On November 4, 1922 4 steamboats were moored together at the Public Landing. A fire started on one boat and quickly spread to the other three. They were finally separated and pulled into the Ohio River. This real photo postcard shows the boats from the Kentucky shore after they had been pulled apart. You can see the Chris Greene in the foreground. The first Island Queen is shown burning in the background. The Steamboats Tacoma and The Morning Star are also burning in the background but can not be seen clearly. The Fred Hall ,passing through, is the second Steamboat.
OHIO RIVER STEAMBOAT DISASTERS
1832-The Hornet was capsized by a gale 33 miles above Maysville, 20 passengers were drowned.
1838-The General Brown's boilers exploded while docked at Helena, 55 people were killed. The Captain while ringing the ship's bell was thrown 50' to the shore and died.
1838-The Moselle, 25 days after launching, was backing away from the bank at Cincinnati when the boilers blew up. The explosion was so powerful the Captain's body was found in a tree on the Kentucky side of the river. 150-160 people died. (* See bottom of page)
1843-The steamers Forrest and Pulaski collided 20 miles above the Allegheny River. The Pulaski sunk killing 20 people.
1844-The Lucy Walker's boilers exploded 4 miles below New Albany. Estimated deaths were set at 60. She was built in Cincinnati just 9 months earlier.
1847-The A.N. Johnston exploded near Maysville. There was a total of 105 dead and missing although a complete list was never published.
1849- The Virginia exploded 10 miles above Wheeling with 10 people dying.
1850-The Kate Fleming exploded near Walker's Landing, between Louisville & Cairo, 9 were killed.
1852-The Redstone exploded near Carrollton. 35 died.
1855-The Lexington exploded near Stephensport, Ky. 30 people died.
1859-The Pacific burned to the water's edge. Many died including the captain but no record was ever published.
1868-The steamers America and United States collide near Warsaw, both are Cincinnati boats. 40 are killed.
1868- The Magnolia exploded at California, Oh. (where the Cincinnati Waterworks is now). 80 people died.
1874-The Pat Rogers caught fire and sank. 11 people died.
1876-The Pat Cleburne exploded at Shawneetown. 19 died.
1892-The Golden Rule caught fire and sank while docked in Cincinnati. 12 people died.
1895-The Longfellow struck the C & O Bridge and sank. 11 people died.
By far the greatest steamboat disaster of all time occurred on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865 when the Sultana left Memphis with 2400 people, the majority of which were freed Union prisoners of war going home. The boilers blew and the body count by some were more than 1600. This was a greater loss of life than that of the Titanic. Although this did not occur on the Ohio I thought I had to include it with the others.
CINCINNATI PACKET LINES
Cincinnati, Pomeroy & Charleston Packet Co. Wharf at foot of Sycamore.
Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Co. Wharf at foot of Main. (see cards above)
Memphis & Cincinnati Packet Co. Wharf at foot of Broadway.
Ohio River Transit Co. Wharf at foot of Main.
Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Line. Wharf at foot of Broadway.
NOTABLE YEARS OF THE LAST TWO CENTURIES
1793-Cincinnati merchant Jacob Meyers starts the first weekly keelboat passenger service between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
1798-John Fitch builds the first steamboat on the Ohio at Bardstown, Ky. Failing to find backers, he commits suicide.
1807-Robert Fulton Builds his first steamboat on the Hudson River.
1811-Keelboats make the round trip between Cincinnati and New Orleans in 78 days. Passage is $160.
1811-Fulton's steamboat, New Orleans, is built at Pittsburgh and sailed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. When it arrived in Cincinnati on October 27, 1811 she was forced to anchor in midstream, as the levee had not yet been built. It is the first steamboat in western waters. Passage is $30.
1814-Henry Shreve and Daniel French build the Enterprise, the fourth steamboat on western waters. Andrew Jackson confiscates the boat to move military supplies during the Battle of New Orleans. The Enterprise is the first steamboat to make the return trip from New Orleans to Louisville.
1816-Henry Shreve builds the George Washington at Wheeling, W. Va. The 150'. 400 ton side-wheeler sets the pattern for all future steamboats, with a shallow hull, horizontal boilers on the main deck, passenger cabins on the second deck, twin smokestacks and a pilot house. Shreve names his passenger cabins after states of the union, calling them staterooms.
1816-The Vesta is the first steamboat to be built at Cincinnati's Fulton shipyards.
1817-The Zebulon Pike, built at Cincinnati, is the first vessel designed exclusively for passenger service, the first official mail carrier and the first steamboat to reach St. Louis. It is the first boat in the Cincinnati-based United States Mail Line, which became the longest lasting steamboat line.
1819-Seven steamboats are built at Cincinnati.
1820-The 1,480 mile, 16 day passage from New Orleans to Cincinnati, against the river current, is $15. The Cincinnati to New Orleans passage takes eight days and costs $25.
1830-The Louisville & Portland Canal is completed. It bypasses the Ohio rapids at Louisville and allows cargo and passengers to travel on one boat all the way from Pittsburgh to New Orleans without waiting for high water or changing boats.
1834-By this date, 304 steamboats have been built at Pittsburgh, 221 at Cincinnati and Covington, and 103 at Louisville.
1841-After 31 days in office, president William Henry Harrison, a Cincinnatian dies from a cold. After his burial near his home at North Bend on the Ohio River, it became a tradition for all steamboats to blow a low whistle when passing his tomb.
1845-Steamboat builders add a third deck just as Texas is admitted to the Union as the 28th state. In the tradition of naming cabins after states, the new deck is called the Texas.
1852-8,000 landings are recorded at Cincinnati at the peak of the steamboat era.
1861-The Civil War starts and all traffic on the Mississippi River is suspended. Shipyards begin converting steamboats to iron clad gunboats.
1863-The gunboat Cincinnati is sunk by gunfire at Vicksburg.
1867-The first bridge over the Ohio River, The Suspension Bridge, is completed between Covington Ky. and Cincinnati.
1870-Responding to competition from the railroads, Boat owners begin building "floating palaces," made for speed and elegance. The best boats are called Cincinnati boats.
1881-All river traffic is halted when the Ohio River reaches the lowest level on record, 1 foot, 9 inches.
1890-Cincinnatian Gordon C. Greene and wife Mary buy the H. K. Bedford, the first boat in the Greene Line.
1893-Gordon Greene buys a second boat, the Argand. Unable to pay a second captain, Mary Greene takes the Argand. She is the only licensed woman pilot on the river.
1896-The new Island Queen begins carrying passengers between the Public Landing and Coney Island. For the next 50 years four Island Queens and many other excursion boats will make the Coney Island run.
1897-The Queen City, billed as "the finest steamer ever afloat on Western waters," is launched at Cincinnati.
1918-The Ohio River, frozen for 51 days, crushes the hulls of the steamers City of Cincinnati, City of Louisville, Greenland, Loucinda, Julius Fleischman, Val. P. Collins, Island Princess and Island Queen.
1922-A fire at Cincinnati's Public Landing destroys the Island Maid, Tacoma ,Morning Star and the Island Queen. The Chris Greene was damaged.
1929-President Herbert Hoover dedicates a monument in Eden Park that recognizes the completion of the 49 lock and movable dam system that created a nine foot navigable canal along the entire 980 mile length of the Ohio River.
1946-The Delta Queen is purchased by Captain Tom Greene.
1947-The Island Queen, the last of 4 boats by that name, explodes at dock in Pittsburgh, killing 21. That ended all excursion boats to Coney Island.
1962-The Avalon is sold to Louisville, becoming the Belle of Louisville.
1963-The Delta Queen and Belle of Louisville race for the first time.
1976-The Mississippi Queen is built at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
1984-The Delta Queen moves to New Orleans but retains the "Port of Cincinnati" sign on her stern.
1990-The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., which started as Cincinnati's Greene Lines, celebrates its 100th birthday.
*DESTRUCTION OF THE MOSELLE
There are several versions written on the Moselle
explosion but I received an e-mail from a visitor to this site. I printed it out and then promptly "lost it" in the mass of paper work I
had laying about. When I finally got around to straightening up I re-discovered
it. Since she (Cecelia Westrich) went to so much trouble in writing it for me, I
thought I would use her version that had been told to her by her father.
First, a little information. The Moselle was a brand new boat, built in Cincinnati it was only a couple of months old. It was, in 1838, regarded as the very best steamboat of its day. Its Captain and owner, Captain Perrin, was young and had great ambition. He was determined that the Moselle maintain the reputation as being "the swiftest steamboat in America." The Moselle's reputation was well deserved for her "quick trips" have rarely been beaten since.
I will now quote from Cecelia's e-mail: "It seems that the Moselle was racing with another steamboat, as was the common practice in those days, and had stopped at Hillsboro to pick up a family-along with goats and chickens-to transport them to Cincinnati. The Captain was determined that the stop was not going to cause him to lose the race, so he opened throttle and put full steam ahead. Passengers who survived reported later that they felt the floorboards of the deck grow hot under their feet, and many of the men tried to get the Captain to cut back on his steam as they were afraid of what might happen. But he refused, and even when he pulled into port in Cincinnati, he refused to shut down the steam that he had built up, with an eye toward catching up to the other boat that was using the opportunity to take the lead. As he pulled out, the boilers let loose and a horrible holocaust ensued."
I will now digress from Cecelia's account which is very extensive.
The Moselle left Cincinnati on the afternoon of April 25, 1838, between four and five o'clock bound for St. Louis. There were an unusually large number of passengers on board, between 280 and 300. A large crowd was there to see the Moselle off because her renown as the finest and swiftest boat on the river were great attractions to the public. About a mile up the Ohio from Cincinnati the Moselle stopped to take on some German immigrants. An experienced engineer on board noticed that steam had been raised to an unusual height. One man even left the boat, in fear, as the immigrants were brought onboard. It was when the boat was shoved off from the shore that the explosion took place. The whole vessel forward of the wheel disintegrated, the remainder floated down stream for about a hundred yards and sank, leaving the upper part of the cabin out of the water.
The explosion was reported to be unprecedented in the history of steam, it's effect was that of a mine full of gunpowder. All four boilers blew simultaneously, the people on deck stood no chance of surviving. The Captain was standing directly over the boilers and was blown across the river onto the Kentucky shore, which was about 1/4 of a mile distant. Another person was thrown a hundred yards with such force a part of his body (his head) penetrated the roof of a house. Of the 60 or 70 uninjured people who jumped into the river, less than a dozen made it to shore.
Of the estimated 280-300 people on board 81 were known to have died, 55 were missing, and 13 were badly injured.
Moselle before Moselle exploding Moselle after
I am high lighting only one of the people killed in the Moselle disaster, mainly because I could only find one! Lieutenant-Colonel John Fowle had just been promoted due to the death of the commanding officer of his regiment that was in Florida. He was home in Virginia when he was recalled back to his regiment. He boarded the Moselle in Cincinnati for the trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Colonels body was found weeks afterward a hundred miles below Cincinnati. Below you see Colonel Fowle and his tombstone in Alexandria, Virginia.
Lt. Col. John Fowle