Sistersville Honors Ferry Keepers

SISTERSVILLE – A year ago, the fate of the Sistersville Ferry was uncertain at best.

Facing a $15,000 budget deficit, Sistersville City Council opted to close the ferry indefinitely. However, less than a day after that decision was made, the city was notified of a $25,000 Local Economic Development Grant contribution from the state that would allow the ferry to continue operating, making regular crossings of the Ohio River.

The ferry has been in operation for more than 190 years, serving as the only connector between Ohio and West Virginia in Tyler County. Though much has changed with the ferry and its operations since the city took it over in 1980, an important part of the ferry – and its continued operation – is John Eckels, who served as ferry board president until recently. On Sept. 15, Eckels was thanked for his work and honored by the city with a stone marker renaming the ferry ramp the John Eckels Landing.

“It is important for us to appreciate a man who invested energy and time to keeping the ferry in service,” said Charles Winslow, president of the ferry board.

Eckels was on hand for the ceremony, as were members of his family and his wife, Patricia. Though his dedication to the ferry earned him the honor, Eckels has also been a visible member of the community in other regards, owning and operating Eckels Funeral Home in the city for more than 30 years, as well as an Exxon service station. He also has remained active with the Sistersville United Methodist Church, as well as other city functions.

“The ferry, along with the Wells Inn, are two of the most important things to this community,” Eckels said following the ceremony in which the stone marker was revealed to him for the first time. “The ferry is also important because it ties both sides of the river together.”

The city also honored the late Allan Maxwell during the ceremony, dedicating new boat docks in his honor. Maxwell died March 7 after a life of service to Sistersville and the community. In addition to his club affiliations and memberships, he served for many years as an officer of the Sistersville Boat Club. His family, including his grandchildren, were on hand for the dedication.

“Both men are prime examples of what it means to be a part of a community,” Winslow said. “They stepped up, discussed the work that needed to be done and did it to help the town out.”