CAPTAIN RUBEN OWEN AND MARY RAMBO
Researched and compiled
By Sue Rekkas
Thursday Morning, 19
LeClaire on the 16 inst by Geo W. Lewis, Captain Reuben Owens of St.
Louis & Miss Mary V Rambo of LeClaire.
St. Louis, Missouri
City Directory 1875 page 345
Owen, Reuben, pilot, r 2429 N.
|1880 Census, Town of
LeClaire, County of Scott, State of Iowa
St. Louis, Missouri City
Directory 1875 page 345
Owen, Reuben, pilot, r 2429 N. 15th
The Davenport Democrat,
dated Monday, April 24, 1882, page 1.
This morning the wife of Captain Owens, at Le
Claire, received a telegram from her husband, stating that the
steamer Little Eagle, which he commanded, sank at the Hannibal
bridge last night, and is a total loss. She was engaged in towing
a raft to Quincy. He says "I am safe," but does not state as to
the rest of the men.
This is the second disaster this season
for the McDonald Brothers of La Crosse, who owned the steamer, the
first being the sinking of the Bell Mac through the bursting of
her boilers, which scalded to death or drowned seven of her crew.
The Little Eagle was six or seven years old, was built at La
Crosse, and was worth $6,000 to $8,000. She was one of the best
steamers in the raft service. It is not known here, whether she
was insured or not.
The Davenport Democrat, Tuesday, April
25, 1882, page 1.
THE CAPTAIN'S STORY.
How the Little Eagle went to the Bottom-A spirit of
Accommodation and Other Spirits Did it-
-The Steamer is a Total
According to the story of Captain
Daniel Davison, of the steamer Little Eagle, which went against
the Hannibal bridge last Sunday afternoon, and sank, the
destruction of the steamer was the result of a too obliging
disposition on the captain's part, principally, and of a spree
which several members of the crew had indulged the previous night.
The captain has been a river man for thirty-six years and a
skipper for the last ten years. He was first pilot on the Eagle,
and was at the wheel when the accident occurred, the second pilot,
Reuben Owens, of LeClaire, being off watch and asleep. The steamer
had a raft in tow for Hannibal, and laid up at Quincy during the
previous night, and all the crew went ashore. They left Quincy at
5 o’clock in the morning, took the raft down to a point four miles
above the Hannibal Bridge, where it was tied up, while the captain
steamed down for Hannibal to notify the consignees that the raft
About a mile above the bridge they met a man in a
skiff who pulled to the boat, got on board and asked the captain
to tow down a couple strings of lumber for the Hannibal Lumber
Company, which he agreed to do. They went back for the later raft,
got it and went on down the river to within half a mile of the
bridge, then the captain told the man he thought when he got near
the bridge he had better loose the boat from the raft and let the
latter float through under the span nearest the Missouri shore
alone. The lumber man told him he wanted to land the raft
immediately below the bridge, and that if the adopted the
captain’s plan, it would almost certainly strike the shore and be
broken up. Capt. Davison finally agreed to run through the draw
with the raft in tow, and made his calculations accordingly. There
was a strong wind blowing down stream, which tended to force the
boat close to the Missouri shore and the strong current exercising
this tendency soon made apparent to those on board that the run
would be dangerous. The boat was now nearing the bridge, and the
Capt. gave orders to the crew to stand by the lines and obey his
orders. Several of the men had not yet fully recovered from the
effects of last night’s spree, and were still under the influence
of liquor. They went to their places, however. The powerful force
of the current had now swung the boat and the raft around to an
angle of forty degrees to the bridge, with the stern of the boat
to the northwest. The captain, who was acting as pilot, seeing no
other way of escaping impending danger, gave orders just as the
lower end of the raft was passing through the draw to cut loose
the lines, and called out to those on board. “We are lost, save
yourselves!” Those who were sober enough to realize the danger of
the situation obeyed, and four or five lines attached to the raft
were cut loose but the remaining one still held and drew the boat
on to destruction. The captain then gave orders to the engineer to
put on a full head of steam, in an endeavor to force the raft
forward and clear the pier, but the current was to strong and the
raft struck the pier. The crashing, grinding and piling of timber
struck terror to the hearts of the now totally demoralized crew.
The captain gave orders to all on board the boat to jump on the
raft and await the final crash of the steamer against the pier. He
himself stuck to the pilot house until the crash came, when he has
calculated to jump from the hurricane deck to the bridge. A second
later the boat struck the pier and parted near the pilot house,
and the captain fell headlong down the break and into the water.
The boat careened after striking the pier and fell toward the
The clerk’s wife, Mrs. R. C. Davis, of Fort Madison, was
taking a pleasure ride with her husband, and with him left the
boat and got on a raft before the steamer struck. The officers
lost all their trunks, but a number have since been recovered. The
safe, containing $450, is at the bottom of the river or still in
The Little Eagle is a total loss. She was valued at
$9,000 and was uninsured. Most of the wreck still lies against the
fatal pier, just where it struck, part of the debris having
floated off down the river. This is the second accident of the
kind at this bridge. Six years ago the steamer Dictator struck
under somewhat similar circumstances and seven lives were lost.
Captain Davison came in some distance below the bridge, and
grabbing a piece of the wreck, held to it, holding with one hand,
until he made his way to the hen coop, which he had mounted when
rescued by some men in a skiff.
Three of the crew, Jerome
Vallan, Silas Cooper and Henry Houseman, were lost. Vallan was a
linesman, Cooper was a fireman, and Houseman was a kitchen boy.
Vallan’s body was recovered, and an inquest held, the jury
returning a verdict that deceased came to his death by an
unavoidable accident by the steamer Little Eagle striking the pier
of the Hannibal Bridge. The jury’s verdict exonerated the captain
from all blame, the testimony of Clerk Davis and John Young the
cook, who appeared to be the only ones capable of giving
satisfactory account of the affair, going to show that the captain
was a cautious, sober and straightforward man, fully capable of
discharging the duties of his position. Captain Davison himself
acknowledged it was impossible for the most expert pilot to keep
posted on every change of the current and the draft at all stages
of the river. He had gone through the Hannibal Bridge at least
twenty-five times before, and never had an accident before,
although this bridge has the reputation among pilots of being the
most difficult on the river to effect a safe passage through.
Ruben Owens died December 25 1884 and is
buried in Glendale Cemetery at LeClaire, Iowa next to his wife
Mary. No obituary for him could be found.
The Davenport Democrat
and Leader, Wednesday, July 20, 1910, page 2.
Drs. Franklin and Rummel of De Pell,
Ill., arrived in LeClaire Saturday evening. On Sunday morning they
preformed an operation on Mrs. Mary Owen which gave promise of
restored health. Mrs. Owen passed away Monday afternoon.
The Daily Times, Tuesday, July 19,
1910, page 4.
Mrs. Mary Owen passed away
yesterday afternoon at the home of her sister, Mrs. J. M
Hawthorne of LeClaire, after a lingering illness, Sunday
morning she submitted to an operation for gall stones and
being in a weakened condition succumbed to the effects of
Mary V. Rambo was born in LeClaire, August 16, 1854, daughter
of William and Jennie Rambo. She was united in marriage to
Ruben Owen at LeClaire, November 20, 1875. Mr. Owen preceded
her in death in 1884. Surviving her are two daughters,
Misses Gertrude and Jessie at home and one sister, and two
brothers, Mrs. J. M. Hawthorne and Captain J. W. Rambo of
LeClaire and W. D. Rambo of Shellburg, Ia.
Funeral service will be held from the home Wednesday afternoon
at 2 o’clock with interment at LeClaire cemetery.
The Davenport Democrat and
Leader, Tuesday, July 19, 1910, page 6.
MARY V. OWEN DIES IN
Mrs. Mary V. Owen passed away Monday
afternoon at her home in LeClaire, after an illness of many
months. Mrs. Owen submitted to an operation for the removal of
gall stones on Sunday morning, but in her weakened condition
failed to rally and passed away the next afternoon.
Mary V. Rambo, daughter of William and
Jennie Rambo, was born in LeClaire, Ia., August 16, 1854, and was
united in marriage with Ruben Owen, November 20, 1875, at LeClaire.
This union was blessed by two daughters, Gertrude and Jessie, who
tenderly cared for their mother during her illness. Mrs. Owen and
daughters were bereaved of husband and father December 25, 1884,
since which time they have resided in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.
M. Hawthorne, sister of Mrs. Owen. Besides the sister, Mrs.
Hawthorne, she is mourned by two brothers, W. D. Rambo of
Shellburg, Ia., and Captain J. W. Rambo of LeClaire.
The funeral will occur from the home of
the sister, Mrs. J. M. Hawthorne Wednesday afternoon. Burial in