Princeton, MS Steamer ORONOKO Explosion, Apr 1838 - Killed & Wounded


On Saturday morning, at six o'clock, April 21st,1838, the steamboat Oronoko, Capt. John Crawford, came to anchor in the Mississippi, opposite Princeton, one hundred miles above Vicksburg, where she stopped for the purpose of sending her yawl ashore to receive some passengers. In less than five minutes after the machinery ceased moving, a flue collapsed, spreading death and devastation throughout the boat. This accident occurred before the people on board were aroused from their slumbers, The deck passengers were lodged on the lower deck, abaft the engine, where, as is customary in western steamboats, berths were provided for their accommodation. On this occasion the number of berths was insufficient, as the boat was thronged with emigrants, and mattresses had been spread over the floor for the use of those who could not be lodged in the berths. This apartment between decks was densely crowded with sleeping passengers, when the flue collapsed, as aforesaid, and the steam swept through the whole length of the boat with the force of a tornado, carrying everything before it. Many of the crew, whom duty had called on deck at that early hour, were blown overboard ; and as the scalding vapor penetrated every part and recess of the cabin and space between decks, the slumbering population of the boat, with scarcely an individual exception, were either killed on the spot, or injured in a manner more terrible than death itself. Some of these unfortunates were completely excoriated, some shockingly mangled and torn, while others were cast among masses of ruins, fragments of wood and iron, piled up in inextricable confusion.

The deck was strewn with more than fifty helpless sufferers ; the river was all alive with those that had been hurled overboard by the force of the explosion, and those who, frantic with pain and terror, had cast themselves into the water. Some of those who had been scalded swam to the bank, and then in the wildest phrenzy, occasioned by in¬tolerable agony, leaped back into the water and were drowned. Those persons who occupied the cabin generally escaped before the steam reached that apartment ; but one gentleman, Mr. Myers, of Wheeling, while making his way forward with his child in his arms, became alarmed at the scene of confusion and distress which presented itself, and rushing back to the cabin, which by this time was filled with steam, he and the child were both badly burned, and died soon afterwards.

Nearly one hundred deck passengers are supposed to have been sacrificed, the names of a great majority of whom were unknown, and are therefore not inserted in the subjoined list.

PERSONS KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN KILLED—John Porter, second engineer, of Shippingsport, Kentucky; Owen Owens, Welshman, (blown overboard and drowned ;) Mr. Myers, of Wheeling, and his child, eight months old ; John Walker, fireman ; E. Webb, Trumbull county, Ohio ; P. McGallagher, brother and child, Mr. and Mrs. Flanegan, and two children, of Ireland ; R. Hardenbroch, and Joseph Gilman, firemen, of Pittsburgh ; Martha Mulligan, of Ireland; Wm. Jackson, Dr. Young, Georgia ; Samuel Smith, New York ; V. Armstrong, Virginia ; Walter Dillon, Boston ; E. D. Murray, Syracuse, New York ; Dr. Williams, J. B. Clawson, M. D. Perry, Bath, Maine ; Jethro Jacks, Mass. ; O. Arbinger, Louisville ; S. Winters, Indiana ; David Few, Lexington, Kentucky; John Bloodgood, B. Hunter, New Hampshire ; D. Atkinson and U. Terrebonne, Louisiana; M. Dorsey, Kentucky ; Miss Wilhoite, Rhode Island; C. Torrence, Missouri ; Mary Ann Bostick, Cincinnati; A. Hemfield, — Delaney, New Orleans; Charles Olmstead, South Carolina ; A. Dinwiddie, Maine ; and three others, not named.

The WOUNDED :—George Pettibone, of New York ; Joseph Tunis, Baton Rouge, Louisiana ; Enoch Heritage, Cincinnati, Ohio ; William Clayton, Galloway county, Kentucky ; George Henry, Wheeling, Virginia ; Wm. Haynes, Frederick county, Maryland ; S. Smith, Onondaga county, New York ; James Lloyd Harrington, Roxbury, Massachusetts ; wife and child of P. Gallagher ; George Snodgrass, Cooper county, Mo.

Several of those mentioned in the list of wounded died of their injuries. Some of those blown overboard were picked up by the yawl, and two or three were saved by a skiff from the shore. The inhabitants of Princeton did all in their power to assist the distressed crew and passengers, and to alleviate their sufferings.

Lloyd's Steamboat Disasters, pages 105-107