Ohio River Main



  Before dams were built on the Ohio you could walk across the entire width of the river in periods of dry weather, obviously traffic by boat would be impossible. Congress authorized the canalization of the Ohio in 1878. There were a total of 49 of these dams and they raised the level of the river to 9'. Fern Bank was dam #37 and dam #36 was constructed in the Coney Island area. Its strange but I have never  seen a postcard of the Coney Island Dam. Has anybody else? The image below is the only one I have found of dam #36, you can see River Downs on the left.

Lock 36-River Downs on left.jpg (108176 bytes)
Lock #36

   Fern Bank was constructed in 1911 and lasted until 1963 when a new group of 19 new dams were built which raised the level  to 25' which allowed the passage of the bigger tows that were beginning to be used. The non-postcard image below demonstrates the plight of the Ohio river boat in times of very low river depths before the construction of the dams. This photo was taken in the 1880's with the L & N bridge in the distance.

L & N Bridge-1880's.jpg (197893 bytes)

  These dams were called "wicket" dams. The dam itself was 900' long consisting of 225 wickets each one 16'11" in length, 3'9" wide, and 12" thick at the lower end and 8" thick at the top. There was a 3" gap between them. They were oak and steel barriers that could be raised or lowered depending on the height of the river. When lowered they would lie flat on the river bed. The lock was on the Ohio side and was only used when the wickets were up in low water conditions. The locks were only used about 5 months each year. It took about 10 minutes to lock a boat thru the dam. On the Kentucky side were 3 discharge gates that were called bear traps. The bear trap dams were formed by four concrete piers 80' apart. Compressed air from the power house was used to raise the leaves of the dams. These gates would allow excess water to pass without lowering the wickets. It also allowed the passage of drift wood and ice buildup in winter. The wickets were raised and lowered by a man using an iron hook riding in a maneuver boat you will see in many of these cards. The force of the water was used to help raise the wickets. Below is a wicket on land in an open position. The 2nd image is a model of the next dam downriver from Fernbank, dam 38, at Maxville, Indiana. It was built by the lockmaster there. The 3rd image shows the maneuver boat being used to lift the wickets.

Wicket.jpg (492173 bytes)                Dam 38 Model.jpg (230602 bytes)                Raising Wickets-fernbank-1910.jpg (213262 bytes)

    On the Ohio side at the highest known flood stage were built in a row, the office building, the power house, a warehouse and four lock tender's homes. At the start of WWII fences were put up around all the dams to help prevent sabotage. After the war locks 36 and 38 fences were removed but Fernbank's were retained. Apparently the Lock Master (James Stutzman) considered the grounds to be his personal domain, and would prevent people from entering for reasons known only to him. The area is now a park.

Fern Bank Dam 1.jpg (100592 bytes)    Fern Bank 2.jpg (219084 bytes)    Fern Bank vert.jpg (113298 bytes)    Fern Bank 3.jpg (122236 bytes)    Fern Bank 4.jpg (97238 bytes)
These 5 cards all show the construction of Fern Bank Dam 

Fernbank Dam Construction.jpg (442164 bytes)
RPPC of Construction



   The Ramona was the first boat through Fern Bank's locks.

Ramona Company.jpg (387467 bytes)    Ramona Company-back.jpg (123328 bytes)            Ramona.jpg (128953 bytes)    Ramona back.jpg (145376 bytes)
 Pleasure Boat Ramona for hire.

Ramona 1st thru lock.jpg (36940 bytes)                Ramona Stationary.jpg (101882 bytes)            Ramona in ice 2.jpg (1024980 bytes)
                                                                  Ramona Stationary       Ramona During 1918 Ice Gorge

   The images above are not postcards. Thanks to Pam Hasenohr, whose great uncle owned the Ramona, for supplying the last two items above.


Fernbank-r.jpg (113348 bytes)                Fern Bank Dam.jpg (43889 bytes)*
This is a nice overall view                                                                  


Fern Bank 5.jpg (78348 bytes)    Fernbank-a.jpg (104024 bytes)    Fernbank-b.jpg (97618 bytes)    Fernbank-d.jpg (117962 bytes)    Fernbank-e.jpg (129794 bytes)


Fernbank-c.jpg (104056 bytes)    Fernbank-f.jpg (99890 bytes)    Fernbank-g.jpg (109454 bytes)    Fernbank-h.jpg (86549 bytes)    Fernbank-i.jpg (114923 bytes)


Fernbank-j.jpg (104223 bytes)    Fernbank-k.jpg (93959 bytes)    Fernbank-l.jpg (84143 bytes)    Fernbank-m.jpg (111732 bytes)    Fernbank-n.jpg (104236 bytes)


Fernbank-o.jpg (69142 bytes)    Fernbank-p.jpg (81101 bytes)    Fernbank-s.jpg (85915 bytes)    Fernbank-t.jpg (90304 bytes)


Fernbank-az.jpg (81542 bytes)    Fern Bank 6.jpg (89246 bytes)    Fernbank-u.jpg (74789 bytes)    Fernbank-v.jpg (50837 bytes)    Fernbank-nw2.jpg (258584 bytes)


Fernbank-q.jpg (90745 bytes)    Fernbank at Night.jpg (230011 bytes)
Night Views


Fernbank in Operation.jpg (230269 bytes)        Fernbank-nw1.jpg (240999 bytes)      *Fernbank RPPC.jpg (72997 bytes)        Fernbank Dam-RPPC.jpg (174569 bytes)
Real Photo Postcard                   Colorized version                                RPPC                                         RPPC              

   A note of interest: any boat that is an official carrier of the mail gets priority preference over any other boat waiting to lock thru.


Bear Trap Locks

sayler_pk-Fernbank Dam.jpg (272505 bytes)
Worker crossing over the bear
 traps using a lift chair. 

   The "Bear Trap Lock / Dam" was invented by Josiah White. On Mauch Chunk creek, which feeds the Lehigh, they developed a unique "bear trap lock," which was patented in 1819. "Immense stones were dragged from the mountains for lock-walls. A trough was constructed on the riverbed. The walls were completed, the trough done. Water was let in from a reservoir under a construction which seemed like overlapping cellar doors. A pool gathered. The lock-tender opened a sluice beneath a gabled platform -- and water pressure in the pool, against the dam created by the gable, pushed the platform flat. The down-coming boat could swoop forward on a long wooden chute thus made. On the high breast of water, the craft floated safely and smoothly over the rapids."
   Josiah White used the name "Bear Trap Lock" to conceal the actual purpose of the structures that he and his workers were constructing in the freezing cold Lehigh River. Josiah White was under contract with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make the Lehigh River navigable to carry anthracite coal to market from Mauch Chunk to the Delaware River and on to Philadelphia.
   The design and construction of Bear Trap Locks appear in engineering  publications to this day and are still considered a viable solution for improving river navigability.



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Fernbank Engineering Article 1909.jpg (859155 bytes)        Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-1.jpg (840071 bytes)        Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-2.jpg (947327 bytes)        Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-3.jpg (768088 bytes)

Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-4.jpg (888379 bytes)        Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-5.jpg (516277 bytes)        Fernbank Engineering Article 1909-6.jpg (594514 bytes)

   There were other articles mixed in with this one so that it the reason some of these pages look a little weird. This is probably more information than most of you want and it is awkward to use, but it is instructional. 


FDC Canalization.jpg (267966 bytes)        FDC Canalization back.jpg (114242 bytes)                    Nine Foot Canalization.jpg (107628 bytes)

   The First Day Covers above were issued for the Ohio River Canalization issue on October 19, 1929. The 1st cover has a cachet of the Emsworth Dam, not Fernbank. Emsworth is in the Pittsburgh area.



  Anderson Ferry is the only ferry in the Cincinnati area still in existence (it's not too far away from Fern Bank). Records show that there has been a ferry at this location since 1817. It is named after an early owner, George Anderson who bought it and 103 acres from Raleigh Colston in 1817 for $351.87. From then until 1864 the ferry changed ownership 15 times. Confederate General Morgan first crossed the Ohio here in 1863. George Kottmyer bought the ferry on March 8, 1865, from John Wilson. Back then it was called a "Horse operated" treadmill ferry boat. They used blind horses whenever possible because those horses were not usable for any other job. Boone #1 was the first steamboat ferry Kottmyer built in 1867. The two postcards below show the Boone #5 ferry. That means this ferry is the 5th one operated by the Kottmyer family. For reference, in 1949, the ferry was called Boone #7. Still in operation Boone #7 is joined by Little Boone and Deborah A.
   Paul Anderson who had worked on the ferry since 1961 bought the boat from the Kottmyer family in 1986. (He does not know if he is related to the original Anderson who started the ferry). Today the ferry's carry over 500 cars every weekday between Anderson Ferry Road in Cincinnati and 4030 River Road in Hebron, Kentucky. In a few more years and this service will have been in business for 200 years. On June 10, 1982 the Anderson Ferry was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Treadmill Ferries in 1820s.jpg (99331 bytes)            Anderson Ferry.jpg (71112 bytes)            Anderson's Ferry-rp.jpg (80067 bytes)
   Treadmill operated Ferry                                                                                  Real Photo Postcard

BEV Anderson Ferry.jpg (205287 bytes)        Anderson Ferry.jpg (179668 bytes)
Ky.                          Ohio             Not a postcard   


   One of the first steam powered ferries to be used in the Cincinnati area was the Mary Cole in 1849 for the Licking River - Lawrence St. route. It had only a single smokestack so as not to block the pilots view. The image in the 2nd row shows all the routes used by Cincinnati's steam ferryboats.

        Steam Ferry Mary Cole-1849.jpg (178290 bytes)            Steam Ferry 1855.jpg (554899 bytes)            Steam Ferry 1856 Queen City 2.jpg (541841 bytes)            City of Newport Ferry-1882.jpg (476326 bytes)
              Ferry Mary Cole-1849                         Ferry in 1885                     Ferry Queen City #2-1857        Ferry City of Newport-1882


Cincinnati Ferry Routes.jpg (209093 bytes)
Steam Powered Ferry Routes


Picturesque Hills.jpg (133408 bytes)                            Up The Ohio From Harrison's Tomb.jpg (330120 bytes)

   The first Kraemer card is showing the Ohio somewhere in the area. The second card is the area east of Harrison's Tomb.


Ohio from N Bend.jpg (94893 bytes)        North Bend-Fagaly's Farm.jpg (281336 bytes)        North Bend view.jpg (87769 bytes)
Ohio River from North Bend


Cleves BEV.jpg (251142 bytes)        Ohio from Harrison Tomb.jpg (112088 bytes)
Ohio River from Cleves


Ludlow from Price Hill.jpg (337136 bytes)
Ludlow KY from Price Hill


Ohio from mt Echo-x.jpg (81390 bytes)        Ohio from mt Echo-w.jpg (85040 bytes)        BEV-cc.jpg (107004 bytes)
 Views from Mt. Echo


Ohio from E Walnut Hills.jpg (66058 bytes)        RiverView-Wh.jpg (248081 bytes)        View from Park Avenue Bridge-Wh.jpg (340581 bytes)        Ohio River Froem Grandin Road.jpg (232605 bytes)
Views from Walnut Hills


Scene on Ohio.jpg (257303 bytes)
Not sure of location


  The next section show the Marine Dry Docks which were located across the river from Dayton KY. in Fulton Ohio at the bend in the river. Cincinnati first started to build steamboats in 1816. By 1826 57 had been completed. From the late 30's  the boat yards launched 30 steamboats a year over a 20 year period. By the 1880's nearly 1000 boats were built here.

Boat Yard Map.jpg (312207 bytes)
Location of Boat Yards


Dry Docks 1.jpg (131590 bytes)        Marine Ways.jpg (131023 bytes)        Dry Docks 2.jpg (121328 bytes)


The images below are not postcards.

Marine Railway2.jpg (450469 bytes)        Shipyards-and-marine-ways07.jpg (208759 bytes)        Shipyards-and-marine-ways06.jpg (337094 bytes)
Views from Dayton, Kentucky side of the Ohio River.

   The 3rd image above, taken in 1889,  is unique in that it shows all four of the Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Line steamers, The Queen City, Keystone State, Hudson, and Virginia. This is the photograph used in the postcard above it.


Marine Railway3.jpg (317743 bytes)    Fulton marine ways.jpg (649571 bytes)    Fulton Shipyards.jpg (586603 bytes)    Fulton Ship Yards-1880s.jpg (400764 bytes)    Fulton Boat Yard.jpg (459230 bytes)

   The Marine Railway Company was not only the largest but it was also the longest lasting boatyard in the Cincinnati area starting in 1847 and lasting until November of 1919. The five images above give you a pretty good view of how the boats were raised and lowered. Heavy timbers laid out in pairs, and securely anchored in position, extended from the top of the river bank down to below water level, these were called ways.  There were eight pairs of ways in each group. On each pair of ways was a sliding cradle that were connected to heavy chains that ran up the hill to large winding drums. These drums were connected by a long shaft that was driven by a powerful steam engine, with clutches operating through nine sets of gearing. These clutches allowed any or all the cradles to be raised or lowered simultaneously on the ways. The bottom of the cradles rested on the ways while the top part was horizontal to hold the boat level. To raise a boat for repairs the cradles would be lowered into the river, the boat would be floated onto the cradles and would then be lifted up the riverbank to the desired position. The boat would then be supported by a system of blocking. The cradles could then be lowered to raise another boat. The last image above is the photograph used for the first postcard two rows above.
   One of the many steamboats that were built by the Marine Railway Co. was the first Island Queen in 1896.


Cincinnati & Island Queen under Construction.jpg (122925 bytes)        Shipyards-and-marine-ways002.jpg (132256 bytes)        Shipyards-and-marine-ways05.jpg (129937 bytes)        Shipyards-and-marine-way.jpg (349407 bytes)
Cincinnati & Queen City                                                              Queen City & Hudson                                                           

   The 4th image above  was the one that was used for the middle postcard seen 4 rows up. Taken in 1900 it shows the towboat Mount Clare on the left with the packet Virginia in the center and the Harvester on the right with her stacks lowered.


204-Eastern Hills.jpg (121769 bytes)
Eastern Hills From Ohio