Wednesday, February 4th, 2004
Adella Wotherspoon, the last survivor of the deadly 1904 fire and sinking of the General Slocum, has died.
Wotherspoon, a retired teacher, was 100 and died in Berkeley Heights, N.J., according to Julia Clevett, a close friend.
Wotherspoon was just six months old when the excursion ferry named for civil war Maj. Gen. Henry Warner Slocum caught fire as it took a group of German-American church members on an outing on June 15, 1904.
The disaster killed 1,021 of the 1,300 people aboard, according to most sources. Wotherspoon's parents, Anna and Paul Liebenow, survived, but she lost other family members in the disaster.
The General Slocum fire and sinking was the city's most deadly tragedy until Sept. 11, 2001, and one of the worst maritime disasters in American history.
The 1865 explosion of the Mississippi River ferry Sultana killed more than 1,400 American Civil War soldiers, and the Titanic sinking in the Atlantic in 1912 killed 1,517 of the 2,200 people aboard.
"The Titanic had a great many famous people on it," Wotherspoon said at a 1999 commemoration of the General Slocum fire. "This was just a family picnic."
Wotherspoon said she had no direct memory of the General Slocum and went on many sea cruises with her husband.
She said observances of the tragedy "have been a great help to the survivors and the relatives of survivors."