IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
The Hawk – eye 29 May 1901
Story of the Disaster as Told by Officers to
Hawk-Eye Reporter at the Scene
of Accident – Company’s
The wreck of the big steamer Dubuque, near Oquawka, was visited by hundreds of sightseers yesterday. No one was permitted to go on the ill fated steamer but launches and row boats circled about, and everyone leaving the boat was pounced upon by the curios ones and piled with all manner of questions. The shore was lined with amateur photographers, eager to get “views.”
The steamer W. J. Young, Jr. was wired for early in the morning, and reached the scene of the disaster at about 1:30 o’clock, and was tied up alongside the Dubuque while the passengers and horses were transferred. The Young then came down to this city, reaching here shortly after 9 o’clock.
No one was injured and, save for the nervous condition of some of the women, none of the passengers were any the worse off for the adventure.
At about 12:30 o’clock Capt. John Killeen, of the Dubuque, and one of the officials of the Diamond Jo Company arrived in a launch from Oquawka, having gone by train to that place. After looking about the boat, Captain Killeen and Captain Murphy, who was in command of the boat at the time of the accident, returned to Oquawka and went from there to Dubuque by rail. Captain Killeen said to a Hawk-Eye reporter that as yet no provision had been made as to what boat would take the Dubuque’s run, but he believed that the Quincy, which is about ready to come out, would be put on in place of the Dubuque.
Efforts will be made at once to raise the boat, which is now slowly sinking in the mud and sand, and she will then be towed to the dry docks at Dubuque for repairs.
A Hawk-Eye representative from this city, Agent Frank Hopkins and Chief clerk Killeen, besides a number of sightseers, went up to the Nautilus yesterday morning. It was expected that J. P. Lusk, of St. Louis, would also make the trip, but he did not come. The party reached the wreck at 1 o’clock, and Mr. Hopkins, Clerk Killeen and the reporter went on board, while the rest of the party landed on Johnson Island.
As the little steamer approached the sunken packet, it presented a queer spectacle. The water was up over the guards, and the forecastle only was dry. No smoke issued from the tall stacks, and everything looked unexpectedly peaceful and quiet. The colored “roosters” lounged about under the gangway, and the waiters were laying the cloth for dinner for the officials of the boat and officials of the company. Several small launches and the steamer’s big steel lifeboats were alongside. The Dubuque seemed to have settled down squarely and easily. She rests with her bow pointing southwest, and her stern within forty-five or fifty feet of the island, which is on the east side of the channel, and the water thereabouts is usually fairly deep. Nothing could be seen of the snag that caused the disaster, and consequently many were disappointed.
The Hawk-Eye reporter was treated with the greatest courtesy by the officers of the steamer, and was shown over the boat. The principal part of her cargo was flour, and several hundred sacks were in the hold, it being impossible to get them out on account of the water. There was also considerable grain and farm wagons, implements and machinery. The engine room, freight room and boiler room are flooded. The cook was using inverted coal boxes in the kitchen while he prepared dinner.
A glance down the hold showed a confusion of flour sacks, bales and boxes standing in the water. Nothing could be seen of the hole that been torn in the hull, as it is almost on the bottom.
Upon examination this morning it was discovered that the hole is much larger than was at first supposed. The steamer had struck the snag on the port side near the bow, and had gone on for some distance, ripping out the heavy timbers for nearly one hundred feet. The damage done was great, and the collision must have been terrific, and the big packet must have sunk rapidly and rested on the bottom in about six or seven feet of water within a few minutes after striking the obstacle. She is now sinking into the mud and sand at the bottom, and has settled about an inch and a half between 6 o’clock yesterday morning and 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
In conversation with a Hawk- Eye reporter the officials of the company said that they expected to get workmen to raise the wreck within a few days. They seemed to think that there would be more work about it than was at first supposed, but hoped to be able to fix it up at least have it ready for next summer.
The Sidney will not take out her excursion Decoration day, but Agent Hopkins has been instructed to order her to go on to the wreck as soon as she puts in here and take the Dubuque’s cargo off. This will be a great disappointment to many who hoped to go on the Sidney Thursday afternoon.
Captain Murphy, when questioned by the reporter, said that he had orders to go to Dubuque at once and take charge of the Quincy, and she is due down here Thursday. The Quincy is an elegant steamer, and has recently been thoroughly overhauled and put in the very best of condition.
From talking with the various officers of the Dubuque, the following story of the accident was secured:
The big boat was nearing the crossing at Johnson Island, and was going at a fairly good rate of speed. Levi Williams the boat’s regular pilot, was at the wheel, and knew that there was good water under him. However, he kept a sharp lookout. The snag, unfortunately, was under water, and the first those on board knew of its presence was a sudden jar, then the boat keeled over a little, and some of the cargo spilled off into the water. There was the sound of breaking timbers, and before any of the fifty passengers could realize what had happened, the steamer was sinking rapidly.
There were also nine horses on board, and one of the men rushed back and untied them, so that if the boat turned over the animals might have a chance to swim for their lives. This was not necessary, however, and the horses remained standing in water two or three feet deep until after the boat had settled, and then they were taken up on the forecastle, where they remained until the Young came and took them off.
Captain Murphy and his officers called to the passengers that there was really but little danger, and soon had the women and children quieted down. The lifeboats were lowered and everything made ready to take them ashore should the boat turn over. This did not happen, and they all remained on board until the Young took them off early yesterday morning. They were all brought to Burlington.
Great credit is due Captain Murphy and his officers for their coolness, as there is no doubt that had the passengers become frightened, there would have been a panic, and probably several injured, if not killed. As it was, however, no one was hurt.
Collected and Transcribed
by Georgeann McClure