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Explosion on the Steamboat Wayne, 1853

[From: The Daily Journal, July 2, 1882]

From the News, Saturday, June 25th, 1853:

“It becomes our painful duty to record the melancholy facts attendant upon the explosion of a steamboat boiler in the Neuse River--the first that has ever occurred in our waters. The disaster took place on Sunday morning last on board steamer Wayne, owned by Messrs. Dibble of Newbern, whilst she was lying at the mouth of Lower Broad Creek, about forty miles below Newbern, and about 125 yards from the shore. She was bound for Bay River, for the purpose of bringing up timber for Mr. John Blackwell.”

It seems the boat had anchored the night previous at the point where the explosion took place. It occurred at about four o’clock in the morning. The only white persons on board were Mr. Ossian Hanks and Mr. Rohn, the captain of the boat, both of whom were asleep in the cabin, Mr. Hanks occupying a berth on one side of the boat and Mr. Rohn the other. There were nine persons on board, eight men and one woman. The men, Charles, Adam, Emanuel, Bell, Oliver, Sam, John and Tom. The woman’s name was Patience, the property of Mr. John Durand. She had been employed as cook on board for the past eighteen months. Charles, Adam, Emanuel, and Sam belonged to Mr. John Blackwell, Bell to Mr. John M. Roberts and Oliver to Mrs. Eliza Vail, all of Newbern.

At the time of the explosion, Oliver, Sam and Adam were on the bow, hauling up the anchor. Charles was standing on the upper deck, directly over the boiler. Bell was in the act of calling up Emanuel, John was on the guards, and Tom was at the helm. Patience, the cook, was asleep on the floor of the ladies’ cabin.

As the explosion took place the steam and water forced their way forward, and drove all who were on deck overboard.

Four of the negro men, Charles, Emanuel, Adam and Bell lost their lives, either from being scalded or from drowning. The boiler was thrown violently through the whole length of the boat, crushing everything that opposed it; as it went; Patience, the cook, was killed outright by the boiler, and carried overboard by its force.

Besides the four negro men named above, who were forced overboard and drowned or scalded to death, Sam and Oliver were forced into the water. Sam was rescued by Mr. Hanks as he was holding by the cable, and Oliver swam ashore. They were both badly scalded.

Messrs Hanks and Rohn escaped unhurt, as did also John and Tom--the two former almost miraculously, as the boiler was forced through the cabin where they lay asleep, and passed very near to each. The boat was much shattered, and the water poured into the cabin at once, which circumstance probably aided in protecting those below from being injured by the steam, as the water cooled and condensed it.

The Wayne sank to the depth of eight or ten feet, the boiler being under her. Those killed were found some days after the accident. No blame was attached to any one. The boiler was well made, and it was one of those accidents that seems will occur sometimes, however careful one may be.

This was the last of the Wayne. The Messrs. Dibble had a new boat after this, which they called the North State, of which I will tell, or let Dr. R.R. Berry tell in our next.

But, Messrs. Editors, let me say, as it seems not out of place at this time, that before me is as follows in the News of June 25th, 1853:


The committee appointed by the Companies Nos. 1 & 2 to make arrangements for the celebration of the approaching Fourth of July would report the following programme:
The day will be ushered in by the ringing of bells. At sunrise a Federal salute of thirteen guns.
At noon a National salute of thirty-one guns.
At sunset a Federal salute of thirteen guns.
Half-hour guns will be fired during the day.
At night a magnificent display of fireworks on the river at the foot of Broad street.

John D. Flanner

J.W. Carmer

Wm. H. Oliver 

D.S. Willis

J.M.F. Harrison

Zacharia Brown

S.W. Howard

John S. Green

Alex. Justice

Thos. D. Jones

Wm. H. Jones

Chas. S. Allen


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