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Mystery of the paddlewheel boat

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RED CLAY FOOTPRINTS by

This month I think it proper to feature some information provided to me by Bill McLean from Moultrie, Ga.  I met Bill several months ago when he stopped by the Wakulla Historical Society Museum in Crawfordville while researching a large boat which was apparently beached and abandoned on the banks of the Ochlockonee River on the Franklin County side of the bridge at U.S. Highway 319.
I recently spoke with Bill and learned he has pretty much exhausted all leads in his efforts to identify that boat, which has been there since at least the 1950s. I won’t go into more detail as Bill did an excellent job in doing that and I have simply included herein his detailed report for all to read.
I want to feature his story because our history is such an elusive thing.  As we all know, it does not take long at all for factual information to either become completely lost or fact becomes fiction when people speculate and others, not knowing any difference, begin to repeat the speculation as fact.  
Thanks to people like Bill McLean, there are many who put in the time and effort to try to recover aspects of our history before it is lost.  
So please, folks, take a look at his report and if you have any information that may be helpful, contact Bill and pass along the information that may solve this mystery.
 

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MYSTERY BOAT ON THE OCHLOCKONEE

By BILL McLEAN

How many times have you driven across the Ochlockonee River Bridge on U.S. Highway 319 and noticed the remains of the old boat on the Franklin County side of the
river?
It has been there for more than 80 years, and now all you can see are the ribs at low tide. Did you know that it was a paddlewheel boat, that it was over 50 feet long and 14 feet wide, and that the owner was an artist?
Let me tell you what I know about the boat and see if you can help me unravel the mystery.
My grandfather built a house on the river in 1948, and our family started going to the river for weekends and summer vacations. Back in the 1950s, the boat was sunken, but the upper part of the boat was still in good condition. The paddlewheel was intact and all of the walls and the upper deck were existing. We didn’t pay a lot of attention to the boat; I guess we thought it would always be there.
About 1959 or 1960, my older brother and I were taking my mother for a boat ride, and she wanted to go see the paddlewheel boat. There were windows on the side of the old boat, and we pulled alongside so she could see inside. The first thing she saw was a painting on one of the interior walls, and she asked if we thought we could cut out the boards and save the painting. We were able to saw the painting out of the boat, and my mother had it framed.
After finding the picture, my grandfather asked around Sopchoppy about the history of the boat, and was told that the owner abandoned the boat around 1930, walked away and never came back, and that he was German. He was also told that after some period of time, people removed anything of value, and that it had been there ever since.
This was more than 50 years ago, and since then the boat just continued to rot away until all that is left are the ribs.
About two years ago, I started looking for information about the boat, hoping to find a picture of the boat and for information about the owner who was the artist.
Some people I have talked to believe the boat was the McIntyre Ferry that was used before the bridge was built in 1927. McIntyre was the old lumber town about a mile up river at the railroad trestle. I have also read about several paddlewheel boats that worked on the Ochlockonee River and Crooked River traveling between Carrabelle, McIntyre and St. Marks. They would haul cotton, turpentine and passengers. So it could have been one of these passenger boats.
In doing research on the boat, I discovered information about two artists in Wakulla County. The first, is John Piplack, who was one of the artists that painted the ceiling of the Wakulla Springs Hotel about 1935, and we know he was a German. However, the art in the hotel does not resemble the painting that came from the paddlewheel boat.
The second, is the art that is painted in the Carter House in Medart. This art does, in some way, resemble the painting from the paddlewheel boat, but we don’t know who painted the art in the Carter House.
So, can you help me solve the mystery? Do you know anything about the paddlewheel boat? Do you have any old family photographs that might show the boat in the background, or perhaps a picture of the bridge that would show the boat?
Do you know any information about either of these artists or about any other artist who might have painted the scene in the old paddlewheel boat on the Ochlockonee?
If so, contact me, Bill McLean in Moultrie, Ga., at (229) 941-5127.