Galveston, TX Steamer CITY OF WACO Fire, Nov 1875




GALVESTON, Texas, Nov. 10.---The steamer Buckthorn was dispatched outside again at 3 o'clock this morning in search of the missing passengers and crew of the City of Waco. She will cruise west sixty miles along the coast before returning. Capt. J. N. Sawyer, Agent of the Mallory Line, also started out on board on of the pilot boats in search of the missing boats. The only hopes now entertained for the safety of the passengers and crew are based upon the statement of Capt. Irvine of the Buckthorn, who saw a foremast while out yesterday. He reported that the end of the mast was burned off apparently between decks or very close below the floor on the upper deck, which indicates that the fire was below the between decks, in which case the fire may have been burning some time, and given the officers, crew, and passengers ample time to leave the ship before the flames reached the upper deck, and was discovered by other vessels. It is thought the passengers and crew may have escaped in the darkness on board of the ship's small boats before the fire on board was seen from the fusiyama and the steam-ship San Marcos. In this event they would have drifted with the sea about thirty or forty miles westward before the wind changed to north-west. Another statement, which would appear to confirm the location of the fire, is that the City of Waco had a small wooden case or house built around her foremast, where matches, &c., were stored. The casing reached up on the mast four feet and above the top of it the mast was grained; below it was only painted white. The foremast was evidently burned off below the deck. On the upper deck forward large quantities of oil were stored, and as soon as the flame reached this the entire upper portion of the vessel was swept by the flames.

The officers of the San Marcos, a steam-ship lying in the fleet, state that the fire was first discovered about 2 o'clock. Nothing wrong was discovered with the unfortunate ship until she appeared wrapped in a sheet of flame. Nothing was seen of her boats or passengers and crew. The return of the pilot-boat and steamer are anxiously looked for. It is thought they will be in late to-night.

The English steamer Abdiel has just come in from outside. She was anchored directly to leeward of the Waco. Her mate reports that the fire was discovered about 12:30 A. M., and that the ship appeared to be one mass of flames. The officers of the Abdiel immediately ordered steam up and their small boats in readiness for rendering assistance. The mate states he heard cries of distress from five or six persons in the water. One was the voice of a woman or child clinging to what appeared to be a spar or piece of one of the vessel's masts. The sea was breaking over the Abdiel. The mate went aft and saw the spar again, but every soul had been washed off of it. As soon as steam could be made the Abdiel moved up alongside the burning ship as near as the officers dared to go. They state that not a person was to be seen on her, and they do not think it possible for one of her small boats to have been launched. The Waco was rolling fearfully in the storm, and sparks and cinders were flying over and past the Abdiel. The officers of the Abdiel placed lights in their small boats, and had them in readiness to launch. Her crew were on the watch for any of the Waco's people, but none were seen or heard. The mate states that the fire on the Waco seemed to spread over the entire vessel in a few minutes. He thinks she was first struck by lightning, which ignited the oil on board and burned everything on the upper decks before the passengers and crew could have left their berths and reached the small boats.

The steam-tug Buckthorn has just returned from outside. Capt. Irvine saw one of the Waco's boats, which had been considerably burned and floated off. He also saw some steps and pieces of her cabin, but found no trace whatever of any of the passengers or crew. It is reported to-night that when the steam-ship Clinton passed the Australian, lying at the mouth of the San Bernard River yesterday, she was signalled, but the Clinton, not knowing of the Waco disaster, did not stop. Hopes are entertained that some of the Waco's people may be saved on board the Australian. If the pilot-boat which is now cruising in that vicinity does not reach her there will be another steamer dispatched west to-morrow.


The office of C. H. Mallory & Co., owners of the ill-fated steamer City of Waco, at No. 153 Maiden lane, in this City, was besieged all day yesterday by the friends and relatives of the missing passengers and crew. Conspicuous among them was the young wife of Mitchell O'Hara, the chief engineer, who sobbed aloud in her distress. They might as well have remained at home, for all the information they received. Mr. Mallory and his employes[sic] were exceedingly short in their answers to inquires. They knew nothing, had heard nothing, and did not know whether they would ever know anything. Messrs. Mallory & Co. deny that they have any list of the vessel's crew in their possession, and profess to have been able to furnish the names of some of her officers from recollection only. These are; S. B. Greeneman, of Westerly, R. I., (where he has a family,) Captain; ____ Nickerson, of Brooklyn, E. D., first mate: William Hoxley, an Englishman, residing in Brooklyn, steward; Fanny Best, of this City, stewardess; Mitchell O'Hara, of this City, Chief engineer, and _____ Colbert, first assistant engineer. This latter name was furnished by Mrs. O'Hara. She did not know where he resided. In addition to the above there were on board another assistant engineer, six seamen, two oilers, six firemen, three stokers, four batchmen, a carpenter, messman, porter, cook, cook's assistant, and waiter. Mallory & Co., refused to give for publication a list of the city of Waco's cargo, but acknowledged that a part of it was kerosene oil. Application at the Maritime Exchange and Custom-house failed to obtain it. Among the passengers were the daughter-in-law and grandson of Justice Horsley, of Jersey City, who have been on a visit to him. They sailed for Galveston, their home, on the City of Waco, intending to reach there in time to attend a birthday party of the husband and father, for which he had been making extensive preparation. Up to a late hour last evening, if Mallory's clerks can be believed, the firm received no fresh advices whatever in regard to the burned vessel.

The New York Times, New York, NY 11 Nov 1875