Monday, April 14, 2008

Burning of the John L. Lowery


Although the “Golden Age” of steamboating began in 1840, according to “Steamboatin’ on the Cumberland” by Byrd Douglas, passengers and goods continued to be transported on the rivers well after 1900. Steamboating was not without its dangers, though, as witnessed by the many fires, which destroyed the steamers and sometimes resulted in loss of lives.

The following article from the Crittenden Press describes the burning of the John L. Lowery in 1911.

Paducah, Ky., June 15, 1911 - The steamer John L. Lowery, with 50 passengers aboard, burned to the water’s edge off Hamlettsburg, Illinois at 1:30 o’clock this morning. There was no loss of life. The place where the accident occurred is opposite Smithland, Ky., and rescue parties put out from the Kentucky side to aid in the work of saving lives.

How the flames started has not been learned, but a faulty boiler is believed to have been responsible. The steamer started burning near the Illinois bank and the glare lighted up the water front on both sides of the river. The whistles of distress disturbed the stillness of the night and were heard for many miles.

The wildest of scenes were enacted on board the vessel when the flames were first discovered. Women shrieked and became hysterical, while many men frantic with fear, fought their way to the rails. All landed safe, however.”

The Henderson Gleaner of 12 January 1913 says, “The new John L. Lowery, Capt. John L. Lowery’s fine new boat, made its maiden trip from Evansville to Paducah last night, leaving Evansville at 8 o’clock and passing here at 9 o’clock. On account of the rain, very few Henderson people saw the boat pass. It will ply between Paducah and Evansville.”

Published 14 April 2008, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,


etownill said...

John L. was my great uncle. He married my Aunt June Nichols and they shared the "John L." with my mother Pauline Nichols on many trips to E'town, Evansville, Paducha and points. He carried his car on one end and June's on the other end near the end of his boating days. Evidently the Miss. was low in 86/87 and those at the auction in E'town reported the "John L." ribs could be seen sticking up. Never knew the story on it's dimise. Aunt Gypsie N. McClure had pictures of the "John L." and other Nichols boats and their history published back in the late 60's/early 70's in some local publications around Elizabethtown, Ill. John L.'s in-laws, Capt. Ulyssus G./Margret (Gullet)Nichols ran boats on the rivers till 1932. If I find my pictures I will be glad to share them. Joyce is a name I've come across in tracing Gullets, Rose, Nichols.

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

A picture of the John L. Lowery would be great. I will check to see if Willard Library in Evansville has one in their wonderful collection.

Any Joyce you run across in Hardin County is my relative. The earliest days of my life were spent at the old Rosiclare Hospital.