The Ravenna


Davenport Republican

June 14, 1902




Pilot Pete Hire was on Jenny Gilchrist


And Again was Miraculously saved – details of the terrible disaster- captain dies at his post


  The chief topic among local rivermen yesterday was the terrible disaster to the rafting steamer Ravenna which was mentioned briefly in yesterday mornings Republican.  The rivermen who met their death in the storm were well know to Davenport rivermen and were well liked by the followers of the great stream.  The steamer Ravenna passed Davenport early Thursday morning on the trip north that resulted so disastrously.  She had just delivered a raft to the East Muscatine Lumber company for whom she was towing, though she is owned by Bronson & Folsom of Stillwater.


Surveyor of Jennie Gilchrist


  One of the survivors of the wreck was Pilot Pete Hire, who happened to be off watch when the squall came and was therefore not caught in the pilot house like Capt. Hoy.  Capt. Hire was at the wheel of the Jennie Gilchrist when the latter struck the ridge at Davenport many years ago and went down with a loss of many lives.  He was evidently not born to be drowned, for he escaped from two of the greatest river disasters of the upper river.


More About Ravenna


  A special dispatch from Dubuque to the Chicago Tribune tells of the disaster as follows:

  A cyclone swept across the Mississippi river about 4 o’clock this afternoon.  At Maquoketa chute, four miles north of here, it struck the steamer Ravenna and turned it over.  Four of the crew were drowned and the remaining 24 escaped. 


The dead are:


  Hoy, John, captain, 52 years old, Stillwater.

  Trask, Byron, clerk, 42 years old, Reed’s Landing.

  Dell Charles, 23 years old, La Cross.


The Ravenna is owned by Bronson & Folsom of Stillwater, and was towing for the East Muscatine Lumber company.  It passed this port north shortly after 3 o’clock and the storm struck it at 4:11, as indicated by the watch of one of the crew which stopped at that  hour.  The cyclone struck the steamer without warning and it keeled over to starboard.


Captain Dies At Post


  The crew were thrown into the water, but some of them managed to crawl up on the bottom of the upturned steamer.  Capt. Hoy was at the wheel when the boat went over, with all the windows in the pilot house closed, and was caught in a trap.

  Clerk Trask was in his office and likewise had no chance to save himself.  Capt. Hoy’s son was asleep in a stateroom, and, awakened by the overturning of the boat, kicked open a skylight and escaped.

  The men huddled together on the overturned hull and clinging to the slippery sides for their lives, peered eagerly through the rain for a boat of some sort to save them.


Long Wait for a Rescuer


  After nearly an hour of anxious waiting they sighted the steamer Teal coming down on its daily trip from Potosi.  Coats, hats, handkerchiefs, and everything available were waved at it, but still the packet continued on its way.  Finally, Capt. Specht of the Teal sighted the unfortunates and turned his craft toward them.  The course against the shifting wind was a hard one to make, but he succeeded in coming alongside and making fast long enough for the perched on the hull of the overturned steamer to climb on the deck of his boat.  In the choppy sea the Teal then proceeded to Eagle Point, where the rescued men were landed.

  Three men were picked up from the Iowa shore by a gasoline launch and three others from the Wisconsin shore.  These men unable to see the boat reached land by swimming across the river.


The Col. McKenzie Arrives


  The United States snag steamer, Col. McKenzie, came down yesterday morning from St. Paul.  The McKenzie had done a large amount of work on this trip and it will have to make another trip upriver this season.  A large number of snags were removed from the river bed and a number of overhanging trees have been removed from the banks.


  The towboat Zalus Davis, which sunk some time ago near Beef slough, had been raised and is now safely on the way at Lansing, where it will be repaired.  The exact cause of the sinking of the boat was not known until the boat was raided.  It was found that both the hog chains had broken allowing the forward part of the boat to sink and fill with water.  The towboat will be repaired as rapidly as possible and will be again put to work on the upper river.



Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure