A family business with more than 80 years of tradition and reputation rooted in Mississippi River history was honored by the National Rivers Hall of Fame on November 4 as the late Eldon Newt, Gary Newt and Carter Newt of Newt Marine were named the recipients of the Hall of Fame’s Achievement Award, a distinction bestowed on individuals making significant contributions to America’s waterways.
Eldon Newt (1913-1994) did not shy away from opportunity and his ambition laid the groundwork for Newt Marine to come to life. After nearly a decade of marine experience, he pursued his pilot’s license in the midst of World War II, completing the 89-hour rigor to earn his license at the age of 33 and become one of the youngest captains on the Mississippi River. He is also believed to have been the first to earn his pilot and master’s licenses concurrently. He went on to secure licenses for nearly 5,000 miles of waterway on the Illinois, Ohio, and St. Croix Rivers. He passed on his knowledge and passion for the profession to his son, Gary, who with started the company in Dubuque at 20 years old in 1965.
At the time, Gary had the only harbor boat in town and with $500 of his own money and a loan from the bank and his father, he and Eldon offered harbor services and fleeting before expanding the services to short barge tows, construction, and pile-driving projects after receiving its first custom push boat, the Tigre, in the mid-1970’s. Eldon, Gary, and crew pushed the decommissioned 277-foot-long steam dredge Willian M. Black from Clinton, Iowa, to the Ice Harbor in Dubuque, where it became the very first exhibit for what is now the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. They also travelled to Gasconade, Missouri, and brought back the Black’s tender boat, the Tavern, along with a pipeline barge to complete the River Museum’s first exhibit.
The connection to the company spanned a third generation as Gary’s son, Carter, came aboard. Carter holds a biology degree from the University of Vermont and began to bid on habitat restoration projects, now comprising most of Newt Marine’s work. Newt Marine led the restoration projects at Harpers Slough Islands near Lansing, Iowa and removed rock formations near Thebes, Illinois which threatened transportation on the Missouri River when water levels dropped in 2012. Newt Marine grew to a fleet of 19 boats and more than 100 barges, building many of those barges themselves.
Newt Marine has made a profound impact in marine repairs, fleeting, construction, and environmental restoration spanning Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin. In 2010, the Army Corps of Engineers presented Newt Marine Services with an Environmental Merit Award for demonstrating excellence and the business continues to earn recognition more than a decade later.