Monday, December 28, 2009

State of the Sprague

One of the biggest travesties in Vicksburg, as I have stated before, is that the remains of the Sprague, once the largest paddlewheeler that plied the Mississippi River, is rusting away in weeds alongside Washington Street. These photos were taken early Saturday morning. The paddlewheel, pictured here, is just majestic when you walk underneath her. Some of the original wood, complete with red paint, is still bolted to the wheel.

I can only imagine what it would be like if the city, state, nation or a private group would pull this majestic paddlewheel out of the weeds and restore her to her former glory and place her near the downtown area where they are putting the MV Mississippi exhibit and the transportation museum. Just think of a motor being attached to the paddlewheel in a shallow pool of water and folks once again seeing how bigger than life "Big Mama" was. What a showstopper!


  1. I was a deckhand on a harbor boat that serviced the Sprague before she broke up. The engines were massive monsters and weighed thousands of pounds. The engineers knew she would crack and in fact had seen the cracks before she broke. She started taking on water and we were told to just pump it. Sadly it was a bandaid on a gaping wound. Her over structure was meant to hold the weight of her engines and without them she was doomed. The fire forward of the engine room destroyed everything to the deck, but the engines remained intact. I wonder what happened to the engines. I heard the Corp of engineers had to clear the back end of the Sprague because it blocked the channel.

  2. My brother remembers our granddad taking him to see the Sprague in her much better years back in the 50's. How sad to see these photos & to read all this.

  3. My father was employed at Standard Oil and was assigned to the Sprague when it was used to push barges up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. His job was to replace the heavy paddles on the wheel when it hit logs and broke. I would like pictures to show my adult children who were born after my father died. Also the 11 grandchildren would benefit also.

  4. I visited the Sprague around 1967 and have a brief segment on a home movie of her paddlewheel being spray-painted a bright red color. Also remember seeing the stage for performances inside on the main deck. How sad to learn that the grand old vessel was destroyed by fire.

    Tom Sakely