February 23, 2009

Steamboat To Clarksville and Other Boats On Ten Mile Creek

There are a few documented instances of steamboats on Ten Mile Creek. The month of July in the year 1888 saw what was one of the biggest floods ever on the Monongahela. At Brownsville in that year the river crested at 43 feet, the all-time high water mark there. This was three feet more than even the great flood of 1936. On the crest of this 1888 flood the sternwheel towboat WILLIAM WAGNER ran up Ten Mile Creek and landed at Clarksville. The boat was built at Pittsburgh in 1882 and was 100 x 17 x 2 feet. This was a good sized boat, much bigger than the few steam yacht / pleasure boats that are known to have travelled up our creek. There would have been no bridges to deal with at that time until they reached Clarksville, a little less than three miles from the river. Judging by the configuration of the creek it must have been some hard shoving once up to the area where Pitt Gas and Besco would later be. The vessel was owned By Capt. J. C. Cooper ( called Clinton by his friends ) and Levi Barker. Capt Cooper was in command on this trip. What business they had there, if they had a barge in tow or where at the town they landed is unknown. At that time some towboats running in backwater trades also carried a limited number of passengers, even a small 60 foot boat could be registered for 5 cabin and 5 deck passengers. It is possible too, that they did it just for bragging rights as that was sometimes done by these early rivermen. According To Capt. Way's Steam Towboat Directory the boat was " principally remembered as towing timber out of the Upper Monongahela to boatyards and elsewhere." She was out of documentation ( no longer operating ) in 1890. No photographs of her exist. Capt. Cooper's daughter, Mrs. Phil Kussart, is the author of a river history book titled " The Allegheny River . "

Another boat that visited Clarksville on a flood was the little steam propeller yacht GAZELLE. Nothing is known of either her business or the year she went up. She was 65 x 10 x 3 and built by R. C. Price at Allegheny ( now the North Side of Pittsburgh ) Pa. in 1901. At that time she was owned By Harrison P. Dilworth and other Greene County businessmen who had coal properties on the upper Monongahela. On the trip to Clarksville she was under the command of Capt. John S. Faddis who was, I believe, from the Rices Landing area. He was a riverman of some versatility. In 1905 Capt. Faddis was Master of the ROSE HITE, a large ( 155 x 28 x 4 ) Mon river packet boat that ran the upper Mon. He was at the wheel when she collided with the towboat JOHN F. KUEN above Brownsville and sank with the loss of 5 Black deckhands. He also ran the small DAISEY, a " daylight short trader " , between Martin Pa. and Morgantown early in the century. She was a little sternwheel packet , 75 x 14 x 2 with one boiler that was 54" x 7 feet, built at Antiquity Pa. in 1903. Originally built by Capt. E. E. Varian, she was later owned by H.E. and T. B. Eberhart. In 1908 she was sold to Capt. William Goudy of Rices landing and in 1911 she was sold down the Ohio River. No photo known to me exists of this boat. The GAZELLE probably looked somewhat like the HAZEL L. WATSON in the picture below.

This photo shows the little propeller steamer HAZEL L. WATSON running between East Millsboro and Millsboro with the Mouth of Ten Mile Creek in the background. This photo was taken after 1907 since we see the RR bridge across the creek's mouth. This is an old real photo post card view that I bought years ago and likely one of a kind as those often are. The writer of this card describes it as "the ferry", more accurate would be the old term packet boat or the modern term water taxi. It is likely to assume that she made occasional trips into Ten Mile, water permitting. She was built at Allegheny Pa. in 1901 and was 70 x 10 x 3. Owned by Capt. John O. Watson in 1907, Capt. William Syphers of Rices landing bought part interest and owned her outright by 1909. Syphers, who owned the Monongahela Hotel in Rices Landing, ran her between Brownsville and Rices Landing. Later owned by Crosan Construction of Brownsville , she was lost on Feb. 10, 1918 in the big ice of that year , at Rices Landing.
Ten Mile Creek did, and still does put out quite a volume of water. In old times before the new locks a bar would build up running across the river at the creek's mouth and had to be regularly dredged so that boat traffic could pass up and down.

One more steamboat that has a direct connection to Ten Mile is the CLAIRTON. She was built at Ambridge Pa. in 1927 and was 147 x 33 x 6. Originally the called YOUGHIOGENY for Carnegie Steel she was later named the B. F. FAIRLESS. She came to be called CLAIRTON in 1952, being the third and last boat of that name. She ran almost entirely on the Mon till 1964 and was laid up at / near Engles Boat Docks at the mouth of the creek at Millsboro. There was hope she could be utilized locally as a museum but this never came about. While she was laid up there she had a new career as a restaurant for several years. With my family I took a few meals on that old boat . I remember that it was none too fancy but quite clean, everything wood painted white, inside and out. Guests had to ascend to the boiler ( second ) deck for seating in a small saloon. I prowled around her several times on those visits and I fail to remember her having her wheel , it may have been removed. A final chapter to the story is that in 1974 she was sold to a New Orleans company. Her engines , less boilers, were installed in the NATCHEZ, a sternwheel steamboat built new in 1975 for the day excursion trade and those same engines power her in New Orleans Harbor to this day, every day. Some old boats never die.

The CLAIRTON when she was still the B. F. FAIRLESS at the Elizabeth bridge in 1950, shoving coal as she did for 37 years.

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