The Clermont was a small steamboat that struck a snag and sank in the Mississippi River on March 8, 1867; one passenger drowned in the accident.
The Clermont was a seventy-nine-ton sternwheel steamboat built in 1863 in New Richmond, Ohio. By early 1867, the vessel was carrying freight and passengers between Memphis, Tennessee, and ports along the White River in Arkansas.
The steamer was heading from Jacksonport (Jackson County) to Memphis with a few passengers, 200 bales of cotton, and “some small lots of freight” when it struck a snag on the Mississippi River about twenty-five miles above Helena (Phillips County) at around 10:00 p.m. on March 8, 1867.
The impact caused the Clermont to turn over, casting its chimneys and boilers into the river along with fifty bales of cotton stored on its forecastle. The vessel sank about twenty minutes later in between twenty-six and thirty feet of water. One man drowned, but the rest of the passengers and crew members were rescued by small boats and taken ashore.
The steamboat Luminary came across the scene of the disaster and found the survivors huddled around a driftwood bonfire. They boarded the Luminary, which transported them to Memphis.
The Clermont was valued at between $12,000 and $15,000, and it was insured for $9,000. The steamboat and its contents were a total loss.
The Clermont accident provides another illustration of the dangers of steamboat travel in Arkansas waters in the nineteenth century, where encounters with snags also caused casualties on the Belle Zane in 1845, the John Adams and Clermont No. 2 in 1851, the Defender and Arkansas Traveler in 1860, the Cambridge in 1862, the B. M. Runyan in 1864, the Mercury in 1867, the G. A. Thompson in 1869, and the Nick Wall in 1870.
For additional information:
“Loss of a Steamboat.” Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] Inquirer, March 11, 1867, p. 1.
“Loss of a Steamer on the Mississippi.” New York Daily Herald, March 10, 1867, p. 5.
“Mississippi Steamer Sunk.” Buffalo [New York] Commercial, March 11, 1867, p. 4.
“River Matters.” Memphis Daily Appeal, March 10, 1867, p. 3.
Way, Frederick, Jr. Way’s Packet Directory. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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