American History Murdered

It was murder. Premeditated and with malice aforethought, the 108-year old, historic Goldenrod Showboat was murdered by fire in the early morning hours of October 21, 2017. It was the last showboat of its kind anywhere in the world, the last true vestige of early Twentieth Century American life along the Mississippi River, and now this window into the past is gone forever. No further generations will be able to experience authentic showboat life and soak in true living history as only the Goldenrod Showboat could have provided.

We call wonderfully old historic vessels like this “Great Dames,” and here is what you just did to this great dame, arsonists. Imagine an elderly woman sitting in a wheelchair, worn, but still filled with life and vigor, recanting stories from long ago that only she can tell because no one else is left to tell the tales. Even though her voice may be a little raspy and her eyesight not as crisp as it once had been, she’s still the last remnant of a bygone era, an absolute jewel, irreplaceable beyond measure. You just doused that elderly woman in gasoline and roasted her alive. May her screams haunt you and the smell of her scorched flesh permeate your nostrils for eternity, you murderers.

The Goldenrod in St. Louis.

More than 48 hours later, there still has been no real investigation of the fire that began around 2:00 AM on October 21, aside from the locals pointing out the obvious, and the rains are washing away what little evidence there may have been. Small town politics? Of course. A couple weeks ago, the land owners cleared the site of debris and cut back the brush — can’t have the surrounding area catch on fire, after all — and holes were punched into the side of the iron hull to allow ample ventilation to stoke the flames. The delivery method chosen were Roman candles, their casings conveniently left scattered about to make it look as if a group of kids were up to mischief. Outside parties experienced with hundreds of arson cases that have no knowledge of the political wranglings behind the boat have looked at the photographs and have deemed it suspicious.

The smoldering hull of the Goldenrod, October 20, 2017.

It’s no secret that the landowners have long-sought to rid the property of the Goldenrod, citing a desire to destroy it on more than one occasion, but the Historic Riverboat Preservation Association who controlled the showboat had worked hard to try to maintain and preserve it. Following hull damage that incurred in 2015, the landowners were going to burn the former National Historic Landmark in early 2016 before a legal tussle with the Riverboat Association held it up, and an agreement was finally made that the showboat would return to the St. Louis area, where it had operated prominently in front of the Gateway Arch for decades, to be restored. A flood earlier this year that saw the Goldenrod take on seven to eight feet of water reinvigorated the legal tussle, and the landowners reclaimed the vessel and their desire the rid themselves of it on their acreage of land north of Kampsville, Illinois, in the middle of nowhere where it bothered no one.

Handfasting on the deck of the Goldenrod, Oct. 29, 2016.

A year and a half ago on this blog I lamented the demise of the Goldenrod Showboat and waxed poetic over the disrespect that is given to so many of our national treasures. But then it seemed as if the landmark had averted that trouble and a bright future for it was ahead. The Riverboat Association continued it’s work on the vessel, paranormal investigations resumed, and Shana and I were handfasted on the Goldenrod’s deck on October 29, 2016. This spirits of the Goldenrod still had their voices. Then suddenly, in the flick of a lighter, it’s gone. The time for lamenting is over. Now, I’m just angry.

Enough of this senseless destruction. Enough of selfishness and self-interests determining that the last relic of a bygone era can be purposefully destroyed without any repercussions. This isn’t even a debate of progress versus history since there is nothing going in the Goldenrod’s place except for clear land. No strip malls are going in, no high-rise buildings, no fancy marinas. This was the purposeful obliteration of American history that can never be recaptured. It was murder. May the arsonists roast in hell.


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