The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Honored in 1997
In 1891, fifteen year old Jesse P. Hughes signed on with the Steamer T.N. Barnsdale as a second cook and potato peeler. Since he spent his entire youth along the river, either at Wheeling, West Virginia, or Reas Run, Ohio, it was only natural that he would be drawn to boating. He worked his way up the ladder as cook, pantry man and cabin boy. Then, under the tutelage of Captain J. Mack Gamble on the Steamer Courier, he became a steersman.
In 1896, he signed on the steamer H.K. Bedford, which was owned by Captain Gordon C. Greene. This began a 55-year career with the Greene Line Steamers, Inc., where he was ultimately a master of several Greene line boats, chief navigating officer for the company, Vice President, and part owner.
In June 1897, Captain Hughes was issued his pilot’s license. Now, standing watch on his own, he piloted the Steamer Argand, the Greenwood, and the Steamer Cricket. For the next 14 years, Captain Hughes operated the Tacoma on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers between Cincinnati and Charleston, West Virginia.
In 1922, Captain Hughes assisted in the planning of the Steamer Tom Greene, being involved in the design and construction of the boat and overseeing its construction. Following completion of the Tom Greene, he provided design input for the Chris Greene, even painting the 11’ x 3’ murals that hung over the front of each of the cabins.