Henderson, KY (near) Storm Wrecks Steamer BELMONT, Aug 1884



Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 29. -- The steamer BELMONT, which sand at a point three miles above Henderson, Ky., about 9:30 this morning, during a storm, had on board a number of passengers of the Henderson Divisioni of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, besides several local passengers bound for Henderson. The boat, which was a large new one, had in tow two barges, on which were six cars. The storm, which came upon the steamer suddenly, capsized her before she went down in the middle of the river. The barges broke loose and drifted to the shore, enabling those on board of them to escape. Conductor WOOD, of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, swam ashore, and was with difficulty revived. The train crew was on the barges.
It is estimated that from 20 to 25 persons were drowned, including Capt. JOHN SMITH, commander of the BELMONT, and 5 ladies and 8 children. As soon as the facts were known that a disaster had befallen the steamer, the railroad authorities at Henderson took steps to recover the bodies of the passengers. The steamer IRON CLIFF was sent to the scene, and the bodies of MRS. HATTIE M. MURRAY, of Mobile, Ala., and her child, and also that of an unknown elderly lady, were recovered. When found MRS. MURRAY had her baby, only 6 months old, in her arms.
She had been on a visit to friends in Osage, Kan., and was to have met her husband in Nashville. MR. MURRAY arrived here to-day, and upon hearing of the accident telegraphed to Henderson and was informed of the sad fate of his wife and child. He left here this afternoon on a special train for Henderson, where the bodies are in charge of an undertaker.
Owing to the fact that Capt. SMITH was drowned, it is impossible to ascertain the names of the lost. DORSEY C. PIERCE, agent at Nashville of the ADAMS and Southern Express Companies, and his daughter, MISS ANNA, were on the boat, but managed to escape with their lives. MATTHEW BRADLEY, train dispatcher of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, who was one of the passengers, also escaped. A train was made up and sent from Henderson about noon, but upon reaching Baker's Station, 18 miles from Nashville, was detained by a wreck, and did not arrive here until nearly 10 o'clock. It bore most of the passengers who escaped. As the storm has been prevailing nearly all day between Henderson and Nashville, prostrating the wires, no information could be obtained until the arrival of the train in this city.
DORSEY C. PIERCE, one of the passengers, informed The Times's correspondent that when he and his daughter left Evansville, at 7:50 o'clock, the weather was perfectly calm, there being no sign of a storm. They had only been out a short time when a heavy wind came up. A black cloud appeared in the northeast, containing a great deal of wind but very little lightning. The wind first blew from the northwest toward the front of the steamer. It then blew down the river. The steamer tried to go toward the Indiana side, where it could hug the shore and be sheltered from the gale. This could not be done, and the wind struck the boat full in the side. The fastenings connecting her with the barges broke, and she turned over and sank. "I think the steamer sprung a leak, judging from the way she went down, and a young married lady and her child, who were sitting near me, went into the steamer with another lady and were never seen again. The lady with the child left a valise marked 'J.G.M.' on the train. This lady is supposed to have been on her way from St. Louis to Nashville. I think there were about eight persons lost, though there may have been more. Two drummers and three of the boat's crew were saved by sticking to the upper side of the steamer and getting upon its bottom. They were brought ashore in skiffs. The barge upon which the cars were placed was blown into the Kentucky shore and was made fast to the shore."
It was ascertained from another passenger that MISS FRANCES MARTIN, sister of MRS. MURRAY, was one of the victims. MR. BRADLEY said that the barge had two passenger coaches, an express car, a mail car, and three freight cars. When the storm came up the steamer begain to rock to such an extent that both of her pilots went to the wheel. There was much confusion of board. "Finally the wind grew fiercer, and, standing on the barge, I looked around and saw that the boat had disappeared. The strom had then lasted about 40 minutes, and in 10 minutes more it was over. The passengers were not frightened much until the smokestack of the BELMONT was blown to the deck by the wind."

The New York Times New York 1884-08-30