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James Jackson Steamboat Explosion

35 persons dead and injured after leaving Shawneetown, IL, September 21, 1851

At 9:00 AM, while leaving Shawneetown, IL, the steamboat James Jackson blew up, killing and injuring 35 persons aboard. It came at a time when steamboat explosions were reaching a peak across the country, mostly due to overworked boilers, poor maintenance, and tight schedules.

John Hughes, engineer of the James Jackson, claimed that the water level was low, causing sand to get sucked up into the pumps, thereby preventing them from filling the boilers. With passengers complaining about the late departure, the captain opted to depart before filling the boilers completely. Hughes had ordered the boiler fire decreased to prevent the boilers from getting too hot. Hughes had left for breakfast. When he returned, he found the boiler fire increased. With boiler water getting too low, and heat increasing, the explosion occurred. A more detailed accounting of the cause was printed in the Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), Saturday, October 18, 1851, page 1.

List of Dead and Injured

  • james jackson steamboat explosion

Names of dead and injured were published in newspapers across the country. This transcription came from Albany Evening Journal (Albany, NY), Wednesday, September 24, 1851, page 2.

You can retrieve the full, high-resolution, newspaper article from GenealogyBank.


John Francis, of Louisiana, badly wounded and scalded
Phillip Rance, of Louisiana, killed
Capt. Holmes, of Natchez, killed
John Gromar, of Vera Cruz, wounded and scalded
Emanuel Brown, of New Orleans, scalded
Sol. Warren, negro, of Louisville, killed
Isaac C. Green, of Texas, killed
Moses Embray, of Columbus, Ohio, wounded
Austin Johnston, of New Orleans, killed
Judge Judas, killed
____ Coleman, a negro, killed
Dr. W. Wood, of Georgetown, KY, killed
Mr. Fisk, scalded
Eliza Pitts, of Georgetown, scalded
Mr. Silvy, of Ark. slightly wounded
Andrew Southworth, of Louisville, slightly wounded
Mr. S. Kimball, of Albany, badly wounded
Mr. William Mitchell of Georgetown, KY, badly scalded
Mr. Craff, seriously hurt
Charles Aloney, of Louisville, badly scalded
James Larkins, of Louisville, slightly wounded
William Warren, late of Providence, slightly scalded
Isaac Goode, of Mississippi, received several contusions
W. Garrett and wife, slightly scalded
James McFadden, of Baton Rouge, badly scalded
S.C. Thomas, of Tennessee, had his leg broken
Arnold Lashley, of Kentucky, received slight injuries
Mr. Beuil, of Mississippi, slightly scalded
R.S. Rashley, of Mississippi, slightly scalded
Mary Imson, and child, of Chillichothe, Ohio, killed
P.K. Cochran, of New Orleans, slightly scalded
Daniel Marshall, of Illinois, badly scalded
D. Hood, of Mississippi, killed
J.J. Mitchell, of Mississippi, badly wounded
A.C. Kun, slightly hurt
Judge C. Morgan, of Louisiana, slightly scalded
Col Stewart, of Penn., seriously wounded
R.E. McChatton, of Miss, badly hurt
A.L. Laron, of Miss., badly wounded
C.C. Shackleford, slightly burnt
Mr. McEwen and Dr. Clien, the two pilots of the boat, were slightly wounded

Some eight or ten others, who names could not be ascertained, were killed

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