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 Nekoda...so 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|