Wreck of the James Malborn by Walter Blair

Davenport Democrat and Leader
March 6, 1932

Some Interesting Data on the Famous Mississippi River Rafters built at Le Claire Boatways

Walter A. Blair

While Van Sant and Son were building the McDoanld and the Abner Gile, their neighbors Zebley and Son, were building the James Malborn of La Cross and his associates in 1872.

But the James Malborn exploded her boilers, killing the captain and part owner and several of her crew and then sank. This accident occurring only a few weeks after the D. A. McDoanld explosion, and within a mile of the same place above the McGregor pontoon bridge) caused steamboat men to think there was some particular local condition that might explain these two disasters; but they have concluded that it was only a coincidence and both due to lack of care and caution.

The wreck was raised, taken to La Cross and rebuilt as the Robert Ross. This name was later changed to J. S. Keator. She was for many years in charge of Captain L. A. Day of Le Claire, Ia., while she was running logs for J. S. Keator Sons of Moline, Ill., her owners.

After their mill closed down she was sold to a Memphis company who changed her name to L. E. Patton. They used her towing logs to mills in Wolf River.

Capt. A. O. Day, now supervising inspector of steam vessels at St. Louis, Mo., served his apprentice ship as cub-pilot with his father on the J. S Keator and was his partner after getting his license. Kettenbracker and Wiether of the Le Claire Foundry and Machine shop cast and filled a pair of 14”x6’ cylinders to the old top works of the J. S. Keator’s engines. This increased her power and (strange to
tell) decreased her fuel expense. On each outboard side of her pilot house and under her name was a large and pretty “K” .



Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure