Explosion of the Steamboat Saluda : Tragedy and Compassion at Lexington, Missouri, 1852
Missouri Historical Review
On April 9, 1852, the steamboat Saluda, loaded with passengers and cargo, exploded at Lexington, Missouri. As a packet boat, the Saluda made regularly scheduled runs up and down the Missouri River. At the time of the explosion, the boats six-year-old hull and even older engines and boilers, made it an old vessel by contemporay steamboat standards. About 110 Mormons were among the 213 passengers that boarded the Saluda in St. Louis with Kanesville, Iowa as their destination. What factors caused the Saludas boilers to burst is not known and cannot be determined, but early opinions felt that when the engines started, the pumps forced cold water into the steam-filled, red-hot boilers, causing them to burst, spewing portions of the steamer, crew and passengers in all directions. Abraham O. Smoot, Mormon emigration officer, remained in Lexington for ten days after the explosion to monitor and tend to the injured Saints. Most of the Mormons were on the lower deck and toward the stern, where they fared better than the passengers on the forepart of the boat. The number of killed and badly wounded was reported to be about one hundred, the greatest loss of life ever resulting from a steamboat accident on the Missouri River. Lexington citizens organized committees to deal with the dead, wounded, destitute and orphaned. Several clergymen of the city attended and officiated at a mass funeral the next day. Lexington women nursed the injured and laid out the dead. The city donated ground for a burial plot, and burials took place that afternoon. In the wake of the Saluda explosion and similar steamboat accidents, the United States Congress passed inspection reforms in 1852.