Category Archives: The River Captian Legend

Louisville and Portland Canal

In 1830 the Louisville and Portland Canal opened for business. Until then the only way down the Ohio River was through the Falls of the Ohio. These were a series of rapids that had to navigated by experienced river men. During the course of the rapids the river dropped 26 feet and was a very dangerous trip.



Many boat that carried goods had to unloaded at the 4th Street Wharf in downtown Louisville and taken to the Portland Wharf that was pass the Falls of the Ohio. This took time and as time changed a new way to navigate the river was needed.

The canal had to be dug through rock and cost more than first estimated. It was plagued with finical difficulties all the way through the project until Congress had to invest money for it to be finished. When finished the canal was only 50 feet wide.

Finical difficulties continued for many years after the canal was built and the government ended up owning the canal. In 1960 the Louisville and Portland Canal became the McAlpine Locks and Dam. Since there has been many improvements to the canal has been made. The canal is taken care of by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To read more about the exciting things happening at McAlpine Locks and Dam today visit:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The changing views of the canal





Shippingport, Kentucky


Shippingport, Kentucky was given to John Campbell in 1785 for his service in the French and Indian War. At that time it became known as Campbell Town. It was sold in 1803 and renamed Shippingport.

The population grew from 98 to over 500 and at one time challenged the 4th Street Wharf in downtown Louisville. At that time a warehouse and mill was built on Shippingport and soon began to export their goods. Elm Tree Garden became a popular spot for horse-racing and was well known. In 1817 a six-story flour mill built because how successful Shippingport had become.

In 1825 the building of the Louisville and Portland Canal and made Shippingport into an island. It soon became known as Shippingport Island and is locally known by that name today.

Over the years the Louisville and Portland Canal was gradually widened to keep up with the steamboats and later barges that carried products from one end of the country to another. A hydroelectric plant was also built on the island as time changed. Slowly residents and businesses began to close and leave.

The area was devastated by the flood of 1937 when most of Louisville was under water. It forced the island to evacuate until the river returned to it’s banks. Many people never returned because their homes were completely destroyed.

In 1958 the government acquired the property by eminent domain to widen the canal. They evicted many families that had lived there for over a 100 years.


The River Captain






Author Unknown

As for legends along our waterways
Here is one that still persists
The Ohio has a riverman
Long dead who can’t resist
watching as the boats go by
up and down the river

“Beneath the knobs in Indiana
Where the sunset splendors wane
Stares a captain through the porthole
Of his grave say rivermen
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river”

Through sunshine, rain, and snowstorm
‘Tis said he’s standing there
Staring through the porthole
Of his grave and taking care
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river

Sixty years he plowed the waters
Having died long long ago
Buried standing at Beeler’s landing
Above the water far below
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river
Down from Pittsburgh to New Orleans
Every captain, every hand
They watch they know he’s watching
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river

Offshore buoys guiding
Boat and barges passing ‘tween
A treacherous stretch of shallows
Here ’tis said he can be seen
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river

As the boat and barge
com ’round the bend
The boatmen hear him Yell
“Woooh, you’ll turn ’em up on ends
Move out where the currents swell
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river

Every time you hear the whistle
Of a boat sound o’er the wave
You can know the pilot’s answering
The Captain standing in his grave
Watching as the boats go by
Up and down the river

Mr. Hulme was the first superintendent of the canal (what is now the McAlpine Locks and Damn) and Frank McHarry took the tonnage. Upon the death of Mr. Hulme, Frank McHarry was appointed superintendent. In the beginning the receipts of the tonnage were turned into the treasury once a year. A settlement was made every six months and then it was demanded every Monday morning.

McHarry refused to the added pressure and work that this added. He resigned and became very bitter.

He made a request that he would be buried in the Indiana knobs overlooking the Ohio River where his ghost would roam. He had a vault carved in solid stone on a hillside with a porthole in the top. Rumor has it that he was buried standing up to look out of the porthole onto the boats that would pass.

He was to have put a curse on all the boats that passed his burial site.

He was later moved to Cave Hill Cemetery. Superstition has it that on dark nights you are able to see a silver trail in the sky as his ghost returns to visit his vault. Sulphrous fumes also are said to fill the air as his ghost travels back to Cave Hill Cemetery before dawn. Registered & Protected