St. Louis, MO Steamer GLENCOE Disaster, Apr 1852

Explosion of the Glencoe


The steamer Glencoe arrived at St. Louis from New Orleans on Saturday night last, about half past eight o'clock, heavily laden, and was endeavoring to effect a landing between Chestnut and Pine. The Western World, Aleck Scott, Georgia and Cataract were lying at that part of the wharf, and the Glencoe was attempting an entrance between the Cataract and Georgia. She lay with her bow a little above the stern of the Georgia, when two or more of her boilers burst with a tremendous explosion, shattering the boat, and spreading death and destruction in every direction. There were about eighty deck passengers; and it is supposed that there were some twenty-eight or thirty in the cabin. The boat, in touching at several boats while endeavoring to land, had afforded a sufficient opportunity to many persons to indulge in a very reprehensible practice - that of boarding boats before they have touched the wharf. Her numbers were thereby considerably swelled, and the destruction of human life increased. The entire upper works of the Glencoe, forward of the pilot house - unfortunately the part where the majority of the passengers had gathered to witness the landing - were torn away. Chimneys, boilers, timbers and freight were scattered about with many human beings in every direction.

The work of destruction was not confined to the Glencoe. The after upper works of the Cataract, which lay close by, taking in the whole of the ladies' cabin, was destroyed. Other boats near by were visited, but to a less extent, by the calamity. Shortly after the explosion, the boat was discovered to be on fire, and simultaneously with the discovery commenced floating down. The full extent of the ruin presented itself as she passed down. The cabin forward of the wheel house was gone. A portion of it had been thrown on the freight piled at the forecastle, this mass rising as high as the after hurricane deck. The flames were burning fiercely about where the boilers had bee, and spreading rapidly to all sides. From the shore, many human beings, men and women, could be descried hurrying from one side to the other, desperately seeking some place of escape. One or two poor fellows who had been scalded and afterwards caught in the falling timbers, were seen motioning and heard crying wildly for assistance, as the flames reached and enveloped them. The scene was a most horrible one. As the boat continued to glide down, her yawl became filled with the surviving passengers. The yawls of some other boats also were pushed out, and succeeded in saving others. It was impossible to form any correct idea of the killed and wounded. We have heard the number variously estimated, from forty to one hundred.
The scenes witnessed immediately after the occurrence of the catastrophe were of the most heart-rending description. Several men, their faces blackened, their clothes wet and soiled with ashes, were hurrying along the Levee and crying for relief. One body on the Cataract had the head blown entirely off. The body of a lady, so horribly mangled that it scarcely held together, was taken from the ruins of the Cataract's ladies' cabin. She was not, of course, identified. It was through that she had been blown from the ill-fated Glencoe. A little girl, aged about thirteen, was also picked up on the Cataract, and it was for a while believed that she could be saved. But a closer examination by the physicians revealed one or two fatal wounds, which induced the opinion that she would not survive.

The body of the first clerk, PATRICK DENNING, was picked up on the hurricane deck of the Western World, horribly mangled. Lying upon his arm was the body of a young girl, apparently about thirteen years of age, also dreadfully disfigured. From the close proximity in which they fell, it is supposed he was preparing to conduct her off the boat.
Ten bodies were buried from DR. COLEMAN'S office; but three of whom were recognized. The body of EDWARD McCARY was recognized by his unfortunate wife, who in a dreadful state of mind, visited the Health Office. One of the boys was recognized by a former play-fellow, as JOHNNY GREY, of New Orleans and the other was known to be the body of the commander's son.