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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Aboard the Flying Eagle

  • Many things have happened in his lifetime, but Harry Musgrove still remembers that hot summer day in the mid-1930s when the waters of the Mississippi River were low and revealed the bones of one of Hannibal's greatest tragedies — the wreckage of the Flying Eagle excursion steamboat.
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  • His blue eyes have faded.
    His hair turned a shiny white.
    Many things have happened in his lifetime, but Harry Musgrove still remembers that hot summer day in the mid-1930s when the waters of the Mississippi River were low and revealed the bones of one of Hannibal's greatest tragedies — the wreckage of the Flying Eagle excursion steamboat.
    Musgrove's family owned Musgrove's Drug Store at 113 S. Main Street in those days and Kenneth Grace, a Hannibal cop, got word the wreckage of the Flying Eagle was visible.
    "When the river got low, Kenny got word that the Flying Eagle was out of the water across from the cement plant — big sandbar back there. He invited Dad (also named Harry) to go with him and I got to tag along," Musgrove said. "We were one of the first to go down there, but later there were a number of people."
    For the first time since the steamer crashed into the Hannibal railroad bridge in 1903, sank and took the lives of three local teenagers and two cooks on board, the Eagle was seeing the light of day. The low water made the boat an attraction once again.
    "I was awfully low," Musgrove said of the Mighty Mississippi River. "It was so low that we could tie off on the upper deck and walk around it. There was still enough left. We found all kinds of artifacts. I loved it, made a river rat out of me."
    Grace and the Musgroves recovered a railing and a gun that had fallen victim to extreme rust. It was hard to tell what kind of gun it was, but Musgrove remembers it was similar to .32 pistol.
    "We found cups, dishes," Musgrove said. "Most everything we picked up had been in the water all those years."
    One of the Flying Eagle's cooks, James Harvey, was never found after the crash. It's believed he was trapped inside, however, a local boy claimed to have recovered his wooden leg.
    "Harvey Scott went down there later and swore that he found the cook's wooden leg," Musgrove remembers. "We never did see it. We don't even know whether or not the cook had a wooden leg or not."
    Later that fall, Musgrove said the waters rose and the Flying Eagle was just a memory yet again.
    Musgrove believes years of flooding have eventually pushed the old steamboat out of the spot she was found in, but it's a secret only Mother Nature knows the answer to.
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