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Out of service

By Staff | Jul 13, 2011

The Sistersville Ferry remains closed while the City and mechanics evaluate the transmission problems. (Photo by Jonay Corley)

A major mode of transportation for some area residents is out of service.

For those who live in and around Tyler County, the Sistersville Ferry is more than a part of everyday life – it’s a piece of a rich heritage and a nostalgic reminder of the high point in the trajectory of the area’s history.

But a recently discovered transmission problem has put the ferry out of commission, temporarily.

Sistersville Ferryboat Capt. Ed Mars spoke with a mechanic who agreed to come to Sistersville to look at the transmission. “He said ‘with luck’ we should be back up by the weekend.”

In the meantime, ferry service has ceased.

Known as the oldest ferry in West Virginia, the boat is one of four ferries still operating on the Ohio River and the only one along the 277-mile stretch of river on the West Virginia border.

In a county lacking a bridge between West Virginia and Ohio, the ferryboat is a vital part of everyday life for those who live in and around Tyler County.

The Sistersville Ferry does not depend on money from the city’s general fund to operate. In fact, the ferry is a self-sustaining entity, which operates on grant money, endowments and revenue generated from daily fares. In May, rumors of the closure of the ferry gained media attention for the historic vessel. Unpredictable weather and high water has hurt the ferry operation this spring, and income is down. The interruption of service may deliver a blow to the local economy and will be an inconvenience for those who depend on the ferry to cross the river.

Local business owner Charles Winslow said, “I hope that everyone realizes how important the ferry is to The Wells Inn and to Sistersville. It’s one of the few tourist draws in Tyler County, and the people who use it spend money at my hotel, The Fort, BP and other local establishments.”

Regardless of the charm the vessel adds to the historic city, there are people in Tyler County who are making it their “personal mission” to shut the ferry all together. But amid tough times, rumors and mechanical issues, officials close to the operation maintain they are not shutting down for good.