Anybody who has visited the Howard Steamboat Museum over the past few years has probably noticed our beautiful model of the steam sternwheel towboat CHICOT on the second floor.
CHICOT under construction (ca. 1925)
Launched at the Howard Shipyard in 1925, the CHICOT measured 126.5’x23’X4.5’ and was originally built for the Vicksburg District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The CHICOT served in this role until 1941, when she was sold to Commercial Barge Lines in Evansville, Indiana and renamed JEROME D. BEELER. In 1943 she was again renamed ALEC PARNIE to honor the general manager of the company. Three years later in 1946, she was sold to C. C. Stone of Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia, who planned to convert her to a modern diesel towboat. This conversion was never completed, however, and in 1954 the old boat was dismantled and had her superstructure removed, with the steel hull becoming a floating wharf. Although the hull was later abandoned, it probably still exists today as a sunken hulk somewhere on the banks of the Ohio River.
CHICOT on the ways (ca. 1925)
The CHICOT represents an interesting period in steamboat history. When she was built in 1925, the classic era of steam packet boats like the ROBERT E. LEE and the NATCHEZ had been over for some time, but steamboats still had important, albeit less glamorous, roles as ferries and towboats. However, the rise to prominence of the internal combustion engine signaled the end of the steamboats’ role as the workhorse of the river, and the diesel-powered boats which replaced them can be seen pushing tows up and down the inland rivers to this day. The curious fate of the CHICOT is a fitting symbol for this end of an era.
CHICOT in drydock at St. Louis, MO (ca. 1925)
As JEROME D. BEELER at Louisville, KY (ca. 1941-1943)
(Special thanks to Mr. Steve Huffman for his help in researching this post).
Inland River Record: 1954. (Compiled by Frederick Way, Jr.).
Inland River Record: 1955. (Compiled by Frederick Way, Jr.).
Way Jr., Frederick & Joseph W. Rutter. Way’s Steam Towboat Directory. Ohio University Press: Athens. 1990.
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