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Sea Wing Disaster... Beautiful Day, Tragedy Night
July 13, 1890
Weeks before the accident, an elderly walking missionary named Georgas warned many that the Sea Wing would be destroyed. Despite his prophecies, 215 passengers packed the Sea Wing with a barge in tow, for a Sunday outing to Lake City and back. They traveled down river to a Lake City campground for a beautiful afternoon picnic. Later, there was news of tornadoes in St. Paul that may be coming their way. About 7 p.m., the boat and most of the passengers left Lake City. Just minutes after leaving shore, the skies darkened and large whitecaps began to push the top heavy Sea Wing around. A driving rain and sudden gusts of wind caught the boat and tipped it like a kite onto a sand bar.
In an attempt to maintain control of the boat, the barge was cut loose and the 50 persons on it floated to the center of Lake Pepin. All those on the barge survived. Another gust of wind caught the Sea Wing broadside and tipped it over, flinging men, women, and children into the water or trapping them between decks. Some escaped, including Captain Wethern (who kicked out the pilot house window) but his wife and son were not as lucky as they were 2 of the 98 who died in one of the worst Mississippi boating accidents ever. A Sea Wing memorial is on display at Red Wing’s Levee Park.
This video is a 7 minute presentation on the Sea Wing that was part of the 2004 Grand Excursion and the Bend in the River performance at the Sheldon.