The night of February 11, 1869, the Mittie Stephens, a sidewheel paddle steamer, was heading on a southerly route through the channel across Caddo Lake on its way to Jefferson, Texas. After midnight on February 12, sparks thought to have come from a torch basket used for exterior lighting started a fire on board and the ship quickly burned down to the waterline. There were one hundred four passengers along with the cargo and crew. When all were accounted for, forty-two of the passengers survived though sixty-two passengers and several more crewmen perished. This was despite the fact that the ship came to rest in shallow water. The first thought would naturally be to wonder why many adults were unable to walk out in or swam to safety. However, the water was cold, the river bottom was mucky and the vessel came to rest a considerable distance from the shore, such that it took a crew rowing a skiff from another vessel (the Dixie) over an hour to reach her. It is theorized that a good many of the victims either drowned or may have been fatally injured when they were drawn into the paddle wheels on either side of the ship.
Category Archives: maritime
(Image credit: Navsource.com)
The ship last known as the Texas Clipper began her life as a Windsor Class Attack Transport. One of a class of seven ships, her hull was laid down March 2, 1944 in Sparrows Point, MD and she was launched September 12, 1944 for the United States Maritime Commission. The United States was three years into World War II. The Maritime Commision was a government agency created in 1936 to see to the creation of 500 merchant cargo ships to replace the aging World War I era fleet that made up the Merchant Marine. It offered a subsidy system to support some of the building costs. She was transferred to the United States Navy on December 16, 1944 and commissioned the USS Queens (APA-103) and went on to serve eighteen months in World War II, mostly for service in the Far East. She was not named for royalty, but rather the burrough of New York by the same name.
Kate Ross Padgett was born January 6, 1851 and was the first white child born in Waco. Her parents were Shapley Prince and Catherine Fulkerson Ross and they lived in a log cabin built near the Brazos River. Her older brother was Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross who was a young child when the family moved to Texas. The exact location of the home is thought to be on the west side of the Brazos near downtown Waco, near the intersection of what was then Bridge Street and First Street, roughly where the Waco Suspension Bridge meets the river today. There was a natural spring nearby. The cabin was later replaced by a hotel, the first hotel in Waco, when the Ross family moved to a home near 12th and Dutton streets.