Saturday, May 16, 2015

THE MECHANIC – Treasure Steamboat

May 9th, 1825

The Steamboat "Mechanic" Snagged and Lost to the Ohio River.

On Friday morning, May 6, 1825, the steamboat Mechanic departed Nashville, Tennessee. She had been chartered to deliver the American and French hero General Marquis de Lafayette (6 Sept. 1757—20 May 1834) and his traveling party to Marietta, Ohio. General Lafayette was on a grand tour of the United States and had just visited General Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage. Other notables on board other than Captain Hall and crew were Georges Lafayette, son of General Lafayette, the Governor of Tennessee, General William Carroll and staff, Governor Edward Coles of Illinois, General O'Fallon and Major Nash of Missouri and Isaac Shelby and Henry Clay of Kentucky.

There was a large round rock in the river just past the upper end of the Cannellton lock. It was called Elephant Rock from its shape and it was used as a navigational mark by steamboats going upstream. Before reaching it boats moved to the Kentucky side where the current was easier on the inside of a curve.This was the situation when the steamer was ascending the Ohio River on that rainy Sunday night. The boat, the Mechanic , moved to the Kentucky side and soon hit a submerged tree, called a snag, and sank around midnight.  The river was rough and in the darkness Lafayette lost his footing and tumbled headlong, into the river. Had it not been for the quick action of two sailors, he might have drowned in the Ohio River. However, the great man was no worse off than wet, so when the small boat reached the shore, fires were built and the 65-year-old Lafayette and his party spent the rest of the night on the Kentucky shore with a fire burning. At daybreak a rowboat was found and he was brought to a cabin near Elephant Rock on the Indiana side. He stayed here out of the rain until around noon when a downstream steamer, the Paragon, turned around and took him to Louisville. Bert Fenn found three eye-witness accounts which agreed with one another. So Lafayette was not wrecked on Rock Island nor did he spend the night at Lafayette Spring around 3/4 mile upstream from Elephant Rock, near the mouth of the Deer River, as some stories suggest.

There was no loss of life, but the Mechanic went down quick causing General Lafayette to lose $8000.00, his carriage, clothing and other personals. Captain Hall lost his desk which contained the ships purse and his personal money. Much more treasure went down, being there were so many notables aboard.

During low water these river banks could be very profitable, as the Mechanic and her treasures are still waiting to be salvaged.

May all of your trails be smooth and your treasure sites many.
Best Wishes and Good Hunting