The U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) is part of a fascinating World War II story. The ship was a heavy cruiser that played an important role in the atomic bombing missions that led Japan directly to its surrender and the end of the war. Indianapolis was ordered in 1929 and her hull was laid down at the Camden Yard in New Jersey on March 31, 1930 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp. According to Naval History and Heritage Command, her displacement was 9,800 tons, her length was 610 feet, beam was 66 feet and draft was 17’4″. The ship was constructed to accommodate a crew of 1,269, achieve a speed of 32 knots and was armed with 9 8-inch and 8 5-inch guns. The Indianapolis was the second of two ships of the Portland class.
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The USS Texas is now berthed near the San Jacinto Monument. She is second of the New York ship class, which consisted of only two ships, the USS New York and the USS Texas. The New York Class (1908-1914) was characterized as being more heavily armed than the previous Wyoming Class. They were the first battleships to use 14 inch/45 caliber guns. This particular gun was used on the Nevada- and Pennsylvania Class ships. The ships of the New York Class were also powered by coal and had five gun turrets when first built. Some of the above was changed during overhauls and retrofitting, including her conversion from coal to diesel power.
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.
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.