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The Captains Ryman

Captain Thomas Green Ryman
The Ryman Line

From Way's Packet Directory -
"Capt. Tom Ryman took religion, having been exposed to revivalist Sam Jones, and there were serious Biblical incriptions in the boat's (R. DUNBAR) cabin and a large picture of Christ in the ladies' cabin." From R&D Reflector, June, 1972, Pg. 5.

In 1889 Tom Ryman, Sr. built the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, to accomodate the large following of evangelist Sam Jones. Later, this building became the home of the Grand Ol' Opry.

From BritPen maker of fine, handcrafted wood pens. Bill Brittain writes -
In 1885 Captain Tom Ryman owned 35 steamboats on the Cumberland and the Tennessee Rivers. He was one of the most influential men on the River in Nashville. He had built a beautiful mansion on a hill in the best neighborhood in Nashville. However Captain Ryman owned saloons and had bars on his steamboats and was transporting whiskey as one of his main cargos. One day in 1885 an evangelist came to Nashville and held a revival in a tent that held 7,000 people and yet there were people who had to stand outside unable to get inside for the tent was filled to overflowing. The evangelist was Sam Jones from Cartersville, Georgia. At this revival Captain Tom Ryman was converted and did not renew any of the contracts for liquor concessions on his boats. He never sold liquor again. After his conversion he became a very religious man and wanted to build a building large enough for Sam Jones to hold his revivals. In 1889 Tom Ryman began construction on the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Captain Ryman died on December 23, 1904 and his funeral ceremonies were held in the Union Gospel Tabernacle, with evangelist Jones officiating. Sam Jones suggested that the building be named after its benefactor Thomas Green Ryman. The overflowing audience rose to their feet in accord with that suggestion and the building was named THE RYMAN AUDITORIUM. The Ryman was destined to serve as one of America's great performance halls throughout the 20th century, hosting the world's greatest performers from Enrico Caruso to Hank Williams.

Captan Thomas Green Ryman, Jr.
The Cumberland River Steamboat Company

05/21/07 - From Site Visitor Ted S. Price
Dear Dave
I have been looking for a steamship that was in the Cumberland River ie. Nashville, Clarksville, Upper Cumberland area. I understand a picture exists but am not able to locate a copy. Do you have any "quick" information on this boat. The spelling may be Rob't or something other than the name as I have spelt out.
(This boat was actually the JO HORTON FALL - d.)
My father worked on the Cumberland during the 1920-1930's. He knew the man who killed Capt. Tom Ryman Jr. and a few years ago I talked to a man who knew them both. The killer, Montgomery, waited till they had entered the county that he lived to get a favorable jury. He was let off after three trials as I remember. Ryman had looked after Montgomery as a young man and was very mean to him. Montgomery had become a part owner of the company but Ryman was going to put him off the boat as he had not purchased a ticket for this trip. I feel that it was as a result of years of resentment that had built up. My father says on trips that Montgomery would get very drunk and lament his part in the killing of Ryman There is a book "Steamboating on the Cumberland" by a man called Douglas as I recall.
Thank you,
Ted S. Price
Clearwater Fl


From Nashville Banner, October 19, 1930 -
"The Last Days Of Steamboating On The Cumberland River"

The dominating figure on the river for many years was Capt. Thomas G. Ryman. He had little education but a good mind. He was a man of strong personality and marked peculiarities. He was tall, an­gular, raw-boned and powerful. He amassed a comfortable fortune, though primarily not a money seeker. He had physical and moral courage and his energy knew no bounds. When he started to do a thing it was as good as an accomplished fact. The Ryman Auditorium (In Nashville, home of The Grand Ol' Opry - d.) is a monument to his persistence and untiring religious zeal, for which he was noted during the last half of his life. He wanted a great auditorium where Sam Jones and other great preachers could hold services without cost. He made a liberal donation himself, and then entered into a canvass that knew no let-up until the building was finished.

The night before the auditorium was to be dedicated he visited the offices of The Nashville Banner and the American, and told each of the reporters and editors who had aided him in his undertaking to go around to Rowen's tailoring establishment, order a fifty-dollar suit and charge it to him. A fifty-dollar suit in those days was considered rather extrava­gant.

He had professed religion, while Sam Jones was conducting a tent meeting on the southwest corner of Broadway and Eighth Avenue, where Davis' Drug Store now stands. Prior to that time he had taken little in­terest In religion, having concentrated his energies on steamboats and politics. After his conversion he led an exemplary life, and the contrast was so great that it gave rise to many apocryphal stories as to the wild, hilarious life Captain Ryman lived in his younger days. He was, however, always honest and always charitable. He was not a heavy drinker nor a gambler, though it is a fact that he won $12,000 on Cleveland during his first race for the Presidency. He was an enthusiastic Democrat and actively interested, heart and soul, in this race.

It has often been said that after his conversion he destroyed all the bars on his steamboats and poured the liquor into the river. This is a good story, but unfortunately is not sustained by the facts. Captain Ryman did not own the barrooms on his boats. They were leased to the men who conducted them. He did, however, notify these men that he would lease no more barroom privileges; and in this way the Ryman Line became dry.


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