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Two Hundred Years Of Ferry Service Recognized

By Staff | Apr 5, 2017

Photos by Ed Parsons Senator Charlie Clements speaking in favor of the adoption of the Sistersville Ferry Proclamation recognizing the 200th anniversary.

The West Virginia State Senate passed a resolution on Tuesday, March 28,2017 recognizing the Sistersville, West Virginia for 200 years of continuous service since 1817, and being the only one on the 277 mile stretch of the West Virginia Boarder.

Ferry service from Sistersville to Fly, Ohio was authorized by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia on January 28, 1817 with the franchise awarded to John McCoy. John McCoy and his wife and heirs ran the service, known as the McCoy Ferry until 1894 when it was sold to Frank and A.S. McCoy and Eziba Talbott. During the oil boom that Sistersville experienced, this provided an invaluable resource.

In 1920, the ferry was reorganized into a stock company. In subsequent years, it was operated through stock acquisitions by Everett Tuel (1937) and Joe Witten (1955). In 1964 the company was sold to Gilbert “Dib” Harmon who ran the ferry until 1977. Ferry service was suspended until 1981 when the City of Sistersville, with the assistance of a Governor’s Partnership grant, restored service. The city maintains the ferry service to this day.

Until 1889, the ferry boats were predominately paddlewheel boats powered by a horse on a treadmill. Sistersville’s ferryboats evolved as technology and industry improved. In 1889 the ferry’s owners purchased a steam-powered ferry.

Later ferries were powered by gasoline with the current vessel employing less flammable diesel fuel. The vessel operating today is the City of Sistersville II with the barge named the G.B. Harmon, both of which were constructed in 1999.

A photo of the actual proclamation recognizing the 200th anniversary of the Sistersville Ferry.

The Sistersville Ferry is the only remaining ferry that crosses the Ohio River from West Virginia, connecting Tyler County to Monroe County, OH. Since Tyler is the only WV county on the Ohio River without a bridge, the ferry provides a valuable connection between these counties, generating interstate commerce and providing an opportunity to experience a part of West Virginia history

This year, 2017, marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Ohio River commercial ferry service between the City of Sistersville and the Ohio shore.

Today, the Sistersville Ferry, is West Virginia’s last operating vehicle and pedestrian ferry, the only ferry operating on the upper 427-miles of the river and is crucial to the efficient transport of goods and services within its region.

Through the dedication of several private owners, and now, the City of Sistersville, the ferry has provided two centuries of transportation service to the people and businesses of a 32-mile stretch of the river not served by an Ohio River bridge.

The Sistersville Ferry owns several other distinctions:

– It is West Virginia’s oldest transportation service remaining in operation.

– It is the only Ohio River crossing owned and operated by a West Virginia municipality.

– And, as one of our state’s unique attractions, the Sistersville Ferry draws numerous touring groups and families to West Virginia each year, just for the chance to ride across one of the most beautiful sections of the Ohio River.

Knights Radio 91.5 WRSG will be hosting a 24-hour fundraising pledge drive for the Sistersville Ferry in the near future. Those businesses that pledge and donate up to $30 will receive 1 year of promotions on Knights Radio.

Those who are not within radio broadcast range of Knights Radio can listen to the excitement on Tune-In by going to: wrsgradio.com.

The Ohio River Ferryboat Festival will take place July 28, 29, and 30. Friday, July 28 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, July 29, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with prizes given all day to those who ride the ferry.