Transportation On The Ohio River

Transportation was much different one hundred years ago when the main traffic artery for Monroe County was the Ohio River and its packet boats carried freight, passengers, and everything else that was to be transported -- although there were special rules for storing gunpowder. Believe it or not, Woodsfield merchants of the day received their goods at Clarington where there was a wharfboat to store the merchandise from the time it was unloaded from the boats until wagons appeared to carry it to Woodsfield, Round Bottom, Oak and the various other general stores in the eastern half of the Country.

Henry Howe, the famous Ohio historian, arrived in Clarington by steamboat and walked out over the hills to take a look at Woodsfield. Some people say the United States Mail service was as good by boat prior to 1884 when the Ohio River Railroad was completed as it is today. Anyway, there were two fine side-wheel boats, the "Courier" and the "Express", which carried the mail between Wheeling and Parkersburg. One boat left each terminal daily.

Monroe County goods went to market by boat, too. Livestock, dried apples, eggs, fruit, hay, grain, and almost everything the county produced went to market. Later, the creameries sent out an unbelievable amount of butter.

Clarington was also a boat building center. The Mozena Brothers Boatyards built all sorts of famous steamboats. The "Avalon" owned by the Cramer family, later appeared on the Tennessee River and was a great success there. The "Ruth No. 2" fared far afield and later ran on the Chattohoochee River in Georgia. Its most famous trip was around Florida on the open sea and up to South Carolina where it ran on the Congaree River. The crew reported their only difficulty out on the ocean waves with this fragile river boat was that the boilers foamed when they pumped salt water into them. The "Ruth No. 2" was in existence until 1918 and its whistle still blows today on a Columbia, South Carolina brickyard.

The "City of Wheeling" was a notable boat built in Clarington and it once ran between Cincinnati and Louisville where it was not afraid to try its speed along with the fast side-wheel packets that ran there. Probably the most famous boat ever built at Clarington was the "Liberty" being the last in the line of packets of that name. This boat was built in 1912 to run from Clarington to Wheeling. It made a round trip a day and whistled each morning about 5:00 AM so that prospective passengers would get up and board the craft for a day's shopping. The "Liberty" remained in Wheeling several hours each day and brought its passengers back home in the evening


A change in the "Liberty's" route marked the decline of packet boating. As people travelled more by rail, then by motor car, the vessel's route was lengthened from this short daily run to a weekly trip between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Charleston, West Virginia. At the last, it towed a showboat with the Major Bowes Amateur Hour aboard. It also served as a rescue boat on the lower Ohio River in the famous flood of 1937. Oddly enough, Captain Walter C. Booth was aboard the "Liberty" when it came out as a brand new boat and he also rang the last bell to the engineer when it ended its career as a packet boat.

The only powered vessel still in existence that was built by the Mozena Yard is the "Louise", a small diesel towboat which was first known as the "J.A. Cresap" owned by the late Captain Joe Cresap, Moundsville, West Virginia. It towed coal and other things and later was known as the "Skipper". This wooden boat started with a gasoline engine, later used a more modern oil engine, and today has a diesel engine as the ones used on buses, trucks, and modern towboats.

Possibly the most noted steam boatman from Monroe County was Captain Charles Muhleman of Hannibal, Ohio, who owned the famous packet "Andes". This boat did something no other boat ever did. In one year, it completed 51 round trips between Wheeling and Cincinnati out of 52 possible trips and did this before the days of locks and dams when it was usual for a boat to be laid up at times because of low water or ice conditions. Captain Muhleman also operated the "Major Anderson", a fine side-wheeler, and many other famous crafts.

The river front towns of Monroe County produced many famous river men who served on boats far and near. Captain Mack Gamble built the 200-foot steamer "Sunshine" in 1892, and it was one of the first boats to have complete electric light equipment. It attracted a lot of attention on its first trip with the headlight flashing around the Clarington bend. Captain Walker Litton of Clarington was a master pilot and his four sons, Captain Grover Litton, Captain Homer Litton, Captain Hazel Litton, and Captain Charles Litton, followed in his footsteps. Only Captain Charles Litton of Coal Center, Pennsylvania survives.