The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

On the 23 of July 1906 while I was at Broken Arrow Indian Territory I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Joe Miller there and he gave me an account of the memorable display of meteors on the night of the 13 of November 1833 in narrating the story he said that he was born in Washington County Virginia 16 miles from Wheeling in the year 1825. At the time of the occurrence our family had started to the state of Illinoise and had went aboard a steam boat at Wheeling on the Ohio River to go down the river. The boat was lying at the landing for she was not yet ready to start.

The night was clear and the weather pleasant. The boat was crowded with emigrants on their way down the Ohio River to hunt new homes. Some were going to Kentucky, some to Illinoise, some to Indiana and a few were trying to make their way to Missouri, and other parts of the country. I was only 8 years old then but I remember that the passengers were in fine spirits and all seemed to be anxious to start on the journey to seek for homes in the west. Soon after night set in luminary objects began to appear in the heavens and they grew more plentiful until hundreds and thousands of them bedecked the skies. Numbers of people especially the women and children had went to sleep and when the alarm was given they were aroused from their slumbers and seeing the bright meteors shooting all around and about the boat as they supposed, some cried out that the boat was on fire and the result was a stampede from all the boat was made to reach the shore the terror and disorder produced was frightful. The passengers supposed that the meteorers were sparks of fire from the top of the boat. The panic was so great that men women and children run over each other in their endeavors to reach the stage plank first. The terrified people made a great noise praying, mourning and yelling. Many of them called on the great god of heaven not to destroy them and save the earth from destruction. It was found that there were only a few men and women that seemed to understand that it was only a natural phenomenon and that no harm would result from it and these few made all the efforts in their power to convince the terror stricken people that it would all pass away in a few hours but most of them refused to listen at their advice and went on with their confusion and uproar of fright for it seemed as though they were overcome with superstition. The maximum display lasted more than an hour when the shower of objects began decreasing and they gradually grew less numerous until they entirely disappeared by day light. While the great fire balls become less in number the fear of the people subsided and they quit praying. The great display was a grand sight to behold. The meteorers resembled flakes of snow on fire and many of them apparently fell into the river but I suppose none of them reached the earth before they burned out.

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