The Ice of 1917-1918

The Island Queen, the Princess, and the towboat Eugene Dana Smith both sought refuge in the Kentucky River during the great ice jam of the winter of 1917-1918.  That winter saw the most disastrous ice jam in the history of the river, with any number of steamers destroyed from Ashland to Louisville and beyond. 

In addition to these two river boats, was a third, a “convict ship” sometimes called a prison ship, the Success, built at Moulmain, India in 1790.  Let me repeat that: 1790.  She was a three-masted vessel that took prisoners from England to Australia. She sank in Australia in 1885 and was turned into a tourist attraction.  By the time of her Ohio River sojourn, she had already toured the East and West coasts of the US. At time of the ice break up, she was tied up at the mouth of Kentucky.

When the ice broke, the mooring lines of the Success broke, and she started down the Kentucky out of control.  She hit the Island Queen, and the two of them hit the Princess, and all three headed down river.  None of the three had people aboard.

The Eugene Dana Smith was sitting at the mouth of the Kentucky.  She had been on her way upriver with barges, but backtracked into the Kentucky when she saw the ice forming on the Ohio.  The loose boats coming down the Kentucky knocked the Eugene Dana Smith into the main Ohio as well.

So all four boats were now out in the Ohio, with the rush of ice floes, and any number of logs, houses, boats and other debris rushing down the river.  The Carrollton wharf boat was among those items out of control in the channel.

The Princess sank at the mouth of the Kentucky.  The Island Queen made it through the ice with only minor damage, and was brought to the shore near Madison.  The Eugene Dana Smith went down river as far as Brooksburg, Indiana, and also survived with some minor damage.

The Success was unharmed.

Also washed up at Madison that winter was a small wooden hulled boat called the Helen E., which had broken her moorings at Marietta, Ohio, 392 miles above Madison, and which had run all those miles out of control, past bridges, islands, piers, dykes, dams, and other boats, to land safely at Madison.


Excepted from an article in the S&D Reflector, December, 1971