Abandoned Steamship on the Mississippi River Destroyed by Fire

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

This ghostly hull was once a proud steamship along the Mississippi River that even hosted a President. But as you can see from the photos, the years have not been kind to Mamie S. Barrett.

Her story began in 1921 in Jeffersonville, Indianawas built at the Howard Brother’s Shipyard. The Howard Brothers were some of the most influential shipbuilders of their time. She was originally a steel river towboat, weighing 430 tons, 146 feet, and was constructed for $145,000. On August 11, 1921, she took her maiden voyage to Cincinnati.

In 1935, Mamie joined the U.S. Army and was renamed Penniman. During this period, the steamship was responsible for inspecting the river and channels. In 1942, Mamie would host a famous guest when President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the boat as a headquarters for a month while he toured and inspected the Mississippi River.

In 1947, the ship was retired from the Army and sold to the Vollmer Brothers Construction Company, but just 2 years later, it was sold again, this time to Lela and Spence Marshall. They renamed her Piasa, and for the next 30 years, she served as a floating clubhouse for the Harbor Point Yacht Club in Missouri.

In 1983, the boat was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 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 to Deer Park, LA.

In 2001, the city of Hendersonville, IN proposed a plan to revitalize the boat for display at the Howard Brothers Ship Museum but the plan never materialized and the ship sat here rotting away. When I visited her at the beginning of 2017, the ship was in sad shape and unfortunately, things were about to get worse. In May 2017, the waters of the Mississippi River rose, lifting the ship off the banks and causing her to become entangled in power lines. The ship caught fire and what was left of the boat burned down to the hull.

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