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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.

Tragedy at Neely’s Landing

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8507 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys LandingOct. 27, 1869, the steamboat The Stonewall, heavily laden with about 300 passengers, tons of cargo and 200 head of livestock was southbound on the Mississippi River near Neely’s Landing, bound for Cape Girardeau, Memphis and New Orleans. The river was low and the boat was running “slow wheel.”

A candle or lantern overturned or a passenger dropped a spark onto hay on the lower deck, which caught fire. Before the blaze was discovered, it had gained considerable headway.

Burning boat ran aground

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8476 428x600 Tragedy at Neelys LandingAn Oct. 27, 1936, Missourian reprised the incident on its 67th anniversary, drawing upon the memories of R.W. Harris, who was eight years old when the boat burned not far from his home at Neely’s Landing. When the crew couldn’t extinguish the fire, the captain headed the boat to the shore but struck a sandbar. The boat gradually turned in the current, causing the north wind to carry the fire through her.

Passengers caught like rats

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8503 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys Landing“Panic stricken passengers were caught like rats on the blazing boat, between which and the Missouri shore was 150 feet or more of swift, icy cold water.” The flames were visible 1-1/2 miles away.

Some held onto horses

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8464 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys LandingFour oarsmen went out on a skiff to rescue passengers. They were Lowrie Hope, Martin O’Brian, Frank West and Derry Hays,”the latter being a Negro.” They managed to rescue some passengers. Others were seen to walk into the flames; others jumped into the river, some forcing horses from the lower decks to swim while they clung to the animal’s tails.

209 to 300 drowned or burned

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8488 498x600 Tragedy at Neelys LandingDepending on which account you read, somewhere between 209 and 300 persons perished from fire or drowning, making it one of the nation’s worst inland waterway disasters. Sixty or 70 victims were buried in a mass grave on the Cotter farm.

Scorched paper money found in safe

Neelys Landing 11 25 2011 8462 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys LandingWhen the hull had cooled, what was left of the freight was salvaged and sold. Mr. Harris recalled that his father bought a firkin of butter from Wisconsin. One of the horses, scarred from burns, was long owned by Franklin Oliver, who called him Stonewall. When the boat’s safe was opened, only paper money, scorched to a crisp, was found, much to the public’s disappointment.

Bones still found 67 years later

View north towards Nellys Landing Quarry 11 25 2011 8499 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys LandingSince the catastrophe, the paper said, the location has been called Stonewall bar. At low water, broken queensware, coal, nails, bits of iron and even bones are still reminders of the disaster.

Two accounts of the Stonewall’s burning

Large quarry north of Neely’s Landing

Aerial Neelys Landing Quarry 04 17 2011 4908 500x332 Tragedy at Neelys LandingNeely’s Landing Quarry is located north of what remains of the town.

25 comments to Tragedy at Neely’s Landing

  • Jean Looney Lanham

    Thank you for an interesting albeit tragic story. It’s one I hadn’t heard before.

    Your photos are inspiring me to go out and paint a barn. Since I don’t have a barn, I might have to go with a garage door.

    • Be careful how you use that phrase.

      We had an artist at the paper who was a bit of a prima donna. One day her boss walked in and asked, “Can you paint?”

      “Of course, I can paint,” she replied haughtily. “I’m an artist.”

      “Great,” he said, handing her a three-inch brush and a can of paint. “The walls are looking a little dingy.

      Not long after that, she decided to seek other employment.

  • stephen cotner

    ken,my grandmother rumfelt lived at neely’s landing. i believe the one photo is of her house. she died in early 60′s. someone else bought it. sad enough i think the only thing keeping that old frame house standing is the over growth of trees supporting it.LOL

  • My mother’s family lived at Neely’s Landing for a time. Mom was born in 1923 and there were 4 other children. Her father was James Johnson (try finding family history on that name). Her mother was Ella Malee Burns. They married when grandma was 14! By age 20 she was mother to 5 children. I am not sure how long they lived at Neely’s Landing. Most of my mother’s memories are from the area now known as Trail of Tears (called Moccasin Springs when she lived there). Thank you again Ken for your awesome photos and stories of the history of these areas of Missouri. I look forward to your posts every day.

  • Nellie

    Wow, I’ve never heard that story. I wonder if anyone has any idea where the mass grave is today?

  • Rose Farmer

    My family of King and Trickeys lived in around Oriole and Neelys. My grandfather worked on the Houck Railroad in that area. I had never heard this story and was very interesting to me.

  • Jean Looney Lanham

    Ken – you are quite the reporter and never fail to throw us some real breaking news stories that intrigue and want to know more about. Keep it coming.

    • Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not sure something that happened in 1869 can be considered “breaking news.”

      And, despite what some folks might tell you, I was NOT around the cover the event in person.

  • Jean Looney Lanham

    Okay – I got carried away. Listening to Peggy Lee on a Saturday night same as I did in Advance when I was ten years old will do that. Thought I was back in time.

  • Ginny B class of 60

    another great story of Neelys Landing. Landmarks have been reclaimed by Mother Nature, as it should be.

  • Lynn

    Hello, I am researching my birth father, whom I never knew and who is now deceased. I found that his father Otis Cogle McDonald was from Neeley’s Landing according to his draft registration card.
    His birth date was September 1895 and if anyone reading this site knows of that family, I would love to know more

  • Brenda Colon

    My family was Riley family Walter Riley was my grand father and Mary Farrar was my grand mother. They had 3 children Alberta, Rhoda and Charles Riley. I am trying to trace the life. If you have information please contact me.

    Thank you,

  • ROSE FARMER

    I LOVE TO HEAR THE COMMENTS OF THESE PEOPLE AS THERE ARE THINGS I HAD NOT HEARD OF AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHO WHO YOU MAY COME IN CONTACT WITH THAT MAY HAVE HAD TIES WITH YOUR FAMILY. SOME OF THESE NAMES ARE CERTAINLY WORTH TRACKING BACK TO SEE WHAT HISTORY THEY MAY HAVE HAD WITH MY FAMILY (KING-TRICKEY.) MY GRANDFATHER HAD A NIECE THAT HER MARRIED NAME WAS BERNIECE RUMFELT. IF STEVE COTNER WOULD CONTACT ME I WOULD LOVE TO CHAT WITH HIM.

  • stephen cotner

    hello rose.berneice was my aunt by marriage.she married my uncle hezicah?..spellling maybe be wrong..i think they had sone lymen? they are all gone now. i just that last of the rumfelts..joann..died in a nursing home? up around where her husband,charles johnson family lived.so they are all gone.i keep in touch leroy.his dad was frank rumflet.

  • Dick McClard

    The cemetery at Neely’s Landing is actually the Cotter Cemetery. Just south of that is the Hay’s Cemetery, also on top of the bluff overlooking the river. Just south of that is the Grammer Cemetary near the mouth of Indian Creek that would be the most likely site of the mass graves from the wreck. The Hay’s Mill was located there just north of Barrettville. The Grammer Cemetery was there in 1866 and near river level. The railroad eventually came through there and the gravestones moved out of the way for the rail bed. Rose Lee Nussbaum writes “The Captain ordered a landing at a point just below the mouth of Indian Creek. In heading the boat toward what formerly was known a Devil’s Ten Table an unexpected bar was struck. The boat gradually turned around and the north wind carried the blaze directly through the steamboat.”

  • Dick McClard

    It would tickle me to death. 573-382-2101. You were at the Cotter Cemetery. The Hay’s Cemetery is on a farm and the folks there were good about letting me look around. But I don’t think it would be of any interest to you. The Grammer Cemetery is on P&G property and railroad right-of-way. It was graded over for the railroad but that side would be the best bet for the mass grave. I don’t have a life, so call me any time at all.

    • I’ll give you a call on a day when I don’t have something going and the weather is good.

      The mass grave was supposed to be on the Cotter farm, but the account doesn’t mention the Cotter cemetery.

  • Neelys Landing brings back so many memories of stories my grandmother used to tell me. My great grandfather Randolph Shaner used to bring his sheep to NL and
    load them for shipment to St. Louis. He always spoke of how exciting it was to stand on Eads Bridge and look down on all the steamboats lined up at the St Louis wharf. My grandmother, Lorene Shaner Ramsey as a small girl, would drive the buggy from their farm NE of Jackson Mo down from the high bluff above NL and always told me how scarred she was in trying to hold back the horses from taking off down the hill.

  • Gene King

    The burial site for the Stonewall Victims is on PG Property but on a slight incline a short distance north of Indian Creek RR Trestle. The Hely Home was a good landmark for the location as the grave was about an eighth mile southeast behind the house toward the river. My Grandfather, Harrison King, worked for Wilson Wagner, who owned the property in the early 1900′s. When working near the burial site, the mules would panic and be hard to control. The Hely House was built by the quarry owner. PG has changed the landscape considerably and the landmarks are gone.

  • Arthur Headrick Jr.

    Some of those pictures are of my house if you want to see more I can show you around.

  • Ron Schlimme

    Ken,

    Please note my new email address to send your Cape history to.

    Thanks,

    Ron Schlimme

  • Sue Middlecoff

    Hi,
    Hi Ken,

    I was in that area a few years ago, near Altonburg. I was trying to find my family by the name of Schloss. I was told there was a Schloss cemetery on P&G property, but hard to get to in the summer because of the snakes near the bluffs. Are you familiar with the Schloss cemetery? They were originally from Neely’s Landing. My grandfather Mox Schloss was the last of his siblings and I cannot find any information on them. Thanks. Sue

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