Cincinnati, OH Area Steamboat MOSELLE Explosion, Apr 1838

Steamboat Moselle Explosion, Apr 1838

It happened, unfortunately, that the larger number of the passengers were collected on the upper deck, to which the balmy sir and delicious weather seemed to invite them in order to expose them to more certain destruction. It was understood, too, that the captain of this ill-fated steamer hid expressed his determination to outstrip an opposition boat which had just started ; the people on shore were cheering the Moselle in anticipation of her success in the race, and the passengers and crew on the upper deck responded to these acclamations, which were soon changed to sounds of mourning and distress.

Intelligence of the awful calamity spread rapidly through the city ; thousands rushed to the spot, and the most benevolent aid was promptly extended to the sufferers, or, as we should rather say, to such as were within the reach of human assistance, for the majority had perished. A gentleman who was among those who hastened to the wreck, declares that he witnessed a scene so sad and distressing that no language can depict it with fidelity. On the shore lay twenty or thirty mangled and still bleeding corpses ; while many persons were engaged in dragging others of the dead or wounded from the wreck or the water. But, says the same witness, the survivors presented the most touching objects of distress, as their mental anguish seemed more insupportable than the most intense bodily suffering. Death bad torn asunder the most tender ties ; but the rupture had been so sudden and violent that none knew certainly who had been taken or who had been spared. Fathers were distractedly inquiring for children, children for parents, husbands and wives for each other. One man had saved a son, but lost a wife and five children. A father, partially demented by grief, lay with a wounded child on one side, his dead daughter on the other, and his expiring wife at his feet. One gentleman sought his wife and children, who were as eagerly seeking him in the same crowd. They met, and were re-united !

A female deck passenger who had been saved, seemed inconsolable for the loss of her relatives. Her constant exclamations were, " Oh, my father ! my mother ! my sisters !"

A little boy, about five years old, whose head was much bruised, appeared to be regardless of his wounds, and cried continually for a lost father ; while another lad, a little older, was weeping for his whole family.

One venerable looking man wept for the loss of a wife and five children. Another was bereft of his whole family, consisting of nine persons. A touching display of maternal affection was evinced by a lady, who, on being brought to the shore, clasped her hands and exclaimed, " Thank God, I am safe !" but instantly recollecting herself, she ejaculated in a voice of piercing agony, " Where is my child ?" The infant, which had also been saved, was brought to her, and she fainted at the sight of it.

Many of the passengers who entered the boat at Cincinnati had not registered their names ; but the lowest estimated number of persons on board was two hundred and eighty ; of these, eighty-one were known to be killed, fifty-five were missing, and thirteen badly wounded. It remains for us to give the names of the sufferers, as far as they could be ascertained ; but this list, although we have searched every record of the accident, for reasons which have already been explained is still far from complete.



Moselle Disaster Portrayed

The Moselle disaster is portrayed in an historical novel called Early's Idaho.

There are print and Kindle versions of the book available here:

I too am a descendant. This

I too am a descendant. This has been a family "legend" for many years. Have you ever found anything else out?

Joseph McMahon

I am a descendent of Joseph McMahon and if you have any evidence that he was on the Mosselle please share it with me. I have been told that his son in law Daniel Snyder was killed also

Mr. Seth Post, wife and 2 children

The History of Jo Daviess County, Illinois, containing a history of the county, its cities, towns, etc., a biographical directory, page 558

A Mr. Shaw and Seth Post came to the county in the Fall of 1836. Post made a claim in the town of Rush, but Shaw did not select a claim until after they had gone back to Alleghany County, New York, and he returned with his family. When they started back to New York, Mr. Post left his two sons, Alonzo and Joseph, in charge of his claim and other property here, and during his absence " the boys " were very industrious in settling the house in order against the coming of their father, mother and the rest of the family, a coming they were destined never to realize.

When the two families were ready to leave New York for new homes in the west, they hired their passage on a lumber raft from Olean Point, which was bound for Cincinnati via Pittsburg. This raft not only conveyed the two families, but all their household goods, and one span of horses and wagon belonging to Mr. Shaw. Shaw was to come overland with his team from Cincinnati, while Post was to come by water to Galena. Arriving in Cincinnati, Post took passage on the steamer Moselle, and just as they were rounding the outer pier, the boiler exploded, killing Mr. Post, his wife and two children. This caused Mr. Shaw to remain until the goods belonging to the two families (which had been shipped on the steamer) could be saved. This delayed Mr. Shaw so that he did not arrive here until late in the Spring, and the duty of imparting to the Post brothers, who were "watching and waiting" for father, mother and little ones, the sad intelligence of the terrible calamity that rendered them parentless, was one that he would gladly have had imposed upon others. But there was no other to discharge that duty, and with a heavy heart and in trembling accents, he related to the grief stricken sons and brothers a full account of the terrible scenes attending the fatal boiler explosion.

After Shaw's arrival, he selected a claim on section 18, now the beautiful and attractive home of his son, J. P. Shaw. Alonzo and Joseph Post, the two sons of Seth Post, made a claim on section 19, just opposite that selected by Mr. Shaw. They have since pushed on "out West," and their whereabouts are unknown.

Steamboat "Moselle"

It is believed that a "Josef McMahan" was also on board and presumed killed in the explosion.