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Gazelle was an early sidewheeler on the Willamette River in what is now the U.S. state of Oregonmarker. She did not operate long, suffering a catastrophic boiler explosion less than a month after her trial voyage.

Design and construction

Gazelle was built at the now vanished town of Linn Citymarker, which was located on the west side of the Willamette River across from Oregon Citymarker. She was driven by two steam engines, each one turning one of her sidewheels. Gazelle's builders were doing business as the Willamette Falls Canal, Milling and Transportation Company.

Reaching the upper river

Built below Willamette Fallsmarker, Gazelle was intended to run on the WillametteRiver above the falls, to serve the growing population in the Willamette Valley. To reach the upper river, Gazelle was lifted above the falls and launched on the upper Willamette at Canemah.

Operations

Gazelle made her trial run above the falls on March 18, 1854. Her first captain was Robert Hereford. The Oregon City newspaper was enthusiastic about the new steamer:

During the voyage, Gazelle stood by as Oregon was sinking after hitting a snag just below Salem. Cargo from the Oregon was loaded onto Gazelle to lighten Oregon to better allow her salvaging. Suddenly Oregon broke free of the snag, drifted downstream, ran up on a sandbar and sank so deeply that only a part of her upperworks were visible above the water. Oregon, also a new steamer, was a total loss. On the way back down, Gazelle ran over a log and broke some paddle buckets, which however was not serious damage, and in fact was one of the strengths of the paddlewheel design over the propeller on inland waters.

Destruction

On April 8, 1854, at 6:30 a.m., Gazelle had come over to Canemah from the long wharf built above the Falls on the western side of the river above Linn City. This was to be her first regular run after the trip up river where she'd attempted to assist the Oregon. That morning, she was bound for Corvallismarker. Gazelle had been at the Canemah dock for about ten minutes. To make a speedy departure, the engineer had tied down the safety valve to build up steam. About 60 people were on board at 6:40 a.m. when Gazelle's engineer, Moses Toner, jumped off the boat, on to dock, and took off running. About a minute later both boilers exploded. At least twenty people were instantly killed, and everyone else was injured, including four people who died later. The sidewheeler Wallamet had been lying alongside Gazelle, her works were seriously damaged, and her pilot J.M. Pudge was killed in the explosion. The whole town of Canemah came running to the rescue, and boats had to be launched to rescue the living people and recover the bodies floating in the river. Captain Hereford was injured but survived. The coroner's jury blamed the engineer's "gross and culpable' negligence in keeping too much steam, and allowing the water level in the boilers to get too low.

Partial salvage

The hull sank at the dock, but was later sold. Her new owners raised the hull, lined it over the Falls, and rebuilt it to become first the Sarah Hoyt and then the Senorita The engines were salvaged and installed in Senorita''.

Memorial

Many years later a memorial plaque was placed on a rock outcropping overlooking the Willamette River and the long-abandoned Canemah landing, which stated:

See also



Notes

  1. Mills gives the casualties as twenty-eight killed.



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