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Researched and compiled
By Sue Rekkas

Daily Gazette,

Thursday Morning, 19 November 1874 



“OWENS-RAMBO”-- In LeClaire on the 16 inst by Geo W. Lewis, Captain Reuben Owens of St. Louis & Miss Mary V Rambo of LeClaire.

Mary (Rambo) Owens

St. Louis, Missouri City Directory 1875 page 345

 Owen, Reuben, pilot, r 2429 N. 15th

 *** ~~~***

1880 Census, Town of LeClaire, County of Scott, State of Iowa
Surname Given Name Age Occupation Birth State
Owens Reuben 36 Raft Pilot Ohio
Owens Mary 25 Wife Iowa
Owens Gertrude 04 at home Iowa
Rambo Minerva 31 Sister-in-Law Iowa


St. Louis, Missouri City Directory 1875 page 345
Owen, Reuben, pilot, r 2429 N. 15th


The Davenport Democrat, dated Monday, April 24, 1882, page 1.

This morning the wife of Captain Owens, at Le Claire, received a telegram from her husband, stating that the steamer Little Eagle, which he commanded, sank at the Hannibal bridge last night, and is a total loss. She was engaged in towing a raft to Quincy. He says "I am safe," but does not state as to the rest of the men.
This is the second disaster this season for the McDonald Brothers of La Crosse, who owned the steamer, the first being the sinking of the Bell Mac through the bursting of her boilers, which scalded to death or drowned seven of her crew.

The Little Eagle was six or seven years old, was built at La Crosse, and was worth $6,000 to $8,000. She was one of the best steamers in the raft service. It is not known here, whether she was insured or not.


The Davenport Democrat, Tuesday, April 25, 1882, page 1.
How the Little Eagle went to the Bottom-A spirit of Accommodation and Other Spirits Did it-

-The Steamer is a Total Loss.


According to the story of Captain Daniel Davison, of the steamer Little Eagle, which went against the Hannibal bridge last Sunday afternoon, and sank, the destruction of the steamer was the result of a too obliging disposition on the captain's part, principally, and of a spree which several members of the crew had indulged the previous night. The captain has been a river man for thirty-six years and a skipper for the last ten years. He was first pilot on the Eagle, and was at the wheel when the accident occurred, the second pilot, Reuben Owens, of LeClaire, being off watch and asleep. The steamer had a raft in tow for Hannibal, and laid up at Quincy during the previous night, and all the crew went ashore. They left Quincy at 5 o’clock in the morning, took the raft down to a point four miles above the Hannibal Bridge, where it was tied up, while the captain steamed down for Hannibal to notify the consignees that the raft had arrived.

About a mile above the bridge they met a man in a skiff who pulled to the boat, got on board and asked the captain to tow down a couple strings of lumber for the Hannibal Lumber Company, which he agreed to do. They went back for the later raft, got it and went on down the river to within half a mile of the bridge, then the captain told the man he thought when he got near the bridge he had better loose the boat from the raft and let the latter float through under the span nearest the Missouri shore alone. The lumber man told him he wanted to land the raft immediately below the bridge, and that if the adopted the captain’s plan, it would almost certainly strike the shore and be broken up. Capt. Davison finally agreed to run through the draw with the raft in tow, and made his calculations accordingly. There was a strong wind blowing down stream, which tended to force the boat close to the Missouri shore and the strong current exercising this tendency soon made apparent to those on board that the run would be dangerous. The boat was now nearing the bridge, and the Capt. gave orders to the crew to stand by the lines and obey his orders. Several of the men had not yet fully recovered from the effects of last night’s spree, and were still under the influence of liquor. They went to their places, however. The powerful force of the current had now swung the boat and the raft around to an angle of forty degrees to the bridge, with the stern of the boat to the northwest. The captain, who was acting as pilot, seeing no other way of escaping impending danger, gave orders just as the lower end of the raft was passing through the draw to cut loose the lines, and called out to those on board. “We are lost, save yourselves!” Those who were sober enough to realize the danger of the situation obeyed, and four or five lines attached to the raft were cut loose but the remaining one still held and drew the boat on to destruction. The captain then gave orders to the engineer to put on a full head of steam, in an endeavor to force the raft forward and clear the pier, but the current was to strong and the raft struck the pier. The crashing, grinding and piling of timber struck terror to the hearts of the now totally demoralized crew.

The captain gave orders to all on board the boat to jump on the raft and await the final crash of the steamer against the pier. He himself stuck to the pilot house until the crash came, when he has calculated to jump from the hurricane deck to the bridge. A second later the boat struck the pier and parted near the pilot house, and the captain fell headlong down the break and into the water. The boat careened after striking the pier and fell toward the north.

The clerk’s wife, Mrs. R. C. Davis, of Fort Madison, was taking a pleasure ride with her husband, and with him left the boat and got on a raft before the steamer struck. The officers lost all their trunks, but a number have since been recovered. The safe, containing $450, is at the bottom of the river or still in the wreck.

The Little Eagle is a total loss. She was valued at $9,000 and was uninsured. Most of the wreck still lies against the fatal pier, just where it struck, part of the debris having floated off down the river. This is the second accident of the kind at this bridge. Six years ago the steamer Dictator struck under somewhat similar circumstances and seven lives were lost.

Captain Davison came in some distance below the bridge, and grabbing a piece of the wreck, held to it, holding with one hand, until he made his way to the hen coop, which he had mounted when rescued by some men in a skiff.

Three of the crew, Jerome Vallan, Silas Cooper and Henry Houseman, were lost. Vallan was a linesman, Cooper was a fireman, and Houseman was a kitchen boy. Vallan’s body was recovered, and an inquest held, the jury returning a verdict that deceased came to his death by an unavoidable accident by the steamer Little Eagle striking the pier of the Hannibal Bridge. The jury’s verdict exonerated the captain from all blame, the testimony of Clerk Davis and John Young the cook, who appeared to be the only ones capable of giving satisfactory account of the affair, going to show that the captain was a cautious, sober and straightforward man, fully capable of discharging the duties of his position. Captain Davison himself acknowledged it was impossible for the most expert pilot to keep posted on every change of the current and the draft at all stages of the river. He had gone through the Hannibal Bridge at least twenty-five times before, and never had an accident before, although this bridge has the reputation among pilots of being the most difficult on the river to effect a safe passage through.


Ruben Owens died December 25 1884 and is buried in Glendale Cemetery at LeClaire, Iowa next to his wife Mary. No obituary for him could be found.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Wednesday, July 20, 1910, page 2.

Drs. Franklin and Rummel of De Pell, Ill., arrived in LeClaire Saturday evening. On Sunday morning they preformed an operation on Mrs. Mary Owen which gave promise of restored health. Mrs. Owen passed away Monday afternoon.



Mary Owen, LeClare Cemetery,

The Daily Times, Tuesday, July 19, 1910, page 4.



Mrs. Mary Owen passed away yesterday afternoon at the home of her sister, Mrs. J. M Hawthorne of LeClaire, after a lingering illness, Sunday morning she submitted to an operation for gall stones and being in a weakened condition succumbed to the effects of the operation.


Mary V. Rambo was born in LeClaire, August 16, 1854, daughter of William and Jennie Rambo. She was united in marriage to Ruben Owen at LeClaire, November 20, 1875. Mr. Owen preceded her in death in 1884.  Surviving her are two daughters, Misses Gertrude and Jessie at home and one sister, and two brothers, Mrs. J. M. Hawthorne and Captain J. W. Rambo of LeClaire and W. D. Rambo of Shellburg, Ia.

Funeral service will be held from the home Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock with interment at LeClaire cemetery.


The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Tuesday, July 19, 1910, page 6.

Mrs. Mary V. Owen passed away Monday afternoon at her home in LeClaire, after an illness of many months. Mrs. Owen submitted to an operation for the removal of gall stones on Sunday morning, but in her weakened condition failed to rally and passed away the next afternoon.

Mary V. Rambo, daughter of William and Jennie Rambo, was born in LeClaire, Ia., August 16, 1854, and was united in marriage with Ruben Owen, November 20, 1875, at LeClaire. This union was blessed by two daughters, Gertrude and Jessie, who tenderly cared for their mother during her illness. Mrs. Owen and daughters were bereaved of husband and father December 25, 1884, since which time they have resided in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Hawthorne, sister of Mrs. Owen. Besides the sister, Mrs. Hawthorne, she is mourned by two brothers, W. D. Rambo of Shellburg, Ia., and Captain J. W. Rambo of LeClaire.


The funeral will occur from the home of the sister, Mrs. J. M. Hawthorne Wednesday afternoon. Burial in LeClaire cemetery.


Collected and Transcribed by

Sue Rekkas

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