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Jim Turner lost: Sunk Red River Steam Boat at Albion

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

A portion fo the Jim Turner steam boat peaking out from the Red River waters.

The Jim Turner, a steam boat, sunk at Albion on the Red River in 1854.

A reader sent me an email about a steamboat wreck he couldn't remember the name of. I know of a few, and the one he was looking for was the Jim Turner, which foundered in the Red River near the Albion ferry between Red River County, Texas and McCurtain County, Oklahoma in 1854, with all of its cargo lost.

The Jim Turner was a paddle wheeler (attached to the stern) that plied the Red River "above the Raft" from 1852 until its demise in 1854. Piloted by Capt. Allan, the boat was shallow and not very big, but brought people and cargo to places like Doaksville and Colbert in Indian Territory and Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Warren in Texas. Thankfully no one was hurt when it sunk; it most likely hit a snag.

The wreck was never recovered though according to some river locals, the boiler of the Jim Turner was salvaged in the 1860s to power a gin and mill. Gradually, the wreck became buried in silt, though it's been visible at least twice in the 20th century due to low water: once in the 1950s, and again in the 1970s. In the 1950s, its "octagon shaped mast" was visible from the Red River shoreline. Treasure hunters seeking barrels of whiskey tried to gain access, but a judge ruled that the rightful heir had first dibs to it.

I don't think the judgement was very helpful to the rightful heir, though. When the river flooded practically overnight, the wreck of the Jim Turner was swallowed once again by sand. It's now believed to be located beneath someone's pasture. I'd love to be the farmer/ rancher/ hunter who suddenly stumbles across a mast while tending to the fields!

Newspaper article
Jim Turner's death notice. January 2, 1854, Louisville Daily Courier (Kentucky)

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