Pepin County, Wisconsin
Disasters

Lake Pepin Excursion Ended in Death for 100
Milwaukee Journal (24 April 1929) (by special correspondent of the Journal) submitted by Diana Heser Morse

Prescott, Wis. --- Capt. David N. Weathern, skipper of the Sea Wing, died here Tuesday and with him went an oft repeated story of how his ship went down under him on Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi, the evening of July 13, 1898, with a loss of nearly 100 lives. The captain was 74 and made his living on the river to the last, but in the last few years he had repeated whenever the opportunity offered the account of the wreck, the worst ever recorded in this part of the country.

Barge Was Cut Loose

The Sea Wing had been built by Weathern for lumber rafting and was a small utility craft, about 100 feet long. On the day of the disaster he had made an excursion boat of the Sea Wing and had lashed the barge Jim Grant alongside. Passengers boarded at Lake Pepin towns and disembarked at Lake City, where the Minnesota national guard was encamped.

"The day was fair," Capt. Weathern told, "and we were going to leave at 6 p.m. It was two hours later before we got away on account of the folks visiting the soldiers and the excitement. The boat was above Lake City when the wind just struck."

The wind that night was of almost tornado strength. Confusion reigned at once and without authority, Capt. Weathern always claimed, one of the hands cut the barge loose. That left the Sea Wing unprotected and it swamped.

Regained His License

There were no provisions for life saving and the excursionists started to swim to shore. Some made it, including the captain, although his wife and one son were among the victims. Seventy-two of the drowned were from Red Wing, Minn. The Jim Grant was a more seaworthy craft and all who were on the barge were saved.

Capt. Weathern's license was revoked but he was relicensed three years later. Property on land had been damaged by the same storm and it was decided that he was not to blame for the boat going down.


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