Genealogy Trails


Newspaper Reports of
Fires, Steamboat Accidents, Train Wrecks
and other Calamities



The JORDAN Family
Horrid Massacre
Extract of a letter from a gentleman in Augustine, to his friend in Virginia.
Dear Sir,
On the night of the 3d of February last, arrived at this place in a deplorable condition, Mrs. Mary Jordan, who, with her husband and six children, were in January last carried away captives by the Indians. Mrs. Jordan has furnished me with the following melancholy account of the massacre of her husband and children, and of her own sufferings while with the savages.
"""On the night of the 22d January, 1807, we were suddenly awakened from slumber by the hideous yells of savages, who before we could put ourselves in a situation to oppose them, succeeded in forcing the doors of the house. They were to the number of forty or fifty, frightfully painted, and armed with tomahawks and scalping knives. My husband met them at the door, and in their own tongue asked them what they wanted – """the scalps of your family!""" was their answer. My husband entreated them to have compassion on me and his innocent children, but his entreaties availed nothing. We were dragged naked out of the house, and tied severally with cords. By order of who appearned to be the chief, about twenty of the Indians took charge of us, who were ordered to conduct us with all possible dispatch to their settlement (about 200 miles distant) while the remainder were left to pillage and fire the house. We commenced our journey about midnight, through an uncultivated wilderness at the rate of nearly seven miles an hour. If either of us thro fatigue slackened our pace, we were most inhumanly beat and threatened with instant death.
After a tedious travel of more than forty miles, the savages halted in a swamp – here for the first time from the time of our departure we were permitted to lie down – the Indians kindled a fire on which they broiled some bear’s flesh, of which they allowed us but a small portion.
After they had refreshed themselves and extinguished their fire, we were again compelled to pursue our journey. We traveled until sunset, when the Indians again halted, and began to prepare a covering for themselves for the night. My poor children complained much of their feet being swollen, but I was not permitted to give them any relief, nor was their father allowed to discourse with them. As night approached we shook each other by the hand, expecting never again to witness the rising of the sun. Contrary to our expectations, however, we had a tolerable night’s rest, and on the succeeding day, though naked and half starved, traveled with much more ease than on the preceding one. The Indians occasionally allowed us a little raw food sufficient only to keep us alive.
We this day traveled according to the reckoning of the Indians, nearly forty miles and were about sunset joined by the remaining savages who were left behind; they were loaded with the spoils of my husband’s property, among other articles they found a keg of spirits of which they had drank plentifully – as they became intoxicated, they exercised the more cruelty towards us – they beat my poor children so unmercifully that they were unable to stand on their feet the ensuing morning – the Indians attributed their inability to willfulness, and again renewed their acts of barbarity, beating them with clubs, cutting and gashing them with their knives, and scorching their naked bodies with brands of fire. Finding that their hellish plans had no other effect than to render the poor unhappy sufferers less enabled to travel, they came to the resolution to butcher them on the spot.
Six holes were dug in the earth of about five feet in depth, around each of which some dried branches of trees were placed. My husband at this moment filled with horror at what he expected was about to take place, broke the rope with which he was bound, and attempted to escape from the hands of the unmerciful cannibals! He was however closely pursued, soon overtaken and brought back – as he passed me he cast his eyes towards me and fainted – in this situation he was placed erect in one of the holes. The woods now resounded with the heart piercing cries of my poor children """Spare, O Spare my father!" was their cry; "Have mercy on my poor children!" was the cry of their father. It availed nothing – my dear children were all placed in a situation similar to that of their father – the youngest (only 9 years old) broke from them and ran up to me, crying "don’t mammy, pray don’t let them kill me!"
Alas, O Heavens, what could I do! In vain did I beg of them to let me take my dear child’s place! By force it was torn from me, in an hour when I could afford it no protection. Having placed the poor unfortunate victims in the manner above described, they secured them in a standing position by replacing the earth, which buried them nearly to their necks.
The inhuman wretches now began their hideous pow wows, dancing to and fro around the victims of their torture, which they continued about half an hour, when they communicated fire to the fatal piles! Heaven only knows what my feelings were at this moment! As the flames increased, the shrieks and dying groans of my poor family were heightened! Thank heaven their sufferings were of short duration; in less than a quarter of an hour from the time the fire was first communicated their cries ceased, they sunk into the arms of their kind deliverer.
The callous hearted wretches having sufficiently feasted their eyes with the agonies of the unfortunate sufferers, retired to regale themselves with what liquor remained; they drank freely and soon became stupid and senseless. With one of their tomahawks I might with ease have dispatched them all, but my only desire was to flee from them as quick as possible. I succeeded with difficulty in liberating myself, by cutting the cord with which I was bound, on which I bent my course for this place. A piece of bear’s flesh I fortunately found in one of the Indian’s packs, served me for food. I traveled only nights, in the day time concealing myself in thick swamps, or hollow trees. A party of Indians passed within a few rods of the place of my concealment the second day after, but did not discover me; they were undoubtedly of the same party from whom I had escaped, in pursuit of me. Two days after I was met by a lad of the Shawanese nation; he proved friendly, and conducted me to a white settlement; without his assistance, I must have again fallen into the hands of my savage foes. [The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) August 12 1807; Tr. by NP]

Mount Giliad, Kentucky (1812)
Earthquake on Sunday night Decr 15h about 2 o'clock at night a severe shock of an Earth Quake was felt the motion of shaking continued about 15 minutes. About half an hour after this shock was over another was felt as severe Continued only a minute or two the next day Monday morning 16th alittle after sun rise another shock was felt the tremor continued a few minutes two other slight shocks was felt that morning - the next shock was on Tuesday about midday not so violent as the first The weather for some day before had been dull and cloudy - again on the night of the 30th instant a shock was felt - again on Jany (Thursday) 23 1812 about ? of the clock in the morning another severe shock was felt The tremor continued for several minutes when it had stilled another shock was felt which lasted a minute or two on Monday morning Jany 27th a slight shock was felt -- on Tuesday evening 4th Feby 1812 a slight shock was felt the trembling of the earth continued for several minutes supped ? 6 or 7 - and a rumbling noise heard - these are the shocks that we have felt at this place by report hardly a day passes but the trembling of the Earth is more of less felt -- in time of the severest shocks to attempt to walk as one feel light headed and reel about like a drunken man -- again on the night of Thursday 6 Feby about 4 o'clock a.m. a very severe shock was felt which lasted fully 15 minutes with a rumbling noise like distant thunder and 3 very distinct reports like cannon was heard at the end of each -- again on Friday night the 7h a smart shock abt ? o'clock then again about 11 oclock another less severe -- frequently you may feel a trembling in the earth when there is no visible appearance of shaking it has invariably been cloudy weather about the time of the shocks and rains or snow shortly after again on the night of Thursday 20h Feb about 9 or 10 o'clock 2 slight shocks were the last of which continued it tremor for more than 15 min - when - again on Saturday night 22d about 10 o'clock another slight shock. [Source: Journal of William Brown while traveling from Virginia to Kentucky - transcribed by K.T.]

Steam Boat Accident

The steam boat Mechanic, Capt. Hall, with Gen. Lafayette, and his son and secretary on board, on their way from Nashville and bound to Louisville, accidently run upon a large snag which pierced her forecastle, wounding a man materially and projecting ten feet above its break, shocking the vessel and the passengers in an alarming manner.  The boat began to sink and all grew into confusion but the cool and collected conduct of Capt. Hall and his crew enabled them to save all persons on board from drowning.  The Nation’s Guest, the esteemed Lafayette was put on board the yawl and taken to shore with other passengers.  This accident happened about 12 o’clock on Sabbath night, the 8th May, near the mouth of Deer creek, about 130 miles below Louisville.  The Mechanic sunk before any property could be taken out; the captain lost his desk and 1300 dollars in money.  General Lafayette lost his baggage and a carriage presented him by Gen. Washington, with a favorite dog.  The Mechanic had been dispatched from Nashville to the mouth of Cumberland river, to receive Gen. Lafayette and convey him to that place from thence to Louisville and was within 24 hours sail of the latter place when the accident happened.  The Monday morning after the unfortunate occurrence, the steam boat Paragon on her way down from Louisville to New Orleans on finding the situation of Capt. Hall very politely turned about and conveyed Gen. Lafayette up to Louisville, arriving Wednesday the 11th May.  From thence Lafayete would pursue his route to Lexington and Frankfort, Ken.; thence to Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Columbus, Ohio where he was expected to arrive on Wednesday the 18th May.
The above we collected from a gentleman who was on board the steam boat Mechanic at the time she met with the perilous accident. – Washington Reporter. [Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Penn.)  June 1, 1825]

Terrific Steam-Boat Explosion!
Great Loss of Life

Louisville, March 7th, P. M.:  The steamer Oregon bound hence to New Orleans, when passing through Shute of Island 82, in the Mississippi, about one o'clock, P. M., on the 2nd inst., burst her boilers with a tremendous report, carrying away her forward cabin and killing and scalding at least sixty persons. She was heavily laden, and had on board from eighty to one hundred passengers. Dinner was just over, and the passengers were principally in the Hall, and on the forward guards at the time of the explosion, after which she immediately took fire and burned to the water's edge, and had it not been for the steamer Iroquois which was wooding about one mile off at the time, all on board would have perished, as the Oregon was in the channel, and under full headway.   When Capt. Lee of the Iroquois, saw what had taken place, he immediately put off to the assistance of the Oregon, but was necessarily delayed for a short time in consequence of one of the cylinder heads being out at the time, making some repairs; she, however, reached the wreck as the flames had burst through her hurricane deck. Men, women and children were collected together on the after part of the boat, with the raging flames almost around them, and no means of escape but to jump into the river. The shrieks of the women, and the phrenzy of the men, is described as most heart-rending, and then the groans of the scalded and dying would melt a heart of adamant.   Capt. Lee ordered the Iroquois to run with her bow aft of the Oregon, and ladders were then placed from the upper deck of the Oregon to the lower deck of the Iroquois along which all on board of the wreck, who were able to walk, passed on board the Iroquois, which was all the time in the greatest danger of taking fire. After all were taken on board which could be found, and as the Iroquois was backing away Capt. Montgomery, who was the last man to leave the wreck, in attempting to escape on the ladder fell into the river, but was rescued, badly bruised, however.   The Clerk's office was entirely blown away, with all the books and papers of the boat, and Geo. Brown,the 1st clerk, was in the office at the time, and was killed. The cabin crew were at dinner, and were all killed except the steward; eight white fireman were also killed, but it is impossible to give a correct list of the number, or the names of those lost, the books being gone.   The Oregon was scuttled, but she raised as last by lightening of her upper works as the water admitted caused her to sink. The Bulletin came up soon after the ccurrence, and endeavored to extinguish the flames with her engine, but did not succeed.   Mr. Williams and other passengers on the Bulletin rendered great assistance, and remained on board of the Iroquois until she reached Memphis, when the wounded were taken to the hospital.   It is said that the cabin floor of the Iroquois was covered by persons blackened, bruised and literally skinned, many of whom were in the agonies of death, eleven of whom died before the boat reached Memphis.

Below we give the names of the killed and scalded as far as could be ascertained:

Scalded And Injured.-- Capt. Montgomery, badly hurt; Barrett Mullekin, 2nd Clerk.

Slightly Scalded.-- Mr. Lyons, barkeeper; Mr. Connor, pilot, and John Cox of Nelson Co., Ky.

Killed At The Time And Since Died. -- George Brown, 1st Clerk; Richard Young of Shelby Co., Ky.; William Miller, of Harrison Co., Indiana; Mrs. Asher of Louisville; Patrick Murphy, Louisville; Patrick Lyons, deck hand; William Perkins, Louisville; six of the cabin crew and one engineer, name unknown; eight firemen, white.

Badly Scalded. --G. C. Musselman, of Covington, Ky.; C. Atkinson, of Halloway, Co., Ky.; Isaac I. Fall, Princeton, Indiana; and John Johnson, Barber.

Escaped Unhurt. -- Mr. Dean; Jas. Dean; Mr. Piatt; John White, Steward; Mr. Miller, Mate; Peter Brigg, Watchman; I. Smith, Carpenter; Mr. Curd, wife and three daughters; W. D. Quissenberg, of Georgia; D. G. Robb, Wife and Son, of Indiana; three Engineers; and a number of Slaves.

The Oregon's freight was insured here for over $40,000, including $10,000 in Boston. She had about 1,000 tons of freight on board.  The boat was insured for $30,000 here, but the offices will not pay that.  [Gallipolis Journal (Gallipolis, Oh.) Thursday, March 13, 1851 - Submitted by Kathy McDaniel]


anuary 31.— James Leanear, roaster on steamer Sunshine, fell overboard and was drowned, while said steamer was backing away from the wharf boat at Ashland, Ky. All efforts to-save him failed.  [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1897]

March 1.— While the passenger steamer T. C. Woodard was on her way from Spottsville, Ky., to Evansville, Ind., a passenger named Louis J. Eckerle, said to be under the influence of liquor, fell overboard and was drowned. [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1895]

July 14.— The excursion steamer Sunshine, while en route from Sugar Grove, Ind., to Louisville, Ky., and when about 8 miles below Louisville, a passenger named George Briles climbed over the railing of the boat and jumped into a skiff that was tied to the steamer, swamping it. The man fell into the river and was drowned. [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1895]

July 23.— While the passenger steamer Shawnee was on her way up the Ohio River, en route from Louisville, Ky., to Fenn Grove, Ind., and when opposite Charleston Landing, Indiana, a man named Theodore Beverman fell overboard and before assistance could be rendered was drowned. [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1895]

October 10.— While the passenger steamer John W. Hart was descending the Ohio River, en route from Louisville, Ky., to Evansville, Ind., and when opposite Martin Franks Landing, Indiana, a deck-hand passenger named Richard Byer accidentally fell overboard and was drowned. [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1895]

November 27.— As the ferry steamer W. C. Hite was making her usual trips from Louisville, Ky., to Jeffersonville, Ind., at 5.30 p. m., she struck a skiff containing three persons - two ladies and one man. The skiff was overturned and its occupants were thrown into the river. One of the ladies, Mrs. Emma Shipman, was drowned. It was dark and the pilot could not see the skiff until the moment it was struck, It having no light on it. [Source - Annual Report - Steamboats 1895]



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