The Times

Nov. 13, 1902



 He is here to testify in the Leonidas Damage suit

 Tells of His thrilling Experience During the Burning of the Steamer St. Louis Oct. 30 at St. Louis


Tells Story of Fire


Mate Breen told a thrilling story of the burning of the steamer St. Louis a week ago that Friday at St. Louis in which he nearly lost his life.

“I was mate of the St. Louis” said Breen,” and we had come up the river from New Orleans with a big load and had landed at St. Louis. The boat needed some slight repairs and we took her down to the ways about five miles below St. Louis and tied up.

“How the fire started we were not able to discover, but it must have broken out somewhere in the stern on the boat. There were five men on the boat besides myself and we all escaped except the bartender, who was burned to death in his stateroom. The fire was well started before we found it out and the captain and myself got everyone off except the bartender. When we saw that he was missing we went back on the burning steamer to look for him. We found his stateroom and as the door was locked we broke in the door but he was not inside and by this time the fire had become so hot that we were compelled to get off the boat or be burned to death.”

“The bartender must have been sleeping in one of the staterooms and have been burned to death where he lay. The St. Louis was one of the biggest boats on the river. She was 305 feet long and had a 99 foot beam so that you can see when she was all ablaze she made a terrible fire. After we left the boat the heat became so intense that we could not get within a hundred feet of the shore. The stacks fell over shortly after we left her and it was only a matter of a few minutes till she was burned to the waters edge.”




Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure



 return to Iowa History Project