Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

THE SECOND ADVENT!

Tom Bangall, the Engineer, and Millerism

JOHN S. ROBB

[John S. Robb wrote for the St. Louis Reveille and the New York Spirit of the Times over the pen name "Solitaire." His Streaks of Squatter Life and Far-West Scenes (Carey and Hart, Philadelphia, 1847) has lately been reprinted by Scholars Facsimiles & Reprints, Gainesville, Florida, 1962. "The Second Advent," inspired by William Miller's prediction of the end of the world for April 25, 1843, is found on pp. 148-56.]

About the period fixed upon by Father Miller, for the general blowing up of the world, some of the engineers upon our western waters, who had been used to blowing up its inhabitants, became a little frightened by the prospect of having to encounter, in another world, the victims of steamboat disaster. Among these was Tom Bangall, the engineer of the Arkansas Thunder. Tom was a rearing, tearing, bar state scrounger-could chaw up any single specimen of the human race—any quantity of tobacco, and drink steam without flinching! A collapsed flue had blown him once somewhere in the altitude of an Alpine height, but dropped him unharmed into the Arkansas, and he used to swear that after the steam tried to jerk him apart and found it couldn't do it, why, it just dropped the subject, as the stump speakers say, by dropping him into the "drink"—he therefore incontinently set water, hot or cold, at defiance. Tom was, withal, a generous, open‐ hearted, whole-souled fellow, and his cheering words to the emigrants on the boiler deck, and many a kind act to a suffering passenger, proved that beneath his rough exterior he had a heart open to gentle influences. As a further proof of this, Tom had a wife, a good wife, too, and what's more he tenderly loved her; but

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