Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sinking of the Belmont 1884

Tombstones of Mathew and Sarah Lyon, Oak Hill Cemetery, Evansville, Indiana.

After Mathew S. Lyon married Sarah Frost in 1845 Hopkins County, Kentucky, they settled down to rear their family. Lyon was first a merchant and later a hotel keeper in Madisonville. By the mid-1860s, the family had relocated to Evansville, Indiana, where Lyon became a clerk and loan agent. The family grew to include the following children: Ella, Lawrence, John, Sallie, Harvy, Thompson, Laura, Edward and perhaps others.

On the morning of the 30th of August 1884 in Evansville, Sarah Lyon and two of her daughters, Mrs. Sallie Bryan, a young widow, and Miss Laura Lyon, boarded the transfer steamer, the Belmont, which was headed toward Henderson. The Belmont was towing a barge containing a passenger train carrying about 60 people.

Suddenly, a cyclone blew in along the Ohio River, striking the Belmont and causing it to rip apart from the barge. The Belmont, which was carrying about 20-25 people, turned bottoms up, throwing passengers and crew into the dark water or trapping them in their rooms. There was no chance for escape as the storm raged for over an hour. All aboard the Belmont drowned in the storm. Among those who perished were Capt. Smith and his crew, who remained with the sinking boat until the end. All passengers on the barge survived.

The storm also hit Uniontown, Kentucky and damaged Hamilton’s warehouse, Dr. Brown’s residence, the roof of the Commercial Hotel, Cartmell’s warehouse and there was much destruction to crops in the fields. Also badly damaged were the Evansville steamers, Josh V. Throop and Silverthorn.

The body of Sarah Lyon was among the first recovered from the river. It was placed on the steamer, Iron Cliff, and returned to Evansville. The bodies of Mrs. Sallie Bryan and Miss Laura Lyon were recovered shortly thereafter. All three bodies were placed in a vault at Oak Hill Cemetery, Evansville, to await burial the following day.

The funeral for Mrs. Lyon and her daughters took place on Sunday, the 31st of August. The bodies were laid to rest side by side – Mrs. Lyon on the left, Mrs. Bryan on the right and Miss Laura in the center. A large crowd was in attendance as the Rev. Mr. Berger of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church read a scripture and said a prayer.

Mathew S. Lyon moved to Sturgis, Union County, Kentucky and died there on the 19th of May 1890. Sadly, his obituary in the Evansville Courier of 20 May 1890 does not mention the deaths of his wife and daughters. His body was brought back to Evansville and he was laid to rest beside his family at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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