The WHEELING – LOUISVILLE ‘UNION LINE’ WHEELING’S 1853 STEAMBOAT PACKET LINE by John Bowman

The WHEELING – LOUISVILLE ‘UNION LINE’ Daily served the cities of Wheeling, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. Ohio River Steamboat Transportation Companies Headquartered in Wheeling, Virginia (West Virginia)

1853 Wheeling – Louisville Union Line add The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer March 1853

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer March 11, 1853

UNION LINE! Daily Steam Packet Service to the cities of Wheeling, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis.

S.C. Baker & Co. S.C. Baker and John List ‘Steamboat Agents’ 23 Water Street Wheeling, Virginia “Will attend to the receiving and delivering of freight. and collection of freight bills”.

J.M. Hamilton ‘Steamboat Agent’ at the Wharf boat at the foot of Monroe (Twelfth) Street.  “Will attend to the receiving and delivering of freight. and collection of freight bills Freight for all regular Packets will be received free of charge.

December 24th, 1852, Capt. John McLure, Jr. and Capt. William M. List of Wheeling incorporated the Wheeling – Louisville ‘Union Line’, a fleet of seven boats; in effect, this was an extension of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad established for the Wheeling, Virginia – Louisville, Kentucky Ohio River trade.  The ‘Union Line’ was incorporated December 24th, 1852, the same day the tracks of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad were closed at Rosby’s Rock which completed the railroad’s line from Baltimore, Maryland to Wheeling, Virginia.

The B&O Wheeling ‘Union Line’ of packet boats were said to be; “The most luxurious, finest steamboats that ever plied the waters of the upper Ohio”.  Each of these steamboats bore a name that appealed to the South from which they were expected to draw their chief patronage.  These ‘Union Line’ steamboats were…

The sidewheel Alvin Adams, her hull built at McKeesport, completed at Pittsburgh in 1853, and named for the founder of the Adams Railway Express Co.  Alvin Adams came out in March of 1853 in the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line with Capt. George W. Norton (one of her Wheeling owners) and ran in the line into early 1854.  See my Post: “WHEELING’S LINK TO THE ‘EDMUND FITZGERALD’ OGLEBAY NORTON’S GREAT LAKES FLAGSHIP”.  David Z. Norton co-founder of Oglebay Norton was a decedent of George W. Norton.

The sidewheel Baltimore, as in Baltimore & Ohio, had her hull built at New Martinsville, Virginia in 1852, and was completed at Wheeling in 1853 with cabins by Hanes & Beam and machinery by Phillips.  She came out in March of 1853 with Capt. William Clarke in the in the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line.  Baltimore ran in the Line into the fall of 1853. 

The sidewheel David White named for a prominent resident of Madison, Indiana was built at Madison, Indiana in 1853 for Capt. Sam Mason of Wheeling.  She came out early in the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line with Capt. William McClain and ran in the line only a few months.

The sidewheel Falls City, a nickname relating to Louisville, Kentucky, was built at Louisville, Kentucky in 1853 and came out in the Wheeling – Louisville Line with Capt. Sam Mason of Centre Wheeling February 5th, 1853.  Almost immediately, February 23rd, while on her trial run, she collided with the sidewheel Pittsburgh near New Matamoras, Ohio.  Capt. Mason ran her in the line into January of 1854.  

The 1851, sidewheel Forest City probably named for Cleveland, Ohio, the Forest City of its time, was built at Brownsville, Pennsylvania and entered the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line with Capt. A. Murdoch in the early spring of 1853.  The Union Line ran her into the late fall of 1853.

The 1852, sidewheel Thomas Swann was built at Wheeling, Virginia and named for Thomas Swann, President of the B&O Railroad.  She was launched the same day the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line was established December 24th, 1852, and the same day the tracks were closed at Rosby’s Rock.

The 1853 sidewheel Virginia obviously named for the State of Virginia was built at West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and owned mostly by Wheelingites. Virginia ran only briefly in the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line.  She was under the Command of Capt. Charles V. Wells of Sistersville, Virginia and William B. Scaife of Pittsburgh.  Wheeling shareholders were W.W. Shriver, Charles W. Russell, Edward H. Fitzhugh, Dr. John Eoff, and John W. Gill.  Capt. Charles V. Wells of Sistersville had the sidewheel Planter built in Wheeling in 1860, took it south and joined it with the Confederacy in 1861.  U.S. forces captured Planter June 15, 1863.

The sidewheel City Of Wheeling, built in the city of Wheeling in 1853 for Capt. John McLure, Jr. came out in the Wheeling – Louisville Union Line and ran only occasionally in Line.

Wheeling & Louisville ‘Union Line’ China T. Sweeney & Son 65 Main Street, Wheeling, Virginia photo by John Bowman

Rare and much sought after, “Union Line” steamboat dinnerware manufactured in 1853 by T. Sweeney & Son 65 Main Street Wheeling, Virginia is highly collectable, and expensive.

The 13th of September of 1853, the ‘Union Line’, was running their ‘UNION LINE’ ad and additionally, two other ‘Union Line’ adds were running in the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.  Headlined thusly, ‘Union Line’ “The fine light draught steamer Fort Henry, Capt. George Johnston will run as the regular Union Line Packet between Wheeling and Cincinnati, leaving Wheeling every Wednesday at 4 o’clock p.m.”  With the same ‘Union Line’ heading, and same wording, “The fine light draught steamer Atlanta, Capt. A.D. Johnson”, etcetera, Capt. A.D. Johnston was running the Atlanta in the same run, leaving Wheeling every Tuesday at 4 o’clock p.m.  The actual ‘Union Line’ was facing much competition, and shortly after these ads ran, the steamers Baltimore and Forest City would cease operations, soon followed by the Virginia.   The David White had quit the trade in the summer of 1853, leaving only three of the originals, the Alvin Adams, Falls City, and Thomas Swann.  This ‘Union Line’ ad ran the 15th of March of 1854 “The fine light draught steamer Fort Henry, Capt. George Johnston, etcetera. The original ‘Union Line’ folded in April of 1854.

Capt. George Johnston took the 1853 Wheeling built Fort Henry south to confederate registry in 1861, and were never heard from again.

Bibliography and Sources

  1. Bowman, John, Bills of Lading Freight On Board Wheeling, W. Va. Wheeling, WV 2012.
  2. Bowman, John, Wheeling The Birthplace Of The American Steamboat, Wheeling, WV 2009
  3. Way, Frederick Jr., Way’s Packet Directory, 1848-1983 Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1983
  4. The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer March 11, 1853, September 13, 1853 and March 15, 1854

Photo Credits

  1. Union Line add, The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer March 11, 1853. 
  2. T. Sweeney & Son Wheeling & Louisville ‘Union Line’ China John Bowman photo.

No known photos of ‘Union Line’ steamboats exist

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