Captain William W. Skinner

26 Aug

In 1830, Captain William Wallace Skinner was born in Richmond, VA.  He was the 1st cousin of Capt. Samuel W. Skinner, also of Richmond.

Capt. William Skinner was master of the steamer R. E. Lee at the time of her boiler explosion in August of 1871.  He survived the explosion.

Capt. William W. Skinner died in November of 1913 a few days after the burning of the steamer C. W. Lyon.  He was living on N. 4th Street in Wilmington at the time.  He is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC.

— Capt. Alonzo Garrison, late of the Steamer Robert E. Lee, has been transferred to the command of the D. Murchison, vice Capt. T. J. Green, resigned.  Capt. Green goes to Fayetteville to superintend the building of two steamers for the Company recently organized.  Capt. Wm. Skinner succeeds Capt. Garrison in command of the Lee.

[Wilmington Star – December 19, 1869]

A COLLISION.—The Steamer A. P. Hurt, on her way from this town to Wilmington, and the Steamer R. E. Lee, on her way from Wilmington to this place, collided at a point about 25 miles from Wilmington, on Monday evening.  But little damage was done to either steamer, both having made their trips as usual.

[The Eagle – Fayetteville, N. C. – Thursday, May 11, 1871]

Fayetteville and Wilmington.

(120 Miles by River.)

Leave Fayetteville at 7 A. M., arrive at Wilmington same day at 7 to 10 P. M., (except that Steamers of People’s Line leave now at 5:30 A. M.)
MONDAY—Steamer Hurt, Capt. S. Skinner; Str. Cumberland, Capt. Phillips.
TUESDAY—Str. D. Murchison, Capt. Garrison, Str. North State, Capt. Green.
WEDNESDAY—Strs. R. E. Lee, Capt. Wm. Skinner; Str. Juniper, Capt. A. Worth.
THURSDAY—Steamers Hurt and Cumberland.
FRIDAY—Strs. Murchison and North State.
SATURDAY—Strs. R. E. Lee and Juniper.
Leave Wilmington at 2 p. m., arrive at Fayetteville next day at 6 to 9 a. m.
MONDAY—Steamers R. E. Lee and Juniper.
TUESDAY—Strs Hurt and Cumberland.
WEDNESDAY—Strs. D. Murchison and North State.
THURSDAY—Steamers R. E. Lee and Juniper.
FRIDAY—Strs. Hurt and Cumberland.
SATURDAY—Strs. D. Murchison and North State.
FARE—including state-room and meals, $3. Deck passage $1.
The Steamers Hurt and Juniper are of the Cape Fear Steamboat Company—J. A. Worth Agent at Fayetteville, Worth & Worth Agents at Wilmington.  Steamers Lee and Murchison are of the Express Steamboat Co.—J. D. Williams & Co. Agents at Fayetteville.  Williams & Murchison Agents at Wilmington.  Steamers Cumberland and North State are of the People’s Line—J. B. Starr Agent at Fayetteville, A. Johnson, Jr. Agt. At Wilmington.
The Hurt carries the United States mail each trip.
By above schedule, steamers on downward trip from Fayetteville, pass Cedar Creek about 8 1-4 a.m.; Willis’s Creek 9 1-4 a.m.; Elizabethtown 12 M.; White Hall 2 1-2 p. m., Railroad Bridge 7 p. m., arriving at Wilmington in time to connect with 9 p. m. train going north.  On upward trip from Wilmington, they pass Railroad Bridge (4 miles) about 2 1-2 to 3 p. m., (at which time and place the boats may connect with Wil. Charlotte & R. R. R. and with Wil. Columbia & A. R. R.); White Hall 9 p. m.; Elizabethtown 12 1-2 a. m.; Willis’s Creek 4 a. m.; Cedar Creek 6 a. m. reaching Fayetteville generally in time to connect with Western Railroad, 7 a. m.

[The Eagle – Fayetteville, NC – Thursday, July 27, 1871]

The river is still so low that loaded boats cannot run.



Just as we go to press, we learn the steamer R. E. Lee bursted her boiler some miles below here this morning.  We have only time for the following:
As the Steamer Lee was on her way up at 2 o’clock this morning, as she was crossing at Tim’s Shoals, she blew up, killing Wm. Gilmore, Sam McKee and Alex. Jackson, all colored.  Gilmore has not been found.  The injured are Capt. W. Skinner, seriously; slightly, Gif. Chance, Zac. Roberts, Jack Hogans, colored, and one other name not recollected.
The cause of the accident cannot be accounted for, as the fireman attests that the glass on the boiler indicated 8 inches water on the crown sheet.
A colored woman is injured seriously.  Mr. Wilson, formerly a citizen of Fayetteville, in company with his daughter, was slightly injured, ### his daughter and family, Mrs. Vanorsdell, are not hurt.
The dead and wounded are on the way up on board of the Hurt.  The boiler went up and fell back on the upper cabin nearly demolishing the whole upper works, and then fell off into the river.  The hull of the boat is not injured at all.  All goods on board are safe.

[The Eagle – Fayetteville, NC – Thursday, August 17, 1871]

The Late Explosion.

The latest intelligence from the steamer R. E. Lee, the boat that exploded her boiler near Fayetteville on Thursday, represents her as still lying at the place where the disaster occurred, about thirteen miles from the town.  Another of the hands employed on the boat, a colored man by the name of Jack Hagans, who was badly injured by the explosion, died at his home in Fayetteville on Saturday last.  This makes four (all colored) who have died from the effects of the accident, the other three having been killed outright.
We are glad to learn from a private letter received  by Messrs. Williams & Murchison, agents of the Lee, that the physician in attendance upon Capt. Skinner, the unfortunate commander of the boat, says he is improving and will eventually recover from the injuries he received.

[Wilmington Morning Star —  Wednesday, August 23, 1871]

THE STEAMER R. E. LEE.— In our last we gave account of the terrible steamboat accident of last Thursday at the Shoals near Thames’ Landing 13 miles below Fayetteville.  The Steamers Hurt and Lee were coming up the river from Wilmington, the Hurt about 100 yards ahead, and about two o’clock Thursday morning in pitch darkness and very low water, the Lee in struggling from one eddying channel to another along the sandy shoals. Burst her boiler killing and wounding several, and shattering the upper works of the boat, as briefly stated by us last week.
All our steamers have the boiler, engine and machinery on the lower or open deck, and the cabin, rooms, saloons, office & c. are all above or on the second story.  The boiler is in front and engine in rear of the boat and the steam passes from the boiler through the long space from end to end of the boat in a tube or pipe to the steam chest of the engine.  The cause of the explosion on the Lee seems not to be fully known.  Our river is very low, and a boat is so impeded in getting over sand banks and stopped so much when dragging on the bottom that the steam cannot work itself off.  The machinery must stop too and the steam is not worked off like it would be in deep water with full motion.
If heat is applied the steam continues to increase whether machinery moves or not, and close attention is required to test the steam continually and let it off through the valves.  The pump pipes when filled from muddy shallow water so near the bottom often becomes obstructed with mud, and water is not forced in at the rate indicated by any measurement attached to the machinery.  Thus the boiler does not always have in it the regular proportion of water, and if the water gets very low the boiler becomes hotter, and then if fresh water be thrown in rapidly an explosion may occur.
{The next 14 or 15 column lines are mostly to partially torn and missing leaving a partial record of the article at that point.}
The boil ###
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as above indicated
engineer could have kno###
not, we will not now undert###
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informed on the real ###
steam, of the heat, and ####
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trol and directly dependent on the movement of his steam.  We hear so far no blame attached to any one for this unfortunate accident, and probably no blame is due.
The boiler, some 10 feet long by 4 feet in diameter, was much larger than was necessary for use on this boat, and the tremendous sound from its explosion shows it to have been strong.  It seemed to rise upward, and moved endways towards the rear of the boat.  In doing so it tore up the upper floor, and in its slanting upward course at lightning speed it passed centrally through the sleeping berths, the dining room and other apartments, smashing and bursting like a huge shell.  In one apartment the middle berth was shattered and carried forward in splinters while the upper and lower berths in the same room were untouched.  The boiler was thus thrown up and through one side of the boat from end to end, and all upper works on that side were knocked to pieces, ###
### along the other side were only jostled.  The posts and walls being so knocked away, the remaining side slowly keeled or tumbled over and rested in a slanting position on the engine, broken timers, tables, rods, &c., that were now crowded on the lower deck.
A lady passenger, Mrs. VanOrsdell, of Wilmington, and two of her children were asleep in these rooms that were left standing an that fell over into the vacant space caused by the boiler.  Mr. Wilson, of Wilmington, father of Mrs. VanOrsdell, was asleep in one of the bunks directly in the course of the boiler on the side of the boat that was knocked away.  The boiler carried Mr. Wilson, bunk and all, with it, and Mr. Wilson, we hear, knew nothing of the situation until he awoke out in the river several feet from the boat.  The water being shallow he was able to wade and get out easily.  The boiler did not leave the boat, and its force was so checked by the many objects it came in contact with that it stopped at the rear end of the boat, and, the timbers being shattered or loosened, it fell and rolled down into the engine room, and then tumbled off the edge of the boat into the river.
John Martin, the engineer, reports, so we hear, that he distinctly heard the boiler in its course, and when it began to fall down, he ran out of the engine room and escaped being crushed.  Just as he ran towards the other end of the boat, the portion of the upper rooms that had been left standing began to fall or tumble over into the opening made by the boiler.  He then saw one of Mrs. Van Orsdell’s children falling through the shattered floor and timbers and caught it before it fell to the lower deck, and thus saved its life.  On account of low water the freight was nearly all on a flat boat fastened to the rear by a long rope.  Some four hands were on the flat and they and the goods were all safe.  The casualties are, killed:  Alex Jackson, pilot; Wm. Gilmore, and Sam McKee all colored; wounded, scalded, &c., Jack Hagins, (since dead,) Zack Roberts, (will probably die,) Griff. Chance, another man and one woman, all colored, badly hurt; and Capt. Wm. Skinner badly bruised, cut and scalded.  He is recovering.  Mr. Wilson was slightly hurt in the foot, and some others were slightly wounded.  Mrs. Van Orsdell and children escaped unhurt.
Capt. Skinner was sent headforemost 50 yards up the river and into the water, and was not conscious of the situation until his head struck the bottom of the river, where he slided along the bottom several feet.  On making effort to swim he found himself in water only two or three feet deep and stood up.  Capt. Sam. Skinner, a cousin of Capt. of the Lee, was in charge of the Hurt, and just after the explosion, all hands on the Hurt at once jumped into the water and went to the aid of the Lee.  They waded along easily in the shallow water, and very soon came up with Capt. Wm. Skinner in the darkness and rescued him.  Had not assistance come to him so soon he would probably have drowned, as he was so exhausted by the shock and bruises.
It was a mere accident that the Hurt was near, and had this not been so the loss of life and property must have been much greater.  Altogether this was the most frightful, destructive and remarkable explosion that ever happened on our river.
The R. E. Lee was owned by Williams & Murchison and belonged to the Express Line.  This boat was built here in 1866-’67 of excellent material, and was still in good order.  It was sold to the present owners about last of 1868 or first of 1869 for about $11,000, and had more than paid for itself, we learn, up to the time of the accident.  The machinery, boiler and engine of the Lee are the same that were used on the steamer North Carolina which had been used several years before the Lee was built.  The boiler was made new for the North Carolina, and the same engine and machinery now on the Lee was used on the ill fated Magnolia that blew up near White Hall in 1858, when Capt. J. M. Steadman and others were killed.  The Lee, first designed for light freight boat, was enlarged and refitted last year for passenger accommodation, and was worth, perhaps, $6,000 or $8,000.—Wooden bottom boats like the Lee cost from $10,000 to $15,000 and will do service 6 or 8 years, and the Lee has paid for herself in about half this time
{Remainder of article missing because page is torn.  Appears to have been no more than about 12 lines missing.}

[The Eagle – Fayetteville, NC – Thursday, August 24, 1871]

The Late Explosion of the Steamer
R. E. Lee—Further Particulars.

Owing to the lowness of the river and the consequent irregularity in the arrivals and departures of the river steamers our means of obtaining full and accurate particulars of the recent explosion of the boiler of the R. E. Lee have been very limited.  From Capt. S. W. Skinner, of the steamer Hurt, which boat arrived here on Tuesday night, we are at last able to give the particulars of the disaster more in detail.  The explosion occurred at Thames’ Shoals, about 13 miles from Fayetteville (as previously stated by us) about 2 o’clock on Thursday morning.  It seems that the steamer Hurt was on the shoals on the opposite side of the river, endeavoring to get over, when the Lee came up and stopped.  The Captain then went over to the Hurt to sound the channel in order to find the best water for crossing the shoals, and was engaged to this task for about half an hour.  At the expiration of that time he went back to his boat and started her over the shoals immediately in the wake of the Hurt.  The instant almost that that she was started ahead her boiler exploded with a tremendous crash, being removed bodily from its position, going through the Captain’s office and gentlemen’s cabin, carrying away the wheel house on the upper deck, and the, in its descent, falling into the lady’s cabin, carrying away about one-third of the same, falling on the starboard engine, breaking that pretty badly, and thence going overboard all the berths in the gentlemen’s cabin with but one exception, were carried away, making a complete wreck of that apartment and the sitting room.  In fact, only two rooms in the boat were left uninjured.
Of the passengers, Mrs. VanOrsdell, wife of Mr. C. M. VanOrsdell, of this city, with two of her children and a little child of Mr. H. H. Munson, who was in her charge, were sleeping on the port side of the ladies’ cabin, and were uninjured, with the exception that Mrs. V. received a slight wound on her arm from a splinter.  The father of Mrs. VanOrsdell, Mr. Wilson, of Fayetteville, together with one of Mrs. V.’s children, was in a berth on the starboard side of the cabin.  The boiler passed on that side of the cabin, carrying away the berth in which Mr. Wilson and the little child were sleeping.  The child was subsequently picked up on the deck of the boat, where it had been thrown by the force of the explosion, while Mr. Wilson was thrown into the river, from which he afterwards was rescued.  Mr. Wilson and the child were found to be very slightly injured.  One colored woman, who was in the gentlemen’s cabin at the time of the accident, was, strange to say, entirely uninjured.
Capt. Skinner, of the Hurt, was standing on his boat and witnessed the explosion, when he, together with five of his men, jumped into the river and waded across the shoals to the Lee, the water only being about waist deep.  They picked up the Captain of the ill-fated steamer about half way between the two boats, who, with the rest of the passengers, together with the wounded and dead, were placed on a flat.  Dr. Lesesne, who resides not far from the scene of the disaster, was then sent for and arrived in about three quarters of an hour, after which the Hurt proceeded to Fayetteville, arriving there just about dark the same evening.
Capt. Skinner’s wounds were very severe.  His right cheek, from the ear to the nose, was cut open to the bone, the right side of his cheek and back of the head badly scalded, and his right arm, shoulder and side also badly hurt.  Every particle of his coat, with the exception of one sleeve, which adhered to the arm, was blown from his body.  Notwithstanding the severity of his injuries, however, his physician expresses confident hopes of his ultimate recovery.
Mr. Frances Moore, who embarked as a passenger on the Lee at this place, got off at Elizabethtown and took passage on the Hurt, to which freak of good fortune he may possibly be indebted for his life.
Mr. E. E. Hewes, local inspector of boilers, who went up on the Hurt yesterday, for the purpose of instituting an investigation into the cause of the explosion, has, we learn, given instructions to the various Captains and owners of steamers within his jurisdiction, that an engineer must never be permitted, under any circumstances, to be away from his boiler more than ten minutes at a time.



–  The passengers of the ill-fated steamer R. E. Lee speak in the highest terms of the services of Capt. Saml. W. Skinner, rendered immediately after the explosion.  He commands the Hurt which, it will be remembered was within a short distance of the Lee when the accident occurred.  “Old Reliable” is as gallant a steamboatman as ever walked a deck.
–  There has been a rise of a few inches in the Cape Fear below Fayetteville; but above that point no rain has fallen recently.  We can have no certain navigation until there is a freshet in Deep and Haw rivers.
–  The steamer Hurt arrived from Fayetteville Tuesday night.  She started on her upward trip at 1 P. M. yesterday.

[Wilmington Morning Star – Thursday, August 24, 1871]


— The steamer Wave, purchased for the Express Steamboat Company to run regularly between this city and Fayetteville, arrived here yesterday.  The Wave is a new iron hull, stern wheel steamer, having only run for three or four months on the Savannah river before she was purchased by the above company.  She will be in command of Capt. W. W. Skinner.  Her carrying capacity is 300 bales of cotton or 600 barrels of rosin.

[Wilmington Star – November 12, 1871]

Navigation to Lisbon Article, regarding efforts of Capts. William Skinner and R. P. “Dick” Paddison.

The following advertisement for the Camden Journal (Camden, SC) was published in the Wilmington Morning Star for July 4, 1878.  I am not sure of the whereabouts of Capt. William Skinner at the time this ad was published, but in the US Census of 1880, Capt. W. W. Skinner is listed as a steamboat captain in the Kershaw County, Camden, SC Census.  Directly beneath his Census entry is L. P. Eranburt (Erambert), who was listed as an engineer (apparently on the same steamboat).  Lewis Erambert was the oldest child of  Louis B. and Sally (Skinner) Erambert.

Wilmington Morning Star - July 4, 1878

Wilmington Morning Star - July 4, 1878


End Came Last Night at Residence
of His Daughter, Mrs. Salling.

Friends in Wilmington and throughout this section of the State will hear with sorrow of the death of Capt. W. W. Skinner, which occurred at 11 o’clock last night at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. J. H. Salling, No. 708 North Fourth street. His death came almost a year to a day after the death of his wife which occurred last November. Capt. Skinner for many years was a well known figure in Wilmington. He was loved by all with whom he came in contact, on account of his many good traits of character and kindly disposition. He was born in Richmond, Va., April 1st, 1830, and was in his 84th year. He is survived by three daughters, Mrs. J. H. Salling and Mrs. W. J. Mathis, of this city, and Mrs. Larry Bowman, of Mt. Airy, N. C., and by one brother, Capt. Henry Skinner, of Norfolk, Va. On account of sickness at the home, the funeral services will be held at the lodge in Oakdale cemetery this afternoon at 3:30 P. M.

[The Morning Star – Tuesday, November 18, 1913]


Services and Interment at Oakdale

Cemetery Yesterday Afternoon.

The funeral of Capt. W. W. Skinner, whose death occurred Monday night at the home of his daughter, Mrs. J. H. Salling, No. 708 North Fourth street, was held yesterday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock at the lodge in Oakdale cemetery, this being made necessary by reason of illness in his daughter’s family.  The services where conducted by Rev. Thos. P. Noe, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, and were attended by a large number of friends.  The pall-bearers were Messrs. Homer Hardwick, Alvy Hardwick, J. R. McDougal, W. M. Oterson, B. A. Mooney and William Hundley.

[WMSD – Wednesday, November 19, 1913]

NOTE:  *I wonder if William Hundley, mentioned in the obit above, was the son of Thomas and Neily Carter Hunley?

Link to Oakdale Cemetery Map (PDF)

Name: W. W. Skinner
Date of Death: 11/17/1913
Age: 84
Section #: O(Sp. Plot # 2)
Lot #: 116,117,118,119,120,121
Grave Space: 33
Place of Birth: Richmond, Va.
Place of Death: Wilmington, N.C.

Genealogy: Descendants of Thomas Skinner of Richmond, VA


At his residence, on Church Hill, on Thursday evening, 20th inst, at 6 o’clock, Captain Thomas Skinner, aged 58 years.

His funeral will take place from Trinity (Methodist) Church, corner of Broad and 20th streets, Saturday morning, at 11 o’clock.–The friends and acquaintances of the family are respectfully requested to attend.

Norfolk and Petersburg papers please copy.

Death of a Valuable citizen.

–We regret to learn that Captain Thomas Skinner, late of the Jamestown, died at his residence, on Church Hill, on Thursday, the 20th inst. A truer seaman never stepped between stem and stern, and a truer man, in all respects, never drew the breath of life. Everything about his character was genuine. He made no pretension to anything that he was not, and he never hesitated to let it be known what he was. In all his transactions with his fellow men he was open and above board.–His heart was kind and generous, and his impulses always in the right direction. He was known to this whole community, and loved and respected wherever he was known.

[The Daily Dispatch: March 22, 1862] 


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