The Steamer Longfellow
On March 8, 1895, the steamer Longfellow left Cincinnati for New Orleans. She was “one of the largest, best-known and handsomest packets on the Ohio River.” She left Cincinnati with an estimated 52 crewmen, 40 passengers, and 20 laborers. The number of laborers was abnormally high because of her cargo: she was carrying 300 reaping and mowing machines, which one Cincinnati newspaper called “the largest shipment of harvesting machinery ever made at one time from Cincinnati.”
The Longfellow was supposed to have left the night before, but there was dense fog. The fog stayed the next morning, but the ownership – the White Collar Line - said she had to start south. The towboat Hercules Carrel was brought in to help the Longfellow navigate out of Cincinnati.
But as the started, the Longfellow soon became unmanageable. The Longellow’s bow was pointed toward the Kentucky shore. There was much animated whistle blowing and churning of water to gain control, but the Longfellow struck the C&O [now the Clay Wade Bailey] Bridge broadside. The Longfellow literally fell apart. The bow sank. The stern floated away. Any number of passengers and crew were in the water. Both the Hercules Carrel and many other boats who witnessed the catastrophe came to the rescue of the people in the water.
People who scavenged the wreckage were a problem, and some relatives accused the White Collar Line of being more interested in recovering freight than bodies, and some families hired private divers to look for missing relatives. The Captain, J. L. Carter, died in the accident. Carter, William Colbert, the second Clerk; and the second engineer, Wilson D. Hart, were all from Newport. Pilots George Trunnells and Oscar Whitten were from Bellevue.
The official loss of life in the crash is listed as 11 people, but since there was no official list of who was on the boat to begin with, that has to remain a best guess.
The above data was excerpted from a longer column on the subject by Mr. Jim Reis, which appeared in the Kentucky Post.