“When Rafters Ruled”


Chapter Six


Told by Jerome E. Short

Written by Fred A. Bill


Printed in the Clinton Herald 1933



“The Viola”


On our return from St. Louis when just above the Quincy Bridge the Viola mashed a piston head and we drifted ashore and tied up at the upper end of the grove above the bridge.  The engineer got the pieces out of the cylinder, took them to a foundry in Quincy and had a head made.  While lying there the Rob Roy, the St. Louis and Keokuk packet came down, and such a swell as she made! The little boat was thrown out on the bank and then sucked back into the river and we all thought her time had come.  The smoke stack, only a little larger then a stove pipe, was thrown into the river, but her staunch hull stood the racket and she came through without any special damage.  We had to lie there several days and the job of watching the boat fell to me.  One night the George D. Palmer, a big stern wheel packet running between St. Louis and Keokuk, came down with two big barges loaded with wheat.  What went wrong I do not know but the tow entered the right side of the draw, pointed a little to the left in just the right position to allow the west draw pier to cut diagonally through the entire fleet.  Such a smashing, cracking and bell ringing I never did hear.  John Hoy and I went down the next morning and found the entire outfit a total wreck.  There were several darkies there telling their experiences. One of them said he had a notion to take a dive off the end of the barges, and another said: “if you done take a dive off that barge, it’ll   be de last dive yo’ll ever dive!”  There were several lives lost in the wreck.


                                                                                                                  Collected and Transcribed by

            Georgeann McClure



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