One day in 1852, The Princess,
one of the finest steamboats afloat on the Mississippi River one hundred years ago was rounding the bend a Duncan’s Point about ten miles below Baton Rouge, when the boilers exploded with a frightful loss of life. The disaster occurred in front of the Conrad “cottage” where a descendant, the late G. Mather Conrad, of New Orleans, was born and lived as a youth.
Lyle Saxon in his “Old Louisiana” tells of having known an old gentleman who remembered the awful holocaust. Then a little boy, this old gentleman was awaiting the return of his mother and father from New Orleans. He saw the Princess come around the bend and then turn in toward the bank. As he watched he heard a terrific explosion and saw the steamboat burst into flames. Mr. F. D. Conrad, plantation owner of that generation, so Saxon tells us, “sent his slaves out in skiffs to rescue the men and women who crew struggling in the water. Many of them were frightfully scalded by steam from the broken boilers. Sheets were spread on the ground under the oak trees on the lawn and barrels of flour were broken open and the contents poured on the sheets. As the scalded people were pulled from the river, they were stripped and rolled in the flour, where they writhed and shrieked in agony. The little boy went from one sufferer to another seeking his father and mother. They were not there. They returned from New Orleans on a later boat, but he never forgot the anguish of his search.”