... I went with my family to the river to cross over into Iowa. We waited awhile for a boat at length we went on board of an old small boat and started over. The wind being quite high & the river very ruff. While on the watter I beheld the most heart rending and dangerous scenes that I was ever called to witness[.] When about half across the river there was a man and two Boy in a Skiff coming from one of the the islands with a load of woodthe Skiff was loaded down allmost to the top and upon coming out in the open water began to fill by the waves running over the top[.] The man did not understand how to manage a watter craft & kept it with the side to the waves. He began to throw out the wood to the windward which hung on the edge of the Skiff and only made it fill faster[.] The Boys were fritened at every wave and would Scream at the Startling approach of death. At this time our boat was but a short distance below and opposite to them.
I endeavored to have him turn his Skiff towards our boat and come to us which would have made him perfectly Safe; but he heeded not any thing that was Said. In a few minutes after passing us & but a Short distance his Skiff Swamped and drifted on the water without sinking however
All on our Boat Stood petrified as it were at the passing scene while the Screemes of the boys for help thrilled through every heart. We expected them every moment to go to the bottom[.] A short distance behind us was another larger ferry boat coming over with two waggons, two yokes of oxen and about twenty people on board. This boat Saw the Situation of those in the Skiff and turned down Stream a little & took them in & Saved them from a watery grave[.] About the time that we thought them all safe on board the boat and felt relieved from our anxiety and was going on our way we were called to behold a tenfold more melancholy event transpire. We were alarmed by the Schrieks & cries of the men women & children on the boat[.] All seemed to screem and cry & becken to us to come to them in the hiest state of alarmin a moment we Saw that their boat was sinking in the middle of the river and were imploring us in the fear of instant death to come to their rescue. They made every sign token cry scream gesture and manifestation of distress that I had ever saw in my life and would rise on the waggons & edge of the boat and continue these distressing tokins of their situation untill they were disheartened and their voice would pine away in the utter hopelessness of being Saved they gave themselves up to a watery grave and all was hushed and the boat went down. In a few minutes we saw them scattered on the surface of the water lik so many wild fowls in Silent & frightful anticipations of soon leaving this world of fears & disappointments[.] Some were on feather beads sticks of wood, lumber or any thing they could get holt of and were tossed & Sported on the water at the mercy of the cold and unrelenting waves which Seemed to vie with each other which should treat their frightened visitors with the most rude and deathly reception. Some climbed on the top of the waggon which did not go quite under and were more comfortable while the cows & oxen on board were seen Swimming to the shore from whence they came
It was some time before any relief came to them[.] A Boat which was crossing over empty came to them and with Some Skiffs & Sail boats Succeeded in Saving them and not one of them were lost though Some were So near gone that they coul not speak
When the boat first began to Sink we attempted to turn our boat and go to their relief but on attempting to turn our boat come very near Sinking and we were obliged to desist and abandon the idea of rendering them any assistance[.] We were coming into a part of the river where the waves ran higher and instead of saving them we found that we were also near going to the bottom also whereupon we made for the shore on an adjacent island which we made just in time to Save ourselves[.] Had the shore have been much farther there is no doubt but we must have Sank in the deep Swift currant which swept to the very Shore[.] I succeeded in landing my family on the island to my great joy though in a very bleak and cold island amid mud and a thick under wood. My wife and oldest son both just able to walk. We stook there & and contemplated the sad spectacle of our brethren & sisters strugling in death & our own narrow escape from the same fate[.] Fatigued and worn out with my family sick we proceeded down the shores of the island to the camp which at length we reached in a desolate situationthe brethren rendered us all the comfort in their power while those from the sunken boat also landed allmost chilled to death excited the liveliest sympathy in every breast
While beholding this melancholy Scene I remembered the revelation which Said the Lord had cursed the waters in the Last Days and Said in my heart it was verily true[.] This was not all the disasters which were in our midst for in the time of our difficulty in the watter the Temple took fire in the roof from the centre stove pipe and came very near burning down and the news was spread over the city that a boat had sunk with me and my family on it and that we were drownd and the Temple on Fire at the same time which created an unusual excitement[.] The people ran to the river & Temple in confusion. By great & uncommon exertions the fire was extinguished not however before the roof was burndd about 12 feet square[.] And after the people had learned that no one was drowned the excitement ceased and the city was again quiet.
It seemed that the destroyer brooded over the land and water at this time & was in a fair way to be triumphant....
[Diaries of Hosea Stout]