A ship loaded with over 200 tons of goods hit a fallen tree that was lying beneath the Missouri River and sank quickly. A group of men discovered the ship buried in a cornfield years later.
The steamboat, named Arabia, set off from St. Louis, Missouri, on Sept. 5, 1856, carrying over 200 tons of cargo, which ranged from shoes to champagne bottles that were to be delivered to 16 midwestern frontier towns according to The Arabia Steamboat Museum’s website.
As it maneuvered through the Missouri River, a partially submerged trunk of a walnut tree was overlooked by the captain. The ship sank 6 miles west of Kansas City within minutes, but fortunately, everyone escaped except for a mule that was attached to a tie.
“Due to erosion, the Missouri River changed course over time, and the Arabia was buried underground for over a century – along with all of its precious cargo,” a fact on the museum’s website reads.
The ship was soon swept away and disappeared but was discovered in 1988 by the owner of a local A/C and furnace repair company, Bob Hawley, and his two sons David and Greg, who learned of the story of the steamboat. The ship was found in a cornfield in Kansas. How did it end up there?
In the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers altered the shape of the river; thus, some lands were reclaimed and made for farm use. The three men partnered with their longtime friend and customer, Jerry Mackey, who operated a local fast food chain. The fifth member of the team who was involved in this rare discovery was a construction business owner named David Luttrell.
An outline of the buried ship was marked on the farmland before excavation.
30 years ago today, the excavation of the steamboat Arabia began on November 13, 1988. Almost by fate, the museum opened exactly three years later on November 13, 1991. It has been quite an adventure! pic.twitter.com/ho2iAEmrBH
— Arabia Steamboat (@ArabiaSteamboat) November 13, 2018
Using a metal detector, they located the steamboat underground and dug it up in 1988. The excavation that lasted for nearly four and a half months led to the discovery of many pre-Civil War artifacts.
Hickory axe handles from 1856 are beautifully curved.
Happy Valentine's Day! Can you spot the tiny hearts on these spoons from the Arabia?
Some of these items were preserved very well in the mud, including some bottled food such as bright-green sweet pickles that were actually edible. According to a report by the Vintage News, one of the excavators tried a pickle and found it perfectly edible.
In addition, they found small-mouthed bottles that contained fruits for pies. The discovery also included the findings of buttons, beads, clothing, tools, war weaponry, chinaware, and more.
In November 1991, these precious artifacts that give a glimpse into the life that existed in the 1850s were put on display in Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City. Since then, the museum has become an attraction for tourists visiting the city and has captured their interest in American history. Each year, the museum attracts a whopping 2 million visitors as per the museum’s website.
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The museum is also referred to as the “world’s largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts.”
Even after all these years, the artifacts are being cleaned and undergo a process of restoration, the Vintage News reported.