Ingram Barge

Ingram Barge Company (IBCO) has been a quality marine transporter towing on America's inland waterways since 1946, and has a heritage stretching back to the 1800s when the Ingram family was involved in logging in the upper Midwest. Even though the company has changed in many ways through the years, IBCO is still on the rivers, moving dry and liquid bulk commodities - between Minnesota and Louisiana - from Corpus Christi to Pittsburgh - into St. Louis and out of Chicago. In fact, all along the Mississippi River System and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Ingram Barge Company has been moving commodities on schedule, for a long time.



O.H. (Orrin) Ingram was born. Following a childhood of hardship, he worked as a young man at a sawmill in upstate New York called Harris and Bronson.


O.H. Ingram planned, built and managed steam-powered lumber mills. He invented the "gang edger," a revolutionary piece of equipment to speed the lumber edging procedure.


O.H. Ingram settled in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and founded Dole, Ingram, and Kennedy, a lumber business in the Chippewa Valley. This was the first Ingram connection with river transportation, moving lumber products down the Chippewa and Mississippi Rivers. The business expanded through the years to include other sawmills, warehouses and lumber yards.


The Empire Lumber Company was formed from the consolidated interests of the previous years. Ingram began business dealings with Frederick Weyerhaeuser (who operated The Mississippi River Logging Company).


Decreasing forests in the Chippewa Valley led to investments in timber property in the south and in the Pacific Northwest in the name of the Pacific Empire Lumber Company. Ingram purchased 2,160 shares of Weyerhaeuser Timber Company stock.


Ingram organized the O.H. Ingram Company, which was managed by his son Erskine B. Ingram and his son-in-law, Dr. Edmund S. Hayes.


O.H. Ingram contributed as a philanthropist to the city of Eau Claire with sizable financial gifts to the YMCA, the public library, the local children's home, and the Eau Clair Sanatorium before he died at the age of 88.


The O.H. Ingram Company, under the leadership of Erskine B. (E.B.) Ingram continued to prosper. E.B. diversified the business interests and built the foundation on which the next Ingram generation could build. It was, however, the founder's namesake and grandson, O.H. (Hank) Ingram, who possessed the original O.H.'s business traits.


A young Hank Ingram moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee, to manage a new company acquisition, The Thomas Henry Company, a textile and spinning mill, later renamed Ingram Manufacturing Company.


Hank took advantage of the petroleum demand from the war in Europe and, with an additional two partners, formed the Wood River Oil and Refining Company.


The new refinery was completed on the banks of the Illinois River close to St. Louis, and to transport the product, Ingram established the Wood River Oil Barge Company, the early roots of Ingram Barge Company.

During World War II, the production at the refinery was increased to 35,000 barrels per day to support the war effort but, after the war ended in 1945, the refinery was producing more product than the St. Louis market could absorb. The company got into the terminal and barge transportation business to sell the refinery production to other markets.


Hank Ingram and his partners decided to go separate ways. Hank took the terminal and barge business, and named it Ingram Products Company. This was the beginning of Ingram Barge Company. Terminals were constructed in St. Paul and Louisville. Throughout the '40s and '50s, Ingram Products Company continued to transport petroleum.


Hank rapidly grew the barge business. He sold the St. Paul terminal to expand his barge fleet.


Ingram bought a skimming plant and terminal in Louisiana and built a 7,500 barrels-per-day refinery.


The next generation of Ingram family members, Frederic (Fritz) and E.B. (Bronson), began to take their place in the history of the company. Bronson, who was named after his grandfather, managed the company-owned service stations and was instrumental in the construction of truck stops where Ingram truckers could sleep, shower, or eat, a groundbreaking idea for the time.


New river transport terminals were built in swift succession: Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida. Ingram reorganized the fleet under a newly formed subsidiary - Ingram Barge Company.


Ingram Barge Company operated 5 towboats, 2 tugs and 24 petroleum barges. Operations were managed from New Orleans, necessitating a move for Bronson and his family.


IBCO acquired Cumberland River Sand and Gravel Company (later to become Ingram Materials Company) and Barrett Lines, which put Ingram in the dry cargo barge transportation business. During all of this diversification and expansion, the family was hit with the unexpected: Hank Ingram died in April of 1963.


Ingram Corporation had expanded into off-shore marine construction and ocean-going tug-barge petroleum transportation.


IBCO was run by John M. Donnelly, a businessman who started with the company in New Orleans. One of Ingram's flagship towboats is named in his honor.


Ingram Barge Company signed and began operating the Commonwealth Edison contract for the movement of #6 Oil from New Orleans to Collins Station, a power plant located just south of Chicago. Ingram built 6 towboats and 48 heated tank barges to fulfill the contract requirements. The income from this very profitable contract allowed Ingram to continue to grow not only the barge company, but also other Ingram companies such as Ingram Book.


IBCO constructed 90 open hopper barges to transport coal and crushed stone.


Bronson Ingram and Fritz Ingram split up Ingram Corporation. Bronson Ingram's leadership of Ingram Industries Inc. began and Ingram Barge Company became part of the newly founded Ingram Industries. At this time, IBCO consisted of 52 hot oil barges, 10 steam coiled barges, 29 single skin tank barges, 115 deck barges, 90 open hopper barges and 18 tow boats.


While the 1970s were a time of prosperity for the barge company, the 1980s were a time to sink or swim. Liberal tax laws encouraged investors to build barges based on tax shelters rather than market economics. Another blow to the industry came when President Carter stopped all grain shipments to the Soviet Union. Ingram Barge Company had just built 90 new barges. With no traffic pattern and high cost equipment, it was clear that Ingram could not remain in this position. It was time to buy or to sell.


Ingram's first acquisition was Ohio Barge Line, a company owned by U.S. Steel. Ohio Barge Line had 15 boats and 516 barges along with a great management team, a good traffic pattern and good contracts. The integration went faster and better than expected. Neil N. Diehl came onboard as Chairman Emeritus of IBCO to oversee its expansion and growth.


Ingram acquired 8 boats and 365 barges from American Barge and Towing. Unlike the Ohio Barge Line acquisition, American Barge and Towing did not give Ingram long term contracts. However, the age of the fleet was very young, allowing Ingram to attract crew members who were experienced operating on the upper Mississippi River.

Also, during the 1980s, Ingram made some strategic acquisitions, allowing IBCO to grow the tank barge fleet. These included 4 asphalt barges from Oil Transport, 27 chemical barges from Chotin Transportation, 23 hot oil barges and 5 boats from System Fuels, 15 chemical barges and 2 tugs from Arthur Smith and 5 small boats from Georgia Transporters.


Barge companies had not built much during the 1980s and, because the shipyards were hungry for business, the prices were close to shipyard cost. Ingram responded by building 100 hopper barges. Unfortunately, it was also the time of the Exxon Valdez accident and Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Liabilities for transporting petroleum increased significantly. Ingram responded by selling the single skin equipment. Next, Ingram looked at the high risks and low rewards associated with the black oil business and sold that portion of the business. This difficult decision caused some marine- and shore-based associates to find other non-Ingram jobs.

Aside from that shift in focus, Ingram continued to grow. The company built 18 "state of the art" chemical barges and entered into a long-term charter for six chemical barges.


Ingram purchased the assets of M/G Transport Co., a dry cargo barge line headquartered in Cincinnati. This acquisition added another 8 boats and 354 barges to the Ingram fleet. Ingram became the third largest for-hire river carrier in the country.


E. Bronson Ingram died on June 15, 1995. The Ingram family reorganized Ingram Industries Inc. announcing two of Bronson's sons, Orrin H. Ingram II and John R. Ingram, as Co-Presidents of Ingram Industries.


IBCO continued its growth by purchasing the inland marine business of Occidental Chemical Corporation.


Orrin H. Ingram II was named Chairman of Ingram Barge Company.


Orrin H. Ingram II was named President & CEO of Ingram Industries. John R. Ingram was named Vice Chairman of Ingram Industries. Craig E. Philip was named President and CEO of Ingram Barge Company.


IBCO ordered 50 new covered hopper barges.


Ingram completed its acquisition of Midland Enterprises LLC, including The Ohio River Company LLC and Orgulf Transport LLC. This brought together two of the most respected companies on the water -- with 133 years of combined experience.


Ingram acquired the assets of Riverway Company. The acquisition included 430 covered hopper barges, four 9000-horsepower tows, three 4300-horsepower tows, and four harbor tugs.


Today, Ingram Marine Group, which describes Ingram's operating units involved in transporting bulk commodities on America's inland waterways, dredging sand, terminaling bulk commodities, and delivering fuel and supplies to the towing industry, is the largest carrier on the inland waterway system.

For more information on Ingram's heritage, read Downriver: Orrin H. Ingram and the Empire Lumber Company, by Charles E. Twining, and E. Bronson Ingram: Complete These Unfinished Tasks of Mine, by Martha R. Ingram.