Sacramento, CA steamboat Belle explosion Feb 1856

Further Particulars of the Explosion of the Steamboat Belle.


Explosion of the Steamboat Belle - Thirty Dead, Wounded and Missing - The Boat a Wreck - Incidents.

Later Accounts than before received, give the following:

The State Journal contains full particulars of the late explosion near Sacramento, from which we make the following extracts:

"There were no women on board. The survivors all agree on that. MR. POWELL, one of the uninjured survivors, states that there were about sixty persons on board, which includes passengers and crew. Major BIDWELL thinks there were twenty-five to thirty passengers on board, and, as is stated by some of the hands on board, the officers and men numbered some twenty-five, which would make the two statements agree. Rev. I.S. DIEHL also says there were thirty to forty passengers on board, so that te whole number on the Belle at the time of the occurrence, may be set down at between fifty and sixty.


C. H. Houston, Captain, from Mobile, Ala.
William Green, fireman. One-half of his remains - from about the small of the back, down - was taken out of thwater in the hold of the wreck, showing that he had been cut right in two. The other portion of his body has not yet been discovered. There were $60 on his person.
John White, a deck-hand, from Sweden.
Louis Conkler, miller, formerly engaged in the Lumbard Mills, on I street.


Major John Bidwell, of Chico; skull fractured - will survive.
Rev. I.S. Deihl, temperance lecturer; compound fracture of the right leg, below the knee - will recover.
John Cunningham, second engineer, from Pennsylvania - slightly.
William Daly, watchman; severely; no hope of his recovery.
Clay Wilson, passenger; slightly.
W. D. Shellcross.
J. R. Britnell, passenger; painter in the employ of Rivett & Co.; slightly about the head.
Joseph Cappeck, deck hand, from Mobile, Ala.; much bruised.
Charles Yoky, second cook, from Adams County, Pa.; seriously scalded and left leg broken; since died.
A. S. Wilson, deck hand; head and shoulders scalded, and otherwise badly injured.
Henry Christian, passenger, latterly of San Francisco, but formerly of Denmark; bruised about the head and breast, but not dangerously.
Peter H. Myers, passenger; a carpenter from Red Bluffs; seriously.
Wallace Miller, a lad of 14 years, whose parents reside at Red Bluffs; will recover.
Isaac Wilson, passenger; arrived in the last steamer from the Atlantic States, slightly.


I. Taylor, Clerk. His brother, Capt. W. S. Taylor, offers a reward of $500 for the recovery of his body.
McCabe, Wines & Co.'s Messenger.
Eli Sheats; Mate.
These men are doubtless killed.


Three or four small boats furnished with grappling irons, were at work from 1 to 5 P. M., searching in the stream for the bodies of the missing, but without success. The Cleopatra came from the wreck at dark last night, and reported no further discovery.


Several papers, such as blank bills of lading were carried by the force of the explosion several rods inland on the Yolo shore.

The only upper works of the Belle left standing and sound, were the flag or steering staff, and the wheel. All else, save the aft-bottom, was completely mashed.

The passenger list, if there was one, which is not likely at such an early stage of the trip, could not be found.

WINES & Co.'s and Pacific Company's Expresses had a large amount of treasure on board, all which was saved.

The dry goods portion of the freight was much damaged by the water. Much other freight was partly or wholly lost.

Gen. REDDINGTON was everywhere, working, commanding, consoling and doing all that man could do succor the wounded and recover the dead.

The Cleopatra, on her downward trip from Marysville, brought to the city from the wreck seven wounded and three dead.

There were in the Hospital, last evening, four dead and three wounded, but we could only learn the names of those which we give elsewhere.

There was none at the Hospital to give information, and we hunted for the physicians at the Hospital, and out of it, from dark to midnight, but could not lay eyes on them.

Further search for the missing will be made to-day.

It was reported, last evening, that ELRICKS, the first engineer, had left for parts unknown, but the report has since been contradicted.

When the explosion took place, Mr. McALPHIN says a man was sitting pretty close to the stove, with a leg on either side of it, and that the stove was forced through the hurricane deck, while the man was uninjured.

Several parties leaped into the water immediately after the occurence, most of whom were drowned.

From all the evidence before us, we are inclined to think there must have been ten or twelve persons killed or drowned, whose bodies have not been recovered.


Crew (uninjured) Wm. Harvey, carpenter; James Hyland, steward; Washington Elricks, first engineer; --------, barkeeper; John Hearn, fireman; Peter Nicols, deckhand; James Bryan, do.


Immediately before the explosion, Mr. MIX, of Shasta, was standing in the main saloon conversing with a friend, and was just in the act of turning to leave him to go aft, when it took place. A piece of iron struck his friend on the head, and dashed his brains over Mr. M.'s coat.

Mr. POWELL, of Colusa, had but a few minutes before risen from the breakfast table, and had gone aft to hunt a seat where he might read in peace; the explosion came and forced him through the lattice door of the wash-room.

The bar-keeper was standing in the vicinity of a number of persons at the moment, and not one of those standing around him escaped uninjured - most of them were killed - while he came off without a scratch. It was, however, a hair-breadth escape, for a portion of the rim was cut off the hat on his head by an iron missile, and the leg of one of his boots was torn from top to bottom.

Mr. HYLAND, the steward, was walking through the main cabin aft, and the hat on his head was cut in two, while he was not even touched, and did not even fall.

A passenger, who came off unbruised, states that, but a moment before, one of the waiters politely asked him to leave his seat in the cabin while he would clean up. He did so, and had got but a little back towards the wheel when the havoc commenced. To this circumstance he says he is indebted for his life.


The cause seems to be kind of a public mystery. The fact is, however, that the boiler bursted, and consequently did the damage, but whether the water was too low, the steam too high, the boiler too thin, or the material too brittle, each must and will judge for himself. Pieces of the boiler iron, some three feet square, were brought down from the wreck and certainly appeared tough, judging from the manner in which it was twisted and torn. The engineers were sober, careful men; all parties agree on that; and it is in evidence that there was sufficient water in the boiler. It is said that the boiler was tested within a year and bore 120 pounds to the inch. The Coroner told the Jury not to screen any parties by their verdict, but to put the blame where they thought it belonged and let the guilty suffer. Their verdict shows the result.

The Coroner's Inquest held upon the body of Capt. HOUSTON elicited no facts going to show the cause of the explosion. The following is the evidence of the inspector:

Samuel W. Green, sworn: Was not present at the explosion; an inspector of steamboat boilers; had examined the engine and the boiler of the Belle a short time ago, and found them all right; knew they were in good order when she left; was acquainted with the engineer and fireman; they were competent, careful hands, and sober men; I found a portion of the boiler, and a boiler tube with a scale on it, and from it I judge that there was no lack of water in the boiler at the time of the explosion; the iron would have shown it if it had been heated red hot; my belief is, the explosion was caused by defect of the iron; the boiler was inspected during the present year, and withstood the test of 120 pounds pressure; I have been an engineer seventeen years; came round the Horn in the steamer Confidence.

The Jury returned a verdict that the deceased came to his death on the 5th of February, 1856, from injuries received from the explosion of the boiler of the steamboat Belle, and from drowning, about nine miles from Sacramento.

Another inquest has been held at Sacramento on the body of GREEN, the fireman. No facts were elicited which tend to show the cause of the explosion. Inquests have also been held on JOHN WHITE, a Swede, one of the deck hands; CHARLES YAKEY and LOUIS CONKLIN. Two more bodies were found on Wednesday: that of McCabe, the messenger of Wines & Co., and a man named THOMAS J. NEWTON, of Vermont, and formerly of Clarkson County, Ala. The dead, those whose bodies have been found, and those who have died under treatment, number nine.

The New York Times, New York, NY 14 March 1856