The Sad Story of Becky Thatcher Riverboat Steamer

Photos from old PC 966 - Version 2

I found some photos today that I thought had been lost and I had always been a little sad about it.  But sorting through an old PC, I was thrilled to find the photos that I had taken with an old Kodak while on holiday in America, back in 2004.  In those days I really only used a camcorder, the camera was back up, but I remember I had taken the camera with me to visit a very special boat the ‘Becky Thatcher’

Photos from old PC 968

We were staying with my brother in Marietta, Ohio and one night we went to visit one of his acquaintances through his work, on a Steamboat that was moored in the river.  I was so excited, ok it wasn’t going anywhere, but that didn’t matter, a real Riverboat Steamer.  The photos are not great, but they are a record of our visit and to me now, are my record of a little piece of history which is no more.  We visited her when she had just stopped being used as a theatre, and I managed to take one photo of the area which had been the theatre.  I only wish that I had taken more, but I am really lucky that I found these photos.  The following is the history and sad ending of the ‘Becky Thatcher’

Photos from old PC 967

The Becky Thatcher was originally built as Mississippi (III), an inspection boat of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, in 1926. Her steel hull and machinery were new but the cabins came from her predecessor, the Mississippi (II). Although she was primarily a workboat she was outfitted with comfortable accomodations for 65 passengers. Because of her Texas deck she resembles more a packet boat than a workboat.

Photos from old PC 627

On April 19, 1961, she was retired and in 1963 sold to Mark Twain Enterprises of St. Louis, MO. In 1964 she was towed to Hannibal, MO, to serve as a restaurant and museum. In 1965 she was purchased by St. Louis Investment Co. and towed back to St. Louis. She was renamed to Becky Thatcher and extensivley restorated between June 1968 and February 1969. The boilers were removed and in 1973 also the engines which were sold to the New Orleans Steamboat Company. The Becky Thatcher broke her mooring lines in 1969 during a storm and was swept downstream. With 100 people aboard she passed two bridges but did not suffer any severe damages. The restaurant closed in 1974.

In 1975 the boat was purchased by a group of intersted citizens of Marietta, OH. They planned to bring her to Marietta as part of the Bicentennial project. Those citizens formed a not-for-profit corporation, the Ohio Showboat Drama Inc.. In September 1975 the Becky Thatcher was towed to Marietta, OH. In 1976 the production “Showboat” was performed by the Mid-Ohio Valley Players on the decks and an adjacent barge with 3,000 people watching from the shore.

Photos from old PC 621

In August 1977 the Becky Thatcher opened as a showboat after remodeling her first deck into a theatre. One month later the second and third deck opened as restaurant aera. The Becky Thatcher was moored near the W. P. Snyder Jr. on the Muskingum river.

Photos from old PC 615

Photos from old PC 970

The Becky Thatcher was entered into the National register of Historic Places by the National Park Service in October 1983.
In 1984 the boat sank during a spring flood with heavy damage to her hull and superstructure but she was raised and returned after repairs for the 1985 season.

Photos from old PC 624

After having been out of service for a few years the Becky Thatcher was sold and towed to a mooring on Neville Island in the Ohio River, Pittsburgh, Pa, in October 2009.

Photos from old PC 625

During severe weather conditions, the Becky sank during the weekend of February 20-21, 2010. Her decks collapsed and the venerable vessel declared a total loss, the firm of Delta Demolition was contracted to remove the wreckage from the river. Heartbreaking images were published in newspapers and on web sites showing a clamshell and scoop removing huge pieces of the superstructure and dumping them on shore. The Becky had finally come to the end of a long and illustrious career spanning nearly 85 years.

Photos from old PC 974

Photos from old PC 618

Photos from old PC 972

Photos from old PC 622

Photos from old PC 617

14 comments

  1. Sad story for such a lovely boat, thanks for the history. I think you put in an incorrect year somewhere. If she went down for the last time in 2010, you would have had trouble getting these pictures in 2014. 😉

    1. It was 2004 🙂 I am having trouble with the internet at the moment and couldn’t change it quick enough, I think I have now. It was such a shame about the boat, but I glad I was able to visit 🙂

    1. Yes she did, and three America Presidents sailed on her, I forgot to mention that 🙂 I just thought that I needed to do a post on her…..gone but not forgotten 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for your story. I spent two summers aboard The Becky Thatcher, tripping across the boards of her stage, and blowing off steam in her bar with my castmates upstairs in her bar. So many wonderful memories aboard her! Very sad to hear she is no more. We often stood on the small deck outside the dressing room to watch other boats go by, including the Delta Queen. Or looked aft to see the Mississippi Queen moored downriver (too large to travel up where we were).

    1. Thank you for your comment, it has been lovely to hear from someone who has actually played on the little stage. I got quite a thrill when we visited her and was so sad to hear that she had sunk, I only wished I had taken better photos at the time, but some are better than none and I am really pleased that I posted about her and it brought back happy memories for you 🙂

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