1905 Explosion of Towboat Defender Along The Ohio River

The Defender Towboat was a sternwheel, built in 1881 at Brownsville PA. It was originally named S.L. Wood but was renamed Defender when sold in 1896. Her main course was along the Ohio River until she met her demise on January 3, 1905.

On January 3, 1905, Defender was upbound on the Ohio River with empty barges when the boilers exploded. The towboat became full engulfed, burning for over an hour. Seven lives were lost in the fire. Eventually, “Shiner” Allis (Engineer on watch at the time of the incident) would have his license permanently revoked.

As the story goes, Pilot William Weldon was in bed and was blown out of his stateroom door (still on the bed) and landed in a fuel flat (still on the bed). Of course, he lived to tell that tale.

Below are various newspaper clippings on the event and its aftermath.

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The Bucyrus Evening Telegraph
Bucyrus, Ohio
05 Jan 1905, Thu • Page 1
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The Fairmont West Virginian
Fairmont, West Virginia
03 Jan 1905, Tue • Page 1
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The Marion Star
Marion, Ohio
04 Jan 1905, Wed • Page 1
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The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
04 Jan 1905, Wed • Page 1
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Buffalo Evening News
Buffalo, New York
04 Jan 1905, Wed • Page 1
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The Daily Review
Decatur, Illinois
04 Jan 1905, Wed • Page 1
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The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland
06 Jan 1905, Fri • Page 10
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Jefferson Jimplecute
Jefferson, Texas
07 Jan 1905, Sat • Page 7

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