Wreck of Steamer Scioto, July 4, 1882
-from the Wheeling Intelligencer, July 5, 1882, p. 1
SINKING OF THE STEAMER SCIOTO
By Collision with the John Lomas, Near Mingo Junction — A Number of Lives Lost — Full Particulars of the Catastrophe — Stories of Eye-Witnesses and Officers of the Boats.
Shortly after 10 last night word reached the city that a terrible accident had occurred in the vicinity of Mingo Junction, caused by a collision between two excursion boats, the John Lomas, of Martin's Ferry, and the Scioto, of Wheeling. The Scioto had brought an excursion down from Wellsville, Ohio, in the early part of the day, and was on her return trip; while the Lomas was on her way down with her excursionists. The news was of the most heartrending character, to the effect that the two boats had collided after dark and that a great number of passengers had been drowned. This news soon flew around the city and by 11 o'clock the Western Union Telegraph office was crowded with anxious people, intent on gleaning the slightest scrap of information. Several newspaper representatives were behind the desks pressing their dispatches on the operators for prompt transmission to Mingo, Steubenville and other points ordering specials. As is always the case on the night of a holiday, it was had work to get offices near the scene of the disaster. Hence at 11 o'clock arrangements were set on foot for a special engine on the P. W. & Ky. road, to run to a point opposite Mingo with the reporters for the daily papers here to be on board.
The order came about midnight to let the special engine go. She had already been fired up in anticipation, and everything was ready for the reporters to take their places in the caboose of the engine. She went out shortly after twelve under the supervision of Superintendent Belleville, and carried reporters for the INTELLIGENCER and Register. Manager Tracy, of the Western Union, accompanied them, with an instrument and other proper facilities for making an attachment to the wires and sending the news back as expeditiously as possible. Shortly after their departure the following dispatch from Mingo reached this office:
Special Dispatch to the Intelligencer.
MINGO JUNCTION — MIDNIGHT.
I am just from the scene of the sinking of the Scioto, about one half-mile below this place. On account of a misunderstanding in signals the two boats collided in the middle of the river, the Scioto sinking in about fifteen feet of water, so that her pilot house can alone be seen. The Lomas is slightly disabled but still able to render assistance. The Scioto was passing up from Wheeling to East Liverpool with about five hundred excursionists on board, going home. The Lomas was going down. At this time it is impossible to get particulars of the extent of the accident. The stragglers coming in say that they cannot tell how many were lost, but think the number may be 50 to 75. They are so much excited that they cannot give any satisfactory estimate of the probable number. The saved are drenched with water. A train will arrive soon from Wellsville to get the Scioto's passengers. Comfortable quarters have been improvised here for as many as possible. Further particulars will be sent as soon as they can be gathered.
MINGO JUNCTION — HALF PAST 12.
The Scioto was coming up the river under a full head of steam. She whistled to give her the channel, and the Lomas so responded. The signal however did not seem to be understood, and the Lomas (coming from Brown's Island) struck the Scioto under a full head of steam. The Scioto sunk in about three minutes in about 15 feet of water. About half of her cabin in out of water. There are, as far as can now be ascertained, from fifteen to twenty-five persons missing. Several of those reported lost are a son of Count Ewing, two sons of Mike Connors, named Joe and Leith, a drummer boy belonging to the band, Willie Booth and John Prosser. It is a bright moonlight night, and this accounts for the fact, as it now appears, that the loss is so small as compared with first reports. The latest word is that the number will probably not exceed ten. Will dispatch further as soon as additional particulars can be ascertained.
MOUTH OF SHORT CREEK 1:30 A. M.
A special engine arrived at this point after a quick run. I have just seen Arthur McNally, who lives at Short Creek and who was an eye witness of the whole scene, standing at his front door immediately opposite where the collision occurred. It was about 8 o'clock. The Lomas, in passing the Island chute, whistled for the preference of sides, and as near as I can judge, it was about three minutes before the Scotia answered, and neither of them appeared to shear off, and almost immediately the collision occurred. General confusion followed, and I then saw the people jumping from the hurricane deck and all parts of the steamer. As far as I could see the Lomas struck the Scioto forward, for the fire flew over the bow of the Scioto. The Scioto sunk almost instantly and the Lomas backed as soon as possible. The Lomas run to the wreck. The crew and officers of the Lomas exerted every effort to rescue the unfortunate passengers and succeeded in landing over 400, making several trips, and continued to work as long as there was any who desired to leave. As soon as I saw the accident I jumped into my skiff and started for the wreck. When I got there I was within a distance of twenty feet and there were two other skiffs below me picking them up, but I don't know how many they got they were hollowing all over the boat. Now and then there appeared to be a great many in the water, but it was too dark for me to tell the number. I took the parties I rescued to the Ohio side, and by that time the Lomas had landed her party and returned to the wreck. I had just come home from work as the boat came past and couldn't tell how many were on board, but from what the parties who landed told me I think there was from 650 or 700 on the boat. From the run of the conversation of those who had been landed I gathered that 500 to 550 had been landed. Three women were carried ashore and died after they had been rescued. Two little boys and the Assistant Engineer of the Sciota were rescued and stopped at Cox's. The Assistant Engineer told me he thought many lives must have been lost as the lower decks were crowded, and the boat sank instantly. There was a man and woman who passed within 100 yards of my house. He was holding her up and crying for help, but my wife saw them sink. The scene was terrible, as I saw at least fifty young ladies who had been brought to shore who were saved by their escorts swimming and holding them up.
PILOT KELLER'S ACCOUNT.
At half-past one this morning Pilot Keller of the Scioto, reached the INTELLIGENCER office, having come down on the Lomas. He gave us his account of the disaster, which is as follows. The collision occurred just at the foot of Mingo Island. The night was not much of a moonlight night, as there were several clouds overhead. When we first sighted the Lomas was passing the Island, while I was hugging the Ohio side of the river at the point, and had Clint Thomas with me at the wheel. Being the descending boat the Lomas had the first whistle, which she should have given when distant 800 yards. This she did not, and I remarked to Clint that I wondered if she was ever going to signal. Just as I said this the Lomas blew one whistle, signifying that she wanted the Ohio shore. At that time we were about 400 or 450 yards apart, and I did not think I could make the Virginia shore in time, so I answered with two whistles and the Lomas responded with two. When I blew two whistles I signalled below for the engines to reverse, which was immediately done. The Lomas instead of bearing off to the Virginia shore curved in toward the Ohio shore, and struck the Scotio about ten feet from the stem. We were then about two hundred and fifty feet from the shore and slightly quartering, with both wheels backing. Our boat commenced sinking immediately, and in two of three minutes settled to a depth of three feet of water in the cabin floor. The Lomas landed her passengers as quickly as possible and then came to our rescue.
CAPT. INGLEBRIGHT'S STATEMENT.
A 2 o'clock this morning we had a visit from Capt. Inglebright, of the Lomas, who furnished us the following statement. We had on about 50 excursionists, and left Steubenville at 8:20P. M. When about half a mile below Mingo Junction, about 9 o'clock, I should judge, B. J. Long, our regular pilot, noticed a boat coming up on the Virginia shore. We were on the Ohio shore and had the right of position in passing, being the descending boat. Long blew one blast, signaling for the Ohio side. I judge we were about 600 yards apart when the first whistle was blown, but by the time the Scioto answered the distance was considerably decreased. Long on hearing the two whistles answered with two blasts, signalled to reverse the engines, and undertook to get in position to pass on the side. Both boats had been moving at rapid speed, and we had the current behind us. Before our speed could be checked, the Scioto crossed in front of us and we struck her on the larboard side, about the head of the coal box. Our boat sets down in the water and the bow passed directly under the guards of the Scioto, striking her hull and tearing a large hole, I would judge, as she sank rapidly. The excitement was of course very great, on both boats. I deemed it prudent to land my own passengers for fear of a rush of panic stricken passengers from the Scioto, who might upset her. As soon as I could land them I returned and made four trips, taking about 100 each trip. I noticed that several jumped into the river, many of whom were picked up by our yawl and flats. Can't say how many will be missing. At the time the first whistle was blown I was arranging the lights on the chimney and told the pilot to back. He replied I am backing. Every thing was done in our power to avoid a collision and I am ready for the fullest investigation. I was only too glad to do everything in my power for the rescue of the unfortunate people.
THE STRIKER'S STORY.
Charles Page, of Marietta, Ohio, the "striker," or assistant engineer of the Scioto, said that they started from East Liverpool at half-past 6 o'clock in the morning with a large excursion party, who were off for a 4th of July frolic, and that they went as far down the river as Moundsville, arriving there about 1:30 in the afternoon. After lying there about two hours we started up the river for home stopping at Wheeling and Martin's Ferry. The people hailed us all along the river, but the Captain said we had enough on board and refused to take any more, except at Steubenville, where we took on several. When we collided with the Lomas, as near as I can judge from what I heard people saying, we had on board 400 at least and probably 500. I was on watch at the time of the accident and when the boats whistled for passing I noticed there was something wrong, but thought nothing of it, and stepped out on the deck for a second, when I saw the Lomas right on us. I rushed back to my engine, obeyed the bell to go back, which was immediately followed by a bell to stop, and then seeing that the boat was fast sinking, the engineer and I threw a skiff into the river, and then I ran after my coat. When I got back the skiff was so full of terror stricken people that I knew it would sink, so I jumped into the river and struck out for the West Virginia shore. I looking around me as I swam I saw a sight that fairly took the life out of me. The water was black with struggling humanity and the expression of the faces was the most terrible that you can imagine. Men, women and children were crying piteously for help, and some of the screams so unnerved me that I could scarcely swim. But the current was very strong, and as I struck out with all my might I soon got out of sight of the crowd in the water, there being but two boys near me who managed to reach the shore in safety with a little help from me. We swam about a mile altogether, and when we reached the shore it was almost impossible for any of us to stand up.
As to how many were lost I can form no idea, nor do I know what caused the accident or who is to blame. I heard that one of Capt. Thomas' little boys was lost. Ned was his name I believe.
Mr. Page was interviewed in bed, at the house of Mr. Cox, a farmer who lives at Cross Creek, at 2:15 A. M. It was almost impossible to arouse him from a deep slumber at first, so thoroughly exhausted was his entire system. But after being fully awakened he proved to be a very intelligent young man of about 25 years, a pleasing face and very affable manner. All his information was given in a clear, concise manner and he impressed the reporter with being very careful to have everything exact, but at the same time showed no hesitation in telling all he knew, so that his story is entitled to a good deal of credit. Owing to the lateness of the hour we could not get the stories of the two boys who were with him in the house, nor did we learn their names. Both, however, are from Wellsville.
THE SCENE AT THE BOAT
when the reporters visited the submerged vessel was a horrible one. The boat lay a few hundred yards below Mingo, and not far from the Ohio shore, with her head up stream, and about two feet of water in her cabin. She dipped slightly to the port side, and the furniture was floating about in confusion, the piano being upside down, and some of the chairs broken. The railing around the guards was more or less demolished by the passengers climbing up.
The reporters crossed to the boat in a skiff belonging to a fishing party from Steubenville, camped near the scene of the disaster. Three of these men, Walter App, Fred Huffman and William Henry, saw the accident. They say the Lomas coming down, blew her whistle once, the Scioto, going up, blew twice, both signals meaning the same channel.
The collision occurred about 8 o'clock. Persons on the shore saw that there would be a collision before the boats struck, and the three men named got into their skiff and rowed out toward the boats. They succeeded, when the crash came, in saving the lives of nine persons, but saw three others drown without being able to do anything to save them. One man sunk when the skiff was within a few yards o him. They then devoted themselves to taking off the terrified passengers, and conveyed fifty-three to shore.
Two other skiffs, one occupied by John Zimmerman and Joe Davis, and the other by Thomas MacDonald and Wm. H. Henry, also saved several lives.
The boat was in charge of the watchman Charles B. McCoy, and the cabin boy John Denny. They told a very intelligent story of the affair. They said the Scioto was struck on the port side, about 15 feet from the bow, the Lomas coming into her "head on." A large hole was knocked in the Scioto's hull, and she filled almost immediately and
WENT DOWN AT ONCE.
The watchman said he had little idea how many passengers were aboard. There were certainly 400, and possibly upwards of 500. The scene when the collision occurred was simply indescribable, the women running about, clinging to each other and to the men, screaming for their children, their husbands or friends, and the men, their panic increased by the screaming of the women, were unable to collect their wits so as to do anything intelligibly.
The number of persons in the water probably at no time exceeded 100, and most of these were saved. It is impossible to even form an intelligent opinion of the number of persons drowned. The Captain's son, Dan, is missing and supposed to be drowned. A deckhand who name is not known, is also missing. He lives at Lockport, near Baersville, Ohio. Several good swimmers swam to the West Virginia shore, four hundred yards distant, and some landed a mile or more below.
The first man taken out of the water was the watchman, McCoy, who was saved by App and his party. Ed. Bond, of Steubenville, was also saved. Two ladies fainted after being taken out.
The party returned to the city about 2:45 A.M>, the run being made in about 20 minutes. Mr. J. M. Belleville, of the P. W. & Ky. road, deserves especial thanks of the newspapers, for the trouble he took to secure the facilities desired to reach the scene of the accident.