Copy of Community History – Covington – Main Street Ferry

West End
Main Street Ferry

Prior to the completion of the Roebling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River, Northern Kentucky residents relied on ferries for transportation to and from Cincinnati. In circa 1845, the Main Street ferry was established to provide service between Covington’s emerging west end and Cincinnati. It became an important link between the two cities during the Civil War era.

Business declined in 1867, which resulted in the temporary closing of the ferry. During the late 1860s, the ferry was purchased by the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge Company (its major competition). The bridge company decreased rates on the ferry so that they would be the same as the bridge toll. In 1876, Captain William E. Robinson retired. Robinson had worked on the ferry for nearly 20 years.

The construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Bridge in Covington’s west end siphoned off many off the Main Street Ferry customers. By the early 1890s, the ferry was loosing money. A decision was made in June 1893, to permanently cease operation of the ferry. The twelve employees who worked on the ferry were now unemployed, and the last ferryboat, the Kenton, was sold.

Covington Journal, October 2, 1869, p. 3, March 9, 1872, p. 1; Ticket, June 22, 1876, p. 3 and Kentucky Post, June 15, 1893, p. 4.

Mitchell and Tranter Rolling Mill
In March 1873, John Mitchell and James Tranter formed a partnership and purchased the old bagging factory on 3rd Street at the foot of Philadelphia St. The four-acre plot and building were purchased for the sum of $100,000. The partners quickly began converting the old factory into a rolling mill. Mitchell and Tranter was expected to employ six hundred workers.

Poor employee relations plagued Mitchell and Tranter. In 1881, 300 mill workers, who were members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel workers went out on strike over wages. Another strike of one hundred men occurred in 1894. This strike concerned the wages of the plant’s much rollers. Muck rollers were paid .50 per ton. Of this amount, they had to share .45 with other plant workers, leaving them .05 per ton. Rumors began to spread that the owners of Mitchell and Tranter wanted to reduce the Muck Rollers wages to .45 a ton, virtually leaving them with a choice of laying off workers beneath them or forfeiting all their wages. The owners kept the business in operation by purchasing muck iron from other plants.

By 1889, James Tranter had become very ill. He became efforts to sell the mill, however, before a sale could be finalized, he died on August 16, 1899. He was survived by his widow, Lucy Worcester Tranter and four children: Reverend Watson Tranter of Covington, Mrs. George M. Clark of Covington, Frank M. Tranter of St. Louis and Mrs. William E. Reis of Newcastle Pennsylvania. One son, Charles J. Tranter, died in January 1895.

The Mitchell and Tranter Rolling Mill continued to be operated under the direction of Mr. Charles Houston. By 1906, however, the business was in the process of shutting down. The Kentucky Post reported that many employees of the plant had already left Covington to find jobs elsewhere. In 1909, Mr. Houston failed to convince Covington officials to permit the extension of the railroad tracks to his property. In the following year, the plant experienced another strike when employees were refused a 2-½ cent raise. The plant administration fired twenty of these workers.

The next mention of the Mitchell and Tranter Rolling Mill in the local newspapers was in 1914. That year, the Houston, Stanwood and Gamble Co purchased the plant. Houston, Stanwood and Gamble produced steam engines and boilers. The company did well, especially during the First World War when they received an order worth $200,000 from the Federal Government. During the post World War I era, the company experienced difficulties. In 1916, the machinists at Houston, Stanwood and Gamble went out on strike. In addition, fewer homes and business were choosing steam boilers over electric powered equipment. The plant eventually closed.

Covington Journal, March 22, 1973, p. 3, June 1, 1881, p. 1; Kentucky Post, April 28, 1894, p. 4, April 30, 1894, p. 1, May 2, 1894, p. 1, August 17, 1899, p. 1, December 8, 1914, p. 4, November 27, 1915, p. 1, February 11, 1916, p. 1, February 15, 1916, p. 1, Kenton County Historical Society Bulletin, March 1892.

Print this page