Published Mon, Sep 17, 2012 7:37 am Dateline
The Ohio River is many things to those who live nearby: a source of drinking water, a place of recreation and a means of commerce.
The Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen would add one more: a significant feature of national history.
President of Pioneer Rivermen, Jeff Spear can tell you all about the Ohio River and the role it played as a young United States was expanding westward.
The Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen celebrate this rich history and work hard to preserve it.
Spear says the rivers are what paved America's expansion west, which is what made the country the country it is today.
"For us to take for granted that wonderful history is, well, we might as well ignore Gettysburg and Bunker Hill," said Spear. "That history has to be preserved so that the people can understand how the early pioneers got here."
The group is a non-profit organization that was founded by a group of river enthusiats in 1939.
Attendance at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta has doubled over the past three years, thanks to the financial and other support from the Pioneer Rivermen.
And there's more to come.
A new exhibit has just opened: "The Ritts' W.P. Snyder Jr Legacy".
The show features artifacts, photos and writings connected to the historic boat.
Last year, the museum was given a collection of books, whistles and photos from the granddaughters of Captain Charles E. Ritts, a transportation manager for Crucible Steel Company.
The 1900s era Schoonover Shanty Boat is another Pioneer Rivermen project.
What is perhaps the last remaining "shanty boat" along the Ohio River waterways was just recently moved to the Ohio River Museum.
"It'll be a great interpretive thing that we can use for teaching kids," said Spear.
Spear says the plan is to restore the shanty boat and create a new, permanent outdoor exhibit relating experiences of the families who lived on these unusual vessels.
"Those people who lived on the shanty boats would go from town to town looking for work, fishing, and lived off the land, " said Spear. "They had a different way of life."
The Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen has a membership of nearly 800.
And, no, you don't actually have to be a son or daughter to belong; enthusiasm for river history is more important.
"If you don't know some of the history of how this all evolved then how can you understand what is now going up and down these rivers?" said Spear. "That's what it's all about: teaching everybody about history and how important the river system still is today."