TLC logo TLC #23:  Aug. 5, 2001

Dear Hearts and Gentle People:
Instead of merely forwarding mail this time, I think I'll write a little about what's going on in the old hometown. The restoration/renovation boom has not let up at all; and if you haven't been here for a while, you're in for a treat when you do come. We have a couple of new restaurants opening soon - I'll send details when that happens - and this week the school board signed a contract with Parker Construction. That's the Blue Springs outfit that plans to make upscale apartments out of our old LHS.
Several of you have "adopted" other, internetless, classmates. So the recipient list grows. When I quit sending the email addresses, you will know no new ones have been added.
From the Missing Persons file: I've had a number of inquiries about John Graves. Does anyone have a current address, or even a recent address? Last we heard he was living in, I believe, Atlanta. If you have anyone else you'd like to contact, I'll be glad to send out queries.
Next item of business:
The Lafayette County History book has gone to press and will be available in January.  The two-volume set is $60, but rates will go up in September!  If you would like an order form, send me an email to that effect. Also, if you have further history to submit, they plan a small addendum in the next few years. Therefore, you will not have to wait another 100 years to submit the entry.
I know some of you will be here for a reunion over Labor Day weekend. Have a great time together, and send us all your thoughts on the reunion and the present day in Lex.
Last, and certainly not least, is a Heads Up about the Saluda Commemoration in April. The Historical Association, in concert with the Tourism Commission, is sponsoring a festival with a riverboat theme on April 6 & 7. The next two days will be the Salute to Saluda (my words, not theirs). On Monday 4/8/02 educational programs and tours will be given, and the following day, 4/9/02 - exactly 150 years since the disaster - we will have a solemn but uplifting commemoration of the lives destroyed but also an homage to the people of Lexington who sprang to the rescue. The following is some of the press release currently being prepared by Chairman Garry Shulkind, new to Lex, but who lives in the old Morrison/Edwards house at 1601 Franklin Ave.
"April 9, 2002, will be the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the explosion of the Steamboat Saluda, in the Port of Lexington, on the Missouri River.  To this day, the explosion remains the greatest disaster, in terms of loss of life, in Missouri River history.  There were in excess of 100 people who perished, out of less than 200 who were aboard when the tragedy occurred. 
"The majority of those on board were Mormon (LDS) converts who had just emigrated from the British Isles, and who had recently traveled from Great Britain aboard the 'Kennebec' to the Port of New Orleans.  They booked passage aboard 'The Pride of the West' enroute to St. Louis.  Short on money, and with few alternatives for immediate passage upstream to Council Bluffs, two 'Church' elders booked passage for the group aboard the somewhat rickety 'Saluda.'  (Steamboat pilots on the Missouri were typically paid 4 to 5 times the money of their counterparts on the Mississippi River.  This was attributed to the difficulty in navigation on the Missouri River.  One of the most difficult sections to navigate on the Missouri at that time were the rapids around the bend in the river, just upstream from the Port of Lexington.) 
"When the Saluda arrived in Lexington on April 4, 1852, the river level was extremely high with ice floes, making the trip upstream through the rapids very difficult for even the newest and most powerful steamboats of the time.  Captain Francis Belt tried for days to get up the rapids to no avail.
"On the morning of April 9, (Good Friday), at approximately 7:30 AM, the Captain ordered the ship's engineer to load on all the fuel the boilers could handle.  He ordered that the safety valves on the boilers be tied down, and ordered that no additional water be added to the boilers.  The engineer vociferously objected, and the captain was quoted, (famous in Missouri River lore), "We'll take this boat around the bend or blow her to hell."  Reportedly, even sides of bacon were thrown into the boilers to create immense heat and pressure.
"The boilers grew very hot as the captain had anticipated, but the boiler on the river side was dry.  After the ship floated, stern-end into the current, and made just over one complete revolution of the 'side-paddler's' paddle-wheels, water was added to the dry, red-hot boiler.  The starboard boiler blew, followed immediately by the port-side boiler.  Carnage ensued, with bodies and pieces of the ship flying hundreds of feet into the air.  Several people on land were reportedly killed by flying debris.  One little girl was reputedly blown off the boat and into the air, landing in a tree, incurring only minor injuries.  The Captain's dog had been chained to the ship's safe.  The safe was found a couple of hundred yards ashore, near a road on the south bank of the river, with the carcass of the dog still chained to it.  Captain Belt was found dead on the south bank of the river, spread-eagled on the ground with his clothing having been blown off of his body.  Many were never found, eternally committed to the river and likely churned beneath the cold water. 
"A very contentious relationship had existed between many Missourians and the Mormon people. In 1838, Missouri Governor Boggs had actually issued a State Order authorizing the killing of Mormons if they did not either leave the state or denounce Joseph Smith, their leader and founder
"The phenomenal response of the good people of Lexington is still praised to this day.  Businesses closed immediately after the explosion was heard and the extent of the disaster was known.  People went down to the Port of Lexington to help in any way that they could.  All doctors in town responded, and a field hospital was established at Dr. Edward Arnold's home; a home that still stands today. (Kenny & Bette Maib's)
"The town raised a significant sum of money for burying those deceased that could be found, in a mass grave, along with numerous assorted body parts that were found around the scene of the disaster.  The injured were cared for in a number of Lexington homes that still stand today.  Many of those injured who were cared for in local homes did not survive.  Some children who were orphaned after the explosion, and had nobody to care for them, were adopted by local families.  Descendents of some of these orphans still live in Lexington and the surrounding area.
"We are planning a Missouri River Steamboat Heritage Festival in Lexington on the weekend of April 6 & 7.  We will have dramatic recreations by experienced reenactors, recreating the injured being treated by 'period' medical staff, with 'period' medical/surgical equipment, along with reenactors on horseback, and those representing the townspeople that responded to the disaster.  They will be utilizing the grounds of Dr. Arnold's former home, where the original explosion victims were actually treated.  (We are indeed fortunate to have a wealth of Civil War Reenactors in the region who perform/interpret at our Battle of Lexington Reenactment.)
"We will have Steamboat artifacts on loan from several museums, 'period' musicians performing at specific locations around town, a 15-20 minute video of the Saluda Story shown continuously during the weekend, historic homes tours, tours of the reenactor's 'settlement campground,' along with other 'period' cultural, educational, and entertainment offerings that are currently in the planning stages, as well as great food and refreshments. 
"This will be the first year of what we anticipate will be an annual Missouri River Steamboat Heritage Festival event.  (It was not uncommon in the prime steamboat era in Lexington, the late 1830's-1860's, for 35 boats to be docked in our port at any given time, and for in excess of 150 ships to pass through our port in a single day.)  The 2002 weekend river festival, Lexington's first, will be dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Saluda explosion: those who lost their lives, those who survived, and the people of Lexington, who responded in a very compassionate and humane manner after this horrible disaster.
"The weekend event, will be sponsored by and under the auspices of, (for 501c3 not-for-profit status), the Lexington Historical Association, in conjunction with the Lexington Tourism Bureau. 
"The Memorial and Commemoration portion of our four-day event will take place on April 8 & 9.  Monday, April 8, will include concurrent events in area schools, studying the Saluda Disaster, its impact, its importance, and relevant lessons that we can learn from today.  We are anticipating a significant contingent of visitors from Salt Lake City.  We will offer coach bus tours of LDS related sites of interest primarily north of the river in the Ray County area.  This will include box lunches for our guests during their day trip.
"The actual 150th anniversary will occur the morning of Tuesday, April 9, 2002.  We are planning a major memorial, commemoration, and dedication ceremony.  The original 300-lb. bell off the Saluda was found on the shore, undamaged after the explosion.  (In the months following the disaster, it was purchased for $17.50 by the minister of the First Christian Church of Savannah, MO.  The bell has remained as part of their church for over 149 years, and they are undoubtedly unwilling to part with this Savannah, Missouri, institution.  We, at the Historical Association, possess a steamboat bell that is the same size as the Saluda Bell, was forged at the same foundry in Ohio, by the same man whose name appears on the Saluda Bell, and which possesses the same relief sculpture of the Greek Goddess Diana.) 
"The Mormon Sites Historical Foundation has expressed an interest in helping to finance the building of a bell tower.  We are considering several sites for this memorial.  We will possibly offer areas for dedications on or around the memorial site for individual families or groups that desire honoring or memorializing specific groups or loved ones. The site will also likely include a wooden platform area that would resemble the deck of a steamboat, with an original door from the Saluda, (which was recovered after the explosion), to be made a permanent part of this memorial.  (A door is a wonderful thing, acting as a metaphor.  We go through a door to go to another place.  We will go through this door to look back on this defining moment in Lexington's early history.) 
"We anticipate planting a garden surrounding the memorial.  Our location will be a spot from which the river and/or river valley is clearly visible.  We will have area student participation in the memorial as well as Lexington's own Wentworth Military Academy Honor Guard.  The 7:30 AM commemoration will begin with the firing of a cannon, symbolizing the boiler explosion aboard the Saluda.  We anticipate having a well known and respected guest speaker for the occasion.   We will invite Congressmen/women, Governors, and Senators from surrounding states and all states through which the Missouri River flows, in addition to the State of Utah.  We will also invite the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and of Commerce, since they would have domain over river commerce.  We will follow the Saluda commemoration and memorial dedication with a breakfast/brunch for our visiting guests and dignitaries.
"We are also fortunate to have been offered the opportunity for publicity during the Winter Olympic Games which will be held this winter in Salt Lake City.  We see this as the kind of event that would be a wonderful feature story on, for instance, CBS News Sunday Morning.  It seems to possess all of the elements that would provide a wonderful segment.  A member of our board, The Saluda 150 Committee, owns an advertising agency, and we will be working toward gaining additional national exposure for this event.
"The Memorial and Commemoration Events to held on April 8 & 9, organized under the Saluda 150 Committee umbrella, will be sponsored by and under the auspices of, the Lexington Community Betterment Association, another 501(C)(3) organization. We are utilizing two separate organizations for different events to keep the funds for each separate.  There may be individuals, corporations, or foundations that wish to contribute to one of the events and not the other.  For instance, some may be interested in contributing to the Memorial and the actual Commemoration, but may not wish to be a part of the weekend festival.  Other corporations may wish to be Corporate Sponsors for the weekend festival........and so on..
"We are hoping for a large turnout for our event.  We will have parking in areas around Lexington's periphery, with buses constantly running the loop, bringing visitors to the various sites of interest and back to the parking lots.
"We are in the process of contacting a guest speaker of national renown for the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the explosion of the Saluda, and the dedication of the permanent Saluda memorial, Tuesday morning, April 9, beginning at 7:30 AM.   .
"The Saluda 150 Committee would be very receptive to any suggestions for our event."
The committee is in the process of raising funds to erect a permanent memorial to the Saluda disaster. We hope the Mormon church will take a strong leadership role. If you would like to contribute, in any amount, please send a check to "LCBA's Saluda Memorial Fund." You may mail it to me at: Susan Worthington, 1611 South St., Lex MO, 64067, and I'll see that it gets to the right place. All contributions are deductible according to current IRS regulations. LCBA is Lexington Community Betterment Association, a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization.
From Sue Cousins Wilmot: "Susan, It seems like everything anyone writes brings back more memories, restores a few and even corrects a long as you are willing and able, keep it going."
I plan to do just that, so keep those cards and letters (email!) comin.'
Your devoted scribe,

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