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SUBSEQUENT STEAMBOAT BUILDING IN WHEELING

Boat building in Wheeling, Parts - 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6


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Wheeling W. Va.
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WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA
The Wheeling Intelligencer,
July 9, 1959.

The River
by
Ralph Conley

After George White had finished the "George Washington", it is said that he built the "Martha Washington," but we cannot vouch for that name being subsequently applied to any boat he built -- still he certainly was the main man in the construction of other steamers. Of subsequent ship builders here we have been unable to gather information sufficiently reliable to place in history, the evidence in our possession, though somewhat whimerous, being very conflicting, and at best disconnected. Squire Phillips, of North Wheeling, has, however, most kindly and carefully hunted up the data for the following paper on THE NAME OF PHILLIPS AS RELATED TO BOAT BUILDING -- THE PIONEER MARINE STEAM ENGINE WORKS IN WHEELING AND REFERENCE TO THE "UNION LINE" OF STEAMERS.

Arthur M. Phillips, one of the first steam engine builders in the West, immigrated from Carlisle, Pa., to Steubenville, Ohio, in 1807. He was a blacksmith by trade, and soon after his arrival there located on the site where Means & Bro.'s fountry and machine shop is now conducted. Here he ran a foundry and blacksmith ship between 1815 and 1820, turning out marine and land engines, mill work, &c., also hollow ware and grates. He at first used horse-power for turning, boring and the conduct of other departments of his business. The machinery, boilers, &c. for the steamers "Bezaleel Wells", "Congress", "Mechanic"," "Steubenville" and many others were built at his works, and were among the first steamboats to navigate the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Steamers, in those days, were small -- averaging from 60 to 90 feet keel ; 14 to 16 feet beam; 3 to 4 feet open hold; single engines; side wheels, boilers placed in the hold, and cabin on the first floor. About this time Elijah Murry, an excellent carpenter, also opened a boat yard at Steubenville, in which he built the hulls, cabins, &c., the machinery and boilers being also put in there. Marine steam engines were also shipped from there and put up at Wheeling, Marietta, Portsmouth and Cincinnati.

A. M. Phillips was however, induced by Messrs. McLure, Shriver, List and others, to remove to Wheeling, where he established a works in the north part of the city during the summer of 1832. Nor was he alone, for Elijah Murry and one Thompson, another skilled carpenter, also from Steubenville, further established in Wheeling, a boat yard. It was now that a humber of the finest steamers on the river were built here, noticeably the "A. M. Phillips", in the year 1836. She proved to be one of the fastest steamers on the Ohio, making the trip from Pittsburgh to Wheeling in four hours.

The tow boat "Tiger", was also built during this year by Captain James Beebee, for towing ships back from the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans. Captain Beebee also built the tow boat "Planter" during the year 1841, for the same trade. The "Amazon", "Clarksville", "Cumberland", and many other fine steamers were built during 1839-9.

The financial panic of 1837 to 1840, with endorsements to heavy papers by his friends, led A. M. Phillips to succumb, with many others, to the hard times. during 1843 his business and even homestead were put up at auction, and purchased in by his sons, James W. Phillips, A. M. Phillips, Jr., and Hans. W. Phillips, who associated as "Phillips & Co.," conducting mill work, casting and job work. Times changed, however, by the pring of 1845, and it was at this time that E. W. Stephens, from Pittsburgh, leased the top mill and awarded the contract to Phillips & Co., of placing the mill in thorough repair. Steamboat building also revived and steamers for home and the Southern trade were here built in goodly numbers. It was at this time that the famous hull builder, Anthony Dunlevy, removed to Wheeling and became a partner in the boat yard.

Quite a number of steamers were then built here entire, among them being the "E. W. Stephens and Mary Stephens, "constructing a large steamer built for Tyler, Ralston & Co., of Wellsville, Ohio, in 1847. Mr. Ralston, the great banker and millionaire, of San Francisco, California, who died August, 1875, was one of the partners. In 1852, H. W. Phillips purchased out the entire business from the brothers. About this time the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was to be completed to Wheeling and a local company was formed to run a line of steamers in conjunction therewith, to be called the "Union Line", consisting of seven boats. Three of the latter -- the "Thomas Swann", Baltimore", and "City of Wheeling" were built at Phillips' works and proved, during the winter of 1853, to be among the best and most speedy of the line. From 1855 to 1865 the following steamers were also built here -- the "Avondale", "Albemarle", "H.D.Means", "C. E. Hillman", "Morning Light", and the towboat "James M. Whann" for New Orleans and proved themselves superior to anything in the trade.

The steamer "Planter" was built for the Southern trade, with a capacity of 2,500 bales of cotton, under the superintendence of J. W. Phillips, and left Wheeling for New Orleans, December 15, 1860. Having failed to dispose of her, or get her back home before hostilities commenced, in the late war, she was left near Mobile, in charge of a watchman, in July, 1861. There was a large contract made for shot and shell at these works in 1862, for the government, and the steamers "Liberty No. 2", "Louisville", "Potomac", "Hattie May", and many others were built at these works.

The steamer "Planter" was fitted out as a blockade runner at Mobile. Her cargo consisted of 800 bales of cotton and 350 barrels of turpentine. She run out August, 1865, and captured by the United States steamship "Lakawana" and taken to Key West, being sold by the government for $185,500 including the cargo. The government requiring a steamer for the Rio Grande river, Texas, during the summer of 1875, purchased the "Planter," and fitted her out for a gun boat, changing her name to the "Rio Bravo" (See PLANTER - D.).

She is still in good condition though nineteen years of age. We understand that H. W. Phillips and others owning five-eighths of the said steamer have been engaged since 1863, and are still pursuing the government to re-imburse them for losses sustained on the sale of the boat and cargo. From Newton, J. H., History of the Pan-Handle. Wheeling, J.A. Caldwell, 1879. p.198-199.

Boat building in Wheeling, Parts - 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6

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