WHEELING BUILT STEAMBOATS the St. Lawrence
A.J. Sweeney and Son built the side-wheel steam-powered packet St. Lawrence at Wheeling, West Virginia in 1879 for Capt. William M. List. The St. Lawrence was 266½’ x 41’ x 6’, three-quarters the length of a football field, the biggest steamboat ever built in Wheeling. Sweeney had her hull built by Dan Morton at the Flesher Boat Yard, Murraysville, West Virginia. She had four boilers with two 24-inch cylinders, which had a stroke of 6¼ feet. April 10th, 1879, Capt. List took her for a trial run up to Top Mill, then to Heatherington’s coal works below Bellaire returning to the Sweeney yard where four feet were chopped of her stacks and other fine-tuning took place. Her cabins were then furnished in high style and she made her maiden trip to Cincinnati April 19th. Her Sweeney built engines came from the 1870 side-wheel Express No. 2, which was dismantled in 1879. Capt. List ran the St. Lawrence in the Wheeling-Cincinnati trade departing Wheeling at 3 o’clock p.m. Saturday and departing Cincinnati for Wheeling at 5 o’clock p.m. on Wednesday. By 1884, List had extended her run into Pittsburgh and that fall he sold her to the White Collar Line of Cincinnati. She ran most of the rest of her life making daily runs from Maysville, Kentucky to Ripley, Ohio and Augusta, Kentucky as a U.S. Mail packet. September 20, 1895, St. Lawrence in a heavy wind-storm sank at Cincinnati and was lost.
St. Lawrence sported the most famous whistle of any steamboat ever on the Ohio River. John Sweeney of A.J. Sweeney and Son made the whistle, duplicated many times, which came from the Express No. 2 in 1879, in 1870 for the Express No. 2. John Sweeney had his hand or ear in every whistle they produced. He had handy, a chromatic pitch instrument he would use to tune each whistle. John found the most pleasing whistle you can get is the “D – minor chord, A below middle C and C – F natural above”. He would tune a whistle by hammering the bell to change the density of the metal in it. This famous whistle in 1895 went onto the 1885 Sweeney built steamboat Courier and in 1918 was placed on the 1883 built Tacoma. Lasting 52 years, the whistle was lost when the Tacoma burned at Cincinnati November 4, 1922.
This model of the side-wheel steam-powered packet St. Lawrence by John Bowman was loaned for display to the Bellaire Public Library August 28, 2014.
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