Monday, January 23, 2012

Visits: Margaret Mitchell & the Crucible Ferry

At SWPARE our goal is to record our local history and tell the stories behind the places we show.  What's the point in posting a picture of something or somewhere if you don't know the significance behind it? Most of the time we rely on our friends, families, and neighbors to pass down the history of the area.  Sometimes, it is left to speculation or a story that isn't 100% accurate.  Thats ok, though. We like doing a little detective work and seeing what we can learn.  It builds character.

If you have been following the blog for any amount of time, you've heard (or read) me drone on about the Nekoda, aka the Crucible Ferry.  I vaugley remember the ferry as a child and am unsure if I ever crossed on it.  Recently, after posting some pictures of the ferry provided by the Begovich family, the conversation started as to the current location of the Nekoda.  We heard that it was scrapped for metal, removed for restoration and in a museum.  We heard the deck was salvaged and being used by the salvage company and we heard it was now a boat launch near Pittsburgh  .So, being the inqusitive kids we are...we figured we would go straight to the source...

At one time cable ferries were common on the Monongahela river as everyday passage before the more modern bridges were built.  Fortunately, we still have the Fredricktown Ferry to look to and even take a ride on.  Many folks still use it to cross the Mon between Washington and Fayette Counties; just a bit to the south was the Crucible ferry.  It operated near the Crucible mine carrying the miners back and forth to work.  The original ferry was constructed of wood and purchased by the Mitchell  family from Crucible mine following its completion.   When wooden ferries were phased out,the Mitchell family built the Nekoda, which operated for many years.  Several men ran the ferry but the owner/operator who everyone remembers is Margaret Mitchell.  A tiny woman who earned her college degree in the 1920s (not so common in those days), Margaret had light hair and what was, as described by one of our readers, "alabaster skin".  I've heard many stories about Margaret, most of which revolve around her being a hard worker as well as independent.

I met Margaret in the winter of 93.  If you recall, we had a large, seemingly overnight snow which pretty much shut down the entire area.  Power was out as well as telephone service.  I was a member of Rices Landing Fire Department and we were converging at the firehall to use the trucks to help folks who were snowed in.  Chief Murray Kline told me "C'mon kid, we gotta go check on Margaret." "Ok,"  I thought, "who's Margaret?"   We worked our way down the hill and up to the road where Margaret's house was.  The snow was up to our waists and it took some doing for me and several of the other firemen to reach the house.  The house was dark, even in the day and, needless to say, it was cold.  We got to the porch and I followed Murray in to check on Margaret.  I remember him loudly calling her name and whispering over his shoulder, "We don't wanna surprise her!" Looks of determination were on our faces as we were fully prepared to sled dog this poor woman to the firehouse until her power was restored. It was not to be.

 Sitting in the living room in her shawl and bubushka,  Margaret was huddled near a small coal stove, her stockings black from the soot.  She had a bucket of coal and seemed unconcerned by the cold and almost amused by our "rescue" attempt.  When she refused to go, stating she was fine, we looked at the Chief and said, "Now what?".  I remember the smile Murray had on his face when he shrugged his shoulders and said, "She says she's fine".  He assured her we would check back on her and off we went back down the driveway.  Aparently, those who were familiar with Margaret knew there was little point in arguing with her.  My dad told me it was common to see her toting a burlap sack of coal up the steep steps from the landing.  Think about that next time you have to get off the couch to bump up the thermostat on your electronic heat pump.

It probably shouldn't surprise you to know Margaret is alive and well.  At 101 years young, she now resides in a nearby nursing home.  I called the other night to arrange a visit.  I soon recieved a phone call from Margaret's newphew, Jerry, who was not only kind enough to ok the visit but share some of the story with us.  We plan to meet with Jerry soon and learn much more about his Aunt and the enjoy our short video and photos.  We plan to update this post with more photos and info as we can.  If you know Margaret and have a story to share, PLEASE do!!! 

A little about the video: Margaret's hearing is very poor and we wrote notes to ask her questions.  She was thrilled with the photos of the ferry we brought and studied them closely.  She is soft spoken, so listen closely.  At the tail end of the video,  I asked her about the time someone attempted to rob her on the ferry. I shook my fist and asked if she "gave em some of this".  Her smile answered my question just fine.

The Ferry after it went out of service 
The Above was taken from this blog here,   After the ferry went out of business, it sat rusting away on the banks of the Mon until the flood of 1985.  It was then washed down river and sank and sat until sometime in the 90's.  We have no less then 7 blogs on the "where is the Crucible ferry" mystery.  


  1. Hey I thought it would be nice to include the leads you get from people on how to find some of your would show that you had help in finding what you need and credit outside help. I'm not downing you guys but it would make things awesome in a way to make it feel more home like to do that for the leads you get..Also hubby says they never removed the ferry its where you see the bouy in the water in crucible.

    1. We always try to include our leads in posts.For example,I mentioned the Begovich family for the photos. Sometimes,we talk to folks and never catch their name (like the man who lives on the other side of the river).If we missed anyone,please email us at and we'll give credit where credit is due.We thrive on stories and leads from our readers and would never omit anyone on purpose.Thanks for your reply!

  2. I agree w/ Chip. In the video accompanying this post, sources of information were clearly named. If a person helps in anyway, they get mentioned in the videos, blog text or in the form of photo credits (examples include the Crago house post). We do this to make it more personal to the readers. We clearly don't know it all, we rely on information from others and welcome it.

  3. Great story, Chip and Evan. In regard to the ferry, I have a picture somewhere that I took probably back in the 90's. I don't remember why, but the water had gone done, and the ferry boat which had been sunk was exposed. I don't know what's become of it since, but as of that point in time the feery was still there, just below the surface of the water.

  4. Doug, PLEASE try and find that picture. That would be too cool!

  5. I have no idea where to begin looking, but I'll see if I can find it somewhere this weekend. It's not a great picture (I think I took it with a 110), but the water was down far enough that it clearly shows the ferry you have pictured above in it deteriorated sucken state. If it turns up, I'll scan it and send it to you.

  6. Doug,that makes sense.I was with the RLFD dive team once and they dove the ferry landing.I remember swimming out and standing on the ferry.I estimate that about 1993.PLEASE...find that pic!!!

  7. John J Mitchell

    I met my great Aunt Margaret in the 70's. I walked up to her house and had a great visit. My Dad Paul Mitchell her nephew worked on the ferry as a young boy and man. I remember the steep walk up to her house, I will never forget her. God bless you Aunt Margaret, God bless the folks that want to preserve this history.

    John J Mitchell

  8. My Grandfather(Jess Mitchell) also ran the ferry before him and my Grandmother moved to Ohio and left it to my Great Aunt Margaret. I remember going to see her and being amazed by her memory. I'm so glad you are preserving our family history. I have a daughter and I sent this to her and she loved this very much. It's nice to be able to share my family history with my daughter and husband. Thank You again. By the way Great Aunt Margaret loves chocolate candy just a hint.

    Jane Watts

  9. the ferry was removed.

  10. Margatet Mitchell had the most beautiful complexion I have ever seen....I was struck by it even as a child crossing the ferry regularly with my parents. She was really beautiful and rather mysterious to my eyes.

  11. I am sad to post Margaret Mitchell Passed away April, 19th 2015 at the age of 104.

  12. She lived a good long life, rough at times I am sure. I remember her when in Crucible visiting my grandparents, her walking down the alley with an empty bag tot he little store at the end of the alley and come back with her bag full. My Grandpa always said not to talk to any one. One day i asked her if she needed help to carry her bag home, she smiled and never spoke a word, and walked on by. I remember her beautiful grey hair and her very smooth beautiful skin,, always in a long black coat and bubushka..,, She was one who took care of herself and depended on no one.. A very quiet person.

  13. I love your stories about the ferry. I grew up in Masontown and rode the New Geneva Ferry across the river to Greensboro when I was seven or eight years old. Charles Workman who lived in Greensboro ran the ferry. He was a friend of our family. His wife Ruth came to the Masontown Mennonite Church on Smithfield Rd, where my father Paul Roth was the pastor. As I remember, New Geneva ferry had an engine house on one side and the cars ran up on along the other side. To get to the ferry you had to go down across the tracks at the Martin Patch and drive to the left, down a steep dirt road to the rivers edge. Two of my brothers met me in Uniontown in September of this year and we went around to all the places we remembered including the ferry landing. The road is still there, but the concrete road on the Greensboro side was not visible any longer. I am now 71, but remember it very well.