Favorite thing: We discovered this replica of a steamboat known as the Mittie Stephens at Jefferson's Historical Museum. A ship's bell resting in the museum's basement, is all they have to remind them of a tragic event connected with this boat.
The Mittie Stephens was first used as part of the Confederacy war effort and she served as a "naval packet' for twelve months. She was sold to civilian owners in 1864, who used her on the Missouri River. In 1866, she began making roundtrips between New Orleans and Jefferson.
One night as she was steaming along Caddo Lake towards Jefferson in order to deliver her 107 passengers, a torch basket that used to light her way ignited a stacked pile of hay on the deck.
As the boat attempted to make its way to shore, the sternwheeler continued to crank. Some of the passengers who jumped overboard were sucked into the wheel; others didn't realize how close to shore they were nor how shallow the water was, so burned to death. Sixty three people lost their lives that night and the boat was destroyed. There were about 43 survivors.
More information on this, see "The Mitty Stephens Disaster" by Archie P. McDonald, PhD on TexasEscapes.com
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