Kensington, PA Boating Accident, July 1880


From the Philadelphia Press, July 5.
JOHN ORR, a mechanic, of No. 581 Burgess street, Kensington, started out early yesterday morning to give his children an airing on the river. A row-boat was almost filled with the four children, KATE MARKS, his sister-in-law, aged 22, and ROBERT RITCHIE, a boy who went along to represent the owner of the boat. They fished and paddled about the river all day, and soon after sundown directed their craft toward home. They headed around the south end of Petty's Island in order to take advantage of the flood-tide and he swept toward their wharf, which is the fourth above the Kensington Water-works wharf, at Otis street. The father and RITCHIE were laboring at the oars, and the boat had reached about midway of the western channel when the tug ARGONAUTA, on her way from Ridgeway Park to the Otis street wharf, bore down on them. Even ORR himself is in doubt whether it was light enough to have enabled the pilot of the steamer to see them sufficiently far off to have avoided the accident. ORR says that he and his precious freight realized their danger only when the ARGONAUTA was almost down upon them. They heard the screech of the whistle, and bent to their oars whith redoubled effort, when the steamer struck the row-boat about the centre, and in a second they were in the water struggling with the wash and waves of the larger craft, which, fortunately, had already slackened speed so as to round to her wharf. JOHN ORR and his son JAMES, aged 16, and ROBERT RITCHIE were all who reached the surface, as far as is known. The steamer had already passed them when they realized their situation, and with one accord they swam into the steamer's wake to see what had become of their companions. Af far as they knew, they never made a sound nor rose above the surface. KATE MARKS, the aunt, ROBERT ORR, aged 15, LIZZIE ORR, aged 9, and KATIE ORR, aged 6, were probably struck by the steamer and rendered unconscious before they touched the water. Two boys who rowed another boat were near enough to see the catastrophe, and they picked up ORR and his oldest son and RITCHIE, but not until they were nearly exhausted. They had already been rowing for several minutes about the spot where the collision occurred, when the steamer returned tardily to render assistance. ORR rowed around, dazed and hopeless, for an hour, looking for his lost children, and then unwillingly went ashore and bore the news of the disaster to his wife. At the late hour it was impossible to see the officers of the steamer and learn their version of the disaster, but the rule is said to be that all craft, large and small, must carry a lantern after nightfall. The row-boat had no such light, and was struck in the natural course of the ARGONAUTA when rounding to one a flood tide.

The New York Times New York 1880-07-06