Steamboat Exhibit Is a Walk-In Portrait of Family

What began as an exhibit dedicated to a famous steamboat turned into a walk-in portrait of a family at the Ohio Valley River Museum in Clarington.

The Greene Line Steamers were founded in 1890 by Gordon Greene and his wife, Mary. Greene, who started as a deckhand and got his pilot’s license at age 28, began his fleet of steamboats by purchasing the H.K. Bedford.

“As we did the research for the exhibit, what we realized was it was a family story,” museum Curator Jane Williams said.

Mary Greene, Williams said, worked alongside her husband in the company and became a captain as well as one of only a few female steamboat pilots of her day. When Gordon died, he passed the company on to his wife and two sons, Chris and Tom. Tom’s wife, Letha, took over the company after his death in 1950. She retired in 1968 and sold the company a year later.

Over 79 years, the Greene family formed a 28-boat fleet of steamboats, the last of which was the famous Delta Queen. First used for transportation in California in 1926, the Delta Queen has been a luxury passenger craft, a commissioned U.S. Navy service vessel, a steamboat race contestant and a floating hotel.

The story of the Greene family and their last vessel is preserved at the museum’s home in the Ohio Valley Community Credit Union building in Clarington, which museum President Taylor Abbott said is growing little by little.

“We are a small museum, but we have some unique items,” Abbott said as he stood beside the Delta Queen’s original wooden nameplate hanging on the wall. He said the museum works with other similar organizations from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh and Vicksburg, Miss.

“Some of the things here are from private collections. Others were donated, and some are here on loan,” Williams said.

Abbott and Williams were working to complete the Greene Line Steamers exhibit on Thursday afternoon in preparation for today’s fifth annual Clarington Sunfish Creek Festival.

“It’s a community get-together,” Abbott said of the event.

He said the festivals in past years have included carnival rides, vendors and car shows, and the museum has always been a focal point of the festivities. While not actively seated on the festival’s committee, Abbott said the museum will have a special event with antique appraiser Jeffrey Spear from Marietta, Ohio. Patrons can have a single item appraised for $10, with a reduced cost for each item afterward.

The antique appraisal will last from noon to 5 p.m. today.

Beginning at noon, today’s festivities in Clarington include a corn bag toss tournament for adults and children, local talent “Open Mike,” a parade, a car show and a 50/50 drawing. The festival will last until 8 p.m.