Friday, January 11, 2013


During my visit last year to the Union Cemetery in Brockton, Ma. I came
upon this headstone:

"Carrie, beloved daughter
of Bradford and Caroline
Blanchard, scalded to death
on board steamer Bay State
on her passage from
New York to Fall River
Dec 31 1845-Oct 31 1856
Darling we part
to meet forever."

This piqued my curiosity. How was a little girl scalded to death on a ship? Had
it been a fire at sea or explosion?  I googled for information this morning and
found this account at the California Digital Newspaper Collection:

"Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 12, Number 1775, 3 December 1856 —

Fatal Disaster on Long Island Sound.— steamer Bay State, Capt. Jewett, !e!t
New York for Fall River at the usual hour on Friday evening, Oct 3Ist, says
the Boston Traveller, with about 150 passengers. At a little alter six o'clock,
when the steamer was off Huntington, a terrible crash was heard. A few
moments before, the passengers had left the supper table. The ladies for
the most part had gone into their saloon, and the gentlemen were
distributed about the boat

The crash was in consequence of the great iron walking-beam, weighing
from twelve to fourteen tons, having suddenly snapped in two in the center,
crashing through the hurricane deck, the saloon deck, the saloon stairs to
the gentlemen's cabin. It also broke the main after-guard beam, a very heavy
piece of timber. This broke the blow and saved the hull from injury, or
otherwise the great mass of iron might have gone through the bottom of the
boat. Of course, this startling accident created great confusion among the
passengers, and it was certainly fortunate that it did not recur a few moments
before, when large numbers of passengers were ascending the stairs from
the supper table. 

Some of the male passengers, in their fright, crowded into the boats banging
upon the cranes, which were soon filled with people, but they wero immediately
ordered out again by the officers of the boat. The ladies, at first, were a good
deal alarmed, but on the whole, behaved with commendable coolness.

The most serious result of the accident was in consequence of a fragment of
the walking-beam as it went up tearing off the top of the cylinder, which caused
the steam to escape in large quantities into the forward saloon. In this saloon
was seen sitting, just previous to the accident, a girl of nine years, named
Blanchard, daughter of Mr. Blanchard, shoe dealer, of Brooklyn, N. Y. She was,
apparently, looking at the machinery of the engine. As the escaped steam
rushed in, she, probably, in her fright, inhaled it in large quantities, causing
almost instant death from internal burns. Her face and hands were also badly
disfigured with the steam. Medical aid was procured as soon as possible, but
she was beyond their help.
- California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic 
Studies and  Research, University of California, Riverside, 

Notice that this is from a Sacramento California newspaper. The story even
showed up in a few lines within a newspaper in Ireland! 

Remarkably, although there were several other people scalded their injuries
weren't fatal. Even more remarkably, although the ship did take on 7 feet of
water it didn't sink and was salvaged.

Carrie's father Bradford Blanchard is mentioned as being a shoe dealer from
Brooklyn, NY, but probably was originally from Brockton, which at that time
was part of this area's booming shoe business. In fact there were several shoe
and boot manufacturing companies owned by Blanchards. The family perhaps
was taking the steamer to Fall River as part of a visit back to Brockton.

Whatever the reason, it was probably a trip they wished they'd never embarked on.

1 comment:

  1. How very sad - such a shocking injury for a little one. Thanks for digging up the story behind the gravestone - I'm always interested in finding out stories.