|A steamboat on fire from Gutenberg.org|
From The Croom Family and Goodwood Plantation: Land Litigation & Southern Lives, by William Warren Rogers and Erica Clark:
(Bryan and Eveline Croom) and Harriet, their house servant, were among the fifteen passengers on board the paddle-wheel steamboat Ohioan, which left Apalachicola for Columbus, Georgia, on April 22, 1836. Bound upstream with a load of freight, the Ohioan made good time. The next morning around eleven o'clock the steamboat was about six or eight miles below Ocheesee Landing when a fire broke out at midships. Flames, driven by a heavy wind, engulfed the vessel within fifteen minutes, but that was time enough for the women passengers to be placed in the vessel's yawl and rowed to safety. The crew and male passengers jumped overboard and swam ashore. Tragically, Harriet was so frightened that she refused to get into the yawl. She panicked, leaped from the deck, and despite all efforts to save her, was drowned. That the Ohioan was uninsured and only a small portion of the cargo had any coverage meant the estimated loss of $25,000 was practically total. The cause of the fire was never discovered.
The passengers' personal effects and clothes, except those they were wearing, were lost. Like the others, Bryan and Eveline were fortunate to escape with their lives. Eveline, who already had a fear of steamboats, was adamantly opposed to any further travel, causing Bryan to ask Hardy to buy a cloak and black suit for him in New York. He also wanted him to purchase a gold waist buckle for Eveline and, while he was at it, one for his niece Henrietta Mary as well. Hardy responded to the news with sympathy, declaring "[The] loss of your valuable servant Harriet is much to be regretted." He added, "The spectacle and the danger must have greatly affected Sister Eveline, and I fear she will not soon recover from her dread and dislike of Steam Boats.
The accident, compounded by an unnamed but extreme illness, caused the usually stoical Bryan to become despondent...
From the Alabama Review, 1968, article, "Sail and Steam Vessels Serving the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee Valley" by Harry P. Owens:
Fires were more common than explosions. The Ohioan caught fire in 1836 a few miles above Apalachicola, and the crew was able to save very little because of high winds...
From Columbus, Geo., from it Selection as a "Trading Town" in 1827, to its Partial Destruction by Wilson's Raid in 1865, compiled by John H. Martin and published in 1874:
The steamer Ohioan was burned on the Chattahoochee, eight miles below Ocheesee, early in May. She was freighted with merchandise for Columbus. One servant girl was lost. The boat had fifteen passengers, who escaped. Boat and cargo were valued at $25,000. She was owned principally in Mobile.