March 18, 1943
Only three persons in Yellow Springs have ever heard this story. If the name “Ohio Sally” means anything to you then you are one of the chosen three. That name used to appear in large gilt letters over the two-story frame white house now occupied by Michael Schellhouse [Schellhaas] on Phillips Street. It may be quite a surprise to know that this house was once actually a steamboat on the Ohio River.
Just before the Civil War there came to Yellow Springs a bluff, middle-aged man by the name of Tasker Brim, Captain Brim, if you please. Gave his last address as Cincinnati and the Ohio River. Oh, a river man, folks said. Didn’t talk more than a dozen words a day but did a lot of drinking at the then seven saloons in town. Captain Brim would sit over at the Walnut Street Bar, then run by Tracy Tipton, and sort of gloom over his glass. Finally he thawed out enough to tell the boys he was a retired river boat captain.
Some folks thought it mighty funny a man still in his forties would give up his boat. But Brim said nothing. That is until one day he came in a new man, his red face shining, and ordered all hands up to the bar. “I’ve bought her back, lads,” he said happily. He explained that “she” was his boat, “Ohio Sally.” He had made the last payment. It was all his again. The boys proposed a farewell drink. “But I’m not going anywhere,” said the captain. “I’m staying in Yellow Springs.” “I thought you just said you had bought your boat,” said the bartender, Tipton.
“That I did,” said Captain Brim, “and I’m having her shipped her by rail.” (The Little Miami railroad came through in 1846). The news spread like wildfire. A steamboat for Yellow Springs? Why, the man must be crazy. There wasn’t any water here except in the little (muddy) Miami. But sure enough, the boat came. Rather the lumber from it. The captain had it torn down piece by piece and shipped here. And with the help of a couple of local carpenters, he built a house. He built it with a cupola which he called the “bridge,” and over it he painted the words, “Ohio Sally.”
Legend says he installed a bell in the tower which was rung whenever there was a fog.
The mystery of the steamboat house was solved only years later. After Captain Brim’s death some old papers were found in his study, or “stateroom,” as he called it, and these disclosed that the captain was engaged to marry a Kentucky girl. He had taken her for a ride on his boat and by some accident she had fallen overboard and was drowned. Her name was Sally. That explained why the captain quit navigating and was the reason for his strange resolve to exile himself and finally build a house of the boat’s timber.
So the next time there is a bad fog over Yellow Springs walk up Phillips Street to where it runs into Davis and listen sharply and perhaps you may be able to there the sad bell tolling for “Ohio Sally.”
Perhaps the frame of the “Ohio Sally” house was constructed from parts of a river boat; however, I am of the opinion that the good captain simply named his house in the memory of an ill-fated girl friend. Perhaps the bell came from some river vessel; no registration exists for a steamboat named “Ohio Sally.”—Don Hutslar
Previous Igo Ghost Stories blog entry: Introducing Harold #1 Haunted Houses #2 Hiccuping Ghost #3 Cut Throat in the Kitchen #4 The House of Speaking Walls #5 Story of the 7 Dachshunds #6 House of the Fiery Ferns