Archive for October 13th, 2009

One-Legged Steamer Pilot Takes a Fatal Tumble … And So Does a Riverboat Captain

October 13, 2009

Fatal Accident Last Night!

CAPT. JNO. PARSONS

Falls Down the Stairway of the Little Grand Theatre, and Receives Fatal Injuries

A DISTRESSING accident occurred last night, between the hours of ten and eleven o’clock, at the Little Grand, which will doubtless result fatally. Capt. John Parsons, pilot on the steamer Logan, who had been attending the variety theater, over the Little Grand saloon, during the acts, started to go down stairs, and having but one leg, and somewhat in his cups, stumbled and fell to the bottom, receiving spinal injuries from which his physicians, Drs. Mussey and Davidson, think he cannot recover.

A TIMES reporter found him at one o’clock this morning, in the rear of the saloon, laid out on two tables, breathing heavily and unconscious. A sympathizing crowd stood around, and every moment it looked as if he would die in a saloon before a place could be found for him at that hour of night. Dr. Davidson was still in attendance.

Parsons lives in Huntington, and has a wife and three children. He is an old steamboat pilot in the Portsmouth and Huntington trade, running on the Dugan and Scioto, but for the last two weeks on the Logan.  He built the Viola. He lost his right leg by amputation some fifteen years ago, from an injury received by a line.

River Scene - Portsmouth, Ohio

River Scene - Portsmouth, Ohio

LATER.

At twenty minutes to two, Parsons was removed to the Europa House, where he lies unconscious at this writing, with no hope of his recovery.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Nov 1, 1879

West End View - Portsmouth, Ohio

West End View - Portsmouth, Ohio

Portsmouth Public Library (postcard collection can be found here)

1879
LOCAL CHRONOLOGY
FOR THE YEAR.

OCTOBER [excerpt]

31st. Capt. John Parsons, pilot on the steamer Logan, a one-legged man, while in an intoxicated condition, falls down the stairway of the Little Grand theatre, fracturing his skull, and causing his death the following day.

NOVEMBER.

14th. Condemnation of the Little Grand Theatre Hall.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Dec 27, 1879

Portsmouth Times Advertisement 1870

Portsmouth Times Advertisement 1870

CAPT. LAFE SICKLES‘ new packet, James Fisk, Jr., came up Sunday, fully furnished and equipped, and took her place in her trade Monday morning. She is a beauty, being the finest finished boat of the class ever equipped at Cincinnati. She is light of draught, swift, and elegant — just the boat for the trade. Her hull was built at Concord, Ky., by Taylor & Shearer, and is 130 feet in length, 26 feet beam, 31 feet over all, and 5 feet hold. The cabin is the work of M. Wise & Co., Ironton; painting by O. Hardin, Portsmouth; landscaping by John Leslie. She has three chandeliers, brought from the East, at a cost of $130 each. Her cabin contains thirty staterooms, and on the door of each is a handsome landscape. Her skylights are made to serve a new feature in advertising, as each one contains the advertisement of some business firm along the line, and at each end of her route. The office is at the front of the cabin, and is of black walnut, and will be graced by a life-sized portrait of her commander. She was built expressly for the trade, at a cost of near $15,000, and is owned by W.P. Ripley, W.A. McFarlin, and W.L. Sickles, all of Portsmouth.

1870 Census Record - Portsmouth, Ohio

1870 Census Record - Portsmouth, Ohio

She will carry the mail between Portsmouth and Pomeroy, making three trips a week, and will be officered as follows: Captain W.L. Sickles; Clerks, W.A. McFarlin and Doc. Hurd; Pilots, John Parsons and Ed. Williamson; Engineers, Jacob Henler and Frank Neil; Mate, William Kennet.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Jul 9, 1870

Portsmouth Times - Feb 1872

Portsmouth Times - Feb 1872

Sad Accident.

CAPTAIN W.L. SICKLES died last Saturday night under very peculiar circumstances. His wife was visiting her father, and he died alone, with nothing but the silent evidence of appearances to interpret the manner in which he died.

The bed chamber was a small one, and in one part of it was the bed, a bureau near it, and between the bureau and bed Captain Sickles had placed a chair, on which he had put a dipper of water. It appears that he had gone to bed naturally enough. His vest had been hung on a nail, the key of the door laid on the bureau, his coat hung on the back of a chair, and his pants lay on the floor.

Sunday forenoon when he was found, he lay with his face in a pool of blood, between the chair and the bureau, one leg and part of his body on the chair, and the other leg under the bed and partly on the chair, wedged between the two, the collar of his shirt sunk in his throat, producing strangulation and hemorrhage. The print of the dipper was on his leg where he had fallen on it, and the water was still in it when he was found, showing that he died in the exact position in which he fell. The following is the

VERDICT OF THE JURY.

We the undersigned jurors impanneled and sworn on the ?th day of January 1872, at the Township of Wayne in the County of Scioto ???? of ????, ?? George S. Pur?ell, Coroner……[too hard too read]….of Portsmouth, Ohio, on the 7th day of January A.D. 1872 came to his death, — after having heard the evidence and examined the body, we do find that the deceased came to his death by accidental strangulation.

THOS S. HAIL?
RALPH W. FA?DEN
J.W. ROCK?OLD
FRANKLIN ????
CHARLES C. SALSBURY,
C C ROW ??

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Jan 13, 1872

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Feb 21, 1872

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Feb 21, 1872

THERE is a remarkable coincidence in the death of Col. Fisk and Captain Sickles. Captain Sickles had a high regard for Col. Fisk, and named his steamer after him. Col. Fisk appreciating the compliment, forwarded a handsome set of colors for the boat. Captain Sickles was found dead at about the hour Sunday forenoon that Fisk expired.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Jan 13, 1872

*****

On Google Books:

The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists, 1861-1901
By Matthew Josephson

Page 134: Reference to James Fisk, Jr. being called the “Prince of Erie.”

*****

NOTE: Capt. Sickles full name was William Lafayette Sickles, based on the name variations from different sources.