The Augusta Ferry
My object is to give a brief history to the public from the first steam ferry, Belle of Augusta, down to the present time. The Belle was first run by Len Wittmeier and Thomas Pribble, and she afterwards sank near Levanna, Ohio [across from Dover.] She was raised by Captain Armer and then sold to the Captain. He ran her for some time and then sold the boat to George Jordan. George had her about five months and then sold her back to Captain Armr, who ran her for a time and then sold out to W. L. Thomas and Company. Then came the end of the Belle, in eight months she was condemned.
A year later came the Dr. George Machie, named in honor of his noble and true friendship to poor humanity. I soon found out that the company was no good and retired. The company then became F. W. Thomas and Gus Cramer. That lasted but a short time and Thomas sold out to C. W. F. Smith. The life of Smith & Cramer as a ferry was short for it was soon Gus Cramer by himself; but he soon sold out to Captain Walker. Walker found out it was a poor paying ferry and induced Captain Armer to be-buy the boat, representing the average monthly receipts to be a certain amount. After five or six months, Captain Armer surrendered the boat back to Captain Walker, as it did not take in half the amount he had represented it would take in. Time moved on and Captain Walker at last sold it to a company known as the Augusta Ferry Company. The object was to have free ferriage for all Ohioans. The barns and fences in Clermont and Brown Counties were painted in large letters, “FREE FERRY.” Did it last? The answer echoes the past.
After being tied to the bank for some time for want of funds to repair, on July 1, 1889, they came to me to take charge of her, make repairs, and if she passed inspection, to run as I thought best. I did so, but on October 9, 1889 she was condemned. Then comes Mr. John Byar with a U. S. Marshall for a coal bill of some $175. The marshal sold her to the above mentioned Mr. Byar for $75, leaving an unpaid claim of over $200. McIlvaine & Spiegel, of Cincinnati, Mr. Crandit of Ripley, and myself were left as lookers on. My Byar took the condemned boat to the dock, had her repaired, brought her back and leased from me the landing. Then came more trouble. The attorney for the Augusta Ferry Company wanted $20 to surrender the contract but he thought better to take $5 as he would be that much ahead, for the President had already surrendered the contract in July. After a short term in business, Mr. Byar sold out to Captain Redden. His experience in the Augusta Ferry was brief, with a loss of $500. Mr. Byar then ran her until condemned a few years ago, and since that time my sons and myself have, by very diligent work, maintained a ferry boat as good as floats the Ohio waters.
I see from your paper that the landing has been christened Smith’s Landing. So the public will find me at the old place, Boude’s Ferry, I am running as in the past and not dictated to by the persons on the corner of the street that know not the first principles of steam boating, as to how and when I must run, fog, wind, or ice, et cetra. Truth and justice will prevail and you will find me here for two or three years more to come.
A letter from Mr. Lemon Thomas to the editor of the Augusta Chronicle in April of 1900, as reprinted in Historical Recollections of Brown County, Ohio, by Carl N. Thompson.