14-page legal “opinion” regarding a court case (J. F. Hicks v. G. W. Truehart) regarding a disastrous Mississippi riverboat fire aboard the Steamer Mary Belle

Vicksburg: [1876]. 8.5” x 14” and contains 14 handwritten pages. The document is in nice shape with a storage fold and docketing that reads, “699 Shelley Law / J. F. Hicks v. G. W. Truehart / Opinion / Sneed J”. It is in nice shape with some minor soiling. Item #009179

In 1876, the Steamer Mary Belle was “the largest steamer ever built for traffic on the Mississippi River. . . .” She “took fire and was burned to the water’s edge. The boat and cargo of five or six thousand bales of cotton, many thousand sacks of sand, and sundries and baggage of all passengers, numbering about two hundred in the cabin, were a total loss. No lives are known to have been lost, no persons injured.” The boat was valued at $90,000 but only insured for $30,000; the cargo was fully insured. (See The St. Louis Post-Dispatch of 28 Feb 1876 and The York Daily of 19 Feb 1876.)

This lawsuit involves the owner/master’s responsibilities with regard to the forwarding of passengers and baggage from a riverboat’s point of destruction to its passengers contracted destination. The opinion is easy to read and cites considerable case law in adjudicating this hitherto unanswered issue:

“This was an action by Hicks the owner and master of the Steamer Mary Bell to recover of the defendant passengers fare, pro rata itineris, from Memphis to the city of Vicksburg. The facts are, that the plaintiff (sic, should read, ‘defendant’) took passage on the Steamer Mary Belle on a bridal tour to the city of New Orleans. No fare was paid but upon enquiring by the defendant that clerk of the Steamer informed him that the fare from Memphis to New Orleans was twenty dollars each . . . and the boat proceeded on its journey to New Orleans until it reached the city of Vicksburg when it ‘accidentally caught fire’ and was consumed with the bridal trousseau and general baggage of the plaintiff (sic, should read, ‘defendant’). How this accidental fire occurred or by whose fault or negligence if any is not shown. . . . The plaintiff paid the defendant the sum of $1900.00 in full of the loss of his baggage but both parties had no settlement of the fare from Memphis to Vicksburg – just hallway to New Orleans. The plaintiff demanded half fare of the sum of ten dollars each for defendant and his wife which the defendant thought he ought not to pay and refused to pay. . . .”

Based on a thoroughly explained review of previous court decision, the case was decided in favor of the ship owner/master.

A well-documented opinion that reviews a considerable body of law regarding owner/master responsibilities following a riverboat disaster.

Price: $300.00

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