Joseph ("Joe") Breeck was born on March 1st, 1863, in Mehle, Germany; a small village 75 miles southwest of Hannover. In 1875 his family came to America and settled near Cincinnati. He became a blacksmith early in life, and eventually settled in Lamb, Indiana; a small town on the Ohio River, near Madison.
In the late 1880's Joseph Breeck began piloting various riverboats on the Ohio River. He worked as ferryboat captain for the Ash family, who had operated the Lamb/Carrollton ferry franchise from about 1800 to 1923. He was also a pilot on the steam ferryboat "OHIO", which operated between Lamb, Indiana and Carrollton, Kentucky.
Joe Breeck married Katie Ash in 1888. They had two sons; Bernard and Leslie. Katie died only two years later, in 1890. Shortly thereafter, Breeck met Eliza Plew and they were married in 1892. Eliza's parents had moved to North Webster, Indiana in 1864.
In 1901 Joseph Breeck and family went by covered wagon to North Webster to see the country and visit Eliza's parents. As they toured the shores of Webster Lake, they envisioned a day when many people would come to the lake for fun and relaxation. Having experience with excursion boats on the Ohio River, Joe knew a tour boat would be an ideal way to attract visitors to the lake.
Around 1905 the Breeck family began spending their summers at Webster Lake. In 1906 Joseph Breeck built the sternwheeler City of Webster. The boat served as a floating blacksmith shop for Webster Lake residents. Legend has it that this boat overturned and sank in 1913. Breeck built the first Dixie in 1914. It was much larger than the City of Webster. The first Dixie also served as a floating blacksmith shop and grocery store.
Eliza Breeck died In 1919. Joseph carried on with the business at Webster Lake, returning each fall to Lamb, Indiana. In 1926 he married Mayme Banta. Together they continued to expand the business by adding several cottages to attract more visitors to the lake. Notable riverboat captain Leon Ash piloted the Dixie for Breeck during much of the 1927 season.
By the end of 1928 the Dixie's wooden hull was beyond repair. In 1929 Breeck replaced the original Dixie with a larger, steel hulled vessel of the same name. Due to failing health, the Breecks sold the Dixie, cottages and lake property in 1941. They retired to Lamb, Indiana, where they spent their remaining years.
Although diagnosed with a heart condition at age 21, Joseph Breeck lived to be nearly 88 years old. He died at his home in Lamb, Indiana on January 19th, 1951.
Special thanks to Joseph Breeck's grandson Bernie Breeck, granddaughter Betty Stewart (Breeck), Harold Gaskill and Tom Plew for supplying much of this information.
Jay Knapp bought the Dixie from Joseph Breeck in 1939. Knapp is known for the many improvements that he made to the lakeshore property, which became known as Dixie Camp during his ownership. Knapp is also known for his record setting load of 285 passengers, in which he coined the phrase Packing 'em in.
Knapp made some improvements to the Dixie's drivetrain. He replaced the 1928 Studebaker, which was installed in 1935, with various other automotive powertrains. But the paddlewheel required more torque than the automobile transmissions were designed to handle. This meant the transmissions had to be replaced quite often.
Other than the drivetrain, Knapp changed very little of the Dixie itself. He sold Dixie Camp to Earl Ungeright in 1949.
Earl Ungeright bought the Dixie from Jay Knapp in 1949. Ungeright made several practical improvements to the Dixie during his ownership.
Ungeright replaced the automobile powertrain, installed by Knapp, with a very efficient diesel-electric setup. The pilot house had always been located closer to the engine room, near the middle of the top deck. This allowed the previous drivetrains to be controlled from the pilot house with various levers and pulleys. The diesel-electric setup did not require this, so Ungeright moved the pilot house forward for better visibility. He also widened the bow deck for easier passenger boarding.
The Dixie's hull was designed to be flat bottomed. However, over the years the water pressure had caused the bottom to bow upward slightly. In 1955 Ungeright installed a series of hogchains to the hull to correct this problem.
Ungeright sold the Dixie to Tag Huffman in 1959. As previous owners had done, Ungeright remained available to train the new captain on the operations of the Dixie.
By 1958 Earl Ungeright was thinking about selling the Dixie. He was looking for someone who would carry on with the boat in its past tradition.
In 1958 Ernest "Tag" Huffman was a Chief Petty Officer and 20-year veteran of the Navy. In September of that year, Tag stayed at his brother Bob's house while on leave from the Navy. At that time Bob owned Fisherman Cove, which is adjacent to Dixie Camp.
Tag was considering retirement from the Navy. Bob asked what he planned to do as a civilian, and Tag stated that he had not thought much about it. As they admired the Dixie passing Fisherman Cove, Bob mentioned that it was for sale. Having heard of the Dixie as a boy, Tag wondered if this could be the same boat.
The more Tag thought about it, the more he liked the idea of piloting the Dixie. Tag and Bob took a ride on the Dixie that evening and discussed the possibilities with Earl. Tag was asked to take the wheel to see how well he could handle the boat. This was no problem, since Tag had taken the helm of much larger naval ships. By the end of the trip Earl had made a verbal agreement to sell the Dixie to Tag in 1959.
During the 1959 and 1960 seasons Ungeright trained Tag in all aspects of operating the Dixie boat and Dixie Camp. This solid understanding of the Dixie's operation and history allowed Tag to improve the Dixie while retaining its heritage.
Tag owned the Dixie for nearly 22 years, which is longer than any other owner; past or present. He sold Dixie Camp to Walter Nellesen in late 1980.
Leon Ash - Captain, 1927
Harold Gaskill - Captain (weekends only), 1932-1938