Oct. 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
An 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
“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
Four 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
Depending 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
When 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
Since 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
- The Southeast Missourian’s Oct. 27, 1936, story.
- An account in the Indiana Messenger, which includes statements from a passenger and the ship’s carpenter.
Large quarry north of Neely’s Landing
Neely’s Landing Quarry is located north of what remains of the town.
85 Replies to “Tragedy at Neely’s Landing”
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.
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
Was this Bernice Rumfelt?
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.
Wow, I’ve never heard that story. I wonder if anyone has any idea where the mass grave is today?
my name is ed thompson and i owened the land that that boat burned on for sometime. the mass grave is on the back part of the property,around a grove of oak trees. there are small rocks marking the site
Ed, are you still in the area? It would be great to get a guide who could take me to the spot as soon as the ground dries out and before the snakes and ticks get moving.
Hey Ken my name is Rob Roberts and I live in Cape Girardeau. I have a paranormal team that would love to explore the mass grave site. See if anyone wants to communicate. Was wandering if you had ever gotten info on exactly where it is and if there is a way we could visit the site. Thanks.
I’m not going to be able to help you much. A friend and I checked an area that had possibilities, but we were able to positively identify the site. Getting access to the area is a challenge, so I’ve pretty much decided it wasn’t worth spending more time on.
Here’s where it MIGHT be. (Or not.)
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.
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.
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.
another great story of Neelys Landing. Landmarks have been reclaimed by Mother Nature, as it should be.
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
There have been some folks with Neely’s Landing ties on the site, so maybe they can chime in. Here are two other resources: the Cape County Genealogical Society and the Cape County Archive Center.
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.
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.
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.
I’m related to the rumfelt. My mother is suzanne rumfelt her dad is, Alonzo William Rumfelt Sr, who’s dad was Robert rumfelt and his mother Mary rumfelt.
Your dad is my grandpas brother! Hii fam
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.”
Which one was I at? It’s the only one I saw on a topographic map. Want to go exploring one of these days?
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.
yes thats true that the mass grave is on p&g property
Hi Ed! My husband, my Mother and I live in Neely’s Landing. Our property adjoins P&G property. We were wondering which part of that propert was the Cotter Farm?
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.
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.
I’m hoping to go there on my next trip. I figure I’d rather go on that expedition while all the foliage and bugs are cleared out from the winter.
Some of those pictures are of my house if you want to see more I can show you around.
I have a few photos of the Headrick home when it was flooded. I remember riding in a boat to get into the 2nd story window during the flood. I have an absolute love for Neely’s Landing. The Moores used to live up on the hill next to us.
Please note my new email address to send your Cape history to.
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
Sue, What other Schloss family history do you know? My husband’s family is from what they call “the bottoms” of Perry County – around Belgique. Maybe we should swap information!
Yes I would love to get in touch. Sorry I did not see this comment earlier. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Have always been curious about Neely’s Landing. As I am a Neely.
I am going to be in Kansas City in early October so thought I would drive down.
Is there any additional written material I can locate prior to arriving there?
In help/direction you can provide me would be much appreciated.
That’s pretty much all I know. You should budget all of about five minutes to see what is left of Neely’s Landing. You might find some of your relatives in the cemetery overlooking the town.
I am a retired Postmaster from Altenburg but grew up at Neelys. I remember Max Schloss and the Huffman Family living in one of the finer homes there. I don’t remember a Schloss Cemetery and I don’t know where this family is buried. I think Warren Huffman was his son-in-law and their daughter, Imogene, lives in Cape and is in her 80’s. There was also a Louis Rushing from Berna, KY, who might have been a relative. Ruth Rushing married my uncle but divorced in the mid 1940’s.
My Great Grandfather was Elihu Hodge from the area northwest of Neelys south of Oak Hill School. My Grandmother, Zora Hodge Morton married Jesse Morton of the Neelys Community. Their daughter, Geneva, married Bob King who was known for his fiddle music and tire business in Jackson. Mom was a very good pianist and they both played by ear. Dad’s Grandmother was Martha Wills who lived in the small apt attached to the north side of the old Granny Huntsinger Store.
Very interesting story to read. I had never heard this before. Enjoyed living in Neelys Landing at one time in my life…..memories
This is very interesting. My family of kings are gene kings family and rose farmers. My grandfather floy king was from neelys landing. I grew up in Lee Mon . so every Sunday we went to church in neelys , at the mission. We passed the homes in neelys and my aunt Imogene Hitchcock house was in neelys, all this brings back fond memories. Thank you.
Very interesting story, Thanks my grandparents lived there, remembering when the little town had stores, etc.
When I was young, my mom (Hannah Rumfelt-Cotner) used to put us on the train at cape for a ride to Neely’s Landing to visit my grandmother, Mary Rumfelt. Her husband, Robert Rumfelt had died earlier and she lived alone. Later she moved to Cape with our family and as Steve mentioned, she died in the 60’s. My brother-in-law, Harry Headrick, married to my sister Pauline, bought Grandma’s house.I have a lot of family members buried at High Hill Cemetery so I have been through Neely’s many times. It is sad to see nothing is left there.
David, I don’t know if you saw my post on the High Hill Church and Cemetery. You might find it interesting.
My mom is a rumfelt my grandpa is Alonzo rumfelt of Mary and Robert! Do you know anything else about my family?! I’m so excited and shocked I did the ancestral thing and now I’m learning so much about my blood line it’s beautiful!
Hope to hear from you soon! Feel free to email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
I grew up at Neelys Landing and some of the names here I know but never knew most of them. People speak of stores. There was only one store and Jug Tripps tavern
The brick store at Neely’s was originally owned by Jim A dams. Then was Adams and Hines. My father Guy Hines bought it in early thirties, becomines Hines store. He married Mattie Ya cry. They owned the store until sold to Jug Tripp in 1963. My Mother was postmaster unti 1957 when she closed the store & post office. I know most of the people mentioned in the posts. King, McLard,Schloss, Huffman, Rumfelts and others.
I am trying to find information about your father Guy Hines parents. We are decendents of your Aunt Alma Hines Wolters.
You wouldnt have any knowledge of relation to william & grace wolters by chance would you?
My mother-in-law was from the McLards of Neelys Landing and my mother was from the Huffmans.
I grew up in Neely’s Landing, my dad was Otis Terry and my mom was Hazel Marie Rumfelt Terry. I was a little surprised to see some of my cousins posting here. Neely’s Landing is pretty much gone now except for name, at least what used to be the town is gone. I recognized some of the old buildings and That barn for sure. I am at a loss for some of the family names now tho. I remember the Bob King family, we bought their house just across the road from the Baptist Mission Church. Cotner family, Hannah was a wonderful woman and loved by all that knew her. I remember the names McNeeley, Golden, Cathcart, and a few more. I had always heard about a tragedy on the river there, but this is the first news article I have seen.
I knew your family & remember when you were born.Saw Charley a couple years ago @ a Neely’s reunion.
I’m related to the rumfelts! Robert and Mary rumfelt are my great grandpa Nd grandma!
I grew up in Jackson,really near high hill school where I went to Sunday school, went to new bethel church withmy parents, my brother worked at the quarry Bill McCain,my sister lived there until her death 5 years ago, Irene wiggins,. My son Dennis Kempf lives in Jackson, but was raised in the country outside neelys it was good reading about neelys.keep up the good work.
This was a very informative post! I was born and raised in (Ancell) Scott city. I married one of Rob, Kings nieces! I’ve always been interested in that little town for some reason. Good work Ken…!
My genealogy book has some photos from way back of Neely’s Landing. Most have to do with flooding. I also have some history written up about how it was founded and by who. I have a photo of Jacob Neely who the town was named after. Leave a message at McClard@live.com and I’ll tell you how to see it all.
Incredible story. What’s even more incredible is the first photograph is of my great grandmother’s brother’s house. His name was William Henry Schenimann.
The years and the river haven’t been kind to Neely’s Landing.
Neely’s Landing was a major stop for trains and boats to carry lumber and livestock. The surrounding forest was essential for the growth of the railroad by supplying ties for the railroads that were quickly expanding. Herds of live animals including chickens and turkeys were driven from the nearby small towns and the County Seat of Jackson to be loaded on the trains and boats. When that commerce trailed off, Neely’s Landing continued to be an attraction to area folks who needed supplies and entertainment. As commuting got easier and the Mississippi River flooded more often, the town was bypassed and started to shrink. The town may have fared better had the road been paved all the way through to at least the New Bethel Church which would have connected it to another paved road and formed a through route for casual visitors.
For some reason, I haven’t gotten your blog the last several days and miss it.
This is such an interesting story! I came across this story because I took some pictures of the houses and the barn at Neely’s Landing and decided to do some research on the area. Does anyone know how long this barn has been around? Thanks for any information.
Henry Schenniman’s Father built the barn. The house was built after the Civil War probably during the recovery period and before the Depression of the early 1880’s. I would think the barn was built around 1900. The first Schennimans in Neelys are buried in Neelys Cemetery on top of the hill. Henry’s wife, Elzena, was a Reynolds from the Oriole Community. Her Mother or Grandmother was a King so she was a distant cousin to my Dad. I always thought much of them as a kid for they were good people with integrity.
My name is Jerry craft when I was five I lived next door 2 mox s loss across road from Henry schnames I enjoy reading about neelys past
Does anyone remember a family named Roush? The father would have been John Rough and his wife Verdie. They had about 7 children.
Sorry, the father would have been John Roush and wife Verdie.
Gene King: my grandmother was Violet King Sides, she married Arnold Elmo Sides. She just passed away a few months ago. My cousin and I are coming down this weekend to Neely’s Landing,& Cape Girardeau to see if we can find any of the things our grandparents would talk about. Any kind of info you could give us on Kings/Sides would be awesome. My name is Sherri Sides Sunderland, my father is Tex A. Sides.
Does anyone know of the Wills family? I think my grandfather was ( James Bennett Wills) a school teacher there. My Father Eugene Wills always talked about NL. They lived there in around 1914 to 1920 .
My great-grandfather, Ivy McLain, was a justice of the peace in Neely’s Landing for over 40 years. Both of my parents were born and raised in the Neely’s area, and I spent a lot of time there as a kid.
Interested in where the Cotter Farm is/was,as he would have been a relative,Had heard of this before, it seems like they said someone in the family was a witness to the fire that day.Mom grew up not far from there, and has spoken before of Indian burials and slave cabins that were falling down at Neely’s.She is the last of 9 Noland siblings.There are still Nolands in the farm area.As a child, when we came down to visit, we picked daffodils at the old farm sites, and I found the old cemetery on the hill fascinating,and always said if anything happened to me, would like to come back to be buried there.Mom and Dad loved the River,ad later on in life, they bought a River House on the upper Mississippi on a hill past Genoa, Wisconsin, where you could sit in the house,and watch the River Boats push the barges up and down the River. Her Mother was Kate Noland, and Grandma always said she went from horse and buggy to seeing a man on the moon.She never drove a car, but told me in her later years hat she would like to have learned.Beth Rapp, Daughter of Judith Noland Rapp,and Jerry Rapp
Beth – I just discovered your information. My parents – Myrtle Watkins Allen (1900) and Dewey Allen (1898) grew up in the Neeley’s Landing/Indian Creek/Oriole countryside. I grew up hearing about the Nolands – may be related to some and my parents probably knew your family. Both of my parents also had Abernathy backgrounds. I now live in Indianapolis and tried to find Neeley’s after the big flood in the mid 90’s but saw NO buildings. Did it completely disappear? My grandfather John Watkins used to take my mom down to Cape on a river boat and back to Neeley’s, and I enjoyed visiting there when I was a kid. When Charmin was built and Trail of Tears Park developed my father so enjoyed showing my family the significant spots of our parent’s families that were nearby. Both sets of my grandparents are buried in Indian Creek Cemetary. I was so glad to read your comments that brought back many memories. Anita Allen Klasing, class of 1954.
I purchased the limestone quarry just north of Nelly’s landing & proctor and gamble in 2017. I’m doing all the research i can on the history of the place and don’t know much at all but if there’s anything i can do to help let me know.
Thanks. I may come knocking one day.
If anyone knows of any other information regarding my great grandparents Mary & Robert Rumfelt or their children can you please notify me I’d greatly appreciate it. email@example.com
I emailed the Rumfelt info to you a few days ago.
How many remember Keith Launder. He was the old guy who carved walking sticks and rode around on a bike. He had a permanent tracheotomy (sp?) and spoke with an instrument that he held to his throat. He was friends with one of the last residences of old Neely’s Landing and, on weekends, he rode his bicycle from Cape (William ST) to Neely’s Landing to help the older man maintain his house. Keith was in his 80’s at the time!
TO SHERRI SIDES SUNDERLAND, I AM TRULY SORRY I GOT AWAY FROM THIS WEBSITE AND HAVE MISSED YOU. YOUR FATHER, TEX, IS MY FIRST COUSIN. I THOUGHT A LOT OF ARNOLD AND VIOLET AND WAS ABLE TO VISIT HER ABOUT A YEAR BEFORE SHE PASSED. I HAVE BEEN KEEPING UP WITH THE FAMILY VIA ANN, WHO HAS NOW MOVED TO GEORGIA. IF YOU ARE HERE AGAIN IN JACKSON, GIVE ME A CALL AT 573-243-5230. IT WOULD BE GOOD TO HEAR FROM YOU. GENE KING
Interesting comments! My name is Ron Smith, dad was Harvey Smith, son of Jim Smith. We heard Neely’s stories and visited Neely’s every year growing up. My grandmother was buried on the hill overlooking town, now in New Bethel cemetery. My aunt married Glenn Schenimann whose family owned one of the stores at one time. I think the first house picture was a Schenimann house at one time. My mom came up from Cape, lived in the house and taught school in the two room schoolhouse.
From a quick read of all the comments on your connected posts (Tragedy at Neely’s Landing, 1 December 2011; and The Stonewall’s Mass Grave, 4 January 2015) about the burning of the sidewheel steamboat STONEWALL on 27 October 1869, I’m not sure if anyone noted that steamboat Capt. John Cross Dowty, with connections to Southeast Missouri and Cape Girardeau in particular, was lost when the Stonewall burned; his remains never recovered. I’ve seen no indication Capt. Dowty was an officer on the Stonewall when it burned. Capt. Dowty was born in the town of Cape Girardeau in 1828, and moved to Louisiana when a teenager in the fall of 1846. If I have his lineage correct, John Cross Dowty was a son of Reuben Austin Dowty and Mary “Polly” Rodney; a grandson of Thomas Smith Rodney and his second wife, Mary “Polly” Penny (T. S. Rodney’s first wife was Maria Louisa Lorimier, daughter of Don Louis Lorimier); and a gr-grandson of Martin Rodner/Rodney — a Revolutionary War veteran, but on the losing side – and Hannah Smith. Through his paternal grandmother, John Cross Dowty was the gr-grandson of William Archibald Penny and Susan Bledsoe, and the gr-gr-grandson of Col. Anthony Bledsoe and Mary Ramsey. John Cross Dowty’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith Rodney, was a brother of Matilda (Rodney) Renfroe Block, the wife of St. Charles Hotel proprietor Zalma Block, her second husband after the death of her first husband John Renfroe. Zalma Block’s sister Rebecca was married to John P. Rodney. I’m trying to determine what kinship connection, if any, John P. Rodney might have had to Matilda (Rodney) Renfroe Block and John Cross Dowty, and if John P. Rodney was the like-named man who was Captain of the Cape Girardeau City-built steamer ALFRED T. LACY (or A. T. LACEY) under whom Samuel L. Clemens (later Mark Twain) first served as a licensed pilot in May 1859. The Alfred T. Lacy was destroyed by fire on the Mississippi near Memphis on 26 April 1860. John P. Rodney was not the master of the Alfred T. Lacy when it burned. The steamer’s owner, former Cape Girardeau City mayor (1851-1852) Alfred T. Lacy, was aboard the steamer when it burned. He escaped the fire, but his young daughter was drowned. By one account, hers was the only life lost. It’s a genealogical tangle that keeps growing and getting increasingly confusing, in which more steamboat captains than the two I’ve mentioned, John Cross Dowty and John P. Rodney, are caught.
As an aside, noting mention of the Rumfelt name in several comments posted here, my late father had kin buried in the Ramsey/Rumfelt Cemetery along Byrd Creek south of Oak Ridge. His gr-gr-grandparents, Samuel Ramsey and Rebecca (Huggins) Ramsey, trekked from Lincoln County, North Carolina, to Cape Girardeau County, Missouri Territory, most likely arriving in 1819, the year my father’s gr-grandfather, Alfred Ramsey, was born there. On the 1850 census of Cape Girardeau County, Hezekiah “Rumpfelt” (60, b. NC) was head of the household in Dwelling 1760, listed immediately above a household in Dwelling 1761 headed by “Alfred” Ramsey. That Alfred was not my father’s gr-grandfather, but actually was Alfred’s immediate older brother Albert (30, b. NC), husband of the former Catherine Barks. Albert and Catherine are buried in the Ramsey/Rumfelt Cemetery. Samuel and Rebecca may be buried there as well, in unmarked graves.
From a quick read of the comments on your posts “Tragedy at Neely’s Landing” (1 December 2011) and “The Stonewall’s Mass Grave” (4 January 2015) about the burning of the sidewheel steamboat STONEWALL on 27 October 1869, I’m not sure if anyone noted that steamboat Capt. John Cross Dowty, with strong ties to Southeast Missouri and Cape Girardeau in particular, was lost when the STONEWALL burned; his remains never recovered. I’ve seen no indication Capt. Dowty was an officer on the Stonewall.
Capt. Dowty was born in the town of Cape Girardeau in 1828, and moved to Louisiana when a teenager in 1846. If I have his lineage correct, John Cross Dowty was a son of Reuben Austin Dowty and Mary “Polly” Rodney; a grandson of Thomas Smith Rodney and his second wife, Mary “Polly” Penny (T. S. Rodney’s first wife was Maria Louisa Lorimier; daughter of Don Louis Lorimier); and a gr-grandson of Martin Rodner/Rodney — a Revolutionary War veteran, but on the losing side – and Hannah Smith. Through his paternal grandmother, Polly (Penny) Rodney, Capt. Dowty was the gr-grandson of William Archibald Penny and Susan Bledsoe, and the gr-gr-grandson of Col. Anthony Bledsoe and Mary Ramsey. Capt. Dowty’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Smith Rodney, was a brother of Matilda (Rodney) Renfroe Block, the wife of St. Charles Hotel proprietor Zalma Block, her second husband after the death of her first husband John Renfroe.
An obituary for Capt. Dowty, “Death of John C. Dowty,” appeared on page 2 of the “Louisiana Democrat,” published in Alexandria, Louisiana, on Wednesday, 17 November 1869, belatedly noting Capt. Dowty’s death in the PENNSYLVANIA disaster and the fact that no traces of his body had been found (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82003389/1869-11-17/ed-1/seq-2)
Zalma Block’s sister Rebecca was married to John P. Rodney. I’m trying to determine what kinship connection, if any, John P. Rodney might have had to Matilda (Rodney) Renfroe Block and John Cross Dowty, and if John P. Rodney was the like-named man who was Captain of the Cape Girardeau City-built steamer ALFRED T. LACY (or LACEY) under whom Samuel L. Clemens (later Mark Twain) first served as a licensed pilot in May 1859. The ALFRED T. LACY was destroyed by fire on the Mississippi near Memphis on 26 April 1860. John P. Rodney was not the master of the Alfred T. Lacy when it burned. The steamer’s owner, former Cape Girardeau City mayor (1851-1852) Alfred T. Lacy, was aboard the steamer. He escaped the fire, but his young daughter was drowned. By one account, hers was the only life lost. Other accounts note 16 lives were lost when the ALFRED T. LACY burned.
In a 4 January 2015 post to your “The Stonewall’s Mass Grave,” Dave Faris noted that Samuel Clemens lost his brother in a steamboat boiler explosion. That explosion was on the PENNSYLVANIA on 13 June 1858, on the Mississippi just north of Ship Island, about 60 miles below Memphis. Sam’s younger brother Henry, 19, was a “Mud Clerk” (an assistant to the boat’s Purser) on the PENNSYLVANIA. He was scalded by steam, burning his body and lungs. Henry was injured when he was blown off the steamboat by the explosion, but was reported to have swum back to the burning boat in an attempt to help rescue passengers. Sam Clemens had been a cub pilot/steersman on the PENNSYLVANIA before leaving the boat in New Orleans after a fight with the steamer’s pilot. Before he left the PENNSYLVANIA, Sam Clemens had arranged for Henry to take the Mud Clerk’s position, so-named, according to Steamboats.org, because one of the Mud Clerk’s duties was to “make” all the bank landings, often a muddy task. Two days after the PENNSYLVANIA departed New Orleans for St. Louis, Sam Clemens followed aboard the ALFRED T. LACY, with John P. Rodney as master. It’s not clear to me if that’s when Sam Clemens and Capt. John P. Rodney became acquainted. When the ALFRED T. LACY reached Memphis, Sam Clemens learned of the PENNSYLVANIA disaster. He went to the makeshift hospital where Henry lay injured, having been taken there from Ship Island. Sam was present when Henry died of his injuries after six days.
As an aside, noting multiple mentions of the Rumfelt family name in posts here, my late father had kin buried in the Ramsey/Rumfelt Cemetery along Byrd Creek south of Oak Ridge. My father’s gr-gr-grandparents, Samuel Ramsey and Rebecca (Huggins) Ramsey, trekked from Lincoln County, North Carolina, to Cape Girardeau County, Missouri Territory, most likely arriving in 1819, the year my father’s gr-grandfather, Alfred Ramsey, was born there. On the 1850 census of Cape Girardeau County, Hezekiah “Rumpfelt” (60, b. NC) was head of the household in Dwelling 1760, while “Alfred” Ramsey was listed as head of the household in Dwelling 1761. “Alfred” was actually Albert Ramsey (30, b. NC), the immediate older brother of my father’s gr-grandfather Alfred, and the husband of the former Catherine Barks. Albert and Catherine were buried in the Ramsey/Rumfelt Cemetery. I suspect Samuel and Rebecca may have been buried there in unmarked graves.
In a 7 March 2013 comment on “Tragedy at Neely’s Landing,” Steve Ramsey Sailor noted his grandmother was Lorene Shaner Ramsey. Her husband was Claud Ramsey (1885-1966). I know Claud to have been a son of Julius J. Ramsey (1852-1918) and the former Maria Morrison (1857-1924). Julius was a son of Albert Ramsey and Catherine (Barks) Ramsey. Maria was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson O’Neal “Jeff” Morrison and the former Matilda Link. The Missouri Certificates of Death for Julius and Maria Ramsey show the Rumfelt Cemetery as their place of burial.
In 1850, the household headed by Joseph Y. Shaner (32, b. MO) was in Cape Girardeau County Dwelling 1763, seemingly close by the households headed by Hezekiah Rumpfelt and Albert Ramsey.
Maria Shaner, a granddaughter of Joseph Y. Shaner and Syrilda (also Zarilda, Zerilda, or Zirrilda) Russell, married Thomas G. Whitelaw, a son of the Hon. Robert H. Whitelaw and Katie Block. Katie (Block) Whitelaw was a daughter of Zalma and Matilda Block. Katie Whitelaw was a member of Cape Girardeau’s Nancy Hunter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Her DAR membership (Daughter: # 58404), like many other Daughters, was based on the service of her gr-gr-grandfather, Col. Anthony Bledsoe (DAR Ancestor: # A011213). Syrilda (Russell) Shaner was a daughter of James Russell and Clarissa “Clair” Byrd, and the granddaughter of Revolutionary War veteran Amos Byrd (as Amos Bird, DAR Ancestor: # A010300) and Elizabeth Ruddell. The more I dig, the more confusing the relationships get.
I apologize for how long this has become; much longer than I had intended. As a rule, I don’t write short.
You are more than welcome to write long when you provide this much information.
I thought my 20 October post had not loaded. I tried again on 21 October, with a post the had grown even longer. If you can, please delete my 20 October post, and this one with it.
I’m a computer moron.
My 2nd great grandparents are buried there. I was hoping to go visit some time but appears I may need one than a one day trip. I have pleanty of information the grandfather but only marriage certificate, death certificate, and a play of burial. Names are Sidney Emmitt Smith and Margaret Addie Smith. Odd thing is he remarried not long after her death. He and his second wife died in a house fire years later, yet he is still buries by his first wife!
That reminds me of the story of the man who had married twice and stipulated that he wanted to be buried between the two women, “but tilt me toward Tillie.”