Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Steam Packet Home ~ 9 October 1837

Found at http://www.coastalguide.com/ & http://seastar2.com/allairevillage  

From Steamboat Disasters & Railroad Accidents
in the United States by S.A. Howland
When the steamship Home left New York Harbor for Charleston, none of the 135 passengers and crew had any inkling that they were headed directly into the teeth of a storm that would have tragic results. The illustrious passenger list read like a Who's Who of the day, and the only thing on most of their minds was that they would hopefully be a part of a record-breaking ocean passage between the two cities.

The Home had done it twice before. The sleek steamship was the pride of a growing fleet of steam packets that plied the waters off the East Coast in the days prior to the Civil War. Steam-powered side wheelers were rapidly becoming the most popular form of transportation in the country, and the Home was the creme de la creme of these newfangled vessels.

Originally constructed for river trade, the 220-foot ship was converted to a passenger liner by James Allaire, a wealthy New York businessman. The ship's interior was paneled in deep mahogany and cherry wood with breathtaking skylights, saloons and luxurious passenger quarters. Allaire spared no expense in making the Home the most plush vessel of its type. But in an oversight that would prove fatal, he equipped the ship with only three lifeboats and two life preservers.

At peak performance, the Home could easily make 16 knots, unheard of in the days of sail. She embarked on her maiden voyage in the spring of 1837. On her second trip that year, she made it from New York to Charleston in a record-breaking 64 hours. The steam packet immediately became the hot ticket for the wealthy and prominent citizens of the day. When a third voyage was announced in October, 1837, the Home's ticket office was swamped with reservations.

The Home pulled away from the New York docks on October 7 at full capacity, with 90 passengers and 45 crew. Some of the most prominent names of the day were on board: Senator Olive Prince of Georgia; James B. Allaire, nephew of the owner of the Home; and William Tileston, a wealthy Charleston entrepreneur who carried more than $100,000 in notes with him. A majority of the passengers were women and children.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Jamaica, a hurricane was gaining in intensity. Dubbed ''Racer's Storm,'' the cyclone would cross the Yucatan Peninsula, slam into Texas, then curve east over Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia before emerging in the Atlantic off the Carolina coast.

In the annals of hurricane history, Racer's Storm wasn't a particularly violent storm. But steamships like the home were not built for ocean travel. The long, sleek packets were originally designed for calm river trade routes and were dependent solely on steam for power. They rode low in the water, and the slightest ocean chop sent water sloshing into the boiler room.

So when the Home encountered the fringes of Racer's Storm off the Virginia Capes, Captain Carleton White became concerned. A boiler pipe had burst earlier in the day, and the ship was difficult to control under reduced power. As the storm grew in intensity, the steamship drifted ever closer to the northern Outer Banks shoreline, and Captain White had just decided to beach the vessel when word came from below that the pipe was repaired. Captain White ordered full-steam ahead, not knowing that he was taking his ship and passengers directly into the teeth of the storm.

Several hours later, a huge wave broadsided the Home, sweeping everything above deck and sheering off part of the bulkhead, leaving all the cabins on the port side exposed. Water cascaded into the boiler room. Captain White ordered the passengers and crew to form a bucket brigade to prevent the rising waters from extinguishing the boiler fires. Barely under power, the ship limped around Cape Hatteras on the early evening of October 9.

Finally, at 8 PM, the boiler fires went out and the ship was drifting helplessly. Captain White had no alternative but to beach the ship. He raised the small auxiliary sails, tacked to the west, and headed straight for the beach on Ocracoke Island. He had the three lifeboats readied and assembled the 135 passengers and crew.

The situation was desperate. Confusion reigned on the once-proud liner as men, women and children scrambled to carry what they could to the decks. Finally, the breakers along the shore were spotted in the distance.

In his published account of the disaster, Captain White described the grounding: ''I ordered Trost, the man at the wheel, to port his helm; I then said to Trost, 'Mind yourself, stand clear of that wheel when she strikes, or she will be breaking your bones.' He answered, 'Yes sir, I will keep clear.' The boat immediately struck on the outer bar, slewed her head northward, the square sails caught aback, she heeled offshore, exposing the deck and upper houses to the full force of the sea.''

It was about 10 PM when the Home grounded about seven miles east of Ocracoke Village. The towering breakers raked the ship in terrifying succession, and within minutes, most of the people gathered on deck had been swept into the raging surf. One of the three lifeboats was smashed when the ship struck, and panic ensued as the passengers made for the remaining two boats. Two able-bodied men commandeered the two life preservers and jumped into the sea. They made it to shore alive.

One lifeboat filled with women and children as launched but capsized as it hit the boiling surf. The last boat landed upright but also sank with a few seconds. The sea was filled with screaming women and children. One witness later said he doubted that anyone in those two boats survived.

As midnight approached, the Home began breaking up. Each wave carried away more passengers. Others took their chances. One female passenger lashed herself to a settee and floated to shore, waterlogged but alive. Another woman tied herself to a wooden spar and jumped into the surf. She too made it to shore.

In one ironic instance, two brothers, Philip and Isaac Cohen jumped into the surf. The brothers had been wrecked off the Carolina coast on another ship only a year before. Now they were faced with a much more critical situation. Isaac made it to shore safely, but his brother drowned.

Captain White and seven others had taken refuge of the forecastle deck, and as the ship disintegrated, the forecastle broke free and carried them safely to shore. By 11 PM, all that was left of the Home was its boiler, which rose above the waves like a monument to the 90 people who lost their lives that night.

Dawn broke over a hellish scene. The Ocracoke beaches were littered with debris and bodies. The villagers, accustomed to wrecks on their shores, took in the survivors and buried the dead anywhere they could. The survivors--mostly men--were ferried across the inlet to Portsmouth where they gained berth on outgoing ships. White remained on the island for three days to supervise burials of the victims. He then returned to New York only to face charges of negligence and drunkenness. For years after the disaster, he answered to these charges and wrote his account of the disaster. But the wreck of the Home was the most deadly sea disaster on American shores at the time and his reputation was ruined.

The financial loss to James Allaire was heavy, as the ship had little, if any insurance. The bad press generated by the circumstances of Home's loss left the most lasting impact. Insurance inquiries centered on rumors that the boat's captain had been drunk while at the helm. Although those charges were ultimately found untrue, the public outcry over such a terrible loss of life led to demands for greater safety regulations for steamboats and other sea-going vessels.  Allaire would never fully recover from the damage done to his good name and reputation, which he had worked so long and hard to cultivate. 

On May 10, 1837 the bottom fell out of the American Economy and the Panic of 1837, which had been inevitable since President Jackson issued his Specie Circular the previous July, plunged the young nation into its first great depression. For James Allaire the panic was crippling.  Demand for his products dried up quickly as the crisis grew.

The long-lasting effects of the disaster were more positive. As soon as the news became widespread, ship owners voluntarily equipped their vessels with adequate numbers of life preservers. The next year, Congress passed The Steamboat Act, which required all passenger ships to carry one life preserver for each person on board.



New York Herald
New York
October 21, 1837

WRECK OF THE NEW YORK STEAM-PACKET HOME -- NINETY-FIVE LIVES LOST.

By the steamboat from Norfolk, arrived this morning, we have the truly heart-rending intelligence that the steam packet Home, Captain WHITE, from New York for Charleston, whence she sailed on Saturday, the 7th instant, sprung a leak on Monday, the 9th, when off Cape Hatteras, and was run ashore six miles north of Ocracoke, in order to save the lives of those on board. The Home had on board ninety passengers, of whom seventy perished, and of her crew of forty-five, twenty-five were lost -- making a total loss of ninety-five lives.
     Two of the passengers who escaped have reached this city. We have conversed with MESSRS. ROWLAND and HOLMES, the two passengers on board the Home, who reached this city on their return to New York to replace their lost papers, etc.
     They state the Home made rapid progress after she left New York, and had proceeded as far as to the southward of Cape Hatteras, when the wind, which had blown very freshly all Monday morning, 9th inst., increased to a gale about two o'clock P.M., and caused the boat to labour very much. It was soon very generally manifest that her frame was not strong enough to withstand the violence of the sea, and we learn that she raised in the bow and stern at least three feet from her proper line. It is supposed that she leaked freely, for she soon settled so deep in the water as to render her wheels entirely useless, and her sails were then raised to run her on shore.
     About seven or eight o'clock, P.M., the water had quenched the fire under the boilers, and she continued nearing the land by means of her sails, until half past ten o'clock at night, when she struck the shore near Ocracoke, and immediately went to pieces. The passengers were now in the greatest confusion and alarm -- some leaped overboard, and were drowned in attempting to swim to land, while others possessed themselves of pieces of timber, and floated ashore nearly exhausted with cold and fatigue.
     One of the gentlemen above mentioned informs us that he remained quietly on the forecastle, and floated on shore on it after the boat went to pieces. MRS. SCHROEDER, one of the two ladies who were saved, lashed herself to one of the timbers, and reached the shore in safety. MRS. LACOSTE, although a very feeble old lady, aged about seventy years, was safely dragged out of the surf. She is supposed to have been buoyed up by a settee. One of the passengers had on a life preserver, and got safely to land by its aid.
     The boat was entirely broken to fragments, and the few trunks which were washed on the beach next day were more or less injured. MESSRS. ROWLAND and HOLMES remained at Ocracoke two days before they could get a conveyance to Norfolk. They state that about twenty bodies had been washed ashore, and were buried before they left the beach, among them the bodies of two or three of the ladies.
     On referring back to the New York papers of the 9th inst., we find a list of the passengers who sailed from New York on the 7th in this ill-fated vessel, which we subjoin. In addition to those here named, there were some six or eight others who went on board just before the Home sailed, and who are not included in the list.
The following is a list of passengers, as full as we have been able to obtain, although some of them are probably not correctly spelled:

JAMES B. ALLAIRE
HIRAM ANDERSON
P. ANDERSON
A. C. BANGS
_____ BENEDICT
JOHN BISHOP
MRS. BONDO
R. F. BOSTWICK
J. BOYD
MRS. BOYD
_____ BROQUET and lady, children and servant
C. C. CADY
MRS. CAMACK
_____ CAWTHERS
DARNIS CLOCK
P.H. COHEN
JAMES COKES
REV. G. COWLES and lady
H. B. CROOM and lady
MASTER CROOM
MISS CROOM
MISS CROOM
MR. DESABYE and lady and servant
A. DESABYE
F. DESABYE
P. DOMINGUES
CHARLES DRAYTON
_____ FINN
MRS. FLYNN and two daughters
_____ FULLER
_____ HAZARD
CAPT. ALFRED HILL
MRS. HILL
JABEZ HOLMES
B. B. HUSSEY and lady
JAMES JOHNSTON, JR.
_____ KENNEDY
_____ LABEDIE
MRS. LACOSTE
_____ LAROQUE
MISS LEVY
ANDREW A. LOVEGREEN
JOHN MATHER
MRS. MILLER
PROF. NOTT and lady
J. PAINE
G. H. PALMER
O. H. PRINCE
MRS. PRINCE
CONRAD QUINN
WILLIAM S. READ
MRS. RIVIERE
MISS ROBERTS
J. M. ROLL
J. D. ROWLAND (or ROLAND)
CAPT. JAMES SALTER
MRS. SCHROEDER
THOMAS J. SMITH
_____ SMITH
P. SOLOMONS
M. SPROTT
MRS. STOWE (or SLOW)
W. H. TILESTON
H. VANDERZEE
_____ WALKER
_____ WALTON
_____ WELD
_____ WHITING
MRS. WHITNEY
C. WILLERMAN
_____ WOODBURN
MRS. YAUGH (or FAUGH)

     Since the above was in type, we have conversed with one of those passengers saved. He says that, at the time the leak was discovered, they were about twenty-five miles from shore, and the vessel had nearly four feet of water in the hold; and with all the pumps going, and all hands, passengers and all bailing, it gained ground upon them so fast that they were obliged to desist and seek their own personal safety. The boat grounded about a quarter of a mile from the shore, and went to pieces in the space of twenty minutes. Those saved got on shore by swimming and on pieces of the wreck. Our informant, with another person only, had the "India rubber Life Preservers," and he states that, if there had been 150 of them on board the boat, he thinnks but a very few would have perished. The following is the letter from Captain WHITE:


Ocracoke, N.C. oCT. 10, 1837

Mr. James P. Allaire, New York


Dear Sir, I have now the painful duty of informing you of the total loss of the steam packet Home, and the lives of most of the passengers and crew. The following passengers are saved:

H. VANDERZEE, New York
JOHN SALTER, Portsmouth, N.H.
ALFRED HILL, do., do.
J. S. COHEN, Columbia, S.C.
ANDREW A. LOVEGREEN, Charleston
CHARLES DRAYTON, do.
B. B. HUSSEY, do.
THOMAS I. SMITH, do.
MRS. LA COSTA, do.
MRS. SHRODER, do.
C. C. CADY, Montgomery, Ala.
J. D. ROWLAND, New York
JAMES JOHNSON, JR., Boston
JOHN BISHOP, New York
DARIUS CLOCK, Athens, Geo.
WILLIAM S. READ, New Haven, Conn.
JABEZ HOLMES, New York
JOHN MATHER, do.
CONRAD QUINN, Jersey City
HIRAM ANDERSON, New York

Twenty passengers saved, is all we can find. The following persons of the crew:

Firemen.
LEVI MILLER, Stamford, Conn.DAVID MILNE, Steward
WILLIAM BLOOM, New York
THOMAS SMITH, do.
TIMOTHY STONE, do.

Deck Hands.
MICHAEL BURNES, JAMES DUFFEY, JOHN TRUST, JAMES JACKSON, SAMUEL _____
CALVIN MARVIN (boy), New York,

And six waiters, names not known, making 19 belonging to the boat. 20 passengers, 19 hands, 1 captain, total 40 souls saved.
     There can be very little saved from the wreck. We had a heavy gale of wind after leaving New York, from N.E. The boat sprung a leak a little to the northward of Hatteras. At first we were able to pump the water out as fast as it came in; but the leak soon increased, so that it gained very fast on us. We scuttled the cabin floor, and all hands, passengers, gentlemen and ladies, commenced bailing with buckets, kettles, etc; but the water soon came up to the furnaces, and put the fires out, and we were obliged to run under sails only. By the time we came to the shore the water was over the cabin floors. We rushed her head on, but owing to her having so much water in, she stopped in the outer breakers. The first sea that came after she struck stove the weather quarter boat and all the houses on deck were stove in; and in twenty-five minutes after she struck she was all in pieces; and I suppose about eighty souls were drowned. Both of the mates, all three of the engineers, and JAMES B. ALLAIRE are lost. Most of the passengers saved have lost nearly all their baggage. I have lost everything have nothing but one pair of pantaloons and a shirt that I had on when I washed ashore."

In haste, yours respectfully.
(Signed) CARLETON WHITE.

There was one gentleman on board named COURSE a Frenchman, who has fought in all Napoleon's battles. He has for some time been a resident of the South. Alas ! that one who has faced death in battles so often, and under such a general should have perished at last so ingloriously.
     A. W. ROAT of the firm of Roat and Taylor, of Charleston, had taken a passage in the Home. He gave it up to MR. WOODBURN

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