On March 11, 1858, the paddle steamer "Eliza Battle" was returning up the Tombigbee River from Mobile when it was attacked by robbers.
The steamboat was intended for use as a passenger vessel, but on this journery, as on some others, it was also laden with bales of cotton.
In the ensuing confusion, the ship accidently caught fire. The fire burned through the tiller rope and the ship drifted out of control down the river as dozens of helpless passengers jumped into the icy water of the flooded river, attempting the swim to the bank.
As many as fifty people died in the accident, and over a hundered were injured.
Mrs. Rebecca Coleman Pettigrew, who lived near the river, cared for many of the injured survivors of the tragedy.
The accident occurred about 1/4 mile north of Naheola on the Tombigbee River. Rebecca Coleman Pettigrew is listed in the 1860 Choctaw County Census as the sole resident of her household. There are a few genealogical accounts I've found of survivors sending gifts to Mrs. Pettigrew after the accident, in appreciation for her care.
...Now for the folklore surrounding this tragedy:
I have heard rumors of a cemetery near the accident where some of the dead were buried. The Old Tompkinsville Cemetery has been suggested, but I have found no burials from that time there. There may be a site somewhere near the Naheola riverbank, but it has yet to be found.
During the spring floods, late at night during the full moon, it is said the riverboat can be seen rising out of the water and floating up the river with music playing and fires burning on the deck. The fires are presumably so bright, "Eliza Battle" can clearly be made out on the side of the steamer. Local fishermen have said it is a sign of impending doom. This story is featured in the book"13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffery" by Kathryn Tucker Windham.
So there, a little ghost story and folklore to liven up your research...Glad I could help.