‘Out of the Mud’ author to visit river museum

Agnes Hapka

November 29, 2013

POINT PLEASANT — James O’Donnell, author of the book “Out of the Mud, Hiram Carpenter and the Ohio River Valley, 1880-1950,” will sign copies of his book Saturday afternoon at the Point Pleasant River Museum.

Hiram Carpenter’s son, Walter S. Carpenter, will be available to sign the book as well. Walter Carpenter “never threw anything away” and supplied much of the the information for the book.

Jack Fowler, museum director, said that Hiram Carpenter was a self-made man who organized the construction of St. Mary’s “Hi Carpenter” bridge in the late 1920s. The “Hi” was the first bridge built in that location and was the sister bridge to this area’s Silver Bridge which collapsed on December 15, 1967.

Fowler said the book describes the life of a man who always rose to any challenge set before him.

“He came from nothing,” Fowler said,”He knew how to make money, but he’d help anyone who needed it.”

Fowler said that Carpenter would find jobs for anyone he knew who needed work, something that must have been invaluable during the interwar period of the 1920s and 30s.

Hiram’s was a hero to the late Dr. John Deaver Drinko, also a native of St. Marys, who grew up there in a time when “Mr. Hiram” was always the man to see if one wanted a job.

Drinko had a successful career ahead of him; he went on to become a well-known lawyer and philanthropist. In these ways, he outstripped the achievements of his mentor, but he never forgot the person who had had such a profound influence on him. Hiram’s son, Walter helped provide a path for Drinko to research the facts and figures of Hiram’s life.

Fowler said that Carpenter’s career spanned the period between 1915 and 1935; he spent the earlier days shipping apples and in other facets of agriculture.

“He had an island in the river on which he grew potatoes and wheat,” Fowler said. “He ferried people out and they harvested for him.”

In 1937 Hiram was forced to sell the “Hi” bridge at a huge loss, said Fowler. The Great Depression hurt his agricultural endeavors, which led him to the sand and gravel business, said Fowler.

“That’s where the name “Out of the Mud” comes from,” Fowler said.

Author O’Donnell will be at the museum from 2-4 p.m., Saturday, November 30. Point Pleasant River Museum is located at 28 Main Street, Point Pleasant.