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Car of Commerce Steamboat Explosion
May 13, 1828


(This picture is more than likely
not the original boat which blew up in 1828.
There were at least 4 steamboats by the name of Car of Commerce and is probably one of those.
There was another boiler explosion on another boat by this name in 1830.)

These news stories contributed by Nancy Piper

A gentleman who reached here last week, from the Mississippi river, has communicated to us some of the particulars of a most distressing accident which happened to the steam-boat Car of Commerce, Capt. Cocks, on the morning of the 14th in. She was on her way up the river, and when opposite Island No. 25, about 4 miles below Barfield's ware-house, Crittenden County, in this Territory, her middle boiler burst, with a terrible explosion, causing the instant death of nine persons, and scalding a great number of others in a most shocking manner. At the last accounts from her, 24 persons were dead, and several others not expected to live. All the crew of the boat were killed, except the Captain, and 3 or 4 others. Among the killed were both of the engineers. The cabin passengers escaped unhurt. The cargo below deck, and the hull of the boat, has sustained but little injury.
No censure, we understand, is attributable to the Captain, for this disaster. The machinery had been stopped only a few minutes before it occurred, for the purpose of clearing out some obstruction in one of the pumps which supplied the boiler; and the wheels on starting again, had made only 3 or 4 revolutions when the boiler burst. Every attention which humanity could dictate, was rendered by the Captain, to the wounded and survivors of his crew and passengers; and every means within his power used by him to make their situation as comfortable as possible.
[Arkansas Gazette, May 28, 1828]

Terrible Occurrence

The Wheeling Gazette of the 24th ult, contains the annexed paragraph:
Steam Boat Disaster – At the Canadian Reach, about six hundred miles below Louisville, sometime last week, the boiler of the steamboat Car of Commerce bursted and fify-seven persons were killed and wounded. [Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, June 4, 1828]

Considerable anxiety exists in this city relative to persons injured by the accident on board the steam boat “Car-of-Commerce,” on the Mississippi. As yet we have not learned the names of the sufferers. We are indebted to a mercantile house, in this city, for the following extract dated,  Cincinnati, May 20
“Dear Sir
It is with painful feelings I have to advise you of the most distressing accident that has ever occurred in the annals of western steam boating. About 13th inst. the “Car of Commerce,” on her way from New Orleans to Louisville, burst her boilers, in putting out from a wood yard near the new Cut of (140 miles from the mouth of the Ohio, on the Mississippi.) The explosion was tremendous and produced the most awful effect. Out of 70 deck passengers, but 3 or 4 escaped injuries and only the captain and clerk, out of the whole of the crew were saved. But one cabin passenger was scalded – the rest 6 in number, escaped unhurt. 18 men were buried at once; 15 missing entirely and about half the number remaining could not survive being scaled and mangled in the most shocking manner. The boat remains ashore, a complete wreck. The La Grange arrived here yesterday with some of the sufferers on board. The Car of Commerce was owned at Louisville and is said to be an inferior boat, an engine patched up from old machinery and an old set of boilers – about fourth rate in size and appearance.
The Cincinnati Gazette give the following list of the names of persons who have died from the effects of the explosion on board the steam boat Car of Commerce.
“N. Green, engineer, James Platt, do; Charles Ivers, do; Asa Warren, steward; cabin boy; Peter (black) cooks mate; one fireman. Passengers – David Saunders, Isaac Smith, D. C. Smith, __ Smith, A. Jessup, J. Jessap, John Collins, James A. Picker, William Harris, W. Bradley, __ Huntsman, __ Coleman, __ Edmunds, John Bartlett.”
[Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, June 11 1828]

List of the Dead
The following is said to be a correct list of the names of those of the passengers, officers and crew of the Car of Commerce who were killed by the fatal explosion of her boiler.

Charles Ives, first engineer
Jas. Platt, second engineer
Mr. Collins, carpenter
Mr. Bradley, a white fireman
Peter ___ , a white French boy, second cook
Mr. Huntsman, sailor
Mr. Ferrall, sailor
Five negroes, four of them firemen and the other the steward

Nicholas Green, a pilot from Florence
Mr. Sanders, an engineer from New Albany
Two brothers named Smith from Indiana
Two brothers named Jessup from the vicinity of Coryden, Indiana
Mr. Bartlett from Boston
A French gentleman, whose name is not known
Two passengers who died in the Hospital
The mate of the boat, 2d pilot, a black fireman, remained on board and were considered out of danger, except the latter for whose recovery no hopes were entertained. [
Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, June 18 1828]

The late disaster to the Car of Commerce steamboat is ascertained to have caused the death of twenty-four persons. Another person lies dangerously ill and one is missing. This fatal accident is ascribed by a western paper to no fault of the captain but to the imperfection of the boiler head. It appears however that the weakness of the boiler heads was known to the officers of the boat. To use them with that knowledge seems as blameworthy as to have caused the accident by any immediate negligence. Some legal defenses are manifestly wanting against this wanton carelessness of human life. – Baltimore American.
[Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, July 2, 1828]

NOTE: An email from researcher Dixie Richardson indicates that A. Jessup, J. Jessap, D.C Smith and ___ Smith were all from Point Commerce, Greene County, IN.   



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