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Chowan River, NC Steamer OLIVE Struck By Tornado, Feb 1903

Steamship Olive, NC.jpg

SEVENTEEN DROWN IN STORM.

RIVER STEAMBOAT OVERTURNED BY A HURRICANE AND ONLY A FEW OF THOSE ON BOARD SAVED.

Norfolk, Va., Feb. 17. -- A hurricane struck the passenger steamboat Olive, which piles between Franklin, Va., and Edenton, N.C., early this morning and sent her to the bottom of the Chowan River, off Woodley's Pier between Mount Pleasant and Oliver's Wharf.
Seventeen persons are known to have been drowned and others who were rescued are in a serious condition. Eight persons who set off in a lifeboat are missing. In it were the engineers, purser and three passengers.
The whirlwind when it struck the Olive caused her to go over on her beam end, and when she righted it was only to sink on account of the water she had taken. A majority of the passengers and crew were below at the time, and had no opportunity to reach the pilothouse, which was the only portion of the vessel left above water.
In the pilothouse Capt. GEORGE WITHY, the colored stewardess, and two white passengers stood waist deep in water from the time of the accident until 6 o'clock this morning, when they were rescued, almost frozen, by the river steamboat Pettit.
Among those who were drowned were:
CHARLES LASSITER, a hardware salesman.
MRS. BENNETT of Franklin, Va., and her young child.
An aged white woman, and a white man.
The others who perished were negro passengers and members of the crew.
The Olive was a small single screw steamboat owned by J. A. Pretlow of Franklin, Va., and had been plying between North Carolina and Virginia ports for several years. She left Franklin last evening for Edenton and had almost reached her destination when the storm struck her.
"We left Franklin yesterday morning at 11 o'clock," said Capt. WITHY. "A heavy southwest wind was blowing. At 9 o'clock we passed Hollies Wharf and headed for Edenton Bay. The weather became so heavy that I would not risk the open water and put the boat about to return up the river for safety. It was just about 2 o'clock when everything became inky black and a terrible roaring broke out of the night. I was alone in the pilothouse, and most of those below had turned in. In a second something struck the boat on her port beam and turned her over on her starboard side. A monster wave dashed over us, flooded the hold, and smashed everything around us."
"In less than two minutes after having been struck the boat was resting on the bottom, with only the pilot house above the river."

New York Times New York 1903-02-18



article | by Dr. Radut