This book, briefly available in 1991, and finally reprinted over 20 years later, is just as pertinent and captivating as when it came out. A treasure trove of history and photographs of the 1830s onward of the Kanawha River which runs from Gauley Bridge to Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Freight steamers and passenger steamboats were vital to the growth and prosperity in this region. A large collection of historic photographs supplement the story of how these steam powered paddle wheelers became the lifeblood of Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell Counties. Salt, coal, early racing, accidents, pleasure cruises, fine dining, towboats, and more is covered.
The Kanawha River runs entirely within West Virginia, originating at the confluence of the Gauley and New Rivers at Gauley, and emptying into the Ohio at Point Pleasant. It early became an important water route first for flatboats and similar craft, then after the introduction of steamboats, became an important transportation route from the interior of West Virginia.
The river traffic ran parallel with the C&O main line most of the distance (diverging at St. Albans as C&O veered toward Huntington and the river ran to the north). Though in some ways a competing transportation system as the riverboats operating on the Kanawha were really a supplement to railroad transport.
The book’s coverage starts in the earliest years and tells of the pre-steam boat period, then the coming of the earliest steam-powered craft, followed by the large traditional-looking river steamers so familiar to us. It concludes with the steam vessels that took over as barge towboats that have persisted to the present day (now diesel powered), taking salt and coal down the river.
One section deals with early salt production in the area. This product was carried not only by the riverboats, but also by the C&O, especially in the 1870s-1900 era.
In addition to great old photos, there are scores of reproduced newspaper ads and stories and many steamboat era waybills, ads, and other documents that make the book all the more interesting.