Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
Steamer Columbia Sinks
Submitted by Karen Seeman 2011
Fourteen Columbia Victims Buried at Kingston
Steamer Columbia Sinks Friday Night and Drowns Eighty three -- Over Eighty Board Boat at Kingston--Ten Glasford People All Escape
from the Glasford Gazette, Glasford, Illinois
July 11, 1918
Kingston Mines mourned for her dead Tuesday.
Steamer - Sinks Friday Night
Ten Glasford People On
There were ten Glasford people on the ill-fated boat, all of whom were lucky enough to escape. They were Mrs. Grace Wood, Misses Fannie and Sara Fahnestock, Mabel Shepard and Faye Tindall, Oakley Fahnestock, Chester Payne, Claire Reiger, Maurice Glasford, and Otto McElhaney. Some of them had narrow escapes.
Those who were in the dance hall managed to fight their way to the top and crawl out through windows. Faye Tindall happened to be in one corner of the dance hall where the ceiling was about a foot above water. As she came up her hand came in contact with an electric light bulb, to which she clung for a long time, until discovered by rescuers. She. was one of the last to be taken off. Mrs. Grace Wood was thrown from, the top of the boat and was caught by Wm. Lanan as she was going down the third time. One or two of the boys were not in shape to take care of themselves, and owe their lives solely to the fact that they happened to be on top when the boat sank. We hope the boys will take a lesson from this and keep themselves ready for an emergency in a case like this, especially when accompanied by girls who have a right to expect their protection.
Chester Payne and Oakley Fahnestock went back to Pekin the next day and worked all day in helping care for the dead and injured.
The bodies as they were recovered were taken to Pekin, where a morgue was established in the building formerly occupied by the Kuecks Undertaking Co. Deputy Coroner. H. C. Wilmot, the Glasford undertaker, had charge of the morgue.
Kingston is Ill-Fated
We do not wonder that many of the Kingston people ar becoming fatalists. Sixteen years ago, on June 10, 1902, a cyclone nearly swept village away, killing four people, wounding many more, and wrecking a score of homes.
In writing of the sad event at that time, the former editor of the Gazette said:
"The miners union all turned out in a body and with the rigs and people on foot formed a procession six blocks long. Standing on the hillside where one could see at a glance all the shattered buildings and looking on the long funeral line as it slowly proceeded west with two hearses and a little white casket being carried,: the scene was enough to make anyone shed tears of sympathy. Let us hope that we may experience such a calamity again."
Little the present writer thought. at that time that sixteen years later he would stand on the same spot and see five caskets, containing eight bodies, bourn up this same hill. it was a sight to melt the heart of the most hardened, and we fervently hope the little village of Kingston may be spared any more sad blows of this kind.
110 Perish when boat sinks in
Steamer Columbia Hits Log and Goes Down at Night near Wesley, Il
MOST OF DEAD FROM PEKIN
Pekin, Ill., July 8.-Seventy-eight bodies were recovered on Saturday from the wrecked steamer Columbia, which sank in 20 feet of water in the Illinois river opposite Wesley, Ill., at one o'clock Saturday morning after striking a log. Seventy-one have been identified. No bodies were removed from the vessel on Sunday owing to a heavy storm. Twenty-two persons are still reported missing. The majority of the victims were from this city.
U. S. Inquiry Started.
With the arrival in Peoria of George Green, supervising federal inspector of steamships, government investigation of the Columbia tragedy got underway. A preliminary Inquiry was held at the federal building, to which Capt. Herman Mehl and several members of his crew were summoned by Steamship inspectors George Bowers and Reese Downs of St. Louis.
Deny Hull Was Rotten.
Captain Mehl and the crew, pale and shaking, talked in subdued tones while awaiting their interviews with the officials. They are being guarded by secret service men. They denied the hull of the ill-fated ship was rotten or that there was anything wrong with the keel. They explained the collapse of the frail boat by saying the stanchions under the ballroom deck must have given way,
"The hull was pierced by a stationary log," declared Tom Williams, veteran Mississippi river pilot, who was at the wheel when the Columbia went down.
Steamer Never Condemned.
Captain Mehl said: "The Columbia was purchased from Capt. Walter Blair of Davenport. She never was condemned. That report is untrue. She never went under any other name. "The safety of a wooden boat," said Mr. Downs, "depends altogether on the skill with which it is handled. Williams and Sivley were experienced pilots---the best on the river. They knew every eddy and current of the stream. We considered the Columbia the safest boat on the river."
"The object of our Investigation," said District Attorney Dougherty, "Is to determine whether there were any violations of the federal law. We are here to see that full justice is done andhe federal law. We are here to see that full justice is done and not to whitewash anyone."
The Columbia was valued at $35,000 and was not Insured. Nearly $20,000 was spent last fall for repairs at the Mound City ways.
Left Peoria at Midnight.
The Columbia put out from its wharf in Peoria shortly before midnight Friday. Those aboard for the larger part were members of the South Side Social club of Pekin and some friends from Kingston Mines. They had come to Peoria earlier in the evening, bringing their children with them to attend a war work carnival in progress in Peoria.
The Columbia was about 125 feet in length and of the usual broad beam of river boats. The hull, like all river boats, was flat of bottom and regarded as incapable of being capsized. Upon the departure of the boat most of the passengers sought the lower deck and the dancing floor.
Captain Mehl said his first intimation of danger was when the vessel sustained a slight shock.
The lights had flickered off and on again. Captain Mehl megaphoned his hands and bellowed aloft, "Everybody get upstairs, She's going down."
There was a second and more violent jolt which caused the unwieldy vessel to shiver and groan aloud. The lights went out.
There was a rush for the exits. The hull parted amid ships and the whole superstructure crumpled into kindling and the boat sank into the mud bottom 20 feet below. An indescribable chaos of things and persons swept down against the wall of the dancing salon and stuck there.
Those who had come out alive were given temporary care in the huts of fisherman.
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