Minnesota history buffs unite in Red Wing to remember Sea Wing Disaster
RED WING, Minn. (FOX 47) -- History buffs united in Red Wing Sunday to remember a tragedy that struck Lake Pepin more than a century ago, in a one of a kind opportunity to visit the site of the Sea Wing disaster.
It was on a beautiful day, much like today when the Sea Wing set sail from Diamond Bluff headed to Lake City on July 13, 1890, until blue skies turned to violent storms, ultimately sinking the ship and taking nearly 100 lives. Sunday, dozens came out to remember the event that goes down in history as one of the most deadly river boat accidents.
"It was a beautiful Sunday in 1890 on the 13th of July, a boat set sail from Red Wing to Lake City," reads Becca Knudsen of Red Wing. Her great grandmother gave an account of that day as she remembered it from shore.
"She was only twelve years old but it's a memory that can never be erased from my mind," Knudsen continues with her cousin Mary Brunner following over her shoulder.
The great-great grandmother of Knudsen and Brunner was on Sea Wing that day, but didn't come back alive. To this day, why she boarded the boat is shrouded in mystery.
"Family doesn't know why she was on it," says Brunner. "We don't know if she was there with friends, and that's the connection."
The cousins are on the river cruise with so many others on the 124th anniversary of the event that shook the nation, to see the actual site of where the Sea Wing went down.
"All of this disaster concentrated the attention of the whole country," explains Fred Johnson as he guides the passengers on their trip back in time.
Johnson has written two books on that tragic day when 50 people were trapped in the boat's cabin when it capsized and sank in Lake Pepin, dragging others down with it.
"Some people have been critical of Captain Wethern saying well, his mistake cost a lot of people their lives," says Johnson.
It's a hard day for people remember, but one Johnson says people shouldn't forget. He hopes his book helps accomplish that, as well as explain more than just the accident itself, but the rescue efforts and the lasting impact the event had on the history of the region.
"Maybe this story won't be lost again at least around the state of Minnesota and the Mississippi River Valley," he says.
"It's just part of history that I don't think should be forgotten. It's so important," says Brunner. Her cousin, Knudsen sits beside her and agrees, "definitely a part of our heritage."
As the anniversary cruise leaves the site on the horizon, those on board have the Sea Wing at the surface of their memories.
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