Our History

firefoxThe Neale family was primarily a farming family in the 1960s when the decision was made to get involved in the local river industry. The family always had an interest in the water from farming their land along the Ohio River above Vienna, WV. Joe S. Towing Co., an existing company came up for sale in 1964, which navigated the Little Kanawha River primarily with small sternwheel gasboats over the course of many decades prior. The Neale family took the plunge, acquiring the floating assets and a landing just inside the mouth of the Little Kanawha River along the left descending bank.

firefoxAt the time of the purchase, the vast majority of the Joe S. Towing Co. boats were in poor shape or even abandoned along the riverbank. The primary vessel at the time was the DAVID JONES, a 330 HP twin screw towboat that was converted into a towboat in 1944 from a World War II surplus landing craft. The bulk of work at the time was to fleet coal from Ohio River tows and shift to the Viscose plant for unloading when needed. The DAVID JONES served the family's needs well, but the decision was made in 1968 that a more powerful boat was needed at times of high water. Many boats were for sale at the time, including some sternwheel boats, but the decision was ultimately made to purchase the BEAVER from Bob Bosworth of Point Pleasant, WV. The BEAVER was a venerable single screw towboat built by Dravo in 1937, and was powered by a massive 450 HP Fairbanks-Morse slow speed engine.

firefoxThe BEAVER more than served our family's needs starting into the 1970s, but ultimately the need was arising for a reliable vessel. It is difficult to achieve this with 30+ year old boats at a time when preventative maintenance wasn't exactly standard, so the decision was made to build a brand new vessel. Ultimately, a contract was made for Humboldt Boat Co. of St. Louis, MO to build a new vessel, and delivery was officially completed of the 670 HP twin screw RICHARD NEALE in 1972.

firefoxThe addition of our new built vessel in 1972 sparked numerous changes which included moving the fleet to the location of the family farm along the Ohio River at our present location at Mile 178. This move made it possible to better serve industries along the Ohio River, not just the industries along the Little Kanawha River. This lead to an increase in business, which also sparked the need to build additional new vessels in 1975 and 1979.

The 1980s for most river companies was not as prosperous as the 1960s and 1970s, and Neale Marine was no exception. This was a period where the entire industry was flooded with surplus equipment, leading to the shuttering of many shipyards and other related industries. No new boats were built by the company in the 1980s, but market conditions were conclusive to add two additional vessels into the fleet by the end of the decade.

Neale Marine entered into the 1990s with a fleet of 5 towboats, which has now grown into a fleet of 9 towboats and a floating drydock to properly maintain this fleet above and below the waterline.

All historical photos courtesy Dan Owen.