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DNR: Preserve in place best option for Alice Dean

The best possible solution to preserving the Alice Dean steamboat at the bottom of the Ohio River may be to leave it in place, Cathy Draeger-Williams, archaeologist with the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, said Dec. 17 at a special afternoon meeting of the Harrison County Board of Commissioners.
The boat was burned and sunk by Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry near the mouth of Buck Creek in July 1863 during the Civil War.
Clarance Merk Jr., formerly of Laconia, began a crusade a couple years ago to raise the Alice Dean and secure it in a location for display.
‘If you pull it up, you’re going to damage it,’ Draeger-Williams said. ‘The best way to preserve it is to keep it there.’
A non-intrusive look at the ship to map it and identify what’s there is the best course of action, she said.
Rand Heazlitt, superintendent of the Harrison County Parks Dept., said it was unlikely the Navy, which now has ownership of the ship, would grant permission to have it raised.
‘From my understanding,’ he said.
Parks board president Larry Shickles said they believe it’s a good project, but they don’t know exactly what it entails.
Steve Gilliland, president and CEO of the Harrison County Community Foundation, said he was struggling with who should take the lead on the project, whether it be at the state or local level.
‘I think it’s as cool as can be,’ he said of the project while acknowledging it is unlikely to ever be raised from the river.
Draeger-Williams said if grant money is secured, the DNR’s role would be to guide whomever is in charge of the project with permit acquisition.
But since the DNR is a state agency, it can’t, from her understanding, take the lead on the project because it will require funding from possible state grants.
‘The best preservation projects begin at a local level,’ she said.
Draeger-Williams said the project ‘ at least to identify it in place ‘ has ‘fairly significant’ historical value and would rank high on their list of projects.
Commissioner Jim Klinstiver, who has been a supporter of Merk’s efforts, said it may be preserved currently, but it has been threatened at least twice by folks trying to raise it or salvage material off of it.