Editor's note: This is the 20th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - Long before Collis P. Huntington dreamed of building the city that would carry his name, ferryboats regularly crossed the Ohio at the city's future site. The region's first Ohio River ferry license -- one for service between Proctorville, Ohio, and Guyandotte -- is thought to have been granted to Abraham Miller in 1823. Other Proctorville-Guyandotte ferry operators followed suit in the ensuing decades.
In 1917, Paul F. Thomas formed the 26th Street Ferry Company, which connected Bradrick, Ohio, and 26th Street in Huntington. In 1918, Capt. Ben T. Flesher brought a rebuilt sternwheeler to Huntington and used it to establish a ferry service linking Chesapeake and the river landing at the foot of 10th Street. The craft had been named the "New Pike" when she was built at the Howard Shipyards in Madison, Indiana, in 1887. Flesher re-christened her the "City of Huntington."
Even after the old Sixth Street Bridge opened in 1926, river ferries continued to do a brisk business. Many Ohio farmers relied on the ferries to get their produce to Huntington's City Market for sale. Long before dawn they could be seen lining up their trucks and wagons so they could catch the first morning ferry across the Ohio. The farmers preferred the ferry over the bridge because, while both charged a toll, bypassing the bridge also meant bypassing the rough roads leading to it.
Flesher operated the "City of Huntington," shown in this vintage postcard, for several years, and on his death his son-in-law, Robert Hamilton, continued to run it. The boat made her last run in 1936. She later sank in ice in the mouth of Symmes Creek on the Ohio side of the river.
Other ferryboats also regularly crossed the Ohio. Old-time Huntingtonians recall that a ferryboat once ran from the foot of West 14th Street, serving businesses and residents in Central City, but details of its operation have been lost in the mists of time.