Wreck of the H. F. Frisbee


Mrs. Pitt L. Stowe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Huntley of this city, who was on board her husband’s produce boat when the towboat H. F. Frisbee struck the Kentucky pier of the Southern Railroad bridge at Cincinnati at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of November 29th arrived here last Thursday morning and has an exciting story to tell of the disaster.

She says that the Frisbee had 24 boats in tow, 12 being produce boats, six salt barges, one iron barge and the remainder coal.  The tow was lashed up loosely, and at the time of the collision the boat had but 160 pounds of steam pressure when she is permitted to have 183 pounds.  The pig iron barge was to have been left above the bridge but it was not done because the boat had not enough power to hold the tow in midstream while relieved by the Champion and consequently the tow and boat drifted rapidly downstream, notwithstanding the fact that the engines were backing with full head of steam all the time.

Mrs. Stowe says that when Frank Carroll and Wash Tenley, the Cincinnati pilots, got on board it was flippantly remarked, Wouldn’t those women scamper if we should strike that pier!” referring to the ladies on the produce boats who were on the roof of their boats.

It soon became evident that a smash-up was unavoidable and great excitement prevailed, the mate being off the boat at the time made it still worse.  There were six ladies on the fleet and their screams mingled with orders of the officers, snapping of lines, smashing of planks and the general stampede when the collision did come.  It was something to be long remembered.

“The pig iron boat struck first,” says Mrs. Stowe, and rebounded, striking a model barge of salt which plunged into the Bessie, our boat, and knocked a large hole into it and it took water rapidly.  It soon sunk to the roof and was landed below Ludlow on the Kentucky side.  Capehart & Roush’s boat was sunk to the roof and landed near the same place.  Mr. William Rutter of Clarington, Ohio, aged 70 years, had two boats in the fleet and, when we struck. His boats were cut loose and floated down the river.  His wife was on one and he was on the other.  They had not gone far before Mr. Rutter, through fright and heart disease, fell dead and his body was taken home the next day by his wife.

The Bessie had on board 2,000 barrels of produce – potatoes, apples, beans, etc. owned equally by my husband and Capt. W. H. Mallory of Cincinnati, Ohio, and we expected to spend a pleasant winter in the South, returning next march, but Mrs. Mallory is now at home and I am here.  The boat is a total loss and although Mr. Stowe and Mr. Mallory are taking the cargo out as fast as they can it is being ruined by freezing as fast as exposed to air and will, it is feared, be nearly a total loss as we had no insurance at all.  Capehart & Roush are in just the same fix but have their steamboat there and are doing all they can to save their cargo.  We lost everything we had on board except out clothing and with the boat went down enough provisions to do us until spring.

I think the crew of the Frisbee a heartless set as they put us ashore on the Kentucky side in a snow storm and left us to look out for ourselves – to find shelter and something to eat the best we could and the cause of the collision is chargeable to recklessness more than anything else.  This much is admitted by those understanding the facts in the matter and many steamboatmen make still more serious charges than that.

And, to add insult to injury, when the boat went on the next day they called back as we stood shivering on the roof of our boat and bade us goodbye and hoped we would have better luck next time.


From the S&D Reflector, June, 1997, reprinting a letter from a Marietta, Ohio newspaper from December, 1888.