Bloomington, IL Steamboat DUBUQUE Explosion, Aug 1837


This distressing accident, by which sixteen persons were instantly killed, and several others were badly scalded, took place on the Mississippi, while the boat was on her voyage from St. Louis to Galena. The locality of the dreadful event was off Muscatine Bar, eight miles below Bloomington. The Dubuque was running under a moderate pressure of steam at the time, when the flue of the larboard boiler, probably on account of some defect in the material or workmanship, collapsed, throwing a torrent of scalding water over the deck. The pilot immediately steered for the shore and effected a landing.

When the consternation and dismay occasioned by the explosion had in some measure subsided, Captain Smoker, the commander of the Dubuque, and such of his crew as were not disabled by this accident, made their way, with considerable difficulty, through the ruins to the after-part of the boiler-deck, when it was found that the whole of the freight, and every other article which had been there deposited, was cleared off and wafted far away into the water. The unfortunate deck passengers, together with the cooks and several of the crew, were severely scalded, either by the hot water or escaped steam. Many of these wretched people, in their agony, fled to the shore, uttering the most appalling shrieks, and tearing off their clothes, which in some cases brought away the skin, and even the flesh, with them. Humanity shudders at the recollection of the scene. It was several hours before any of them died; nor mild medical relief be obtained until a boat, which had been despatched to Bloomington, returned with several physicians who resided at that place. At 10 o'clock, P. M., eight hours after the explosion, the steamboat Adventure, Captain Van Housen, came up with the wreck, and took it in tow as far as Bloomington.

The following is a list of the sufferers as far as ascertained :
KILLED :—John Littleton, second engineer ; he was badly wounded in the head by a piece of iron, a part of the flue, and survived about three hours ; Isaac Deal, of Pittsburgh, fireman ; Felix Pope, Kaskaskia; Charles Kelly, deck hand, from Ohio ; Noah Owen, Quincy; Jesse Johnson, colored cook, thrown overboard and drowned ; Benjamin Muser, soother colored cook. The rest of the killed were deck passengers, viz: James C. Carr, St. Clair county, Illinois ; George McMurtry, Francis Pleasant, colored, Henry A. Carr, John C. Hamilton, Joseph Brady, and John Boland, of Dubuque; Joseph L. Sams, and L. B. Barns, of Clay county, Illinois ; Martin Shoughnohoy, St. Louis; George Clix, of Galena; David Francour, Frenchman ; wife and child of Michael Shanghnessy.

M. Shanghnessy, the husband and father of the two victims last mentioned, was badly scalded, but survived. Three other deck passengers, young men, names unknown, are supposed to have been thrown overboard and drowned ; and it is strongly suspected that others beside these perished in the same manner.

Lloyd's Steamboat Disasters, pages 77-79