Montgomery, AL Area Steamer OREGON Explosion, Mar 1851


The terrific explosion of the Oregon took place near island No. 82 in the Mississippi river, at one o'clock, P. on March 2d, 1851. All the boilers exploded at the same moment, carrying away the forward cabin, and killing, scalding or mutilating about sixty persons. The boat was heavily laden at the time, and carried about one hundred passengers.

Dinner was just over, and most of the passengers were in the social hall and on the forward guards. Immediately after the explosion the boat took fire, and burned to the water's edge. But for the timely assistance of the steamer Iroquois, which was about a mile off when the accident took place, all on board must have perished, as the Oregon was an unmanageable wreck in the middle of the channel. Capt. Lee, of the Iroquois, hastened to the assistance of the Oregon, but was obliged to stop to make some repairs. He succeeded, however, in reaching the Oregon, just as the flames were bursting through the hurricane deck. Men, women and children, almost surrounded by the raging flames, were collected on the after-part of the wreck. The shrieks of the affrighted women and children were heard far away over the waters, and as the Iroquois approached, the groans of the wounded and dying admonished the passengers and crew of that boat to prepare themselves for a ghastly and heart-rending spectacle. The captain of the Iroquois ran his boat aft of the Oregon ; a communication was then made by placing ladders on the lower deck of the Iroquois and resting against the Oregon's upper deck ; and on these ladders all the people on the wreck who were able to exert themselves, passed on to the Iroquois. Afterwards, with great exertion and risk, Capt. Lee succeeded in removing the wounded to his own cabin, the floor of which was soon covered with the most pitiable objects ; scalded, charred and dismembered bodies, still panting and writhing in the spasmodic contortions of the last struggle. Some, who seem to have been less injured, appeared to endure equal or greater torment, or were enabled to give expression to their sufferings in frantic exclamations and prayers to heaven for a speedy death.

The cabin servants, who were at dinner, were nearly all killed. Eight white firemen, who were dining in the cabin at the same time, likewise perished. The clerk's office was entirely blown away, with all the books and papers of the boat. Owing to this circumstance, the names of comparatively few of the passengers who were lost can be ascertained ; and hence the list of killed must be regarded as very incomplete.

KILLED.—George Brown, first clerk ; Richard Young, Shelby Co., Ky. ; William Miller, Harrison Co., Ind. ; Mrs. Asher, and Patrick Murphy, Louisville, Ky. ; Patrick Lyons, deck-hand ; William Larkin, Louisville, Ky. ; six of the cabin servants, (colored,) six white firemen, and Mr. Love, engineer.

BADLY SCALDED.—Capt. Montgomery ; Barrett Milliken, second clerk ; Mr. Lyons, bar-keeper ; Mr. Cannon, pilot, and J. M. Cox, Nelson Co., Ky.; besides eight or ten deck passengers who were unknown to the people of the boat, and too badly burnt to give any account of themselves.

Lloyd’s Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters, James T. Lloyd & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1856, pages 195-197