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Obituaries and Death Notices

Cairo City Gazette

5 July 1860


Cairo, Alexander County, Illinois

Transcribed by Darrel Dexter

Thursday 5 Jul 1860:
Coroner's Inquest

The body of Mrs. Williams, found in the river, about ten miles below the wreck of the Ben Lewis, was brought to this city on Monday afternoon, of last week, whereupon Dr. Hannon, Esq., summoned a jury of inquest and proceeded to inquire into the cause, and manner of her death.  The jury, after a partial investigation, decided that she had come to her death by drowning, after the explosion and burning of the boat.  The jury also took occasion to express their opinion that the officers of the Ben Lewis were not justly censurable on account of the terrible disaster.  They denounced the conduct of Capt. A. D. Miller, of the Bay City, in refusing to go to the relief of the sufferers (quite all of whom he might have saved) as heartless and inhuman, and such as they could look upon only with abhorrence and contempt.  The body was taken to St. Louis for interment.
Twenty-Two Dead Bodies Recovered

Since our last issue we have gathered many particulars concerning the explosion of the Ben Lewis, at this point, on the 25th ult., which may be of sufficient interest to authorize their publication.

Of the wounded brought to Cairo, Edward Farrell, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Merrit Tyler, colored, of St. Louis, Mo., died during Monday; and T. Flannegan, of Dubuque, Iowa, died Tuesday morning.  Farrell and Tyler had the appearance of having been boiled alive.  They were awfully scalded, seeming but a mass of raw flesh.  Flannegan's left leg was most shockingly torn, the flesh hanging from it in great folds.  He was also scalded, and injured otherwise.  All others who were injured will recover.

The family of Mr. George W. Williams (of Memphis) consisting of a wife, three daughters and two sons, were on the boat at the time of the disaster.  Charles, the oldest son, was forward at the time of the explosion, and received serious injuries.  He rushed back to the ladies’ cabin, the blood streaming from his head, his clothes torn and features disfigured, and embracing his mother, brother, and sisters, charged them to keep together, assuring them that he would save them.  After throwing the trunks into the river, he assisted his mother to the lower guards, placed his sister, Georgianna, upon the rudder and gave into her keeping his little brother Jimmy.  His sister Sallie jumped from the cabin window to the lower guards.  By this time portions of the wreck came floating by.  He plunged overboard and securing a plank he placed Sallie upon it and bid her to cheer up, that she would be saved.  He then secured a piece of the upper deck which came along in the drift, and placing his mother and Jimmy upon it swam away, pushing it before him.  Georgiana clung to the rudder until the flames scorched her shoulders, when she was rescued by the second mate, who had previously placed little Nannie, the youngest daughter of Mr. Williams upon the scuttle and believing her safe, gave her into the charge of another man.  Of all this family, Sallie and Georgiana only were saved.  Mrs. Williams, Nannie, Jimmie, and the noble Charlie were drowned.  In his efforts to save others he sacrificed himself and that too without preserving lives that seemed dearer to him than his own.  To the memory of such a young man, too high a tribute cannot be paid.

The body of Mrs. Williams was found a few hours after the explosion, while yet warm, supported by an oar under her arm.  We hear that she could have been resuscitated but that the inhuman wretches who had her in charge concluded that the necessary means would involve too much trouble!  The body when brought to Cairo had been rifled of everything valuable about it.  There are grave suspicions existing that Mrs. Williams was foully dealt with.

By the arrival of the Platte Valley last Saturday we learn that as many as twenty-two bodies have been found between Cairo and the Tennessee line.  Among this number we hear that the body of Charley Williams and Mr. Dudley, of Nashville, have been recognized.  The body of Capt. Nanson, who was in command of the Lewis was on board the Platte Valley, having been recovered near New Madrid.  The back of the head was blown away and the body shockingly mangled.

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