Columbia, AR Steamer J. WILSON Explodes, Jan 1853


A correspondent of the New Orleans True Delta gives the following:

Columbia, Ark., Jan. 6, 1853.
The new steamer J. WILSON, as she was leaving the landing at Columbia on the 6th inst. burst two of her boilers, carrying off the forecastle and nearly one-third of the hurricane roof. One of the boilers was blown ashore, a distance of more than fifty yards. In its passage it struck the upper story of the Phoenix Exchange Coffee House, belonging to Captain PETER ROWLETT, which it completely demolished. That part of the building was used for gambling purposes, and from which a party of gentlemen had just retired.
All of the stauncheons of the ill fated vessel forward of the cook house were carried off, which caused the social hall and the forward part of the gentlemen's cabin to give way, precipitating all that were in that part of the boat into the fire and steam below.
The money chest, together with the books and papers, were blown overboard and lost. The wreck drifted about twelve miles, to opposite the plantation of JAMES B. MILES, where she sank in about six fathoms water. The life of Captain JOHN ROTAN, the commander of the WILSON, was miraculously preserved, though he did not escape serious injury. He is under the care of a skillful physician, who entertains strong hopes of his recovery.
Two of the engineers lost their lives. MR. WHITE, the head engineer, was not on board at the time of the accident. The number of lives lost is supposed to be forty, though some of the survivors think the number much larger. Many of the survivors attach no blame to the officers of the boat -- others say that Capt. ROTAN had been drinking all day, and was intoxicated at the time of the accident. We shall know more of the matter hereafter, as it will undergo a legal investigation.
MR. WHITEWELL, of this County, who had taken passage, lost his life. His remains were brought ashore in a shockingly mangled condition.
The J. WILSON was entirely new, built by the enterprises of Capt. JOHN ROTAN and J. M. CRAIG, of this County. She was built expressly for the cotton trade, and cost the enterprising builders $18,000. She was insured in the Marine Fire Insurance Company, Louisville, for $9000; the loss to the owners will consequently be $9,000.
The J. WILSON had just taken aboard a valuable lot of freight, belonging to MESSRS A. H. DAIVIS and JOHNSON CHAPMAN, which they will lose.

The New York Times New York 1853-01-25