OHIO RIVER TOWBOAT COMPANIES HEADQUARTERED AT WHEELING by John Bowman

WHEELING’S OHIO RIVER TRANSPORTATION COMPANIES

Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co. steamer Monitor No. 2 Photo from the John Bowman collection
Monitor towboat & Lumber Co. steamers Monitor, Nail City, and Clara Photo from the John Bowman collection

Armstrong brothers, John A. and Robert P. of Wheeling, West Virginia in 1871, went into the towboat business hauling crossties for the B&O Railroad and coal from the mines at Wegee Creek, Ohio.  In 1875, three other Armstrong brothers joined the business, William H., Walter M., and Charles L.  These five brothers and Henry, H. Hornbrook ran the towboat company and sub-companies under the “Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co.”, “Monitor Tow-Boat and Lumber Co.”, “Wheeling Towboat and Barge Co.” and “Armstrong Sand Co.”  Their office was on the corner of Tenth and Market Streets Wheeling, and in 1919, the office was listed at 114 Virginia Street, this was on Wheeling Island. Wheeling’s ‘Successor’ to the business of this outfit was the “Standard Sand & Gravel Co.  See my May 5, 2019 website post “STANDARD SAND & GRAVEL CO. WHEELING Towboats, Derrick Boats, and Sand Dredges”.

In the following photos, we see the B&O RR Towboat Adelia with a B&O Railroad Transfer barge and John Bowman’s model of the B&O Transfer Barge No. 2 with a Central Ohio Passenger Railcar.

B&O RR Transfer Barge No. 2 with Central Ohio Passenger Railcar model and photo by John Bowman
B&O RR Towboat Adelia with RR Transfer Barge Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

In 1871, The Armstrong’s started their business purchasing two towboats from the B&O Railroad, the 1862 Wheeling built towboat Wm. H. Harrison and the 1868 Wheeling built towboat Mount Clare built by Wilson, Dunlevy & Wheeler with Sweeney machinery.  The B&O R.R. had used these towboats towing transfer barges between Wheeling and Bellaire, Ohio where the B&O connected with the Central Ohio Railroad.  In 1871, the Bellaire RR Bridge was completed revoking the need for transfer boats.  Armstrongs (chartered) placed these towboats under contract to the B&O, hauling crossties to the B&O’s Parkersburg, West Virginia yards.  Chartered was the term used in those times to denote boats leased.  William H. Harrison built in Wheeling in 1862 for the B&O Railroad was sold to the Armstrongs in 1871, they ran her into 1885.  Wm. H. Harrison’s engines came from the railroad’s 1855 Brown Dick towboat named for a famous racehorse. See my June 27, 2017 website post:BROWN DICK STERNWHEEL PACKET/TOWBOAT AND B&O RR BARGE NO 2”.

William H. Harrison with crosstie flats from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

In this photo of Wheeling’s Wharf in 1885, notice that the hillside behind Wheeling is denuded of trees (every tree).  Wheeling’s last remaining timber was cut for crossties for the B&O Railroad.

Wheeling Wharf in 1885 from the John Bowman collection

Mount Clare built in Wheeling for the B&O Railroad in 1866 by Wilson, Dunlevy & Wheeler with Sweeney machinery was listed as owned by the Monitor Towboat and Lumber Co. and called ‘Clara by the Armstrongs.  She was towing crossties for the B&O. and coal from the Monongahela and Pittsburgh pools to Wheeling with Monitor Barge No. 66 and Monitor Barge No. 10 in 1881.

Mount Clare Towboat Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
Mount Clare was called Clara by the Armstrongs
Monitor Tow-Boat and Lumber Co. steamer Clara Photo from the John Bowman collection

Monitor No. 2., a small towboat built in 1862 at Allegheny City, Pennsylvania was running out of Wheeling in 1868, and was bought by the Armstrongs in 1872.

Another towboat with the Monitor name The stern-wheel steam-powered towboat Monitor, built in Wheeling in 1876 with engines from the Pittsburgh Rees Shops, was built for the Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co., to haul crossties for B&O Railroad.   She caught fire and burned at Bellaire, Ohio October 14, 1885.

Monitor Towboat from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

Other Towboats owned by the Armstrongs: John A. Armstrong bought the 1871, D.T. Lane (David T.) in 1875, and keeping her only a short time, sold her to James H. Sentz for towing coal out of the Kanawha River.

D.T. Lane Towboat Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co. purchased the 1862 towboat Whale in 1877 and ran her along with the G.W. Hornbrook and Nail CityWhale had been severely damaged in 1876 and bought in that condition by the Armstrongs in 1877.  She is seen in a photo with MonitorWhale was dismantled in 1883.

Monitor and Whale Towboat and Monitor Barge from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

The stern-wheel towboat Annie L. was built at the Murraysville, West Virginia boat yard in 1881 in the Pittsburgh “poolboat style” for the Armstrong’s Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co. of Wheeling.  She towed crosstie flats for the B&O Railroad between Parkersburg, West Virginia, Wheeling, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania into the early 1890s.

Annie L. Towboat from The Public Library of Cncinnati and Hamilton County Ohio

Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co. was towing with the 1881 towboat Jennie Campbell, and the 1872, Samuel Miller out of Wheeling in the early 1880s.  What is unclear to me is, maybe the Armstrongs owned these towboats or they were chartered (leased) to them.

Hornbrook & Co., (Hornbrook, Capt. Edwin and Hornbrook, C.W. and Voegtly, J.A., clerks) ran the Wheeling built C.W. Hornbrook from 1872-1878.  Their office in 1878 was at 1206 Water Street.  Hornbrook & Co. also listed on their Bills of Lading, the towboats Ed Hobbs and Nail City.

Towboat Office of Hornbrook & Co. steamer C.W. Hornbrook, Ed. Hobbs, Nail City Photo from the John Bowman collection

In 1872, the stern-wheel towboat Nail City was built for Ed Hobbs by Wilson, Dunlevy & Wheeler at their Wheeling boat yard. with engines by Ed Hobbs Foundry, “Hobbs, Taylor & Co.” of Wheeling.  Ed from 1872, leased his towboats Nail City and Ed Hobbs to “Hornbrook & Co.”, and then in 1877 Ed sold Nail City to the “Monitor Tow-boat and Lumber Co.”  Monitor Tow-boat had Nail City’s pilothouse removed from the cabin skylight and placed on the boiler deck in the Pittsburgh, poolboat style as seen in this Nail City photo.   Ed’s 1871 towboat, Ed Hobbs was also leased to Hornbrook & Co. from 1871 until 1877 when she was sunk in the 1877 ice run out.  She was rebuilt, and became the towboat Atlantic.  Eventually the Ed Hobbs machinery went into the famous Wheeling packet Ben Hur.

Nail City Towboat Photo from the Collection of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Ohio.
Nail City Towboat with Monitor Barge model by John Bowman

The “Armstrong Sand Co.” doing business from 1889 owned the 1889 steam-powered towboat Fay S. built at Clarington, Ohio, that they used in conjunction with towing barges loaded with river sand and gravel.  Fay S. was sold in 1904.  John L. Shriver advertised he was a dealer in the best grades of sand, gravel and coal, by boat, car or wagonload, that he sold from Monitor Tow-Boat barges moored on the river at Wheeling.  His office was in a barge at the foot of Twelfth Street from 1895.

Catherine Dredge at Wheeling Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

Monie Bauer was purchased by the Armstrongs in 1915 and she along with the sand dredge Catherine was cut down in ice at Wheeling in the winter of 1917-1918.

Monie Bauer Towboat from Liberty Marine Photos
Monitor Tow-Boat and Barge Co. Coal Barge 1923 photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe

The towboat Nail City was named for the “Nail City”, Wheeling, West Virginia.  Many knew of and referred to Wheeling as the “Nail City”.  Wheeling was noted for shipping as many as 6,000 kegs of nails daily on every packet boat leaving the Wheeling wharf. And this of interest as to the Monitor’s towboat Nail City.  In the very early morning April 1, 1879, William Page, the chief engineer on the Nail City, had breakfast and relieved his assistant.  About five o’clock a.m., Page walked out on the fantail to oil the wrist pin and paddle-wheel bearing.  Apparently, the fantail damaged sometime during the night gave way, tossing him in the water.  Mr. Page had drowned before anyone discovered him missing.

Standing on the Fantail, oiling the Wrist Pin Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Monitor Tow-Boat & Barge Co.’s Towboat List and Photo credits
  • Annie L. Photo from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Ohio.
  • D.T. Lane Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Ed Hobbs
  • Fay S.
  • G.W. Hornbrook
  • Jennie Campbell
  • Monie Bauer Photo from Liberty Marine Photos
  • Monitor Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Monitor, Whale and Barge Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Monitor No. 2.
  • Mount Clare they called ‘Clara’ Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Nail City Photo from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Ohio.
  • Samuel Miller
  • Whale
  • Wm. H. Harrison Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Catherine Sand Dredge Photo from Liberty Marine Photos Fred McCabe
  • Wheeling Wharf 1885 Photo from the John Bowman collection
  • Standing on the Fantail, oiling the Wrist Pin Photo from Liberty Marine Photos
  • Hornbrook and Co. Towboats Heading 1206 Water Street Wheeling Photo from the John Bowman collection
  • Monitor Tow-Boat and Barge Co. Headings Photo from the John Bowman collection
  • Monitor Towboat and Lumber Co. Heading Photo from the John Bowman collection

Bibliography and Sources

  • Bowman, John, Wheeling The Birthplace of the American Steamboat Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, Wheeling, WV, 2008.
  • Bowman, John, A Pictorial History of Wheeling and Ohio River Steamboats Wheeling 2010
  • Bowman, John, Bills of Lading Freight On Board Wheeling, W. Va. Wheeling, WV 2012.
  • Way, Frederick Jr., Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1983 Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1983
  • Way, Frederick, Jr., with Joseph W. Rutter Way’s Steam Towboat Directory, Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1990

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