Bart Tully [Steamboat]

The Bart Tully was a steam towboat that abruptly sank on the Mississippi River near Osceola (Mississippi County) on September 3, 1922; a crew member drowned in the disaster.

The Bart Tully, hailed as “one of the best towboats of her size on the Mississippi,” was built at Dubuque, Iowa, in 1891. Originally called the Joy Patton, the Tully was owned by the Patton-Tully Transportation Company in 1922 and was engaged in hauling loads of logs on the Mississippi River.

At around 6:30 a.m. on September 3, 1922, the vessel, which had a crew of fourteen men and two women who cooked for them, was near Craighead Point about eleven miles south of Osceola when it “suddenly turned over and sank” after leaving an eddy and going midstream into the river’s strong current. The boat’s pilot, Captain Bob Tate, was severely burned after being hurled into the Tully’s engine room. As some of the crew grabbed floating debris in the river or boarded the boat’s yawl, others climbed onto the overturned towboat’s bottom after it “turned turtle.” When the Bart Tully righted itself and sank, thirty-nine-year-old boat painter Edward Alfred was sucked underwater with the sinking craft and drowned.

The towboat, valued at $35,000, had its “hull, engines, cabin and superstructure all separated and sunk at different points,” a Memphis newspaper reported. The survivors were taken to Osceola and then driven in cars to Memphis.

Alfred’s body was found by a fisherman fifteen miles below Memphis on September 8 and returned to Memphis for burial.

Captain W. C. Wilcox of the Patton-Tully company led a crew to attempt to raise the Bart Tully’s hull and succeeded in getting chains around it, but when the U.S. snag boat Wright attempted to raise the vessel fifty-four feet from the river’s bottom, the chains snapped, and the wreckage was abandoned.

For additional information:
“Bart Tully Sinks; 1 Drowned, 1 Hurt.” Memphis, Tennessee, Commercial Appeal, September 4, 1922, pp. 1, 3.

“Bart Tully to Rest on Bottom of River.” Commercial Appeal, September 13, 1922, p. 16.

“May Drag Boat from River.” Commercial Appeal, September 9, 1922, p. 4.

“River Gives Up Body of Drowning Victim.” Commercial Appeal, September 10, 1922, p. 18.

“River Notes.” Commercial Appeal, September 6, 1922, p. 14.

“Sinking of Boat Investigated.” Arkansas Democrat, September 4, 1922, p. 3.

“Towboat Sinks Near Osceola.” Osceola Times, September 8, 1922, p. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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