Philadelphia, PA Ferry Boat NEW JERSEY Fire, Mar 1856




From the Philadelphia Ledger Extra.
One of the most fearful disasters which has happened upon the Delaware since the burning of the William Penn, some twenty years ago, occurred on Saturday night, between 8 and 9 o'clock.
The Camden ferry boat NEW JERSEY, belonging to the Philadelphia and Camden Ferry Company, with passengers to the number of nearly 100, mostly residents of New Jersey, started for Camden.
The boat was headed for the Canal, but on reaching that point, Captain CARSON discovered that the ice was so jammed between the banks, that to go through would be almost an impossibility.
The boat was then turned northward, so as to cross the bar some distance above Smith's Island.
When nearly opposite Arch street wharf, the boat was discovered to be on fire near the smoke stack.
An effort was made to check the flames, but without avail. A scene of wild excitement ensued, the passengers all pressing forward to escape the flames, and to be the first to jump ashore, as soon as the boat should touch the wharf, the captain having directed the pilot to steer direct for the Arch street wharf. When within about thirty feet of the wharf the wheel house fell, rendering her steering apparatus useless. A strong ebb tide was running, and setting up the river, which caused the boat to sheer off from the wharf, and float toward the island again. Before this time, however, most of the passengers had jumped overboard, some of whom managed to get upon cakes of ice, and others were taken from the water by persons in small boats. Many of the passengers, among whom were some females, remained on the boat until the burning of their clothes drove them to leap into the water.
Mr. James W. Ferguson thinks there were about sixty persons on the boat, and when the fire was first discovered he was talking with a fellow clerk of his, named Howard. When the place became too hot for them, Ferguson, in company with Howard and some gentlemen unknown to him, slipped over the steamboat into the water, and held on the the rudder-chains until nearly exhausted, when he let go and commenced swimming to shore. He was seen by persons on the wharf and a rope thrown to him and thus saved. He could not tell what had become of his companions.
The Dead:
MR. JOHN C. LITTLE, a resident of Camden, was picked up by three persons in a small boat, dead. When the body was first seen it was floating beneath the surface of the water. His head and hand were burned and breast bruised. He was taken to Vine street wharf and given in charge of the 7th District police, who removed him to the station house in Dillwyn street. The deceased was a harness maker, and worked in a shop in Market street, Philadelphia. He was 38 years of age, and has left a wife and three children.
ABRAHAM JANNIE, a wheelwright by trade, in the employ of Benjamin Franklin, of Dock street, was taken from the water and removed to Newkirk's Hotel, Arch street wharf. He appeared to have been killed by a blow upon the forehead from the wheel of the boat, or in striking a cake of ice. He leaves a wife living in Camden, on Bridge avenue.
FREDERICK THOMPSON, 13 years of age, was drowned. He resided with his father, James Thompson, in Fourth street, near Mickle, in Camden, and at the time of the calamity was with his father on the boat. While the crowd was rushing forward, MR. T. had his son by the hand, watching a favorable opportunity to jump overboard.
FREDERICK was crying piteously, and called for aid. The father and son were pushed off the boat, and while the father escaped with a slight injury to the shoulder, caused by being struck by the paddle-wheel, the son was lost. MR. JAMES THOMPSON is a bookbinder, and works in Lippincott's bindery, Fifth street, near Race.
The Injured:
MRS. NIXON, the wife of WARWASER NIXON, residing in Camden. Her bonnet was burned off her head, and a black silk dress and the under clothing nearly all burned off her. Her face, breast, arms, hands, and one side are so terribly burned that her life is despaired of. She jumped overboard and was saved after sinking twice. MRS. N. was taken to Barr's Hotel in Water street, above Roe, where Drs. Bournonville, Harper and Gregg attended her. Her daughter was saved and was with the mother yesterday. MR. W. NIXON was beside her when she jumped, but after reaching the water she lost him. He has not been heard of since.
LEVI NEWTON, of Cooper's Hill, N.J., was burned about the face, ears and legs, and bruised in the breast by being struck by the paddle-wheel. He was with his brother, JOHN S. NEWTON, teacher, who is supposed to be injured.
LEVI seized a bench, and after falling overboard, went down twice before being struck with the wheel, after passing under the wheel, the bench sustained him until taken off in a small boat. The brothers returned in the 4 o'clock train from New York -- having visited that city to attend the funeral of a sister's child. They went to the depot in New York at 2 o'clock, for the purpose of returning home, but found that that line had been discontinued.

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