Saturday, February 18, 2017

A STEAMBOAT EXPLOSION ~ The death of Nelson Klinefelter in January 1862 - age 35

Copy of KLINEFELTER_N_killed in explosion_TheBaltimoreSun_5 Feb 1862_pg 1
The Baltimore Sun - 5 Feb 1862, page 1

So, who was Nelson aka Horatio Nelson Klinefelter?

Nelson Klinefelter was the first husband of Mary Jane Flynn/Flinn.  Mary Jane later married William Bright, my husband’s 2nd great grandfather.

I had learned about Mary Jane’s marriage to Nelson Klinefelter from the Greenwood Cemetery website, back in August 2008.  Here is a link to the FindAGrave page for Greenwood Cemetery.
Following is an excerpt from my notes for Mary Jane Bright.

“Bright, Mary J. , (view ), 1839 - 1903, Section 2, Range 18, Lot 7, [was the second wife of William Bright of Sharpsburg. She was first married to a Kleinfelter in Virginia, according to researchers at Ancestry, and when she married William Bright, she brought 3 children into the household from her first marriage. She and William had at 4 children, bringing the house total to 9 children]” contributed by Diane Nichols

I was able to locate the marriage record for Mary Jane Flinn and Horatio N. Klinefelter.  They were married 27 Nov 1851 in Wood County, Virginia.

This record was found on the West Virginia Culture website.  Wood County became part of West Virginia in 1863.


FLINN_Mary J marriage to KLIMEFELTER_Horatio N_27 Nov 1851_Virginia

Nelson and Mary Jane had 3 children: Horatio born in 1854, Mary born in 1856 and Anna born in 1859.

The family can be found living in Collins, Allegheny, Pennsylvania in the 1860 census.  Also enumerated on this page is Nelson’s brother, Jesse and family and his father Jacob and family.

Nelson’s father, Jacob, was also a River Pilot.

1860_KLINEFELTER_Nelson & family_CollinsAlleghenyPA

As I began conducting a search on, I came across the sad story about the explosion of the steamboat, Advance, and the death of Nelson Klinefelter.  I also located one article in Chronicling America.
All images of these articles are screenshots.

The first article I located was the one at the top of this page.  Then I also located the following articles.

Klinefelter_TheWheelingDailyIntelligencer_31 Jan1862_pg 3
 The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer - 31 Jan 1862, page 3
Klinefelter_CincinnatiDailyPress_3 Feb 1862_pg 3
Cincinnati Daily Press - 3 Feb 1862, page 3

Klinefelter_PittsburghDailyPost_4 Feb 1862_pg 3
Pittsburgh Daily Post - 4 Feb 1862, page 3 - talking about an investigation into the explosion
Klinefelter_TheLocalNews_AlexandriaVA_5 Feb 1862_pg 1
The Local News, Alexandria, Virginia - 5 Feb 1862, page 1

Klinefelter_ThePittsburghGazette_4 Feb 1862_pg 3
The Pittsburgh Gazette - 4 Feb 1862, page 3
Klinefelter_TheWheelingDailyIntelligencer_5 Feb1862_pg 3
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer - 5 Feb 1862, page 3

The article above, on the left gives us the exact date of death for Nelson.  The explosion occurred on Tuesday, January 28, 1862.  Based on the statement in this article, Nelson died 3 days later, on Friday, January 31, 1862.

“The other pilot, N. Klinefelter, was asleep, his head and one arm lying over the edge of the bed.  His face and arm were terribly scalded and it is believed that he inhaled steam.  He died of his injuries on Friday morning, some hours after the arrival of the Hornet, after being removed to that boat.”

These excerpts are from the article, above, on the right.

“The late explosion of the Steamer Advance – Another Victim – N. Klinefelter, one of the person’s injured by the explosion of the steamer, Advance, at Matamoras, has since died.  The explosion appears to have been one of the most terrific and disastrous on record.”

“The Captain was not on board, one of the pilots named Stweart, filling his place.  He escaped with a severe burn on the right hand.  The other pilot, N. Klinefelter, was asleep, his head and one arm lying over the edge of the bed.  His face and arm were terribly scalded, and it is believed he inhaled steam.”

When I first began reading the articles only stated that N. Klinefelter had been “terribly” burned.  As I continued to locate more articles, I learned of his death.

Nelson’s death left behind his 28 year old widow, Mary Jane, and their three young children, ages 3 to 8 years.  Mary Jane married (in Feb 1864) William W. Bright, a widower with two young children, ages 7 and 5.  The couple went on to have 4 children of their own.

I have searched high and low on the internet and cannot locate a burial place for Nelson.  There were few, if any, actual death records back in 1862, so the only record of his death are these articles and the statement in the Civil War Pension of William Bright saying that Mary Jane’s first husband, Klinefelter, was deceased.

If you have any additions or corrections to anything written here, please contact me.
If you are related to anyone mentioned here, I’d love to hear from you.


SURNAME SATURDAY - Who was Daisy Bright?

AMANUENSIS MONDAY  - Elmer E. Bright - Last Will & Testament – 1889

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2017   Diane Gould Hall


  1. That is the first time I've seen the expression "blown to atoms". A horrible incident but those do tend to produce good documentation like you've found here.

    1. I'm with you there Anna. First time I'd seen that expression too. It's just amazing to me the things that turn up when you aren't even looking for them.

  2. You may be interested to know that Horatio Nelson Klinefelter, pilot of the "Advance" in 1862, was the nephew of John Simpson Klinefelter, Captain of the "Pennsylvania", whose gallant actions saved the lives of many passengers in the explosion of 1858, in which Mark Twain's youngest brother Henry Clemens was killed. Jacob Klinefelter (b. 1764) married Susannah Miller. Their children were
    1) Joseph (b. 1795),
    2) JACOB H. (1804-1864) whose son was HORATIO NELSON KLINEFELTER,
    3) Michael (1805-1871),
    4) Eve Ann (1809-1885),
    5) JOHN SIMPSON (1810-1885), who became Captain of the "Pennsylvania" steamboat,
    6) Jesse (1815-1849),
    7) Thomas (1816-1880)

    1. Thank you so much for you comment. You have presented information I did not have on this family. I did not know that about Henry Clemens. Of course, now I will be looking for articles about that explosion. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  3. This was interesting to stumble on! I am a decendant of Capt John S. Klinefelter's brother. He was not only captain of the Pennsylvania, he was one of the owners. That steamboat was magnificent and later moved from Pittsburgh to a packet that traveled back and forth primarily to and from St Louis to New Orleans. Samuel Clemens ( Tom Sawyer ) worked under Capt John Klinefelter , along with Samuel's brother who died from injuries the day the Pennsylvania blew up. Samuel felt he was not ready to assume the position offered him by Captain Klinefelter, and was sent to work another voyage to have one more supervised journey... but his brother stayed on that fatal trip. I believe it was 1858 and there were over 450 passengers. Quite the tragic read! Now I will have to check out this steamboat incident that sadly claimed Captain John's nephew 's life.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Certainly a sad story. Interesting that there is a Samuel Clemens connection. Nelson was able to leave a legacy in his children, Horatio, Mary and Anna. I haven't done research on them as yet. Nelson is more of a coat tail relative with him being the first husband of my husband's 2nd great grandmother. And my husband being descended from the second wife.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.