KANSAS CITY, MO - A walnut log from a fallen tree, hidden in the murky waters of the Missouri River, snagged the oak hull of the Steamboat Arabia as it plied its way up the waterway on September 5, 1856. Carrying lumber, hardware, dry goods and supplies, it never delivered its load to the settlers on the Western frontier.
Nearly 200 tons of valuable cargo headed for towns up river was lost, including a pair of pre-fabricated house kits; 20,000 board feet of lumber; an a complete sawmill headed for a frontier town - along with a cache of carpentry hand tools and inventory headed for sale: clothing, 4,000 shoes and boots, perfume and dishes.
Surging water from the hole created by the walnut log sank the sternwheeler, which was quickly covered in mud - though the 132 passengers and crew aboard escaped.
Over the decades, the Missouri River channel changed course, and is now nearly a half mile from its previous route - leaving the wreck hidden beneath a corn field outside Kansas City, MO, for nearly 132 years, when David Hawley and his family found the shipwreck in 1988.
As the Hawley family began excavation they discovered the Steamboat Arabia cargo was still intact and freshly preserved - a factor they attribute to the mud that had quickly settled over the wreckage, depleting the oxygen.
The Hawleys kept the artifacts as a collection and opened the Steamboat Arabia Museum in 1991. On display are the 10-ton stern, a reproduction of the main deck, all of the preserved cargo and the infamous walnut log - found still snagged in the sternwheeler's oak hull.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.