Cairo, IL Area Steamer STONEWALL Burns, Oct 1869
BURNING OF THE STEAMER STONEWALL -- TERRIBLE AFFAIR -- LARGE NUMBER OF LIVES LOST -- ONLY THIRTY-TWO OUT OF TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY SOULS SAVED -- THE ENTIRE CARGO DESTROYED.
St. Louis, Oct. 28.
A private dispatch to the Memphis packet company says: "The steamer Stonewall, burned this forenoon near Neely's Landing, on the Mississippi, about 45 miles above Cairo, and that 40 passengers and three of the crew were saved."
The Stonewall left here on Tuesday for New Orleans, with 160 cabin and deck passengers.
The inference from the dispatch is, that all those above the number mentioned perished.
MR. PHELPS, a planter of Shreveport, La., has arrived from the wreckof the Stonewall, and furnishes the following brief particulars of the terrible disaster to that boat. The boat caught fire at 6:30, Wednesday evening, at a point a little below Neeley's Landing, 125 miles below St. Louis, from a candle, which the deck passengers had near some hay, while playing cards. The steamer was run on a gravel bar, the pilot supposing that the passengers could wade ashore on the bar. Unfortunately, at the end of the bar there was a slough, and there it was that the larger number were drowned. The boat was not run on the bar more than two feet, and the shallowest part about her had 5 or 6 feet water. The boat had so much hay aboard that she burned like tinder, and all efforts to put it out proved unavailing.
The Belle Memphis came up at 9:30, three hours after the accident, and rendered all the assistance possible. Out of 252 passengers and crew, only 30 are known to be saved. The last seen of Capt. SCOTT he was floating down stream on a log.
The people at Neely's saw the light, and hastened to assist. One man rescued 15 persons with a skiff. Had it not been for their help all would have been lost. A gentleman from Paducah, Ky., swam ashore with a lady, and at her entreaty returned to save her child. In swimming ashore he was grasped by a drowning man, and would have been himself drowned had he not shook him off. One man was taken from the wreck so badly burned that he died as soon as he reached the shore.
There were 39 cabin passengers and 60 of the crew.
Quite a number of ladies were on board. All probably lost -- except one, FULKERSON, the pilot, and the carpenter were the only ones of the crew saved.
The Stonewall was owned by Capt. JOHN SHAW and DENNIS LONG, and was valued at $45,000.
She had about 800 tons of freight including 270 head of cattle, horses and mules which were insured.
Capt. SHAW had stopped off this trip, and Capt. TOM SCOTT was in command. The other officers were MILTON C. ELBERT, 1st clerk; WM. H. CHICK, 2d clerk; EDWARD FULKERSON and FRANK MURRAY, pilots; WILSE BEEBE, mate; GEO. FULTON, engineer, and JNO. DIONS, assistant engineer.
St. Louis, Oct. 28 -- later.
GEO. W. FULTON, chief engineer of the Stonewall, arrived here on the Belle Memphis and gives some further particulars:
Sixteen persons were saved by clinging to the stageplank, and 16 more swam ashore. These are all out of 250 to 260 souls on board of whose safety there is any certainty.
One man was picked up and brought ashore, but he died soon after.
The only officers of the boat known to be saved are GEO. W. FULTON, chief engineer; EDWARD FULKERSON, pilot; E. P. WATSON, carpenter; also the striker and two deck hands.
Of three ladies on board, only one, MRS. GREGG, who was going to New Orleans with her family to meet her husband, was saved.
Capt. SCOTT was last seen floating on a spar. Men on shore rode seven miles down stream on horseback in hopes of finding him, but without success.
The scene on board was heartrending. The flames spread with winderful rapidity under the action of a strong wind, and the passengers in wild terror crowded the forcastle until they were forced overboard in a mass and drowned each other in their desperate struggles to free themselves. Others would jump into the water, whirl around in the strong current for an instant, and disappear forever.
MR. FULTON jumped overboard and attempted to swim ashore, but coming in contact with a number of mules, he swam to and climbed upon the wheel of the boat. While there the steam pipe burst and the wheel revolved three times. He clung to it, however, and was finally waken ashore in a skiff.
CHAS. WILLIAMS, a deck hand, says he tried to smother the fire with blankets when it was first discovered, but the wind blew so strong he failed. An effort was also made to bring in the hose to play on the fire, but the crowd of frenzied deck passengers rushed with such irresistible force upon the men having it in charge, that they wre obliged to give it up.
WILLIAMS then threw overboard a bale of hay, and getting upon it, drifted under the stern of the boat, where he encountered the boat's yawl containing six men and a woman. He was taken in but having no oars they could not stem the current. WILLIAMS and the woman were put ashore and the remaining men made another attempt to reach the steamer, using the seats of the yawl for paddles, but the tide was too strong, and they were carried down the stream and seen no more.
WILLIAMS thinks not more than 30 persons were saved, but it is hoped that many were able to reach the shore at different points down the river, and that further information will show that the loss of life has not been so terrible and appalling as present advices indicate. There is no telegraph office within several miles of the scene of the disaster and no information later than 11 o'clock last night has been received.
Dubuque Daily Herald Iowa 1869-10-29