Cairo, IL Area Explosion On The Steamer OCEANUS, Apr 1872




Cairo, Ill., April 12. -- The bodies of CHAS. WORSHAM, second clerk, and J. DEMPEWOLF, steward, of the OCEANUS, were forwarded to St. Lewis[sic] this morning for burial. The steamer RICHMOND passed the scene of the disaster last evening, but brought no additional particulars here. No opinions are given as to the probable cause of the explosion.

St. Louis, Mo., April 12. -- A special dispatch to the Democrat, from Cairo, relative to the explosion of the steamer OCEANUS, says FISHER, the carpenter, describes the scene as terrible and heart-rending. The river around the wreck was covered with debris, baggage, bed clothing, beds, &c., much of it burning. The cabin and about half the deck had floated off and was burning. The Captain was in the midst of the fire screaming for help, and men and women in the water were throwing up their hands and sinking to rise no more. Six or eight persons were on the forecastle, and FISHER got out the stage plank, and all except himself got upon it; but as soon as it struck the water, the plank careened, and all upon it perished. The steamer John Lumsden saved JOHN MEEKER, CHAS. TEASDORF and JOHN MARTIN. WIGGINS, the Red River pilot, and TRIPP, are both dead. Capt. WORSHAM, the first clerk, Capt. REEDES, the commander, the steward, C. F. HUFF, a passenger, of Covington, and many others, are missing. It is thought from sixty to seventy persons were lost.

The steamer Belle of St. Louis arrived here this morning, with twenty-eight survivors of the OCEANUS disaster, and the bodies of seven who died along the way. The books and papers of the steamer are lost, and a complete list of the passengers and crew cannot, therefore, be given. The following is a list of the dead, missing and saved, as far as is now known:

Passengers Dead -- C. D. HULL, of Covington, Ky.; J. H. LINDERMAN, of New York; CHARLES BLACKSMITH, of Chicago.

Crew Dead -- ALEXANDER CONNELLY, second engineer; JOHN RIDDY, deck hand; MORGAN FOLEY, roustabout; J. B. STEWART, fireman.
Passengers missing -- F. M. SLIGHT, of Girard, Penn.; GEO. BOREN, of Lyons, Iowa; GEO. CONSTABLE and wife, of Noyes' Circus; PETER WAGONER, of Mount Pleasant, Texas; ALBERT JOHNSON, of Bloomington, Ill.

Crew missing -- ALF. REEDER, Captain; A. W. WORSHAM, second clerk; HARRY TRIPP, pilot; JOHN HARRIS, pilot; GEO. WIGGINS, pilot; WM. OWENS, bar-keeper; MRS. WALLACE, chambermaid; JAMES JOHNSON, fireman; ALLEN COOK, fireman; HENRY MOGUSTKY, cook; WM. WISE, porter; CHAS. BURKET, second steward; BEN BUCK, cabin boy; GEO. CLARK, Texas-tender; BILLY HART, deck-sweeper; MATT. O'SHEA, deck hand.

Passengers Saved -- F. JOHNSON JENKINS, of Shreveport, La.; CHARLES CARPENTER, of Portsmouth, Ohio; JOHN FREY, of Mount Pleasant, Texas, badly burned; MATHEW SCULLY, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; D. B. ROURKE, of Corsicana, Texas; O. BLOOMER, of Bloomington; G. F. BEATTY, of Henderson, Ky., badly bruised; JOHN NOONAN, of St. Louis, badly burned; C. LOOMAN, of Carlisle, slightly burned; FRANK WILLIAMS, of St. Martins, Texas; ROBERT CHEW, of Junction City, Kansas, slightly burned; JOE UNKE; JOHN B. MARTIN, of Belleville, Ill.; CHRIS. ZELLSDORF, of Rochester, Minn.; DAN. McCURE, of Memphis; GEORGE KEIGHTLEY, chief engineer; PATRICK LAVIN, watchman; OSCAR JOYCE, mate, badley burned; WILLIS WEBB, fireman; J. B. STEWART, fireman, badly burned; FOREST LAMME, roustabout; JOHN GIBBONS, roustabout; MARTIN NEEDHAM, roustabout; MIKE O'NEALLY, roustabout; HENRY SMITH, roustabout; MARTIN BALL, deck hand; JOHN ROSS, cabin boy; CHARLES ZIMMER, third cook, not hurt.

The bodies of the second clerk, WORSHAM, and the steward DEMPERWOLF arrived on the Cairo short line this morning in charge of S. B. FISHER, the carpenter. The dead on the boat present a horrible appearance, their bodies being swollen, and many of the bodies were of the color of raw beef, the skin having been entirely scalded off. Those not otherwise designated are not injured. It was the middle boiler that exploded. The engineer said he went on watch but a few moments before the explosion, and tried five gauges in all of which found plenty of water. He then walked back to get a cup of coffee, and in five minutes the explosion occurred. ROBERT CHEW, one of the proprietors of the Atlantic and Pacific Circus, saved himself by means of a plank. He thinks GEORGE CONSTABLE and wife, circus performers, from California; FRANK SLATE and FRANK WILLIAMS, also circus men, were drowned. GEORGE KEITHLEY, first engineer, who was on watch when the explosion occurred, says the boat had just struck the bar, the engines had been stopped, and he glanced at his watch to note the time, when the explosion occurred with terrible force. One of the boilers was blown back to the cylinders, and the whole forward part of the boat, including the pilot-house, texas and forward state rooms were scattered right and left. The boat took fire instantly, and the startled and half nude passengers, who were not killed, awoke to the terrible reality. But one boat was left, and that was badly broken. The officers did all they could to assist the passengers. Capt. REEDER and his clerk, HENRY M. WORSHAM, gathered together the life preservers that were left in the back part of the cabin, and distributed them to the half-distracted passengers. There were but two females on board, MRS. CONSTABLE and the chambermaid, named WALLACE.
Various statements have been made during the day by the survivors of the OCEANUS disaster, but they relate almost entirely to personal experience, and throw little or no light on the cause of the explosion. The dead bodies brought up by the Belle of St. Louis will, be held for inquest. Those of the wounded not able to take care of themselves, have been taken charge of by the city, and sent to the various hospitals. Most of the passengers remain here. One of the pilots states that it would have been impossible for the steamer to ground at the point, the explosion took place, as asserted by GEO. KITHBY, first engineer.

The New York Times New York 1872-04-13