Abandoned Steamship on the Mississippi River Destroyed by Fire

Mamie S. Barrett Steamship | Concordia Parish Louisiana | Built c. 1921

I had a list of 10 places to see that day and Mamie was at the end of a route that covered an ambitious amount of miles. I would be weaving in and out of river parishes along the Mississippi, looking to uncover historic remnants in these lesser-traveled places.

This trip in early 2017 would be my third attempt at visiting this ghost ship.

You see, rambling the back roads in this area is like no other place I’ve been to. The bridges to cross the river (which is also the state border) are few and far between.

Buildings that are only 10 miles apart as the crow flies, are actually 75 miles apart when you don’t have a boat to cross the Mississippi. This third time, I was determined to make it to this old gal. She was calling me and I had to go. 

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Resting just along the river banks in a quiet fishing camp, this 146-foot ship was stranded on land for quite some time.

Fortunately, we were able to visit in February of 2017 because in May, the water levels of the Mississippi River rose.

And in May, just 3 months after our visit, the banks where the Mamie S. Barrett sat were reached by water. She took float into the river and became entangled in power lines.

Mamie Barrett on fire- Spring 2017 (Photo submitted from a follower who would like to remain anonymous)

The boat then caught fire and was burned to the hull, leaving a skeleton behind. 

Mamie S. Barrett Timeline

1921: The steamer, Mamie S. Barrett was built at the Howard Brother’s Shipyard in Jeffersonville, Indiana for $145,000. The Howard Brother’s were some of the most influential ship builders of their age. She was originally a steel river towboat, weighing 430 tons. Her maiden voyage was on August 11, 1921 to Cincinnati.

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1935: Mamie joins the U.S. Army and renamed Penniman, responsible for inspecting the river and channels

1942: The boat served as headquarters to Franklin D. Roosevelt as he toured and inspected the Mississippi River

1947: Mamie S. Barrett retired from the Army and is sold to the Vollmer Brothers Construction Company

1949: Sold to Lela and Spence Marshall who renamed her Piasa and moved her to Harbor Point Yacht Club in Missouri where she served as a floating clubhouse for the next 30 years

1983: Place on the National Register of Historic Places

1987: The riverboat was purchased by John and Mary Hosemann. They brought it to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and converted her into a showboat with a theatre and restaurant. She remained in Vicksburg until 1991 before being moved to Vidalia, LA and then Deer Park where she is pictured above

2001: The City of Jeffersonville, IN and the Howard Steamboat Museum, showed an interest in the Mamie S. Barrett, but the project never materialized. 

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2017: Mamie S. Barrett is taken by rising Mississippi River water levels and becomes entangled in a power line. Much of the boats styrofoam caught fire and burned down to the hull. According to locals, whatever remained sank to the bottom of Deer Lake.

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