; many recycled parts, including the engines, from the riverboat were utilized in the construction of the Augusta in 1923. After decades of service, the faithful ferry boat was beached out on the Ohio River bank at Augusta and dismantled during the summer of 1950.


Moored directly across the Muskingum and looking up the Ohio, we see the packet Kanawha, which had sought haven from the ice and, according to local newspapers, remained there until early March, owing to a thaw and flood. The Kanawha was built in 1896 at Ironton, Ohio, on a wooden hull measuring 180 feet in length by 35 feet in width. Three boilers provided steam for high-pressure engines having 15-inch cylinders with a 6-foot stroke.

Owned by the Bay Line, the boat operated in the Pittsburgh and Charleston trade, under the command of Ira B. Huntington. Other crew members included Capt. Henry Ollom and Capt. Henry Brookhart.

The steamboat was sold in latter 1899 to Capt. William Roe, who ran it in the Pittsburgh-Charleston trade until the autumn of 1912. Roe sold the boat to John W. Hubbard in 1912, but bought it back in 1914, still running in the Pittsburgh-Charleston trade.

On the evening of January 5, 1916 (103 years ago this week) the riverboat was backing out from the landing at Little Hocking, Ohio when it struck a steel pier on the outer lockwall of Dam No. 19; the vessel was overturned and 10 lives were lost.

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.

Caption for photo: The frozen Muskingum River at Marietta, Ohio, in early 1905. (Keith Norrington collection)