Death Notices

Jimmy Mack Loe
November 17, 1945 – May 25, 2021

loeMr. Jimmy “Jim” Mack Loe, age 75 of Sibley, crossed through Heaven’s gates on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. He graduated Quitman High School and proudly served in the United States Army National Guard. He worked for Robert’s Wholesale in Shreveport for 23 wonderful years, it was his home away from home. He loved his coworkers and thought of them as his second family. Mr. Jim had a dry, but very funny sense of humor. He truly enjoyed keeping his yard mowed and tending to his flower gardens. He knew everyone and everyone that knew him loved him.

Mr. Jim is survived by his wife, Nancy (Dade) Loe; daughter, Allison Fox (John); stepdaughter, Starla LeMay; stepson, Lance LeMay; grandsons, John William Fox, John Wyatt Fox; brother, Johnny Earl Loe (AnnaBelle). He was preceded in death by his parents, Jimmy Weldon and Ima (McCravy) Loe.

Friends may visit on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 at Antioch Cumberland Presbyterian Church from 12:00pm until time of services. Services are set to begin at 1:00pm with Pastor Carolyn Michael officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery under the direction of Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home.

Serving the family as pallbearers will be Keith Johnson, Charlie Neeles, Roger Williams, Lovie Williams, Jr., John Fox, Will Fox, Wyatt Fox, Lance LeMay. The honorary pallbearers will be John Loe, Earl Johnson, Will Neeles and Tyler Neeles

Jessie Dean Gresham
February 25, 1929 – May 27, 2021

greshamJessie Gresham, age 92 of Jonesboro, went to her Heavenly home on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Jessie had a big heart in which she held her treasures, her beloved family. She loved her family, both those of blood and the ones she chose (adopted). Let me tell you, she definitely had adopted a lot of people as family. She loved to cook for her family and was not satisfied unless she knew that they were fed and comfortable. She also enjoyed to spend her time gardening and watching the hummingbirds. Above all she loved the Lord and there is no doubt that she is now by his side in Heaven.

Those left to cherish her memory are her children, Tom Gresham and Carol, June Thompson and Myron, Jeanette Higgins, Ed Gresham and Roberta; grandchildren, Benji Gresham, Leslie Ashcraft, Heidi FitzGerald, Will Gresham, Emily Gresham, Ashley McGimsey, Luann Oakes, Lacey Gresham, Casey Gresham, Kelley Gresham, Mark Canerday, Jacob Moses, Braddock FitzGerald, Macallen FitzGerald, Kayla Smith, Jeremy Smith, Brian Morrow, James Davis, Mallorie Ashcraft, Rayven Ashcraft, Drake Ashcraft, Ethen Ashcraft, Alaina Ashcraft, Hanna Ashcraft, Emily Ashcraft, Thomas Ashcraft, Alex Ashcraft; special chosen daughter, Kathy Tankersley Bernier; many, many beloved great granchildren, nieces and nephews; daughter in law, Sandra Gresham; special friend, Cherry Grimsley. She was preceded in death by her husband, William Thomas Gresham, Jr.; infant son, Gary Gresham; son, Billy Gresham; grandchildren, Tommy Gresham, Ted Rohr, Jamie Higgins, Shane Stuckey; parents, Charlie Drayton and Harriet Manilla (Blake) Dean.

Funeral services will be held on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at 2:00pm in Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home chapel with Reverend Bill Staples officiating. Burial will follow in Cypress Creek Cemetery under the direction of Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home.

Scott Mitchell Blackwell
May 20, 1954 – May 26, 2021

blackwellScott “Mitch” Blackwell or “Papaw”, age 67 of Jonesboro entered the gates of Heaven on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. “Mitch” first met his wife in 1976 while working as a computer engineer at AT&T. After a brief six month courtship and a missed Elvis concert, they were married on October 8th 1976. Scott was an amazing father who was always there for his daughters, lending an ear and sharing every milestone. He was always pumping gas, removing snow from their cars, and coming to their rescue in the middle of the night for pest control, cursing the entire time. He was a big kid who loved remote control cars, drone helicopters, and the Dallas Cowboys. He was happiest sharing his passions with his family. He loved spending time outdoors with his grandkids Tyler and Sydnie Raye, they were his heart. His presence and love of the simple things in life will be greatly missed.

Those left to cherish his memory are his wife, Amy Lynette (Pullin) Blackwell; children, Jennifer Lyn Blackwell Micek, Cristi Michelle Blackwell; Tyler Mitchell Blackwell Micek, Sydnie Raye Blackwell Huie; parents, Ronald Victor and Lois Ann Schuler Blackwell; brothers, Ronnie Blackwell & Carolyn, Brian Blackwell & Melinda; a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

Funeral services were held on Saturday, May 29, 2021 at the Edmonds Funeral Home Chapel with Reverend Trey Etheridge officiating. Interment followed at Strange Cemetery in Readheimer under the direction of Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home of Jonesboro. Serving the family as pallbearers were Christopher Blackwell, Michael Stewart, Brad Pullin, Matt Pullin, Cameron McLean and Chad Otwell. Perry Hawkins served as honorary pallbearer.

Evelyn Juanita Peterson
May 30, 1932 – May 25, 2021

petersonEvelyn Juanita Peterson, 88 of Pine Ridge, died May 25, 2021. She was born May 31, 1932 to the late Willie Houston and Evelyn Viola (Smith) Jordan. She was a proud independent woman that loved her husband, Harvey Douglas Peterson and daughter, Debra Lynn Peterson very much. They preceded her in death, but her love and longing for them never ended. Along with her husband and daughter, she is also preceded in death by her sisters, Dorothy Mae Jordan Duck and Patsy Jean Jordan Hall.

She is survived by Jimmy and Debra Jordan. Juanita was Maw Neeter to their grandsons, Tyler, Tucker and Ethan.

A graveside service was held on Thursday, May 27, 2021 in Yankee Springs Cemetery with Bro. Shawn Garner officiating. Burial followed under the direction of Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home. Jimmy and Debbie Jordan would like to thank all the caregivers, nurses and staff at Forest Haven. She gave them all a run for their money.

Vivian Burnette Peel
May 27, 1922 – May 23, 2021

peelVivian Burnette Thornton Peel, age 98, of Jonesboro, Louisiana, passed away Sunday, May 23, 2021, at Alpine Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Ruston, Louisiana.

Mrs. Peel was born in Jonesboro, Louisiana, on May 27, 1922, to Willie Benton Thornton and Mattie Mae Neal Thornton. She married James Murray Peel on June 10, 1939, and soon thereafter, she bore the responsibility of caring for their two young children until he returned from serving in the United States Army during World War II. She later worked in a Jonesboro clothing store for a short time, but she was predominantly a homemaker, known to her family as an excellent cook, seamstress, and gardener. Mrs. Peel was a devoted Christian and a long-time member of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Louisiana, teaching children’s Sunday School for many years.

Preceding her in death were her parents, her husband of fifty-four years, her daughter, Myrna Jeanette Peel DeCou, and her son-in-law, James “Jimmy” DeCou. Also preceding her in death were her seven sisters and two brothers: Clarence Thornton, Mertie Walker, Hazel Duck, Eunice Walker, Mary Jewel Hammett, Morris Thornton, Bernice Myers, Faye Nash, and Raye Templeton.

Mrs. Peel is survived by her son, James Maurice Peel (Pat) of El Dorado, Arkansas, and four grandchildren: Mitch DeCou (Kim) of Quitman, Louisiana; Lesley DeCou Simmons (Al) of Winnfield, Louisiana; David Peel of Columbia, Tennessee; and Lauren DeCou Phillips (Shane) of Ruston, Louisiana. She leaves behind her ten great-grandchildren: Megan Geter (Jay), Hillary Bradford, Zach Lowe (Anna), Ryan DeCou (Katie), Alison DeCou, Daniel Simmons, David Simmons, Micah Simmons, Beau Phillips, and Emma Phillips. Mrs. Peel has three surviving great-great-grandchildren: Olivia Geter, Aria DeCou, and Alana DeCou. She is also survived by a number of beloved nieces and nephews.

A private graveside service for Mrs. Peel will be held Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at the Gayla Traina Memorial Cemetery in Jonesboro, Louisiana, under the direction of Southern-Edmonds Funeral Home, also of Jonesboro. Pastor Benjamin DeCou will conduct the service, and Mrs. Peel’s six great-grandsons will serve as pallbearers.





Valedictorians and Salutatorians at Jackson Parish public schools recognized

The class of 2021 walked across the stage recently at local Jackson Parish High Schools. Each achieved a special accomplishment by earning their diploma but at Jonesboro-Hodge, Quitman and Weston High Schools there were two and in once case, three special students that earned special distinction as class Valedictorian and Salutatorian. The Jackson Parish Journal offers Congratulations to:


Madelyn Freeman – Jonesboro Hodge High School 
Jayda Naron and Savannah Dowden – Quitman High School
Lauren Maxwell – Weston High School 


Kirsten Dark – Jonesboro Hodge High School
Lake Vine – Quitman High School
Jolea Simpson – Weston High School

Jackson Parish Police Jury holds special called meeting on Tuesday

A special called meeting of the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) was held Tuesday evening at the Nathaniel Zeno Jr. Meeting Room of the JPPJ Administrative Building located on 160 Industrial Drive in Jonesboro. Items on the agenda  and consequent action taken by board members Todd Culpepper, Lewis Chatham, Amy Magee (President), John McCarty, Tarneshala Cowans, Regina Rowe and Lynn Treadway are as follows:

(1) Consider and act on recommendations regarding the Solid Waste Department and possible departmental changes – After much discussion it was decided to take a vote at the regularly scheduled June meeting on charging area municipalities a cost of $27.63 per ton to dispose of their refuse at the Union Parish Landfill in Farmerville. What this action would do is basically pass along the cost currently being absorbed by the Police Jury. 
(2) Consider and act on request from Pinebelt CCA concerning a Summer Worker Program – Agreement was made to participate in the programs designed to help local teens gain employment over the summer and contribute $6,500.00 to the cause.
(3) Consider and act on proposal from Enterprise Fleet Management – After discussion no action was taken. 

Prior to the special called meeting the Operations Committee of Amy Magee (Chairperson), Lewis Chatham and John McCarty discussed concerns and requests of the Maintenance, Administrative, Road and Solid Waste Departments. All recommendations will be presented to the full board during the June meeting.

Grant Committee to meet Wednesday! The Grants Committee of the JPPJ will meet at noon on Wednesday, May 26 at the Nathaniel Zeno Jr. Meeting Room. Committee chairman Amy Magee along with members Todd Culpepper and Tarneshela Cowans will discuss and recommend action, if necessary, on eligible items for the American Recovery Plan funding.


Weston High School Alumni Association recognizes 2021 Scholarship Recipients

andrew mcbridelauren maxwellLauren Maxwell is the recipient of the Weston High School Alumni Association (WHSAA) Scholarship for 2021.  The daughter of Andy and Tanya Maxwell was selected after meeting academic, co-curricular and extra curricular requirements.
Andrew McBride, the son of Jeffrey and Rebecca McBride received the WHSAA Legacy Scholarship. In addition to the above mentioned requirements, the recipient of the Legacy Scholarship must also have at least one parent or grandparent who is a graduate of Weston.
The WHSAA also sends out hearty congratulations to the following:
Madison Coody, who received the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association Scholarship and the Chase Frasier Scholarship.
Jolea Simpson, who received the I. J. Allen Scholarship.
Homecoming Reunion update: The WHSAA is still seeking your help in notifying past graduates and fellow students of Weston High School in order to make the celebration planned for June 12th the grandest of occasions. There is no cost to attend but a cost of $12.00 is charged for a plate lunch that will be available. 

Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce presents 2021 Style Show on June 4th

The Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce presents the 2021 Style Show at 6:00pm on June 4th at the Jackson Parish Country Club. Tickets are $12.00 each. For those 12 years old and under the cost is $5.00 and for children 3 years and younger there is no charge for admission. styleshow The 2021 Style Show features items from businesses in downtown Jonesboro. Tickets can be purchased from participating businesses or you can purchase them in the chamber office starting Monday from 8:00am to 12:00pm.  

Chamber of Commerce Director Wilda Smith is hoping for large turnout to the gala event.

“There are so many in our community who do not realize that so many of our stores downtown offer clothing apparel.” said Smith. “This gives our local businesses a chance to show what they have to offer.”

Jackson Parish featured in new LOUISIANA LAW series shown on Animal Planet

Louisiana is recognized nationally as the “Sportsman’s Paradise”. Judging by the rave reviews received after the inaugural edition of the new television series Louisiana Law,  many of the agents of the Louisiana Department Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division will also be widely recognized.

The new series which aired last Sunday on the Animal Planet channel features LDWF agents from all over the state pursuing hunting and fishing law breakers. Local viewers got a real treat in the second show as Jackson Parish was featured in one of the segments called ‘Road Kill’. The segment featured local LDWF agents Tarver and Hatton as well as having a cameo appearance by Lane Tippen of the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office, as they followed up on a report of a hunter shooting a deer from a public road. 

LDWF Enforcement Division Colonel, Chad Hebert, says the program showcases what a game warden does daily as they traverse the Louisiana wilds from the wooded north to the coastal marshlands.

“We have agents on boats, on four-wheelers, on foot, we have them check in on all different types of licenses, pretty much everything to do with the conservation efforts here in Louisiana,” said Hebert.



JPRD Summer League baseball/softball schedule for Thursday / Friday

The Jackson Parish Recreation Department summer baseball / softball leagues continue to play under a revised schedule that has caused games to be added due to rainouts of previous dates. Of special consideration is the 7 & 8 year old boys and girls leagues which have added games during the week and the 11-13 year old leagues that have changed their normal days of play. Please note upcoming Thursday and Friday schedule of games. 


3 & 4Meme’s MinisSign Design T-Ball #1 6:00pm
3 & 4State FarmDodson Enterprises T-Ball #2 6:00pm
7 & 8BLA Family Med ClinicAbles Farms Field #5 6:00pm
9&10BJonesboro State BankMercy Medical Field #2 6:00pm
9&10GJohnny’s PizzaKlassy Kleen Field #3 6:00pm
11&13BM&M Handy FoodsAcademy Mortgage Field #1 6:00pm
11&13GHodge BankCap Roofing Field #4 6:00pm
3 & 4Peoples BankJonesboro State Bank T-Ball #1 7:00pm
3 & 4Mitchell’s PharmacyChampions Trophies T-Ball #2 7:00pm
7 & 8BFamily PharmacyKohler Krew Field #5 7:30pm
9&10BJonesboro GlassTraina’s Bakery Field #2 7:30pm
9&10GM&M Handy FoodsTodd’s Bailbonds Field #3 7:30pm
11&13BSouthern KustomsElite Roofing Field #1 7:45pm
11&13GBarksdale Credit UnionLislte Real Estate Field #4 7:45pm
B- Boys, G – Girls


5 & 6SPSJohnny’s PizzaT-Ball #16:00pm
5 & 6Pardue BuildersJackson Parish HospitalT-Ball #26:00pm
7&8BFamily PharmacyAbles FarmsField #26:00pm
7&8GLeach Lawn ServicesBucketboatField #36:00pm
11&13GListle Real EstateBarksdale Credit UnionField #46:00pm
5 & 6Jonesboro Animal ClinicVanguard RealtyT-Ball #1 7:00pm
5 & 6Six PointAffordable Autos of NLAT-Ball #27:00pm
7&8BLA Family Med ClinicKohler KrewField #27:30pm
7&8GRise & GrindRuffled FeathersField #37:30pm
11&13GListle Real EstateCap RoofingField #47:45pm
B-Boys, G- Girls

Early registration ends on June 1st for Chase Frasier Memorial 5K walk/run

The 1st Annual Chase Frasier Memorial 5k Walk/Run will be held on June 12, 2021 beginning and ending at the Jackson Parish Courthouse, located at 319 Jimmy Davis Blvd in Jonesboro, LA. Early registration fee is $30.00 until June 1st. (All registrants before June 1st will receive a t-shirt) Fees for late registration will be $35.00.

Please visit Rise and Grind Nutrition @ 4637 Quitman Hwy Hodge LA 71247 to register for the race or register online @

Check in will begin at 7am on June 12th and the Race will begin at 8am. The event is a fundraiser and in memory of former Weston High School teacher/coach Chase Frasier who tragically lost his life last year and all proceeds will benefit Chases sweet daughter, Lillie and the Frasier family!

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Dustin or Halee Siddon @ 318.355.7950 or 318.732.1407.

Lady Wolverine Softball Camp set for June 1st-2nd

The Quitman High School Softball Camp will take place on June 1st and 2nd. Your child will experience a high school level practice and be shown the proper way to execute advanced and basic plays of the game. The camp is held for softball players in grades 3-6. Cost is $75.00 per camper. The camp schedule is as follows:
June 1st: 8:00am – 4:00 pm
June 2nd: 8:00am – 12:00pm

All checks and money orders should be made payable to Quitman High School Softball. 


Grades 3rd- 6th
$75 per camper
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. June 1
8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. June 2

*Make checks payable to Quitman High School Softball.*

Youth from Quitman run the “Wolverine Mile”

The last few days of school are always an enjoyable time. At Quitman High School a unique way of celebrating was had as youth from the ages of Kindergarten to 5th grade competed in the “Wolverine Mile”. Congratulations to the winners in each grade shown below.

Wolverine Mile winners:

KindergartenRidge Lewis, Aubrianna Ashcraft
1st GradeRaegan Bell, Luke Jeffries
2nd GradeAubree King, Sheppard Norred
3rd GradeJordyn Reed, Noah Spillman
4th GradeEli Rowe, Presley King
5th GradeSunni Altheimer, Matthew Odom

Zamayah Lewis is Jonesboro-Hodge Elementary D.A.R.E. essay contest winner

Zamayah Lewis of Jonesboro-Hodge Elementary joins Jastyn Jordan of Quitman and Kiley Stevenson of Weston as fifth graders from Jackson Parish public schools who were selected as overall winners in the D.A.R.E. essay contest sponsored by the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (or D.A.R.E.) was founded in 1983 and was solely focused on teaching the dangers of drugs and alcohol on the body and family. As times have changed, D.A.R.E has added more lessons to the program to help prepare students for what life throws at them. To today, D.A.R.E now stands for, Define, Assess, Respond, and Evaluate.

At the end of each program, for students to successfully complete the program, they must complete their workbook and a D.A.R.E. essay. The D.A.R.E essay must include topics taught in the program, how they have used Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate methods and how they plan to use everything they have learned in the future. Once students have completed the essays, there is an essay picked out of each homeroom (three 5th grade classes per school).

See below for Lewis’s award winning essay.

My name is Zamayah Lewis and I am going to tell you how dare changed me. D.A.R.E. teaches how not to do drugs and not to smoke and don’t drink. DA.R.E. is a place to express your thoughts if you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts or if you are alone. You get to tell people what you did at home, what decision did we make, or if we made the right decision. It teaches how not to go down the wrong path in life.

D.A.R.E. teaches you how not to bully and it also teaches you not to drink because you  can get dizzy from it and it can also give you memory loss. It can also cause you to have a wreck if you go out driving. D.A.R.E teaches about resistance like if your friend says, “ I got some drugs do you want one?” You say no and let’s do something else to take your mind off of drugs. You can tell your friend what can happen if he or she keeps on with what they are doing because it can get addictive and you could end up with years in prison; so, if you do not want that do not do drugs.

D.A.R.E. means define, assess, respond, and evaluate . In D.A.R.E. I also learned about bullying. For example, one day at school by accident, I spilled milk on the rich and popular girl’s jacket named Rayna because I did not see her because my friend and I were talking about the Halloween contest party. After the spilled milk, the popular girl said, “You are never going to be in that contest and you are not going to win .” She asked me, “What are you going to be for the contest?” I told her, “ I was going to be a hot air balloon”. The popular girl had a paper bag that she was going to throw away. She said , “if you need the paper bag you could get it out of the trash can!” After school, I happened to run into her while shopping at the dollar store. She said, “Wait please , don’t tell me that you shop at the dollar store?” I said yes, “I was picking up some items for my outfit, “ Rayna was just at the expensive Halloween store . She said this is her outfit it costs $200 dollars, it’s something you could not afford. I said to her, your outfit is pretty and she said to me, “good luck with the contest.” It was the night of the contest and they were about to call the winner. Ms. Jacobs said, “ This is the moment we all have been waiting for, the winner is Zamayah.

The point to my story is to never let a bully hold you back from what you are doing or reaching a goal. Because bullying can have an affect on you and can lead to you harming yourself.

Zamayah Lewis

Catching Bass after the Spawn

It’s a sad time of year for most bass anglers as the spawn is over and the fish are in transition back to their summer haunts. It’s the time of year anglers call “post spawn.” The fishing can be pretty tough but there’s also a feeding period at this time for bass as they fatten up from the weight they lost during the spawn. The spawn takes a lot out of bass physically and they need time to recover. This is also the time of the year when the shad spawn kicks in. Funny how Mother Nature knows exactly how and when to make things happen. Her timing is impeccable and with the shad in their spawning stage now, this allows the bass to feed up and recover quicker.

So where can you find the bass after the spawn? Well, you might want to start looking at the same place you looked when they were in the pre-spawn stage which is mainly the first drop off headed back out to deeper water. Understand that the first drop might be as small as a one-foot break line, or it could be the first 5-to-10-foot drop. Deep water drop off is relative to what lake you’re fishing. For example, the Red River the first drop might only be the first two-foot break line off the bank. But on Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn, it could be the first 10 to 15 foot drop off the bank. Every lake is different but any slight change in depth is all it takes to hold fish, but this gives you a starting point to look.              

Another place to look, the boat docks; especially docks close to deeper water. Bass like to get next to something vertical for some reason and I don’t know why. Boat docks that are on main lake points are great places to look for bass after the spawn. Another feature to look for is brush tops around the boat docks. These make great places to fish because brush tops usually hold bait fish for the bass to feed on whether it’s shad or bream. Bass really go after the bream this time of year as the bream pull into the shallows and spawn after the bass are done. This is a great time to throw bream-colored baits like green pumpkin, watermelon/red and just about anything with green flakes will work like the color called Junebug.

I cannot state enough how tough the bass fishing can be this time of year. But once the bass recover and get into their summer patterns, bass fishing will improve. Now is also the time when the big 10- and 12-inch worms (like the V&M Wild Thang) become a big player in catching bass. Deep diving crank baits are also a great choice as some bass will pull out and suspend over deeper water. Chartreuse and blue or shad colored crank baits are a good choice depending on watercolor. Small ¼ oz. spinnerbaits thrown in shallow water will also catch bass as the small blades tend to match the hatch of the shad spawn.

I hope this helps you understand the dynamics of what anglers call the “post spawn” and where you can expect the bass to be. Just like any other time of year, you just have to go into search mode and figure it out. But hopefully I’ve given you an idea of where to start your search for the largemouth bass. Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook! 
Steve Graf     

Grit & Grace hosts Porch Decor Party this Saturday

Don’t forget about our porch decor paint party THIS SATURDAY at our Jonesboro location! 

**$45 per person
**Limited Spots Available
**Follow the link below to reserve your spot or click on the “Ticket” link!

When paying for class please stated which option you would like to paint! 

You will have 4 options to choose from!
1. Louisiana Hot Tub
2. Peach Tea
3. Watermelon
4. Sweet Summertime

All paint, cutout, supplies and artist guidance will be provided for you. You will leave with a finished product ready to spruce up your porch!

Must pay to reserve your spot in advance. Payments are non-refundable due to limited availability. You can always transfer your spot to a friend or pickup your blank hanger at your convenience to paint on your own

Blowing off Steam

Blowing Off Steam is an oft-used expression to describe someone who is doing or saying something to relieve built-up feelings or energy.  Sometimes the person exerts a sudden act of verbal or physical violence.  This expression has its roots with steam engines.  Steam engines use boilers to boil water.  The boiling water produces steam pressure, which, when channeled properly, can propel vehicles including pre-diesel train locomotives and water vessels.  When functioning properly, safety valves on the engines release or blow off steam to keep the boilers operating at a safe pressure.  When not functioning properly, the boilers are unable to release the built-up steam and the pressure increases until the boilers rupture which creates a massive explosion.

In the mid-1850s, steamboats which travelled along the Mississippi River were seen by many as romantic.  Children and teenagers idolized the crew of these large vessels, especially the pilots.  Steamboats were at the height of technology and offered thrilling adventure with a twinge of danger.  Like so many other young men, Henry dreamed of working on a steamboat and eventually becoming a steamboat pilot.  Henry’s older brother was a crewman on the sidewheeler steamboat Pennsylvania, and, in the first week of June of 1858, got Henry a job on the same vessel as a “Mud Clerk.”  

This was an entry level position with no salary but would become a paid position once the crewman proved himself. On June 5, 1858, Henry’s brother and the Pennsylvania’s pilot got into an altercation which resulted in Henry’s brother’s resignation.  Following his brother’s departure, Henry knew he would have to work even harder to impress the pilot.      
On Sunday, June 9, 1858, the Pennsylvania left New Orleans, Louisiana bound for St. Louis, Missouri.  It was Henry’s first trip as a member of a steamboat crew.  Although the work was grueling, Henry was ecstatic.  On June 13th, four days into the trip, the Pennsylvania neared Ship Island, about sixty miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.  The crew noticed that the steamboat’s boiler was building up pressure to a dangerous level.  The safety valves had failed.  The crew tried to manually open pressure release valves, but the pressure continued to climb.  At about 6:00 a.m., the Pennsylvania’s boiler exploded.  Within an instant, red-hot metal shrapnel, wood splinters, and scalding hot water violently shot in every direction.

A survivor of the explosion wrote, “The boilers seemed to be heaved upward and forward parting the cabin at the gangway and rendering the upper works of the boat from that point forward a complete wreck.  When the steam and smoke had cleared up from the wreck, there indeed was a mournful spectacle to be seen by the few survivors.  The boilers and smokestacks were twisted together like hungry serpents, locking in their hot embrace scores of human beings, dead and dying.  Some were killed instantly; others were buried beneath the rubbish to await the advance of the flames which as yet slumbered in the hold.”

Survivors scrambled to aid the wounded.  The pilot and some surviving crew members commandeered a local flatboat and, after nearly half an hour, returned to the drifting wreck.  The crew loaded survivors and victims onto the flatboat.  Using buckets, survivors had nearly extinguished all of the small fires in the forward part of the Pennsylvania when a much larger fire suddenly erupted in the middle of the ship.  The heat from the fire was so intense that the crew on the flatboat had to abandon their rescue operation.  Survivors, many of whom were wearing cork life vests while others grabbed anything which would float, jumped into the swift current of the Mississippi River.  The fire aboard the Pennsylvania burned the steamboat down to the waterline.

The current carried the flatboat and the floating survivors down the Mississippi River.  Up ahead was Ship Island, which was mostly underwater due to high rainfall.  The crew aimed the flatboat toward the island.  Survivors who had enough energy swam to the island.  The burning steamboat, survivors who were too weak to swim, and others who were less fortunate, coasted down the river past the island.

Henry had survived the initial blast, but his body was scalded by the boiling water from the steamboat’s boilers. Survivors loaded Henry onto the flatboat and transferred him to Ship Island.  Henry’s brother stayed with him in the hospital, but there was little hope for his recovery.  On June 21, 1858, eight days after the explosion, Henry died from his wounds.  He was just nineteen years old.

Henry’s brother regretted getting Henry the position on the Pennsylvania for the rest of his life.  He wrote, “My poor Henry — my darling, my pride, my glory, my all, will have finished his blameless career, and the light of my life will have gone out in utter darkness. O, God! This is hard to bear … ”  

Henry’s brother continued to work on steamboats until the Civil War crippled the shipping industry in the south. Following the war, Henry’s brother entered into an entirely different career field.  Had Henry’s brother not argued with the ship’s pilot, he too would have been on the steamboat when it exploded, and he might not have lived to write the literary classics “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.  Henry’s brother was Sam Clemens, who is known around the world as Mark Twain.