Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Fly Ohio’

Sistersville West Virginia Oil Well History

Sistersville’s rich history begins with George Washington really sleeping there in 1770 when he surveyed the Ohio Valley. In his journal, Washington called this stretch of the river “the Long Reach of the Ohio River.”  The river is broad and deep here with hills covered in trees for as far as the eye can see.

Charles Wells was the first to settle here permanently in 1802 naming his settlement Wells’ Landing. While Wells was primarily a farmer, he also served as a representative in the Virginia state legislature. He’s remembered for having fathered 22 children by two wives. Child 20 was named Twenty and 21 Enough. But Betsy came along as child 22.

When he died in 1815, Wells bequeathed the property that makes up much of the business district of the present town to two of his daughters, 17 and 18, named Sarah and Delilah. Each of the children received some property at this time.

The Wells sisters were good businesswomen and laid out the land into 96 lots with eight streets. The town is named for them, Sistersville.

The Sistersville / Fly Ferry still operates to this day across the Ohio River.

In 1817, the Sistersville Ferry was started to take passengers across the Ohio River to Fly, Ohio. It is the oldest ferry in West Virginia and continues to operate until this day.

Before the Civil War, a 51-man military unit, the Sisterville Blues was formed. However, when fighting began, some of these men joined the Confederate Army while others went to the Union Army.  The great-granddaughters of Charles Wells had to hide their Confederate flag behind the wallpaper in their dining room.

When the Civil War ended, Sistersville returned to its quiet farm community. Their first public school was built in 1869 at a cost of $4,000. School lasted only four months then with the teacher being paid  $30 a month.

Peace and quiet came to an end in 1892 when oil was discovered in Pole Cat Hollow just up the river from Sistersville. Quickly, the Sistersville Oil Field began producing over 16,000 barrels of oil a day at 55 cents a barrel. This meant an increase in oil field workers and Sistersville boomed from a town of 600 to one of 12,000. Money flowed in that town as well as the oil wells.

The Big Moses Well is often said to be West Virginia’s greatest oil strike.

Twenty-two miles east of Sistersville, The Big Moses Well drilled on the farm of Moses Spencer is attributed as being the greatest oil well in W.V. Drilled in September 1894, it had a daily capacity of 100 million cu.ft. This well blew until December 1895.

You can imagine all the businesses that opened for so many new residents. Banks, a newspaper, boarding houses and of course, saloons, gambling parlors and brothels, many of which were located on Sinner’s Boulevard. With this quick growth in population, many lived in houseboats called floating shanties along the riverbanks.  Others lived in oil field shacks, which cost about $500. The only inside plumbing was usually a cold water faucet in the kitchen with outdoor toilets on every property.

This is the Sistersville view from the other side of the Ohio River.

The well-to-do lived in beautiful homes and five of them are still in existence today in Sistersville on Main Street. As the city grew, new sections opened. Old Rough and Ready, Cow House, and Happy Hollow are a few of the descriptively named neighborhoods. A washerwoman’s house in Happy Hollow bore the sign “Men’s Working Clothes Laundered While You Wait.”

During the oil boom, Sistersville imposed heavy taxes on saloon keepers and gambling house owners. The city also offered bonds for sale to finance improvements. In 1890, water works and a sewer system were installed. All the streets and alleys were paved with brick. A trolley line was built to connect Sistersville with its neighbors, Paden City and New Martinsville to the north and Friendly to the south.

This shows the town of Sistersville during its boom days.

The boom days produced an interesting mix of residents. The original farmers, business people, oil field workers, hooligans, and prostitutes lived side by side among oil derricks and pumping wells. A city resident who was a child during these heady days reported that Madam Stoddard, proprietor of a “sporting house,” was loved by the town’s children. Every year when the circus came to town, Madam Stoddard had her butler round up all the neighborhood children and take them to see the show. The Madam also happened to be the sister of the chief of police.

More respectable forms of entertainment also grew. Private social clubs were formed such as the Americus Club, The Sistersville Music and Literary Club, and the “selective, exclusive” Sistersville Mandolin and Guitar Society.

In the 1890s, Sistersville had three thriving theaters: the Columbia, the Auditorium, and Olsen’s Opera House. The Columbia specialized in vaudeville, and the Auditorium could accommodate 1,000 patrons. For less than a dollar, a person could enjoy a performance by the Boston Lyric Opera Company. Silent film star Ben Turpin performed at the Comique, a nightclub.

The Wells Inn opened in 1895 to give food and lodging to the oil field workers.

The Wells Inn was built in 1895 by Charles Wells’ grandson, Ephraim. It had 35 rooms, a bar, and a dining room. During boom days, when there were several hotels in Sistersville, the Wells Inn was considered the most elegant. Today it is the only hotel in town, and it has been nicely renovated.

In 1911, the Little Sister well was drilled in the Big Injun Sand to a depth of 1481 feet and was in operation for many years. That derrick is being restored by Quaker State Oil Refining Corp. and The W.V. Oil and Gas Festival, Inc.

Today Sistersville has an excellent display of the Little Sister Well on the banks of the Ohio River. While visiting, you’ll want to be certain to take a ride on the Sistersville/Fly Ferry.

Cathy Gadd Combines Creative Abilities: Artist and Bluegrass Musician

cathy redoneCreativity runs through Cathy Gadd full steam ahead. Not only is Cathy an excellent artist, but she also plays bass in a musical group with her husband. Her creative side comes to life after working all day for Cambridge City Schools, where often she uses her creativity as well.

cathy sunflowers and barn

This old barn has a fencerow of sunflowers.

   All her talents were present from early childhood. Perhaps it started as doodling on her papers, but soon her teachers discovered this little girl had talent. She took art courses in high school and later in life took lessons from Sue Dodd. But even back in grade school and high school, Cathy was receiving first place ribbons for her artwork.

cathy and her dad

Cathy was playing bluegrass with her dad back in 1968/

   Music also occupied much of those early years. When she was eight, her dad, Richard Frasher, a Bluegrass musician, introduced her to the mandolin. After that, she began playing guitar and today she plays the upright bass. It’s important what we instill in our youngsters.

cathy country road

What a peaceful country road!

   At the age of ten, Cathy went with her parents to the Frontier Ranch Festival, where Loretta Lynn was performing. Eager young Cathy got as close to the stage as she could. When Loretta Lynn began singing “You Aren’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”, Cathy sang along. Loretta reached over the side of the stage and brought that little girl on stage to sing with her. What a memorable moment for an aspiring young singer!

cathy valentine bouquet

This bouquet she painted seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day or any romantic occasion.

   In seventh grade, she won a Country Music Contest in Woodsfield and four years later was singing in the All Ohio Youth Choir, which performed at the Ohio State Fair and around Ohio. The following year she took part in their European tour, a great time for a young girl from Barnesvillle.

   After her children were grown, Cathy again began performing with her dad on stage at various festivals and venues. Their talents were known from the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival to the Ohio River’s edge in Fly.


cathy church for advocacy auction

This painting was donated to an auction at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Guernsey County.

   Today many find out about her skill at painting through their Bluegrass connection. Cathy often donates one of her paintings to raise money at benefits. The orders follow.

cathy flag barn in snow

This flag barn in the snow certainly fits the winter season.

   Most of her pictures are painted with specific requests. Someone will send her a picture of a barn or house that they want to be painted. Within 7-14 hours, Cathy has re-created their favorite picture with her brushes on canvas. Her pictures reflect reality so well.

cathy barn with flag

This painting is on the Wall of Veterans in a home in New Martinsville, WV.

   One of her favorite things to paint is barns with the American flag. She has painted several of these on large 16′ x 24′ canvas. She’s always admired old barns and added the flag after her son served in Korea and Iraq and returned home safely.

cathy and frank

Frank and Cathy have always had that special musical connection.

   Life has been exciting for Cathy and her husband, Frank, as they have had many chances to demonstrate their Bluegrass talent. They formed the Wills Creek Band and for twelve years have performed all over Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

   Several times they have appeared on The Wheeling Jamboree, at the Pennyroyal Opera House, and festivals all over southeastern Ohio. Gospel music is a favorite of theirs and they frequently sing at their home country church, Wesley Community Chapel.

cathy and frank at jamboree

Frank and Cathy played at the Wheeling Jamboree Roadshow.

   An interesting sidenote is the fact that Cathy doesn’t read music. In fact, she says that bluegrass performers like to have ‘jam sessions’, which require that they just go with the flow of the music. Very adaptable!

cathy cd song writer

Cathy also likes to write songs and one of them is on this Stoneycreek CD.

   Cathy also writes her own songs. Often requested is her song, “Table of Memories”, which tells of her mother’s kitchen table, which was rather small, but filled with great family memories. One song she wrote is on a CD by Stoneycreek and is entitled, “Walk Along with Me”. This lady has so much talent.

Table of Memories”

Mom’s in the kitchen fixing dinner

The smell of fried chicken fills the air.

Soon we’ll all be sitting around the table

Making some memories to share.

Years later I look at that little table

And think of the years that have gone by

Someday I’ll get that little table

And keep the memories alive.

cathy and frank at badlands

Vacationing is something they hope to do more in the future. Here they visit the Badlands.

   As she thought about their musical life, Cathy remarked, “We are truly honored and privileged to have picked with some great talents.” Perhaps that’s because Frank and Cathy are great fun to be around as well as being known for their exceptional harmony. They are well known in Bluegrass circles.

cathy painting with cat molly

Her cat, Millie, likes to watch her paint.

   Cathy focuses on her paintings right now and dreams of traveling more when she retires. She has her eye on the New England states. Wherever she goes, this creative lady will find pictures to paint and songs to sing. What a talented artist!

Ohio River Ferryboat Festival – 200th Anniversary Fly-Sistersville Ferry

Fly Ferry

The Fly-Sistersville Ferry provides a relaxing way to cross the Ohio River.

Floating by ferry on the Ohio River brings pictures to mind of days gone by. Drive your car onto the ferry, or walk on – either way you’re sure to enjoy a ride to the other side. No bridges exist close by.

Fly Sistersville Vendors

Vendors line the streets on the Sisterville side of the river.

During the Ohio River Ferryboat Festival on July 28-30, crowds fill both sides of the Ohio River at Fly, Ohio and Sistersville, West Virginia. For only a dollar, you can walk on the boat, float across and check out the activities on the other side. Or you can drive on board for five dollars. The ride across takes about eight minutes.

This ferry began many years ago in 1817 so this happens to be the 200th Anniversary of a ferryboat crossing at what everyone calls the “Long Reach”. This is one of those rare places on the Ohio River where there’s a twenty mile stretch of river without any bends.

Fly Kiwanis

The Kiwanis was one of many ferries used on the Ohio River.

In those early days the Ohio River wasn’t nearly as deep as it is today. At that time horses pulled the ferry, which was basically a wooden platform, across the Ohio while guided by a rope. If it was an easy load, only one horse was needed, but larger loads of stagecoaches and animals might require two horses. Thus our present term of one, two, or four horsepower.

Today the Sisterville-Fly Ferry is the only ferry still operating on the Ohio-West Virginia border. Now it’s only open from the first of May until the end of September from Thursday thru Sunday. Bo is the only operator but he enjoys his retirement years as captain of the ferry.

Fly-Bo

Bo always serves as pilot on the only ferry on the Ohio-WV border.

They got lucky at finding their latest captain, as Bo is a former member of the United States Coast Guard. After the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ohio River must seem fairly calm. He especially enjoys letting children come up in his cabin and let’s them “drive” the ferry for a little while.

Fly Ferry close up

Take a peaceful ride on the Ohio River during the Ohio Ferryboat Festival.

During last year’s festival over a thousand people walked onto the ferry for crossing and nearly seventy-five cars. The ferry can hold eight cars or trucks at a time if they’re parked bumper to bumper. Motorcycles find it a great shortcut and once in a while even a tractor trailer gets on board.

Fly Sistersville Wrestling 2

Wrestling provides entertainment on the Sisterville side.

While the ferryboat is the main reason for the festival, there are many other activities on both sides of the river. Each town does their own promotions and plans their own entertainment. But they visit back and forth. The mayor of Sistersville often rides across on the ferry to Fly.

Fly Dick Pavlov

Dick Pavlov with his banjo traveled to Fly last year to join in the entertainment.

Fly Price Sisters

The Price Sisters, Leanna and Lauren, of Bluegrass fame from nearby Sardis draw large crowds of friends and fans.

On the Fly side, many groups perform throughout the day with everything from Bluegrass music to Steel Drums and accordion. A couple special highlights are the Clark Family of Ohio Opry and local girls, the Price Sisters, who are Bluegrass stars.

Fly George Washington

George Washington & Co. describes life during Washington’s trip on the Ohio River.

George Washington & Co explain the story of George Washington’s camp at the edge of what is today Fly, Ohio. He camped there during a survey trip back in 1770. They dress in costumes of the 1770s and tell of riding down the Ohio River in two canoes with two Indian guides. It took a couple weeks to paddle from Fort Pitt to Mount Pleasant.

Fly children

It’s a great day for families to acquaint their children with the Ohio River stories.

Join Fly and Sistersville for the 200th Anniversary of the ferry this July. Not only will you enjoy a ride on the ferry, but you’ll find delightful vendors and entertainment on both sides of the Ohio River

It’s definitely the only Ferry to Fly.

Fly, Ohio is located in southern Ohio along Route 7. From Wheeling, it’s about 47 miles south on Route 7. The fastest route would be off I-77 and take Route 7 North at Exit 1. It’s a scenic route anyway you travel!

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