St. Louis, MO Steamboat SHEPHERDESS Disaster, Jan 1844



The St. Louis papers of the 5th inst. contain accounts of a terrible steamboat disaster which occurred within a few miles of that city at about midnight on the 3d inst. We extract the following particulars from the St. Louis Gazette:
The steamer Shepherdess, commanded by Captain HOWELL, which left Cincinnati for St. Louis, about eight days since, with 250 passengers, nearly one hundred of whom are said to have perished, was wrecked within sight of this city on Wednesday night. The boat encountered no unusual obstacle, until last evening, about half past eleven o'clock, when she struck a snag at Cahokia Bend, about 3 miles below the city, and sunk immediately, and before a general alarm could be given. The mate had, but a moment before, reported five fathoms water, and yet he had not walked the length of the vessel when the water reached his shoulders. He saved himself by jumping overboard and gaining the hurricane deck, when the boat sunk.

The time -- the suddenness of the accident -- the unprepared state of the passengers -- the appalling character of the danger -- the intense coldness of the night (the coldest of the season) all operated to cause a most agonizing scene.

Men, women and children, almost naked, and partially submerged in the water, were calling for their relatives, or passing to and fro in chaotic confusion, endeavoring to obtain the means of self preservation; while others threw themselves into the river; and were drowned. Many incidents connected with this sad affair, are very distressing. Four children perished from exposure, while being conveyed from the wreck to the shore. The captain when last recognized, was climbing one of the irons which supported the chimneys. He is supposed to be drowned; also the carpenter, who was acting engineer. The greatest loss of life was sustained when the cabin separated from the hull. One of the passengers floated upon a portion of the wreck as far as Vuide Poche, when he was relieved from his uncomfortable situation.