Last of the packet boats

Posted by | June 13, 2012

Probably the most famous boat ever built at Clarington, OH was the Liberty, being the last in the line of packet boats of that name (a packet boat is generally described as a steam boat for conveying cargo, mail, and passengers on a regular schedule.) Way’s Packet Directory 1848-1994 lists an earlier Liberty built in 1857 at Wheeling, WV but “snagged and lost at Twelve Pole Creek, WV, Dec 27, 1862.”

The final Liberty 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 traveled more by rail, then by motor car, the vessel’s route was lengthened from this short daily run to a weekly trip between Pittsburgh, PA, and Charleston, WV. 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 launched as a brand new boat, and he also rang the last bell to the engineer when it ended its career as a packet boat after its service in the flood rescues.

Captain John K. Booth, captain of the Liberty from 1857-1862, is buried in the old cemetery, on the PPG industrial property, north of New Martinsville, WV. At the bottom of Captain Booth's headstone is carved..."I have guided my boat through the river of life to be hailed from the other shore." Photo by Joe Ward.

Captain John K. Booth, captain of the Liberty from 1857-1862, is buried in the old cemetery, on the PPG industrial property, north of New Martinsville, WV. At the bottom of Captain Booth's headstone is carved..."I have guided my boat through the river of life to be hailed from the other shore." Photo by Joe Ward.

The Liberty’s whistle was fashioned by a farmer living near Grape Island, WV. It had been previously used on two packet boats, the Ben Hur, and then the Bessie Smith, before being installed on the Liberty. After the Liberty was dismantled in 1938, the whistle went to the towboat Mildred and where it is today is anybody’s guess. “It was probably one of the nicest sounding whistles ever to echo among the hills of the upper Ohio Valley,” said The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), on Aug. 4, 1960.

sources: http://members.aol.com/RYouCuz/monroeco.htm#fifteen

http://members.tripod.com/~Write4801/riverboats/l.html

Related post: “They’d get up and swing around on the trapeze”

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