Powder River, ND Tornado, Jun 1877

TORNADO ON THE YELLOWSTONE

Gen. Mark D. Fowler, of St. Paul, owner and captain of the Missouri River steamboat, the Osceola, held a contract with the Government in 1877, for transporting freight to different points on the Yellowstone River, and while engaged in this work encountered a tornado, on June 22nd, when near the mouth of Powder River, 225 miles from Bismarck, Of the particulars of the storm, which was the only one ever reported of a similar character in which a steamboat was destroyed while under way, General Flower gave out a statement, in substance as follows:

The Tornado struck us at six o’clock in the evening of June 22, and in the twinkling of an eye reduced the staunch little steamer to a helpless wreck, threw us into the river, and damaged or destroyed a great part of our cargo. The boat was proceeding up the Yellowstone at a point 225 miles above Bismarck. We were near the mouth of Powder River, and not very far from the scene of the Custer massacre last year. The banks of the river are low at this point. We had no timber for shelter or even to tie the boat to. In all my experience I never witnessed anything so terrible. The tremendous wind, accompanied by hail and rain, came down on us with only a moment’s warning, catching us on our starboard quarter and careening us over to an angle of about forty-five degrees, when our entire upper works--cabin, smokestacks, steam popes and all--were swept into the boiling, surging current of the Yellowstone. Relieved of the upper works, the boat righted up and by this means our lives were saved. Many were blown overboard, but saved themselves with the assistance of the floating wreckage, and others who were lucky enough to hold to the floating hull. The cabin and upper works were split into kindling wood and floated away. After the storm had somewhat abated, by strenuous efforts the hull, or what may more properly be termed the remains of the wreck, was fastened to the shore, and we proceeded to save what we could of the Government freight, amounting to some sixty thousand dollars, which was considerably damaged. Much of the cargo went into the river and floated away.

I was blown sixty feet from the hurricane roof and fell in the river, striking a spar and injuring my side and back seriously. Mrs. Flower, who was the only lady on the goat, went overboard with the cabin, but was rescued. She lost her entire wardrobe, however, excepting the clothing she wore. Captain Haycock and his son, Abner Haycock, of St. Louis, were my pilots, and both stood to the wheel until blown with the pilot house into the river. The entire force of officers, crew and carpenters did their duty faithfully. J. JONES, fireman, and BOB SMALL, second cook, both of Memphis, Tennessee, were drowned. My safe, containing books and papers and several hundred dollars in money, went to the bottom, irretrievably lost. We remained near the wreck until we saved all we could of the freight, and until passing boats took it away and rescued us. I had no insurance, as companies refused to insure against the unknown dangers of the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone.

History of Dakotas Territory, 1915, pages 576-577

Comments

Powder River, ND Tornado, Jun 1877

This article, tho had taken place in the Dakota Territory, would be in present day Montana. Also, in the 3rd paragraph of the article, Mrs. Flowers, I'm certain, was the only lady on the boat, & not the goat.