Livingston County, Illinois
SOURCE: 12 Aug 1887 - Wheeling Register - Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier
Chatsworth, Ill., August 11. -- The Niagara Falls excursion train on the T. P. & W. railway, consisting of seventeen coaches crowed with passengers, was wrecked two and a half miles east of Chatsworth this morning by running into a burning culvert. Two engines were completely wrecked, together with ten coaches and the baggage cars. Engineer McClintock was instantly killed. Two firemen and the other engineer escaped serious injury. Ten cars were piled on top of the two engines, being telescoped and piled across and on top of each other. It is miraculous how any escaped, as the coaches and engines do not occupy over two car lengths of the track, and all on top of the road-bed. In one coach not a person escaped. In another only a lady. Seventy dead have been taken out up to this time, and one hundred wounded are now in the Chatsworth town hall, school house, depot, etc. At Piper City there are a large number of wounded - over fifty. The dead are estimated at over one hundred. The cars caught fire but were put out by trainmen and passengers. A heavy rain set in about two hours after the wreck, before the wounded could be taken away, raining for two hours. People are doing all they can for the wounded.
Chicago, August 11. -- A telegram from Chatsworth, Ill. says a terrible disaster has occurred to an excursion train of fifteen cars, loaded with people bound for Niagara Falls. It is said one hundred are killed and wounded. A relief train of twenty-four cars has gone to the scene. A later dispatch from Chatsworth says: “The train left Bloomington last night for Niagara Falls, on the Illinois Central, the intention being to go by that road to Chatsworth, and from there by way of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw. The change was made at Chatsworth in Livingston county, and soon afterward, as the train neared Piper City, a small town in Ford County, the bridge crossing on the Vermillion river gave way, plunging down an embankment into the stream. The cars caught fire from the lamps and a fearful panic ensued. On investigation it was found that nearly one hundred people were killed or injured. The conductor of a Chicago and Alton passenger train which has just arrived in Chicago from Bloomington, where the T., P. & W. and Chicago and Alton railways connect, learned from a conductor on the first named road, that an accident had occurred at Piper City. The excursion train while on the bridge near Piper City, came into collision with another train. The cars of the excursion train were piled up in frightful confusion and from the shock of the collision the bridge gave way and several cars dropped into the stream. The conductor says that between forty and fifty are killed, and that the injured are more than twice that number. The accident occurred some time between midnight and 4 a.m. A relief train with physicians was sent from Peoria to the scene of the wreck. Information received from the Illinois Central officers in this city is that the train consisted of two engines and sixteen coaches. The culvert had been burned away about two miles east of Chatsworth presumably by a prairie fire and about 1 o’clock this morning the engines and cars went over. The agent at Chatsworth reports to General Manger E. P. Jeffery, of the Illinois Central that over one hundred are killed and about a like number injured. He can give or further particulars. Two Peoria gentlemen who had intended to take the fated train reached Chicago this morning, having at the last moment selected another route East. They say the train was made up at Peoria, so that probably the majority of the victims are from that city or its vicinity. Twelve cars started from Peoria. Attached to the train was the private car of the Superintendent of the road, which was to be occupied by himself and son. The departure from Peoria was at 7 p.m. and the intention was to take on another coach at Bloomington and the run was to be made by way of Logansport and Detroit. The programme [sic] seems to have been fully carried out until the great throng of pleasure-seekers met such a check at the bridge over the Vermillion river.
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SOURCE: 13 Aug 1887 - The Daily Picayune, New Orleans - Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier
THE WORK OF THE RELIEF PARTY FROM CHATSWORTH
Chicago, Aug. 12. -- A dispatch from Forest, Ill., says: The news of the disaster arrived at Chatsworth about a few minutes after its occurrence. The residents of the little town were suddenly awakened by an alarm which was rung simultaneously from all the alarm boxes in the town. In a few moments everybody was on his or her feed, and people were running through the streets from all directions, inquiring where the fire was.
When the actual facts were learned another alarm followed, which was soon vigorously repeated by the bells of alarm and churches in the town. The people made a rush for the road to Piper City.
Dr. E. Vaughn of Chatsworth was almost the first to appear at the scene. He was seen by a reporter and told briefly what he saw: “When I arrived, I found there the greatest confusion,” he said, “hell itself could not present a more horrible picture. Men and women were fighting with death and ready to clutch at a straw to get saved. One man held his dead wife and a dead little child on his arms, while his own feet were propped in the wreck. I relived the unfortunate of his burden and helped to draw him out and bring him to a sleeper.”
“One of the greatest misfortunes was that the wreck took place almost in a desert. It was impossible to accord the wounded suffering relief by medical appliance. There were no ambulances and nothing to carry them on. They were dragged and pushed and this accounts for a great number of people who succumbed to their pains.”
Fire Marshal Henry Game of Chatsworth says he was the first to arrive at the scene.
“I had no time to observe anything that transpired around me,” he said, “Myself and my entire force were working like beavers and in the course of half an hour we had thirty-three people, killed or wounded, dragged out of the debris. Four cars were standing on the track and the only thing I know about them is that I carried wounded men and women there.”
CARING FOR THE WOUNDED AT CHATSWORTH
Chicago, Aug. 12. -- A Times special from Forest, Ill., says: As fast as the wounded were brought into Chatsworth from the wreck they were taken directly to the town hall which had been turned into a temporary hospital.
This is a two-story frame building, the lower floor being used as quarters for the fire company, while in the upper hall entertainments are given. Beds and cots were brought from neighboring houses together with the necessary bedding and the sufferers were cared for by loving hands.
The floors of the hall greatly resembled the drill room of the Desplaines street police station in Chicago on the night of the Haymarket riot.
Torn and bleeding human beings in all different stages of suffering lay around the rooms, moaning and crying with pain, while doctors and nurses were binding up their wounds. Bloody clothing, torn and covered with mud, lay around on the floors in heaps, together with the car cushions, mattresses and blankets on which they had been brought from the scene of the wreck. Many patients were under the influence of ether or chloroform, while their faces, ghastly white, with the teeth tightly clenched, showed the sufferings which they were undergoing while partially oblivious of the fact.
Blood was everywhere on the floors, walls, clothing and hands of the wounded as well as of those who were caring for them.
As day wore away and evening came the scenes changed somewhat; the wounded had been dressed, bandaged, and most of them rested quietly enough, overcome by mental and bodily suffering. Coal oil lamps were placed around the walls, their lights carefully shaded, and the scene was strongly suggestive of the interior of a hospital on the field of battle.
In the depot at Chatsworth and in the unoccupied store used as a morgue the scene was suggestive of a slaughter house.
Stretched out on the floors in different directions were the corpse of men, women and children, dressed in their clothing in which they had met their death.
In the empty store, in a room 20 feet wide and 40 feel long, were counted twenty-seven corpses at one time. Their clothing was torn and disheveled and their limbs stiffened, and the arms, in the majority of instances, crossed over their breasts. The heads of the dead were generally mangled in the most frightful manner, and were always covered by some article of clothing.
The face of a young woman who was lying on the floor of the depot had been so beaten in by the car timbers that recognition was entirely out of the question, and her brains, with the flesh of her face, were a pulpy mass, in which dabbled her long red hair. She was not identified.
The faces of some of the dead were black, as though they had died by suffocation, while others were of a ghastly white.
President E. F. Leonard, of the Toledo, Peoria & Western Company, said to a reporter for the Times that he had made a careful but necessarily brief investigation of the accident, and could in no way account for it unless on the presumption that the bridge was set on fire deliberately by fiends for the purpose of wrecking the train and robbing the passengers.
To say that he deplored the accident faintly expressed his feelings. President Leonard came from Springfield in the afternoon, accompanied by Colonel John E. Stevens, general solicitor of the road.
When the dead body of Edwin F. Adams was searched by one of his friends, neither his pocketbook nor his gold watch could be found, although he was known to have started on the trip with a large sum of money. The only cash found on his person was $30, which he had hid in the watch pocket of his trousers.
S. H. Smithers of Fork’s Haven, W. Va., informed a reporter that he saw a man who was pinned down by one of the cars offer several persons near by $100 and his gold watch and chain if they would release him. The persons to whom he appealed helped him out of the wreck as soon as they had assisted some women who were caught between the timbers.
The horrors of the wreck seemed to be deepening early this morning, instead of lessening. To add to the pitiable spectacle of the dead and the miseries of the dying, a stench, sickening and foul, was issuing form all the numerous places where the corpses of the victims yet remained.
No picture of the horrible occurrences immediately succeeding the accident could equal in revolting details the scene at the Toledo, Peoria and Western depot here to-day. The west end of the little structure is a coalhouse and lumber-room, where promiscuously stretched on the floor in the coal and rubbish were seven unidentified bodies.
Blood-stained and bedraggled blankets were thrown loosely over each, but afforded little protection from the swarm of flies which were continuously hovering over them; the awful odor emanating from the bodies effectually kept the room clear of all but the hardiest of the still lingering, anxious or curious crowds.
Two of the victims were women and the sight of their faces was one never to be forgotten.
The distorted features, wide-staring eyes and putrefying wounds were gazed at but for a moment, even by those looking for a missing mother or daughter.
In a few hours one of them, a young women with light hair, was so bad, she would be absolutely unrecognizable from the effects of the heat.
Close by her, ranged about the other seven corpses in the room, was the dead body of a portly man supported on a couple of old boxes. He was in his stocking feet and coatless and was rapidly decaying. The other dead men on the floor were in nearly as bad a condition.
Outside on the platform of the deport, were several coffins filled with those identified during the night and now awaiting shipment.
The east end of the depot was in even a worse condition than the west. The floor continued strewn with unclaimed baggage in inextricable confusion. Little knots of people were poring over the broken satchels and masses of soiled and torn underwear and trumpery, brining [sic] to light here a little infant’s garment and the crumpled remains of a widow’s bonnet.
A little way down the road is a large vacant furniture store in which thirteen corpses were fostering. Only six of them were men; the others were women and children. Most of the thirteen had not yet been recognized by friends and their countenances were so mutilated and their clothing so draggled with dirt and blood that it is doubtful if they ever can be identified.
One pretty little woman, terribly mangled, lay motionless beside a baby toward which she was partly turned. Across the room was a stalwart man prone on his back, dead, but with his right arm still raised in agony and his fist tightly clinched.
Over in the big schoolhouse two more corpses were still unconfined, waiting claimants.
Wounded to the number of forty filled the fire engine halls, up stairs and down and the same faithful ladies and girls who had scarcely slept since the wreck were at their bedsides as on yesterday.
In addition to these there were at least a score of injured distributed among the private residences of the town, too badly hurt to be removed.
A few hours had scarcely elapsed however, when the aspect of the depot and the other morgues was completely transformed. A large force of men was set to work boxing up the dead, forwarding them to points and cleaning out generally. They succeeded admirably, and long before noon had appearances so changed that a chance visitor in Chatsworth could scarcely have believed in the city of horrors it was last night and this morning.
DISTRESSING SCENES IN THE HOSPITALS
Chicago, Aug. 12 -- The Chicago Times’ Forest special says: Miss Julia Valdejo of Peoria is said to be dying. She is a most beautiful young lady, with features of the purest Grecian type. Her beauty of figure and face attracted the attention of every one who entered the hospital.
She is but 19 years of age, is the daughter of a wealthy and widowed mother who was killed by her side in the wreck. The young lady has traveled all over the world three times and is a fine linguist.
She suffered severe internal injuries and a physician was by her side all last night relieving her paid by the use of morphine administered hypodermically. Two of her cousins came today from Peoria to see her -- Charles and Eugene Zimmerman. They rushed to Miss Valdejo’s side and were horrified to see in a double cot near by their brother and his wife, both badly bruised. The scene between these people is beyond description.
W. Van Liew, a wealthy merchant of Galesburg, died this morning at Piper City. He gave up his seat in a car to a lady of his acquaintance. The lady was unhurt but Mr. Van Liew received fatal injuries. His head was battered until his features were unrecognizable.
He telegraphed his wife that he was dangerously injured, but did not want her to see him in his horrible condition. She answered: “He is my husband, and my place is by his side.” She arrived in Piper City this morning and went to the bedside of her husband.
The meeting was very sad but affectionate. In less than an hour Mr. Van Liew died in his wife’s arms.
Mrs. Blondon, of Harker’s Corners, Ill., and her two children, referred to elsewhere in these dispatches, were on a visit to her husband’s mother in the east. Just as she left, her husband gave her a $20 gold piece and his photograph to be given as mementoes to his mother. She was killed, and to-day, in laying out the body, her husband, concealed in the waist of her dress the gold piece and photograph, stained with his wife’s blood.
Early this morning the officers and physicians of the railroad came to the conclusion that it was high time the wounded, or at least such as were able should be removed from Chatsworth and Piper City to Peoria.
The reasons promoting this action were many. Some of the wounded lived in or near Peoria and naturally desired to get to their homes; moreover the facilities for taking care of the disabled in the little towns were not so good as in Peoria, which, as everybody knows, has its full quota of hotels, not that any one ever heard a complaint or murmur from any of the ladies, quite to the contrary.
The word was passed along the line that all slightly injured or able to get to Peoria and their homes without danger would be sent to Peoria by special train.
This was indeed good news to many of the poor sufferers who seemed delighted and cheered with the outlook. Early in the afternoon they began hobbling to the station at Chatsworth. Many were badly bruised and showed faces all discolored, blood-shot eyes and arms broken. Notwithstanding their pains few complained but crawled to the depot so as to take passage on the special train. These were the convalescent and as they were helped into the cars and made comfortable, expressions of heartfelt gratitude to the genuine Samaritans of Livingston and Ford counties were heard coming from lips cut and torn.
These people took their departure on the midday train west, and as it pulled away from the station a ripple of good-bys and godspeeds passed through the crowd.
The unconfined dead disappeared early in the day, and it was indeed high time that the bodies were removed from public gaze. They had lain over twenty-four hours in the depot and in the improvised morgues until their appearance was very revolting. many had been recognized during the night and claimed by friends and relatives who had gotten coffins and made preparations to take the bodies to places of sepulcher.
The hideous bodies of the unknown unfortunates were carefully carried away, washed and laid out in coarse shrouds. They were examined by surgeons and agents of the company, who made memorandum of physical marks for the purpose of future identification. The names of some of these were obtained from the tickets which they had bought for the excursion.
The railroad commissioners wanted photographs made of the dead, but this project was by no means feasible, owing to the condition of the bodies.
The description was made in triplicate, one copy going to the coroner of Livingston county, a second to the railway company, and the third, as a way bill or ticket for the dozen or more bodies. The company had provided a number of coffins and into these the bodies were placed. The transfer was made in a freight car, removed from the station so as to be out of sight of the curious public, who little knew what was being done. The freight car containing the bodies was switched into the regular train.
THE ROAD AND ITS RESPONSIBILITY
Chicago, Aug. 12. -- The Times’ Forest City special says: The pecuniary loss arising from the accident is simply enormous. Under the laws of Illinois the relatives of those killed in the disaster will, if they have any claim at all deplete the treasury of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railroad of something like $850,000, and those injured would receive at least $250,000 more.
It might be just as well at this juncture to recite some of the vicissitudes of the road as illustrating its condition.
In 1880 it was leased to the Wabash, and when that road drifted into the hands of the receiver, the trustees for the holders of the first mortgage bonds of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw took possession of the road. Proceedings to foreclose this particular mortgage were had and in October 1886, the road was bought to sale. It was bought in for the benefit of the holders of the first mortgage bonds. A new company was organized which took possession July 1, 1887.
The name of the road was for some reason or other changed from the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railroad Company to the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad Company. The new corporation is realizing from $10,000 to $15,000 per month on the road.
Should the corporation be held guilty of negligence, and therefore at fault for the accident, the gentlemen who only six weeks ago bought in the property to save themselves will be confronted with claims aggregating a little less than a million of dollars. This of course, simply means bankruptcy, and the road will once more go into the hands of a receiver. This phase of the occurrence is anything but pleasant to the officers of the road, and they will unquestionably fight to the bitter end all claims for damages. The questions of negligence or undue diligence on the part of the servants of the corporation, involve several knotty legal problems, which probably will necessitate the ruling of the court of last resort, to wit: the United States supreme bench.
The superintendent of the road, Mr. Armstrong, by indirection at the least, claims that the accident was in nowise the result of negligence or the lack of care -- simply by the act of God. Mr. Armstrong and his foreman of bridges insist that the structure was entirely safe and the roadbed in condition to stand rapid transit.
From the evidence adduced before the railroad board it appears that the train was speeding along at from thirty to thirty-five miles per hour. Mr. Armstrong says the track is in fair order, having the customary number of ties per mile and steel rails, with fish bar attachments. There is unquestioned evidence to show that the airbrakes were tested twice at Peoria and once at Forest, where a coach was dropped and another substituted.
Mr. Markley says he examined the bridge in May last, and considered it safe for two years to come.
Many people here express a belief that the train was wrecked by thieves for purpose of plunder. Another in substantiation of this theory has as yet been developed.
Mr. Armstrong told the commissioners to-day that he had ordered a general inspection of the bridges along the road with a view of ascertaining their exact condition. He will produce evidence in support of the proposition before the commi9ssioners on Tuesday next.
The claim is made that the trestle would not stand the weight of two locomotives and that the first engine broke down the bridge by a sudden reverse followed by an immediate opening of the throttle.
The fact that the bridge was burning out is clearly established, but no one can give any clew [sic] as to the cause of the fire. Some still cry incendiarism, while others are very vociferous in their shouts that the leaves and dry grass near the bridge caught fire from a spark and communicated it to the trestle.
The railroad commissioners were at the scene of the disaster to-day and will endeavor to locate the exact cause of the occurrence. The task is no easy one, but the officers of the state, by virtue of an act passed at the last session of the legislature, are clothed with full authority to investigate all persons and papers and report.
They laid the foundation of an examination to-day and will resume operations in Peoria on Tuesday next.
It is bound to make a great big lawsuit, one that will furnish new precedents and rulings on the law of common carriers. The coroner’s jury is still pegging away.
There are some scores of witnesses yet desiring to be examined, and the railroad board will make an investigation on its own account. The matter may not be adjusted for ten years to come.
All manner of speculation is heard here as to the number of dead. The coroner says he can account for 77 bodies and believes there are no more in the wreck. The latter branch of the statement is unquestionably true, but the latest and most reliable advices swell the number of fatalities to over 80.
The railroad people have already agents gathering information as to the number and residences of the dead and wounded. Many were taken away from Chatsworth and Piper City early yesterday morning before the extent of their injuries was made known. Some of these have, it is said, died to-day.
The railroad people say that eighty-seven have already died and thirteen more are in critical condition. It is understood that the company will to-night, through it’s general officers at Peoria, furnish to the public a complete list of the dead, wounded and missing. Unless this is done the general public will never know the full extent of the calamity.
The bodies of the victims, nearly all of the wounded and the personal effects of the passengers are no longer in Chatsworth and Piper City.
All efforts to accurately ascertain the identity of the visitors have up to this time been unavailing. The coroner himself is at sea with his figures, and now intimates that he may possibly have underestimated the full extent of the disaster. The railroad officials alone can enlighten the public on this. The newspapers are powerless, as numerous bodies and wounded people were removed before any of the correspondents arrived in Chatsworth.
THE RAILWAY OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH NEGLECT OF THE SUFFERERS
Chicago, Aug. 12. --- A Times Special from Chatsworth says: There was but a very small quantity of stimulants or, in fact, of medical appliances of any kind at the scene of the accident. A man from Piper City brought out a demijohn of whisky, but the railroad people seem to have done practically nothing.
The people here are very bitter against the railroad company, and say that the officials, whether from demoralization or excitement, or from absolute pigheadedness, acted most inhumanly in many cases, and treated the wounded most shamefully all around.
In fact they did not treat the wounded at all, but left them to the care of volunteers. There was nothing to hinder the officials running trains back and forward eastward to Gilman and westward to Chatsworth, all through the night, carrying away the wounded and bring back supplies but nothing of the kind was done. The whole thing was just of a piece with the stupidity that allowed prairie fires to range all along the line and took not precautions to see that the bridges was not burned down.
It is thought that an investigation will result in holding some of the officers criminally responsible for the disaster.
The fact that fires were raging around there was known to everybody. The fact that the dry prairie grass had grown up to the line was, or should have been known to the officials and the fact that the wooden trestlework across the culvert was burned by the sun until it was inflammable as tinder was also known or should have been.
Had ordinary precautions been observed the accident would not have occurred. As already stated, the bridge must have been burning at least two hours before the train arrived.
THE OFFICERS OF THE ROAD INTERVIEWED
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug. 11. -- President Leonard, Superintendent Armstrong and other Toledo, Peoria, and Western officials were seen this morning. They have given devoted attention to the relief of the injured and care of the dead. Both show signs of the terrible shock which the accident has been to them. President Leonard said that so far as the railroad officials could estimate there were about 80 killed and 100 seriously wounded. A list is being completed in the Peoria offices of the company.
Mr. Leonard said that as near as he could ascertain the train was making about thirty miles an hour at the time of the accident -- not an excessive rate of speed as the track was in good condition.
The bridge, an ordinary 15 foot wooden structure was all right at 5 o’clock in the afternoon when a train passed over it and half an hour later the section men inspected it, under orders, in advance of the excursion train. It was all right then.
As to the future liability of the company, or the future of the road, the president, Mr. Leonard, could not say the first thing. The officials will devote all their attention to the care of the unfortunate victims.
It was a blow which would, of course be most serious to the road, but that was nothing compared with the death and injury to human beings.
Mr. Leonard said he believed they had provided every reasonable and customary safeguard.
With the consent of the coroner President Leonard has arranged that all unclaimed bodies shall be cared, washed and placed in coffins and conveyed to Peoria, where, with all their effects, they will await identification. The bodies will be kept there as long as possible and then, if not identified, will be buried.
President Leonard and Superintendent Armstrong went to Piper City this morning to care for the wounded there. The railroad and warehouse commissioners are expected here about 10 o’clock to investigate the accident.
THE DISASTER ATTRIBUTED TO TRAIN WRECKERS
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug. 12. -- Sensational features were developed this morning as to the cause of the wreck. Rumors were in circulation last night that it was due to robbers, who fired the bridge, but little credence was given to them. This morning new facts apparently showing the catastrophe to be the work of an organized band came to light, and the company finds them worthy of serious investigation.
Superintendent Armstrong said to an Associated Press reported that the more he investigated it the more it appeared to him that the bridge had been set on fire. The burned grass in its immediate locality was not of a nature that seemed likely to admit of the bridge’s catching fire from it. he had observed many thieves at work and had stopped them while despoiling the wreck of property and money.
Instances of robbery of the dead were being brought to his attention. The excursion had been extensively advertised and the time it would pass over the bridge was well known. Citizens say that a gang of suspicious-looking fellows have been loitering around Chatsworth for some days. Many of these were found early at the wreck paying more attention to relieving the bodies of their valuables than to caring for them otherwise.
Trainmen and passengers had frequent contentions with the vandals. In one instance Superintendent Armstrong found a well-known thief in the depot room where the property taken from the wreck was stored.
While the people of the town have done all in their power for the sufferers, there is a horde of tramps and thieves in this vicinity who do nothing but carry off anything they can get their hands on.
THE PILLAGE OF THE DEAD AND DYING
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug 13. -- Stories and incidents concerning the disaster are just beginning to come to light, and as the excitement in a measure dies out robberies are becoming known.
Miller Patterson, when he left Wyoming, his home, carried a silver watch and had about $30 in money after buying his ticket. Only about $2.50 was found on the body.
A man who is 50 years of age was caught in the act of robbing a corpse and was spotted thereafter by a young man and made a streak for Piper.
For three hours one woman was hanging out of a car window, her body lifeless. She was caught by the thighs and it took about fifteen minutes to extricate her. Her legs were horribly mangled and the flesh was torn completely off.
One of the worst acts ever recorded is going the rounds. A man was getting out of the cars. Near him during the journey was a woman with a fine gold watch and chain. She was badly injured and cried with anguish, “Oh God! Help Me.” The man turned, apparently to assist her, but instead stooped over, grabbed the watch and chain and fled.
The rescuing party, who were among the first to go through the wreck, saw watches, chains and pocketbooks scattered around. Such of these as they had time to do they picked up and restored to their owners.
The train wreckers are working both ways at the wreck and it is almost certain that they will not get the track clear before to-morrow night.
In the third coach from the engine was a man with his wife and daughter. When the wreck occurred he lost a hand satchel but afterward found it, but his pocketbook, containing $95, was gone.
James Burling of Ferry’s was in the third car from the front and was but slightly injured. He relates his experience as follows: “At first I thought the car we were in was off the track as it went thumping along. Almost instantly it stopped and at once could be head pounding on the road with axes. Suddenly the roof split open and I crawled out. Some others had crawled out and more were doing so. Cries and shrieks could be heard, but everything was in darkness, as the lights had been extinguished. The cars were piled three deep and mine was on top. I saw some robbery. The bridge was all on fire, but there was no fire outside of the bridge on the right side of the track.”
A new theory has been developed. It is in effect that at the inquest an attempt will be made to show that there was a fire on the bridge on the afternoon of the accident. Mr. Doelp lives northeast of the wreck. His house is about a quarter of a mile from the wreck, while his land comes right up to the bridge.
What it will be attempted to prove by him is that during the afternoon he saw smoke rising in the direction of the bridge. Knowing how dry it was and fearful lest his oat stubble stacks should be burned, he went to the place and found the fire around the bridge. This will be introduced this afternoon.
Mr. Davis, who lives a quarter of a mile east, will be called on to corroborate Doelp.
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug. 12. -- The estimates of the dead this morning are about the same as the figures sent last night. The coroner’s list, revised up to the time the inquest was resumed to-day, foots up seventy-six.
Notwithstanding contrary opinions expressed by the railroad officials a survey of the wreck early to-day confirmed the belief that several bodies are still under the debris of the smashed engines and cars.
The report yesterday that twenty dead were at Piper City is denied this morning by the president of the road. Three or four of the wounded were carried to Piper City yesterday and died there, however. So with the 76 on the coroner’s list here and those supposed to be yet under the wreck, the estimate of 81 deaths appears to be very close to the actual number.
CLEARING AWAY THE WRECK
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug. 12. -- At 7 o’clock this morning Master Mechanic Warren with a wrecking train and a large force of men were at work. Warren was confident that the track would be cleared for trains by noon. They were certain that all bodies had been removed from the wreck.
A special car with officials of the Wabash Road reached the wreck early this morning and they tendered the use of their wrecking outfit, and, as well, offered to be of any service possible.
The Illinois Central also offered any required assistance, but Mr. Warren said he thought his present equipment would enable him to clear the track.
THE CORONER’S INQUEST
CHICAGO, Aug. 12. -- A Time’s special from Forest, Ill., says: The coroner’s inquest which began last night was held on the top floor of the public school-house. There were present only the coroner, the jury, President Leonard of the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, Superintendent E. N. Armstrong of the same road, Master of Bridges Markle, Justice of the Peace Estes, and several reporters for Chicago and Peoria papers.
The first witness called was Superintendent Armstrong, ?__kle? testified that he was on the fated train, which consisted of six sleeping-cars, two chair cars, five passenger coaches, one special car and one baggage car, drawn by engine No. 13, Engineer E. McClintock, Fireman Applegreen, and engine No. 21 Engineer Ed Sutherland. Engine No. 13 was next to the baggage car. The fireman’s name of engine No. 21 the witness did not recollect. His car was next to the baggage car.
The train left Chatsworth about 11:45 Wednesday night. After leaving he went into his own car and sat there three or four minutes, when he felt a fearful shock to the train. The next instant the car passed over the burning bridge.
He was thrown out of one of the windows into a hedge fence near the right of way. The steam was blowing off from one of the engines and the hot water was burning him. He got up and saw the train disappear. Train Dispatcher Parker of Peoria and his wife were caught in the baggage car. The witness got the man loose but could not get the woman out. She was released later, however. Mrs. Gould and daughter, wife of the auditor of the road, were occupying a stateroom in the special car. He went to their assistance and found them injured. He then asked one of the firemen where the front engine was and was told that Engineer Sutherland had gone to Gilman for help. The engine came in about three-quarters of an hour with doctors. The wounded were taken out of the wreck where possible and sent to Chatsworth and Piper City, while all of the dead were sent to Chatsworth, that being the county seat.
The bridge was only partly demolished when the witness first saw it, the stringers at both ends having gone down. Dirt and brush were thrown on the flames. The engines set fire to nothing and only one car and a Pullman sleeper were slightly burned. The witness met the section foreman near the wreck after the occurrence, and the latter said that he went over the section at 5:30 Wednesday, and there was no fire there then. The witness had warned him to have the section hands go over the section after quitting work, knowing that the excursion train was going over the road that night. No train went over the bridge after 5:30 o’clock Wednesday.
Witness counted the tickets before reaching Chatsworth and found that there were a few over 600 persons on the train.
He said that he believed there were only three or four dead persons in Piper City.
The witness did not think it possible that anybody could have been so fiendish as to burn the bridge. About one week ago the grass along the right of way, near the bridge, had been burned off. The train was running, he judged, about thirty-five miles an hour at the time of the accident. Engineer Sutherland told him that he saw a very small blaze before reaching the bridge, but thought it was a few leaves burning outside the track. The engineer also told him that he did not see the fire until he got directly over the bridge, and then he called for brakes but it was too late to avert the accident. The witness remained at the wreck till 7 o’clock in the morning, and saw to the handling of the bodies. He saw one or two persons examining the pockets of the dead. He was informed by those making the search that it was their relatives whom they were searching. If he had had any suspicion that the bodies were being rifled by those persons his suspicions would have been disarmed by the way in which the persons making the search answered him. He saw no one robbing the dead or cutting off fingers from the dead to secure rings. There was plenty to help get the bodies out of the wreck, valuable assistance being rendered by the Chatsworth fire company.
J. W. Markley, master of the bridges and building of the Toledo, Peoria and Wabash Road, testified that he inspected the bridge in May last. It was made of two pile bents, four pilings to each bent. It was 15 feet long and 6 feet high. The stringers were 7 by 16 feet, two of them being under each rail. The ties were 6 by 8 feet and 9 feet long. The stringers, ties and guard rail were put in fourteen months ago. The piling was good for about two years.
There was a wall of old timbers at each end of the bridge to keep up the embankment. It’s condition was good. The witness examined the bridge yesterday and found nothing left but part of the partly burned curb and a few pieces of small timber. The piles were burned off close to the ground, three or four of them sticking up two feet from the ground. The witness thought that it would take about two hours for such a bridge to burn. Two other bridges on the road had been burned this year, but had been seen in time to prevent any accident.
The burned bridge was about two miles and a half east of Chatsworth.
At this point the inquest was adjourned until to-day.
-- Top --
SOURCE: 14 Aug 1887 - The Inter Ocean - Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier
THEIR AGONY ENDED.
Sufferings of Four Victims of the Culvert Horror Ended at Chatsworth and Peoria.
A Half Dozen of the Wounded Not Expected to Survive but a Few Hours Longer.
Harrowing Story of the Wreck – A sensational Discovery – The Coroner’s Queer Invesgators [sic]
SWELLING THE DEATH LIST
FORREST, Ill., Aug. 13. – Special Telegram – Miss Julia Valdejo, of Peoria, died in the Chatsworth Town Hall at 9 o’clock this morning. She was 17 years old, the daughter of a widow who was killed in the wreck. It has been only two or three months since the daughter returned from a trip to Europe. It was just about the hour of her death when a railroad man, searching in a tangled corner of the wreck, found behind a stone a small black satchel, containing two gold watches wrapped in a handkerchief. Beside the satchel lay a beautiful gold maltese cross, pendant from a bar, which bore the name “Julia Valedjo.” On one of the watches were the letters “K. Z.” It is thought to be the property of Katie Zimmerman, who is among the badly wounded.
At about 10 o’clock Mrs. Peter Valentine, of Peoria, died at Piper City. She had previously been reported dead. Her body was at once inclosed [sic] in a good coffin and sent west on the noon train. Her husband works in the Peoria watch factory, and has five small children.
Fifteen of the wounded still lie at Chatsworth, but some may be taken away to-night.
MRS. CLARK OF BOOTSTOWN, OHIO,
still wavers between life and death. She is a very large woman and is badly mangled. Her husband is attending her, and her dead baby has been sent home. The doctors have very little hope of her living long, as they fear blood poisoning.
Six of the wounded lay in the Chatsworth Town Hall this afternoon. Homer Bond, of Colchester, is one of these, who can hardly live. He shows signs of inflammation of the lungs, which will probably hasten his death.
At Piper City this morning there were twenty wounded, of whom three are expected to die. These are Miss Pearl Adams, of Peoria; ----- Maxwell, a merchant from Indianapolis, and George A. Smith of ElPaso. Miss Adams is at the house of Dr. Culbertson. She is injured badly in the chest, has a dislocation of the ribs and collar bone, and one of her feet is mangled. She has a very strong constitution and bears up well, but the Doctor says hope for her life is faint. He thinks that if she lives through the night she may recover. Her father, a physician, is with her.
Mr. Maxwell is a merchant of middle age. He made his will yesterday and expects to die soon. One of his lungs was punctured by a broken rib, so that the air drawn into the lung
ESCAPES INTO HIS SIDE.
The left leg of George A. Smith is split from the knee to the ankle, scoring the tibia badly and laying bare the knee-joint. Amputation may be necessary, but there is no surgeon at Piper City. All the surgeons of the road have been kept busy at Chatsworth.
Dr. R. Reed, of Astoria, was taken home today on the noon train, though it seemed doubtful whether he could endure the journey. On the same train went a young man named Brown, from Breed’s Station. He is not in danger. Six other wounded persons left Piper City for their homes this afternoon.
The wife and two little daughters of E. R. Stedwell, of Bippus, Huntington County, Indiana, reached his bedside to-day, much to the relief of the wounded man, who is by no means out of danger.
Coroner C. H. Long figures the total number of dead to be seventy-four up to 6 o’clock this evening. Of these only three have died since the wreck occurred. The Coroner claims to have positively identified sixty-nine of this number, leaving five still unrecognized. The unclaimed dead have been sent to Peoria. Other estimates make the number of dead seventy-eight. It certainly has not exceeded eighty.
The scene of the wreck is still visited by thousands of people from far and near, nearly all of whom carry away trinkets and mementoes. The ruined engine, No. 13, run by McClintock, was lifted from the ditch this morning and drawn to Chatsworth. All regular trains are running over the little bridge at full speed.
THE CORONER’S INQUIRY
FORREST, Ill., Aug. 13 – Special Telegram – Coroner Long’s jury held a short session at Chatsworth this morning and examined one winess [sic], W. G. Messler, a grain dealer, living in that village. He rang the alarm bell in the village when the news of the wreck was received, and with three torches then hurried to the scene of the disaster. He went to work on the second chair car in front of the sleeper, which had been telescoped by the chair-car behind. All the passengers had been shoved into a tight mass in the front end of the car, and there seventeen dead bodies were taken out. Mr. Messler said he did not see any pillage or robbery of the dead, but as he was holding a torch for the rescuers he would not have been likely to see thieves at work. The inquest was then adjourned until next Tuesday forenoon. By that time it is expected that further witnesses will have been discovered by the detective employed by the company.
This Coroner’s jury here is a queer aggregation, and moves in a peculiar method. Dr. Long, of Pontiac, the Coroner of Livingston County, appears to be an earnest, painstaking man. He is undoubtedly anxious to get at the truth of the matter, but has been so overworked since the accident that he had had hardly any time to investigate the affair or to look up witnesses. The members of the jury are nearly all men with gray heads – merchants in Chatsworth and neighboring farmers. They are typical, perhaps, of a country Coroner’s jury. All are deeply interested, but each one of the six has already his theory of how the bridge was burned. They do not hesitate to discuss their theories will [sic] all comers. Two, at least, are of the firm opinion that the culvert was fired by vandals who wished to rob the passengers. Others thing the burning grass did the work.
During the sessions the jurors sit on top of the desk in the school-house and whittle vigorously. Now and then one of them ejects a shower of tobacco juice and puts a question to the witness. When not in session the jurors stand about the streets and argue the subject with their neighbors or seek after witnesses to bolster up their pet theories. Those who expect a reliable inquiry into the terrible disaster must depend on the work of the railway commissioners.
RUNNING FIFTY MILES AN HOUR.
FORREST, Ill., Aug. 14 – Special Telegram -- An important discovery has just been made.
It is one which will throw much light upon a question which has been discussed more or less since the frightful disaster of Wendesday night.
The record kept by Train Despatcher Hibbard indicates that the ill-fated excursion train was run at the rate of fifty miles or over per hour when the disaster occurred.
The distance from Forrest to Chatsworth is six miles, and it was covered in seven minutes, or a fraction less than a mile a minute. The track between these two points is an up-grade the entire distance. From Chatsworth to the point where the accident occurred the grade is gradually downward until about a mile from the scene of the slaughter is reached, when this decline of the grade becomes much more marked.
It is now believed here, in the light of this discovery, that the train must have been running at a rate of speed even exceeding fifty miles an hour. The fact also that the first engine of the double-header cleared the sunken culvert, goes to show that this passage was made like a flash. The discovery of this record will be followed up very closely by the authorities now on the ground.
THE BURNING OF THE BRIDGE
FORREST, Ill., Aug 13 – Special Telegram – Your reporter has found a number of men at Piper City, who positively contradict the testimony of Timothy Coughlin, the section boss, that he and his gang put out al the fires along the track before they left their work and proceeded to Chatsworth Wednesday evening. These men were of a party which went from Piper City to the wreck on a handcar, as soon as they heard of the accident. They arrived about an hour after the event. They say as they passed along the track east of the wreck they saw fire burning in the grass and hedges all along the way. It is quite certain that Coughlin was mistaken, to say the least, when he said they did not burn grass closer to the wreck than half a mile. The best evidence obtainable is that the fire built by the section hands was within 100 rods of the burned bridge when it was left.
There is a general sentiment among residents here that the section men were largely to blame. Very few people, except the officials of the railroad, give any credence to the incendiary theory. The officials naturally desire to shift the liability. There was not nearly as much robbing at the wreck as some reports indicated. Watches and rings thought to have been stolen are being found among the debris as it is cleared away.
FROM AN EYE-WITNESS
Miss Minnie Reuter, of No. 314 West Jackson street, who was on the ill-fated train, writes to her relatives here as follows:
PEORIA, Ill., Aug. 12. – Dear Ones at Home: You have heard long before this of the disaster which came so near including me as one of its victims. Did you receive my telegram before you saw the account in the papers? It was sent off at 6 a.m.
Our party was in the first sleeper, and in the last wrecked car. Our car was partially tipped, and one end went through the bridge, but fortunately no one was hurt. The fire was under our car, but the flames were fought manfully by dirt and switches, the only things available, and the car prevented from burning.
The first I knew of it was, “Minnie, the cars are off the track!” then several jolts and I was almost thrown from my berth. I was going to put on some clothes, when I saw a blaze and everyone cried “The car is on fire!” The car in front of ours was a chair car, and only four of is occupants were saved, every chair being tenanted.
I suppose you have read accounts of it in all shapes, but you cannot imagine – no one can imagine – the horrible scenes of which I was a witness and the heart-rending moans and shrieks to which I was a listener. I can never, never forget it. The fearful sight is still before my eyes, and the piteous cries are still ringing in my ears. Oh! It was terrible to watch the sufferings. Some had their limbs broken; some their hands and feet taken off; others their faces cut beyond recognition; others could not be recognized in any way. Each sufferer was asking for some one – a father, a mother or sister – sometimes for a friend who was still in the wreck. It was almost impossible to extricate those who were imprisoned. Their moans and shrieks, their cries for help and water, and their wails for one another as they were taken out one by one – very slowly, very carefully, and taken down on a board by some strong, brave men, who received them from the others, who worked until they almost fainted – were terrible to hear.
One poor man said to me when I brought him a pillow: “My wife is dead. I was sitting on her when they took me from the car.”
It was awful to see the dead lifted out among the living – men, women, and little children. One little child, still living, was handed to me from the car. I looked in vain for its mother, whom I learned next morning was crushed to death. A woman who had three children of her own took it from me.
One woman who had been hurt, and who must have been insane, followed me around and asked me to find her daughter, her baby, she said she was a woman grown and taught school. This woman’s appearance was awful. Half dressed, her black hair was loose and flying in all directions; he wild eyes following me; her face covered with blood and her arms thrown wildly about, crying for her daughter.
Oh, I cannot begin to describe half the horrible things that I saw. We were in a large field, with nothing in sight save our own wretched company, with lights flickering here and there among the dead and wounded, who presented all sorts of horrible sights, lying near the shattered cars, laying one over another and telescoped one into another, with their freight of human suffering, which was a mass of faces, arms, hands, feet, legs, and bodies in one great jumble, where so short a time before was a merry, laughing company bent on pleasure.
It was several hours before we received assistance: it seemed weeks. About 8 o’clock a very sharp thunderstorm came up. Many of the victims had not been taken into the sleepers, of which all were uninjured excepting ours, the Tunis. They could do nothing but cover them with blankets. It poured almost two hours.
I reached Chatsworth a little after 5 a.m. and ran all over to find a place where they would send my messages. I arrived in Peoria about 4 p.m. Thursday. Gus met me a little way from Chatsworth. They had not received my dispatch, had heard exaggerated reports – if that were possible – and were almost frantic. When we arrived in Peoria we could scarcely get through the crowd in the depot and the streets for several blocks around. Everybody looked so anxious. Several Peoria trains met ours on the way home, and as their passengers streamed through our car their anxious faces and wild eyes were turning from one side to the other. In some we saw the glad look of recognition; in some a look of inquiry as they stopped to ask about a relative or friend. Others showed that they had heard the worst. One man stopped to ask a girl who sat with me about his friends, six or eight in number, all of whom were either killed or wounded. In looking at these faces I realized more fully than before how awful it all was.
Gus was on the last train out. Uncle and Willie were around the depot telegraph office almost all day. All were at the depot excepting grandma, although we did not see them in the immense crowd. Grandma knew nothing about it until my dispatch came at 12:30, but would not believe that I was safe until she saw me. The flags were at half mast when we arrived. Ninety-five percent of the dead are from here, but only twenty-five or thirty had been identified up to midnight. Several were in a dying condition when I left at noon. Many were still in the wreck.
One of the most shocking things to me was the robbery of the corpses, and the plundering of baggage that lay around.
I escaped without a scratch – and without my stockings. I can’t say that I was even frightened, as I did not realize my danger until I was safe. I went back into the car for any clothes when I saw that the car was not burning. The field was a general dressing-room at once, but was soon converted to a hospital.
I thought at first no one was injured – that our car suffered most, -- until the smothered shrieks and groans made me only too vividly conscious of the awful truth.
I feel a little tired and weak this morning. I did not sleep any the night of the wreck, which occurred at 11:30, just as I was dozing off. I slept but little last night. I have not cared for food since I started for Niagara, which I have lost all ambition to see. I shall probably feel all right in a little while, after this horrible impression wears off. With much love to you all, I remain your most fortunate and loving daughter and sister. MINNIE
P.S. – Aunt Ell just received a letter from Fan. “Till” has sprained her ankle again. She is unfortunate. It is well that she was not with me. I have ambition for nothing. I would come home, but do not want to get on a railroad car for a little while yet. MINNIE
A MOUNRING [sic] CITY
PEORIA, Ill., Aug. 13 – Special Telegram – This has been another melancholy day for Peoria. Solemn corteges have wended their way to the cemeteries, and everywhere in every part of the city are to be found solemn reminders of the awful calamity that has made all Peoria a city of mourning. Most of the dead bodies brought here and placed in the extemporized morgue have been identified and sent to their homes. One of the rooms at the Union depot presents a sad and awesome spectacle, being filled with clothing, baggage and other property that belonged to the ill-fated passengers and has been brought here to await its lawful claimants.
The most numerously attended funeral today was that of E. Godel, who was a prominent German-American and leading business man. An oration was pronounced by L. Ph. Wolff, editor of Die Sonne. The funeral of Mrs. Christian Zimmerman and Mrs. Julia Valledjo, who were relatives, both took place from the residence of the former, and were particularly sad affairs. Two of the daughters of Mrs. Zimmerman are badly injured, and just before the funeral word was received of the death of Miss Valledjo at Chatsworth. It is a fearful experience for the family, and Ernest Zimmerman, one of the sons, is nearly crazy. Mrs. James Deal’s funeral was also
A HEARTRENDING EVENT
Mr. Deal, who is a well-known contractor, has been in a stunned and dazed condition ever since the disaster, and his condition gives his friends great solicitude.
W. F. Stephens and his two daughters were also buried today. The services were conducted by the Rev. G. B. Stockin, of the Universalist Church, who was absent from the city on a vacation at the time of the accident, but returned as soon as he heard of it and the death of his parishioners.
Other burials today were those of Capt. Dahlke, Thomas Wright, Mrs. Lilian Putney, Mrs. John Murphy and children, and Miss May McEvoy. The latter were interred in Catholic cemeteries and all the others at Springdale.
Mrs. Sidney Smith, of Galesburg, who was brought in wounded, died today at the Union Depot and the remains were immediately sent on to her home.
The death of Adam Somerberger is momentarily expected.
A meeting of the memorial committee was held this evening. The Hon. Lawrence Harmon presided. The matter of holding a memorial meeting was discussed, and it was finally decided not to hold one as the ground would be fully covered by the press and the pulpit tomorrow. A committee of five was selected to prepare an address and an appropriate resolution setting forth the feeling and sentiments of the community. This committee is composed of William Reynolds, the Hon. N. E. Worthington, Dr. J. T. Stewart, Mayor Kinsey, and Valentine Jobst.
Of the unidentified dead who were brought to this city, the following were today identified:
Mrs. Mann, Peoria. Fully 200 persons identified this lady as Mrs. Ira J. Hicks, of Chillicothe, by Mr. Hicks, who was himself injured, declared she was not his wife. Later the body was identified by Mr. Mann.
James N. Noakes, Peoria, recently moved here from Syracuse, N. Y.
J. D. Richard, Patriot, Ind.
Robert E. Strachan, Syracuse. He had been visiting at Smithville, Ill., and was on his way home.
Hattie Clay, aged 14; Dora Clay, aged 9 and their stepmother, and James Moses, aged 4, all of Eureka. The mother of these children was killed.
James Sherman, Brimfield. When he left home he had $200 and two gold watches. When found $150 of the money was found sewed in his shirt, but the watches were missing.
Only one body, that of a woman, is awaiting identification here now.
States Attorney Mehans and others on the wrecked train say there is not a particle of truth in the story that all the grass about the bridge was burned away for a distance of forty feet. It was with the utmost difficulty that they were enabled to keep the flames of the tall, dry grass from setting the forward sleeper on fire. This grass caught fire several times, and was not more than seven or eight feet distant from the bridge. There was also dry weeds, stalks, and other refuse which would give communication to the bridge. The section men left smoldering embers of a fire and these embers undoubtedly set fire to the bridge. They tell their other stories in order to shield themselves from blame.
The section men declare that the T. P. & W. Road did not have enough men on a section to properly take care of the road, and that it was in no condition for the running of heavy trains. The bridge also, they say, was not on a grade with the balance of the road-bed.
ANXIOUS RAILWAY OFFICIALS
FORREST, Ill., Aug. 13 – Special Telegram-- The railroad officials are still very greatly worried by the result of the wreck. They say that half a million dollars will probably not cover the loss to the company in car damages and civil damages for killed and wounded. The company has detectives at work in Chatsworth and Peoria investigating the cause of the disaster and the report of robbing afterward. Attorney Stevens says: “If the company can show that all reasonable precautions were taken by it to have the track in good condition it may escape liability. The most serious point is the action of the superintendent in sending out such an unusually heavy train. I find, however, that it is customary on all roads which do not have the block system to run large trains in one sections with two engines. If in two sections and an accident happens to the first section, the second section is almost certain to crash into it. If this train had been in two sections the first section could not have been stopped after the engineer saw the blaze.”
President Leonard remained at Chatsworth until this evening, looking after the work of removing the wounded to their homes.
PRESIDENT LEONARD SPEAKS
PEORIA, Ill., Aug. 13 – Special Telegram – President E. F. Leonard, of the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, returned from the Chatsworth wreck this evening. It is the first time he has been back to Peoria since the accident. When interviewed as to the financial aspect of the disaster he said that the damage to railroad property would probably aggregate $250,000. As to the financial condition of the road in the hands of the corporation which now controls it, it has been realizing from $10,000 to $15,000 per month. After passing out of the hands of the Wabash the road was sold in October, 1886, on proceedings to foreclose the first-mortgage bonds, and was bought in for the benefit of the holders of them. A new company was then organized which took possession only six weeks ago. In speaking of the results of the accident in a financial sense Mr. Leonard said: “I have taken no legal advice, have not consulted the owners of the property, and have been, in fact, too busy to even think of the matter. All my staff has been at work at the wreck and nothing else received our attention. The report that the company propose to put the road in the hands of a receiver on account of the disaster is absurd. There is no reason for any such action. No suits have yet been brought and no judgments rendered against the road.
He was asked concerning
THE CONDITION OF THE ROAD
when it was turned over by the Wabash two years ago.
“It is not true,” he said, “that it had been milked, as is reported, and was given to us in a ruinous condition. It was not in as good shape as when they took it, but it was no worse than the rest of the Wabash system, and was in as good condition as their main line. Since then we have not even paid interest, having used every cent of the road’s earnings for improving and strengthening it, and the account of new material that we have purchased has been far above the average amount generally used by railroads in that period of time; thousands of new ties have been used in the last two years, the road being widened and in every way improved, and made what it should be. It is purely imaginary to say that our road bed is too light for double-headers. There’s nothing in this accident or the experience of the road to prove it.”
Mr. Leonard said that there had been nothing in the current newspaper comment that he could take exception to. There was always a disposition to censure some one when so horrible an accident occurred. He was glad the State Warehouse and Railroad Commissions had undertaken an investigation, as that would develop where the blame should rest, if any one was to be censured. He did not know the theory under which the Coroner was working, but he was a clear headed man and he had confidence in his ability to conduct a fair investigation.
GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT ARMSTRONG
who had also came in from the wreck this evening, was asked if it was true that McClintock, the engineer who was killed, had expostulated with him about taking out the train as a double header. He answered emphatically in the negative. “Before the train started,” Mr. Armstrong said, “he came up to me and I said: ‘Can we make it McClintock?’ He answered pleasantly: ‘Of course we can; No. 21 could make it alone.’ He was one of the oldest and most trusted men we had and if he had objected to going out on a double-header the advice of a man so experienced would have certainly been listened to. He had gone out before on double-headers over the same line. The train was taken out that way because it could best be handled so and none of those in authority had the least reason to anticipate any danger. Why, some time ago, when business was slack, I laid off several crews, and when business picked up again the men employed came to me and wanted me to run out heavier trains, freight and double headers, so as to give them more work, because if other men were put on some would have to be laid off whenever there was any letting down in business.”
President Leonard declares that the whole thing resolves itself down to the proposition that the calamity was not caused by a defective roadbed, weak bridges, or imperfect rolling equipment, but by the burning of a bridge, the responsibility for which rests with, no one knows, whom.
SOME EXPERT OPINIONS
Mr. George M. Pullman, when speaking about the Chatsworth accident, expressed himself as emphatically opposed to the idea of permitting a double-header, with seventeen or eighteen cars loaded with human beings, to be rushed along a prairie road at thirty miles or more and hour. It was, of course, very gratifying to him that none of the passengers in the six Pullman coaches had been killed or injured. His company had sustained little loss, and he was gratified to know that the Pullman conductors and porters had rendered all possible assistance to the wounded and that the cars were of timely service as a refuge for the injured and the women and children who were in the other coaches. He was greatly shocked at the magnitude of the disaster and would await with much interest the solution of its exact cause.
IRON OR STEEL CARS IMPRACTICABLE
General Manager Brown, of the Pullman Company, referring to an editorial in the afternoon paper, which demanded that “the wood car must go” and make way for the iron or steel car, said that such a move was impracticable. Iron cars have been made, but they do not give the service or stand the strain their friends claim for them, and furthermore they rust out and weaken in many parts. As for a steel car, everyone knows its brittle character and its liability to snap. The modern passenger car and sleeping coach is far in advance of those constructed but a few years ago, and the tendency of railroads is towards the construction of cars of the strongest, most durable nature.
So far as known the cars which were crushed in the wreck had been in use on the road for a long while and were of the most ordinary kind of day coaches.
SUPERINTENDENT WADE OF THE WABASH ROAD, talking with THE INTER OCEAN reporter at noon, said that while there was no question but that stone culverts and bridges were to be preferred to wooden, it was still a matter which the financial resources of the road had to be consulted about. When a road can afford to it should put in stone bridges all along the line where bridges are required; but there are not many roads crossing the prairies of Illinois that could at one swoop bring up the track, the rolling-stock, and all the culverts and bridges to the ideal standard. The T. P. & W. was at one time a part of the Wabash system, but had always been a rather unfortunate piece of property. No one could regret the accident more than he, and he knew how keenly the officers of the unfortunate road felt over the affair. The public should not be too hasty in indiscriminate or ill-considered criticism. The aim of every railroad man is to throw all possible safeguards around the passengers; but sometimes accidents occur in spite of all precautions. He was not prepared to say whether he blamed the road or whom he felt deserving of censure for the accident. The evidence seemed positive that Superintendent Armstrong had ordered the track thoroughly inspected late on the afternoon of the day of the accident especially for the excursion train. Mr. Wade said he would await developments with much interest. As to the future of the Toledo, Peoria and Western, or the effect of the accident on it financially, he did not care to express an opinion.
GALESBURG, Ill., Aug. 13 – Special Telegram – The last of the unfortunates from this city who were in the Chatsworth disaster have arrived here. Mrs. Sidney Smith, who was supposed to have been killed, was found in a house at Piper City in a terribly bruised condition, and brought home last night. The body of P. P. Van Liew was also brought on the night train, and the funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon, under the directions of the Knights of labor. The funeral of the Rev. W. M. Collins was held this afternoon, being conducted by the Odd Fellows, and was attended by an immense throng. The body was shipped to Genesco for burial. Mr. Collins carried an insurance of about $10,000 on his life. Mr. John Reider, who was on the train and remained to care for Mr. Van Liew, tells a horrible tale of the want and suffering of the injured and dying. Mr. Reider was also considerably bruised.
MISS O’SHAUGHNESSY SAFE
In the revised list of the killed made up at Forrest on Friday and telegraphed here by THE INTER OCEAN special correspondent appears the name of Miss Jennie O’Shaughnessy, of Peoria. Yesterday Miss O’Shaughnessy’s brother called at this office to say that his sister was safe, having fortunately escaped injury. In the midst of so much death, it is gratifying to chronicle such a case as this, and the record of more narrow escapes would be very welcome.
MISS BALL’S ESCAPE
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Aug. 13 – Miss Susie Ball reported among those killed at the Chatsworth wreck was in this city today attending the funeral of Mrs. W. L. Ball, of Peoria and Miss Mamie Powers, of this city, sisters. Miss Ball, who is a sister of Miss Ball’s husband, was with them but escaped. Miss Powers is probably the person alluded to in the reports as Miss Ball.
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SOURCE: 19 Aug 1887 - Lake Superior Review & Weekly Tribune - Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier
Chatsworth, Ill., Aug. 18. -- The following is the verdict as agreed upon by the coroner's jury in the Chatsworth disaster: State of Illinois, Livingston County. In the matter of the inquest on the body of Mrs. Dr. Duckett, of Forest, Ill., deceased, held at Chatsworth, on the 11th day of August, A. D. 1887. We, the undersigned jurors, sworn to inquire into the cause of the death of Mrs. Dr. Duckette, late of Forest, Ill., on oath, do find that she came to her death by injuries received in the wrecking of the Niagara Falls excursion train on the Toledo, Peoria & Western railway, on which she was a passenger. We find that the wrecking of the said train which totally demolished eight coaches, one baggage car and one engine and either killed or wounded most of the occupants of said coaches, was caused by said bridge having been burned out before the train struck it. We think from the evidence that the bridge was fired from fires left burning which had been set as late as 5 o'clock that afternoon by the section men as close as sixteen feet on both the east and west sides of the bridge. We further find that the foreman of Section 7, Timothy Coughlin, disobeyed positive orders from his superior to examine the track and bridges on his section the last thing on Wednesday, and we find that he did not go over the west two and one-half miles at all on Wednesday, and that the said foreman Coughlin was guilty of gross and criminal carelessness in leaving fires burning along the track in such a dry season and with such a strong wind blowing. We recommend that he be held for examination by the grand jury; and further, it is the opinion of the jury that the leaving of the track with being patrolled for six hours before the passage of the excursion and the setting of the fires by the section men on such a dry and windy day as the 10th of August, 1887, were acts which deserve severe criticism. (Signed.) W. W. Sears, Foreman, P. L. Cook, David E. Shaw, H. P. Turner, J. R. Brigham, Frank Osborne. The within was agreed upon and signed in my presence and approved by me this 18th day of August, 1887.
(Signed.) Charles H. Long, Coroner of Livingston County.
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