Aurora, OH Steamboat PAT ROGERS Disaster, Aug 1874


Thrilling Incidents And Remarkable Escapes -- The Boat Within Thirty Yards Of Land -- Theory Of The Cause -- A Negro Thief's Revenge.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug. 6 -- In addition to those reported lost off the steamer PAT ROGERS yesterday, the following are now believed to have been drowned: ANNA COOK and two children of SIMON GESTNER, of Cincinnati; the wife and child of DR. GIBBONS, of Madison, Ind.; A. M. BOLLZ, of North Carolina; JAMES SMITH, a deck hand. F. M. STONE of North Carolina, was badly burned; also JOHN J. HUGHES, the mate. They arrived in the city last night. The greatest misfortune consisted in the fact that the fire occurred in that particular part of the river, for just there the river was at such a stage that it was impossible for the boat to reach the shore, drawing as much water as she did. The limit of the time between the first alarm and the time when everybody had left the boat is said to have been twenty minutes. At the time there was dry land on the starboard side only thirty yards distant, but a wall of flame intervened. On the larboard aide the land was a long distance away. The wind was blowing toward the nearest shore, and drove the flames in that direction. Many of those who got to the nearest shore are disfigured for life, the exposed part of their bodies actually roasted by the excessive heat.
Thrilling Indicents.
One of the most thirilling and miraculous escapes was that of MISS. L. J. WILLIAMS, of Louisville, who threw away her valise and extra clothing, and after securing the services of a gentleman in throwing overboard a crate of peaches, she leaped in the water after it with a life-preserver. When she attempted to cling to the crate it revolved like a reel, and for two terrible hours she struggled with the crate, and had just closed her eyes in despair when she was drawn into a skiff by MR. HUFF, who rendered valuable services in several other cases.
MISS RAWDEN, of Louisville, jumped from the boat toward the Indiana shore, and the hungry tongues of flame licking along the surface of the water horribly burned her head and face. She had no life-preserver, and only secured one end of a plank by clinging to the pantaloon-leg of a man who swam past her. She says that while moving through the water several gasping, drowning wretches extended their hands toward her, some even grasping her hair, tearing it out by the handful.
The last living object seen on board of the boat was a little child, three or four years of age, running about screaming with fright, surrounded by the flames, and its legs, arms, and face, exposed to the terrible heat.
The negro crew behaved badly, hurrying off the boat before there was any imminent danger, and monopolizing all available means of support. Two colored men and one white man rowed away in a life-boat that could have been made to convey twenty or thirty persons to the shore.
The Search For Bodies.
The river is being dragged for bodies. Up to 2 o'clock this afternoon, four bodies had been recovered. One was the barber, MINOR MUNTZ; one a young lady, supposed to be from Covington, Ky., and the other two an unknown man and woman.
More Bodies Recovered -- Whole Loss Of Life Probably Twenty-Five.
Cincinnati, Aug. 6 -- The bodies of FERDINAND NETTER, MRS. SMITH, and MISS COOK, of Madison, Ind., have been recovered from the river near the scene of the Pat Rogers disaster near Aurora.
The number on board, all told, is supposed to have been from seventy-two to seventy-five persons. The exact list cannot be had. The reports of the lost have ranged from sixteen to twenty-eight persons. Probably twenty-five is the number nearest the fact. Citizens and the passengers do not attach blame to the Captain and officers. At all events, it has not been expressed. Suspense and uncertainty as to the fate of the missing have addend intensity to the painful interest felt in the calamity here. At this time forty-five persons are known to have been saved.
The Disaster Supposed To Be An Act Of Vengeance By A Negro.
Louisville, Ky., Aug. 6 -- The possible origin of the fire on the steamer Pat Rogers is given here as follows: About two weeks ago a negro thief was detected by the watchman on the Rogers, who fired at him, but missed him. This negro took deck passage on the Rogers when she left this wharf on Tuesday, and was heard to say to several negroes before starting that he would make it "hot as hell for that watchman before the boat reached Cincinnati." The opinion is expressed by one of the officials of the line here that this negro set the boat on fire and cut the tiller-rope.

The New York Times New York 1874-08-07