September  19, 1845 Article 2




                             Disastrous Steamboat Explosion — Important Texan Ordinance.


The steamship Alabama arrived at an early hour yesterday, having sailed from Aransas on the 15th inst.  She brought us the news of a deplorable steamboat catastrophe, which we laid before our readers in a second edition yesterday, as fully as the time would allow.  We now proceed to add thereto such other particulars as have come to our knowledge.


On the 12th inst. the steamer Dayton burst her boilers when about half way between Corpus Christi and St. Joseph’s island.  There were between thirty and forty persons on board, including United States soldiers and the hands attached to the boat.  Ten individuals were killed on the spot, including among them Lieuts. Higgins and Berry of the 4th regiment of Infantry.  Seventeen were wounded, some of whom were not expected to survive their injuries.  Captain Crossman, the Quarter Master was on board, together with two other officers.  They were blown to the distance of one hundred yards, but were not severely injured. — Capt. C. had one of his legs somewhat bruised, but the next day was able to walk and attend to his business.  We have been unable to obtain a list of those who were killed and wounded.


We make an extract from a private letter which we have received from an officer of the 7th Infantry.


Corpus Christi, Texas, Sept. 12th, 1845.


My Dear Sir. — Gloom like a pall hangs over our whole camp.  The steamer Dayton, while on her way from this to Aransas, to-day, burst her boiler when about fifteen miles from here, and sunk in about eight feet water; seven persons were killed and seventeen injured.  Among the killed were Lieutenants Higgins and Berry, of the 4th Infantry.  The other names I do not know, some of the bodies not yet having been found.  These, though, were all the officers.


The explosion took place at half-past 12 o’clock, in day time, and Dr. Crittenden, who was on board (slightly injured) informs me that she sunk in fifteen minutes after, and as she went down, (covered by the water) another boiler exploded, with a most terrific report.


Another body (deck hand) has just been brought in.


Yours in haste.


Letters of a subsequent day inform us that the bodies of all those lost had been recovered. — One of the wounded (a colored deck hand) died the next day; the other sixteen were less injured than was at first apprehended and no fears were entertained for them.  We trust that the number killed will not exceed eight.  The steamboat itself is an utter loss.


Since writing the above, we regret to learn that eleven in all were killed, namely: Lieuts. Higgins and Berry, one sergeant, one corporal, two discharged soldiers, one deck hand, and the rest not stated.  Lieut. Wm. Gordon, of the 3d Infantry, was one of the officers standing with Capt. Crossman.  His injuries are slight.  Lieut. Graham, of the 4th Infantry, was slightly scalded.  Dr. Crittenden, of the 7th Infantry, was thrown down and much bruised by timbers which fell upon him, but he was again about.


Capt. West, the clerk of the boat, was badly scalded.  The cook a lad, was so severely burnt and scalded that it was thought on the 15th he could not possibly survive.  The pilot of the boat had an arm broken.  Capt. Nicholls, of the Texan sloop Cutter, who was on board the boat, had one of his legs broken.  A Mr. Graves was also baly burnt and scalded.  The remains of those who perished had been decently interred.


The Dayton was an old boat, which ran on the Ohio in 1834.  She is represented as having been a mere shell prior to this dreadful calamity.  She has been for some time in the pay of the Government, transporting stores and troops from St. Joseph’s to Corpus Christi.


There is no important news from the army under Gen. Taylor.  They receive almost all their intelligence from this city.  The U. S. sloop of war St. Mary’s arrived at the Bay of Aransas on the 15th inst., with a bearer of despatches on board for Gen. Taylor from Washington.  One the evening of the same day, the U. S. brig Porpoise hove to off the bar and communicated with the St. Mary’s.  In half an hour thereafter she sailed towards Vera Cruz.  Nothing a to their purposes or intelligence transpired.



One the morning of the 14th instant a company of traders arrived at Gen. Taylor’s camp. — They reported tha they had seen, within two days’ march of the camp, about two hundred Lipans and as many Camanches on their way to Metamoros (by invitation from Mexico) to join the forces to be directed against Gen. Taylor.  The report of the traders was but half credited.


Gen. Taylor sent out Lieut. Scarritt with an escort of forty dragoons to reconnoitre for 30 or 40 miles about, to ascertain everything possible, and he no doubt has spies pushed further ahead.


The report as to the health of the troops, both volunteers and regular, is entirely favorable.  Not a word had been head, save via New Orleans, of Gen. Arista, nor was there any expectation of hearing of him the shape of an attack.  Gen. Taylor, however, was ever on the alert.


The Government has in its employ the steamboats White Wing and Nova, the sloops Sarah Foyle and Tom Jack, and the schooners Denmark and Carolina, all plying between Corpus Christi and St. Josephs.  The old steamer Monmouth continues in difficulty.  She leaks so badly that it is feared she cannot be got round to New Orleans for repairs.  The schrs. E. S. Lamdin and Mary Wilkes had both sailed for this port.


Our papers by this arrival come down to the 6h inst. only from Galveston.  They are principally occupied with the labors of the Convention for forming a State Constitution.  That body terminated its sittings on the 28th ult., and the President of Texas immediately issued his proclamation, in pursuance of its provisions for submitting the same to the people.


We have received an entire copy of the State Constitution of Texas as adopted by the Convention.  Attached to it is an ordinance of vast importance in regard to grants of Texas lands.  It will be submitted to the people at the same time as the Constitution.  We copy it entire.


                                                               AN ORDINANCE.


Whereas, various contracts have been entered into by the President of the Republic of Texas with divers individuals, with the expressed intention of Colonizing an enormous amount of the public domain of Texas; and Whereas, it is believed that said contracts are unconstitutional, and, therefore, void from the beginning, and if carried out would operate as a monopoly of upwards of seven millions of acres of the public domain of Texas, in the hands of a few individuals – when, in truth, the citizen-soldiers and creditors of the Republic of Texas had, by the laws and constitution of said Republic, a clear and indisputable previously subsisting right to locate upon public domain thus attempted to be assigned to said contractors:


Sec. 1.  Therefore, it is hereby ordained and declared, That it shall be the duty of the Attorney General of the State or the District Attorney of the District in which any portion of the colonies may be situate, as soon as the organization of the State shall be completed, to institute legal proceedings against all colony contractors who have entered into contracts with the President of Texas; and if, upon such investigation, it shall be found that any such contract was unconstitutional, illegal or fraudulent, or that the conditions of the same have not been complied with according to its terms, such contract shall be adjudged and decreed null and void: Provided, however, that all actual settlers under such contract, shall be entitled to their quantity of land as colonists – not to exceed six hundred and forty acres to the head of a family, and three hundred and twenty acres to a single man.  And in all suits brought by, or against any contractors, or any person claiming under, by or through them, or either of them, it shall be lawful for the adverse claimant to set forth any plea that it would have been competent for the State to plead; and the party may introduce testimony to prove the claim or title to have been forfeited, as well for frauds, or illegality, or unconstitutionality, as on account of a failure to comply with the conditions of the original grant or contract; and any such pleas shall be deemed good and valid in law, in all such suit or suits in this State.


Sec. 2.  Be it further ordained, That the Legislature is hereby restrained from extending any contract for settling a Colony, and from relieving a contractor from the failure of the conditions, or the forfeiture accruing from non-compliance with the contract.



Sec. 3.  And be it further ordained, That this Ordinance shall be presented to the people for their adoption or rejection, at the same time this Constitution shall be presented to them, and the returns of the votes, taken on this Ordinance, shall be made to the office of Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas, at the same time the votes for the Constitution may be returned.


Adopted in Convention, this twenty-seventh day of August, one thousand eight hundred and forty-five.


Thomas J. Rusk, President


Attest: — Jas. H. Raymond, Sec’y of Con.


Source: The Daily Picayune, September 19, 1845, p. 1, col. 6 and p. 2, col. 1.



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