The morning after Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, news of the ship's fate appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world. But did you know that Chester, W.V., before the time of Rock Springs Park, had its own titanic disaster on a cold February night in 1866?
Another ship, a paddle-wheel steamer named The Winchester, was on its maiden voyage when a fire broke out. Passengers jumped from the ship into the icy waters of the Ohio River and swam ashore on the beach where the Jennings Randolph Bridge extends into West Virginia today. This is the same spot upon which passengers would later disembark for a day of fun at Rock Springs Park.
When dawn came, the proud "Winchester" was burned to the water line. Estimates
of the loss of life ranged from 20 to 30 or more. In addition to the passengers,
about eight deckhands and roustabouts were drowned or burned to death. Legend and tradition say they were buried on the spot in unmarked graves. And
if they were, their mouldering bones are deep under the river now. The level
has been raised twice in the interim by the artificial pools created by dams.
Read more at http://www.genealogypitstop.com/winchest.txt, including the dramatic tale of a baby rescued from the ice.
“Mrs. Enoch Bradshaw, had watched the conflagration from her big brick house on the current site of the library. The next morning, somehow, she found herself in the custodian of a baby girl who had been found on the riverbank. The story was that the child had been placed on a floating cake of ice as the craft burned and had drifted safely to shore. Her parents could not be found. Mrs. Bradshaw agreed to care for the youngster until the confusion died and she could be restored to her parents. Mrs. Bradshaw kept the child for three or four months until members of the baby's family were located. And then came the sequel that spanned the generations.”
Supposedly, workers who were dredging for the new bridge in the early 1970s were told to keep an eye out for The Winchester's safe as it was never recovered and held riches from the wealthy plantation owners who were onboard nearly 100 years earlier.