The side-wheel steam-powered packet Lewis Wetzel was built by the Wilson & Dunlevy Yard at Wheeling, Virginia in 1848 and it was launched the last week of July 1848. The engines were by Phillips & Co. of Wheeling. The Lewis Wetzel was named to honor the frontier hero long associated with the Wheeling area. Lewis Wetzel was born 1764 in Philadelphia, Penn. The family came to the Wheeling area when Lewis was a teenager and the family settled on Big Wheeling Creek in what is now Marshall County West Virginia. Wetzel’s exploits were legendary in Wheeling where he was known as an “Indian Hunter”. In the later 1700’s Indian wars on the frontier were long over and Lewis was not much suited for the settled life. Wetzel secured employment on flatboats and keelboats bound for New Orleans returning occasionally to the Wheeling area. Wetzel had served time in prison in New Orleans and died in Mississippi in 1808 at the age of 44. Stories of Wetzel’s adventures appeared in print as early as 1839 and his name was becoming more prominent as more articles were written. The steamboat Lewis Wetzel served Kanawha and Ohio River towns into 1855 when it was last documented.
This model of the side-wheel steam-powered packet Lewis Wetzel by John Bowman is displayed at West Virginia’s Point Pleasant River Museum.