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On the River







Researched and Transcribed

By Sue Rekkas



Daily Gazette, Tuesday Morning, November 1, 1881, page 4.


  The Inquest on the body of Wm. J. Wendt and the consequent investigation as to the cause of the disaster will probably be resumed tomorrow morning.  Coroner Morris had subpoenas served on absent witness whom he wanted yesterday, and as they cannot arrive before tomorrow, the inquest cannot be begun until then.  When it is begun we will soon find out the why and the wherefore of the horrible catastrophe.


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The Davenport Democrat, Thursday, November 3, 1881, page 1.








Inquest of the Coroner’s Jury—Statement of Joseph M. Moss, of Princeton.



Coroner Morris began an inquest of the Jennie Gilchrist disaster at 9 o’clock this morning, in the office of deputy coroner Hawes.  The jury was composed of John Barge, foreman, John Rietticker, David Hawes, Albert Warren, Robert Coyne and John Aster. 


The first person sworn was Joseph H. Moss, one of the firemen, who made the following statement:

  My name is Joseph H. Moss, age 29, occupation laborer, residence Princeton, Scott County, Iowa.  Was employed on the Jennie Gilchrist on October 25th, 1881; have worked on different boats in different capacities.  Since I have been employed on the Jennie Gilchrist she has been making daily trips as a packet between Princeton, Iowa, and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa, making landings at the different towns along the route where we had freight to land or receive.  I think there are agents at most of the towns between here and Cordova to receive freight for the Gilchrist.  Was on board on Friday, October 27th.  We usually arrived at Rock Island between 10 and 11 o’clock a.m., but on the 27th did not arrive till 1:30 or 2 p.m.  Had on something like 500 barrels of lime, which we received at Cordova, Ill., and Princeton, Iowa, and also a few barrels of apples.


Don’t know whether the deck hands belonging to the boat unloaded the boat at Davenport, or others; was off watch and went to bed; was called to supper at 7 P.M.  We were then on the Rock Island side.  Saw Wm. Wendt at supper time; was acquainted with him; he asked to get some coffee for an old lady of Davenport, who had been waiting for the boat all day; she had an headache; think she was Mrs. Camp; got her the coffee;  don’t think Wendt was drunk or under the influence of liquor.  Did not see Wendt passing liquor to passengers; think if there had been any going around I should have been offered a drink.


After supper I went to bed and was not aroused till the boat was above the bridge, was awakened by voices, heard Peter Hyer and Smalley a colored deck hand hollowing “get out you fellows the wheel is going to strike something”; sprang up from a bunk saw the bridge and the lights on the bridge.  The boat struck the bridge on starboard side, tipped to port but did not strike the pier.  It’s my opinion that the boilers were lost when she tipped against the bridge.  I grasped the top of the door that leads to the bunk room, and when she tipped I was in water to my neck.  I was still hanging to the door when she righted, and I made for the sky-light.  The glass was broken and I was caught and pinched.  The hull was then under water.  Saw John Scheeshter; he pulled me out; just as I got straightened up the model barge Robert went by on the north side.  Heard people hollowing to us that they would throw us a plank, which they did.  The barge was right close by the side of the sinking boat.  Two men that were with me got on the barge; there were three on the wreck; they were Robt. Hastie, of Rapids City; John Callahon, of Cordova, and Wm. Brown; saw skiff on deck—back of pilot house.  I said we stay on wreck till she sinks and then get on the loaded barge, which soon drifted down on the south side; saw no person on that barge, I was first man on that barge; the other three followed me.  We drifted past the wreck; heard a voice cry “I’m fast in the wreck;” we told him we couldn’t help him, but to hang on; that a skiff was coming from Davenport.  The bells were ringing in Davenport; the skiff came and rescued the man in the wreck; he was John Zuber.  They soon came and got us off the barge and landed us at Davenport, near Schricker & Miller’s sawmill.  I went to St. James Hotel.


Coroner Morris then asked Mr. Moss about the skiff which he saw on steamer.  He said:  “The skiff was carried on the boiler deck, just aft of the pilot house; was just a common skiff, about 16 feet long, and in good condition I know, for Mr. Gilchrist’s carpenter worked one whole day repairing it.  Never saw it in the water; it had oars, but I don’t know where they were that night.  James Smalley, colored and Ellis, deck hands, had been on the boat sometime.  I never saw anyone drunk on the boat that was at all concerned in its management” The balance was long, and all of it would take up too much space; nothing particular from the above was developed.  Mr. Moss also stated that the boat was well provided with wooden life preservers, which were hanging on nails on the outside of the cabin.  At the conclusion of his statement the jury adjourned to 1 o’clock this afternoon.


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Daily Gazette, Friday, November 4, 1881, page 4.








The Inquest as to the Cause of the Death of W. G. Wendt, of Cordova—Jos. H. Moss the Fireman, Testifies—How the Boat was Provided for the Safety of the Passengers—The Cause of the Accident and the Scene as Related by the Witnesses—Thrilling Tales.



At 9:15 o’clock yesterday morning the inquest into the cause of the death of Wm. G. Wendt, who was killed on the night of Thursday, the 27th of October, 1881, was commenced at the office of Squire Hawes, by Coroner Wm. G. Morris.  All the jurors being present, the witness who had been called on the case were dismissed from the room, with the exception of Joseph. H. Moss, who was sworn, and gave the following testimony:

    I am 29 years of age, a laborer both on the river and on land, and reside in Princeton, Scott County, Iowa.  I have been a fireman on the steamer Jennie Gilchrist, since the morning of Tuesday, the 25th of October, 1881.  Had been working at Princeton before that time.  Have been working on the river more or less as opportunity offered, for some time.  The boat has been running as a daily packet between the cities of Davenport, Rock Island, Port Byron and Cordova since the 25th of October, usually making all the landings, stopping once during that time, at Moline, whenever there was freight to stop for.  I have seen such papers as licenses hanging up, but did not notice particularly a license to carry passengers.  Never noticed what pressure of steam she was allowed to carry.  Have seen licenses of pilot and engineer.  Maines was first engineer.  I know that they had certificates from the Government officers; I read them both over one day.  They hung up in the cabin, I believe at the site end of it.  There were no berths for the accommodation of passengers, but there were some for the crew; they were on the main deck, as were also the boilers and the cabin.  The berths were in a little bunk room partitioned off from the cabin.  There were only two berths—one for the cook, and one for anybody who could get it; and there were also some cots—common stretchers of canvas.  There were several of them; I don’t know how many.  Passengers sometimes used them.  The hands usually took cots, or lay down wherever they could.  There was a bunk head between the cabin and the engine room.  The engine room was back of the cabin, and back of that was a sort of shop room.  Nothing in particular was kept in the forward end of the boat.  The cabin was about twelve feet long, and extended across the boat.  I was in the cabin in the lower berth.  The cook usually occupied the upper one.  I do not know how many passengers were on board when we left Rock Island.  The boat usually left Princeton for Davenport at 6:30 or 7 a.m., and usually arrived there at about noon, generally stopping at Cordova, Port Byron, LeClaire, Rapids City, Hampton, and sometimes Moline, to put freight off and on.  The agents at the different stations procured freight and passengers.  We usually carried barges, sometimes one or two, which were usually loaded coming down each time.  We had no breakages in the machinery before the accident, while I was on board.  Usually reach Rock Island at 10 a.m., but on the 27th it was about 2:30 p.m., being slow because we took 250 barrels of lime at Cordova, and it took longer to load it.  We took on 100 barrels of Lime at Princeton, and other barge at Port Byron loaded with about 200 barrels, and we put on about 100 more.  We also had a few barrels of apples.  Think one barge was brought to Rock Island and one to Davenport.  Boat landed below the bridge, east of the ferry landing.  We had no barge on board.  I was gone 10 or 15 minutes from the boat, and went I came back I went and lay down. Had not been drinking at all.  I was called to supper at about seven or eight o’clock.  I did not go ashore again that day.  Went to bed after supper.  Did not notice what the crew was doing.  I was not called again until after passing the bridge, when Peter Hire and Jas. Small called me.  The other berth was not occupied.  I did not hear the accident and it did not arouse me.  Hire and Small hallowed “get out, get out, you fellows!  The boat is going to strike something,” calling to their comrades.  This aroused me.  I had my cloths partly on and partly off.  At that moment the bow of the ship, I think, was turned toward the island and toward the clock, and I was on the starboard side.  I am sure I saw the bridge close by.  It was rather dark and I saw the lights on the bridge I jumped immediately, and just as I reached the floor the boat struck.  She struck on the port (left) side.  I do not know whether it struck the pier or not; she struck on the port side, careering over to port.  I think the boilers rolled off the boat as soon as she struck.  I caught hold of the top of the door leading from the bunk room to the cabin.  When she tipped I found myself covered with water.  The water in the cabin was over my head.  As soon as she went through the bridge she straightened up, cannot tell how long it was, and left me in water up to my neck.  I was still in the door hanging on to the top, and I made for the skylight which ran along the cabin; it was large enough to let me out, and was but a few feet away; so I made a dash for it—reached it.  It was already broken, and I was uninjured by it.  There were a couple of fellows on top of the wreck.  I got a little pinched by something then.  Wm. Heldeneich, watchman, was one of those outside, and there was one other who, I since learned, was the clerk, John Schechter.  They pulled me out.  Just as I got straightened, the empty model barge drifted by on the Davenport side, and the people on it shouted that they would throw us a plank.  They soon did so, passing the plank from the barge to the wreck, and several persons went over, Wm Heidenrich and the other; I did not go, it was too risky; there were three other persons on the wreck with me besides the two mentioned; Robert Ha-tie, of Port Byron, passenger, and John Callahan, foreman of the LeClaire quarries, and Wm. Brown (colored); they were on top of the wreck with me.  When I saw I could not make the barge, I looked for a place to stay until a skiff should come.  The skiff belonging to the boat I saw lying there uninjured, and told Callahan I would stay by the wreck, and when compelled would launch the boat and get off; cannot tell how long I was there nor where she drifted; saw the loaded barge drifting close alongside on the south; this was but a few minutes later we were on the barge; I was probably the first person on board of her, and the other three were with me.  I heard someone call; it was John Zuber, (I didn’t know him then); I asked what he wanted, and he said that he was fast in the wreck.  He said he could keep his head above water and I told him to hold on and someone would help him.  Just then a skiff from Davenport came in sight, and I directed them to Zuber; after rescuing him they came and took me off and landed us at Davenport.  The boat’s skiff was carried on the boiler deck, aft of the pilot house.  It was not a clinker built skiff, and I don’t know how large it was.  It carried four oars, and was probably 16 feet long or more.  The oars were on deck usually, and the skiff was in good condition.  I didn’t see the oars at that time and never saw the boat in water; had not an occasion to use it.  Mr. Gilchrist was on board all day repairing the skiff.  The crew was not same as before, except two or three, who were on board when I shipped.  The others mostly had been employed on that trip.  I do not know how many they were.  Never saw any drunkenness when I was on board; never saw the engineer under the influence of liquor in about five years acquaintance; have seen him take a glass of beer, but never knew when on the boat or on watch; do not know the captain’s habits; do not know any liquor having been passed to the crew.  The mate sometimes drinks a glass of beer or liquor, but never knew him to do so on the boat, nor saw him in the least under the influence of liquor when on the boat.  Did not observe that Brown was under the influence of liquor.  I never have seen any of the officers or crew drunk while I was on board.  Was well acquainted with W. G. Wendt.  Did notice him pass liquor to anybody.  I did not think that he was at all drunk.  I usually fired going down and Sanford fired going up.  Used coal.  I would have relieved him at 12 o’clock, that night.  I cannot tell how it happened that he did not get off.  Don’t know how many axes there was.  We had one we kept in the firebox, and it was good enough to cut a rope with.  There were several life preservers kept hanging along the side of the cabin and engine room, as they would fall on deck if they fell at all and not overboard; they were made out of wood.  Probably two or three dozen of them.  Never tried them.  Did not hear any commands or orders.  Heard Peter Hire, the mate, say something in pretty loud voice, but cannot tell what it was.  I did not see any one in the cabin.  Did not hear the breaking of a cam rod.  Did not see any anchor on board, and don’t know that I should have seen one if it was there.  There was a good strong hawser on the boiler deck and a good line.  I considered the Jennie as safe as any boat on the river.


The witness was dismissed at 11:40 a.m., when the inquest was adjourned until 1 p.m.


On reassembling at 1 p.m. Patrick Maines, being duly sworn, deposed as follows:

   I am 34 years of age and reside at Princeton, Iowa.  By occupation, I am engineer on the Mississippi river.  Have been licensed as first engineer for six years and now hold license from Government Inspectors Girdon and Scott, dated I think September 16th, 1881, for one year, as first engineer. 


   Ran one season on the Lafayette Lamb, and have run the past four seasons on the Jennie Gilchrist, which has been engaged as a tow boat.  The boat has had repairs every year at LeClaire; the machinery at Kattenbreker’s machine shop and the wood work by Martin Van Hine.  She was caulked last season and the engine thoroughly overhauled.  The boilers were put in new about April 1879; they are of steel, made by Rouse & Dean, at Dubuque.  The boat was inspected after landing at LeClaire last spring, and the boilers were tested by hydraulic pressure.  She was licensed to carry a steam pressure of 169 pounds, and said license was kept hanging in a public place on the boat.


The Gilchrist was licensed to carry passengers to the number of twenty five, all grades, and the license was hanging in the cabin.


We had, I think, when inspected, fifteen cork and twenty-four wood life floats, and thirty four fire buckets.  These and the others required to pass inspection remained on board and were still there when the accident occurred.  I have never known of such articles being temporarily procured for the purpose of passing inspection.  I threw some cork floats into the cabin as I passed out, after the boat struck.  The boat occupied principally in towing for H. M. Gilchrist & Co. from Rapids City to LeClaire, sometimes up to Clinton, a distance of twenty-three miles.  The current is not very strong above LeClaire.  She could tow barges with an aggregate load of about 4,500 bushels of coal, occupying  eight hours on the trip from Rapids City to Clinton.  Once last spring, near Camanche, we broke a gib, one of the shouldered pins beside the key of the pitman strap.  We then discontinued so as to run with one engine, which change occupied about a half hour.  We then made slow progress towing a load of coal up stream, but got along very well, and got repairs at Clinton. 


[Description of cabin and berths same as being given by the other witness.]  The Gilchrist did not go into the passenger trade immediately on receiving the license last spring, and not until about ten days before the accident, as there was no especial necessity until the interruption of railroad travel by the high water.  The reason for obtaining passenger license was that raft masters and others engaged on the river frequently desired to take passage, and the boat was obliged to refuse them; and to accommodate them, and comply with the laws, the license was necessary.  They did not intend to make the passenger traffic a regular business, but she was put on as a convenience to the people to carry passengers and mail during the flood; do not know whether any special license was required to carry the mail or any compensation received; cannot tell just how many passengers were carried at any time; probably from ten to twenty; some days very few.  The fare charge was seventy-five cents.  Do not know who authorized the carrying of the mail.  A few days before the accident, we started from Rock Island for Cordova, towing nothing, blew the whistle for the bridge and went about half way through the draw, when I observed that the cut off rod of the starboard engine seemed to be working a little loose.  I found the nut was started and called up to the pilot that we had better stop and fix it then, then up on the rapids.  We dropped back and tied up on the Rock Island side below the bridge.  The nut was found to be cracked which caused the loosening, and I replaced it with a spare one, which was at hand.  I think the bridge closed in the meantime, but it only occupied about fifteen minutes to fix it up, and we went on up.  It is not true that there was a break of cam rod, etc., a week or so before the accident of

Thursday night; and there has been no accident since I have been aboard.  Do not believe that 200 or 225 pounds pressure was ever carried on the boat.  It has gone up to 170, and then would blow off very freely; the gauge being set a 169.  Was on every trip while carrying passengers;

On the 27th we went over from Princeton to Cordova later than usual on account of taking on lime; it was about 8 a.m.; took on the barge on Cordova about 300 barrels of lime; do not know whether any passengers from there.  At Port Byron took on some sixty barrels; John Zuber and some other passengers came on there; then went to LeClaire; took on some passengers there and took a flat and towed across to Rapids City and left it there; stopped there to coal up; took on about 125 bushels, then came down to Hampton; took a few passengers on there; the next landing was at Rock Island; the engine was running all right; reached Rock Island early in the afternoon; left the flat No. 3 here to be loaded and went over to Davenport with the barge consigned to McCosh & Donahue; the consignees discharge the cargo with laborers on shore; four or five of our crew assisted; the unloading took about two or three hours; took on about 700 empty lime barrels at Davenport; piled them on the steamer, as the barge was not to go all the way up; it was customary to carry light freight there on that and other boats; some barrels were also put on the barge at Davenport.  Flat boat number 3 was filed with empty bbls. At Rock Island; do not know how many.  Some other miscellaneous freight was taken on the steamer then and stowed, some at the boiler and some forward; got through loading the flat around 9 p.m.  Did not hear complaints by the men about having no supper; they ate their supper during that time.  Do not know anything about Mr. Gilchrist giving liquor to the men; I have heard it said but did not see it; some of the colored men said they had one drink, but they did not appear under the influence of liquor so far as I can see.  I drank one glass of beer at home and a glass of soda at Rock Island and nothing more that day; am not a drinking man; I never allow drinking on the boat; did not see Mr. Dorrence drink anything that night; have known him to drink a glass of beer occasionally; was taking with Dorrence a few minutes before leaving Rock Island; he was not under the influence of liquor, either, so far as I saw; never saw Peter Hines to usually drink; have seen him somewhat under the influence of liquor; did not see him drink that night, but think he had been drinking some; should not call him “tight” exactly; he attended to his business about the deck.  Small drinks some, and was under the influence of liquor when he first came to the boat; I saw Small after the accident, and he was all right.  We hauled out about 9:00 or 10 p.m. and blew our signal just we left the shore.  We had the barge Robert and flat No. 3 the former empty and the flat hitched directly ahead of the steamer.  The flat was loaded with empty barrels.  The flat was on the port side.  We had 145 pounds of steam when going through the draw.  We intended to land at Stubb’s Ebby, to leave the barge.  When the cam rod gave away, we had 165 pounds of steam.  It was the full stroke cam rod of the star board engine that gave away; it broke behind the nut, and not the same that came loose some time ago.  I reported the break to the pilot through the speaking tube, but did not hear any answer, from the engine room.  When it broke I ran outside to see what the trouble was; came back and placed the ports of the vale seat and got the boys out to turn the wheel over, but the broken rod knocked it off, released the rods, and placed the value again.  But then came the crash.  It would have taken half an hour to change the rods so as to use the engine again; bit if we could have could have gotten the broken rod away so as not to disturb the value, the boat could have been brought to land with one engine alone.  We had all ready, and had given her steam, and the wheel turned half or three quarters around when she struck the bridge.  Then I shut off the steam; I knew it was all over with us.  She tipped towards the Iowa shore, and struck the bridge  stern on, head up stream and toward the island, careened to port, the larboard side under water, starboard about three feet out of water.  I went under the bridge on the boat.  Heard the mate and clerk give the alarm before she struck.  Got out through the skylight of the engine room and pulled out the watchman and a deck hand.  Some steam escaped as we went under the bridge; think the boilers went over then.  When I got out, only the top of the cabin was out of water.  The pilot house was knocked down.  Saw someone I thought was Moss, on the wreck.  Got onto the barge by the help of John Gilchrist and the mate.  The barge floated down to Green Island, and the Evansville came and towed it back to Rock Island.  There were no women on the barge.  I heard the alarm given by the officer, and directions given for everybody to get on the barge, but don’t know if there was time to do so before she struck; it was about three minutes, and not over five, in my best judgment.  Was working the engine at full stroke on starting out, but at the time of the accident was working the cut-off.  There was about fifteen tons of miscellaneous freight in front of the boilers.  There was an anchor on the boat, alongside the boilers, but don’t know whether an attempt was made to use it.  The machinery was sufficiently strong to carry full steam with safety.  The skiff was on top of the cabin when we started out, abaft the pilot house.  When I got out I did not see it there.  I consider that the Jennie was a suitable vessel to carry passengers and freight on this river between Rock Island and Princeton, to the extent of her limits as to number, etc.


The inquest was adjourned at 4:30, and was resumed at 5 p.m.; when Dana Dorrance, the Captain, was sworn, and deposed as follows:

    I am 32 years of age, and by occupation a pilot between Muscatine and Dubuque.  I reside at LeClaire, Iowa.  Have been employed on the river 16 years, on the rapids, and have had a license as pilot for four years.  Have been on the Jennie Gilchrist since the 27th of May, this year, and up to the time of the accident.  Was not on board at the time of inspection, but have seen the license authorizing her to carry 169 pounds of steam, signed by Girdon and Scott, and dated sometime in the spring of 1881.  My last license is dated June 2nd, 1881, for one year.


The Jennie Gilchrist was licensed to carry 25 passengers by the inspectors last spring.  The requirements to carry passengers are; cork like preservers, a boat, four axes, wooden floats, hose to put out fires, wire tiller ropes and bell pulls.  Do not know that any extra tiller was carried or required.  She had speaking tubes, pipes and siphons on board; and had about perhaps, two dozen cork life preservers, and three dozen floats, more or less; also a small boat in good repair, caulked and fixed up Saturday previous to the accident.  Had an anchor lying beside the boilers, of sufficient weight for such a steamer; don’t know its weight; the law requires an anchor, but does not specify where it shall be placed; I think that anchor would have been sufficient to hold the boat that night if it got a good hold; had about 400 feet of two inch cable; it was formerly the custom to have the anchor always ready to drop if needed, but since the improvement of the rapids, the practice has been discontinued.  Formerly in coming down the anchor would be put in position and readiness for use at the head of the rapids; this was before the river improvements.  There is no law requiring the anchor to be so prepared.  Do not know whether boats passing the draw, usually pass through without an anchor in readiness.  So far as I know the Jennie Gilchrist, on the night of the accident, was duly provided with all the requirements of the law, for security against accidents.  The accident occurred about 10:20 p.m. on the night of Thursday.  The boat had been engaged this season in towing between Rapids City and Clinton, and made one trip to Dubuque with a large flat boat of coal, just before the high water came on.  Once the cam slipped on the port engine, on the way down from Clinton, and was adjusted and fastened again in a few minutes, by the engineer.  Do not know of a cam breaking while I was on the boat.  One accident occurred to the machinery some two weeks before the destruction of the boat; the thread of the nut slipped on the cam rod of the starboard engine.  It was near or at the Davenport bridge.  We did not pass quite through the draw, but dropped down with the current and tied up on the Illinois side below the bridge.  No further difficulty occurred.  Never examined the pressure gauge, feeling no uneasiness about carrying too much steam, the engineer always blew off when the steam was up to 170 as far as I ever knew; never heard of it carrying 200 or 225 pounds pressure; it could be done without my knowing it; do not know of any reason for which the engineer would weight down the safety valve; I never gave him any authority or asked him to do so.  It was a good boat and had a good deal of boiler capacity; the passenger business was commenced when the railroad became obstructed by the floods; boats running less than 100 miles are not required to keep a passenger list.  Do not know just how many passengers we have carried; usually carry pretty many as the certificate would allow—25, but sometimes not more than half as many.  The most of our freight was of a rather bulky and light character, and the freight traffic was light.


Mr. Dorrance had not finished when the inquest was adjourned, at 8:30 last evening.  The proceedings will commence again at 9 a.m. to-day.


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The Davenport Democrat, Friday, November 4, 1881, page 1.











Statements of Patrick Maines and Dana Dorrance.



  The Democrat’s account of the coroner’s inquest as to the cause of the death of Wm. Wendt on the steamer Jennie Gilchrist, on the night of October 27th, stopped with the evidence of Joseph H. Moss, one of the firemen.




First engineer of the ill-fated craft was the next witness called.  He said that he had been first engineer on the Mississippi river for six years.  The present was his fourth season on the Gilchrist; had a license from Girdon & Scott, dated September 1881, good for one year; had repaired the boat every morning since he had been upon her; the boilers were new two years ago last April.


The license giving permission to use 169 pounds pressure was displayed on the boat.  The Gilchrist had a license to carry passengers, which hung in the cabin; was allowed to carry not to exceed 25 passengers.  A steamer to carry passengers requires more life boats than a raft boat does and also a yawl, wire tillers, wire bell ropes, tec.  The law also requires an anchor, hawser, four axes, one of these to be hung on the pilot house, cork hip floats.  The boat had fifteen cork and twenty-four wood floats when inspected; the boat had been engaged in towing coal, tec., for the first three years and never had a passenger license until the present season.  The boat had towed principally for H. M. Gilchrist & Co., between Rapids City and LeClaire.  At one time last spring, a Pitman gib was broken at Camanche.  At that time it took about an hour to disconnect the pitman and run with one engine.  This was the first break down Mr. Maines had until this accident.  The Gilchrist started as a daily packet about ten days before the accident.  Perhaps ten to twenty passengers were generally carried.  The reason a passenger license was taken out last spring because it had previously been found to refuse to carry river men and others.  About a week before the accident when bound to Cordova, the Gilchrist had gone half way through the draw when the rods seemed to work a little lose, and a nut on the end of the cut-off was found to have loosened, and to be cracked.  The steamer backed down, and tied up on the island shore, near the bridge, where she was detained about fifteen minutes to put on a new nut, and then preceded through the draw.  Never knew the Gilchrist to carry more than 170 pounds of steam.  When it went up to 170 it blew off very easily.  Had never carried 225 pounds of steam.  Left Princeton and crossed to Cordova on the 27th of October at 8 a.m.




Pilot and Master of the boat was called.  Being sworn he stated:  He was 32 years of age, and a pilot licensed to run boats between Muscatine and Dubuque, had been employed on the river for sixteen years, in various capacities.  Had seen the papers certifying to the steamer’s inspection in the spring of 1881.  The boat was licensed to carry a steam pressure of 169 pounds.  The license was signed by Messrs. Girdon & Scott.  The last license of the witness dates from June 2, 1881, and is good for one year.  The Gilchrist was




  The witness was on the boat when the passenger license was obtained.  It was required of the Gilchrist to have cork life-preservers, a skiff, four axes, hose to extinguish fires, wire tiller ropes and wire bull pulls.  No extra tiller ropes were on board.  Had navigation lights, speaking trumpets, siphons, fire buckets, etc.  The number of cork preservers was about 24.  There were also about three dozen wooden floats.  The law did not prescribe where the anchor should be carried.  The anchor would have held the boat had it been cast overboard, provided it could have got a hold in the rocky bottom.  There was on board 400 feet of good strong two inch hawser.  It was customary to




ready for use during low water, but since the improvement of the rapids this custom has been discontinued.


The coroner adjourned the inquest at 8 p.m. last evening, without having concluded Mr. Dorrance’s testimony.  This morning he was again placed upon the stand, and continued his testimony as follows:

  The Gilchrist was licensed by the inspectors to carry twenty-five passengers this spring.  A boat to carry passengers must have a boat, axes, life preservers, and floats, hose, wire tiller, rope and bell wires; extra tiller was on board, had fire buckets, about two dozen life preservers, and three floats.  We had a boat in good order, having recently been repaired; had an anchor large enough for the boat and 400 feet of two-inch hawser, which was generally used for hawsing off boats and towing generally.

  I could not tell, when in the wheelhouse, the amount of steam carried, the engineer never received any authority from me, nor did I ever ask him, to carry any more steam than the law allowed.


Only commissioned to run as a passenger steamer once the floods, and as we did not run a distance of 100 miles no list of passengers was required.  We have had all the way from 12 to 25 passengers during the time we have been running, and only a small amount of freight.


The steamer Gilchrist generally left Princeton about one o’clock, p.m., made landings at Cordova, Port Byron, LeClaire, Hampton, sometimes at Moline, Davenport and Rock Island, reaching the latter city at about 10 a.m.  We generally towed barges, sometimes one and at other times two.  They were always loaded with lime and coal.  We have carried more freight in weight than we had on the night of the accident, but never so much in bulk, as, by the clerk’s report, we had 600 barrels loaded on at Davenport, and were two tiers high, placed inside the hog chains on the boiler deck, gangways to stairway that led to the pilot house and along the guards were kept open according to law.


  The barrels loaded at Davenport were consigned to Princeton and Cordova.  It was the duty of the clerk to collect fare and keep an account of the number of passengers.   The passage money was 35 cents to Hampton, 50 cents to Rapids City, LeClaire and Port Byron, and 75 cents to Princeton and Cordova.  I know of no law compelling the owners of steamers to provide sleeping berths or to supply meals.  I think passengers knew that we had no berths and cold supply no meals; think our passenger rates were about the same as charged by the Northern Line without meals; do not think that those steamers furnish staterooms on any such short trips.  The cabin of the Gilchrist was probably 12 x 20 feet, and there were a dozen or fifteen chairs for the accommodation of the ladies.  The male passengers went anywhere about the boat they desired to.  I came on board the Gilchrist about 12:30 on Thursday, and went to the wheel and assumed command.  She had a flat boat and barge in tow, both loaded with lime.  We took on three passengers and an empty flat, No. 3, belonging to Gilchrist & Co., and towed her to Rapids City, where we coaled and took on some passengers, then proceeded down the river.  We stopped at Hampton and took on one or two passengers, and then left for Rock Island.  I noticed no difference in the working of the engines on this than any other trip.  We landed at Rock Island about 3 p.m., and landed the flat boat loaded with lime for the Port Bryon Lime association.  They worked the cargo themselves, and after remaining in Rock Island about ten minutes we went to Davenport with the Robert, where we discharged—assisted by shore hands, while a portion of the crew were loading the empty barrels at the foot of Iowa street.  We then dropped down to the Diamond Jo freight house, between Perry and Brady streets, and took on all our miscellaneous freight, consisting of 20 barrels of flour in sacks, ½  a dozen ¼ barrel kegs of beer—I think for Princeton, 5 bundles of barbed wire, and a lot of merchandise, which would probably weight about 3 tons.  That was all the freight on that deck, except 50 barrels, which were piled 3 tiers high, between capstan and coal box on the forecastle.  We left Davenport for Rock Island about 6 or 6:30 p.m., and took flat 3 in tow and dropped down to landing above the ferry boat.  Rolled on about 400 barrels onto flat No. 3, 150 bundles of staves, a large number of boxes of soda water, and two or three kegs supposed to contain whiskey.  This occupied about three hours, and the crew and men employed by the Lime Association were all at work rolling on the barrels.  I had supper about 9 p.m.; think that some of the officers and men had supper, and that there was dissatisfaction expressed to the cook about supper being so late, they thinking that he was responsible; he, however, had nothing to do with it.  No one asked me for any whiskey, and I did not see any liquor given to the deck hands by John Gilchrist, or anyone else.  The dissatisfaction caused the mate to allow the deck hands to get their supper while the others continued to work; heard no talk about the crew having any whiskey at supper time, nor did not smell nor detect any liquor among the crew; had not drank anything myself during the day; think about half the crew were at supper with me.  The barge No. 3 was aground and it took us a half hour to pull it off and place in position ahead for towing.  Blew for the bridge below the ferry landing; at that time we were some distance from the shore; before reaching the bridge I rang a bell to slow her down, and called the mate upon the boiler deck, and inquired about the tow.  Learning that everything was all right, we proceeded through the draw under full speed; think we were about ten minutes getting to the draw; the arsenal clock was striking ten as we were passing through the draw.  We ran up a little distance on the island side to the eddy and then kept away into the channel, intending to land at McCosh & Donahue’s new lime kiln which is about a half a mile above the bridge, on the Davenport side.  We had reached about two-thirds up to where the old bridge was, and about half way between the two shires, when the wheel stopped.  At that moment I asked the engineer what was the matter, and received no satisfactory answer.  Think I heard someone from the engine room say that we would be alright in a minute.  Heard nothing further from the engineer or engine room until she struck the bridge.  Did not know from the time the wheel stopped till she struck the bridge what accident had happened to the machinery, and only learned from engineer Maines when on the barge drifting down the river that the cam rod or full stroke cam on the starboard engine had broken down.  After the wheel had stopped I put the helm to starboard, and headed for the eddy next to the Island, with the hopes of getting there, but the headway had ceased, and the boat was drifting with the current.  It was the engineer’s duty to warn the pilot if the machinery broke.  I am certain I did not hear any communication from the engineer through the trumpet.


The inquest adjourned at 12:15 to 1:15 this afternoon, when Mr. Dorrance was again placed upon the stand, and his testimony continued.  He being the master and pilot of the boat, he will receive a rigid examination.


~ ~ ~ *** ~ ~ ~


Daily Gazette, Saturday Morning, November 5, 1881, page 4





Second Day’s Preceding of the Coroner’s Jury—Dana Dorrance and Peter Hire Testify—A Little Conflicting—No Evidence that Anybody was Under the Influence of Liquor—No Effort Made to Anchor the Boat—Exciting Scenes.



The examination of Dana Dorrance, pilot of the Jennie Gilchrist, was resumed at 9 a.m., yesterday.  His testimony was as follows:

  We had no advertised time for starting, but usually left Princeton about 7 a.m., and landed at most of the towns on the way, whenever there was freight to stop for.  We usually stopped at Cordova, LeClaire, Port Byron, Hampton, and sometimes at Moline, Davenport and Rock Island, landing at the latter place generally about 10 a.m.  Always carried barges during the last ten days, except on two trips; sometimes one and other times, two, which were always loaded coming down, most with lime.  Have sometimes carried more freight than we had that night, but never more in bulk.  I believe there were 600 empty barrels, piled two tiers high, on end.  They were piled all around and alongside the pilot house, and inside the hog chains on the boiler deck.  The vessel was about 18 feet wide; the barrels did not encroach upon the gangways.  They were consigned to Princeton and Cordova.  The clerk did not usually report the number of passengers to me.  He collected the fares.  The law does not require the provision of berths and meals for passengers, and the only difference between the requirements for day running and night running is a watchman at night.  The cabin was about 12 x20 feet, exclusive of bunk room.  It was supplied with 12 or 15 chairs, for ladies use especially.  No berths were provided for passengers.




  Peter Hire brought the boat down to LeClaire.  I came on board about 12:30 on Thursday, and took the wheel and command.  The vessel had in tow a flat boat and barge loaded with lime, took on three passengers at LeClaire; took coal barge No. 6 and towed over to Rapids City.  She was not too heavily loaded.  Took some coal on at Rapids City; took on some passengers and came to Hampton, and received one or two passengers there.  Stopped there about five minutes, we next landed at Rock Island.  I was at the wheel myself all the way down; the boat worked as well as usual, in every respect.  (I wish to state to the jury that at the time the cam slipped at Comanche, spoken of last night, the slipping was occasioned by the breakage of a four inch bolt in the yoke)  Landed at Rock Island at about 8 p.m. and landed the flat boat loaded with lime, for the Port Byron Lime Co., who unloaded it themselves; stopped not over ten minutes; went over to Davenport with the barge Robert, which was unloaded by our crew, aided by laborers on shore; were at the same time loading empty barrels on the boiler deck of the steamer.  After loading the barrels at Iowa street, we dropped down to the Diamond Jo warehouse and took on our freight to go upriver—20 barrels of four in sacks, half dozen quarter kegs of beer, (for Princeton I think), also five bundles of barbed wire and other merchandise, amounting perhaps to about three tons; did not see any whiskey.  There were 50 empty barrels between the capstan and the coal box on the bow, three tiers in height.  Left Davenport for Rock Island about 6 or 6:30 p.m.; took the flat No.3 in tow and dropped down to the levee above the ferry boat and put on board 375 or 400 empty lime barrels, which were waiting there, occupying nearly three hours.  I got supper before finishing the loading, about 9 o’clock; think part of the crew did so, but not all.  There was some dissatisfaction among the men in regard to supper, grumbling about it being so late, but there was no direct complaint to the officers; I was on watch at that time.




and blaming the cook; he was not responsible; did not ask for whisky; do not know that any attempt was made to pacify them by handing out whiskey; did not see any given them by John Gilchrist or anyone else.  I supposed the plan was to get the load and get started and let them eat afterwards; but to allay the dissatisfaction the mate allowed a portion of them to eat; did not hear them speak of having had any liquor, and did not smell any whiskey on their breath or see any indications of any liquor of any description that day myself.  I think five colored men and one white man ate at the time I did.  In addition to the empty barrels on the flat, we took 150 bundles of staves, about sixty boxes of pop and bottled beer, two or three kegs—supposed to contain whiskey, but do not know—a barrel of sugar and two barrels of crackers.  Hauling out from Rock Island we found that flat No. 3 was on the ground at one end; occupied half an hour in pulling off and getting ready for tow.  She was placed directly ahead of the steamer.  Blew the signal for the bridge while below the ferry landing, out in the river, having drifted down while attaching the flat for towing; gave the signal for slowing down before reaching the draw; called up the mate on deck to ascertain if the tow was alright; he said that it was and had not moved.  We then proceeded through the draw at full speed; think it was working with the cut off while passing; occupied about ten minutes, after getting started, in getting through.  The Arsenal clock struck ten as we were going through the draw.  Passing through on the Island side of the draw, it is necessary to avoid the eddy below the position of the old bridge, the current being very rapid around the old abutment.  We were therefore obliged to head considerably toward the Iowa shore to get in the straight, uniform current as soon as practicable; intended to land the barge at McCosh & Donahue’s lime kiln, about half a mile above the bridge, on the Davenport side.  When about two-thirds of the way from the bridge to the said lime kiln, and about in the middle of the river, the wheel stopped.  The boat was advancing very slowly.  When the exhaust stopped, I called down to learn what was the matter, and received no distinguishable reply, but thought I heard someone say, “She will be ready to go in a half minute;” could get




though I tried several times, until the boat struck; did not learn what was the matter until afterward, while on the barge, floating down the river.  The engineer told me the full stroke cam rod, starboard side, had broken.  Before the headway was entirely lost, I turned the helm, hoping when the engine should start, I could get into the eddy on the Island side, and so get back through the draw without striking if we drifted down.  This I was unable to do; and we drifted back, stern downward, but diagonally, the head being rather toward the Island.  The barge Robert was lashed on the port side, and remained in position as we drifted down; was therefore, on the upstream side.  We could see that unless the wheel could be started immediately we must strike the bridge; blew for the bridge to open, but don’t think that it had time to do so; did not leave the wheel until the boat was within 25 feet of the bridge; I than passed out and down to the forecastle and over to the starboard side; as I came down the mate came running around and took hold of my arm, saying:  “For God’s sake, jump on the barge.”  I noticed two or three colored men on the barge; did not go there at that moment; the boat struck




not the pier; when I left the boat for the barge the pipes were leaning considerably, and the stern half of the steamer was under the bridge; the stern hog chain caught first, and the bow swung downstream; the mate and some others preceded me on the barge; he and some of the colored men seemed to be in a somewhat excited condition.  My whole duty, as pilot, was not to leave the wheel as long as there any possibility of doing anything to save the boat; I did not know what was the matter, nor whether it was a hopeless case, until the last moment; my only hope was to get communication with the engine room so on to know what to do and what order to give; but this failed.  It was the watchman’s duty to look out for the safety of the passengers.  The law, Sec. 4.443, gives pilots the right on these small boats, of filling the two offices of pilot and master, or pilot and mate.  On reaching the forecastle I looked to see whether the boat would strike the pier, and found it would not; could not see the pier in the darkness from the pilot house; did not give orders concerning the passengers, to the mate, watchman or any of the crew; could not reach them by the speaking tube.  Several of the passengers were with me in the pilot house when the accident occurred; I had no time to do anything about the passengers, and looked to see whether the barge would be a safe place to which to escape.  The whole care of the position of the boat and its danger were on my shoulders.  In the darkness of the very dark night, one could hardly distinguish a person at a distance of more than six feet; did not know whether the passengers were then on the boat or the barge.




is to be on general watch, ready to attend to any orders or any alarm, and to arouse passengers in case of notification of danger.  The alarm should come from the party in whose department the accident occurs; the engineer, in this case; am certain that I received no message from the engineer about the break; did not give orders regarding the anchor, and no effort was made to get it out.  Perhaps the anchor would have held the boat, but it is doubtful in that current of seven miles an hour.  The bits to which the rope would be attached are six inches square.  Could not have given orders and been heard from the pilot house.  The mate was at supper.  The boat was struck, I think, at about twenty minutes past ten o’clock.  The mate might have someone on watch while he went to supper, if he chose.  Was not very well acquainted with Mr. Wendt; would not know him by daylight.  John Zuber of Port Byron, and John McCabe of LeClaire, and another person whom I do not know, were with me in the pilot house when we passed the draw.  John McCabe was talking to me about trying to get a cup of coffee from the cook, who had told him he would as soon give it to a dog as to him—probably considering that he was under the influence of liquor.  I could smell his breath but would not swear to actual drunkenness.  He was in the habit of drinking.    Zuber offered me a cigar.  After the boat stopped I spoke to those present of the danger, and kept calling down the speaking trumpet to learn what was wrong, but, could get no reply.  Told those who were still there to go below and get on the barge, as the boat would go to pieces in a few moments.  They went down ahead of me.  Did not know the amount and character of the danger.


The inquest was adjourned at 12 o’clock, until 1:15 p.m., when the examination of the same witness was resumed.

I don’t think it was over


after the engine stopped before the boat struck.  That time, it systematically and coolly employed, would have been sufficient to notify the passengers and get them on the barge.  How it might be about being able to do so coolly, depends on the kind of passengers dealt with.  It must be the duty of anyone who knew of the danger, to attend to the safety of the passengers; the engineer in this case.  The clerk, if notified, would probably have endeavored to get the passengers from the steamer.  The watchman, although he assisted to turn the wheel over, might not understand the danger.  I sent the freight on board while the mate was storing it inside; I do not think that he was under the influence of liquor then or at any time that evening.  When the mate urged us to go on the barge, I did not know but that the passengers were already on the barge, and it was already too late to notify them of the danger.  I was looking out to see where the chimneys would fall, expecting that they would fall somewhere on the port barge.  [The explanation of the law concerning anchors was given here the same as in yesterday’s testimony] We passed through under the bridge at about 30 feet distance from the barge.  The port side of the steamer was down under water, and the boat and barge were abreast, the barge being on the Iowa side of the boat.  We at once made efforts to get the passengers off the wreck on to the barge; two jumped into the water off the steamer and we pulled them on the barge; we pushed a piece of the railing which fell off the steamer on to the barge and rescued Maines, Schatcher and Beidenreich; did not count up the passengers saved until we had saved all we then could; the wind was against us, blowing from the Rock Island shore.  The flat No. 3 struck the pier near the stern and swung round on the other side of the pier, and drifted toward the wreck and along side of it, on the Illinois side; I though there were some persons on the flat.  The Evansville picked us up at an island near the Davenport side about an hour and a half after the wreck occurred, and brought us to Rock Island; I and Mr. Gilchrist and the engineer went to Mr. Sweeny’s house; we sent the passengers to the Commercial House; I suppose Mr. G. assumed the responsibility of their expenses.  The clerk had been on the boat since we commenced carrying passengers.  I supposed some might be on the front barge, because they might be likely to have gone there earlier, it being convenient.  I am sure the skiff was




on deck before we went through the draw, but did not see it when we drifted down on the barge, and could not have seen it on account of the darkness; the oars were kept alongside the skiff.  The bolt which connected the cams must have been the one which broke near Camanche;

  Did not recognize Wendt among the passengers at Port Byron.  Did not apprehend much danger, having understood that it would be all right in a few minutes.  Don’t know the power of the engines.  Could not see the pier from my position in the pilot house, the stern of the boat hiding it.  Did not have any complaint made to me about the mate being drunk before we went up, or any objection by passengers to the mate acting as pilot.  He had never so acted.  Did not hear the engine blowing off steam after the wheel stopped.  Small told me he cut the headlines.  I gave no orders to cut them.  I would have given such order if the condition was as he said it was—the boat dragging the barge under.  Did not get on the barge until the lines were cut.  I had no opportunity to communicate them, and no time to act; the whole length of time being three minutes.  We had the required number of watchmen.  The mate who acts as watchman forward, was below at supper when the wheel stopped.  The rapids are not much more dangerous than other parts of the river.  We were past the bridge when he went to supper.  The watchman was on duty in the cabin.  It is no more dangerous to navigate with a steamer of sufficient power to pass the rapids, than any other place,




the other pilot, was then sworn and deposed as follows:

    Am 25 years of age, and by occupation a pilot between Stillwater, Minn., and Burlington, Ia.; have a license from Geo. W. Girdon, dated July 6th, 1881, for one year.  This is my 14th season on the river; I was mate seven years, and the last three years a pilot on the aforesaid route; first year as second pilot on the packet “Albany;” last year on the “Maggie Reany,” “Sterling,” on the “Gilchrist” up to November 14th, when we laid her up;  went on the “Jennie Gilchrist” about eight days before the accident—on the 20th of October, Thursday morning, at Princeton, as a kind of general overseer of the work, and second pilot; was hired by Maines, engineer.  One of the steam branch pipes leaked a little last fall, 1880, from the throttle to the cylinder; not a serious matter, only requiring a new flange, occupying two or three hours, at Rock Island.  No other accident during the three months that I was on the boat last year.  On the day of the accident I drank no liquor of any kind, nor beer, and saw none given to the crew; know that none of my men on deck were drunk; did not notice any under the influence of liquor; all were capable of performing their duty; did not see Mr. Dorrance or Mr. Maines use any liquor or beer during the day, and am satisfied that both were sober.  Think about 600 barrels were on the boiler deck, but it was not crowded; a gangway was left clear around the boiler deck and front.  Among the freight taken on at Davenport were six kegs of beer, consigned to Princeton, and other miscellaneous freight.  Got here a little after 6 o’clock.  The lime men helped our men in putting the barrels on board, taking some two hours.  Other freight, including liquor, was taken on here.   Backed out from shore at 9:55, looked at my watch then.  The barge was grounded, and we had to pull it off the bank and changed ends and took the barge in tow in front, and started up.  Did not hear the Arsenal clock bell, as I was eating supper.  One of the colored men, only, came to me and asked for supper.  I went to the cook to see if supper was ready; it was, and I let some of the men go to supper then and the others after.  As I came from supper, the stern of the boat was just passing out about the draw.  The Captain called me up to know if the




lines tight, etc.; looked to see and found all right, and so reported to him, and went back to supper.  J. Gilchrist ate supper with me.  When I came out I walked up to the pilot house door.  Just then I observed the motion of the boat stopped and did not go in.  I went to sit down and rest and sleep in a chair, and relieve the pilot a while if he needed it.  We were up probably two-thirds of the way to the old piers.  Heard the pilot call down to know what was the matter; heard no reply.  Went directly down to the engine room; the engineer was using a hammer and trying to uncouple the cam-rod of the starboard engine; asked if I could assist him, and he said to run out and turn the wheel.  Mr. Gilchrist and I went out together; don’t know if anyone else was there beside us on that side; do not know whether it was on the center.  Did not try to turn the wheel, as I saw that we must fly for our lives.  Ran back to the engine room and hallowed for all to get out of there; think we were within 40 feet of the bridge then.


Did not hear any noise in the cabin, and could not see in there.  I kicked the door into the cabin down and called to all that were to get out on the barge.  The empty barge was close to the port side.  Passed through to the next door and found some people there and urged and pushed them along toward the barge, which was lying tight against the boat; don’t know where the watchman was.  The space I call deck room is a space six or eight feet wide, open; met with those people in this space; kept shouting; “Get on to the barge!”  Reaching the forecastle, I met Capt. Dorrance, picked up a lantern and took it along; caught his arm told him to




at this time I think the boat had struck; I stood on the barge and stepped aside to avoid the smoke stack, which was leaning over, threatening the barge; found some people on the barge, but do not know who they were, and did not examine until afterward, drifting down.  Nothing was done about the use of the anchor; do not know of any regulation regarding the location of the anchor; there was not time to have done anything with it, after I went down; had an order been given when the wheel stopped, I do not know whether there could have been time for it, as one man could not handle it.  The night was very dark.  Received no orders to warn passengers.  There was one regular watchman on board, and I usually acted as such.  The passengers were much excited catching hold of each other; I went in through the cabin and saw this.  Had the watchman been in the cabin when I gave the alarm, I do not think he would have had time to get all the passengers out; he might have saved some of them, as we were within 30 feet of the bridge and nearing it rapidly.  Did not see the watchman I kept on calling, “for God’s sake, get on the barge!”  Do not know where the cook and his daughter were.  She brought me my supper, and I saw nothing more of them after.  Went in at the engine room door, and kicked out the cabin door on the port side and opened another on the port side.  On going to the engine room door to see what was the matter, I did not notice anyone stationed at the speaking trumpet, but there might have been a man there.  Mr. Gilchrist was in the engine room when I got there.  Mr. Maines called for us to turn the wheel.  Don’t know how or when he got on the barge.




and the water was above my knees; when I jumped on the barge; I struck on my breast and side on the barge, and climbed on.  The barge had three lines, don’t know whether the head line was then loose or not; think the others still were; did not cut any lines; I saw someone in the water and pulled him in; it was Beidenreich.  The clerk was in the water; pulled him in also.  After that, we were too far from the wreck to see what was going on.  The barge drifted faster than the wreck.  Heard a good deal of hollowing; don’t know whether I heard Mr. Zuber or not.  No one assumed any command on board the barge.  We were safe, and had only to keep still and wait.  The Captain did not give any commands or shout or call, after the wheel stopped, except calling down though the speaking tube.  There were no lights in the pilot house; could not have seen, when coming down from a light place, whether there was any one in the pilot house.  There were some kegs of liquor, a jug of liquor, and a bucket on board.  The barge was lying close to the vessel, about eight feet forward of the cabin door.  We hailed a skiff and directed it to the wreck.


At 5 o’clock a recess was taken until 6:30 last evening.


On re-assembling at 6:30 P.M., John Scharcher, sworn, stated:

    I am 17 years old, and by occupation clerk; reside at Rapids City; was clerk of the Jennie Gilchrist since she began to run as a passenger steamer; my duty was collecting fare and freight; my first experience at steamboating; have no memorandum by which to know the number of passengers; I kept a small book but lost it; never have over 25 passengers on board at any time, nor just that number; ranged from ten to twenty daily.  The boat was allowed to carry 25; collected fare on Thursday, the day of the accident from 12 passengers; Wm. Wendt, of Cordova, was one of them, Henry Thomas, of Hampton, was another; those 12 were all there were on board that I could find; had collected all about the time we got through the draw, the last from Wm. Skelton about the time we passed through the draw; had no particular office or station on board; kept the books in a little cupboard in the cabin after leaving Rock Island and saw there Dr. Davenport, Mrs. Wendt, Mrs. Camp, Mrs. Fanny Trevor; think Mr. Wendt was also there; had then collected all the fares, except Skelton’s who went out; the last time I saw the cook, Temple, and his daughter, was in the kitchen; there was a door leading from the kitchen to the engine room and one from there out on to the guard on the starboard side, and another door from the engine room out on the port guard; the kitchen was on the starboard side; when the engine stopped I was in the cabin sitting down; went out back of the engine room to the “blacksmith shop,” to see about it; Mrs. Trevor told me to go and see was the matter.  There was




at that time; did not then know what the cam rod was; came right back and told Mrs. Trevor what I heard, and she became very much alarmed; did not then expect the boat would strike the bridge; the whistle was blown and she said that was the danger whistle; the passengers then became aware of the danger.  Don’t think it was scarcely half minute after I came back and told her, until we struck; I was in the cabin when we struck.  Did not hear any one going through the cabin warning the passengers to get on the barge.  The door leading from the cabin to the guard on the port side and the one further forward




Heard persons hallooing outside before we struck; did not see the watchman in the cabin.  I went out through the skylight and went through under the bridge in the cabin with the rest.  Did not go out when I heard shouting outside, before she struck; there was too much water.  Broke out the skylight with my hands.  The water was higher than my head by that time, and lifted me up.




Could not see who was still there.  Heard person splashing around in the cabin when I was getting out.  Heard someone hallowing inside after I got out, and reached in, but could reach no one.  Did not remain long on the deck, but went on the barge by a plank which was pushed out to us.  No one else went over with me.  I got on first, Heldenrich next and then Moss, Heldenreich and I assisting him; Hostie then came on deck, but I don’t know where from.  Did not notice whether the skiff was on deck or not, it was so very dark; I was the last that got on the barge; do not know where the others went who were left behind me.  Heard the engineer calling though the tube, but did not hear any one giving warning to the passengers; the life preservers were hanging up around the boat, none in the cabin that I know of, and none were passed to the ladies.  There was a lantern hanging in the cabin on a nail in a post, making it easy to see across it, and distinguish persons.




of the danger while the boat was drifting on to the bridge.  Had we been informed of the danger immediately after the wheel stopped, I think, with proper effort, most of them could have got on to the barge between that time and the time the vessel struck.  Mrs. Trevor took hold of my hand; when the boat struck she let go and I could not get hold of her, or I would have got her out, I think.  When they were putting on the staves I remarked that I thought we had better leave them till next day, for want of room.  There were two kegs of whiskey, consigned to Wm Wendt, of Cordova, and six kegs of beer, consigned to H. H.  Schloeffel, LeClaire.  Don’t know of any whiskey being served out to any.  Saw Mr. Hire that night, but did not think he was drunk.  Don’t know whether he had been drinking.  Saw Captain Dorrance.  Don’t think he had been drinking, and don’t know if he ever drinks.  The anchor was beside the boilers; don’t know whether engineer, pilot or mate had been in the water or not.  Was on the same barge with them after leaving the wreck; do not think they were wet and cold as I was.


At 8:15 the inquest was adjourned until 9 a.m. today, when it will again be taken up, but for only half a day, as some of the jurors desire to be absent.


Collected and transcribed by

 Sue Rekkas


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