The John Luchow, a 70-foot diesel-powered towboat, was christened at the foot of Themis Street on Cape Girardeau's riverfront on May 26, 1948. It was built in Louisville, Kentucky, and was designed to be operated by a crew of six.
It brought Marquette Cement Company's fleet to "four towboats, 30 barges and some chartered craft," and continued a waterways tradition that had started in 1929.
The Marquette Cement Co. towboat John Luchow, decked out in pendants and bunting, is docked at the Cape Girardeau riverfront May 26, 1948, after it was launched from the city wharf at the foot of Themis Street that morning. (G.D. Fronabarger ~ Southeast Missourian archive)
Published May 26, 1948, in the Southeast Missourian:
MARQUETTE HAS BOAT CHRISTENING
The latest addition to the waterways fleet of the Marquette Cement Co., a 70-foot diesel powered towboat, was christened the John Luchow at river-side ceremonies this forenoon at the foot of Themis Street.
Christened by Mrs. (Nelle Chamness) Luchow, the craft was named in honor of Capt. John Luchow, 1501 Themis St., marine superintendent for the Marquette company.
Presiding at the ceremonies, attended by a crowd of people from Cape Girardeau, St. Louis, Chicago and Jeffersonville, Indiana, was V.A. Kogge, manager of the Marquette water transportation division, and former resident of this city. After calling attention to the date, 1929, when the company started in water transportation, Mr. Kogge said the company fleet now consists of four towboats, 30 barges and some chartered craft.
After reviewing a portion of Mr. Luchow's 41 years of work on the Mississippi River, Mr. Kogge introduced Mrs. Luchow, who broke a bottle of champagne on the bow of the craft.
Visitors given welcome
Mayor Walter H. Ford welcomed the guests to the city. W.A. Wecker, company president, spoke briefly, saying "the names of John Luchow and the river are as one" and that it is only fitting that the craft be named in honor of Capt. Luchow.
Mr. Wecker then presented Mrs. Luchow a wrist watch in behalf of the company.
After the guests had made a tour of inspection of the craft, they were taken to the Alvarado for a luncheon.
Published May 27, 1948, in the Southeast Missourian:
Capt. John Luchow, veteran employee and river pilot for the Marquette Cement Mfg. Co., was honored Wednesday when the company's newest towboat was christened in his honor. In the above photo, made on the new boat's deck are, in the foreground, left to right, V.A. Kogge, former plant manager here and now in charge of the company's waterways division; Capt. Luchow and Mrs. Luchow, who broke the bottle of champagne christening the boat, and President Walter A. Wecker of Marquette. (Southeast Missourian archive)
PRESIDENT WECKER RELATES HOW MARQUETTE GOT INTO RIVER TRAFFIC
At a dinner party following the launching of the new John Luchow towboat Wednesday noon, President Wecker related briefly how the Marquette Cement Company got into river navigation. On Labor Day morning of 1928, the first tow left an improvised dock at the Marquette plant for Memphis. (The writer is off by a year. The first cement shipped by Marquette by barge left Cape Girardeau on Labor Day, Aug. 31, 1929. - Sharon) A 9-foot channel was in the making and had not yet been applied between the Cape and Memphis. The river was low, the weather was hot, an inexperienced crew was in charge. A temperamental cook was late with dinner, the skipper argued with him and then there was no cook. Sandbars were more plentiful than navigable water, it was difficult to keep off them, finally after the guests on the trip had prepared some supper the tow went squarely into the sand and stopped. Twenty-four hours later another boat came along and finally the tow got started again. When Memphis was reached, it was agreed that rail transportation was far better.
Vision from the ranks
However, Mr. Wecker continued, the Marquette company had about combed its limited sales district and unless lower freight rates were possible, maximum production had been reached. About this time John Luchow stepped up from the ranks and made a study of river transportation. Every year since, more cement has been shipped by water and also the amount carried by rail has increased. Marquette Cement for several years has been delivered to points along rivers that otherwise could not have been reached, Mr. Wecker said, and still there are undeveloped markets to conquer.
And so on the 20th anniversary of river transportation the Marquette output has increased, several new plants have been added, more towboats have been acquired and when conditions will permit the plant at Cape Girardeau will be rebuilt an modernized to the highest degree.
"John Luchow has earned all the credit he is receiving today and we hope to have him with us many more years to carry on his important work," President Wecker declared.
Smiling broadly with pride, Capt. John Luchow went to the control in the pilot house of the Marquette Cement Mfg. Co.'s new boat here Wednesday after it had been christened in his honor. The "John Luchow" will now propel large tows of cement along the inland waterways. (Southeast Missourian archive)
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Among the guests at the dinner were Capt. Don Wright and wife of St. Louis. He is editor and publisher of the Waterways Journal, a weekly publication devoted exclusively to river traffic. When automobiles came into general use before the river was ready for heavy traffic, it looked like transportation on inland waterways was doomed. Gradually the packet boats, accommodating passengers and light freight handled by men, began disappearing. Boats were entirely too slow. Finally the last packet operating regularly on the Mississippi, the Golden Eagle, owned by Capts. Henry and (William) "Buck" Leyhe, met its fate near Chester (Illinois).
"Those were sorrowful days for old-time rivermen," Capt. Wright said, but a 9-foot channel was being built and as it came into reality towboats began appearing in larger numbers. Then came the Federal Barge Lines, then great oil tankers and soon more tonnage was being handled on the Mississippi than ever before. Many of the towboats carrying from 30 to 50 times as many tons as the largest packets.
Familiar sight to return
"I am delighted to say to you today that a packet boat will be back in regular service on the Mississippi, not to carry mixed cargoes, but to enter the tourist trade. The Gordon C. Greene, a modern packet with accommodations for nearly 200 passengers, will make its first trip from St. Louis to St. Paul (Minnesota) early in June. The next trip will be down the river to the Tennessee. Then up the Illinois River nearly to Chicago and so on. I think it will be the best passenger boat ever to operate out of St. Louis and feel sure that it will be kept busy during the summer months," Capt. Wright said.
"And another great satisfaction to many people who like the river is that Capt. 'Buck' Leyhe will be the skipper. Already passengers have been booked by citizens of Cape Girardeau," the captain gloated.