TRAIN PASSENGERS TOOK TO BOAT
When Parkersburg Became an Island
Taken from a hand-written account by Mae Stump
First published 2001
In 1907 Parkersburg had two floods, one of over 40 feet on January
and the other cresting at nearly 52 feet on March 16th.
to old records, March 16, 1907 was a bright sunny day. Despite
welcomed sunshine, Parkersburg was an island with all roads in and out
of the city cut off by the high water.
But there were the boats which ran regularly on the Ohio and Little
Kanawha Rivers, flood or no flood. And, there were trains, or at
least there had been.
On the morning of the 16th, the Baltimore and Ohio's crack train,
St. Louis Limited, was trying desperately to reach Parkersburg with
105 passengers and her crew.
It seemed The Limited would make it but, about half a mile west of
Station, high water on the tracks put the fire out under her
With the fire gone, the supply of steam declined rapidly and the train
came to a hopeless halt surrounded by the muddy waters of the Little
However, there was just enough steam left for the engineer to blow
distress signal to a boat which could be seen passing rapidly, riding
swift current downstream toward Parkersburg.
An old newspaper reports "Captain Bill Stump, skipper of the
sternwheeler, RELIANCE, was headed downstream from Grantsville with a
16 feet wide and 60 feet long. The barge was loaded with
oak staves consigned to the Standard Oil Co. Refinery which was then
on Staunton Ave. These staves would be delivered and a load of
field equipment would then be taken back up the river and delivered to
different locations between Burning Springs and Grantsville."
The account of the old, near-tragedy continued, "Captain Stump was
to recognize the distress call and came immediately to the rescue,"
article related. "The Captain maneuvered his boat alongside the
train and took off all passengers and the crew without injury to any
the more than 110 anxious souls who were marooned there. There
not enough room in the cabin of the boat to accomodate a crown of that
It was a nice sunshiny day and passengers and train
stood on the quarter decks at each end of the barge, or sat on the
"When the RELIANCE and her precious carge reached Parkersburg, the
was headed up Market Street. The RELIANCE was then cut loose
the barge and was propelled by hand with long poles up past the City
at Fifth and Market Sts., the passengers being unloaded approximately
front of what is now Reps Furniture Store." Captain Stump told
the auditor of the B & O compensated him with an order for $100.00
which, he said was a lot of money at that time.
The newspaper article was written several decades after the
it related, "Three unidentified reporters wrote, "The veteran riverman
said that at that time (1907) all steam and gasoline boats were built
The Little Kanawha was a busy river with locks and dams in
good repair, making a pool in stages from Parkersburg to
The river was channeled and the timber was kept cut from harbor line
At the time the story was related, Captain Stump
retired, but in speaking of his years on the river, he said, "I had a
time. I worked hard but I enjoyed every minute of it."
There are probably not many cases on record where a boat has
the stranded passengers from a crack train.
After retirement, Captain Bill Stump and wife Ruby Dent Stump lived
near Wheeling for several years, then came to Parkersburg, and lived
until they died. He died in 1962, and she in 1964. They
interred in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Parkersburg, W. Va.