Florence, GA Steamer REBECCA EVERINGHAM Burns, Apr 1884
TO THE WATER'S EDGE.
BURNING OF THE STEAMER REBECCA EVERINGHAM.
THE CHATTAHOOCHEE'S WORST DISASTER SINCE THE CLOSE OF THE WAR.
TWENTY LIVES LOST -- HEROISM OF GEORGE H. LAPHAM, THE PILOT.
(Special Dispatch to The Boston Globe)
Savannah, Ga., April 3. -- The steamer Rebecca Everingham of the Central line boats plying between Columbus, Ga., and Apalachicola, Fla., on the Chattahoochee River, burned to the water's edge at Fitzgerald's Landing, four miles above Florence, Ga., and twenty-eight miles above Eufaula, Ala., at 4 o'clock this morning. Besides thirty passengers and a crew of eleven men, the steamer carried 300 bales of cotton and a miscellaneous cargo of freight. The fire is supposed to have had its origin in a falling particle of carbon from the electric light which the boat carried among the cotton.
The boat was in midstream when the alarm was given and before the passengers could be aroused was enveloped in flames, which, fanned by the wind, leaped high into the air with a roar which added to the terrors of the situation. The passengers rushed on deck only to find themselves faced by almost certain death, and while some huddled together shrieking and praying, others in despair leaped into the cold water and sank in the sight of those who still stuck to the boat. Though the flames made his house almost untenable, the pilot stood at the wheel and headed the boat for shore. While the run was being made the excitement was constantly increasing, and many leaped overboard and were drowned who might have been saved. Among these were three ladies, one of whom pressed a babe to her breast as she sprang to her death. Within thirty minutes after the bank was touched, and the few that it was possible to save had been landed, the boat burned down to the hull, and severing her mooring she drifted into the stream and sank half a mile lower down the river.
Among those who are known to have perished are:
W. L. KENNEDY, Spring Hill, Ala., deputy sheriff of Barbour County.
MRS. AVART, Cuthbert, Ga.
MISS SIMPSON, Fort Gaines, Ga., a sister of MRS. AVART.
JULIA ADAMS (colored), a stewardess on the steamer.
RALPH THOMAS, (colored) fireman.
RANDALL SINGER, (colored) deck hand.
A. J. STEPHENS, (colored) deck hand.
ROBERT GRIFFIN, (colored) stevedore.
A colored woman, name unknown
An unknown child.
J. H. HIGHTOWER, Eufaula, a white passenger.
J. B. YATES.
Two unknown white passengers.
E. D. WILLIAMS of Lagrange is among the saved, but is so seriously burned that his recovery is doubtful. Captain GEORGE WHITESIDE, Second Engineer JOHN T. CAREY and two wagon and two boat loads of survivors reached Eufaula Lake this evening. Among them was Pilot GEORGE H. LAPHAM, to whose heroism and that of his young son those who did escape and indebted for their lives. When the pilot saw the danger they were in he did not wait for the boat to touch the bank, but ordered his son overboard with a rope, who swam ashore, made fast and then swam back and went to work to save life. The pilot was the last to leave the deck, having first saved two ladies and his wounded captain. The pilot, who furnishes the above list of the lost, says that it is yet impossible to give an accurate estimate of the lost, but by the small number seen alive after the disaster, he says that there is no doubt that the death list will exceed twenty.
J. B. YATES had a presentiment of the disaster and spoke of his fears before leaving home. He slept with his clothes on and was one of the first to reach the deck after the alarm was given, and the first ashore when the boat struck. He says that he is certain that several passengers were suffocated in their berths. he himself had difficulty in groping his way out of the cabin. He was too terrified to assist any of the other passengers. None of the boat's officers were lost.
The cotton aboard the vessel was valued at $18,000. Two hundred bales belonged to H. L. Hall & Co., of Eufaula and was covered by insurance in the Sea Insurance Company of Liverpool. The balance, 150 bales, was not insured. The steamer was built about two years ago, and was the newest and handsomest craft on the Chattahoochee River. She belonged to the Georgia Central Railroad and was valued at $25,000. She was probably insured. The passengers who reached shore were almost nude, but were provided with what clothing the needy people of Fitzgerald Landing could furnish them. This is the most shocking disaster on the Chattahoochee since the explosion of a Confederate gunboat near Fort Gaines, when eighteen lives were lost.
Boston Daily Globe Massachusetts 1884-04-04
The death of many of these was the result of burns.