Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pieces of Vicksburg's history....rusting away

Here are the smokestacks of the sternwheeler Sprague, one of the most awe-inspiring vessels to ever ply the waters of the Mighty Mississippi. Ride down Washington Street now and you can see the pieces that have been hidden by vines and brush for the past few months. The other photos at the bottom of this post are other pieces of the historic boat. Another year has passed and the boat seems to be forgotten by everyone. I never even saw the boat intact and can only imagine how big a boat she was just by looking at photos of her. But I do understand how important these old rusty pieces are to the city's history, especially considering that the likelihood of another steamboat ever visiting the city are pretty nil. We need to save what we can of her before it is too late, even if it is just the sternwheel, smokestacks and crow's nest. I spend hours upon hours scouring the countryside recording scenes that one day will only exist in pictures. I do not want that to happen to the Sprague. For I can only surmise that at some point in time someone is going to want to use that piece of land where she now rests and will let the junkman have her. She will be cut up into scrap and hauled off. I will cry on that day when it arrives.

I am one voice. Will you add your voice to mine? Spread this blog entry far and wide. At some point in time someone who can do what needs to be done will hear us.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for posting these pictures this week and bringing attention to these artifacts. I had no idea that so many pieces of the Sprague still existed!

    I did a little digging and came across an article from the Clarion Ledger, May 3, 2004, that gives some background on the boat and the fire:

    "The huge steam-powered towboat was, in a matter of hours, reduced to a relic. The blaze itself remains a mystery. Around 8 or 9 p.m., fire kindled in the forward part of the Sprague's cabin and soon gutted the boat from the top of the Texas deck to the main deck.

    "Not only was much destroyed of the largest steam towboat ever built, but also a huge collection of photographs and boat models in a riverboat museum. . . .

    "The boat, which now only exists in pieces, had a storied past. Hull of the 318-foot-long boat known as "Big Mama" was completed in 1901 and its cabins in 1902. The boat pushed barges on the Lower Mississippi River for many years before being sold to move petroleum barges on the Mississippi. . . .

    "The Sprague also had a life-saving role, forging its way through the breach in the Mississippi River levee during the 1927 flood to rescue hundreds of people from their flooded homes and towns and carrying them to dry land. . . .

    "After the fire, a group of citizens formed the Save Our Sprague committee to raise funds and promote interest in restoring the boat. However, those efforts were unsuccessful, and after many fits and starts at restoration, the Sprague was eventually removed from the Yazoo Diversion Canal in pieces. . . .

    "The rudder and some smaller parts are on a lot near City Front, and Vicksburg officials have plans to include them in a development of the area into an art park, a steamboat playground and the old Levee Street Depot."

    Given that this was 5 years ago, I guess these plans never got any traction, but I have heard recently that the Levee Street Depot project is back on the table, so I wonder if these artifacts will still be a part of the transportation museum planned for that building?