Cincinnati, OH Explosion Of Towboat RAVEN, Apr 1870




From Saturday's Enquirer.
A terrible steamboat catastrophe occurred at this port about 11 o'clock last night - the explosion of the steam tug Raven, opposite Washington Street, in Fulton. The Raven was en route from St. Louis to Pittsburgh, with three barges of iron ore, and had also two empty barges in tow.
Arriving here she found one of her boilers in bad condition, and put in at Stewart's Landing for repairs. She had four boilers, 26 feet long and 38 inches in diameter, provided each with two eleven inch flues. They were six years old and were manufactured of charcoal iron, one-fourth of an inch thick, at the manufactory of Isaac West in this city.
Having completed her repairs she raised steam last night, and about 11 o'clock started to resume her journey. She had barely got under way when JOE MARTIN, one of the engineers on duty, observed that the boiler to which had been added the new sheet was leaking badly. She was carrying at the time one hundred and forty pounds of steam. Becoming alarmed, the engineer prevailed upon the Captain to head for the shore.
The boat with her heavy tow was at once started for the landing, but had proceeded but a short distance when the leaking boiler exploded with terrible force, tearing and shattering the craft from stem to stern. The concussion also caused the two adjacent boilers to explode, and these added their force to the catastrophe.
The boilers were well filled with water, and the explosion must have been caused by the organic weakness of the boiler in question. At the instant of the explosion the entire forward part of her cabin was lifted into the air, and her chimneys and pilot house were thrown upward and into the barges alongside. Fragments of the wreck were hurled hundreds of feet into the air, and the report of the explosion was heard throughout that entire portion of the city.
The steam and hot water permeated the dismantled hulk from stem to stern, and few there were of those who escaped blowing overboard from among the crew of twenty-three persons who did not fall victims to its terrible fury. The shrieks and groans of these were distinctly heard by those who witnessed the calamity from the shore. The boat was a complete wreck, and as the dismembered timbers fell crushing inward, many were caught and maimed or stifled.
The scene in the darkness and gloom which followed was one of terror and agony. A number of those who were blown into the water were either so stunned or confused as to be helpless, and no aid was prompt at hand. The first rescuer to put forth a helping hand was Joshua Tucker, and old foreman in Goodhill's stone-yard a few hundred feet below. He heard the report of the appalling accident, and, though in bed, hastily arose, and together with his son, set out for the scene of the disaster.
Procuring a skiff, they rowed out to the wreck. A short distance from the shore they found one of the victims floating, and lifting him out of the water, hurried him to the shore. They returned again, and again found another human life to save. Reaching the wreck at last, the old foreman met a scene which caused his stout heart to quail, but summoning all his energies, and procuring the assistance of those on board who were comparatively unhurt, he succeeded in getting a line to shore, thereby checking the progress of the hull, which was slowly drifting down stream.
The wreck, together with the clumsy barges, was swung in at the foot of Butler Street. Several other parties had by this time been attracted to the scene, among them James Kennedy and Peter Sharp. When the boat reached shore, those of the crew who were able left the wreck in the confusion, and many of them strayed off or found quarters along the river. CAPT. DE WOLFE was found partially buried beneath the debris, his head being badly injured and his right arm broken. He was at once placed in a carriage and taken to the Broadway Hotel.
The wreck, soon after being landed, sunk, leaving the barges afloat. The ferryboat Newport Belle then came up and took charge of the barges, which were safely landed.

The Crew.
The crew of the Raven consisted, as we have before stated, of twenty-three persons. The following is a list, as near as we were able to obtain the names:
Captain, SAMUEL DE WOLFE; first mate, DARR DE WOLFE; second mate, ELLIS ALESHIRE; first engineer, JOE MARTIN; second engineer, GEORGE ABELS; first steward, LEVI SAUSSER; second steward, ROBERT DECKER; carpenter, ALLEN ALESHIRE; firemen, REUBEN SAUSSER, JOHN CHRISTY, HENRY BROWN (colored) and THOMAS WHITE.

The Killed.
As soon as possible the injured men were gathered together and conveyed to the various hospitals. Some were taken to the Marine, and some to the Commercial Hospital. It was impossible last night to ascertain anything definite as regards to the lives lost, but from our best data it is known that ASA WOODWARD, the pilot, and GEORGE DE WOLFE, an apprentice pilot, were drowned. The chambermaid of the steamer Albion says that she witnessed their death in the water. The latter was a nephew of the Captain. The colored chambermaid is reported lost and others are reported missing.