The Neville Ferry

In the early years of the 20th century, there was packet traffic on the river and railroad traffic on the Kentucky side.  After 1920 there was a need for ferry boats on the Ohio.  In 1925 Hugh Donovan acquired a ferry that was previously owned by Nathan Rich and Cricket McMath.  Hugh used it to take automobiles and freight from Neville to Foster.  A few years later he built a larger power boat with a 1926 gasoline engine and a barge to be towed alongside.  This ferry was capable of handling three automobiles.

The power boat transported passengers from Neville to the railroad.  Later, when King Brothers started a bus line from Portsmouth to Cincinnati, there was also some traffic from Foster to Neville.  There was always Postal Service from the Neville Post Office to the Foster Post Office - even after the ferry disbanded during World War II.

During the 1937 flood, the ferry was very active with Hugh Donovan doing rescue work.  Refugees and some furniture were taken to the Neville school house.  When it flooded, they were taken to the foot of the hill. Some stayed in the homes of Al Boone and George Snead.  Cattle were taken from Leroy Ballinger's farm to the Edgington Indian mound and later to the hills. (Leroy Ballenger's farm was the site of the Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam.) Two dangerous trips were made from Neville to Foster.  Fortunately, the engine didn't fail until after the water was almost in its banks.

Mr. Donovan repaired the boat and sold it to Otis Camery in 1938.  Since Otis Camery and George Donovan sold coal, Don Camery [the author of this piece] was recruited to operate the ferry and carry the mail.

During World War II, Dravo and others were building Coast Guard and Navy vessels (called "LST's") in Pittsburgh.  They would get them to service in the war by sending them down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the ocean.  When the LST's would pass Neville, they would create such large waves that the boats at the wharf would be swamped.

After many months of bailing out the swamped ferry, Dom Camery discontinued ferry service in 1943.  The large beams in the ferry barge were used to support the roof of the Sohio Station in Chilo.


by Donald Camery, from Historic Neville on the Ohio River 1808-2008. The name Ballinger/Ballenger is spelled both ways in the original.