Boykin's Mill Drownings








Through the courtesy, attention and kindness of the telegraphic operator at Camden, Mr. Witherspoon, and the telegraphic operator at Kingsville, Mr. Dean and Mr. J.J. Evans the gentlemanly and accomodating conductor of the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad, we are permitted to lay before our readers at this early hour, in advance of the mail, the following particulars of one of the most heart rending and afflictive accidents it has been our melancholy duty to chronicle, have transpired with the _____ of our State. The startling rumor which reached our town on yesterday morning, and which agitated with the painful and excited suspense the minds of our citizens has been proven to be all too true.

On Saturday morning last, a most happy company, composed of young ladies and gentlemen, children and parents, left their homes in Camden for a day of recreative pleasure and amusement at Boykin's Mill Pond, about ten miles this side of that place, and upon the line of the railroad. These were joined by others from the neighborhood, forming a party of considerable size. The fore part of the day (the distressing accident occurred late in the afternoon), was spent happily and pleasantly by the excursionists. The picnic and fishing excursion for such it was, had fully met, thus far, the bouyant anticipations of those concerned. But what a finale! The heart drops and is weighed down by the most pungent sorrow at its recital.

A flat boat of considerable size had, a short time previous, been built and placed upon the pond for purposes of pleasure. A goodlynumber (thirty or more) of the company embarked upon this boat, intending to pass over and around the pond. These consisted chiefly of young ladies, there being but a sufficient number of gentlemen, as was supposed, to manage the boat and afford company and protectionfor the ladies.

They had been out some time and were near the centre of the pond, when the boat ran on a sang. This excited little or no fears, as it was supposed that a speedy extrication could be effected. All was life and spirit - all was hope and happiness! Soon it was perceived that the great pressure of the boat upon the sna (in consequence of the number it contained) was puncturing its bototm and that the water was making its way inside. Now the excitement began. Now fear began to picture its sad traces upon those just now happy countenances. Now the tender and timid ladies called upon their protectors for that assistance and deliverance which painful to say they were unable to afford. Momentarily the danger became greater, and momentarily the excitement of those on board, as well as those on shore, became more intense. It seems that deliverance would have come, and that the boat would have probably been pushed off and run near enough to the shore for many if not all to have escaped. Had it not been that those who stood at each end, (a white man and a negro) with their poles, laboring with all their power, shoved each in the same direction, thus mutually destroying the effect of their efforts. Soon, in a few moments, she began to sink! When this was seen, and the face that she could not be moved became too apparent, the scene became frightful indeed.

The wildest excitement and fear seemed to seize every heart, and but few if any were sufficiently collected to enable them to employee their effort for rescue advantageously. In a few moments, now, she sank. When the scene may be better imagined than described.

Piercing cries and shrieks, and calls for help, both from those on shore and those on the unfortunate boat, filled the air. Sisters and brothers, parents and children, relatives and friends, whose hearts were bound together by the nearest and dearest of earthly ties, and animated by the warmest and most tender affection, were there - some on the sinking boat and some on the shore. Oh how rudely were those confiding hearts torn asunder and ravished with wild and aching grief!

The boat seems to have committed them to the boxom of the water, huddled together, mainly, in a mass. The water is supposed to have been about twenty feet in depth, thus thrown together in one clinging to the other, with that grasp which belongs only to those in a drowning condition, there was little opportunity for the males in the company to rescue the ladies or even to save themselves.

But a few, we have not been apprised of the exact number, were saved, of those upon the boat. One act of daring, manly and gallant bravery which has been reported to us, and which we believe true, demands especial notice at our hands, and should be rewarded by the lifetime gratitude of those immediately concerned, as well as the relatives and friends of the same. Mr. Jones, a fireman upon the Camdentrain (this trian was, as well as we can learn, at the time of the awful occurrance, near the spot), rushed to the spot, and by almost super-human efforts, coupled with most cool and manly courage, brought three of the drowning persons to the shore. We have not learned the names of these.

The following are the names of those telegraphed to us from Camden [note: this is not the complete listing from the article, because part of the paper was unreadable]:

Miss Lizzie McKagen, a lovely sister of Mr. Isaac McKagen, of our town, Willie McKagen, a young brother of the same; Luke (Lucius) and William LeGrand, brothers, one of them a brother-in-law of Mr. McKagen above mentioned. Miss Sarah Nettles, two Misses McCowns, Miss Minnie Alexander (daughter of Mr. Isaac Alexander, of Camden). Miss Howell, Miss Crosby, Miss Henson, two Misses Yound and one brother, Miss Mary Jenkins, Mr. Hocott, Mr. Huggins, Mr. Jery McLeod, Mr. John Oaks, Miss Kelly, little Alice Robinson (a sweet little girl), Mr. S.S. Richburg (surveyor, formerly of this place). Mr. Richburg, with noble devotion, lost his life as we understand attempting to save another.

These, with two negroes, complete the melancholy list.

Two ladies, (Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Steakel), the wives of engineers upon the Wilmington and Manchester railroads, got upon the boat when about to start, as we learn, but thinking the crowd too great, determined not to remain, thus, no doubt, narrowly escaping death.

Efforts to rescue the bodies of the unfortunate drowned were immediately employed. Some were taken from the waters. Others could not be found. The flood-gates of the pond were soon hoisted, but the body of water was great and could not be soon run off. It was thought that it would be sufficiently dry on Saturday night to admit of all the bodies being found. We have not learned the number that had been found, when our dispatch was sent.

Camden is shrouded in gloom, and many of its citizens overwhelmed by the most severe affliction and bereavement. At half past three on yesterday, eight bodies were at the Methodist church, where funeral ceremonies were being performed, to the presence of a large congregation. Almost every eye was moistened by the tear of sympathy or bereavement.

Mr. Billins, one of those who was upon the boat and saved, says that twenty-seven persons were drowned. This conflicts with the above statement, as to number, and may be correct. We expected further particulars by telegraph to Kingsville this morning, and will hasten to place before our readers all information received by us in regard to this truly terrible accident.



© 2000 Cynthia Ridgeway Parker