News & Events



Sultana Disaster Museum Capital Campiagn Kick-off Announcement

On April 27, 2021 the Sultana Historical Preservation Society held the official Capital Campaign Kick-off Announcement for the future Sultana Disaster Museum.  Over 200 people attended, all eager to learn of the plans for the future museum. 

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced a gift of $750,000 to the Sultana Disaster Museum Capital Campaign. Secretary Stacy Hurst of Arkansas Parks, Heritage and Tourism also pledged her support for the project. Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane enthusiastically endorsed the project and stated that the museum would be a draw for tourist visiting the Memphis area.

2021 Sultana Association Reunion

This year, because of the Pandemic, the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends (Sultana Association) will once again NOT be meeting in person. Instead, the Association will be holding a virtual reunion via Zoom on Friday evening, April 23, and Saturday afternoon, April 24. Friday night will feature a PowerPoint presentation by Hilda Koontz entitled "The Invisible Wounds: A Perspective on Mental Health Perspectives During the Civil War," followed by a few highlights of a couple of new items in the Sultana Disaster Museum. The program starts at 7:00 p.m. Central Time.

The Saturday program will begin at 1:00 p.m. Central Time with a new documentary by the filmmaking brothers, Mark and Mike Marshall, entitled "The Sultana Disaster Museum: A Tribute in the Making." Following this will be a short video by Colonel Brandon Ford entitled "Remembering the Sultana: A Memorial" filmed from the perspective of an aerial drone. The afternoon will wrap up with a PowerPoint presentation by Gene Salecker entitled, "The Sultana: The First Two Years."

Next year the Association will once again meet in-person. The reunion will be held at Springfield, Illinois, hometown of President Abraham Lincoln on Friday evening, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, 2022. The reunion will highlight the connections between President Lincoln and the Sultana and will visit the Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln Home, the Old Illinois State Capitol Building (where Lincoln gave his "House Divided Speech") and the Lincoln Tomb.

For information on either the 2021 Virtual Zoom Reunion or the 2022 Springfield Reunion, send an e-mail to the Association at or to Gene Salecker at 

Participation or interest in the Sultana Association is open to everyone - not just descendants of Sultana passengers. The Association welcomes all those interested in the Sultana, in the Civil War, or in history in general. You can visit the Sultana Association website at or visit them on Facebook at

1840 Steamboat Engine

The Sultana Disaster Museum is proud to announce that we will soon be acquiring an actual 1840 steamboat engine from the steamboat LeRoy. The engine is currently on display in front of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia but should be acquired by our museum before the summer of 2020. The steamboat LeRoy exploded her boilers and sank in the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle on October 25, 1840 with the loss of six people and three people injured. For over 100 years the wreck remained on the bottom of the river until the Army Corps of Engineers began work to clean and widen the river. Upon discovering the wreck of the LeRoy, the intact engine was given to the National Civil War Naval Museum. In 2020, work began by the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, which oversees the creation of the permanent Sultana Disaster Museum, to acquire the engine from the Columbus site. Although the LeRoy was a much smaller boat than the Sultana, her engines would have been almost identical to those being used on the Sultana. This is a great acquisition to the Sultana Disaster Museum and much thanks goes out to Jeffrey Seymour, Director of History and Collections at the National Civil War Naval History Museum, and to everyone at the National Civil War Naval History Museum that made this happen.

Capt. William Friesner Plaque

On August 19, 1898 when Capt. William Shields Friesner turned 60 years old, his friends at Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post 140 presented him with a memorial plaque commemorating his survival from the Sultana Disaster. The wooden plaque was adorned with a crude carving of the steamboat Sultana and carried a metal label proclaiming, “Capt. Wm. Friesner Co. A 58th O.V.I. [Ohio Volunteer Infantry] Sultana Survivor Last Man off the ship.” Captain Friesner was not a former prisoner of war, like the majority of the other people on the Sultana, but was in charge of the 22-man guard unit that was placed on board to keep order and help out wherever possible. Although it is doubtful that Friesner was indeed the last man off the boat, he may have been among the last.

In addition to the label and the carving of the Sultana, the wooden plaque also held the frame of a Remington revolver. While most officers in the Civil War preferred to use Colt revolvers, Friesner had grown fond of the Remington style. When the members of GAR Post 140 presented him with the commemorative plaque, they found an old Remington frame and attached it across the center. (The frame has no connection to the disaster.)

A few small items decorate the plaque. In the upper left corner there is a small brass eagle and in the upper right corner, just below the barrel of the Remington frame, is a conical pistol bullet. But the most unique aspect of the entire plaque are two brass, eagle buttons that reside on either side of the metal label. A small piece of paper glued to the back of the plaque states, “The buttons on this board came from Capt. Friesner’s Civil War jacket.” This is the same jacket that Captain Friesner wore on the Sultana, so the buttons are actual survivors of the disaster.

Being the officer in charge of the guard unit Friesner wrote that after the explosion, “I threw on my coat that I might be recognized if orders were necessary….” Before leaving the boat, he “took off coat and vest, put pocketbook, orders, etc., in my shirt,” and then slid into the water and grabbed onto a door. Eventually pulled into a rescuing rowboat,  Friesner recalled, “My stiff fingers had clung to my coat and vest and a gruff voice said, ‘This is a pretty time to be saving clothes.’” Two buttons from that same coat now adorn the front of this unique part of Sultana history.

AR Proclamation

Story coming soon!

Local Artist

Story coming soon!

SHPS Announces Capital Campaign Planning

The Sultana Historical Preservation Society, Inc. (SHPS) announced this week that it has unofficially begun planning a capital campaign for creation of the new Sultana Disaster Museum.  The firm C J & A Associates has been retained to lead the multi-million dollar fund-raising campaign.  To initiate the planning stage, the Board members have made a collective pledge contribution exceeding $150,000.00.  Anyone interested in assisting in creating the new museum should contact the museum director at, or join the museum through this website.

Hollywood Producers Visit the Sultana Museum

Mark and Mike Marshall, owners of River Rock Entertainment, LLC, and producers of the documentary Remember the Sultana, returned to Marion, Arkansas this week to meet with the Sultana Historical Preservation Society.  Mark is seen here, holding an original painting commissioned to honor the Sultana disaster, and several of the passengers aboard the Sultana at the time of its destruction.

The Marshall brothers directed the production which starred and was narrated by Sean Astin, star of the movie "Rudy" and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (as Sam). Mark lives near Hollywood, CA and has worked on many films including "The Color Purple," "Free Willy," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Mike Marshall lives in Oklahoma and manages the day-to-day operations of River Rock Entertainment and solicits and manages specific projects for the company.

New Museum Site Aquired

The City of Marion, Arkansas has announced that it has officially obtained title to the original Marion Public School Gymnasium located on Military Road in Marion, Arkansas.  Future plans for the WPA-Era, 17,700 square foot building are to house the Sultana Disaster Museum under a lease agreement with the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, Inc.

Sultana Historical Preservation Society Board 2021

The Sultana Historical Preservation Society, Inc. (SHPS), announces the 2021 Board of Directors.

Dr. Scott Ferguson, President; Judge John Fogleman, Vice-President,  Frank Barton, Treasurer; Mayor Frank Fogleman, Secretary.  Other members of the Board are Tracy Brick, Jana Della Rosa, Dr. Glen Fenter, Milton Nicks, Jerry Potter, Gene Salecker, Stephenie Cooke and Denny East.

Sultana Historical Preservation Society (SHPS) Announces Board of Directors

Sultana Historical Preservation Society (SHPS) recently announced the reconstitution of it's Board of Directors in preparation for the planned new museum in Marion, Arkansas.  The board will be responsible for the creation of the museum and administration of the museum and Society activities thereafter.  We are pleased to announce the following board members.


John Fogleman, President
Judge, Arkansas 2nd Circuit Court, retired

Glen Fenter, PhD
Superintendent, Marion Public Schools

Dr. Scott Ferguson, Vice President
Outpatient Radiology Clinic, West Memphis

Frank Fogleman
Mayor, City of Marion, Arkansas

Frank Barton, Sec.-Treasurer
Barton Power Sports

Louis Intres, PhD
Director, Sultana Disaster Museum

Tracy Brick
Marion Economic Development Director

Gene Eric Salecker
Author, Sultana Historian

Jana Della Rosa
Arkansas House of Representatives

Jerry Potter
Attorney, Author and Sultana Historian

2021 Sultana Descendants and Friends conference has been announced

The 33rd Annual reunion of the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends has been announced for  Friday evening April 23rd. and Saturday afternoon April 24th., 2021. The conference, which is open to anybody and everybody having an interest in the Sultana will be held via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. All are welcome. For further information, contact Norman Shaw at 865-705-1127, or

The 34th Annual reunion of the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends will be held on April 22-23, 2022 in Springfield Illinois.  More information will be shared as details are confirmed.

Harpers Weekly Volumes-Preservation Completed

Preservation and conservation work on the set of five complete volumes of Harpers Weekly magazines has been completed by Bryan and Devan Conservation of Little Rock, Arkansas. Volumes V-IX contain every issue of Harpers Weekly published from January, 1981 through December, 1865. The collection, donated in 2018 by John and Susan Prentice, of West Memphis, Arkansas chronicles the entire Civil War and every major event of American history and culture in that pivotal era in our nation’s history. Preservation work on the rare set of volumes has been sponsored by The Marion Advertising and Promotions Committee, Premier Bank of Arkansas, Louis and Shirley Intres, Partners Bank, and by a grant from the National Park Service. The collection will be placed on public exhibit in the near future, along with the conserved personal, first edition copy of Chester Berry's Loss of the Sultana and Reminisces of the Survivors.


Performing Arts Center Hosts 2019 Civil War Lecture Series

The Marion Performing Arts Center hosted the first annual Sultana Civil War lecture series on April 27th.  Speakers devoted their attention to a debate over the cause of the Sultana's destruction.  Was it sabotage or a tragic accident? 

Other topics included:  the status of civil war medicine, the history of the Mississippi River and the use of steamboats during the war, and the preservation of American war history through a collection of letters, documents, and the conservation of historic sites and memorials. 


Speakers in the MPAC auditorium Andrew Carrol David Price Pat Jennings


The Sultana docked at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library

February 9th through March 8th, 2019

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library located in Little Rock, AR recently included an exhibit of the Sultana disaster in their exhibit entitled “The Mighty Mississippi: A mosaic of the growth of America.” The Marion, AR museum temporarily committed several of it’s Sultana artifacts to the Presidential Library for its use.

Images taken from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library exhibit  Mighty Mississippi:  A Mosaic of America's Growth and Development

Educational Outreach

In 2019, the Sultana Disaster Museum and the administering organization, the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, Inc. intends to expand its outreach to educate and enlighten the next generation of historians and ordinary citizens alike to the remarkable story of the Sultana Disaster and further establish its place in American history.  Partnerships will be established between the museum and local and regional schools and educational systems, and civic organizations.  Watch for future announcements.

The Sultana Disaster Museum is pleased to announce its first such partnership with the sponsorship of the 2019 Civil War Conference and Lecture series by the Marion District School system.

Recent Aquisitions

Museum Receives Rare Magazine Collection

John and Susan Prentice of West Memphis, Arkansas recently donated a rare collection of Harpers Weekly magazines to the Sultana Disaster Museum archive. The collection consists of nearly 250 issues, bound in annual Volumes V through IX, and represents the complete set covering the years 1861-1865. The issues chronicle the history of America and the Civil War over the five year period. Much of the original artwork in these issues has been reproduced in textbooks and histories throughout the past 150 years. Included among the historic original artwork of Lincoln's two inaugurations and assassination, famous Civil War battles, and the changes in a divided nation, is the first picture of the Sultana on fire, found in the May 20, 1865 issue. The five volumes will eventually be available to the public for professional historical research.

Sultana Museum Acquires Original Berry Book of Reminiscences

Mrs. Dorothy Gouzoules and Dorothy Kennedy, of East Northport, New York, the great-great-grand nieces of Pvt. Chester Berry, have recently donated Berry's original copy of survivor reminiscences to the Sultana Disaster Museum. Berry bequeathed the original copy of his book to his niece, Harriet Berry Kennedy, who passed it along her son William Lester Kennedy, then to sisters Dorothy and Jeanne Kennedy. Dorothy Kennedy Gouzoules has donated the book on behalf of herself, and her sister Jeanne Kennedy Cummings. Preservation work on the rare book has been recently completed by Bryan and Devan Conservationists in Little Rock, Arkansas. The book will be on permanent display in the museum in Marion, Arkansas.

Descendants and Friends News

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