Tombstone of Victims of the Sinking of the Mary Frances

Springer tombstone.JPG


Tombstone of Victims of the Sinking of the Mary Frances


Mary Frances Riverboat
McGee, Emma Springer, 1885-1919
McGee, Lera Mae, 1908-1919
Alston, Samuel Fitts, 1859-1922
Tucker, Ruth V.


The tombstone in Dunn's Creek Cemetery No. 2, Dunn's Creek Road, Echola, AL, is the memorial for Emma Springer McGee and her daughter, Lera Mae McGee. The tombstone of Ruth V. Tucker of Coker who also died in the tragedy is shown, as well. Both died in theJune 15, 1919, sinking of the riverboat Mary Frances in the Black Warrior River.

Tuscaloosa reeled from unimaginable tragedy after the Mary Frances capsized on the Warrior River taking 26 lives. The boat was generously provided by Samuel Fitts Alston for the amusement of the children and families of Tuscaloosa and had made many pleasant excursions with little ones on board and this was expected to be the same, but as the boat made its turn at Holt, the boat took on water and capsized, throwing many into the water and making escape from below impossible. A hole was cut into the boat to rescue survivors and remove bodies.

Mrs. W.A. Collier wrote that “the city is covered with a pall of sorrow” as “one cortege after another wended to the cemetery carrying the mortal remains of those to whom death had come in the most hideous and tragic form.”

Scheduled events were postponed and D.B. Robertson, President of the Board of Commissioners, issued a proclamation asking all business houses at noon on Tuesday to close out of respect to the memories of those who drowned and that all should attend a memorial service at the Elks’ Auditorium.

Mr. L. Rosenfeld had published in The Tuscaloosa News a card of thanks to those who helped his wife and four children to safety after the accident. Notices from Tuscaloosans offering condolences from far away were published.

Inspectors found the owner of the Mary Frances and the pilot, Capt. Dick Antonio, blameless in the accident. Antonio was in deep mental depression; Mr. Alston had him brought to his home and employed a trained nurse under the direction of a physician to care for him.

Two people, who had been thought to be on board the boat and lost, were alive, having not made the ride.

Photos of many who had survived, as well as some who died, were published in The Tuscaloosa News on Sunday, June 22, 1919. The News received compliments from other publications for its coverage of the tragedy that said the newspaper told a straight and truthful story of what happened, leaving nothing unsaid that needed to be said, yet adding nothing that was likely to harrow the feelings of the distressed readers.

See an article from Alabama Heritage for a poignant description of the tragedy at


Betty Slowe


Betty Slowe


July 4, 2013


Betty Slowe (Description)






Tuscaloosa County (AL)

Original Format


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