If there is a “night shade” hovering over any stone in the Georgetown Cemetery, it would be the spirit of Capt Thomas Washington Poe for good reason. Capt Thomas Poe was arguably the most far-famed and ill-fated steamboat captain from Georgetown, PA. Thomas Washington Poe was born in 1819 in New Lisbon, Columbiana Co, OH. He died on 31 Dec 1881 aboard the str Fearless on his way to Pittsburgh.
Misfortune paid its respects to Capt Thomas Poe many times and often far from home. On 11 May 1855 the str Georgetown was fatally snagged at Bellefontaine Bluffs on the Missouri in route to a military post. The str Georgetown was owned by Thomas W Poe and other partners from Georgetown, PA. He was the principal owner of the str Clara Poe which went up in flames during the Civil War - burned by rebel forces on 17 Apr 1865 at Eddyville on the Cumberland River. He also owned the str Amelia Poe which was a complete loss when snagged on the upper Missouri river on 24 May 1868 and salvaged by 1,500 riotous Indians. And he was the
owner of the str Nick Wall which met a tragic end on the Mississippi River near Napoleon, AK on 18 Dec 1870. Here a grisly incident occurred that Mark Twain retold in “Life on the Mississippi”. The boat struck a snag and sunk rapidly. Though injured himself by the falling roof, Capt Thomas W Poe attempted to save his wife trapped in a stateroom. He chopped a hole in the roof with an ax striking the unfortunate Martha Jane Poe in the head. Martha Jane Poe, fatally wounded, was returned to Georgetown for burial.
Although Thomas W died on 31 Dec 1881 aboard the str Fearless on his way to Pittsburgh, his spirit lived on ― in the courts. The steamer sank eight months later on 26 Aug 1882 on the Missouri. The legal case regarding the property loss was finally decided by the Supreme Court of Missouri in Oct 1887― not in favor of the Poe heirs. This verdict feels perfectly consistent with the trend of Thomas Washington Poe’s lfe.
Copyright © 2013 Francis W Nash
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