Editor's Note: These accounts are from the June 9, 1831 issue of The Evening Post (NY) and the National Gazette (Philadelphia, PA). The tone of the articles reflect the time period in which they were written.
June 9, 1831 The Evening Post (NY) General Jackson Boiler explosion – Lives Lost and Saved
The morning papers contain a few further particulars concerning the late steamboat disaster on the North River. Two other deaths in consequence of the explosion are to the added to the list which we gave yesterday. The name of one of the unfortunate victims is Mr. Marshall, a passenger, and the other was Mr. Brady, of this city, a carpenter, and a man of much talent and ingenuity. He was exceedingly skillful as an architectural, machine, and ornamental iron work draughtsman.
Among the persons severely, but it is hoped not fatally scalded, are Mr. John Glads, of Haverstraw, the bar-keeper of the boat, and Mr. Rathbone, of this city. Mr. Rathbone is a young gentleman of wealth, who was returning to New York from his country seat, on the North River, opposite Grassy Point. At the time of the disastrous explosion he was in the act of stepping on board the steamboat from his own boat. One of his arms was broken, and his leg dreadfully torn and shattered, so much so that amputation has, we learn, since been resorted to.
The Journal of Commerce relates the following instance of fortunate escape.
A singular circumstance is related to us of another gentleman, well known to the public as a zealous promoter of every good object, who had intended to come down in the same boat [General Jackson]. It appears that he was waiting, either at Peekskill or one of the landing-places lower down, when the Captain of a sloop, which was just getting under way, solicited him very earnestly to take a passage with him. No, he replied; he was waiting for the steamboat. The Captain still pressed the invitation, and withal manifested so much good nature, that the gentleman finally consented. [Money of course was no object with him, being independently rich.] The winds afterwards became less favorable, and he did not arrive in the city till after midnight. He then told his companion that he had been silly enough to go on board a sloop instead of taking the steamboat, and had got well paid for his folly, by being detained till that hour. What was his surprise when he learned that to this circumstance, under Providence, he was probably indebted for the preservation of his life.
June 9, 1831 The National Gazette (Philadelphia PA) Steamboat General Jackson’s Boiler Explodes near Grassy Point Dock on June 7, 1831 [From the N. Y. Com. Advertiser of Wednesday.]
Steamboat Explosion - The startling intelligence was received last evening, and spread rapidly over the city, that the Steamboat Gen. Jackson had exploded yesterday afternoon, some where in the neighborhood of Sing Sing, and that many lives had been lost. The accounts of this disaster given in the morning papers, are in substantial agreement, and we have selected that of the Mercantile, which is as follows:
Another Steamboat Explosion. – The steamboat General Jackson, Capt. Vanderbilt, that has plied daily between this city [New York] and Peekskill, on her passage down burst her boiler with a terrible explosion. The accident occurred about 4 o'clock, while she was lying near Grassy Point Dock, a new landing in Haverstraw bay, about two miles below Stoney Point Light House, and thirty-five miles from the city. Captain Vanderbilt was on shore at the time, assisting in the landing of passengers and merchandize. Such was the force of the explosion that the boiler was blown entirely from its place, and fell in the river between the boat and the dock; a great part of the forward deck was demolished - the bows blown out, and in about 20 minutes, the boat sank, the stern only being visible above the surface of the water. When the accident happened, the steam boat Albany, Capt. Jenkins, on her passage down, was only a few miles from the scene of this terrible catastrophe, and in half an hour thereafter, Captain Jenkins was near enough to send his yawl onshore, to the assistance of the sufferers. Capt. Vanderbilt and six passengers returned to the city in the Albany last evening, and from their report we regret to state, that a man and a boy were killed, and when the Albany left the scene, a black man was on the point of death; about 15 others were wounded, some of them, including the engineer, so seriously that their lives were despaired of. The Gen. Jackson had on board about 40 passengers, but the short period that elapsed between the accident and the departure of the Albany, together with the confusion of the scene, render the particulars thus far received, rather imperfect. Whether any passengers were missing or not, was unascertained; nor did we learn that any cause could be assigned for the fatal explosion.
Since the above was prepared, one of the passengers in the Gen. Jackson has called to inform us, that the following persons are already dead; viz: - John Van Tine, Engineer; Oliver Mott, Fireman; - Morris, Waiter; Captain Van Wart, the Pilot; a colored man by the name of Smith, (the Cook;) and one of the hands, also a colored man, who died this morning. This is the second narrow escape of our informant, who was a passenger on board of the Washington, at the time of her late disaster. There was a countryman on board of the Gen. Jackson, who was blown to a considerable height, and fell into the river, where he was picked up with but little injury. He was ascending the gang-way from the cabin, at the time of the explosion; but he says he heard nothing of it, and while supposing himself just stepping on the deck, he was surprised to find people pulling him out of the water. The boat went down in ten minutes from the time of the accident.
P. S. Just as we were putting this paper to press, the following list of persons dead, or injured by the explosion, was handed to us, from which it appears that the pilot and engineer of the boat are not dead.
Captain Vanwart, pilot, badly scalded; John Vantine, engineer, a fireman, (a colored man) and a deck hand, all very badly scalded; Mr. Marshall, a passenger, dead; John Glass, of Haverstraw, very badly scalded; Miss Dow, dead; Rufus (a waiter) missing; the bar keeper had his legs badly scalded; Mr. Bradley, (architect) of this city, very much mangled, and not expected to recover.
The Journal of Commerce says: - The only additional fact which we have learned with certainty in respect to the explosion on board the steam boat Gen. Jackson, is, that among the sufferers is Mr. Rathbone of this city, a gentleman of wealth, whose country seat is nearly opposite Grassy Point, where the accident happened. His leg is dreadfully torn, the cords being all separated above the knee, and one of his arms broken.
June 10, 1831 The National Gazette (Philadelphia PA); Further Details about the Explosion on the General Jackson
New York, June 9 Further particulars of the late Steamboat Disaster.
By the North America steamer last evening, the following additional particulars of the late melancholy disaster of the General Jackson, were received by the morning papers, from which it will be seen that the dead and wounded are more numerous than we had hoped, or than was first reported.
"In the [steamer] North America, (says the Mercantile,) the dead bodies of John Vantine, Engineer, Josiah R. Brady, architect, and Miss Dow, were brought to this city. John Glass, Esq. calico printer from Glasgow, who settled in Haverstraw a few years ago, and Mr. Mitchell, of Peekskill, are dead; and two it is said died while they were being conveyed to Poughkeepsie. Rufus, a waiter, is missing - as well as three or four others. Fourteen are badly bruised or scalded, of whom not more than three are expected to recover - among them are Mr. Edward B. Rathbone, merchant, of this city, whose arm was broken, and whose left leg was terribly shattered. Dr. Proudfoot, who was on tho spot, set the former immediately, and yesterday, amputated the latter, but Mr. Rathbone is in a very precarious situation. Smith, the cook; capt. Van Wart, the pilot; the barkeeper, the fireman, a colored man, and a deck hand, are severely scalded and not expected to survive - these are all the names that have come to our knowledge. The General Jackson is a complete wreck; save the deck, scarcely one plank remaining to another."
The remains of Mr. Vantine have been taken to New Brunswick for interment. Mr. Van Wart was not dead last evening, but was not expected to live through the night. Mr. Glass was found after the explosion, suspended by his neck-handkerchief - dead. Dr. Proudfoot was conversing with Brady, at the time the latter was injured, and was himself unharmed.
The number of the dead is thus summed up: Five died at Grassy Point; two died on their way to Poughkeepsie; two no doubt were carried down in the vessel, as they were distinctly heard halloing for help, and how many more is not known. [Final death toll turned out to be 14 people.]
Thank you to Hudson River Maritime Museum volunteer Carl Mayer for sharing and transcribing these articles and for the glimpse into nineteenth century life in the Hudson Valley.
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