In 1887, barge and boat building began on the Little Elk Creek by Henry Deibert of Landingville, Pennsylvania. Henry brought his family and seven workmen to Elkton in preparation to build schooner barges and canal boats. The shipbuilding soon expanded under Henry and his sons. Consequently, a second yard was established nearer the Hollingsworth House at Elk Landing and was known as E. (Elmore) Deibert and Bros.
The Deibert’s, along with other boat building operations built “Schooner Barges.” Schooner barges played a short but important role in maritime history. A schooner barge was a vessel that was towed from port to port by a tugboat, usually two to three at a time and sometimes up to six at one time. It was different from other barges as it had some sails that were reduced in size from those found on a traditional schooner.
Business was brisk and by 1902 the Deibert’s had constructed upwards of 70 barges. By 1906 the business had more than doubled, requiring a third yard and allowing three barges to be built at a time.
Elmore Deibert was forced to move to Chesapeake City in 1911 when the U.S. Government decided to stop dredging the Elk River causing silt to fill the waterways. They continued to build barges as large as 235 feet and were the largest industry in town, employing 90 to 100 men.
The Southern Transportation Company (STC) bought many of Deibert’s barges and in 1913 the STC bought the Deibert yard. The Deibert’s had not wanted to sell, but the STC was building their new yard which would have eventually forced Deibert out of business.
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