Steamer Delta Blown Up on Black
River – The Fireman Killed and
Several Persons Injured.
The small river steamer Delta was totally wrecked by the explosion of her boiler last Monday night about four miles above Point Caswell on Black River.
Lloyd Spearman, the colored fireman, was blown into the woods about forty feet and instantly killed.
Capt. J. D. Kerr, the owner and master of the steamer, was severely bruised about the legs, but none of his bones were broken.
Frank Andrews, colored boat-hand, was scalded very seriously.
Carolina Newkirk, colored, was severely scalded.
Gus Moore, the colored pilot, was struck on the head and bruised and slightly scalded.
Several other persons on the boat received slight injuries. The water was not more than four feet deep at the place where the disaster occurred. Had it happened when the boat was in deep water probably most of the persons on board would have been drowned, for such was the violence of the explosion that the steamer was literally torn to pieces, the boiler ploughing through from its place in the bow and going out through the stern. The freight on board the steamer was scattered in every direction, and very little will be saved.
The Delta was a small stern wheel steamer. She was on her upward trip from Wilmington, with a few passengers, and a full freight for Delta, Sampson county. She was valued at about $2,000, had been recently overhauled and new engines put in, and was considered in good order.
[ The Wilmington Morning Star – Wilmington, NC – Thursday, April 21, 1887 ]
The Black River Disaster.
Capt. C. P. Moore, Jr., of the steamer Enterprise, in a letter dated the 21st, gives the following particulars concerning the blowing up of the steamer Delta.
I have just returned from Delta, where I was called to aid the suffering crew of the steamer Delta. I regret to say on her return trip her boiler burst about 4 miles above Point Caswell on the morning of the 19th, at half-past 2 o’clock, causing almost a complete wreck of the boat. Mr. J. D. Kerr’s right leg was broken and his head bruised. Mr. Franklin Anders had his left arm broken and his hands badly bruised. Lloyd Spearman, fireman, was blown 60 yards distant in the swamp and found dead. Kelly Newkirk, a deck hand, standing on the bow of the boat, was badly scalded and blown about eighty yards into the swamp, and strange to say was found alive. The engineer escaped unhurt. Augustus Moore, the pilot, was blown in the air and struck by a barrel of flour, but received no serious injury.
The steamer had two flats in tow at the time. Willie Sherman was standing on the upper deck and was blown into the air, but received no serious injury. Mr. French Johnson and Stephen Cromartie were on the flats towed by the Delta, and succeeded in saving the wounded. They were taken to Mr. William Sherman’s house and Doctors Thompson and Kerr summoned to their assistance. The wounded were not conscious of what had happened and cannot account for the cause of the accident. The Delta’s cargo consisted of hardware, bacon, corn, meal, flour, and general merchandise, and was valued at about four hundred dollars. A part was saved, but badly damaged. The wounded were landed safely at home and are all doing as well as could be expected, except Kelly Newkirk, colored, who died from his injuries this morning about two o’clock before my departure from Delta.
[ The Wilmington Morning Star – Wilmington, NC — Saturday, April 23, 1887 ]
NOTE: Thanks to Mr. Fred Kerr for directing my attention to the event of the boiler explosion of the Steamer DELTA on the Black River in 1887. Research is always easier if you have a specific date or time period to focus upon. *I have wondered why there were not more photos of these river steamers and their captains/pilots, etc.