Look Back: Life on the river

House-boats were still moored along the shores of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers during the 1937 flood. The house-boat shown is near a pier of the Ohio River Railroad bridge. Another house-boat can be seen in the distance. (Photo Provided)

A Little Kanawha Idyll.

Lazily swinging in the limpid waters of the Little Kanawha river, under the overhanging boughs of the willow trees that shade the shores of that historic stream, near Mattingly’s ferry, may be seen a house-boat, moss-covered and old, the presiding genius of which is the renowned Mrs. Tucker.

Affairs are usually quiet enough in that quiet place, but on Saturday night last something occurred that broke the monotony of the quietude. A party of male friends gathered in the hospitable home of Mrs. Tucker and proceeded to have a good time. They had the forethought, also, to provide themselves with several kegs of the amber fluid known as lager beer, a precaution that added much to the hilarity of the occasion. After drinking what beer they wanted, one of the festive youths present knocked the bungs out of two or three of the kegs and let the stuff out into the bottom of the boat.

Beer flowed freely. Chairs, stools and table-legs floated around in the beery flood, and the little islands of carpet-rags and beer bungs gave the scene a fair resemblance to Behring’s Sea. At this juncture one of the more prudent of the party grabbed up an auger and proceeded to bore a hole in the bottom of the boat to let out the beer.

This is a solemn fact! And then there was the dickens to pay. The brave men rushed off the boat, the water rushed in, and Mrs. Tucker and her home were about to be swamped. Some of the neighbors up on the bank heard the screams of the woman and ran to her assistance.

They helped her to bail out her boat and one of them got a pump and pumped out the beer and the water, stopped up the hole, and saved the shanty-boat and Mrs. Tucker from a watery grave. As a matter of fact, the party of that night came near having a tragic ending, and but for the timely help of friends nearby, Mrs. Tucker would have been without a home even if she escaped with her life.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

May 22, 1889


Council meeting

The committee on wharfs and landings reported $67.50 collected on wharfage since the last meeting. Ten percent of the same, $6.75, was ordered paid to the Wharf-master, and the report ordered filed.

The matter of charging wharfage or rent to the shanty boats moored inside the city limits was referred to the city attorney.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

July 9, 1889


The string of shanty boats which extended from above the pumping station on the Ohio river front clear up into the Kanawha nearly a mile, are beginning to thin out a little and their owners are seeking places to tie up in close proximity to a potato patch.

The Parkersburg Daily Sentinel

May 4, 1892


Shanty-boat-ville was having a great big time last night. It was a beer party. A policeman raided the party and came out with a woman who used her tongue too flippantly. She was arrested and locked up for the night. Judge Quinn released her this morning.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

July 6, 1892


Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.


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