A befuddled and exhausted Cleveland threw out his anchor and touched down on solid land. He walked along the nearby river until he found the bird—dead, as he suspected. Unfortunately for him, bald eagles are kind of a big deal in the United States and he was nearly fined for the crime of killing one. But, though the article doesn’t confirm, it seems likely that in this case the fine wasn’t enforced.
In late April of 1865, the steamboat Sultana chugged up the Mississippi river with over 2000 passengers weighing down its decks. Most were Union prisoners returning home from camps like Cahaba and Andersonville, weak and happy to be heading home after a hard and bloody war.
Payment and Patch-Jobs
With thousands of Union prisoners needing a way home, the U.S. Government paid steamship captains several dollars a head for every soldier transported north. The Chief Quartermaster at Vicksburg, Missouri, suggested a deal to Captain James Cass Mason of the Sultana: he’d get Mason a full load of 1400 men in return for some of that sweet government cash. Mason agreed, but didn’t expect over 1900 soldiers to crowd every spare inch of space on a boat only meant to carry 376.
Meanwhile, a leaking boiler on board had been quickly patched to allow the steamer to take on the massive load of passengers. With decks sagging under the weight and the boiler crack ominously nailed together with a metal plate, the Sultana continued on its way.
At 2 am on April 27th, the leaking boiler exploded and took out two more boilers along with it. The blast tore the steamer apart just north of Memphis, Tennessee, and within twenty minutes the ship was burning to the water line. Those who survived the blast found themselves trapped on the fiery decks or thrown into the river. Those in the river either drowned, weakened from their injuries, or watched in horror as the ship burned with their friends still on board.
In all, around 1200 passengers perished. To this day it remains the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. But in the wake of events like the war ending and Lincoln’s assassination, this tragedy has been all but forgotten.
The Sultana disaster wasn’t as covered as other events at the time, but there’s more to find on Newspapers.com. Try a search for the steamship or Captain Mason for more about the incident and aftermath.
Have you ever heard of Potoooooooo, famous race horse of the 18th century? Though an excellent race horse and a significant sire, he is most remembered now for his unusual name. You may have noticed it.
The origin of his funny name has a couple of supposed explanations, but the most common is nicely wrapped up here:
As with most holidays, Easter comes with its share of unusual traditions. But while egg hunts and stealthy bunnies still remain mysteriously but firmly tied to this springtime celebration, some customs have fallen by the wayside. One of these is the 18th century English tradition of “lifting.”
“Lifting” was basically what it sounds like—on Easter Monday, men would lift women into the air on chairs or on clasped arms. On Tuesday the roles would reverse, with women lifting men. It seems the custom was to heave the chosen person into the air at least three times, after which they’d typically give you some money to leave them alone.
Below is an amusing clipping found in an 1880 paper that illustrates just how a lifting might go:
What if you found out your ancestor was a female mining
prospector in the 1800s, made a fortune but then lost it all, and later won a
lottery and died a wealthy woman? That’s exactly what Lynzi Coffey discovered
as she pieced together her family’s story using Newspapers.com.
We wanted to share Lynzi’s story, and others from time to
time, to show how our members’ research techniques and tips can inspire you in
your own genealogical research.
Lynzi had census records for her ancestors and knew they
traveled across the country. Plotting the locations where she knew her
ancestors lived, she searched newspapers along the route between locations. In
the process, Lynzi pieced together the amazing story of her 2nd
great grandfather Michael O’Brien and his wife Mary Helde.
Finding Michael in the newspapers required time and
patience. O’Brien was often misspelled. Sometimes the “O” was left off, or the
apostrophe dropped, and papers spelled “Brien” in a variety of ways (click
here to learn how to search for common misspellings using wildcards). Lynzi’s
persistence paid off and she found newspaper stories that mentioned his Irish
hometown, an employment history, and his family history. She even
discovered that Michael was present at the Golden Spike Ceremony in 1869 and found
his face in the familiar photo of the rails joining in the Utah territory. It
was the resiliency of his wife Mary that really inspired Lynzi.
Mary Helde was already married when she met Michael,
although she did not live with her husband. Through newspapers, Lynzi learned
that not only did Mary lose three daughters in their early infancy, but she
also had two sons that died tragic
deaths. Mary operated a boarding house in Cheyenne, Wyoming when she and Michael
crossed paths. She was already independently wealthy having purchased
a number of mining claims that apparently paid off. One
clipping described her selling her assets for $30,000 in 1866 (about
$475,000 in today’s dollars).
Mary left Cheyenne, sold the boarding house and all of her
possessions, married Michael, and accompanied him to Nevada and later Utah. Mary
described herself as having a “speculative
disposition,” and Lynzi realized
how true that was when she found
clippings of Mary’s numerous
mining investments. Sadly, it appears that Mary’s speculation led to a loss
of her fortune.
When news came of mining claims opening in North Dakota, Michael
left for the Black Hills. Mary joined him about a year later, but their
marriage faltered. In 1891, Michael
reportedly drowned while swimming, leaving Mary a penniless widow.
Unbeknownst to Mary, however, Michael
was very much alive. He’d conspired with some friends to stage his accidental
death and left town, a fact Lynzi uncovered in Michael’s Civil War pension
The colorful story Lynzi uncovered on Newspapers.com shocked
her. Her tips include searching for alternative spellings, plotting your
ancestors’ locations and checking all the papers along the way, and exhaustive
searches! “Discovering records about my ancestors helped me plot points in
their lives, but finding them in Newspapers.com helped me bring their story to
life,” said Lynzi. Have you discovered your family’s story? Try using Lynzi’s
tips and start searching today on Newspapers.com.
As the premier of Game of Thrones’ final season looms, fans are feeling the tension of years of televised build up. The fantasy phenomenon first came to the screen in April of 2011, and it was a hit from the very start.
A Stark Start
Below are some nostalgic clippings from the months following the season 1 debut.
Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without G.R.R. Martin’s books. The sprawling (as-yet unfinished) series first began nearly 23 years ago with A Game of Thrones, released in 1996. And the story was just as popular in print as it has now become on screen.
From an April 2nd paper comes this jazzy announcement. In 1957, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong attended a jazz concert to celebrate his birthday (actually his 56th). An earlier pneumonia scare lead to this great quote: “I know they wanted to get me up there to play first horn for Gabriel but I don’t think I’ll be up there for a long time yet.”
A year and a half earlier, the expedition that would claim his life began. Captain Scott’s expedition set sail in the summer of 1911 aboard the Terra Nova, the ship which gave the expedition its nickname.
They reached Antarctica in January, a few weeks later than planned. The early months of the expedition were spent laying depots and taking smaller scientific expeditions. Roald Amundsen‘s Norwegian Expedition was camped not far off, and Scott’s group felt the pressure to be the first to reach the South Pole.
Scott’s path to the South Pole took a different route than Amundsen’s, as seen in the clipping above. After enduring months of bitter cold and blizzards, Scott and the four men he’d chosen to make the full trek arrived at the pole. There they found Amundsen’s flag and a letter. The Norwegian team had beat them to the prize.
It was on the trip back to base that things quite literally went south. At first all went smoothly—weeks passed without trouble, and the men made good progress. But their health was quickly deteriorating as frostbite and general weariness took their toll. Petty Officer Edgar Evans was the first to die, one month after reaching the South Pole. Scott noted Evans’ poor condition, and it seems probable that Evans suffered a bad concussion from a fall.
Soon after, Lawrence Oates began to show signs of failing health. With his decline came Scott’s recognition that none of them would make it back.
It became clear that Oates would not make it. He deliberately walked off from the party to his death, saying, “I am just going outside. I may be some time.” When he did not return, the group continued on without him.
Scott and the two remaining explorers, Edward Wilson and Henry Robertson Bowers, were forced to make camp 11 miles from One Ton Depot. Lack of supplies from the base camp and terrible weather sealed their doom. Scott made his March 29 diary entry, and it is presumed that the three men died later that day.
Some months later the surviving expedition members formed a search party to learn the fate of Scott and his traveling companions. They found the three bodies of Scott, Bowers, and Wilson and erected a cairn as their final resting place. Speculation about whether they could have been saved circled among the survivors, and continues to be discussed today.