Fly Landing and the Sistersville Ferry
Established 1815-17, this stern-wheeler ferry crosses the Ohio River, between the towns of Fly, Ohio and Sistersville, West Virginia. Carrying both cars and passengers across the river, the average time for one trip is about eight minutes or so. The ferry has been running for approximately 200 years and is one of the only remaining ferries along the Ohio River.
Backstory and Context
On January 28, 1818, the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act that granted a ferry service crossing of the Ohio River at Sisterville, Virginia to John McCoy. The state of Virginia set the fares to sixpence for man or horse to cross the river using the ferry service. The type of ferry used at the time was likely a two horse-powered treadmill ferry because the river ran too strong for a man to operate a push-pull barge. Although steam-powered ferryboats were available in the 1840s, the Sisterville ferry used horsepower until the 1880s.
The Sisterville Ferry Company was formed in 1894 by Frank D., A.S. McCoy, and Elizabeth W. Talbott, who were John McCoy's descendants, bought the ferry company from the other remaining McCoy family members. The Sisterville Ferry Company went on to issue shares in 1920.
Stockholder Everett Tuel bought shares owned by Elizabeth Talbott's descendants enabling him to gain control of the company in 1937. Tuel went on to operate the Sisterville Ferry Company as the Tuel Fleet. Tuel then sold his part of the company to Joe Witten, who then went on to purchase the rest of the Sisterville Ferry business from the McCoys in 1960. Up until 1960, the McCoys had owned or been involved with the Sisterville Ferry for over one hundred forty years.
After Captain Gilbert B. Harmon owned the business from 1964-1977, Harmon shut down the business. In 1980, the city of Sisterville, West Virginia purchased the ferry service and opened it for business once again. The city bought the Judge Hickman ferry towboat and renamed it the City of Sisterville in 1991. The city purchased a new towboat in 1999 named the City of Sisterville II, which replaced the City of Sisterville.
The Sistersville/Fly Ferry is the last ferry service in West Virginia. This ferry is one of the four remaining ferries along the Ohio River. The ferry boat crosses the river at the "Long Reach," a 20-mile-long straight stretch on the Ohio, which itself is the longest of its kind along the river. Henry Jolly was the first operator of this historic ferry service.
Sistersville, WV Ferry to Fly, Ohio. Ohio. Accessed April 30, 2017. http://www.ohio.org/destination/appalachia/sistersville-wv-ferry-to-fly-ohio.
Tabler, Dave. The Sistersville Ferry. Appalachian History. March 04, 2008. Accessed April 30, 2017. http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2008/03/sistersville-ferry.html.
Sisterville Ferry. Tyler County, West Virginia. February 22, 2009. Accessed April 30, 2017. https://tylercountywv.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/sistersville-ferry/.
Bowman, John. Sisterville Ferryboat History, Wheeling The Birthplace of the American Steamboat. Accessed December 12th 2019. https://steamboat-birthplace-wheeling.com/index.php/2017/09/05/sistersville-ferryboat-history-by-john-bowman/.
Fly Landing of the Sistersville Ferry, The Historical Marker Database. November 29, 2014. Accessed December 12th 2019. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=79270.