FromThe Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), Aug.
A reader writes and would like the history of the Ben Hur, an old packet which ran on the Ohio River. The Ben Hur was built in 1887 at Marietta as a sternwheel packet with wooden hull and the usual "texas" deck. She was 165 feet long. Although built as a packet, her first job was towing a circus up and down the rivers. It was John Robinson's Circus. The following year she went into the Pittsburgh and Parkersburg trade as a regular packet. She was in this trade from then until 1909. In 1888, her first year, with Capt. Fred Kimpel, Jr., as master, she reportedly made $14,000 in seven months. Owned by the Cramer family of Clarington, the Ben Hur established herself as a good packet in this trade. In 1904 her master was Capt. Edward Sims. In June, 1909, she was sold to interests on the Mississippi River. What trades she was operated in down there is not recorded in our notes but in March 1916, she sank at Duckport, Miss., and was lost. Thus, her span was from 1887 to 1916, or 29 years. A feature of the Ben Hur was her famous whistle. It was originally on the steamer George Strecker, built in 1880 and which burned in 1887 at Beverly, O., on the Muskingum. The whistle was fashioned by a farmer living near Grape Island. This is the same whistle which was later on the Liberty and well known to river fans because the Liberty operated until 1936. After the Liberty quit, the whistle went to the towboat Mildred and where it is today is anybody's guess. The whistle was also on the Bessie Smith before it went on the Liberty. But it was probably one of the nicest sounding whistles ever to echo among the hills of the upper Ohio Valley.
The BEN SHARROD is at present being recovered [excavated]by a consortium of private investors. The Sharrod is lying upside down about one mile from Ft. Adams and approximately 1.3 miles from the present channel of the Mississippi River. About 50 feet of the vessel has been uncovered at this date. She was burried beneath appx. 70 ft. of sand and mud. The area of material around the vessel is dry, so the hull timbers are in excellent condition, like new. It is surmised that her cargo, which was loaded in New Orleans and bound for upriver, is still intact, i.e. no water damage.
The following submitted by
I don't know how much could be left of the BEN SHERROD to excavate. The fire must have consumed quite a bit - and the following explosions must have distributed boat and cargo over a pretty wide area. If you learn anything more about this project, let me know.
BEN SHERROD accident recap from Jerry:
On May 8, 1837, while racing
the steamer PRAIRIE,
the BEN SHERROD caught
fire about 14 miles above Ft. Adams, MS. The deck and engine room
crew were snockered on whiskey and the boilers became overheated
and set fire to about 60 cords of resin-dripping wood. The forward
section quickly became an inferno.
Departed Pittsburgh on maiden trip early 1875 with
McGarry, master, and Joseph S. Hill, clerk. Got to Fort Benton
on May 27 and so commenced a long career in which she made 44 trips
to Fort Benton, plus 15 others to Montana points. The BENTON went
off to the wars on the Yellowstone in late summer of 1876, when virtually
every boat on the upper Missouri was impressed into service of the
soldiers trailing Sitting Bull and his Sioux. The boat set a record
of 11 days one hour from Bismarck to Fort Benton May 31 , 1877, and
bettered this June 27 with a time of 10 days and 18 hours. The record
stood for only a few days, until the RED CLOUD
did better. She served in the windup of the Nez Perce campaign of
1877 around Cow Island. Altogether, the BENTON made more trips, almost
certainly carried more freight than any other boat serving Fort Benton.
From The Tribune Telegraph,
Pomeroy, Meigs County, Ohio, Wed. July. 12 1897
RIVER MATTERS -- The steamer Express broke her rudder on her last trip, but was not materially detained. She left on Thursday, near about the usual time.
The Bertrand leaves today on her first trip, for St. Louis, she has six thousand kegs of nails, and other freight, making a good load. She is a nice trim little steamer, neat but not gaudy, and sits upon the water like a duck. She has a hundred and sixty-two feet deck, draws when light, about 18 inches. Her hull was built by Dunlevy & Co.; her machinery by Sweeney; her cabin by Gullet, of Pittsburgh, and furnished by Mendels. Her Captain, Ben Goodwin, is a well known river man, and Jerry Cochrane goes as Clerk. If the people down on the lower waters only knew Jerry as well as they do up here they'd all want to travel on his boat -- that's all.
The Wheeling-built Bertrand hit a snag in the Missouri River twenty miles north of Omaha, Nebraska in 1865, and sank with no loss of life but all the cargo. Divers recovered the most valuable portions of the cargo soon after. In 1968 the wreck was rediscovered and carefully excavated. The excavation was described in The Steamboat Bertrand: History, Excavation and Architecture, by Jerome Petsche, published by the GPO in 1974. This book is available at Ohio County Public Library.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the Steamboat Bertrand Collection at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, including a museum containing artifacts from the Bertrand.
HERBS FOR HEALTH