The Civil War News & Views Open Discussion Forum

Re: Sunken WBTS boat kills fisherman

Found some info on the "Mary Summers". She was quite ahead of her time me thinks...

Source: Maritime Texas Blog

Navidad River Wreck Update
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
I recently received this e-mail from Charlie Pearson, regarding my recent posting on the Navidad River Wreck. I don’t know Charlie personally, but I do know him by reputation, and he’s something of a legend when it comes to nautical archaeology in this part of the country. His follow-up, completing the story of Mary Summers, shows the typical dedication to the subject he’s known for.

I ran across your January 7 comments on the tragic death of the boater who struck the Civil War-era wreck in the Navidad River. You mentioned our 1993 report with its assumption that the wreck was likely that of the “Mary Somers.” I maintained an interest in that wreck after our initial work and collected information that proves beyond a doubt that the wreck is that of the “Mary Summers” (not Mary Somers). Our findings were published in: “The Mary Summers: An Early Iron Steamer in America,” The American Neptune 61(2):163-184, Spring 2001, by Charles E. Pearson, Stephen R. James, Jr., and J. Barto Arnold III.

In summary, the Mary Summers appears to be the oldest iron-hulled steamer discovered in this country. She was a prefabricated vessel; her iron plates and frames were manufactured by the famous John Laird firm of Birkenhead, England, in 1838 and shipped to Savannah, where her owner, Gazaway Bugg Lamar lived. Lamar had the pieces reshipped to Baltimore where the firm of Brown, Culley and Rogers put her together. The Mary Summers‘ boilers were manufactured by James P. Allaire of New York and her engine by Watchman and Bratt of Baltimore. Upon completion, the Mary Summers returned to Savannah and worked mainly on the Savannah River, where several other iron-hulled steamboats were working; apparently the largest fleet of iron vessels in the country. Gazaway Lamar, by the way did have a Texas connection through his cousin, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, the second president of the Texas Republic. Gazaway is supposed to have provided financial aid to the early republic. Also, most of the men in the Lamar family tended to have rather euphonious names. In 1846, the Mary Summers was acquired by the Quartermaster Department for service in the Mexican War and taken to the Gulf of Mexico. She served as a transport and freight vessel along the Texas and Mexican coasts. After the war, the Mary Summers was sold to private parties in New Orleans, ultimately going through a sequence of owners and, also, receiving a new name “United States,” apparently because of her former service with the Army. By the mid 1850s, the United States was traveling between New Orleans and several Texas ports, transporting merchandise, passengers and live Texas cattle. By the start of the Civil War, the United States/Mary Summers seems to have been consigned to peripheral trades, sailing principally out of Port Lavaca and other Matagorda Bay ports and on the Lavaca and Navidad rivers. We lose track of her during the war, but I suspect she was run up the Navidad and scuttled and stripped of most of her valuable material by 1862. The dimensions, construction and engine on the Navidad River wreck exactly match what we know of the Mary Summers, so there is no doubt that the wreck is the Mary Summers. As we note in our article, the Mary Summers was a technological marvel when built, especially which her innovative iron hull. However, by 1860 she was old and worn out and newer and more powerful steam engines were driving vessels. However, her iron hull is still in remarkably good condition, after more than 170 years, a testament to her builders.

I thought you might be interested in this, especially since what appears to be the oldest iron-hulled steamboat wreck found in the U.S. is resting in Texas waters.

Indeed. Thanks very much. The American Neptune manuscript Charlie cites is not available online, but I will see if I can get permission to post a copy here.

Messages In This Thread

Sunken WBTS boat kills fisherman
Re: Sunken WBTS boat kills fisherman
Re: Sunken WBTS boat kills fisherman
Re: FWIW the DANFS says...
Re: FWIW the DANFS says...