Lake Minnetonka, MN Excursion Steamer KATIE MAY Explosion, June 1877


The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press has the following account of the explosion of a pleasure steamer on Lake Minnetonka, on the 23d inst.:
"The steamer KATIE MAY, when near Guild's Point, exploded her boilers and went to the bottom instantly, carrying down her Captain, JAMES MITCHELL, CHARLES STODDARD, engineer, and ALBERT SEAMONS, a painter, who was putting the finishing touches on the boat. HOWARD TRUMBULL, the pilot, and EDGAR SEAMONS, a brother of ALBERT SEAMONS, were saved, but are badly injured. There were but five persons on the boat at the time of the accident. The KATIE MAY was owned by Capt. CHARLES MAY, of Excelsior, and her Captain, JAMES MITCHELL, was his son-in-law. It was a new boat, the hull of which was built at Hudson last season, and was completed at Excelsior last Spring. She had been running but a few days. Her machinery was considered first class; her boilers were new from the Ames Boiler Works, New York; they had been tested up to 200 pounds, and were calculated to carry 175 pounds, and at the time of the fatal explosion were carrying but 69 pounds. The boat left Excelsior for Wayzata yesterday morning with a party who were safely landed at Wayzata, and the steamer started upon the return trip. She had proceeded about two and a half miles, and was in deep water between Guild's Point and Little Island, when the frightful explosion occurred, completely wrecking the boat, which sank almost instantly. The cause of the accident has not been ascertained. TRUMBULL stated that, just before the explosion, CHARLIE STODDARD, the engineer, slacked the engine, and, on inquiring why he did so, replied that there was a key house in the cross-head, and that he had better go into Gibson's Landing. Immediately after that he heard the pumps start, and the explosion followed. The first he realized of the disaster was finding himself flying through the air. When he came down he struck head first. He had presence of mind to hold his breath, and came to the surface almost uninjured. He saw a portion of the hull of the boat, and swam for it, got into it, and immediately sunk, he then swam to some boards, got three of them together, and sustained himself until picked up by a skiff from the shore."
Commenting upon the accident, the Pioneer-Press says: "We cannot afirm that the explosion would have been prevented by subjecting it to the tests of the Government inspectors of steamboat boilers, but the occurrence brings to mind the fact that several years ago the steamer Sue Gardner, running on that lake, and we believe others, could not pass the inspection of these officers, and were tied up for some time. An appeal was taken to MR. BOUTWELL, the Secretary of the Treasury, which resulted in their release and a decision to the effect that pleasure steamers plying such inland lakes as Minnetonka were not required under the law to undergo inspection by United States officers. MR. JAMES G. FREEMAN, of this city, through whose house the boiler of the KATIE MAY was ordered, says it was constructed of the best material, and his theory of the cause of the explosion is, that the water in the boiler was allowed to get too low, the engineer being deceived by the foaming which always takes place in new boilers, caused by the presence of oil, &c."

The New York Times New York 1877-07-01