Cairo, IL Explosion Of The Steamer BEN LEWIS, June 1860



The St. Louis Republican beings full details of the explosion of the steamboat BEN LEWIS, at Cairo on the 25th. The following is the statement of MR. H. H. HARRISON, of Lexington, Mo., a passenger on board the ill-fated vessel:
"About 1 o'clock Monday morning, shortly after backing out from Cairo and sailing around a sand bar, I had stepped out on the boiler deck, and had gone upon the steps leading to the lower deck, when suddenly I was brought to a pause by a loud report as if a connon had been fired off nigh and under me, the dead silence and the darkness of the surrounding scene making the thing far more startling. But I had no time to think, nor ability to act, for I felt myself whirled helplessly up into the air, and then I knew the boat had exploded her boiler or her boilers. I fell near to where I had been standing, and I saw that all the boat seemed to be a broken and tumbling mass, for a part of the woodwork of the cabin, the chimnies and the heavy bell came in a confused mass, falling right over me, but luckily some beam or sticks lay right over me, keeping me from being killed. However, as it was, I got so pressed that I could hardly draw a breath. After a little while I worked myself out, and heard continued cries of "Oh, God!' 'Oh, God!" uttered in such an agonizing tone that I could not help being affected by the invocations. I thought that these cries were from the firemen. When I got out and could look about, what was once the cabin seemed to be now down to the level of the boilers. In a few moments a body of flame rolled over the larboard side, extended and enwrapped the wheel-house, and then that fell in. Some deck hands than came and helped me to thrust three stage planks over the side, and we tied the ends of them to the guard of the boat. I saw nobody but the first clerk of the boat, MR. MARSHALL, coming out of the cabin; he was scalded and in a bid plight. He jumped overboard to escape the heat, got a hold of one of the stages, and held on until taken off by a skiff. The skiff played around cautiously for some time, and was hailed several times by the clerk and the man in the skiff at last inquired. 'Is that you, MARSHALL?' and was answered, 'Yes.' He then came up and took off MARSHALL, myself and several deck hands. I was told, but don't know how true it is, that this gentleman had two daughters aboard, who were lost. My partner told me he saw them standing on the boat, frantically screaming, join hands and jump overboard. My partner's name is MARTIN, and he was saved. He was bound to some place near Hannibal, Mo. He jumped overboard, and would have been drowned but for a rope which he caught when nearly exhausted and helpless."
The following is a list of those lost or not found so far as their names could be ascertained:
FRANK DEVLIN, steward.
DAVID CHRISTIE, second steward.
Chambermaid drowned.
JOHN BOMER, Scott County, Mo.
HARRIS, second clerk.
SHEPHERD, bar-keeper.
WILLIAM DENENY, mail agent, missing. Supposed to have been lost.
The BEN LEWIS was one of the regular St. Louis and Memphis line. She was built by Capt. BRIERLY, only two years ago, at St. Louis, and was in all respects a first-class steamer. The cause of the disaster to this -- which had the entire confidence of the public, and has been very successful -- remains, and doubtless will remain forever a mystery. Her value was $40,000, and there is an insurance on her in St. Louis and in Pittsburgh, of $25,000.

The New York Times New York 1860-06-30