Towboat Photos, Page 3


In Sept 2002 I was fortunate to be a guest aboard the luxurious towboat PATRICIA GAIL for 5 days from Cape Girardeau, MO to Memphis, TENN.

Attached some photos I took and one that one that the Ben Bolden took of me 'way out on the barges the towboat was pushing.

The gentlemen in the lower left photo on deck with the capstan are Mate Ben Bolden and deckhand Wally Goza.

That trip was a magical experience and seems almost more like a dream in recollection than something that actually happened.

I invited a world traveling married couple from Hannibal, MO to join me on the voyage and the husband Curt Lees said it was better than any trip he had taken elsewhere on the planet. Curt's wife was Ann Sundermeyer, head librarian at the Hannibal Public Library. Ann passed away in 2007.

Four years after my voyage on that towboat a reporter was a guest on the same boat and wrote a great three part article about the PATRICIA GAIL; the Captain and many of the same crew members were aboard and are mentioned (see below).

Backstory: A river runs through them

Part 1 of three
Mary Wiltenburg,
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
APRIL 17, 2006

Backstory: Those whom the river beckons
Part 2 of three
Mary Wiltenburg,
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
APRIL 19, 2006

Backstory: Navigating the 'wiggles'
Part 3 of three

Mary Wiltenburg,
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
APRIL 21, 2006


Another one of those "perfect" photos from La Crosse with a neat, spic and span steamer captured by the camera under ideal daylight lighting conditions with fine contrast, plenty of smoke, nice refection on the water.

Sternwheel towboat

Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number T0724.

Built in 1907 at La Crosse, Wisconsin, the ELLEN was named for Mrs. W.W. Cargill. W.W. Cargill of the Sawyer Austin Lumber Company used the ELLEN as a part-time rafter and also for pleasure. Captain Charlie De Lisle was master, circa 1912 and 1916. Captain W. A. Thompson was master in 1918 when the ELLEN sank 3 miles south of Brownsville on October 8th and was raised.

A steel hull was put under her after she was purchased by the U.S. Engineering Department in 1930 and Captain John Suiter served as master during the '30s Also while under U.S. ownership, the cabin was air conditioned and an elevator installed in anticipation of the expected arrival of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; but for some reason the trip was canceled.

Sold at public sale in 1943 to Ralph M. James, then sold to Standard Oil of Ohio who, in turn, sold her in 1944 to Industrial Marine Service of Memphis, Tennessee who converted her to diesel with twin propellers.


Towboat EXPORTER at Lock and Dam 53 on the Ohio River in 1929

Photo from La Crosse of the towboat EXPORTER in Lock and Dam 53 on the Ohio River during the Pageant and Dedication October 19th - 25th, 1929: sponsored by the Ohio Valley Improvement Association to commemorate the completion of the canalization of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo.
I plumbed up the picture in Photoshop; and extended the cables, the top of the starboard stack and spar holding up the swinging stage on the bow of the steamboat in the foreground beyond the point where they had been cropped along the top of the original photo.

[The following excerpt regarding "wicket dams" from "Ohio River Information and History" is from the website for "Jane's Saddlebag," a frontier-themed entertainment complex at Big Bone Lick, Boone County, Kentucky on the east bank of the Big South Fork bend of the Ohio River]:

"In 1878, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had begun to build the first federally built lock and dam on the Ohio at Davis Island about five miles below the Point in Pittsburgh. This lock and dam was completed in 1885. The lock was 110 feet wide and 600 feet long and was the largest lock in the world at that time. The dam was composed of wooden bulkheads hinged on the river bottom which could be lowered when the river flow was high. Boats could then pass without using the lock. When the level of the river began to fall, however, the wooden wickets were raised to catch the water and create a pool behind the dam to maintain the level of the river for boats. These wicket dams were eventually built for the entire length of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois. The last one, Dam 53 at Cairo, was installed in 1929. It and Dam 52 are the only wicket dams remaining on the Ohio River."

[The following is adapted from TOWBOAT ON THE OHIO by James E. Casto, University of Kentucky Press 1995.]

"In 1929, to celebrate the completion of the river's canalization, the Ohio Valley Improvement Association staged a magnificent parade of steamboats that made their majestic way down the Ohio River. All along their route whistles screamed, bells tolled and cannons blasted a salute. At Cincinnati, Ohio President Herbert Hoover [traveling aboard the U.S. lighthouse tender GREENBRIER], was the guest of honor and addressed the crowd in part:

'In some generation to come, they will perhaps look at our triumph in building a channel nine feet in depth in the same way that we look at our forefathers when, having cleared snags and bars, they announced that a boat drawing two feet of water could pass safely from Pittsburgh to New Orleans.' "

Sternwheel Towboat

Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number T0775

Built in 1895 at Madison, Indiana
Her engines came from the towboat JOHN GILMORE; those same engines had originated on the packet WILD WAGONER.

In November 1896 she ran from St. Louis to Cairo in 14 1/2 hours to bring in the tow of the HENRY LOUREY Lourey which was out of commission due to engine breakdown. During the June, 1896 cyclone at St. Louis, the cabin was blown off and she had to be rebuilt. After being sold to the Combine in April 1901 she went to Pittsburgh, her first appearance there in five years. She towed coal south until sold in April 1918 to the Mengel Box Company. They used her for the next 15 years and sold her to the Barrett Line who never used her.

Other notable events in the long life of the EXPORTER included the burning off of her pilothouse and part of the cabin at Pittsburgh in early 1915.

In September 1916, she sank in shallow water near Ironton, Ohio but was quickly raised. In March 1917 she pioneered in towing coal to the LaBelle Iron Works at Steubenville, Ohio. She left Pittsburgh on March 21, 1917 with a tow of empties for the Kanawha River and never returned to the headwaters of the Ohio River thereafter. She once pulled loose in the middle of a zero night above the Memphis bridges with a 500 foot tow and only 75 psi. on her boilers and ran the bridges without incident.

Captain McMakin was master then. In April, 1925 she went up the Yazoo River 65 miles to Satarsia, 15 miles above the mouth of the Sunflower and brought out a long tow; this was the biggest boat up the Yazoo in 25 years.

Captain J.B. Mougin did the piloting, he having run on the RESCUE of the P. Line to Clarksdale, Mississippi on the Sunflower River in former times.

When the boat was dismantled IN 1936 Slack Barrett gave the pilot wheel to Captain Frank Hibstenberg and the plan was to mount it at Jeffersonville, Indiana in front of John Hibstenberg's home.

paddlewheel boat

The towboat CHEROKEE worked for the Louisville district of the U.S. Engineers and is evidently pushing quarter boats to a sight along the Ohio River to house and feed crews working on an engineering related project.

I like the windmill on the wharf boat in the left foreground. Perhaps the windmill provided power to pump water out of the river for a kitchen or rest rooms.


Sternwheel towboat on the Ohio River by John Clymer POST 15 April 1961

Detail from the cover of the April 15, 1961 Saturday Evening Post

Artist John Clymer's painting of a sternwheel towboat on the Ohio River with the state of Ohio on the far shore as seen from the state of West Virginia.


Towboat Little Andy Fulton a dredge tender 1886

From the University of Missouri Saint Louis Digital Library:

"Chartered Dredge Tender L. A. FULTON at Mustapha Island" (on the Ohio River at Wood County, West Virginia)
Photographed October 23rd, 1886

The LITTLE ANDY FULTON of Louisville, KY., at midstream near Mustapha Island in the Ohio River.

Charming panoramic riverscape. Details on the towboat LI'L ANDY FULTON are interesting. The square structure aft of the texas with what looks like 2nd hand shutters for walls may have been where the cook kept live chickens fresh in case they were needed in the kitchen.


Sternwheel Towboat

Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number- T1596

Built in 1872 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

First owners were James Rees and S. Roberts and Company
Captain Henry Rothrauff was master, circa 1872

In the 1880s, she was sold to the Duffies and became the first of their fleet. Used to tow coal, sand and gravel. The name on the stern bulkhead was L.A. FULTON. After she was dismantled in 1891, her engines went to the FULTON.


Towboat on the Mississippi between Iowa and Wisconsin

Detail from a real photo postcard of an unknown towboat pushing barges on the Upper Mississippi River taken from the bridge between Marquette, Iowa and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The bridge that spans the river at this crossing presently opened in 1975 and since this image probably dates from the 1940s at the latest this photo must have taken from been an earlier span.

Sternwheeler Juanita Collection







In 1990 while driving back to Cincinnati from Marietta I stopped in the lovely Ohio River community of Gallipolis (pronounced "Gallup-police" locally) and luckily the 64 foot long sternwheel diesel towboat JUANITA was tied up at the marina and her crew was having an "open house" so anyone in town who knew about it could visit.

This is one beautiful boat. At the time it was owned by AEP (American Electrical Power) and utilized as a sort of "good will ambassador" for their barge company.

According to online sources the JUANITA was built in 1954 by O. F. Shearer & Sons at Cedar Grove, West Virginia. Another source on the internet says that the JUANITA has been "in operation since 1977."

The present owner of the JUANITA is Tom Cook of Dunbar, West Virginia on the Kanawha River.

The light on the river was somewhat overcast the day I was there but the clouds occasionally parted and let the sunshine through as in the photo of the starboard side of the JUANITA's pilot house with the river bathed in light.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*