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Sinking of the Steamer Scioto, July 4, 1882

-from the Wheeling Intelligencer, July 6, 1882, p. 1



The Work of Recovering the Bodies Progressing. Twelve Recovered and Identified — Forty Persons Still Missing — Pitiable Condition of Captain Thad Thomas.

STEUBENVILLE, July 5. — Hundreds o people are attracted to the scene of the wrecked Scioto, some in search of missing and saved ones, others from curiosity. One dead body has been recovered on the Ohio side. The bodies of two boys are reported to have been recovered near Wellsburg. Two boys were picked up on the West Virginia side, who had swam a mile and a half below the place of the accident. They say about fifty persons were on the lower deck with them when the boat sunk and many of these are probably drowned. Capt. Thomas, of the Scioto, is nearly crazed with grief at the loss of his son and benumbed with cold from a fruitless search in the watery cabin for his body, which has been found at Brilliant station. The death roll will probably exceed fifty. There are more than this number missing and all chances for escape are heard from. Hundreds of persons from Wellsville and East Liverpool went down to the scene of the disaster this morning.


The list of the missing is as follows:

Wellsville — Jno. Stevenson, aged 25 years; David Fogo, 21 years; Belle Brannon, Sallie Kiddy, E. P Smith, wife and two children, Willie Ewing, Charles Davidson, 21 years; Joseph Connor, 21 years.

East Liverpool — Miss Farmer, C. Thompson, 19 years; Lincoln Thompson, 25 years; Carrie Booth, Carrie Boardman, M. E. Estlne and wife, Willie Parell, J. Christy, John Thompson, Jacob Gibson and wife, Dr. Stevenson and three men named respectively Kennett, Woods and Burke.

Lew Harper, of Wellsville was fatally hurt.

This list is more likely to be swelled than diminished.


MINGO JUNCTION, O., July 5. — The names of those found dead are: Belle Brannon, Dave Fogo, Sarah Riddy, Stewart Pipes, Joe Connor and a boy by the name of Ed Smith, of Wellsville; R. E. Beardmore, E. P. Burke and Miss Mollie Shields, of East Liverpool; Ed Thomas, the Captain's boy, and likely about fifteen more dead bodies will be found. Among the missing known is, Willie Booth, John Prosser, C. Davidson, Lewis Harper and Charlie Lieth. It looks now as if from twenty-five to fifty will be found dead, as the people at East Liverpool and Wellsville are missing their friends who go on the boat between East Liverpool and Wheeling. When the boat is raised many bodies will be found. The party seemed to be equally deivided between gentlemen and ladies. Thus far the bodies of three ladies only have been found.


The Search for Bodies — Twelve Recovered so Far — Scenes at the Boat.

A reporter of the INTELLIGENCER was sent to the scene of the disaster yesterday, arriving there about 2:30 o'clock. He found the banks of the river lined on both sides with all sorts of people, some from idle curiosity, others ready to lend a helping hand, and still others looking anxiously for missing friends and relatives. It was estimated that at least 2,000 persons were present. In the river were about thirty skiffs, some ferrying passengers for 10 cents a head, others busily engaged in dragging the river with grappling hooks which they had constructed during the morning. Among the latter was Mr. Geo. B. Crawford of Wellsburg, a correspondent of this paper, to whom we are under obligations.


We first took a view of the sunken boat, which rests in about nine feet of water, the river having fallen about four feet since the disaster. the bow being about 200 feet from the Ohio shore, the boat laying diagonally with the river, which, of course, throws her stern out toward the channel. Entering the cabin we found about eight inches of water on the floor in the centre, but the bow and stern were now clear. Here was found Mr. William Milholland, of Wellsville, Ohio, a member of the band under whose auspices the excursion was given, and who was the manager of it. He had remained at his post the entire night looking after the interests and safety of the passengers, being still at work collecting umbrellas, parasols, lunch baskets and whatever could be found belonging to the passengers of the ill fated boat, and to who we are under obligations for much pertaining to the excursion.

He informed the writer that the boat took about 200 passengers from East Liverpool, thence proceeded down to Wellsville, where about 250 had tickets who were permitted to come on board, many others wishing to go also, but they would not allow them. Several of the East Liverpool excursionists got off and received their money back, fearing to go with such a crowd on board. Some tickets had been sold at Yellow Creek, but the boat did not stop for them on account of the large number on board. Mr. Milholland estimates the whole number on board at not less than 450 persons. He had the management of the party, general oversight of the refreshments, &c. On the lower deck, immediately after the boilers, was the refreshment stand, from which was sold lemonade and eatables. No liquor was allowed on board, yet it is possible that at Moundsville some obtained liquor in bottles. Still


on the boat. He admits that great care had to be exercised to keep the boat in "trim," keeping some of the party on the lower deck, so that the boat would not be top-heavy.

When the accident occured, Mr. M. was at the refreshment table. So quick did the boat fill with water that he was obliged to jump into the river. Having quite a large sum of money, mostly silver, in his pockets, it was with difficulty he reached the Lomas.

The cabin presented a weird spectacle. Scattered everywhere was broken glass, caused by the breaking of the transoms, through which many of the passengers were pulled from the outside, while the staterooms and their contents were in confuson, saturated with water, and life preservers were found scattered everywhere.

Early yesterday morning the Wellsburg people and others made grappling hooks which were attached to cords, and commenced searching for the lost. By noon they had secured nine bodies as follows:


David Fogo, aged 21; East Liverpool, clerk.

H. E. Beardmore, aged 21; works in pattery; East Liverpool.

Ellis Smith, aged 19; East Liverpool.

Miss Sallie Kiddey, aged 16; East Liverpool.

C. Sprague, aged 25.

Miss Belle Brandon, aged 17; East Liverpool.

Joseph Conner, aged 15.

E. P. Budke, aged 30; stone mason, Liverpool.

Boy, claimed by some to be a son of Capt. Thomas, denied by others.

As fast as the bodies were found they were conveyed to a house on the Ohio side, assisted by an undertaker from Steubenville, to be claimed and prepared for burial. Intense excitement was manifested as the bodies were carried to the shore, and with difficulty could a passage be made through the crowd, who were anxious to learn the names of persons rescued.

Taking a survey of the position of the Scioto, the river and channel, one is almost forced to the conclusion that the pilots of both boats are neither of them blameless.

While we were informed by experienced river men, that at that point, the ascending boat uniformly was given the Ohio side of the river, still one cannot imagine why the Scioto was so far out from the shore. Any boat running on the upper river could easily pass, yesterday, between her and the Ohio shore and have room to spare, yet there was three or four feet less water than when the accident occurred. The river is wide at this point and a dozen such boats could go abreast. It is important that a searching investigation be had, leaving no stone unturned to find where the guilt belongs.


All sorts of rumors were afloat in regard to the collision, some of which we intend to trace up.

We were told the Scioto had been condemned and been out of service; but knowing this to be untrue, indeed, having knowledge that she was in every way sound and in first-class order, it gave us pleasure to contradict all such stories. Attention was called to her certificate which shows she was inspected June 29, 1881, which would make her papers run out June 28, 1882. Some said new papers were issued and were taken out of the clerk's private drawer, others that none had yet been issued. We could not ascertain in regard to this, but presume Capt. Booth has not failed to attend to this important matter.

Again her papers only give permission to carry sixty passengers, yet there were not less than 450. Had she a special permit to carry such a crowd? It is not strange that such questions were asked, after such an accident and so many hearts are wrung with anguish, and homes made desolate.

We are under many obligations to Capt. Dougherty, of the "Annie L." for favors, also Reporter McCain, of the Pitttsburgh Dispatch, who had been on the grounds the entire day.

Harry Merriman, formerly of Wellsburg, but now living in Wellsville, a blind young man about 21 — boarded the boat on her up trip at Wellsburg. At the time of the collision he was in the main cabin but succeeded without help in reaching the hurrricane deck, and remained until he was taken off and carried on shore in a skiff.


About 5 1/2 o'clock the steamer "Welcome" arrived in charge of Capt. C. H. Booth, President of the Wheeling and Parkersburg Transportation company, owners of the sunken boat, David Kellar, the pilot of the unfortunate Scioto at the wheel. On board were John Sweeney, of this city, a son of Capt. Thomas and others. The furniture of the sunken boat, together with the property of the unfortunate excursionists, was immediately transferred to the "Welcome," but having to meet our train, we were obliged to leave for home without learning when the sunken boat will be raised.


At 7 o'clock the body of an aged and unknown man was recovered from the water near the scene of the wreck. The striker of the Scioto, whose story was given in these columns yesterday morning, says that he was misunderstood, or that he was so sleepy when interviewed that he did not know what he was saying.

The Welcome arrived at the wreck a 5:30 o'clock and a force of men was put to work tearing up the floor of the cabin in the hope of recovering the bodies supposed to be in the deck room. At nine o'clock the bodies of E. J. Smith, of Wellsville, and the snare drummer of the Wellsville band were recovered and identified. The report that the body of Dan Thomas, son of Capt. Thomas had been drowned is false. When the cabin floor of the steamer was removed a number of hats belonging to men and women were seen floating on the top of the water, which substantiates the theory that a number of bodies had lodged in the deck room. Capt. Chas. Booth is at the scene of the wreck working heroically to recover the bodies. He is ably assisted by John Sweeney and Pilot Dave Kellar. The work of dragging for bodies will be kept up all night.


The injured boat, the Scioto, was built in June, 1875, at Portsmouth, Ohio, by the Bay Brothers. It was built for speed, and was one of the fastest boats on the Upper Ohio. It was first put on the mail trade between Huntington and Portsmouth and then put in the Ironton and Gallipolis trade. On June 24, 1881, it was delivered to Capt. Wm. Dillon, of this city, who had purchased her. June 25th it made its initial trip in the Wheeling and Sistersville trade. On July 12th it was laid up for machinery and cabin, her tubular boiler at that time being changed for a flue boiler. In August she went on the docks and her hull was recaulked, not a defective timber was found. On October 23rd it was put in the Wheeling and Sistersville trade. In February, 1882, while running between Wheeling and Marietta in a fog, she ran into the bank at Carpenter's rip[..], and sprung her butts, she was then taken to Point Pleasant and again overhauled, and in March was sold to the Wheeling and Parkersburg Transportation company. The Scioto had 2 cylinders (steel) 42 inches in diameter and 26 feet long, with six 8-inch flues. The steamer was 150 feet long, 22 feet 6 inches in beam and 4 1/2 feet in the hold. The cylinders were 14 inches in bore and 5 foot stroke.


Upon the arrival of the Abner O'Neal yesterday morning she was quickly boarded by all the river men along the levee, anxious to learn all about the horrible disaster up the river. Capt. O'Neal met the inquiries with a sober face, and conveyed the information that Capt. Thad Thomas, master of the ill-fated steamer, was on board and in a distracted state of mind, one that was pitiable to see. No one was allowed to visit his stateroom but his most intimate friends. One could hardly recognize Capt. Thomas, he was so changed after the horrors of the most horrible night. He was almost crazed and lay in his bunk, his face haggard, a wild look in his eyes and his hands clasped tightly over his forehead as if afraid his head would burst: An old friend entered his room and he burst forth. "Oh, my God; my God, John, it was awful. I can see the poor wretches dow in the water, and Dan — oh, where is my boy? We were going along so nicely and in two or three hours more would have been all right and the care would have been off my mind. I was in the cabin, boys, seeing that everything was kept straight, when I heard the whistle blowing I knew something was wrong, and, going out on the guards, I climbed up the jack-post to the hurricane deck and yelled to Dave to back her. He answered that that was what he was doing but it was too late and the crash came." And here the strong man hid his face and sobbed while the men in the cabin also wiped their eyes. Suddenly speaking again he said "Am I accused of carelessness in anyway?" and a decided negative answer was given. Capt. Thomas declared he could not go home without his boy Dan, and when the news came that his body was found, the lingering hope that he might have reached land safely fled, and it was a sad sight to witness the father's grief. He was bound to go back. He was taken to his home in Clarington on the Telegram, accompanied by Cyrus Higgs, the head engineer.

The general opinion of all river men is that Captain Thomas will never recover from this shock. He was one of the most careful pilots on the river in his day, and as a captain had no equal. The sympathy expressed for him was heard on all sides. Tuesday evening on the up trip he refused to allow the boat land at the levee but took off in a yawl all those who desired to land. The reason for this was that a large number desired to fill their whisky flasks. The Captain kindly but firmly refused to allow any on board.


The Local Inspectors, Young and Wilson, are in no hurry to commence work. They probably wait for the arrival of Chief Supervising Inspector Fehrenbatch from Cincinnati. He will probably arrive to-day.

The Welcome left here about 2 o'clock with Capt. Booth and a working force on board. The loss is estimated at about $1,000 by prominent steamboat men and is uninsured. John Sweeney has charge of the raising of the boat.

The John Lomas, with fires out, is laid up at the ferry landing at Martin's Ferry. This boat was built especially for a Monongahela pool boat, and was used for that purpose until purchased by Capt. Inglebright for the Wheeling and Martin's Ferry trade. The Lomas is a fast and staunch little craft.

Scioto Disaster pages: Part 1July 5, 1882; Part 2, July 6, 1882; Part 3, July 10, 1882; Part 4, March 6, 1884

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