By William “Skip” Deegans
When thinking about eastern shipbuilding centers, the cities of Newport News, Virginia and Bath, Maine come to mind. Charleston, West Virginia might not register, but it was the port of a prominent shipbuilder in the early 1900s. Ward Engineering Works was founded in 1892 by Charles Ward. Located on the south bank of the Kanawha River, the company built ships until 1931. One of the largest ships that Ward Engineering built was the side-wheel St. Genevieve Ferry that is shown in the undated photo. Built in 1922 of solid steel, the St. Genevieve was 375 feet long, 80 feet wide, and weighed 1,667 tons. It was built for the Missouri-Illinois Railroad to ferry railroad cars across the Mississippi River from St. Genevieve, Missouri, to Kellogg, Illinois. Operated by a 10-man crew, the St. Genevieve could carry 18 railroad cars. It operated for 60 years before being retired in 1961.
Another ship built by Ward Engineering was the stern-wheel Scott towboat that was completed in 1930. Built as a dredge tender for the U. S. Army to use on the Ohio River, the Scott’s name was later changed to the P. A. Denny when it was bought by Lewisburg’s Lawson Hamilton. As an excursion boat it was a popular site on the Kanawha River for a number of years. Later, it became a floating classroom. It has been reported to be in dry dock in Ohio for repairs.
Photo: courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.
Sources: West Virginia News, University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Charleston Daily Mail, Southern Illinoisan, www.shipbuildinghistory.com.