IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
Picture from Clinton Herald “When Rafters Ruled”
“Burlington Saturday Post”
LOSS OF LIFE ON RIVER STEAMERS
Boiler Explosions and Storms and the Havoc Caused by Them
Considering the large number of boats and men employed the loss of life was small during that period. I shall always remember one of these explosions for I lacked about fifteen minutes of getting into it.
The stern wheel Steamer Lansing was owned by Rambo & Son of Le Claire. She made daily trips to Davenport, leaving Le Claire in the morning and returning in the evening. I was in Le Claire and there met Robert Smith, a pilot, with whom I had a slight acquaintance. I am not sure, but I think he was the son-in-law of the elder Rambo. I was going down the river and he told me that he was to take the Sterling to Davenport on the following day for the Rambo’s, and invited me to ride with him. I accepted the invitation and told him I would be on hand next morning at 7:30. I was stopping at a hotel near the river and just opposite the steamboat landing. I was up next morning in ample time, but the hotel-keeper was late with breakfast. Myself and two other men missed the boat. We crossed the river to take the train, and there learned that the Lansing had exploded one of her boilers while lying at the town of Hampton. The Lansing left Le Claire that morning with 10 or 12 passengers. When Smith landed her at Hampton the wind was hard on the shore. When ready to leave there the wind held her to the bank, and she would not back out. A spar was set at the stern of the boat to sparn out and the passengers were all back there assisting in the work. Smith was at the wheel in the pilot house and the clerk in his office. The Lansing had two boilers, and while the sparring was going on the shore, the boiler exploded, going high in the air. Smith and the clerk, whose name, I think, was Van Dyke, were killed. Van Dyke’s body was blown across the river, where it drifted across the river where it drifted up to the shore. Pilot Smith was blown in the opposite direction-out into the town. The shore at Hampton was flat, and the wind had driven the side of the boat upon it, and it was said that the explosion was caused, not by steam pressure, but from a lack of water in the shore boiler. The hull of the boat laying on an incline, forced all the water out of one boiler and into the other.
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