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The Virginia


The sternwheel steamboat Virginia was the middle of three almost identical steamboats built by Capt. J. Frank Ellison for the upper Ohio, the first being the Hudson and the last the famous Queen City. Most old-time boatmen will agree they were the most beautiful sternwheelers ever built. Captain Ellison, in family letters from his later years, told that the Virginia was his favorite of the three. It was built in Cincinnati in 1895 and came out new on New Year’s Day of 1896.

The Virginia was probably best known for going aground on a falling Ohio River in 1910 and winding up in a cornfield at Ravenswood, Jackson County. The steamboat spent the summer a half-mile from the water and became a well-publicized tourist attraction. By fall, a house-moving company from Pittsburgh was engaged to get the Virginia afloat but after much maneuvering succeeded only in getting the boat to the bank, which was too soft and sandy to hold its weight. The rains came again, the river rose, and it re-floated itself. The owners refused to pay the bill, saying that their boat had been floated by an ‘‘act of God.’’ In court the judge disagreed, ruling that in moving the Virginia near the river the house movers had ‘‘put the boat within God’s reach.’’

Written by John Hartford


  1. Hartford, John. Steamboat in a Cornfield. New York: Crown, 1986.