While not jolly reading, it’s nevertheless interesting—and fairly rare—to hear on a monument of an unusual form of death. In Prospect Hill Cemetery (in D.C.), there is a tombstone of Marion Hays Colerider who was “shot and killed” at the age of 17 on 7 December 1900 (figure 1).

Figure 1. Marion Hays Colerider monument. Prospect Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

But here I am interested in an unexpectedly rich vein of ‘steamer deaths’ I’ve come across. We live in an age when mass transportation is so safe that it comes as a shock, actually, to have found three in what I would realistically submit is a limited survey of cemeteries.

Of course, we know about famous steamboat disasters like the catastrophic explosion and burning of the Sultana, loaded to the gills with freed Union POWs, on the Mississippi in late April 1865. But it must have been distressingly common for me to be able to tick off three monuments I’ve come across by chance in my random search through cemeteries.

Figure 2. John Fowle monument. Presbyterian Cemetery, Alexandria, VA. Photo: author.

LIEUT. COLONEL
JOHN FOWLE. U.S.A.
BORN NOV. 3, 1789,
AT WATERTOWN, MASS.
KILLED IN THE EXPLOSION
OF THE STEAMBOAT MOSELLE
AT CINCINNATI.
APRIL 25, 1838.
A BETTER HUSBAND, FATHER, SON,
BROTHER, FRIEND, CITIZEN, & SOLDIER
IS NOT TO BE FOUND

Figure 3. John Brown monument. Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Boston, MA. Photo: author.

IN MEMORY OF
JOHN BROWN
MERCHANT OF BOSTON
LOST HIS LIFE AT THE BURNING OF
THE STEAMER LEXINGTON ON THE SOUND
1840

Figure 4. Evening Sun Newsboys Band monument. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.
Figure 5. Evening Sun Newsboys Band monument. Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Detail: Inscription. Photo: author.

VERNON E. JEFFERSON
AGED FIFTEEN –
NELSON A. MILES
AGED SEVENTEEN –
WALTER CLARK MILLIKIN
AGED THIRTEEN –
LESTER ALFRED SELIGMAN
AGED FIFTEEN –
– – – –
MEMBERS OF THE
EVENING SUN NEWSBOYS BAND
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
IN THE BURNING OF THE
STEAMER THREE RIVERS
IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
OFF COVE POINT
JULY IV, MCMXXIV
– – – – –
THEY HAVE “MOVED A LITTLE NEARER
TO THE MASTER OF ALL MUSIC”

— — — Bonus! — — —

Just today (31 August 2019) I found another in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. (figures 6, 7).

Figure 6. Latrobe monument for George Kinnard, 1836. Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

IN MEMORY OF THE
HON. GEORGE L. KINNARD
A REPRESENTATIVE IN
THE CONGRESS OF THE
UNITED STATES
FROM THE STATE OF
INDIANA
WHO DIED NOVEMBER 26, 1836
AGE 33 YEARS

Figure 7. Latrobe monument for George Kinnard, 1836. Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Detail: Secondary inscription recording cause of death. Photo: author.

His death was
occasioned by the
explosion of a boiler
of a Steam Boat
on his Journey
to his Seat in
Congress.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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1 Comment

  1. I recall that Mark Twain’s brother was killing in a steamboat boiler explosion on a Mississippi River boat. Very interesting.

    Sent from my iPhone

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