VEVAY, Ind. (May 2004) Several years of work, planning and
organization culminated in the April 3 opening of the Life on the
Ohio River History Museum in Vevay, Ind.
Nearly 200 people gathered on the lawn of the Historical Society,
where in a building next door the new exhibit houses an impressive
display of model riverboats, photographs, historical documents and
many other items relating to Switzerland Countys long, rich
by Don Ward
Borne and his grandmother,
Luana Gaebel view the model
steamboats made by their relative,
the late Harold Patterson.
"It was a great day and we had an excellent turnout for what
has been a true community project, said Martha Bladen, historical
society president who helped spearhead the project and plan the opening
The museum is housed in a former parsonage for the Presbyterian Church
that has served the historical society since 1970. In recent years,
the building was used as a dentist office. Officials began planning
the museum in 2002 when the building became available after the dentist
moved across town.
The museum features a rare and high quality collection of artifacts,
including 12 model steamboats made by the late Harold Patterson. Patterson
was an actor on the Bryant Showboats in the 1920s and was a Florence,
Ind., resident. The models are true folk art, created from everyday
The steamboats were donated by Pattersons granddaughter, Luana
Gaebel of Cleves, Ohio. Once obtained, historical society member Rob
Stepleton cleaned and repaired the models in preparation for their
display in the museum. Stepleton is a skilled hobbyist specializing
in model railroading.
In addition to the steamboat collection, the museum houses a pilotwheel
from the Robert T. Graham ferryboat, a large model of the City of
Louisville steamboat and a patent model for steering improvement patented
in 1866 by Frank Dupraz Sr., S.M. Dupont and J. Dickason. The collection
also includes a pilothouse chair, cork night light, acorns from the
Queen City, Duffy and Island Queen, a pressure gauge from the Delta
Queen, brass lamp from the City of Louisville, flatboat bilge pump,
spike pole, ledgers, passenger registers and numerous photos and documents.
Many organizations, businesses and individuals contributed to the
project. The Paul Ogle Foundation contributed $102,000 to pay off
the balance on the land contract to purchase the building, with $5,000
going toward display cases. The Switzerland County Council contributed
$15,900 for new rain gutters and heating and air conditioning systems
for both buildings.
The Community Foun-dation of Switzerland County contributed $1,000
toward carpet; the United Way Fund of Switzerland County contributed
$6,000 toward display cases.
Switzerland County Tourism contributed $14,500 for carpet and murals
of the Town of Vevay, plus $7,500 for use as needed.
Other contributors included the Kiwanis Club, Key Club and Switzerland
County School Corp.
Bladen provided grant writing; historical society vice president Ginny
Reeves and member Danny Back also contributed their ideas and time.
Artist Steve Bickis of Jefferson County, Ind., created the river course
maps, signs and themed murals of the flatboat and keelboat, the ferry,
the steamboat and ferry landing.
Other volunteers who helped with the museum include Barbara Huffman,
Janet Hendricks, Donna Cole, Sarah Headen, Peggy Eckerty, Rob and
Melodee Stepleton, Jack Remington, Ruth Osborn, Ken and Joyce Benbow,
Roy Lee Patterson, Dale Patterson and Helen Parks.
The museum is open daily from noon to 4 p.m. It is located
at 208 E. Market St. Admission is $3 to each building or $5 for both
buildings. For information, call (812) 427-3308.