Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Mark Twain’

Cruisin’ down the Ohio River with Mark Twain on the Valley Gem

Valley Gem heads down the Muskingum River to its confluence the Ohio River.

Valley Gem heads down the Muskingum River to its confluence with the Ohio River.

Riverboat’s a comin’!

Nothing excited Samuel Clemens more than his time on the riverboats.  The sound of the paddlewheel hitting the water thrilled him, while the changing landscape gave him opportunity to see deer and even Injuns, while sitting in the pilot house.

Some say Clemens received his pen name, Mark Twain, from this passion for the river, since Mark Twain means “mark number two”. The second mark on the water measuring stick signified  twelve feet of water – a safe depth for boats to pass easily.

Breakfast Cruise on Valley Gem

Breakfast Cruise on Valley Gem

Spending time on the Valley Gem, with the charming impersonator of Mark Twain, delighted all passengers. They also enjoyed a tasty breakfast buffet as they cruised the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. Mark Twain, portrayed by Stephen Hollen, greeted everyone with a hearty welcome as they stepped aboard the Valley Gem at Marietta, Ohio.

Immediately his sense of humor became apparent as he strolled from table to table encouaging everyone to try the marinated road possum and grits. His enjoyment in that role quickly ignited the crowd into a happy mood.

View behind the paddle wheel

View behind the paddle wheel

The cruise was a smooth two hour ride up and down the river. Many enjoyed going to the top deck to get a better view and feel the breeze. The paddle wheel created quite a spray so those standing near it received a generous sprinkling. After some fresh air, passengers returned to the main cabin to listen to Mark Twain spin his yarns.

Twain then told of his being born in 1835 at Florida, Missouri – population 99. Growing up,  he was given a big spoon of cod liver oil every day. He remarked that his tongue and body were so slippery, he could have eaten broken glass and it would have passed.

Twain visited everyone.

Twain visited everyone.

At 13, Samuel Clemens became a printer’s apprentice and soon joined his brother Orion’s newspaper, where he discovered he enjoyed writing stories.

A few years later he headed to St. Louis, Missouri for another newspaper job but got sidetracked by falling in love …with the river.

For two years he served as an apprentice receiving $500 at the end of that period. Training was not as easy as it might sound. In order to get a license, pilots had to know the 2,000 miles of the Mississippi like the back of their hand. Even at nighttime, pilots were required to remember the placement of every sandbar and the name of every twist and turn, like Eagles Fork or Johnsons Landing. But Mark Twain said during those years, “I had the time of my life.”

After becoming a full-fledged riverboat pilot, he was paid $250 a month. The only other people in the United States at that time that made $250 a month, besides river pilots, were the vice-president of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Riverboat pilot was much more profitable than writing fiction!

When riverboat travel became impossible in 1861 due to the Civil War, Mark Twain returned to the world of the newspaper. His adventures led him across the United States from coast to coast as well as to Europe and the Middle East.

After his travels, he settled in Hartford, Conneticut with his wife and family in 1873. That is where he wrote stories based on his memories of growing up in Hannibal, and enjoying the Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn came to life through his pen.

Mark Twain says thanks to each passenger as they leave.

Mark Twain says thanks to each passenger as they leave.

The journey was closed with Mark Twain telling his favorite story, “Golden Arm”. It was the story of a rich family from Hannibal, who always came to the landing to see the riverboats arrive and hear the calliope. Mark Twain even sang a Riverboat Song and had the audience join in on the chorus:

Down the river, Down the river, Oh down the O-hi-o.

I’ll not tell the story though, perhaps the next time he visits Marietta you will get a chance to hear more of his delightful tales.

Later in life Mark Twain uttered this comment: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ ”  And Mark Twain was not disappointed.

The Valley Gem is located next door to the Ohio River Museum at 601 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio, one block from Ohio State Route 7, and minutes from I-77.

Steamboat History Flourishes at Ohio River Museum

W.P. Snyder, Jr on the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio

W.P. Snyder, Jr on the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio

“Say Steam” Those are the special words the guide used when taking pictures of visitors on the steam-powered W.P. Snyder, Jr. at the Marietta River Museum in Marietta, Ohio. You can feel the river beneath your feet as you walk the deck, listening to the guide’s description of life on the river many years ago.

Pilot Wheel of W.P. Snyder, Jr.

Pilot Wheel of W.P. Snyder, Jr.

This early tugboat replaced the mules that walked along the banks of the river towing the barges. Tugboat probably wasn’t the best name for this type of boat, because they didn’t tug anything…they pushed it instead.

W.P. Snyder, Jr. was built in Pittsburgh in 1936 as the result of a terrible winter there. The wooden boats were brutally torn apart by the ice on the Monongahela River, so for the first time, a tugboat was constructed of steel by Carnegie Steel Co, and called W.H. Clingerman.

After years of service, it was retired due to its coal furnaces. In 1955, the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen purchased the boat, now re-named the W.P. Snyder, Jr. for $1.00, and moved it to the banks of the Muskingum River in Marietta. This tugboat is the last intact steam-powered, stern-wheeled tugboat in the United States.

But the effects of weathering made it necessary, in October of 2013, for the W.P. Snyder to leave the dock at Marietta for refurbishing, mainly on the exterior. The trip back had a slight delay because the Ohio River was too high in late May, 2014 for the W.P. Snyder to get under the Putnam Avenue Bridge.

Laundry Room with wringer washer and washboard

Laundry Room with wringer washer and washboard

Pushed back by two antique tugboats, Lady Lois (‘28) and J.S. Lewis (‘31) the W.P. Snyder, Jr is now moored at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, ready for tour.

On board, you will see the Engine Room, where the engineer controlled passage by using not only steam but also electricity. A system of bells could be pulled to signal conditions or problems. There was even a telegraph handy for outside communication.

Officers and crew were provided completely separate living quarters on the upper deck. If at all possible, officers and crew went out of their way to keep from crossing paths. Two separate bathrooms, a laundry room, and kitchen completed the facilities onboard.

Ohio River Museum

Ohio River Museum

While the tugboat draws many visitors to the museum, there are three separate buildings nearby that contain a history of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, and the steamboats that frequented their waters.

An introductory film, History of Steamboats, opens the door to exploration inside the museum. The buildings are filled with models of steamboats, related artifacts, and stories of early life on the river…and much more!

Mirror from Mark Twain's Crystal Palace

Mirror from Mark Twain’s Crystal Palace

Among the historic pieces, the exhibit contains a dug-out canoe that was used as a ferry between Fort Harmer and Marietta. There is even a reminder of Mark Twain through a display of an ornate mirror that hung in the Crystal Palace steamboat, where Mark Twain served as pilot.

Near the river’s edge, a flatboat that was used during Ohio’s early settlement is on display. Close by stands the oldest existing Western Rivers’  steamboat pilothouse from the steamboat, Tell City, which sank in 1917. An interesting section of poles shows the heights of some of the worst floods in Marietta history, three of the worst being : 54.5′ in 1884, 55′ in 1937 and 60.3′ in 1913.

Shanty Boat where folks flew under the radar

Shanty Boat where folks flew under the radar

Don’t miss the old shanty boat, probably from the 1920’s to 1930’s. It possibly could be the oldest surviving shanty boat on the inland river system. People actually lived on these boats or had businesses there. Many of those who lived on the boats were trying to hide from something. Here they could avoid taxes as they were always on the move, and needless to say, the shanty boat provided the perfect place for thieves and lawbreakers, of many sorts, to hide from the law.

These floating shanty boats were banned in 1930 from the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. However, a friend said when he was a kid in Parkersburg along the Ohio River, there were still shanty boats in the 50’s . Evidentally, more law breakers! The gypsy in me still likes the idea of being able to fly under the radar during those early years with no address, but much freedom.

End your day by cruisin’ down the river on the Valley Gem docked right next door to the Ohio River Museum.

The Ohio River Museum is located at 601 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio, one block from Ohio State Route 7, and minutes from I-77. Plenty of free parking is available and cost of admission is very reasonable.

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