Our connection to the Mississippi River in New Madrid is not what it used to be. Until the arrival of the railroad in the 1890s and then the automobile and improved roads after the turn of the century, all commerce and travel was on the great river.
The river affected many lives in various ways.
By the late 1920s the Packet boats that carried people and goods up and down the river had long ceased to run, but you still might hitch a ride on one of the working boats like the Transporter if you knew a member of the crew.
Later, the Walton Coal Co. purchased the craft and renamed it Valiant. Walton was taken over by the Pittsburgh Coal Co. and in 1921 Pittsburgh sold it to the Water Transport Co. Rebuilt at Elizabeth, Penn., at a cost of $138,000, it was christened the Transporter for service on the lower Ohio.
That night at about 6 p.m., when the boat was 20 miles above Cairo, a powerful tornado crossed the river and hit the Transporter.
Captain Forman described the event: "The cyclone came up without a minutes warning, the boat was first blown to the Kentucky shore, then a twister came and blew the craft toward the Illinois shore, the pilot house was blown off, doors, windows and glass flying, timbers cracking, life boats were blown away, waves lashing higher than a two story house were rolling."
The Captain ordered everyone onto the barges for safety and cut the boat away and it sank. When it boilers reached the water a large cloud of black smoke arose. Everyone had made it onto the barges except the fireman who was blown away and killed. The drenched survivors aboard the barges drifted on the wide and dark river. A crew member lashed a couple of planks together and swam to shore for help. A rescue boat arrived about midnight and took the crew and passengers on board.
For the rest of her life, Hattie Higgerson had an uncontrollable fear of the slightest storm or any threatening weather. Recalled her niece recently, "We never knew what was wrong with her until we found the newspaper article about the sinking of the Transporter."
It was an unforgettable trip on the river for Hattie Higgerson.