• From: North Webster
  • Title: Dixie takes honor in being Indiana’s oldest sternwheeler
  • Press Release: Immediate Release

At dusk on Webster Lake, one by one porch lights begin to flash on and off as the infamous Dixie sternwheel paddleboat slowly peruses the still waters, creeping around the shoreline. Whether it is Captain Dan Thystrup or his brother, Captain Bo Thystrup at the helm, the familiar whistle sends a jovial response to those on shore.

Often described as the identity of North Webster, the Dixie has the prestigious honor of being Indiana’s oldest sternwheeler and the privilege of welcoming aboard passengers for daily cruises.

The present Dixie was built in 1929 by Joe Breeck, a blacksmith by trade and a licensed steamboat operator who also guided ferryboats on the Ohio River between Lamb, Ind., and Carrolton, Ky. In 1901, Joe and his wife, Eliza, traveled by covered wagon to North Webster, where the beauty of the lake struck them. By 1906, they bought what is now known as Breeck Island.

It was Breeck’s familiarity with large excursion steamboats that gave him the idea to attract visitors to Webster Lake. Around 1908, he built a small sternwheeler known as the City of Webster. The boat served as a floating blacksmith shop for lake residents. Legend has it that the boat overturned and sank in 1913.

The second sternwheeler, known as the Dixie, was also built by Breeck in 1914 and served again as his floating business. His time, however, he added a grocery store onboard that serviced the lake residents.

Following 14 years of usage, the Dixie’s wooden hull decayed beyond repair. Breeck salvaged what he could, including the whistle that was used aboard the first Dixie, then intentionally set the old Dixie on fire and watched it sink to the bottom of the lake.

Breeck built the Dixie as it is known today with a steel hull in 1929. Improvements and upgrades made over the years have allowed for the Dixie to remain a huge part of North Webster’s history. Among the most unique features of the historic vessel are its powertrain, which is from a 1928 Studebaker, and the fake smokestacks that were added for dramatic appeal in 1981.

To experience the Dixie, one-hour cruises are offered weekdays at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; hourly on Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and hourly on Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission is $14 per person and free for those 3 years old and under.