Grand Tower, IL Steamer CITY OF PADUCAH Sinking, May 1901

Frightful Accident

Steamer City of Paducah Strikes a Snag in the Night on the Mississippi River.

Quickly Went Down

Bodies of Two Passengers Recovered-Twenty-Two Members of the Crew Missing-Passenger List Is Lost-Full Extent of the Disaster at Present Unknown.

St. Louis, Mo., May 13.-A special to the Post-Dispatch from Grand Tower, Ill., says:

The steamer City of Paducah sank in 25 feet of water five minutes before 10 o’clock last night in less than five minutes after striking a snag, while backing out from Brunkhorst landing. The bodies of two passengers who were drowned have been recovered and 22 members of the crew, most of them negroes, are missing. All of the officers were saved.

First Mate Tobias Toyal of St. Louis says only about 12 passengers were on board and all were saved, except two. The body of Dr. J. W. Bell of Bell’s Landing, Tenn., was taken out of his state room. The remains of a young woman, on which was a visiting card reading “Mrs. Harry L. Allen, 3430 Eads avenue, St. Louis,” was recovered from her state room. Two friends traveling with the drowning woman, who started back to St. Louis on the steamer City of Clifton, said that the young woman was engaged to marry Dr. C. A. Meredith of St. Louis. Several hundred dollars worth of jewelry was found on her body.

The passenger list has not been recovered. A diver is searching for it. Only the Texas and the hurricane decks are above water, which reaches to the skylights of the cabin. All the state rooms are completely filled with water. The steamboat drifted a third of a mile below the landing before she sank. The first mate says the boat went down within three minutes after striking the snag. He was on the cabin deck and escaped by climbing through the skylight.

It is supposed that most of the missing deck hands, who were on the lower deck, were washed down the river. The boat lies down about 100 feet from the Illinois shore, the fore part of the hurricane deck being under water. She appears to be a total wreck. The coroner of Murphysboro, Ill., is now holding an inquest, while the diver is searching for more bodies.

Thomas Johnston, watchman of the boat, who is said to be among the lost, was 85 years of age and had been a steamboat man for 60 years. He lived in St. Louis.

The steamer City of Clifton, which took on board the remainder of the crew and passengers of the City of Paducah, had not put in an appearance at her wharf here up to midnight. Capt. Massengate, the agent of the company, said she was undoubtedly stalled at St. Genevieve, Ill., 60 miles below St. Louis, owing to a low stage of water on the bar there, in which even she would have to wait until daylight before trying to proceed. No additional news regarding the loss of life had been received at the office of the company up to midnight. A message from the captain of the City of Clifton stated that the bodies of Miss Gardner and Dr. Bell had been sent to Cairo, Ill., for embalming and that the remains of the former would arrive in this city on an early morning train.

All night long a crowd of anxious relatives and friends thronged the office of the company awaiting the arrival of the City of Clifton. Efforts were made to get additional tidings of the wreck from that vessel by telephone to points along the river, but they were unavailing. Divers left here tonight for the scene of the wreck.
Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT 15 May 1901

Reports Grow Worse.

Only Seven Persons Said to Have Escaped Alive.

Carbondale, Ill., May 13.-The City of Paducah, a Mississippi packet, was sunk near Brunkhorst’s Landing, about four miles north of Grand Tower, about 12 o’clock Sunday night. Between 25 and 50 people were drowned, only seven of those on board escaping. The City of Paducah left St. Louis Sunday morning on a downward trip, stopping at several landings and taking on freight, most of which was corn, until the boat was heavily loaded.

Between 11 and 12 o’clock Miss Fannie Block, who, in company with her parents, Rev. and Mrs. Block, was going from St. Louis to Evansville, Ind., was aroused from sleep by a sudden jar. She asked her mother if her berth had broken, and no sooner had the words passed her lips than water rushed into the apartments and they were compelled to act quickly to save their lives. With four others they escaped to the Illinois shore by holding on to driftwood and swimming. The seven saved were Hebrews. Rev. Block is a Jewish rabbi.

The seven survivors of the catastrophe made their way down the river to Grand Tower, where they were given lodging until this morning. They lost all their clothes and valuables and had nothing but their underwear and blankets about them.

Among the drowned were about 25 negro roustabouts. The upper structure of the boat can be seen above the water.

Rev. Block, wife and daughter passed through Carbondale this morning on their way to Evansville, where they will reside. Frank White, who comes from Kansas City, got aboard at Landing No. 75, north of Brunkhorst. He told the following story of the disaster:

“I got on the boat at Landing 75 to go to Cairo. The boat stopped at Lake Ditch Landing and again at Brunkhorst, which is only a few miles below Lake Ditch, and took on corn. At both places about 17 sacks were loaded. After the corn at Brunkhorst had been placed on board the boat started down stream, and just as she put off struck a snag, tearing a big hole in her.

“The crew then tried to place the stern of the boat toward the river, and while turning her around she sank. She is about 30 feet from shore and her cabin and pilot house are above water. I jumped into a skiff and got ashore. A Jewish rabbi, his wife and daughter got into a skiff and went to Grand Tower.

“I don’t know how many were aboard, but think there were about 25 drowned. Among them were two engineers, one white woman and about 15 negroes. There was great confusion and it may be more are drowned, and it is likely others of the party saved will tell different stories of the catastrophe. I was glad to get out alive and did not tarry at the scene. The boat sank about 10 o’clock Sunday night.”

Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT 15 May 1901


Only Five Lives Lost

Missing Deck Hands of the City of Paducah Have Turned Up and Demanded Their Pay-Revised List of the Dead.

St. Louis, Mo., May 15.-The Globe-Democrat today says:

It is now definitely known that not more than five lives were lost in the wreck of the steamer City of Paducah, at Brunkhorst Landing, Ill., Sunday night, and even this number may be reduced to four.

Manager Massingale has received telegrams from Captain Kirkpatrick, at the scene of the wreck, stating that the negro roustabouts and deck hands who had been reported as missing had all been accounted for and that most of them had returned to the wreck.

The following is a list of the dead, which the company officials believe to be correct:

MISS MABEL GARDINER, passenger, St. Louis.
DR. J.W. BELL, passenger, Bell’s Landing, Tenn.
CHARLES JOHNSON, deck watchman, St. Louis.
JAMES CANFIELD, second fireman, St. Louis.
WHITE FIREMAN, name unknown.

Frank Jones, one of the negro deck hands of the City of Paducah, reported missing, appeared at the office of Captain Massingale’s today and demanded his two days’ pay. Jones said he was in the bow of the boat pulling in a line when she struck. He and two other men leaped into the water and struck out for the Missouri shore, nearly a mile distant. One of his companions, a negro, was drowned, but the other, a white man, reached the shore with him in safety.

According to the negro’s story, he boarded a freight train on the Iron Mountain road and beat his way back to St. Louis.

Captain Massingale says the deck hands who were reported missing continue to turn up, and his record shows that only five persons were drowned.

Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT 15 May 1901