Steamboat Desasters


On the 7th day of May, 1840, the city of Natchez, Miss., was visited by a tornado, which occasioned an immense destruction of property and great loss of life. Several steamboats were destroyed at the wharves of Natchez, and many persons who had embarked in them as passengers were drowned. A large number of flat boats, likewise, were wrecked by the tremendous gale, and a number of boatmen, sup­posed to be two hundred or more, in the aggregate, perished. A tax had recently been laid on flat-boats at Vicksburg, on which account many of them had dropped down to Natchcz, so that there was an un­usually large number of these boats collected at the last-named cjty at the time of the tornado.

The steamboat Hinds was blown out into the stream and sunk, and all the passengers and crew, except four men, were lost. It is not known how many passengers were on this boat. The captain was sup­posed to have been saved, as he was seen on shore a short time before the gale commenced, but as nothing was heard of him afterwards, it is conjectured that he must have returned to the boat, and shared the fate of his crew and passengers. The wreck of the ilinds was after­wards found at Baton Rouge, with fifty-one dead bodies on board, forty-eight of whom were males, and three females; among the latter was one little girl about three years old.

The steamboat Prairie had just arrived from St. Louis, freighted with lead. Her upper works, down to the deck, were swept off, and the whole of the crew and passengers are supposed to have been drowned. The number of the passengers is not known, but four ladies, at least, were seen on board a short time before the disaster. The steamboat H. Lawrence and a sloop were in a somewhat sheltered position at the Cotton Press. They were severely damaged, but not sunk. The steam ferry-boat was sunk, and also the wharf-boat "Mississippian," which, was used as a hotel; grocery, &e. Of one hundred and twenty flat-boats, which lay at the landing, all were lost except four, and very few of the men employed on board were saved.

We give the names of some of the victims, but a great majority of the persons drowned could never be identified.

DROWNED.-William Stubbs and John Ervin, Louisville; David McGowan, C. Butler, Andrew Filer, Absalom Wilson, A Terry, P. Garsford, M. Dunn, E. Booker, B. Floney, and C. Carter and two children, of New York; W. Williams and wife, of St. Louis; E. McFaul, of Boston; James Orr, of Natchez; Y. Budhim, of Ind.; Thomas Rod­gers, of Cairo, Ill.; P. Ewing, M. Dinwiddie, and W. Johnston, wife and two children, of Pittsburgh, Pa.; C. Phelps, U. Phillips, and Pr. Brady, of Ind.; Marcus Austin, of New Amsterdam, Tad.; M. Tooley, Philadelphia, Pa. ; B. Shreve and Miss Margaret Haskell, Ky.; Mrs.

Watkins, Ohio; Mrs. Jones, Louisiana; Mrs. Dwight and daughter, Wis.; Miss Hardy, Ill.; Mrs. Walters and infant, Vicksburg; Duncan Sherman, John Root, and C. V. Bunner, Ala.

Besides these, about two hundred flat boatmen, (names unknown,) were ascertained to have been lost. The total loss of life is estimated at four hundred. For its violence and destructive effects, this tornado was without precedent in the recollection of the oldest inhabitant of that region. The water in the river was agitated to that degree that the best swimmers could not sustain themselves on the surface. The waves rose to the height of ten or fifteen feet. Many houses in the vicinity of Natchez were blown down, and many buildings in the city were unroofed; the roofs, in some instances, being carried half-way across the river. People found it impossible to stand on the shore. One man was blown from the top of the hill, (sixty feet high,) and fell into the river forty yards from the bank. Heavy beams of timber and other ponderous objects were blown about like straws. Great was the consternation of the inhabitants of Natchez and its neighborhood, and owing to this cause, perhaps, many persons were drowned for want of prompt assistance. When the first alarm had somewhat subsided, the citizens hastened to the river, rescued some who were still living from the water, and recovered hundreds of dead bodies before they were swept away by the rapid current.

© Copyright by Franz Neumeier