Boats of the Amherst Madison Fleet
by, Capt. Eric Grubb
During the spring, I had the unique opportunity to be a guest of Amherst Madison Inc. of Charleston, WV for four day trip down the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers from Charleston to Louisville.
Amherst Madison, formerly the Madison Coal & Supply Company, has a rich history serving the Ohio River and its tributaries from their home ports in Charleston on the Kanawha River and Henderson, KY. Amherst Madison has several boats worthy of photographing, so I hope you'll appreciate some of the detail below:
Above, the Capt. Ed Harris, built in 1972 by Halter Marine Services, features a hull length of 80'.(1)
Above, Amherst Madison's "Major," in operation at Port Amherst, is 64' in length and was constructed in 1928.(1) Once a sunken vessel, she was rescued by Nelson Jones and put back into service.(2)
Above, the Charleston, another historic boat from the Amherst Madison fleet. Built in 1947, this 135' vessel features styling cues unique to that era. She was constructed by the Hillman Barge & Construction Co.(1)
Above, the Dr. Edwin H. Welch, also built by the Hillman Barge & Construction Co. in 1959 features a 110' hull.(1) Smaller than the Charleston, she features very similar styling cues. The pilothouse was raised at a later date, which explains its unique lines, below.
Above, the Lady Lois, a sternwheeler built in 1923 by the Nashville Bridge Company. She features a 74' hull.(1) She was purchased in a derelict state in 1996, and was previously featured as the "Charles W. Stone" and the "Mississippi" in movies.
Below, the Laura J tucked in next to the Lady Louis, was built in 1929 by the Dravo Corp. of Pittsburgh and features a 74' hull and a sternwheel.(1) She is owed by Charles Jones, and, according to an internet source, was originally named the Nemacolin.(3) She is powered by a GM6-71 diesel. Laura would be the daughter of Mr. Charles Jones, Chairman.
Above, the Onward, Andy Mullins and Marlie Price tied off at Port Amherst's Landing.
Below, I was told that the Onward was a special boat that made its way all the way from Greenland in 2006. She was picked up by Nelson Jones, who "always loved a good boat."
Above, the Milton, an 81.5' towboat built in 1976 by the Dravo Corp.(1)
Above, the William R. Barr, built in 1965 by the Dravo Corp. of Pittsburgh, PA. She features a 159.6' hull, and was previously operated by the Ingram Barge Company.(1) She is named for William Barr, who currently serves as Vice President, Safety and Compliance for Amherst Madison.
Below, a stern view of the William R. Barr heading north on the Ohio River
Above, the M/V J. S. Lewis, the historic flagship of the fleet. Visit here for a complete write-up of the vessel on this site.
(1)USCG Vessel Documentation Center
(2)Interview with Thomas Pile
(3)Dick's Towboat Gallery
Editor's Note: A special thanks goes to Capt. Steve Grossarth and Dunbar, WV's Thomas Pile, who helped provide some of the above information. Information also courtesy Amherst Madison.
Founder, Port KY
Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.
As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.
Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.