The Burning of the City of Chester, Gus Zeller
BTTEB, WXATliKB, STEAMBOATS. Shbbvkfobt, March 9. Weather cloudy and warm. Biver rose 1 inch. The Burning of the City of Cheater. Additional Particular af the Disaster The Captain a Story The Uvea mad Property Last by the Accident. (Memphis Avalanche, 8th. 1 Yesterday morning at 2! o'clock the steamer City of Chester, from St. Louis, was completely destroyed by fire, and yesterday an Avalanche reporter was busy getting details of the accident, of which the account in yesterday's issue was a hasty, lncompleteand in some points an incorrect statement, made so by the lateness of the hoar at which the burning took place. The steamer's captain. Alex. Zeigler, was found in the office of the Anchor Line, to which tbe steamer belonged. Captain, you will do me the kindness to tell me the story of your steamer's burning!" asked tbe reporter. - ril tell yon all I konw about it. We had been in ana tied np to the elevator about two hours when the fire occurred. It was reported to me that everything bad cooled off and that all was snug, and so I turned in. A tap of the bell awoke me, and I knew something must be wrong, so I jumped up and grabbed my coat an 1 saw that the steamer was afire. It bad shot up to the hurricane deck, and the whole of tne boat for'ard was burning away. I put my coat over my bead and rushed through the fire down the stairs and out on the elevator. She was all over ablazethen. When I got off, the hose had been got out and was playing on her, but did not seem to be doing any good. I rushed down to the end ot the elevator and saw the people standing on the aft of the deck. There was no way for 'em to get oft without jumping In the water. I went back, and the fire bad caught the elevator, and was roaring and blazing all over tbe steamer. Then I heard the tugs coming np, and knowing the chances for the people to get off the boat were as good if she drifted off as they were then, to save the elevator I ordered tha men to cut her loose, and then she drifted down, burning as she went. The passengers and crew were picked up by tbe tugs and row boats. They all had floaters." How many were lost, captain t" M We have hdard ot three who have not turned np yet One is the colored barber, Albert Brown, one is the mail agent, Johnnie Kiinan, and the other is a passenger, Gus Zeller, a white Memphis barber. A passenger, Mr. Myers, who went up to St. Louis to - day, told us about young Kirn an. He and Klrnan were standing aft together with their floats, ready for a chance to jump off. Johnnie Klrnan said to Myers : ' I'm going to try to get back and get my books and aome registered letters and things.' " Stop," said Myers to him, " youll never come out alive." " Klrnan didnt mind him, though, bnt rushed back up to the cabin, where his papers were, and that was the last seen of him. When the steamer got down to the end of tbe sandbar ner powder magazine burst. Her boilers never nave been hurt." " How lone have yon been on the river, Captain!" Twenty - five years." And this Is your first accident t " . Yes." " You saved no papers or anything W "Literally nothing. Our clerk, Mr. Dietrich, tried to get his money, and was burned all about the hair and whiskers. He had floated away down the river before he was picked np. There he is now In a suit of new clothes " (as a middle - aged gentleman came in). ' You had some stock on board. Captain 1" " Yes ; four norsea and nineteen moles be - i longing to Mr. Myers, of St. Louis, and twenty - six bogs. I don't know who the hogs belonged to." Capt. Zeigler is one of the oldest captains on tne river and one of the best. It is a matter of regret to the Avalanche that in the haste of yesterday morning an impression was received which led to such reflections upon an excellent and conscientious officer, which we are now convinced were wholly unjust. His course under the circumstances waa the only possible one to adopt. Had not the steamer been cut loose tbe magnificent elevator of the company would probably have teen destroyed, and that, too, without giving any additional means of safety to those aboard. Capt. Zeigler thinks that the firing must have been the work of an incendiary, as he cannot conceive any other mode in which it could nave originated. The elevatorls well supplied with nose facilities, kept In readl ness at all times, but the steamer burned like tinder, and the flames could not be checked. After the cutting loose the steamer drifted down stream, and the people on board huddled aft, about ten in number. There they seized oars, pieces of timber, etc ; catching which they sprang overboard, and were picked up in various ways by skiffs and tugs. The tug Oriole first touched thetatern of the burning steamer, and Trom It took what seemed - to be the three last remaining human beings. She waa soon after forced to leave the Chester, on account of the excessive heat, and then the transfer boat Pier - son took the wreck in charge, towing It over to the sand bar. There the terrible explosion of the magadne took place. Tbe loss of lif ayso far as can be learned, does net extend beyond the three persons mentioned above. Young Klrnan bad bnt recently obtained the position as mail agent. His father, Mr. Tom Klrnan, is an old and well known citizen of Memphis. Tbe officers and passengers lost all of their baggage, not even navlng time or ability to bring off their pocket - books. The empty safe of the steamer was raised and brought to the elevator late yesterday afternoon. ..