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On the River








Researched and Transcribed

By Sue Rekkas




Davenport Democrat, Tuesday, November 8, 1881, page 1.





Evidence and Counter-Evidence—Facts vs. Figures—Are the Investigations Now In Progress Made with the Object of Clearing Up or Obscuring the Facts?


LeClaire, November 7, 1881.


EDITOR DEMOCRAT;--By a singular coincidence my last letter was published in the same issue that contained the evidence of the engineer and pilot of the Gilchrist.  To a casual observer who had read both accounts, there must have been created a suspicion that somebody was lying, and that, when nothing but the truth was wanted.  Now your correspondent stated in substance that the boat in question carried too much steam; that there was no licensed mate to attend to the anchor; that the anchor was not ready for use; that there was not a legal allowance of life-preservers; that the skiff was on the roof and upside down, and that the engineer was captain in fact.  Let us take up these points, one by one.


First, the steam question.  J. D. Johnson, of LeClaire, says he will swear that he was aboard of the Gilchrist during the summer, when she was towing a flat partly loaded with coal, and she had 200 pounds of steam, and he saw the gauge when it so marked that figure.  Edward Grant, of this place, says that he came up on the Gilchrist from Davenport less than two weeks before the accident happened, and she had about 200 pounds of steam.  These witnesses can be multiplied if necessary.  Draw your own conclusions.


Next, as to the licensed mate.  It is said that Peter Hier (James Hire) had master’s papers, hence could do the duties of mate without mate’s papers.  This may be, and is probably the law.  But did the aforesaid mate in effect do the mate’s duty in fact?  Did he cast the anchor?  Was the anchor ready to be cast?  To all of which there is but one answer, and that a decided “no.”


Now as to the matter of life preservers:  Upon this point direct, positive information, aside from those interested, is hard to get.  The conflicting statements of those sworn renders it not at all unlikely that the legal allowance of one to each passenger would not have left any preservers unused.  But, in fact, it matters not how many preservers there were on board.  It does not transpire that anybody touched a life-preserver; surely nobody came ashore with one.  From the evidence adduced it was at least three minutes from the time of the accident until the boat struck, and nobody in authority made any determined effort to alarm the passengers.  The wonder is how anybody was saved.  The next and last statement is that the engineer was captain in fact.  This there is no gainsaying.  The skiff was on the roof and upside down—though it is said to have been in good condition.


Now a word in regard to the investigations that are going on.  In the evidence of Mr. Maines, as published, occurs this statement:  “The boat had 15 cork and 24 wood floats when inspected.”  What matters it what she had when inspected?  Then question is what had she when wrecked.


The investigations made by the inspectors are kept a profound secret.  In view of the probable fact that the boat should never have had a passenger license, it would not be surprising if a process of whitewashing would be gone through.  IF the boat, however, had all the requirements of the law there is no need of any screening.  But all the investigations that all the inspectors and coroners this side of Texas will make, couldn’t make many of the people in this neighborhood think there was any reason to can be any excuse for giving the Gilchrist a passenger license.


Personally we have nothing against the owners or the men who ran the boat; but the facts must come out.  There are bound to be civil suits ad infinitym, and then, if not now, the true state of affairs must be told.  It matters not what the inspectors do.  The people and the courts are bound to say that the boat was overdone, that no effort worthy of the name was made to save the passengers, and the blame for making homes in our midst and around us desolate and lonely, of depriving wives and innocent children of husbands and fathers, can be easily located.  The Jennie Gilchrist is no more; she was a good boat, but overdone.  There are other boats that are liable to share her fate.  The whole inspecting system seems to have a smell of rottenness about it.  It is time something should be done.




Daily Democrat, Wed, Nov. 9, 1881, page 4.


There is much speculation as the verdict of the Coroner’s jury in the Gilchrist disaster will be.  A jury of any kind is a mighty unreliable institution to gamble upon.



Daily Gazette, Wednesday Morning, November 9, 1881, page 4.








Fifth Day’s Proceedings—John Gilchirst, a Member of the Firm to Which the Boat Belonged, Testifies—He Gave Whiskey to the Crew on the Fatal Night—Full Developments in the case.



The examination into the disaster was recommenced yesterday morning, and John Zuber, sworn, said as follows:

     I am a harness maker by trade; reside at Port Byron; was a passenger on the Jennie Gilchrist, Oct. 27; went on board at Port Byron; left the boat at Rock Island and returned at about 6:30; went on board the last time about 9:30; saw the men at work; all appeared sober as also did the officers; saw Wm Wendt, and, to the best of my knowledge, he was sober; he and I were sitting  talking on the empty barge at the left side of the steamer before we started; when the boat started I went on deck, on the left side, and remained there until we had passed the draw, rather forward of the pilot house; went into the pilot house after we had passed, as I thought , all danger; saw there Dorrance and another man, a stranger, sitting at the back part; there was no light there; staid in there perhaps ten minutes, and was there until the break occurred; had not noticed the wheel stopping; heard the pilot speaking down the tube, but did not know what he was saying or that anything was wrong; he did not speak to me of any danger until he left the wheel, which was about five minutes after he spoke down the tube, which he did, I think, three times; the last time he




saying, “Can’t you get her started again?” or words to that effect.  He did not say anything to me about the engine being broken; did not hear him call to the mate or any one out of the window; heard nothing said about an anchor; I remained in the pilot house during all the time—about five minutes; the captain did not ask me to carry a message to the cabin, or engine room; if he had I could and would have done so; cannot tell how far the boat was from the bridge when he went down; he left before I did; when he left he shouted, ”Go down and get on the barge,” but did not make any explanation, as there was no time for it then; I rushed or jumped down the stairs which led directly forward to the lower deck; then turned backward along the left side to reach the barge, jumping for the barge; my feet struck it, but I balanced backward and was thrown back on the boiler deck of the steamer; just then the boat struck.

  Q.—When you came down did you see the mate catching the captain by the arm, and telling him, “For God’s sake get on the barge!”

  A. –I did not.

  Q.—While you were in the pilot house did you hear any one shouting, or any alarm given down on deck?

  A. –I did not; had I heard any such noise I should have made for the deck, or the barge

  Q.—If you had been informed of the danger, could you have jumped direct from the upper deck onto the barge?

  A. –I think I could, easily.  I did not think the pilot would remain so long without saying anything if there was so great a danger, and was therefore not alarmed.




sworn:  Am 24 years of age; occupation, clerk at the coal bank; residence, Rapids City.  Had no interest in the steamer Jennie Gilchrist.  It was owned by my father H. M. Gilchrist.  Am a member of the firm of H. M. Gilchrist & Co., engaged in coal mining.  Have frequently been on the boat on its trips between Rapids City and LeClaire, Clinton and Rock Island.  Was on board as a passenger merely; never assumed any command or gave any orders.  On Thursday, October 27th, we left Rapids City a little after 1 p.m., with two barges of lime in tow, and reached Rock Island about 3:30 p.m.  About dusk, I went over to Davenport on the ferry, and came back on the Jennie.  The crew began to grumble about 8 and 9 o’clock about their supper.  Someone said if we would give then a drink or whiskey they would work, and we could get the freight on before stopping the work for supper.  Either Maines or Hire suggested that we give the men a drink, and I got a pint and




And about a half pint was left.  It did seem to put the men under the influence of liquor.  Saw Hire all through the evening and do not think he had been drinking.  Saw the captain and engineer also; all sober.  When we pulled out from shore I was standing about on deck.  Got my supper after we started, in the engine room.  Was in there about five minutes, and then went and lay down in the berth with Moss, a double berth.  Think Moss was asleep.  After lying down, I went up to see if we were near to the place where the Robert was to be landed.  Dorrance said we were not half way up to the old bridge yet, and I went back, and had hardly been lying there a minute when I heard that something was wrong.  Then went out to see what was the matter.  Found Maines coming in from the outside and he said the cam-rod was broken.  Never heard of it breaking before.  Saw Maines speaking though the tube; then he called for a hammer and went to work to uncouple the rod so as to get one engine started.  He then called for someone to go out and turn the wheel, and I went on the larboard, but found we could not turn it, and saw the bridge very close and went out and called “get on the barge.”  Did not go back.  Don’t know whether any effort was made to get the ladies out or not.  I had a lantern from the engine room but broke it soon after getting on the barge.  Hire and I were both at the wheel.  Can’t say on which side his was.  He had a lantern, I think.  The boat was smashing when I got on the barge.  The lines were not cut then.  My lantern was broken after we passed out from under the bridge; then I saw Hines light on the barge.  Saw him and the captain there.  Do not think they were wet very much.  Heard some screaming all around.




out “Get on the barge.”  Never heard any escape of seam from the safety valve; the escape from the broken pipes occurred soon after I got on the barge.  If it had known from the first moment what was going to happen, and no time had been spent working at the engine, I think there might have been time to get all the passengers on the barge.  Did not know whose duty it was to give the alarm to passengers in such cases. 


Did not hear any alarm given until about the time I was going on the barge.

  Q.—After getting on the barge, what was done to rescue the passengers?

  A.--- Maines, Schaecher, and Heidenrich were pulled on board from the wreck.  Heard cries in the direction of the Jennie, but could not see the wreck very well.  (Witness corroborated the testimony of the others regarding the skiff anchor, lifeboats, etc.)  We have a man employed at LeClaire for repairing boats and barges.  Some repairs have been made on the Jennie this year.

  Q.—Have you asked any of the witnesses to make any statements here contrary to facts?

  A.—I have not.  I spoke with Skelton on account of a letter received from him denying the report published in one of the papers, that he had reported the men drunk.  I asked Small of he was drunk or saw any of the others drunk, and he said no; and I told him to tell only the truth.


In the afternoon, on reassembling




was sworn, and testified as follows:  Am 52 years of age; occupation coal mining; reside at Rapids City.  Went on board the Jennie Gilchrist on the 27th of October, at about 1 p.m. as a passenger; left the boat at Rock Island, and went on board again at 9:30 and remained on board.  Saw the men putting the freight on board, and could not say they were under the influence of liquor.  Went up to the pilot house when we started and was talking with Mr. Dorrance.  Saw Mr. Gilchrist, Mr. Zuber and Mr. Thomas up there; staid until we were nearly up to the site of the old bridge, when I thought we were pretty well out of danger from the bridge, and went below.  Dorracne asked Gilchrist to remove a barrel from its position, hiding the bow of the barge and he did so; this was after we were though the draw.  Saw some ladies as I passed the cabin—Mrs. Trevor, Mrs. Wendt, Mrs. Camp, and also Dr. Davenport.  Think Miss Temple was in the kitchen helping her father.  I then went along by the throttle, saw Mr. Maines some into the engine room and endeavor to work the engine.  He then ran around the corner of the starboard engine to see what was the matter, then went back and got a hammer and




as soon as he could.  While he was around the outside I heard a call down the tube asking what was the matter, but there was no one to answer.  I tried to help him about getting the other engine started.  We could not do it.  While I had hold of the handle at the larboard engine, the boat struck, and he instantly left and ran out at the port door and on to the barge.  I ran out.  As I passed though the cabin; I saw ladies there, but all was in the wildest confusion.  I caught hold of one of the stanchions at the rear end of the boilers, and as the boat careened the rush of water overwhelmed me completely.  Don’t think the boilers went over then, for if they had they must have carried me with them.  Remained there during what seemed a long time to me, until the boat had passed from the bridge and righted, and everything seemed a perfect wreck.  I was then in water up to my neck.  Seeing a little light above I crawled up through and out on top.  While under water I felt my hand on the head of a man who was under me.  It was, I suppose, Mr. Callahan, and he got out with me.  While going under, I could hear the last cries of those who were drowning inside.  It was terrible. I did not hear any alarm or directions given by the mate or engineer, or anyone.  Did not see Hire going through shouting and kicking down doors.  I think it was three or four minutes after the machinery stopped until the boat struck.


It being deemed desirable to obtain a little expert testimony, Mr.



the engineer on the ferry boat was called, and gave the following evidence:


Am 51 years of age; by occupation engineer on the river, reside in Rock Island; an increased amount of steam pressure would somewhat increase the pressure on the slide valve, and strain upon the cam; think Mr. Maines’ reputation as an engineer is good; according to the published reports of testimony, his action when the break occurred, was the proper course, as it was all he could do; I always considered the engine of the Jennie to be good power and sufficient for the work she was doing; have had cam-rods break from a variety of causes; have known nuts to break, cam-rods to bend, yokes to give away, and various accidents to these parts, any of which sill stop the running of an engine; the proper place for the anchor is at the bow, but it is often mislaid; don’t think the anchor would have held the Jennie if it had been used.


The inquest was adjourned early, and will not resume today, on account of the forced absence of a juror.  Tomorrow will probably suffice to take evidence, after which the case will be ready to the deliberations of the jury.  We may hope to have a verdict in a few days at most.


Daily Democrat, Wednesday Morning, November 9, 1881, page 4.


  At the conclusion of the statement of Ben Wilson, who was called before the coroner’s jury, as an expert engineer yesterday afternoon, Coroner Morris adjourned the inquest to allow John Aster, a member of the jury, to attend his father, who is seriously ill at Geneseo.  The reconvening of the jury will be duly announced.


~~~ *** ~~~


Daily Gazette, Wednesday Morning, November 9, 1881, page 4.





John Aster, one of the jurors on the Gilchrist inquest matter, was summoned by telegraph to Geneseo  yesterday afternoon , on account of the serious illness of his father.   Mr. Aster returned this morning and reported his father as a little better


Daily Gazette, Thursday Morning, November 10, 1881, page 4


Coroner Morris yesterday received a dispatch from John Aster, one of the jury on the Gilchrist examination, to the effect that his father was very low, and he didn’t know when he could return to Rock Island.  That of course, will delay any further action by the jury until Mr. Aster comes back.  Capt. Morris says he will not call the jury again, anyway, until the hull is raised, so that they can examine the broken machinery.  Only a little further testimony is to be taken, and that mostly expert, so it is doubtful when the inquest will be resumed.


Daily Gazette, Friday Morning, November 11, 1881, page 4.


There is always talk about influencing a jury and its wickedness and results have been explained.  But we have numerous examples of it in the newspapers lately.  It should be remembered that the Coroner’s jury which is investigating the Jennie Gilchrist disaster is not yet discharged; and when the fact is known that the men on that jury are only human, and may not be above the influence of newspaper attacks, such articles should not be allowed to appear.  There is time for that when the jury is discharged, without rushing to their aid and forming a verdict for them before they are prepared to give one.  The Coroner was selected by the people to attend to the instruction of his juries, and he is fully able to discharge that duty.  Only give him time and see if he does not do it, even better than newspaper men can.


Daily Gazette, Monday Morning, November 14, 1881, page 4.


It is expected that the coroner’s jury in the Wendt case will be called together, today, and the investigation proceeded with Mr. Aster, who was called away to Geneseo, will probably be on hand.


~~~ *** ~~~


Daily Gazette, Friday Morning, November 18, 1881, page 4.





In the matter of the inquest on the body of Henry Thomas, of Hampton, who was drowned on the Gilchrist, Coroner Morris empanelled the same jury which is now inquiring as to the death of Wm. G. Wendt.  The jury viewed the body and were discharged to answer again when called upon, which will be after the inquest now in hand is determined.  The body was turned over to Herbert Thomas, brother of the deceased.


The hull of the wrecked steamer Jennie Gilchrist was raised yesterday, the operation being concluded at about 6 o’clock when the remains were towed by the steamer Whitney to the boat yard below town.   The hull lies bottom upward yet, and, of course, cannot be landed until it is righted.  It lies now as close to shore as the depth of water will permit.  No other bodies have yet been found, but there may still be some in the wreck which cannot be recovered until it is turned over.  Whether the balance of the work will be done now, or carried on in the same slow manner as been characteristic of the whole business, is impossible to say.  We hope for the sake of public justice and of the people interested in the affair, that it will be finished and disposed of as soon as may be.


~~~ *** ~~~


Daily Gazette, Friday Morning, November 18, 1881, page 4.








Sixth Days Proceedings Before the Coroner’s Jury—Capt. Cameron and Leroy Lawhead Testify—The Testimony Rather Damaging as to the Conduct of the Officers at the Time of the Accident—The Inquest Adjourned to Await the Raising of the Wreck.



At 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon Coroner Morris called the jury in the Wendt inquest matter, and proceeded to examine expert witnesses.  Capt. Cameron and Leroy Lawhead, captain and engineer respectively of the ferry boat, were called and examined, mainly with reference to the duty of the officers of a boat when such an accident occurs.  Their evidence throws a bad light upon the affair, inasmuch as it shows that the officers of the Jennie Gilchrist did not do their duty at the time when, if properly done, many lives might have been saved.  The first witness called was




who, being sworn, testified as follows:

    I am 58 years of age; by occupation ship carpenter.  Have been 37 years engaged on the river here and for the last 28 years on the ferry boat, of which I have been captain.  Since March 1880 have often seen the Jennie Gilchrist; here, but never saw anything wrong about it; it seemed to get along with its work very well.  Do not think she had any upper works which were at all top heavy.  Never observed anything peculiar about the boat in any way.  Would consider her a trust worthy boat.  Never heard of the Jennie Gilchrist carrying more steam than her license allowed.  On the day of the accident I was running the ferry as usual and noticed the Jennie lying at the levee sometime that day.  The early evening was very dark, the river at about the highest point of the late flood, and the current running, on the ferry’s route, from four to six miles an hour.  Think it would run one-third faster between the bridge and the site of the former railroad bridge.  Never had occasion to cast an anchor up there, but should think the bottom would be pretty




for an anchor, as it is quite uneven; think it was formerly customary to carry an anchor always ready for use.  We have usually carried the ferry anchor on the guards, with buoys ready, but without any line attached.  The law requires every boat to carry an anchor on board, but does not prescribe any particular locality or position for it, so far as I know; think the usual custom has been for several years past to carry the anchor where it was most out of the way; know Mr. Dorrance by sight, but have not much acquaintance with him, and can’t say as to his reputation.

  Q.—Would you, as captain of the Jennie Gilchrist, have taken the boat up through the bridge with a tow in the night, with such a stage of water as existed at that time, Oct. 27th?

  A.—I would not, nor even the boat itself without a tow; cannot say whether that particular portion of the rapids is more dangerous than any other point, as I have not navigated it since the improvement of the rapids; prior to that time it was considered a




  Q.—If you were master and pilot running a boat, what would you think your duty in such a case?

  A.—I think I would first endeavor to have someone notify the passengers.  The pilot should remain at the wheel until he sees there is no longer any chance to do anything to save the boat; but as master, he should endeavor to notify any officer or person whose attention he could command to care for the safety of the passengers.  He could get everybody’s attention at once by ringing the bell, if calling through the tube failed, or he could blow the whistle if there was no bell.  Think it would make no difference in regard to convenience in handling whether the skiff on deck is lying on its gunwale or on its keel; it could be just as readily picked up and launched in one case as the other.  The law, I believe, simply requires that the boat shall be kept in some convenient place, not specifying any position; and the same in regard to the oars.




sworn.  Am 36 years of age; occupation second engineer, residence Rock Island.  Have been employed on the river as engineer 14 years, and have been a licensed second engineer for ten years.  Have read the testimony of Mr. Maines, as published in the papers, and think the course taken by him was the proper one under the circumstances.  After knowing the nature of the break and the situation of the boat, I would most certainly have considered it my duty to notify the passengers of the danger at once, as well as inform the pilot.  I think an undue pressure of steam above the registered limit, would cause an increased pressure upon the cam-rod.  I think the Gilchrist might have increased her steam pressure from 145 to 165 pounds while passing from the bridge to where she broke down, as has been testified in the case.


The coroner, at 4 o’clock, declared the inquest adjourned until such time as the hull of the Gilchrist shall be raised and accessible for inspection, when the jury will be notified to meet and make a thorough Examination of the hull and machinery, and, if it be considered necessary, other witnesses will also be called.

~~~ *** ~~~


The Davenport Democrat, Friday, November 18, 1881, page 1.








The Jury in the Gilchrist Disaster Listen to the statements of Captain J. C. Cameron and Leroy Lawhead.



Coroner Morris reconvened the jury in the matter of the inquisition into the cause of the  death of Wm. Wendt and Joseph Henry Thomas, by the Jennie Gilchrist disaster on the night of October 27th, 1881.




Was the first person placed upon the witness stand.  He testified that he was 58 years of age; had served on steam vessels in various capacities for 37 years.  Had seen the Gilchrist at various times, but had never heard any complaint about her carrying more steam than the law allowed.  He thought it was the pilot’s place to stay at the wheel, in case of an accident, until he could be of no further use there.  The ferry-boat carries an anchor but never had a rope attached to it until recently; the inspector had suggested that the witness attach a rope to it, but there is no law compelling it.  Anchors are generally carried where they are most out of the way.




 Second engineer of the ferry-boat, was the nest witness sworn.  He was questioned merely as to the proper course for an engineer to pursue under circumstances similar to those under consideration.  The witness thought that Engineer Maines did all that an engineer could do.


~~~ *** ~~~


Daily Gazette, Tuesday Morning, November 29, 1881, page 4.








After a Long Investigation the Coroner’s Jury in the Jennie Gilchrist Examination Finally find a Verdict—Severe censure of the Officers of the Ill-Fated Steamer.



Coroner Morris called his jury together again yesterday morning for the purpose of examining the broken machinery of the Jennie Gilchrist, and to proceed with the inquest.  They went down in a body to the boat yard, but in hauling the wreck ashore the machinery had been all broken up and bent out of shape, so that it was impossible to view it with any satisfactory result.  It was abandoned, therefore, and the jury taken to ‘Squire Hawes’ office, and proceeded to the examination of a few more expert witnesses.  The first called was Capt. W. H. Pearce, of the Viola.  His testimony was as follows:  “My license as Master and Pilot extends from Lyons to Muscatine, the rapids included, and I have over thirty years’ experiences on the river in different capacities.  On Thursday, October 27th, I was at Rock Island with the Viola, and left at 4 o’clock p.m. and saw the Jennie Gilchrist.  The weather was rough and the current very strong.


On my return trip in the morning I saw a lot of empty barrels floating in the river and along shore, and as I approached Rock Island I saw the Jennie Gilchrist lying on the sand bar opposite the Peoria round house.  I was engaged by Messrs. Nevans & Lowery to go down and to try to save what I could from the barge and from the river banks.  I brought up the body of Wm. Wendt on the 29th of October.  I do not think Thursday night, the 27th of October, was any more dangerous to navigate, especially to a vessel used to navigating the rapids.  Had the cam-rod broken a mile above the bridge no one would ever have heard of it, as they would have had plenty of time to have run the vessel on shore.


Do not think there was time enough to have disconnected the starboard engine or to have done anything with the port engine.  Don’t think the changes would needed to have saved the boat could have been made in less than ten minutes.


I think the engineer did his full duty, and that he could not have done any more than he did.


My custom has been to have an anchor ready at all times when navigating the rapids.  Don’t think a 200 pound anchor would have held the Gilchrist unless it accidentally dropped into a hole and held, and the hawser properly handled; then it might and might not held; cannot tell.


Think from what I have seen of Mr. Maines (the engineer) that he is a sober and competent engineer.  Don’t know much about Capt. Dorrance or Mr. Hire.  Think it would have been difficult to have saved the vessel under the circumstances, even in daylight.  The captain could have called someone to the pilot house by blowing four short whistles; that is generally used as a danger signal.


Capt. Sam Van Sant was next called.  He stated that his occupation was that of a steamboat builder, and had also been master on the river, having had nine years experience on the river.  He thought the trip though the bridge on the night of 27th of October was safe, as one barge was to have been left above Davenport and he thought the boat could have passed safely through the Moline chain with one barge.  He thought the current was running over 4 or 5 miles on the night of the accident.  He regarded Hire as a sober man.  The vessel was built at LeClaire in 1877, by a firm of which witness was a partner.  He had seen her since that time, and regarded her as one of the best little steamers on the rapids.  The captain could have asked one of the passengers form the pilot house to warn the passengers.


After the examination of Capt. VanSant a discussion took place as to the advisability of examining more witnesses; but as the only witnesses who could be had were the bridge guards, and as their testimony would not present any further facts, it was decided that no more evidence would be necessary, and the jury was advised to consider their verdict.


After deliberating about two hours, the final result was given, at about 3:30 p.m. in the following




  Rock Island County,      } ss


In the matter of the inquisition on the body of W. Wendt, deceased, held at the city of Rock Island:


We, the undersigned jurors, on death do find that he came to his death by drowning in the Mississippi river, caused by the wrecking of the steamer Jennie Gilchrist, at the Rock Island bridge, on Thursday, at 10:30 p.m., Oct. 27, 1881.


We find from the evidence that the said Jennie Gilchrist, in violation of the law, was carrying passengers at night, when she had a license to run as a daylight passenger steamer only.


The accident was caused by the breaking of the full stroke cam-rod of the starboard engine, when a short distance above the Rock Island bridge, the vessel drifting under the bridge, wrecking her and causing the death of the deceased.


While we find that the boat was properly equipped, and that the engineer, P. M. Maines, did his whole duty, yet from evidence we find that the master and pilot, Dana Dorrance, was incompetent and derelict in duty, in not having an anchor ready and ordering it cast when the engine broke down.  Also that no look out was on duty, as provided by law, and further in not sending word to the passengers of their danger, and having the helpless women placed on the barge.


As to the mate, James Hire, we think he acted the part of a coward, in not making any effort to save the passengers and crew, he having nothing else to do.


And it is the sense of this jury that the duties of a master and pilot should not be vested in one person on any steamer authorized to carry passengers upon the Mississippi river.

  John Barge,                           David Hawes,

  J. M. Reticker,                       Robert Coyne,

  Albert Warren,                     John Aster.


Collected and transcribed by

 Sue Rekkas


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