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Title: The Ashtabula Disaster
Author: Peet, Stephen D.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Copyright, A. D. 1877,

  147 & 149 Fifth Ave., Chicago.

  162 & 164 Clark St., Chicago.


The narrative of the greatest railroad disaster on record is a task
which has been undertaken in the following pages. No event has awakened
more wide-spread interest for many years, and the calamity will not
cease to have its effect for a long time to come. The author has had
unusual facilities for knowing the particulars, and has undertaken the
record of them on this account. A familiarity with the locality, the
place and the citizens, personal observation on the spot during the
night, and a critical examination of the wreck before it was removed
in the morning gave him an exact knowledge of the accident which few
possessed. This, followed by intercourse with the survivors, with the
friends of the deceased, and the representatives of the press, and
by correspondence, which resulted from his assistance in identifying
bodies, and searching for relics, all added to his acquaintance with
the event and its consequences. The author is, however, happy in making
an acknowledgment of assistance from the thorough investigation of
the coroner’s jury, from the faithful presentation of facts by the
reporters of the press, especially those of the “Inter-Ocean” and
the “Cleveland Leader,” also from the pictures taken by the artist
Frederick Blakeslee, and from the articles published and sent by
various friends, which contained sermons, sketches and biographical
notices. He has to acknowledge also encouragements received from Capt
T. E. Truworthy of California, and his publishers J. S. Goodman and
Louis Lloyd & Co.

The discussions before the country in reference to the cause of
this accident, the author has not undertaken to give. These have
been contained in the “Railroad Gazette,” the “Railway Age,” the
“Springfield Republican,” the New York and Chicago dailies, and many
other papers.

Prominent engineers, such as C. P. Buckingham, Clemans Herschel, E. C.
Davis, L. H. Clark, Col. C. R. Morton, E. S. Cheseborough, Edward S.
Philbrick, D. V. Wood, F. R. Smith and many others have passed their
opinion upon it.

The accident at first seemed to involve the question of the use of iron
for bridges, and whether the European system was not better than the
American, and a comment upon this was given by Charles Collins, when he
testified that $25,000 more would have erected a stone bridge. Yet as
the discussions continued, the conclusion seems to have been reached
that riveted iron bridges might be safe if properly constructed, and
the engineers appointed by the State Legislature of Ohio, reported that
they “find nothing in this case to justify our popular apprehension
that there may be some inherent defect in iron as a material for
bridges. We find no evidence of weakness in this bridge, which could
not have been discovered and prevented.”

The erection of iron bridges with the trusses all below the track as
contrasted with so-called “through” bridges has also been discussed.
In this case the tendency to “buckling” where the track is supported
by iron braces rather than suspended from them was most apparent, for
engineer Gottleib testified there was not a single brace which was not

The danger from derailment and the fearful result which must follow
in high bridges like this is sufficient argument for the addition of
guards, or some other means to prevent trains from going off.

These questions, however, are for railroad engineers to settle. The
responsibility of the railroad companies to the American public is a
point more important. The “Iron Age,” speaking of this disaster says,
“it is a disquieting accident.” It says also that: “We know there are
plenty of cheap, badly built bridges, which the engineers are watching
with anxious fears, and which, to all appearance, only stand by the
grace of God.”

The “Nation” of Feb. 15th says: “By such disasters and by shipwreck are
lives in these days sacrificed by the score, and yet except through the
clumsy machinery of a coroner’s jury, hardly any where in America is
there the slightest provision made for inquiry into them.

“Here are wholesale killings. In four cases out of five some one is
responsible for them; there was a carelessness somewhere, or a false
economy has been practised, or a defective discipline maintained, or
some appliances of safety dispensed with, or some one has run for luck
and taken his chances.”

It may be said of this case that the coroner’s jury were as thorough
and faithful in their investigation as the American public could ask;
and yet from the class of reporters who conveyed so inadequately the
results of that investigation from day to day no one was any wiser. The
conclusion, however, has been reached, and the verdict corresponds with
the evidence given in this book.

We have no space to give to the harsh words that have been spoken.
These have come not only from the bereaved friends, but from papers of
high standing, among manufacturers and others.

The accident has been bad enough, and the decision of the coroner’s
jury sufficiently condemning. The action of the State Legislature has
also made it a matter of investigation.

The letter of Charles Francis Adams also called attention to a demand
for a Railroad commission, and the subject has not been left, as the
“Nation” intimates that it might, to a coroner’s jury, nor even to a
legislative committee, but an enactment of Congress has already passed
to bring the subject before the Committee on Railroads.

Doubtless the results will be, increased safety of travel, and the
holding of railroad corporations to a strict account by the authority
of law, for all accidents which may be caused by the want of skillful
engineering or proper management. The Westenhouse brake may have caused
the projectile force of the whole train to have fallen upon the centre
of the defective bridge, but is there not some way of stopping trains
from plunging entirely down into these fearful chasms?

Increased appliances for stopping trains, proper precautions in putting
out fires, the frequent inspection of bridges, some method of keeping a
strict account of the numbers on the train will be required.

The object of this book, however, has not been to discuss these points.
As will be seen by the narrative, the religious lessons of the occasion
are made most prominent.

The author’s sympathies were early called forth; access to the
survivors enlisted all his sensibilities; correspondence also showed
how much need of consolation there was; and the book was prepared under
the shadow of the great horror; but if the reader shall find the same
comfort from a view of the lovely characters and the Christian hopes
which span this dark cloud with a bow of promise, the author will
consider that his mission has been accomplished.



          CHAPTER I.
  Ashtabula                                9

          CHAPTER II.
  The River and the Bridge                13

          CHAPTER III.
  The Night and the Storm                 18

          CHAPTER IV.
  The Wreck                               26

          CHAPTER V.
  The Startling Crash                     34

          CHAPTER VI.
  The Alarm in Town                       42

          CHAPTER VII.
  The Fire and the Firemen                49

          CHAPTER VIII.
  Care of the Survivor                    56

          CHAPTER IX.
  The Robbers                             61

          CHAPTER X.
  Midnight at the Wreck                   66

          CHAPTER XI.
  The Public Excitement                   72

          CHAPTER XII.
  Scenes at the Morgue                    81

          CHAPTER XIII.
  The Railroad Officials                  89

          CHAPTER XIV.
  The Arrival of Friends                  96

          CHAPTER XV.
  The Wave of Sorrow                     104

          CHAPTER XVI.
  The Search for Relics                  113

          CHAPTER XVII.
  The Passengers                         120

          CHAPTER XVIII.
  The Experience of Survivors            131

          CHAPTER XIX.
  Personal Incidents                     138

          CHAPTER XX.
  Kindness shown                         144

          CHAPTER XXI.
  The Memorial Services                  152

          CHAPTER XXII.
  The Suicide                            159

          CHAPTER XXIII.
  The Character of Mr. Collins           166

          CHAPTER XXIV.
  The Loved and Lost                     170

          CHAPTER XXV.
  Sketches of Character                  177

          CHAPTER XXVI.
  P. P. Bliss                            183

          CHAPTER XXVII.
  The Testimony of Witnesses             197

  The Lessons of the Event               203

  The Coroner’s Verdict                  207




The scene of this direful event is situated on the Lake Shore Railway,
midway between the cities of Cleveland and Erie, and about two miles
from Lake Erie.

The village itself contains nearly thirty-five hundred inhabitants.
At the mouth of the river is another small village, making in all a
population of nearly four thousand. Between these points of the village
and harbor many families of the poorer classes have made their homes,
the most of them being Swedes, Germans and Irish. There are a few
fine residences in this part of the town, but the homes of the more
prominent citizens are at least a mile away. Near the depot there are
several small places of business, two or three saloons, three hotels:
The American House, the Culver House, and the Eagle Hotel, kept
by Patrick Mulligan. It was one of the worst places for a railroad
disaster. Near the depot, not six hundred yards away to the eastward,
was a deep and lonely gorge. Across this the ill-fated bridge was hung.
It was just at the point where the trains from the East were likely
to slacken speed. Below that bridge the stream ran darkly. The only
access to the gorge was by a long flight of stairs which was at the
time of the calamity covered with a deep bank of snow. No road existed
to it, and the spot could be reached by teams, only as a track was
broken through gardens and down steep banks and across the valley and
along the stream. A solitary building was in this gorge. It was the
engine house. Here were the massive boiler and engine which were used
for pumping water from the stream to the heights above, and so to the
tanks at either side of the station house, in the distance. Situated
close by the river, and almost under the shadow of the bridge itself,
this lone house became to the wrecked travelers a refuge from the fire
and storm. On the heights above towards the depot, another engine
house was situated. It was the place where the “Lake Erie,” a hand fire
engine stood. Two cisterns for the supply of water were located near,
one on either side of the railroad track. It is difficult to picture a
place more retired and lonely than this gorge. So near the busy station
and yet isolated, inaccessible, and seldom visited. Its distance from
the village, and the nature of the surroundings, will account for many
things which occurred on that awful night; but it is a strange tale we
have to tell. In the midst of the habitations of men untold sufferings
took place, and the loss of life and fearful burning.

The fire department consisted of three companies, two at the village
and one at the depot. There was only one steamer, and that was a mile
from the depot. These companies were under the control of the chief
fireman, Mr. G. W. Knapp, who is a tinner by trade, and a man slow
and lymphatic in temperament, and one who, for a long time, had been
addicted to the constant use of intoxicating liquors; a man every
way unfit for so trying an emergency. The re-organization of the
fire department had begun. Many intelligent and prominent citizens
were members of it, but these had not been successful in securing the
removal of the chief, as several years of association had made many of
the fireman satisfied with his services. It was unfortunate that the
control was at the time in such incompetent hands, but no one could
have anticipated such an event, and no emergency had heretofore shown
the necessity for a change.


[Illustration: THE OLD BRIDGE.

[From a Photograph by T. T. Sweeny, Cleveland.]]



The Ashtabula river is a shallow stream which runs through the county
and the town. As it approaches the lake it widens and deepens into what
constitutes the harbor.

The banks lining the valley of it are high and rocky precipices. They
form in the rear or to the southward of the town a gorge which is
called, by the inhabitants, by the significant name “the gulf.” Near
the depot this gorge widens, and its banks become less precipitous;
but, even at this point, the river flows at least seventy-six feet
below the level of the road, and is four feet deep. Here the fatal, but
far-famed, bridge was built. A grade on an arched viaduct conveyed the
track to the abutments, but these stood by themselves, straight from
the bottom of the gorge, two lofty pillars of stone seventy-six feet
high and just wide enough for the two tracks of the road. Flanking
these were the lower and smaller abutments of an older bridge, left
standing, but, for a long time, unused. The span of the bridge across
this gorge, from abutment to abutment, was the unusual length of one
hundred and fifty feet. The bridge was very high, and loomed up in the
distance, tall and dark and gloomy.

Travelers by the wagon road, at a distance up the river a mile away,
would stop and look at this structure, apparently built high in air,
and watch the cars as they passed in bold relief against the sky,
almost as if a spectre train were traversing the blue vault above.

It was a dizzy height. There was something almost fearful in the sight.
The recklessness of danger impressed the observer. As the full outline
marked itself against the sky, the fascination at times almost reached
a sense of the sublime.

Here, then, was the bridge suspended high in air, lofty and tall and
dark, a mysterious thing. It was not an arch lifting high its springing
sides, it was not a set of beams supported by abutments below; it was
a web of iron netted and braced and bolted, heavy, dark and gloomy in
appearance, and proving treacherous as death.

This bridge was erected in the year 1865, by Mr. Tomlinson, according
to orders and patterns given by Mr. Amasa Stone, then president of the
road. It was built after the pattern of the Howe Truss, but containing
some elements introduced by the president himself. It was constructed
of wrought iron, with long iron braces from lower cord to upper cord
twenty feet in height. There were rods stretching from top to bottom
and designed to carry the strain from brace to brace. The panels were
eleven feet long, and between these the strength of the cords depended
on three iron beams six inches thick and eight inches wide. The whole
width of the bridge was nineteen and one-half feet; its height twenty
feet; its length one hundred and sixty-five feet, in a single span.

When it was first erected it was discovered that the braces were placed
wrong, so that they came upon the sides rather than upon the edges.
The structure settled, as the edges were removed, about six inches, and
necessitated the change of the process.

This error was remedied by the cutting away of iron, so that the
braces could be turned, and this change occupied nearly a year. It was
watched with interest by the citizens, and was regarded by the builders
themselves as a doubtful experiment.

In its erection Mr. Tomlinson, the engineer, differed with the
president so much that he resigned his position, and, even Mr. Charles
Collins never acknowledged that it was a work of his inventing, or a
bridge receiving his approval. Before the committee, appointed by the
legislature of Ohio, he acknowledged that it was an “experiment,” and
even when it was in process of erection he gave no orders, but rather
left the responsibility with the president.

The deficiencies of the bridge, as acknowledged by Mr. Tomlinson, who
made the drafts, were that the braces were smaller than was intended,
and the weight was very great. Its dead weight was 3,000 pounds to the
square foot, making an aggregate mass of iron of many tons.

The rods or braces had buckled or bent at the first trial, and there
was danger that it would fall by its own weight into the creek. As it
was changed, however, and the braces sprang back, by the elasticity of
the iron, heavier braces were put into it, and in this shape it stood
for eleven years in constant service.




The night was portentous. All nature conspired to make it prophetic of
some direful event. The sympathy of the natural with the historic event
was known and felt.

Ominous of evil, a furious storm had set in. It was one of the
periodical snow storms for which the season had been remarkable. Every
Saturday throughout the month it had returned, the same fearful blast
and fall of snow. As if in warning, it had come three or four times
during the season, and now with redoubled force appeared.

The snow had fallen all day long, and was, at the dusk of night, still
falling with blinding fury. The powers of nature had seized it again,
and were hurling it down as if in very vengeance against the abodes of
men. Everything was covered with a weight of snow. The wreaths and
fancy drapery which, during the first storm, had engaged the attention
of children, and pleased the fancy with their forms of beauty and
delicate tracery, had now increased until they were heavy blankets and
burdensome loads. The feathery flakes, which at first were beds of
down, had become solid banks. Everything was buried in the increasing
drifts, even trees and houses and fences stood with muffled forms and
burdened with a snowy mantle. The streets were covered with drifts
which were piled high and wide.

No attempt had been made to break the roads. The citizens had, for
the third time, confined themselves to their houses, and had not even
opened the paths from the doors to the gates. It was, in fact, one of
those blinding, burying storms which occasionally come upon northern
homes. The greatest comfort was in being at home and having the
consciousness of the home feeling. Even the cares of the world were
shut out, and many had remained in doors refusing to be called from the
loved circle and comfortable fire. Those who were well housed felt a
pleasure in their own security, and often looked out, grateful for the
shelter of their homes.

But to the traveler it was a fearful storm. The same clouds which
filled the sky with their fleecy masses, became portentous to his
gaze. As the dusk of night settled down with more fury in the storm, a
fearful foreboding filled his heart. There were many who were impressed
with this indefinable sense of danger. It was not because they felt the
discomfort of the journey, nor because they unconsciously acknowledged
the difficulty of the way, but a strange presentiment continually
haunted them and filled them with indefinable fear. Brave hearts sank
within many, as the strange feeling came over them, that there was
danger in the air. It was like a pall to the soul. It rested heavily
upon the spirits. Stout men had to reason with themselves to nerve
themselves to undertake the journey.

This presentiment of evil was the common one. Many of the friends urged
the travelers to stay and not undertake the fearful journey. Parents at
Buffalo are known to have persuaded a daughter to stay until the storm
was over, and only yielded because a light heart was so buoyant and
hopeful, in the prospect of a holiday approaching.

A wife at Rochester urged a loved husband to stay, and was only
comforted by the promise of a speedy return. A young husband at Erie,
away from his loved wife, was sadly impressed, and discussed the
question a long time with parents and friends, and only went because
absence might disappoint the expectant companion, and because affection
for a little babe was stronger than the fear which haunted him.

Even the sweet singer of Israel was strangely impressed, and had so
far yielded to his presentiments as to persuade the ticket agent, at
the station where he was waiting, to exchange tickets and to give him
passage by another route, and only the sudden appearance of the train,
induced him to take it instead of another.

Among the many others the same forebodings were felt, but unexpressed.
As the sun went down the air grew colder. A blast from the north
arose and the snow ceased falling, but the roads and paths were still
unbroken. Whoever undertook to breast the storm or to pass through the
streets, plunged deeply into the untrodden snow. Horses were kept from
their accustomed duties and were comfortably stabled from the storm.
Nothing was stirring, apparently; only the strong iron horse and the
solitary train, which slowly made its way along the snow-covered track.

Everything was behind time. The train which was due at Erie at a little
after noon, was two and a half hours late. It should have reached
Ashtabula before sundown, and it was now dark and the lamps had long
been burning. But the engine pushed forward. The same train which
had started from New York the night before, had divided at Albany; a
portion of it was plunging through the snow-drifts of the mountains of
Vermont, and now another portion was struggling amid the snow near the
banks of Lake Erie. Both were destined to be wrecked.

Four engines had been used to push the train from the station at Erie.
Two strong locomotives were straining every nerve to push forward and
overcome the deep snow.

Within the cars there were many already anxious about the time. It was
a long and well filled train, but it was greatly behind time. Those
from a distance had been delayed throughout all their journey. Those
from nearer cities were impatient to meet their friends. To some a long
trip across the continent became an immense and gloomy undertaking. But
the passengers were making the most of the comforts of the hour. It was
a little world by itself. Men, women and children were mingled together
in the precious load. Clergymen, physicians, professional men, business
men and travelers, young men and women, those from all classes and
places were there.

In the distant east and, even, the distant west, from north and south
their homes were scattered.

The continent was represented by that train. It bore the hearts of
many, many friends. It was a varied company. Each one was pursuing
that which best suited the varied tastes, and were beguiling the weary
hours. An unusual number of parties had gathered to drive away care
and weariness by card playing. At least five such parties had cards
in their hands at the hour of the sudden calamity. Others had been
beguiling the time by tales of adventure, and by relating escapes from
various dangers.

In the smoking car a group was discussing the weight of the engines and
the amount of water used by each engine. Ladies in the sleeping coach
were preparing to retire; some had already laid down in their berths.
Gentlemen were quietly dozing in their seats; others were taking their
last smoke, before settling themselves for the night. Even the sweet
singer had just laid aside the Sacred Word, and was quietly meditating,
with a song echoing in his heart. It was just the time when every one
was seeking to make himself comfortable for the night, notwithstanding
the storm which raged.

A few thought of danger as they looked out into the darkness of the
night, but the sense of security pervaded the train; when suddenly!
the sound of the wheels was stopped; the bell-rope snapped; the lights
were extinguished; and in an instant all felt themselves falling,
falling, falling. An awful silence seized the passengers; each one sat
breathless, bracing and seizing the seats behind or before them. Not
a word was spoken; not a sound was heard--nothing except the fearful
crash. The silence of the grave had come upon them. It was the fearful
pause before an awful plunge. It was the palsied feeling of those who
were falling into a fathomless abyss. The sensation was indescribable,
awful, beyond description. It seemed an age, before they reached the
bottom. None could imagine what had happened or what was next to come.
All felt as if it was something most dreadful. It was like a leap into
the jaws of death, and no one can tell who should escape from the
fearful doom.




The cars lay at the bottom of the gorge. That which had been such
a thing of speed and a line of beauty, now lay wrecked and broken,
and ready to be burned. It was indeed a beautiful train, and was
well known for its elegance and beauty. At this time it consisted of
two locomotives, one named “Socrates” and the other “Columbia;” two
express cars, two baggage cars, two day passenger coaches, a smoking
car, a drawing-room car called “Yokahama;” the New York sleeper named
“Palatine;” the Boston sleeper named “City of Buffalo;” the Louisville
sleeper called “Osceo.”

The bridge broke in the centre. The engineer of the Socrates suddenly
heard a sharp crack, like the report of a torpedo, and looked out and
saw the engine behind sinking. With great presence of mind he opened
the throttle valve an instant, and putting on all steam drove his
engine forward. It was “like going up hill,” but the Socrates reached
the abutment and was safe. The Columbia, as it was drawn forward struck
the abutment, and for an instant clung to its leader, held by the
coupling rod, but as that broke, it fell. The first express car struck
forward and downward, and landed at the foot of the abutment, while
the locomotive fell on to it, completely reversed, with its headlight
towards the train which it had been drawing. The other express and two
baggage cars also fell to the side of the bridge, forming a line across
the chasm with the rear baggage against the east abutment. The heavy
iron bridge fell in the same instant with an awful crash, to the north,
and lay, a great wall of iron rods and braces, ten feet high across
the gorge. Singularly enough the track and top of the bridge remained
long enough _in situ_ for the bridge to sink and sway away beneath, and
then fell straight down and lay at the bottom of the stream immediately
below where it rested before, but 76 feet down, in the midst of the
ice and the snow and water of the stream. Upon this the first passenger
coach landed in an upright position in the middle of the stream and to
the left, but close by the wreck of the bridge.

The second passenger coach followed, but struck around at an angle, and
turning on to its side fell among the rods and braces, and was crushed
and broken in the fall. The smoker broke its couplings at both ends,
struck across and through the second passenger car, smashing it in its
course, and then fell upon the top of the first, crushing it down and
killing many as it fell. The palace cars followed, but as they fell
they leaped clear of the abutment and flew out into the air to the left
of the bridge with their trucks hurled beneath them, and dropped 76
feet down and 80 feet out, and landed in the centre of the chasm.

The first drawing-room car “Yokahama” landed on the ice, and the
sleeper “Palatine” beside it to the right. The sleeper “City of
Buffalo,” however, as it flew through the air struck across the two,
knocking the “Yokahama” on its side and crushing it in through its
whole length, and landed on its forward end, with its rear end resting
on the other two and high in air.

As the different cars fell, every person for the instant was stunned,
and the crashing of one car on another struck many dead in an instant,
while the survivors waited in suspense, expecting death would also come
to them at the next blow.

The work of death was owing mostly to the fall, and to the crashing of
cars and heavy trucks on bodies and limbs, and even the very hearts of

It was probably instantaneous to the large majority of those who
perished. But a few were taken out of the wreck with any evidence of
having perished from the flames which soon broke out. The wonder was
that any escaped to tell the manner of their escape.

As the cars struck, splinters flew in every direction. The floor
burst up from below. The seats were crushed in front and behind. The
roofs were crushed from above. The sides opened and yawned, and, as
one expressed it, it seemed as if every limb and sense were being
scattered and only the soul was left in its solitariness.

More than one imagined that he was the only survivor, that all the
rest had perished in an instant. Many thought their time had come. The
thought of fire also arose in many minds, and the fear of a death that
might be more dreadful than that by the crash.

Without, the wreck was strewn among the iron beams and columns of the
broken bridge and scattered in terrible confusion.

Ice and water and snow were mingled with rods of iron, and heavy
braces, and beams, and the debris of cars, and the bodies of men.

Danger threatened from all the elements. If they remained in the
wreck, the fire threatened them with a horrid death. If they fled the
fire, the water threatened to engulf them. If they escaped the water
the darkness and chill of night, the storm and the awful stunning,
bewildered and appalled.

The very sight of the lofty abutments towering high, impressed them
with fear. The wild and lonely gorge strewn with snow and swept by
the furious storm, conveyed a sense of wildness and strangeness in the
extreme. It was a bewildering and an appalling scene.

As one after another of the stunned and stupefied survivors began to
emerge from the broken wreck, they were dazed by the wildness of the

The experience of every one was different. Some dragged themselves from
the debris and escaped through the broken windows, tearing clothes and
flesh as they emerged. Others climbed through openings in the side or
top and so made their way into the open air, and the gloomy night.
Others broke the glass doors with their fists and dragged themselves
through the openings thus made and sought to draw out others. Some
became insensible and were only removed by force and taken by their
friends to a place of safety.

Strong men were bruised and stunned and were led by their wives. Others
found themselves bleeding before they knew they were hurt, and even
hobbled with broken limbs, not knowing what was their wound. Some sank
into the water and were with difficulty rescued by their companions
and dragged out upon the ice and snow. Many, as they got out, found
themselves amid the rods and braces and hardly knew which way to
turn. Some emerged from the doors and fell into the snow and water. A
lady climbed out a window and walked on the sides of the car that lay
wrecked beneath, and climbed down the back of a man who was willing
to become a ladder for her escape. Another escaped with broken limbs
which by force she had dragged from beneath the wreck, and then by the
rods and braces drew herself to shore through the water into which she
had fallen. Another still was able to get out of the car where lay
her child and nurse, and was dragged in her night clothes through the
water and snow, and across the ice and then stood upon the bank in
the storm like a spectre, exclaiming: “There is my child, I hear its
voice.” A father rescued his little children, mere babies as they were,
and placed them on the snow for strangers to take, and then returned
for his wife. She is held by the wreck and is badly hurt and exclaims
that she cannot be saved, but begs her husband to cut her throat lest
the fire should reach her and she be burned to death. She is, however,
rescued and the whole family is safe. A gentleman gets out but finds
that his limbs will not obey his will, but sink beneath his weight, and
he is obliged to crawl on hands and knees to a place of safety. After
all others have escaped, something attracts the attention of those on
the bank, as if a coat were flapping in the wind. Next a man appears as
if attempting to arise, and then the man emerges from the region of the
flames, and is helped to the shore by others.

Many became so exhausted and faint that they fell senseless upon the
snow and were drawn by others to a place of safety. It is even thought
that some were so bewildered that they wandered into the broken places
in the ice and were drowned.

It was but a very few minutes before all who could, had escaped and the
rest were still struggling to get out or were already dead.



The citizens were startled by a sudden crash. Those who lived near the
bridge knew that the train was late. Many of them were in some way
connected with the road, either as telegraph or baggage men or in some
capacity of the railroad service.

For some reason there was an expectancy among them all. Those who dwelt
on the banks of the gorge could look from their rear windows and see
each train as it came. As the first awful crash was heard the whole
neighborhood was startled. Then as the ominous sound of car following
car fell upon the ear, crash after crash in quick succession, the
horrible consciousness came to all with appalling force. Some started
to their feet with alarm. Others rushed to the doors and hastened to
the scene. One lady, Mrs. Apthorp, exclaimed to her husband in terror
and great alarm: “My God, Henry, No. 5 has gone off the bridge.” As her
husband seized his hat and coat and hastened out of the door, with a
woman’s sympathy she put the camphor bottle into his hands, thinking of
the wounded, and the suffering which must follow.

But a few minutes had passed before a number were at the depot. The
engineer of the pump-engine was standing on the depot platform as the
train approached. As he heard the sound he looked up and could see
the cars from the middle of the train, plunge off to the side of the
bridge, and fall into the abyss. The headlight of the engine was above
the track, but the passenger cars were falling behind it. The head
painter was also in his shop and heard the crash. The saloon keeper
of one of the hotels, and the foreman of the fire engine “Lake Erie,”
also heard and saw the fall. These were the first to start for the
wreck, and reached it very soon. Mr. Apthorp also was early on the
ground. These, as they approached were appalled at the awful scene.
The engineer seized an axe and pail as the first things which were
at hand, and hardly knowing what he was doing, attempted to break
the doors and windows, for the wounded to escape. Mr. Tinlay plunged
into the water and swam to the other side to rescue those who were
at a distance in the wreck. The omnibus man began to chop to get an
opening for those within, but cut an awful gash into his foot, and was
obliged to cease. Mr. Apthorp, more deliberate and self-controlled,
first thought of the bell and of giving the alarm, but hastened to the
train. He went from car to car, entering such as were open and could be
reached, and sought to help out those who might be left inside. Others
arrived and helped the wounded to escape from the water and ice, and up
the bank.

All were excited and hardly knew what they were doing and did not think
of what next to do. The engineer fluttered to and fro, excited and
uncontrolled. The saloon keeper assisted a few and then disappeared.
Some who arrived stood on the bank amazed, and appalled, but idle and
passive, amid the scene.

In the meantime the flames began to arise. It was only a little
glimmering light at first, so small that as the passengers pass they
throw snow and a portion of it is quenched. A few buckets of water
thrown at this time, would have sufficed to have kept down the flame.
But the critical moment was passed. The fire began at both ends of the
wreck, and rapidly spread. It was just a little flame on the east side
underneath the sleeper. It was brighter in the smoker and in the heap
near the bridge, but it spread from car to car, and soon enveloped the
whole. No one thought that the fire could be prevented. The desire to
rescue the wounded, and save the living, was more urgent. It was too
constraining for any deliberate thought. It crowded out every effort
to prevent the spreading of the flames. Every one was appalled, and
overwhelmed, and did that which seemed most pressing at the moment.

The brakeman, Stone, who had escaped unhurt, thought only of another
train which was expected soon. He hastened to the telegraph office to
tell of the wreck, and to stop the coming train. The conductor was
almost paralyzed with terror and became frantic with excitement, and
rushed to and fro, calling for help, and it is said was kept with
difficulty from throwing himself into the fire.

The flames kept arising. They spread far and wide. They ascended high
and still higher. They filled the valley. A cloud of smoke ascended,
too. It was black and dense and pitchy. It came from the paint and
varnish, and the materials of that gilded wreck. It was stifling to the
breath and deadly to all who breathed it. It enveloped the ruins. It
even darkened the sky and rolled a thick cloud through the awful gorge.
The worst of fears began now to be realized. Horror seized the living,
for death now claimed its victims, and man was powerless to deliver.
Within the awful canopy the flames shot up, and from among them came
forth groans and shrieks and cries of agony and despair.

Then followed the most heart-rending scenes and incidents. Those who
were without, but who had friends still left in the burning cars,
shouted loud and begged that the fire might be put out; they even
sought to go back to get their friends. Yells arose from the valley,
and were echoed in shouts from the top of the abutments, and one wild
scene of excitement pervaded the spot. A little child was heard to
exclaim, “Papa, O, Papa, take me!” A woman cried from within a car, “Oh
save me, for God’s sake take my child!” A man had clasped a woman, to
carry her from the flames, but her foot was caught, and he was obliged
to leave her and save himself.

Another saw underneath the floor of a car, a man and a woman lying
there and calling for help; he tried to extricate them, but, as the
flames arose, he went to the firemen and begged them to put on water
and save the living.

Mr. Apthorp saw a woman trying to get out of the window of a car,
high up amid the ruins; she was half way out and called for help. He
hastened to the rescue, but the flames arose between him and her, and
she perished there.

Two men were seen, sitting in their seats, surrounded by the flames,
but they perished and no one could save them. One man stood by his
berth and burned to death, holding to its side. A gentlemen, supposed
by some to be Mr. Brunner of Wisconsin, and by others, to be Mr. P. P.
Bliss, the sweet singer, was seen to emerge and then to go back, saying
that he will perish with his family.

A gentleman was seen in the midst of the flames, standing as if
surrounded by a wall of fire, until he fell. The most appalling sounds
and sights shock every heart, and send a shiver of horror through every
frame. The howl of a poor wounded dog echoes through the valley.

A woman, whose children have already perished, was seen lifting up her
hands and beseeching help, and was at last rescued, among the last,
awfully burned, and died in a few days from her wounds. The last one
removed was the fireman, and then this poor dog, which had kept up its
piteous howling.

The living were driven from the wreck, and could only stand and look
upon the awful scene. A cry arose--a horrid cry; it was not a shriek;
it was not a groan, nor even a cry for help, but it was a plaintive,
melancholy wail--the despairing cry of those who knew that they must
die. It was a prolonged, an agonized, a heart-rending moan; it was
the sound of Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Then all were dead, and silence
settled down upon the scene--the awful silence which comes upon the

The parched lips were sealed forever; the stifled breath could no
longer send forth a cry or groan; the carnival of death had at last
silenced all its victims; the slaughter was complete. “Blood and fire,
and vapor of smoke.” The flames leaped and danced, and lifted high
their heads, and death was exultant in all its forces. The canopy of
blackness arched the snow-covered valley, while the fiery billows
rolled between. All that man could do was to stand and look upon the
scene, appalled.




The citizens of the village were sitting by their fires, or at their
tables, or in their places of business. A sound was heard! It was a
sudden, startling sound. To those who were living near the depot, it
was a succession of sounds; first a crash, then a fall, then a distinct
sound for every car. To those who were at a distance it was a single,
but a prolonged and terrible crash. To those who were within doors it
seemed like a sudden fall of a distant building, or the nearer slide of
a heavy body of snow, but much more ominous. Some imagined they heard a
sound that followed, which they supposed to be the wailing of the wind.
It startled the inhabitants in many houses, and was heard more than a
mile away. Presently the sharp alarm of fire was heard, and the bells
rang out their pealing notes.

Many started from their seats, at the thought of fire on such a night.
Presently the sky was illuminated: a strange glare filled the heavens.
It was not like a distant flame, that cast its shadow on the sky. It
was not like a nearer fire that shot up sparks and smoke. It was a
glare that pervaded the whole horizon. It cast a pale and sickly color
into the fleecy air. It covered even the snow with a pinkish, almost
crimson, hue. It seemed like an extensive burning, as if the flames
were suddenly arising from widespread structures. No one could tell,
however, what it was, nor what was the matter.

The men who rushed into the street first whispered, it was an oil
train, that had caught fire on the track. Others said that it was the
building at the depot. Women who were kept at home were impressed that
it was something more than a common fire. Uneasiness seized the aged
who were residing in houses far distant. Many hastened for the engines;
others ran in the direction of the light. All plunged into the deep
snow, and, out of breath, could only follow in single file along the
path which the foremost had broken.

A long line of men and boys reached from the main street toward the
fatal spot. Horses and teams plunged madly by. Every available horse
in one of the stables was put into use. The steamer was got out. The
horses attached pulled and tugged the massive load.

“Protection” engine was also manned at first, but afterwards drawn by
a team secured. Hose-carts were taken for a distance, and then horses
were attached to these.

The villagers had become thoroughly aroused, and were straining every
nerve to reach the fire. It had become known that the bridge was
broken, and a passenger train was wrecked in the dreadful gorge. An
unregulated crowd was rushing with all haste through the impeding
drifts. The thought with all was to hasten forward, and save the
living. It seemed an age before they could reach the spot. Many became
exhausted by their efforts. The snow and drifts were so deep that none
could make headway, except with difficulty. Even teams were detained by
the snow. It was at least twenty minutes before the citizens arrived.

Time enough had then passed for the work of death. The wounded
passengers had recovered from the stunning fall, and arisen to their
feet and escaped to the shore, assisting one another from the wreck.

Nearly all who were in the forward car had escaped, except those who
had been crushed by the trucks, which had broken through the roof,
and fell upon them. One had even, after his escape, looked in the
window, and put his face near the cheek of his companion, and found him
dead. Those in the smoker, had climbed out and looked back to see how
complete, the sweep of the burning stove had been, which had carried
several before it to their death. One had fallen out of a gaping seam
made in the side of that car, and looked back to see another man caught
as the car closed again, and thought to himself that it had opened on
purpose to let him out.

Those in the sleeping coaches who were alive, had also escaped, and
made their way to land. One gentleman, Mr. Brewster, who was but little
hurt, had assisted a man who was badly wounded and helpless amid the
wreck, and laid him down at the east abutment, and then crossed the
stream again and called out to others saying: “This way, here’s a
house!” Women had escaped from the rear sleeping coach and were already
at the shore.

Miss Sheppard, who was unhurt, had reached the bank and requested some
one to help her up, and then made herself useful in aiding others.
Those who had escaped on the north side were already making their
way through the deep drifts and the lonely valley and up the steep
embankment. Those who were near had done all they could to rescue
the living, and the flames were already arising and nearly covered
the scene. All this had occurred before the citizens from the town
could reach the spot. It was then too late to do anything to save the
wounded, or even to keep the flames from destroying life. To be sure
the fire engine stood in that engine house upon the hill, but it was
never moved. The pump engine also stood in the lonely valley, with its
steam up, but it was not used. There was also hose in the upper engine
house not six hundred yards away, which would fit a plug in the house
by the river. But in the confusion of the moment no one had thought
of engines, or of hose, and not even buckets had been brought down.
Meanwhile, the teams from town were plunging on, dragging the steamer
and the hose through the heavy drifts.

The station agent, who had received a telegram from the central office,
to get surgeons and aid for the wounded, was also hastening to the
spot--but it was too late.

The work was done. It was impossible for them now to rescue the living.
Those who had reached the scene had already rescued nearly all the
wounded and the living, though fearfully bruised, and some of them
insensible, from the fire.

Others were standing and looking on from the banks, idle spectators
of the scene. And, before the eyes of all, the fire had crept on and
on, and was now enveloping the whole. The wounded lay in the snow, or
on the damp, cold floor. The water dripped from their garments and
ran upon the stone. Blood flowed from wounds and mingled with the
water. Chill and damp and pain and wounds and the shock and fright were
combined. Gashed and bruised and broken, they were crowding up that
lonely, chilly bank. But the flames without were burning and eclipsing
all their misery. Appalling death was shooting from car to car, and the
dreadful valley had become an awful scene. It was too terrible for any
human mind. The groans of the wounded were mingled with the groans of
the dying, and shouts and groans and shrieks and cries echoed through
the valley; then the plaintive wail and the awful silence.




The firemen arrived at last; the station agent had reached the spot
before them. All was haste and confusion. No orders, and no one in
command. The wounded were already coming up the bank. Citizens, as they
came, had taken the survivors from the wreck, and were now helping them
to a place of safety and comfort.

Appalled by the scene and confused by the horror, none knew what order
was to be given or who was in command.

Mr. Apthorp was in the employ of the road, and was supposed to have
some control. As Mr. Strong hastened to the rescue, he asked, “What
shall we do?” The reply was, “Get men to help up the wounded.”

As the chief fireman met Mr. Strong, he asked “Where shall we put the
hose?” “Where shall we apply the water?” The echo of Mr. Apthorp’s
remark was the only response--“We want to get out the wounded, never
mind the water.” A second time the question was asked, as the station
agent appeared in another place, and a second time the response was,
“We don’t want water, we want to get out the wounded.” “Get all the men
to clear a road to the wreck.”

Again, as the firemen undertook to lay the hose, another official of
the road used a vulgar illustration and saying there was no use in
throwing water on the flames. The impression was thus given, by those
in command of the wreck and the road, that water was not wanted. The
chief fireman was not a man to assume the responsibility under such
circumstances: he was dazed and confused and did not seem to know
what to do. The horses stood hitched to the steamer. The hand engine
“Protection,” also stood, with the men waiting for orders. Some one ran
up from the wreck begging, for God’s sake, that water should be thrown,
but both engines stood waiting.

The call for buckets, went up from below. One old man, seventy-six
years old, was in the midst of the wreck, chopping for dear life and
calling for buckets at the same time. His son, arriving late, plunged
into the midst of the fire and began to work like one made desperate
with despair. Others took pails and undertook to go out to rescue
bodies that were burning.

The driver of the steamer took the engine to the cistern and stationed
it there, but no orders were given; and the hose carts were ready to
be unreeled, but no orders were given. The whistle of the steamer was
sounded for hose and the men stood ready to lay it; many wondered at
the delay and talked excitedly, but still no orders.

The captain of the steamer asked the station agent if he should apply
water, but the same answer was returned. The chief fireman still
remained stupid and passive, and gave no orders. At last he went,
himself, to the wreck and began to help remove the wounded, while the
men still waited and the engines were idle. The men became impatient,
but they were held by the authority of their chief. The fire was still
burning, but that answer of the station agent held the chief fireman
and he yielded to the direction and abandoned the engines and his men.

A man who has seen two persons still living, underneath the wreck,
comes up and begs that water be thrown, but the engines stand idle, and
the firemen dare not work without orders. The more determined of them
leave the engines and go down to the wreck to work without them. Pails
are procured from the stores, and with them the firemen work. Great
exertions are made to extinguish the flames in this way. Desperation
has taken possession of the citizens.

An hour has passed, and it is stated that there are some still living,
but the engines stand idle. There is talk, even, of disobeying orders
and assuming command, but the law is quoted and that is prevented.
Men fly here and there, anxious to save the living; others assist the
wounded. Some stand on the banks, with hands in their pockets, and look
on unmoved, but the fire still burns. A few seize a rope and fasten
it to the locomotive, and try to lift it off from one poor wretch who
lies beneath it, but the time passes and the flames are not subdued.
A line is begun for the purpose of passing water, and so putting the
fire out, but a voice was heard from the top of the abutment, saying:
“You don’t want water there.” “Don’t put any water on the wreck.” A few
rushed for the hand engine, thinking to take it down the steep bank to
the creek; the arrangements are made and a hose is attached, but the
decision of the foreman is, not to take it down. Still, a few persevere
with their buckets; the flames in one place are put out by this means,
but no effort is made by the engines, and the men stand waiting.

Horses become restive; the captain of the steamer remains at his post;
the firemen await his command, but the order is never sent. Lives
cannot now be saved, and the bodies are burning. A woman is seen in
the midst of the wreck; life is extinct, but the body is held by the
iron framework, high in air. Her clothes caught fire, and she begins
to burn like a martyr at the stake. The spectators are horror-stricken
by the sight. A few form a line and, with buckets, throw water in that
direction, until the body falls and lies buried with others. The fire
at the engine is next attacked, after the fireman is rescued. The poor
dog, which has kept up his piteous howl, was also taken from the same
place. This is the last living creature taken out, but the bodies still
burn. The wind blows cold, but the fire burns on.

The strangest misunderstanding has taken possession of all. Whatsoever
the motive of those in authority, the effect was, to keep the engines
from playing upon the flames. There were tanks on both sides of the
track; the engines were both on the ground; there was hose sufficient,
but the misunderstanding made everything useless, and the department
was held back and did nothing. The indignation of the citizens was
openly expressed, but the fire continued. Mr. Stebbins, a citizen,
asked the captain of the steamer, why water was not thrown? and was
answered, that the chief would not order it. He exclaimed, “We had
better hang him, then,” but the fire continued to burn until, in
places, it burned itself out, and there was nothing more to feed upon;
nothing was left except the bodies, and these were almost consumed.
The fumes of the burning flesh filled the air, and the horrid
consciousness haunted the hearts of the spectators, but the fire burned
on, and the strange suspense held the people.




An engine house stood on the bank. It was the place where water was
pumped from the river to the tank, at the depot buildings. It was a
little brick building with a stone floor and a large boiler and engine
occupying the middle of the room. Into this building, the wounded were
taken, and were laid on the cold, damp floor,--a ghastly throng. As
citizens came, they found them there, suffering from the cold as well
as from the shock and wounds. The effort was made to take them to
places of more comfort, but where to take them was the question. No
one was there at the time to command. A few men were there to assist;
some were there to plunder, and more had come not knowing for what they
came. A long, weary flight of steps led from the gorge to the track
above. Up this flight the wounded were taken. On the other side the
access to the wreck was only through the deep snow and down the steep
bank. A line of men was formed at last. Up both sides of the track the
wounded are helped, passed from hand to hand where they are able to
stand. Others were borne by the citizens, and so by degrees, with pains
and groans and amid the wild excitement, the most of them were removed.

The nearest house to the scene was a place called the “Eagle Hotel,”
kept by Patrick Mulligan. Into this, by some chance, eleven of the
wounded were carried. It was a horrid place. A dirty bar-room. Rooms
which had never known a carpet, but whose floors were soon covered with
snow and water; little bed-rooms just large enough to hold a bed and
wash-stand, without carpets or stove; beds that consisted of filthy
sheets and miserable straw ticks. It was a house forbidding in every
respect. Into this place the wounded were taken, bleeding and gashed,
and laid two by two on the miserable pallets. There they lay in the
clothes which they had on, covered with blood, cold and cheerless,
while crowds of curious spectators trooped in and out through the weary
hours of the long and dreadful night.

Others fortunately were taken to better quarters, but even some of
these were robbed on the way of the money which they had in their
pockets by the very persons who pretended to assist them in their
helpless state.

Teams were secured. A road was broken. Into the gorge sleds are with
difficulty taken down, and into these the badly wounded are placed.
The two little children who had escaped are also taken in these, badly
burned and insensible, and placed with their father in a private house.
The mother is moved, and laid in another house, and lies in great
agony. A young girl, timid and frightened, whose limbs are broken,
is separated from her aunt, and placed among strangers. Amid great
confusion those who are able, walk to the hotel, some of them pursued
by those who would rob them. A father calls out from a stretcher for a
daughter whom strangers are taking in another direction, and becomes
almost frantic with excitement until the girl is brought back to him.
The poor burned woman whose children are dead is borne to the “Culver

The bruised, gashed and bleeding passengers are at last removed from
the valley. They are distributed through the neighborhood. Upon couches
and beds of the few hotels; upon the counters of stores; on the floors
of private houses; and even in the saloons--they are scattered until
the whole vicinity becomes a hospital. The surgeons are all at work.
The wounds are hastily dressed. The blood is washed away. Many are
wrapped in warm coverings. Comparative quiet and rest settle down. The
spectators have left the smoking ruins, and in curious crowds have
trooped through the houses and have gradually disappeared. Those on
the abutment returned to their homes. The firemen themselves disperse.
The last one in the engine house has gone. Only a very few are left to
guard the dead.

A wild and lonely scene remains. The dead are left there alone. The
snow drifts toward the smoking ruins. Nature weaves a white shroud.
Night draws down a black pall. The silence of the grave settles upon
the lonely spot. A flickering light from the funeral pyre sends up a
glare through the darkness, and the dead stare from the blackened bars
with eyeless sockets, and the bodies are left to burn.

It is a horrible, heart-sickening sight, the bodies still smoulder in
the burning grave, and the smell of their flesh arises on the darkening




The fire continued to burn. For a time the wreck was left unguarded.

When it was, that so much plundering occurred no one knows. The flames
were lifting up their lurid light, and covering the ghastly scene with
a sickening glare. The dead lay in every direction amid the driving
snow. A skull lay by itself amid a blackened heap, whitened by the
fire. The heap of bodies lying in the sleeping-coaches were still
burning, and yet this appalling scene did not intimidate the human
vultures who were looking for their prey. The ravening wolf that prowls
at night would be driven from such a horrid place by very fear. The
hearts of men were on that fearful night more greedy than wolves or
vultures are, for amid that awful wreck they sought for spoil. One and
another of the wounded had been robbed. Men were more merciless to
their fellows than the cruel flames.

One young man, who had lost both mother and sister, was suffering from
four broken ribs and a severe gash in the head. As he looked up and saw
the men standing and watching, the thought of robbers crossed his mind.
He had a valuable watch, a present from his father, and two purses,
one containing fifty dollars in bills, and the other a few dollars in
change and his mother’s jewelry. As the thought of thieves came up, he
turned around with his back to the crowd and dropped his watch down his
neck inside his shirt, and there left it suspended by the chain next
to his person. One purse he placed inside his vest and in an inside
pocket, and the other was left in the pocket of his pantaloons.

Some one offered to assist him up the stairs. As he reached the top
this person disappeared and another came. Taking him by the arm, the
robber drew it out in such a way that the broken ribs gave intense pain
and caused the poor boy to faint and fall. As he fell, he remembers
to have felt a hand reached into his bosom, and then he became
unconscious, and lay upon the snow. When he came to himself, his purses
and his ticket to California were gone, and all he had left was the
watch he had hidden and the clothes he wore. Among strangers, with
mother and sister both dead, the poor young man was at last taken to a
hotel and telegraphed the sad news to his father in the distant home.
Another gentleman, as he was being helped to a hotel, was robbed of
all that he had in his vest pocket, on the side towards the one who
supported him. Still another was followed by a person who pretended to
be a physician and offered to assist, but escaped by threats and such
speed as he could command.

Much valuable property was removed from the bodies of the dead. One
gentleman had upon his person a valuable diamond pin, a commander’s
badge, a Sir Knight’s pin and other valuable jewelry, but when his body
was found, nothing was left except a cheap pair of celluloid sleeve

Watches were removed from chains, and the jewelry in trunks was taken
or mysteriously disappeared. More than $1,500 worth of valuable
articles were afterwards recovered by the Mayor by a proclamation, and
by detectives. A saloon keeper was found to have appropriated shawls
and satchels, and others were found to have diamonds and jewelry in
their possession which had been stolen.

A young man who had a splinter from the cornice of the car driven
through his collar bone was robbed of $300 in money at the Eagle Hotel
where he lay, and a gentleman from Hartford had his boots taken from
his feet and carried away.

The dead in the valley and the wounded in the streets, and the
survivors in other places were alike subject to this villainous
pillaging. A pair of dominos, or black masks, were found, showing how
deliberate had been the robbery with the villains who were out that

Scarcely anything of value was left after the wreck. One gentleman who
had $7,000 on his person was killed and his pocket book found, but
the money was gone. Trunks containing the wardrobes of brides, and
the jewelry of the wealthy, were burned and destroyed. Watches were
burned in the fierce flames until the gold was melted into nuggets,
and everything that could be treasured by friends, whether it was the
clothes of the dead or the precious keepsakes they had, or the bodies
which were more precious than jewels, all disappeared and not a relic
or trace could be found.




At twelve o’clock quietness had settled down upon the scene. The
streets were deserted. All had formed the impression that the bodies
were to be burned, and had gone to their homes, leaving the wreck still
burning, and the dead to be consumed. The engines had been ordered to
their houses. The lights glimmered from the homes where the wounded
were lying. A few were at the wreck. The expressman guarding the
treasures in the safe, sat solitary and alone through the long hours,
while the flames which were burning precious bodies, crackled and threw
their lurid light across the scene. The smell of burning flesh pervaded
the air even half a mile away. A horrid sight was presented in the
awful valley. The flames which had blazed so high had consumed the wood
and furniture of the train. The gilded palaces were reduced to mere
skeletons of iron. The bridge lay a mere network of blackened beams.
The trucks and wheels and heavy rods were lying in every direction. But
beneath these horrid ribs of death, lay the blackened bodies of men,
women and children, burned, and still burning, amid the snow and ice.
Blue tongues of fire shot here and there amid the blackened mass, as
if some unseen monster were still licking up the life of its unburied
victims. The white snow lay like a winding sheet along the valley, but
the skeleton was in the midst with the tall abutments towering above
and the precious bodies silent in death beneath the ruins.

A long line of bodies lay packed on the bridge just above the water of
the stream. They were covered with trucks and brakes, and heavy bars,
and the debris of wood and the ashes of the wreck. Packed in a horrid
mass they lay, crushed and broken, and blackened by the smoke and heat.
Ghastly forms lay in this open grave. Headless, armless trunks were
packed with the broken limbs, and the heads from which the brains
were oozing, while the stumps of arms seemed lifted from the blackened
heaps as if in mute supplication--too shocking for any human heart. The
delicate form of a mother lay beside her little child, but both reduced
to mere black lumps with scarcely a semblance to a human form. A full
sized woman lay amid the mass but with no sign of either legs or arms
except the broken bones which had been crushed away by the fall. Bodies
of men also lay cut completely asunder, and presenting only the half of
the human form--an awful, sickening sight.

Everywhere through the valley there were bodies lying silent in death.
The pale flames which flickered here and there, betokened where many of
them lay. Underneath the horrid bars of iron, on the black, deceitful
ice, in the watery depths of the unconscious stream, packed in heaps
underneath the burning cars--were the dead! It was an appalling and
terrifying scene. The darkness and loneliness, and the very desertion,
were enough, but through the very nerves there came the horrid
consciousness of the many, many dead.

Far away were their friends, the night was lonely, and the storm was
pitiful, but scattered through that grave were the bodies of the
dead. It was hard to realize it, but, to the hearts of friends, these
unburied were no strangers, and yet they burned, in loneliness.

The railroad authorities came at half past one o’clock. Five surgeons
from the Homœopathic College, in Cleveland, the superintendent, the
assistant superintendent, the train-despatcher and others. The wounded
were in their beds at the time. The fireman was at the Eagle Hotel.
The engineer was at Mr. Apthorp’s, two other persons, also, who needed
surgical operations, were at the same house. The surgeons of the road,
as they arrived, sought first the employees--the fireman and the
engineer--and to these, gave their professional attention. The surgeons
of the village had already attended to the passengers, had dressed the
wounds of most of them, and were waiting for the proper reaction, to
perform the amputation on those whose limbs were broken.

Ten surgeons were, at one time, crowded into one small house, where
the worst cases were placed. By morning, however, the amputation was
performed by Dr. J. C. Hubbard, assisted by Drs. Fricker and Case, and
about twenty of the wounded, including the fireman and engineer, were
removed to the hospital in Cleveland. This relieved many of those who
were at the Eagle Hotel, as they found comfortable quarters at the
hospital, and the rest were taken into rooms where a fire could be
built, and where a carpet covered the floor; but through all the night
the fire continued to burn. The haggard dawn drove the darkness out
of the valley of the shadow of death. Seldom was revealed a ghastlier
sight. On either side of the ravine, frowned the dark and bare arches
from which the treacherous bridge had fallen, while, at their base, the
great mass of ruins covered the men and women and children, who had so
suddenly been called to death. The cherished bodies lay where they had
fallen, or where they had been placed, in the hurry and confusion of
the night.

Piles of iron lay on the thick ice or bedded in the shallow stream. The
fires smouldered in great heaps where many of the helpless victims had
been consumed; while men went about, in wild confusion, seeking some
trace of their friends among the wounded or dead.




The morning dawned. Those who had known of the event, awoke as if from
a fearful dream. The horror of the great calamity haunted the sleeping
hours, and came back with returning consciousness. The dream was,
indeed, a sad reality. The bodies, which were wrapped in the sleep of
death and whose bed was the driven snow, were the first thought at the
awakening of the living; nothing else was thought of in the village.
Those who had not heard of it were startled by the news, but those who
had seen and known, were strangely impressed. The smell of the burning
flesh seemed to pervade the air. The sight of dead bodies seemed to
fill the eye. The flames--the fearful flames--the ghastly wounds, the
blackened bodies and the unknown, unburied dead were before the mind.

Death had descended like a bird of night, and flapped a dark wing over
the abodes of the living, casting a shadow over the whole place, and
then descended into the valley and was still watching its victims.
There was something fearful in such an awful devastation by the dread

But with this sense of the nearness of death, came another still more
fearful to the mind. There was mingled with the thoughts of the dead,
another of the living, which was even more horrible to the mind. A
great shadow hovered over the place. It was not the shadow of the
angel, which had descended, with its dark wings; it was not the unseen
messenger of God; it was not of the horror that walked in darkness, or
the destruction that wasted at noon of night, but a horrible suspicion
had seized the people; the horrid selfishness of men haunted the waking
thoughts as terrible death had the sleep of night. Cruelty was ascribed
to men, worse, even, than the awful fall and death.

That burning of the bodies was ascribed to design. The impression was
a general one. Indignation was mingled with horror; that retiring to
homes, while the bodies burned, was not the result of indifference. Few
were so heartless as to care more for sleep than for the safety of the
dead. Many could not sleep that night, but, somehow, the impression had
taken possession of the people that the burning was designed.

As the citizens returned to their homes late at night, they had talked
their suspicion, and grown sick at heart. The firemen themselves had
laid the blame somewhere else than upon their chief. It seemed too
inhuman, and yet it was believed. The station agent was known and
trusted. His character was well established. His humane and kindly
heart was not impeached. His Christian life and courtesy were well
known to all. But the feeling was universal, and the suspicion strong.
The control of the company over the cars, and all the contents, was
taken for granted. The responsibility of common carriers was known,
and no one could understand why orders should be given to withhold the
water, except it was to destroy the traces of those who were on the
train. For the time this was believed. The sentiment was so common
that even an employee of the road was heard to say that “ashes did not
count,” but bodies did.

There was no foundation for the report. It was all the result of that
strange mistake. As was afterwards shown, no such order had been given,
and the persons in command were not responsible for the mistake; but
for the time it had its effect. That midnight hour showed how strong
this conviction had become. The deserted streets, the silent engines,
the stabled horses--all betokened a thought which ruled the night. A
strange misunderstanding had controlled that fatal hour, yet none the
less powerful because so strange. As men met in the morning, this was
the first thought which they expressed. It was the main subject of
remark. Many supposed that the order had been given from the central
office, but had no means of correcting or confirming their belief.
Others maintained that there was a reason for the order, as the
throwing of water upon hot iron was likely to create steam, and this,
it was said, “would destroy more lives than even the flames, and would
deface the bodies.” It was held by some to be the general policy of
railroad companies to allow wrecks to be burned, and this was given
as the reason: “that steam would be generated which would immediately
cover the wreck, and drive away those who would rescue the living.”
Gentlemen of intelligence and caution discussed that point with earnest

Little knots of men would gather and express their pent-up feelings.
Others supposed that this popular indignation was the result of the
terrible pressure and that weighed on the spirits, as if indignation
were the safety valve for the oppressed heart.

These convictions of the people arose above all other feelings. The
better sympathies were awakened and rebuked the very selfishness which
was abhorred. The passions which were excited were to the praise of
the better feelings of the heart. The kind and generous emotions were
protesting against a cruelty which was imagined. It was not supposed,
at the time, that the same humane feelings existed in the hearts of
those in command. It was a “soulless corporation,” it was said, and
men did not stop to reason. A horrible thing had occurred. A fatal
mistake! The awful negligence and the fearful burning were combined.
Somebody was responsible! The citizens felt that it could not be
themselves, and yet the corporation remained unconscious of the charge.
For several days the popular feeling continued. It was even reflected
back in the reports of the press. As the friends arrived they partook
of the feeling, and swelled its force. The sentiment came back from
distant places, and the little village was intensely moved.

It was because the heart of a great nation was moved, and the shock
which appalled and paralyzed the whole land, sent back its chilling
horror to the very centre. Far and wide over the long wires the
startling message had made its way. Families on the distant hill tops
of the New England States; men in the green valleys of the California
shores; at the distant south and in the snowy north; in the great city
and in the little hamlet--the fact was known. Everywhere the shock was
felt. Every eye was fixed upon the startling head lines. Every heart
was moved as the news was read. All other things were forgotten in the
great horror. The greatest railroad disaster on record had taken place.
The Brooklyn horror was eclipsed by a greater. Angola was surpassed.
Norwalk and the many other catastrophies were all forgotten. Ashtabula
was known, and became the synonym, for the event. But mingled with
this startling news was the silent question which the citizens were
discussing on that gloomy morning--“Why was not the fire put out?” Nor
did the feeling cease, or the surprise and sad suspicion die away for
many a day.

As the tidings reached the neighboring counties, vast numbers began at
once to flock in. Trains arrived by other roads. Each train came laden
with passengers. The streets were filled with people. All were excited.
Sooner, even, than the friends of the lost these crowds reached the
wreck. The friends at a distance were, however, detained as it was not
the purpose to allow them to come to witness the horrid scene until a
suitable disposal of the dead was made. The police stationed on the
ground endeavored to keep back the curious crowds, but in many cases
found it impossible. It was not known whether the control was in the
hands of the railroad company, or of the village authorities. They were
mostly railroad men who were superintending the work. The excitement
of the citizens was not diminished, as it seemed so doubtful who were
in control. The fact that the Mayor of the city was in the employ of
the road as assistant engineer only increased this feeling. At the time
of the accident there was no coroner in the place. The proper officer
had previously declined. Another had to be appointed in his place.
Access being denied to the spot, and the supposition having obtained
that the control was in the hands of the Company rather than of the
village corporation the suspicion increased. The very efforts of the
authorities to protect the place and keep back the curious strengthened
the conviction. A strange feeling pervaded the place and was spread
throughout many parts of the country. It was the element which most
excited the people and which called attention from the widespread

The only answer is that the calamity was too appalling for man’s
reason, and those in command seemed to have lost their judgment in the
excitement of the hour and were held by the misunderstanding which so
unjustly arose.

There was no evidence that this burning was intended. It is not
reasonable to suppose it. The report was entirely untrue, the suspicion
wrong, but in the excitement of the hour, it was felt, and was a
strange feature in the event.




At eight o’clock, work was begun upon the wreck. Guards were stationed
about the spot. Planks were placed upon the ice. Men were employed to
remove the debris of wood and iron. Boxes were procured, in which to
place the dead. A special policeman was stationed at the head of the
stairway; no one was permitted to go on the ice, except the workmen,
who were engaged in removing the debris.

The mayor of the city was on the ground; the stationing of the police
was at his request, but the removal of bodies and the preservation of
relics, was in the charge of an official of the road.

The superintendent of bridges and the train-dispatcher, assisted in
the work. Even Mr. Collins, himself, the chief engineer, was there,
and worked in the water, and forgot himself, in the sympathy he felt.
Throughout the day the work continued, and the crowds passed to and fro.

Men were employed who, in long rubber boots and water-proof coats,
worked all day long in the ice and snow; it was a difficult and tedious
task. The wind blew cold, the water was deep, the beams were heavy, the
iron was netted together, and the wreck was imbedded in the stream. The
bodies were frozen, they were packed among the debris, and buried in
the snow, but they were, by degrees, removed.

The remains of men and women and children, were taken by strangers’
hands, and placed in the rude deposits prepared for the occasion.
This was under the idle gaze of many a spectator, who had gathered
there. The hands of friends were not there to lift the tender forms,
many of these were far away. Those who could have been there, and
whose every nerve and fibre cried out for their loved and lost, were
detained by the trains in the distant city. It was difficult for even
the citizens who were present, to realize what sacredness there was to
these precious forms. Death had been robbed of its solemnity, and now
it seemed a piece of business, to remove the bodies which had burned.
The friends had been purposely kept back, that the revolting spectacle
might be kept from their sight, or that some decent disposal might
be made before they arrived. These bruised and broken and blackened
things, did not seem like human beings, and the sorrowing hearts alone
could realize how sacred and precious they were, even in all their
deformity. It was well that the shock was spared to many, until the
distance could be traversed.

Yet it was an awful, shocking sight, when the removal had been
accomplished. It was a horrid thing to take these bodies, in all their
deformed and distorted shapes, from their beds of ice and snow and iron
and ashes and the coals of wood, but it was still more horrid, to look
upon them as they were gathered in that gloomy morgue.

The freight house was turned into the place for the dead; its doors
were closed, and the darkness of a winter’s day settled down in that
cheerless place; it was cold, and bare and gloomy, a fit place for

As the sleds arrived from the deep gorge below, bringing the awful
human freight, this large room was nearly filled with the ghastly rows.
Thirty-six bodies were arranged, in boxes, in a double line along the
sides; a few had been taken out, with their bodies uninjured, except as
they had died from the breath of fire. These were placed by themselves
upon the floor, and from their very attitude, showed how awful had
been their death. They were mostly men. There they lay, with limbs
distorted, with hands uplifted, with averted faces, and with all the
agonized and awful shapes which death by fire must produce. One had
endeavored to throw his coat over his face, and lay with arms and coat
above his head, caught by the flames and transfixed in that shape.
Another had twisted his neck and face away, until the head rested upon
the shoulders and back, and only the burned hair and whiskers could be
seen. Another lay with limbs drawn up and body doubled, and yet his
graceful shape and form could be read, through the agony of death.
Others seemed to have stood, and held up beseeching arms and hands.
With some, even the stumps of arms were outstretched, as if in mute
appeal. A few were drenched, with their clothing on, but partly burned,
as if the water and the fire together conspired for their death. These
all impressed the eye, with the agony of death by fire. The fear of
such a fate, was that which the survivors felt the most.

The agony, depicted in these few distorted forms and faces, showed how
well founded was that fear. But, fortunately, there were but few. Not
a dozen bodies were taken out that, to any human appearance, could
have lived, if this fire had been kept down. The rest were broken and
bruised, or else their bodies had been completely burned.

A more affecting sight was that, of those who were placed in the boxes,
broken and bruised, as they were, in every limb. The boxes could not
contain them, as their clothes were stiffened by the water and ice and
snow. Those, too, whose clothes had been burned away, were so distorted
in limb and body that no box could hold their forms.

Though dead, and stiff and cold, they seemed as if they would start
from their graves, and escape the fearful fate, which had seized and
destroyed their life.

And yet, even these would move the heart. They were those whom somebody
loved, and, though seen in their distorted shapes and in that horrid
place, were dear to their friends and gratefully recognized. Some
even impressed the eye with what they were in life. Strong men, with
enough of clothing left, or with their form and features sufficiently
preserved, to show their gentle breeding or their business habits,
betokened, through all the smoke and ruin, what they were and how
esteemed. Women, too, were there, whose clothes were sufficiently
preserved, to show what taste and culture they may have possessed, and
in their forms, though blackened and burned, retained the grace and
beauty which had been admired.

A little child was there, beautiful in death; the delicate little foot
hid beneath the closely fitting shoe, the nicely tapered limbs, the
graceful, lovely form, the tasteful dress, the hands so tiny and so
touching in their shape, one could but love the little thing. Even the
stranger wanted to take that sweet, that precious child, and clasp it
to the heart; but no, that awful gash, that cruel blow had stricken
all the beauty from the lovely face. If now, the mother would kiss her
darling child, she must press her lip upon vacant air, hoping that, as
she pressed that loved form to her aching heart, an angel spirit might
catch the fond caress.

There were other more revolting scenes than these, but let the veil
be drawn. The deformity of death must not distress the living, and
yet those were happy, whose loved and lost had been reduced to ashes,
in that fearful burning, rather than that they should thus find their
precious forms, for the sight would shock their very hearts, and send
back its warm affection to a chilled, an appalled, a horror stricken
soul. No! the remnants of those deformed, defaced and half destroyed
human forms, were better in the hands of strangers than with their
friends. The grim certainty of their death, but the uncertainty as to
whom the life belonged, were better with those who had less of the
yearning for possession, than the friends.

Citizens could take up the poor remains, when no one else could claim
them, and could bury them with all the attention and kindness which was
in their hearts, but no sense of possession was ever theirs; therefore,
they were happy who felt and knew that the sacred ashes of their loved
had been covered by the beautiful snow, and the valley was their grave.

The stream could sound their requiem; the lake could moan its lament,
and every wave might be supposed to carry a portion of their precious
forms to distant shores; but God alone could gather the elements, and
fashion it for the future love. Nothing but the sacred urn of earth,
which contains all that is mortal of the human race--nothing but this,
is the depository of those loved forms which were once so full of life;
but everything in nature becomes the more precious to the longing
heart. Unseen fingers shall weave their garments in the spring, and the
songs shall burst forth from those forest hills, but the better land
contains their spirits, and to that, the living must go to claim their


[From a Photograph by Kitzsteiner & Greene, Cleveland.]]



It was well that the revolting sights of that dark, that horrid morgue
were denied to many of the friends. Every effort was taken to relieve
the pangs of sorrow and to remove the revolting features of that awful
scene. Coffins were soon procured. Each body was placed in its silent,
its narrow house. The keeper of the morgue was stationed to watch
the sacred forms. He was a silent man. Tall and dark and gloomy, he
walked amid the dead, but beneath that silent face he bore a kindly, a
sympathetic heart. He seemed himself to be struck with the grief which
went so deep into so many loving souls. His tones were tender, his ways
were kind. He walked amid the dead until it seemed as if his habitation
must be the grave, but it was only to express a sympathy for the
bereft. His was a gloomy, a melancholy task, and yet it was a sacred
trust, as those bodies which he guarded so well, were very sacred to
many hearts.

There were other officials who were appointed for the trying emergency,
who seemed peculiarly adapted for their work. A gentleman was stationed
in the office of the same building, whose duty it was to guard the
relics which should be found. His position was indeed a difficult
one. He was an employee of the road and yet had been appointed by the
coroner to fill this place. The very equivocal attitude in which this
double duty put him, rendered it a most unenviable office. The list
of articles was left with him, and at the same time, the articles
themselves as they were found. If there was obedience to the claims of
humanity and regard to his personal feelings, there might be a loss to
the company. If there was a regard to the financial interest of the
company and a desire to shield it from loss, there was the fearful
temptation to sacrifice his honor and break his trust. The sympathy and
courtesy of the man was certainly manifest to all. Even the articles
which had been recovered by the Mayor’s proclamation were consigned to
him, and everything belonging to the lost of the fatal train. The very
proof that persons were on it, depended on the trifling things which
were under his care. A key, or watch, or chain, or cap, or dress, might
be an evidence in law. Thus the affection of friends who sought for
these with such avidity and unwearied diligence, appealed to his humane
and kindly heart, and yet a loss to the Company might ensue from every
discovery made. The freedom, too, with which these relics were reached,
by the constantly changing crowds, rendered a loss by dishonest hands
a probable result, yet it was impossible to refuse access to them,
without being misunderstood. And so the position was surrounded with
embarrassments, and yet the testimony was universal to his courtesy
and kindness through it all, and the many relics which were found by
friends, showed how faithfully he performed his task.

On the ground where the train had fallen was another official of the
road. His work was to superintend those who were gathering relics.
This position was a tedious, a difficult, and in many respects a
thankless one. With hands, and feet, and rakes, and hoes, and in
various ways, the precious relics were fished from out the stream.
Everything was preserved. Bits of rags, and pieces of jewelry; shreds
of clothing and gold watches; a worthless strap or a diamond pin;
anything and everything which gave trace of the passengers, were
gathered and placed in the hands of Mr. Stager and then deposited in
the morgue. With all the suspicion and all the rumors, the public
became at last satisfied that the authorities were doing all they could
to gather relics for the friends, and that the traces of the dead
were not intentionally destroyed. They were all railroad men who were
engaged in this work. These tasks were performed by humane men, under
the shadow of the public doubt and public grief, amid which, there was
excitement, and the haste of business and the burden of care. Yet there
were humane hearts underneath all this machinery of life. The employees
of the road were, many of them, melted to tears. Every one was subdued
by the sudden death. Even the hardness produced by their public life
was softened by the common sorrow. The tide of human sympathy burst
through even the most rocky hearts and overflowed all other feelings.

In the crowded office in the station house, the telegraph was
constantly at work. Its click and buzz was heard as it talked with
lightning tongues, and reported the wide-spread grief, and responded
with short and comprehensive words. It seemed as if all the nation had
been touched. Those nerves of wire penetrated the remotest fibres of
the nation’s heart, and they seemed to be singing with intensest pain.
The arrow which had shot its pang into so many hearts had left the
bowstring whizzing in the hand. The griefs of many, many homes were
expressed by those very sounds. Hour after hour the messages would come
and go, and every word was fraught with intensest feeling.

The division-superintendent sat at the table amid the representatives
of the press, and the friends who crowded to the desk without, and
it seemed as if the silent man had his hand upon the heart-strings
of the land. How any one could endure the strain of such a place and
not falter at his task, was a mystery to many. Only those who are
accustomed to the position where so many human lives are under their
constant care could bear this crushing weight.

The noble man who came down upon the train and went out upon the
bridge, of which, as engineer, he had the charge, is said to have wept
like a child as he saw the sight. That stern, care-worn face expressed
more than many knew.

As the questions were plied so thick and fast by the representatives
of the press, and were sent home by those who knew something of the
facts, the same courteous reply went back. No one apprehended the
responsibility of his place more than he. No one felt, perhaps, the
doubts and suspicions and public feeling more. No one realized more
the nature of the calamity in all its bearings, and yet that same calm
and courteous manner remained. He was calm without, but God only knew
what he felt within. Those who knew him best have told something of the
tender sensibilities of the man. On New Year’s morning he was with his
wife at her father’s home on the east side of Ashtabula River, where
they often were. But on that morning as he stepped out doors before
breakfast, the coachman met him and wished him a happy New Year. He
returned the greeting, but as he sat down to breakfast, his feelings
were deeply moved. The tears came into his eyes. His face became
suffused and he seemed overwhelmed. At last the brave man gave way and
buried his head in his hands and sobbed, and then he controlled himself
and said, “John bid me a happy New Year this morning, but how can it be
a happy New Year to me?”




There was a succession of arrivals of people: each day brought a
different class; first the officials of the road; next the crowds of
curious men and women from the village and surrounding country; then
the representatives of the press from the distant cities, Chicago and
New York; then the long swelling wave of the sorrowing friends. From
farther and farther away this wave swept in. At last the two sides of
the continent were reached. Two oceans had sent their echoes to moan
over the graves of those who had left their shores. The coast of Maine
and the Golden Gate had felt the shock.

First were those from the nearer cities. These had either bidden
good-bye a few hours before or were waiting at the depot for the
arrival of their friends.

New Year’s day was nigh. A gentleman was at Cleveland on his way to
California. His wife was on her way to meet him. Two children were with
her on this train. They expected to spend New Year’s together in that
city. She had telegraphed that she was coming. He was at the depot
awaiting her arrival. The train was late but he waited there. At last
the tidings came and he took the train with the officials and arrived
in the night. The two children were dead and the wife was awfully
burned. She was now lingering between life and death. The New Year
would find her dead and the man bereft of wife and children.

Another had been waiting for a wife and child. He came and found them
dead. The dread reality was worse than the worst of fears. But the
morning came. The friends at Cleveland hastened to the cars at an early
hour thinking to take them and reach the spot by 9 o’clock, but at the
hour assigned the train delayed. Those who were warned of the wreck
by the morning papers also went to the depot, but they could not go.
Women, whose husbands were on the fatal train, were there and became
anxious to start, but the train delayed.

The fathers, whose sons were wounded, became uneasy at the delay.
Business men, who knew that their partners were among the lost,
wondered at the long delay. Mothers, whose little children were among
the dead, also were sick at heart; but the train delayed. The suspense
became too much to bear; the train delayed. The agony increased; some
fainted in their seats, and were taken to the air; the feeling became
intense; that busy depot became a house of weeping; sorrow was depicted
on every face. Sympathy moved the hearts of strangers; those gloomy
walls became a prison to the heart; those heavy columns and lofty
arches seemed draped with mourning; the iron roof seemed filled with
bars; it was a castle of despair. Even the stir and confusion of the
place mocked the grief. Never was that place so full of sorrow; the
train delayed. Some returned to their homes and again came down. The
city was moved; the fact became known upon the streets; excitement even
entered the business circles, yet the train delayed.

A young man lay in the Culver House; his face was deathly pale, his
breathing labored. He was slowly dying. The father was in that train,
delayed, and became very anxious; he was wealthy and offered money.
Yes, the expense of the train he was willing to pay, but the train

At last, when patience was almost exhausted, and the feeling was so
intense, and the night began to darken, the train moved out. The
suspense was relieved, but the time was still too long, and the
distance great. They arrive at last. The son is dead. He breathed his
last among the wounded. Strangers were there to lay him out, but the
friends could only bury him.

The arrival brought the whole reality to view. No one could tell the
horror, it must be seen to be known. The search for friends must be
carried on in the night. That horrid morgue was dark and covered
with gloom; the scene of the wreck was also covered with the evening
shades. Most of the bodies had, by this time, been removed; those which
remained were deeply buried beneath the ruins. The valley was lonely
and sad. The death itself, which had come down with one fell swoop,
had ascended, leaving only the ashes of the burned, the dust of death
which had been gathered by hands of iron, eaten by the tongues of fire,
and the night winds were making them their sport. O! how the heart went
down into that lonely valley, where so many perished. The night was
full of tears; it was the second night. From one end of the land to the
other, the fact was known; the greatest railroad accident on record had
occurred. In that fall, so many went down! From the distant east to the
distant west, the lightning had flashed their names. It was a stroke
that spanned the heavens, and revealed how black they were.

This sorrow was continued. Day after day brought new scenes. Each
train brought in new groups of friends. All were moved by a common
feeling, but their sorrow was visible. In that dreadful morgue there
were scenes which can never be described; God only knows what agony
was in the hearts of many. The sorrowing company trooped in and out,
and varied every hour; men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers
and sisters, husbands and wives, and even the children of the lost.
Some already were dressed in mourning. Others had come in haste and
stopped for nothing. The friends of the deceased from different places
would meet at this spot drawn together from a distance by the common
bereavement. Different circles had been bereft by each one of those who
had so suddenly died. Often two or three would come looking for the
same person. A different state of feeling concentrated at each separate
spot. The morgue, the office, and the wreck, all had their circles
and their scenes. Citizens and friends as they came, visited each in
succession. The search for relics on the ice; the search for bodies in
the morgue; and the sending of messages in the busy office, brought
different feelings to those sensitive hearts. There was a language in
each place which spoke more than words.

In the hotels at the upper town, there were also many exciting scenes.
As the friends gathered from near and far, they passed from place to
place, watching for some trace of the lost. Some became so overwhelmed
by the great calamity that they were obliged to go home, and send
others who were less afflicted to continue the search. Fathers were
almost crushed by the fearful blow, and went in and out of the gloomy
morgue and upon the cheerless ice, and into the busy depot, sick at
heart, and depressed, and would return to their hotels, weary with
the search, and lonely amid the throngs, for the sons or daughters on
whom they doted, had gone forever. A young man came alone, and sought
his mother for four long and weary days, but could find no trace.
Each night he returned to the hotel with every lineament of his face
expressive of the grief which was in his heart, and would sit down
among the throngs of strangers, desolate and bereaved.

Brothers and friends came, seeking, but finding not, and with tearful
eyes would return at night, their sorrow growing deeper as their search
was vain. Whoever expressed a sympathizing word to those bereaved and
stricken ones, knew how deeply the arrow had reached, and how the
soul was riven, but there were none who knew it all. To God’s eye and
that alone, was the grief revealed, and in His bottle were the tears
preserved. There were times when it seemed as if the grief were too
much to look upon.

A woman was seen to pass through the morgue. Her hard, care-worn
face and humble dress showed her to be acquainted with poverty and
accustomed to toil. But her husband was gone, and as the horrid
scenes came before her gaze, and the awful death was known, she
fairly staggered in her steps. Her glaring eye and strange, wild look
betokened a mind almost deranged. Yet, the pity did not end, for
another would come, so broken and so weak, and so subdued, in the
widow’s garb, and then the trembling father, and even mother, stricken
and bowed and almost heartbroken, so that it would seem as if there was
no end to grief.




There was a storm of grief. The waves were tossing high upon the sea
of life, and their crests were lifted far and wide, and dropping tears
upon the deep. The solemn murmur was echoed all along the shore. It
intruded upon the business thoughts. Its roar was heard above the
noise of commerce, and the city’s hum. It was a melancholy sound, men
for once were led to give up their eager haste, and ask, to what all
this love of gain might tend. The serious affairs of life were brought
to mind. The interests of eternity were compared to those of time.
All eyes were directed to this wreck of life. All hearts were moved
by this suddenness of death. But this wave of sorrow did not cease.
When the storm was over, and men lost their wonder, the wave swept on.
Long after the calamity had failed to engage the public ear, and had
disappeared from the public press, the wave was spreading still, and
while others had forgotten the great event, it moaned along the shore.
It reached the most distant homes. It swept into many sorrowing hearts.
It was a wave of grief.

A father had bidden his only son good bye, in a distant city of the
east. He was a lovely youth. He was destined to the west. There were
those whom he loved, in a central city; one awaited him there to whom
he was betrothed. The morning news brought the sad tidings to both
those cities, it sent a shock to those loving hearts.

Two husbands were, together, on the Pacific coast. Both were expecting
their wives home, they (a mother and daughter, together with a son)
were on that train. Eight months they had been away, on an eastern
trip. They had a large circle of friends and relatives, on an island,
on the coast of Maine. They were on their return. They bore with them,
many gifts, from friends. Thirteen quilts, which had been pieced among
the visiting circles, and many other valuable presents. It had been
a happy summer to them among those friends. They had hoped to reach
their home, by New Year’s day, but had been delayed. The father looked
into the San Francisco papers and read the tidings of the horrible
event. The son, who was saved, also telegraphed from the scene of the
disaster. These were the startling words: “Mother and sister are both
dead. My ribs are broken, my head is hurt, I have been robbed, and am
penniless among strangers.” On that second night both those men were on
their way to the scene of the disaster.

The Sabbath dawned. It did not seem like Sabbath. All time lost its
marks. All days were alike in the sweeping grief.

There was a congregation gathered on that distant island. The news
reached some at the hour of service. Tidings were conveyed to the
church. The shock went through the house, and the grief was such that
the services were broken up. The circle of friends embraced the whole
community. Those who had been visiting, and had so recently left,
were now stricken down by this sudden death. So the wave invaded the
sanctuary of God. It overwhelmed the Sabbath sacredness.

That Sabbath passed. The survivors hardly realized it was a holy
day. One looked out from his window, and wondered if there were any
ministers in town, and inquired where the churches were, for he could
see no spires, and only a few chimneys and the tops of houses. The
bells rang out--“evening bells.” It was Sabbath evening. Yes, New
Year’s eve! But, O how strange! The distant friends were on their way.
Many of the dead were lying there. The festivities of the day were to
be turned to mourning.

A father of a lovely girl, arrived that Sabbath evening. He had
bidden her good bye only two nights before. She was a favorite child,
everything had been done to make her education complete. No expense was
spared. She had just finished school, and was now starting out for a
winter’s visit. A few days before, there had been a wedding scene, her
dearest friend was married, and she was the bridesmaid. It was a very
accomplished circle and a delightful party. That daughter was dressed
in white, her dress was trimmed with “Forget-me-nots.” Her picture was
taken in that dress. Her friends remember her as thus “garlanded and
adorned,” but it was a passing vision. The New Year was to have seen
her in a distant city, a delightful circle awaited her there. The first
circles of two cities were interchanging greetings, she was the bright
messenger between the two. At either end of that treacherous track,
there were garlands and greetings. The white feet passed out from the
one circle but they never reached the other. Into the valley that form
went down, in that ill-fated car she perished, and now the father is
looking for, but can find her not, like a vision she has departed. The
white garments and the shadowy feet belong to an angel now. They have
passed out from earthly scenes into the Heavenly land. In a furnace of
fire the Saviour walked, and took her to himself. His form was like
to the Son of Man, and the smell of fire was not in her garments, but
through the fire she passed into glory; and now the father seeks her,
and can never find her--never! until, as an angel spirit, he beholds
her there. Strangers meet him, and tell him it is all in vain; she was
in that car, and no trace of her remains. His heart is crushed, but his
ways are calm, self-controlled and courteous, in the midst of grief;
he returns to his home, without his daughter. She has flown to other
circles and he cannot find her, but his hair catches the light of her
departure, for it turns white from grief. In the midst of the furnace,
he receives something of a transforming power, and the tinge of the
better land strikes across his brow.

In a city of Ohio was a public school, and in charge of it was one
who had endeared himself to his pupils, and was well known as the
superintendent. When news of the accident was first received, fears
were excited, that Mr. Rogers might be on the train A dispatch was sent
to Niagara Falls, where it was known he was to be. His bride was with
him, for they were married on the Tuesday before, and preparations had
been made for their reception at home. Tidings came back that both were
on the ill fated train. There was most intense anxiety in the place.
All classes felt upon the subject, and the least scrap of information
was eagerly sought. Two gentlemen at once started for the scene, and on
Sabbath a dispatch was read in church. The worst of fears were realized
and the sorrow deepened. Again dispatches were received, that Mr. and
Mrs. Rogers were burned to death and no portion of their bodies could
be recovered. A special meeting of the school board was called for
appropriate action, and “the most affecting and depressing sense of the
great calamity came home to all.” “A deep gloom was cast over the whole
city and mainly put an end to the festivities of the New Year’s day.”

There was a family in a distant place in the West. It was the family
of a well known physician. A mother was there. She was the physician’s
wife. The husband had left his home for the distant east to visit an
aged parent, and was on his return. He had visited a brother-in-law on
his way home. The tidings go out that he is lost, and the family is
at once stricken with grief. The “whole community where he dwelt was
moved.” The “sense of personal bereavement extends through the place”
and reaches the surrounding towns. The deepest feeling was manifest
and it “seemed as if all the citizens were mourners at once.” “All
mourned as though one of their own household had fallen.” The church
and community and even the country around were affected, and afterward
gathered at the funeral with the expression of their regard and giving
token of the friendship which he had acquired. Dr. Hubbard was dead. A
fragment of his body was found, and his death was mourned by the vast
assemblies which crowded two houses of worship in his village home.
When laid away with public obsequies, and by the different orders to
which he belonged, two cities were represented.

And so the wave swept on. It subsided from the public gaze, but its
effects were felt. Widows, almost crushed, wept in secret for those
they loved, and over their orphaned children, and lifted up their hands
in agony of prayer. The letters as they came to the author only showed
how wide was this silent, this unknown sorrow.

The friends would write from the distant cities and say, “how cruel had
been the blow,” “how sad the case;” but no one could tell the silent
loneliness which lingered in those homes. Bitterness was mingled with
the grief; and the sweet love of woman was turned so as to almost curse
the Company “which had left those dreadful pits for the destruction
of those precious lives;” even “God’s forgiveness was asked” that the
feeling of indignation was so intense.

The secret mourning which followed the terrible crash was even now the
most melancholy result of all. The sad refrain must linger for many
a day. Through all the noise of business and the sounds of mirth the
plaintive note mingles, and the sad calamity has not lost its effect.
The secret sorrow was the worst of all. At first the wave broke upon
the shore and drew back a quick returning current. The friends came at
once and public sympathy was moved, but long after they had returned
and the event had sunk away from the public mind, there was a wave
which swept into lonely hearts and echoed in unknown homes.



The week began with a search for relics. It was a difficult task. The
wind was cold; the water was deep and frozen over. Snow and ashes
filled the air. A confused heap of iron, tin roofs, broken trucks, and
other debris were mingled into one mass of ruins.

A company was organized for the work, with the train-dispatcher at
the head. Men were hired, police were stationed, the ice was broken,
great iron beams and rails and rods were drawn out, trucks and wheels
and brakes and bolts were moved away, and every spot was searched
for traces of the dead. Watches, jewels, shreds of clothing, hands
of women and arms of men were found. It was a place where diamonds
lay; a stream where nuggets of gold were washed; a mine where they
dug for treasures, all that men seek in distant lands, but there were
human lives which could not be found. Everything was closely scanned.
Curiosity was fed by the constant search, and yet, to friends, the
results were meagre.

A single bone was found, around which a chain was wound. It was the
remains of a lady’s arm.

A watch was found, the gold was melted, the works were lost, but it
bore the number and the pattern which proved it to belong to Rev. Dr.
Washburn, the Rector of Grace Church, Cleveland.

A gentleman made diligent search for some remains or relics of Dr.
Hubbard, of Des Moines, Iowa, and at last found a shawl strap and check
which bore his name. The Doctor’s brother arrived from Boston, bringing
his aged mother’s description of his clothing: Woolen socks (which she
had knit for him), and two pairs of drawers, one worn inside of his
socks. By this description a limb which had been saved from burning
with the remainder of the body, by lying in the water, was identified
as his, and taken home for burial.

A cap was found which proved that a young man named Marvin was lost. He
was the only son of a widow, and her only support.

A simple string was all that another had, to prove that a body was that
of a mother. It was a present from a daughter, and was tied about the
hair, and had not been burned.

A key, identified by a duplicate sent by his partner from Chicago, was
the proof that E. P. Rogers was on the train.

A coat was recognized as belonging to Mr. J. Rice, of Lowell.

A pair of initial sleeve buttons were found which proved that Boyd
Russell, of Auburn, N. Y., was among the lost. The body had burned,
diamond pins and badges and valuable jewelry had disappeared, but these

The father and friends of Miss Minnie Mixer after long search had given
up all hope of finding a single trace of her remains. At last her
mother came and identified a chain which had been her daughter’s.

The watch of Mr. G. Kepler, of Ashtabula, was identified.

A wife did not know her husband was on the train. She missed his
letters. She heard that he had gone to Dunkirk. She searched the relics
and found his knife.

A lady from Toronto, a Mrs. Smith, came searching for her husband from
whom she had heard just as he left Buffalo for Detroit. He had seven
thousand dollars on his person. A pocket was fished up from the stream.
It contained the pocket-book and the name and a bank certificate, but
the money was not there. A letter was discovered among the relics. It
bore no name except that of the writer, as the envelope was gone. A
brother from Massachusetts came. He found no trace except the letter.
He went to Chicago and sought some of the survivors and still did
not satisfy himself. He returned and consulted the author of this
book. Only two persons were saved from the car which he was in. They
described the occupants of the car one by one. “In one seat,” said
they, “was a gentlemanly man, quiet in manner, and intelligent.” He
was going to “South America by way of California.” “That’s my brother,”
was the tearful answer. In a low toned voice and tender accents we
talked, and it seemed as if the brother could not rest until all was
told. Yet there was but little to be said.

An old lady was on the train who was from the east. She was described
as sitting in the middle of the car, a young man with her. He was
teaching school at the time in Illinois, and had spent his vacation
in going after her. She was seventy-nine years of age. Her angular
features and loud voice had attracted the attention of passengers.
The same lady was described to the author. A description of her given
by two young men on the train was recognized by the friends, and a
photograph of the young man shown to them was recognized in turn. Thus
two more were identified as being on the train.

A family, consisting of a gentleman and his wife and two children, were
in the drawing-room car. They were described to the author as “neither
stylish nor very plain,” “just a comfortable, respectable and happy
family.” Mr. T. C. Wright, of Tennessee, had noticed them as they sat
together, and was impressed, and told what a happy family they were.
They were sitting in the state-room and enjoying one another’s company.
The little girl was described as having “light hair and curls which
hung round her face and was very pretty, but had poor teeth.” This
description was sent to the “Inter-Ocean” of Chicago by the author. A
letter was afterwards received from Mrs. H. H. Gray, of Darlington,
Wis., enquiring about a family which was lost (“annihilated” it was
written). No one could find any trace of them. An answer was returned,
“Look into the ‘Inter-Ocean’ of January 16 and read my letter.” The
next letter received was from the administrator of the estate. It
described the gentleman as a man of “extensive business, very energetic
and honorable,” and contained the photographs of two children. “This
whole family were on their way from Bethlehem, Pa., to Gratiot, Wis.”

The only survivor from the drawing-room car, was a Mr. Ormsbee, from
Boston, who was nearsighted and could not tell much about those in
the car. Mr. Wright, who was in the smoker at the time of the fall,
belonged in this car. His description had already been recognized by
the author, but the photographs were shown to Mr. Ormsbee, and he,
after close examination, with solemnity said, “They were the children
who were in my car.” Another photograph of the whole family was
afterwards sent to Mr. Wright, of Nashville, and was recognized as the
likeness of the family which he had noticed in that state-room.

There is an affecting story about this family: It is supposed that they
were in the state-room at the time of the fall and by some means the
wife and children were held in the wreck and could not be extricated.
The father tried to save them but the flames arose. He could escape
himself and actually did get out of the car and away from the flames,
but the little girl cried out, “Papa! oh, Papa! take me!” and he went
back, exclaiming, “I would rather perish with my family; I can’t live
without them,” and so all perished together.



The following account of the passengers on the ill-fated train has
been gathered with great difficulty. Communication with survivors and
correspondence with friends have been the sources of information, and
the description is given more for the satisfaction of the friends than
for any general interest. It must however be remembered that each name
has its own associations. This is true especially of those who died.
Their names are freighted with precious memories and carry a weight of
affection which, though unknown to the public, must make even the very
mention of it exceedingly valuable.

If it is a consolation to know the last words of the dying, certainly
the scenes attending the death of those who perished in this disaster
must have a melancholy, a tragic interest.

We give below an account of the passengers in the different cars in
succession, beginning at the front and going through, with as much
accuracy as possible, to the last one in the train.

From the first car, more persons escaped than from any other. There
were at least sixteen of these. Mr. C. E. Jones of Beloit, Wis., was
sitting in the front seat; Mr. and Mrs. Martin and two children, of
Lenox, Ohio, who were a third of the way back from the front; J. M.
Mowry of Hartford, Conn., and Dr. C. A. Griswold of Fulton, Ill.,
were sitting together in the middle of the car; Thomas Jackson of
Waterbury, Conn., and Mr. A. H. Parslow of Chicago; Victor Nusbaum,
from Cleveland, and Charles Patterson of the same city, were toward the
rear. This constitutes all the survivors on the right side.

On the opposite side, toward the front, were Edward Trueworthy and
Joseph Thompson, of Oakland, Cal., with Alfred Gillett of Cranberry
Isle, Me., sitting in two seats, facing each other. Mr. Thompson is
described as having a smoking cap on, while Mr. Trueworthy had a shawl
across his shoulders. Mr. Gillett was the only one out of this group
who was killed. In front of them were a Mr. Walter Hayes of Lexington,
Ky., with Miss Sarah Mann, who was also killed. Thomas Jackson of
Waterbury, Conn., Robert Monroe of Rutland, Mass., Mr. Alex. Monroe of
Somerville, Mass., Wm. B. Sanderson, Alex’r Hitchcock, of Port Clinton,
Ohio, and Charles E. Rickard of Biddeford, Me., were upon the same side
of the car.

Mr. F. Shattuck of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, is known to have been in this car
and to have been killed. Mrs. Fonda and her nephew, D. Campbell, of
Milledgeville, Ill., have already been described as among the dead.

There was a lady sitting at the right hand near the front who was
“slight built and had a child with her about two years old.” The child
was described as being “quite forward, for his age, talking well, and
was very bright and interesting.” Just behind them was a lady who was
described as “large, full formed, dressed in a plaid trimmed with
black.” A younger lady sat behind her who was “tall, well formed,
dressed in dark clothes and spent most of her time in reading a book.”
These were all killed. It is probable that the trucks of the car above
struck down just above where they were, as all in this part of the car
seem to have perished. Their bodies lay near where they sat, but were
too much crushed and burned to be recognized by their friends.

The author could have identified them had he received descriptions in

About the middle of the car upon the left side, were two ladies sitting
together, both of them dressed in black. The one was older than the
other and had been to the East to bury a daughter who had died of
consumption. Both of these were killed.

The second passenger car was well filled. There were many ladies in it.
It is not known for a certainty who were its occupants, as no one has
yet been found by the author who had escaped from it. The dead who are
supposed to have been in it and have since been recognized or otherwise
proven to have been on the train, were as follows: George Keppler,
of Ashtabula, O.; L. W. Hart, of Akron, O.; Isaac Myer and Birdie
Myer, his daughter; Mrs. George and Mattie George, of Cleveland, O.;
Maggie Lewis, of St. Louis, Mo.; Mr. E. Cook, of Wellington, O.; Mrs.
Lucy C. Thomas, Buffalo, N. Y.; Wm. Clements, Bellevue, O.; Mr. M. P.
Cogswell, Chicago; Miss Annie Kittlewell, Beloit, Wis.; L. C. Crain,
New Haven, Conn.; Boyd Russell, Albany, N. Y.; Doctor Hubbard, Polk
City, Iowa, and others whose bodies have not been recognized, amounting
in all, according to the testimony of many survivors, to at least forty

In the smoking car were about sixteen persons. A group was at the
rear end. It consisted of Mr. Tilden, the superintendent of water
works; Geo. M. Reid, superintendent of bridges, and David Chittenden,
of Cleveland. The conductor and news-boy were near by. Mr. Stowe, of
Geneva, Ohio, was standing near and listening to the conversation. As
mentioned before, this conversation was upon the weight of the engine
and the amount of water it used. Mr. Stockwell was sitting on the other
side, having just bought a cigar of the news-boy. Another group had
dispersed but a little time before. It consisted of three who called
themselves “the three blondes,” as the accidental resemblance to one
another had amused them. These were, Mr. J. M. Mowry, of Hartford,
Conn., who afterwards went into the first passenger car; Mr. J. C.
Earle, of Chicago, Ill., and Col. A. Maillard, of California, both
of whom remained. Two brothers were in the car--Mr. R. Osborn and F.
Osborn, of Tecumseh, Mich.,--who were sitting together. Two young men
were in another seat--C. D. Meranville and Wm. B. Sanderson. Mr. L.
C. Burnham, of Milwaukee, Wis.; Mr. C. Lobdell, Troy, N. Y.; Thos.
C. Wright, Nashville, Tenn., and Mr. Harry Wagner, conductor of the
sleeping coaches, were in the same car. Of this number, Mr. Stowe, Mr.
Chittenden, Mr. F. Osborn, Mr. Stockwell and the sleeping car conductor
were killed. The stove fell from one end of this car to the other,
making a clean sweep by carrying everything before it. As it hit the
end it broke through the timbers and then set the car on fire. Those
who were struck by it were instantly killed.

Mr. R. Osborn, whose brother perished by his side, was very badly hurt
and barely escaped with his life. The car stood after its fall at an
angle, so that those who were within, were obliged to go up an inclined
plane and to get out at the upper door. Most of those who escaped, went
up the north side of the track.

The destruction of life was greatest in the second coach, because, as
has been mentioned, the car struck upon its side and was badly smashed;
yet it is a singular fact that the bodies from this were better
preserved than from any other car in the train, as they fell into the
stream where the water was deepest, before the flames could reach them.

The following description was sent by the author to the “Inter-Ocean”
of Chicago, and has since proved its correctness by the fact that
several have been recognized by the description given in it:

    “The drawing-room car contained the following-described persons:

    “A lady from Chicago, who is described as being very handsome; she
    had left her husband at Dunkirk, and was returning home,” so a
    passenger learned.

    “Next, a lady and gentleman. The lady is described as being
    ‘quiet in manner, and evidently a person of culture.’ She was
    about twenty-two years of age. The gentleman was short, had black
    whiskers and mustache. Opposite, and afterward in the state-room,
    was a party consisting of a gentleman, his wife and two children, a
    girl and boy [who have been already described].

    “Next was a tall gentleman having on a long ulster overcoat. He was
    from Boston, and was going to California; was a merchant tailor.
    My informant, Mr. Thomas C. Wright, thinks that Mr. Bliss was not
    in this car. He says others were in the rear of the car, but does
    not remember them. Mr. Ormsbee of Boston, was in the car and is
    the only survivor. He was at first pinned down hands and feet and
    could not extricate himself. Afterward something fell on the top of
    the car, and loosened him and he reached up his hand and dragged
    himself out. As he went out he heard the lady in the corner of
    the car calling for help. He has seen the photograph of Rev. Dr.
    Washburn and recognized it. The probability is that that gentleman
    was underneath the only part which was struck by the ‘City of
    Buffalo,’ and was instantly killed.”

It is still a question whether Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were in this car.

The gentleman and lady who have been described above, are supposed
to have been Mr. and Mrs. Hall, of Chicago, rather than Mr. and Mrs.
Bliss. The gentleman was reading to the lady the book “Near Nature’s
Heart;” as the newsboy passed, he took out “Daniel Deronda,” read it a
little, and afterward bought “Helen’s Babies.” Mr. Ormsbee, the sole
survivor from the car, judging from photographs which have been shown
him, declares that they were not Mr. and Mrs. Bliss. Mr. Burchell, of
Chicago, however, maintains that Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were in this car,
and his statement is worthy of credit. There is no doubt that they were
either in this or in the “City of Buffalo,” and it is probable that no
trace of them will ever be found.

The occupants of the “Palatine” were, Mrs. Bingham, of Chicago;
Mabel Arnold, North Adams, Mass.; H. L. Brewster, Milwaukee, Wis;
B. B. Lyons, of New York city; Mrs. Annie Graham, of New York; Miss
Marion Shepard, Ripon, Wis.; Geo. A. White, Portland, Me.; John J.
White (?) of Boston, Mass; Chas. S. Carter, of New York; Mr. L. B.
Sturges, Minneapolis, Minn.; Mr. J. E. Burchell, Chicago, Ill.; Col.
A. Maillard, of San Rafael, Cal.; Mr. H. W. Shepard, Brooklyn, N. Y.;
Lewis Bochatay, Kent’s Plains, Ct.; John J. Lalor, of Chicago, C. H.
Tyler, St. Louis; and Jos. D. Pickering and nephew, of Buffalo, N. Y.

The persons who were in the “City of Buffalo” are as follows: Mr.
Henry White, of Weathersfield, Conn., who broke the glass door and got
out; Mrs. Bradley, of California; Mr. J. P. Hazelton, of Charleston,
Ill., and Mr. Gage, of Illinois, who escaped and afterward died. The
nurse and child of Mrs. Bradley, who occupied the rear state-room,
perished. Mrs. A. D. Marston and her mother and boy; Mrs. Trueworthy
and daughter, Mrs. Coffin, of California; Mrs. Moore, of Hammondsport,
N. Y.; Mr. Hodgkins, of Bangor, Maine; “a gentleman going to South
America, very polite and fine looking,” who afterwards proved to be
Mr. J. Spooner, of Petershaw, Mass.; Mr. D. A. Rogers, of Chicago; Mr.
Barnard and Miss Mixer, daughter of Dr. Mixer of Buffalo; Mr. Rice,
of Lowell, Mass.; Mr. J. F. Aldrich, of Des Moines, Iowa; and, it is
supposed, Mrs. H. M. Knowles, and child of Cleveland;--twenty-one
in all. The probability is that all who were in this car were so
completely destroyed that scarcely a vestige of them remained. There
has been the most thorough search for even the least scrap that might
give trace of their presence in the ill-fated coach. It is probable
that the fall at first served to crush those who were in it, and that
the position of the car gave a draft which intensified the heat so as
to consume the bodies. The fire burned here the longest, and was still
burning at two o’clock in the morning.

There were but few in the “Osceo,” which was the rear sleeper. These
were Mrs. Eastman, and Mrs. W. H. Lew, of Rochester, N. Y.; Mrs. T. A.
Davis, Kokomo, Ind.; the brakeman Stone and the colored porter who was




Every one of those who got out of the train had a different story.
These are valuable because they bring before us a picture of the scene
in its different features. Some one escaped from every car but one.
From the second passenger coach no one was left to tell the tale. Every
one perished in the fall or crash. From the first and third and fifth,
many escaped; from the fourth, only one; from the sixth, three; and
from the last, all but one. The story of Mr. Parslow, who was in the
first, has been given through the public press, and it is given here as
descriptive of the experience common to others. He says:

    “The first intimation he had of the affair was the sound of the
    crash of the bridge. Then he felt and realized the sensation of
    the downward tendency of the coach. He clutched one of the seats
    to steady himself. All of a sudden, in the flash of a second, the
    passengers were thrown to the end of the coach which had reached
    the water. The broken pieces of ice, the snow, and fragments of
    the car came in with a rush. He caught the stove, which had not
    yet been cooled from its heat, thinking to save himself thereby
    from drowning. In doing so he burned his hand to a blister, while
    the other portion of his body was freezing in the water. He
    remembered the crashing of the smoker upon his car. As soon as he
    could collect his thoughts he went to work to extricate himself,
    but how he did it was unable to state. He only knew he was out
    of the car and into the fragments of ice and floating pieces of
    the wreck. From there he managed to reach unbroken ice and from
    thence he climbed up the height and was the first of that scarred
    and bruised number to reach the top. In doing this it is to be
    remembered that the poor man had a piece of gilt molding, one inch
    wide, three-quarters of an inch thick, and eight inches long, in
    a portion of his body. It had entered the left shoulder, back of
    the collar-bone, and penetrated under the shoulder-blade into the
    side. He scarcely realized his situation until he had been conveyed
    to the nearest place of comfort. In his car were from 40 to 45
    passengers; in the smoking-car he thinks about the same number. In
    his opinion there were not less than 200 passengers in all. He says
    when he got out of the car on the ice the screams of the dying and
    crushed broke upon his ears, and were the most pitiful sounds that
    were ever heard. He said that all occurred in such a remarkably
    brief space that he cannot now realize how it was that so much of
    human misery could be crowded into a speck of time.”

The experience of those in the smoking-car was quite remarkable.
Several who escaped from this, have told of the fall. There were but
four killed in it. Among them was Harry Wagner, conductor of the
sleeping cars, who, it is said, was driven against, and even through,
the end of the car, by the stove, which swept through the whole length
with terrible force.

The conductor, Mr. Henn, speaks of this and says that the stove shot
past him on one side and something else fell with a crash on the
other side, but he escaped. Mr. J. M. Earle’s experience was quite
remarkable. He gives expression to the feelings which many had in
almost tragic words. He says:

    “It did not seem to me as if we had fallen. I was thoroughly
    collapsed for a minute or two. Then I heard two or three
    crashes--cars tumbling off the bridge and striking ours. At the
    second crash I threw myself on the floor and crouched down under
    the seats. I did not know but the next one would crush us all.
    There were several people near me, and I told them to crouch down.

    “In the coming down the feeling was a beautiful conglomeration
    of swimming and swinging--I didn’t know whether I was on my head
    or heels. I can’t describe how I felt when the car struck the
    solid ice. Every part of my body seemed to be going in opposite
    directions. I did not experience a dead calm, but a feeling of
    intense agony; and that continued until I came to myself. It must
    have been half an hour certainly before I knew what I was doing.
    Then I got up and struggled around. The terrible noise made by the
    falling cars made me hold my breath when I thought it was about
    time for another to come down.”

The story of Mr. George A. White is the most interesting of all. For,
he not only describes the car “Palatine,” from which so many escaped,
but he gives such an account as no other one has done. His statement is
given at length:

    “In going down there was hardly any sound. The only thing we
    heard was that heavy breathing which bespeaks a fear of something
    terrible to come. The first sound that greeted my ear was after we
    struck the ice. The breaking of the glass was like rifle shots,
    and the train coming down made a terrific roar. Our car fell as it
    rode,--bodily and straight,--which saved our lives. As soon as the
    car touched bottom I could see nothing, all was dark. I groped my
    way out through the east end of the car. Behind us was the Buffalo
    car, standing on end, almost perpendicular, resting against the
    abutment of the bridge, one end having taken our platform.

    “I think none of the Buffalo-car passengers were saved. The coach
    fell on end, and I never heard a sound from it after the fall, and
    no one came out. All was death in my estimation. The Buffalo was
    full of passengers. The parlor car was just ahead of us, and no one
    came out of it. I think all the passengers it held were killed.

    “At the right of us, facing the west, was a car that lay on
    its side. The top of it was close on to ours. Our car lay
    just as it was running. I went up over the roof of the other
    car to take a look up and around. I saw a gentleman and, I
    think, a lady, following me. On looking into the car, I saw a
    large number of people lying together in a mass. The car was
    crushed at its bottom and sides. The scene within was horrible,
    heartrending--indescribable. It was enough to unnerve the bravest.
    There were maimed and bruised men, women, and children, all held
    down by the cruel timbers. They were in different stages of
    delirium and excitement. Some were screaming, some were groaning,
    and others praying. There was hardly any one within who seemed

    “I saw the encroachments the fire was making. While on the roof of
    that car I took a speedy survey of the situation. I realized the
    terrible, yawning chasm. I shall never forget the horrors of that

The experiences of the survivors of the “City of Buffalo” are also
given. So many perished in this car, that a description of those in it
may be of interest to their friends.

The story of Mr. H. A. White, of Weathersfield, Ct., as published in
the daily papers, is as follows. He says:

    “The first thought that came into my mind was that I was dead;
    that it was no use for me to stir or try to help myself. I waited
    in that position until I heard two more crashes come, when all was
    quiet; I then tried to see if I could not raise what was on and
    around me and succeeded. I opened my eyes and the first thing I
    saw, was the glass in the top of the door that opened into the
    saloon in the rear end of the car. I struck that immediately with
    my hand and thrust my head through it. I spoke then. Up to this
    time there was not a shriek or voice heard in the car that I was
    in--all had been stilled.”

He then says that he heard a voice below him and that he endeavored to
help a man out of the car after he had got out himself, but failed.

Mrs. Bradley who, with her nurse and child, was in the rear state-room
near the section where Mr. White was sitting, speaks of this same
silence. She called repeatedly but heard no sound except that of her
own voice. She looked below her for her child and nurse. All she could
see was that they were underneath the wreck. She vainly tried to lift
them but their bodies seemed to sink lower and lower in the debris.
Not a sound proceeded from that direction, and the only conclusion she
could arrive at was that their bodies had been crushed.



The personal incidents which occurred were numerous. Many of these
have been brought to public attention through the press, yet there are
others which have not been narrated. Every one had his own story, but
in the confusion of the scene no one is really supposed to have a clear
view of the whole event.

These incidents are told by the different passengers who escaped and
by the citizens who hastened to the rescue. The following are given
as showing the experiences of the women who were on the train. There
were many who perished, and it is affecting to read the story of their
sufferings while so helpless in the wreck. But the heroism manifested
by those who escaped, is especially worthy of note.

The “Cleveland Leader” contains the following:

    “At the time of the disaster a man rushed down to the scene ready
    to help; he saw a woman struggling for life and went to her
    assistance; he carried her by main force to the solid ice, and
    then, urged by the cries of the mother, went back to the rescue of
    a sweet child of three or four years of age; the treacherous wood
    in splintering, had caught the child in its grasp, and the fire
    completed the terrible work. The man was compelled to see the child
    enveloped in flames, and to hear her cries of ‘Help me, Mother!’
    ringing out in the agony of death and on the ears of the cruel
    night. In a moment she was lost, swept up by the sharp tongues of
    fire, while her mother in helpless agony fell to the earth in a
    deadly swoon.”

    Mr. Reid, one of the passengers, saw a woman held in the ruins and
    burning. She was calling out amid her groans, “Shoot me, and get me
    out of this misery.” The saddest sight he saw was a woman looking
    at her burning child.

    Mrs. Lew says when the crash came she was lying down with her head
    near the open window. The next thing she knew was that her head was
    out in the open air, and her body inside of the car. As soon as she
    got her head out, she saw the newsboy who had a few minutes before
    supplied her with reading matter. She begged of him to help her.
    He said, “I would be glad to, but my old mother is dependent on
    me for her entire support. If I am killed what will she do?” Mrs.
    Lew again entreated him to assist her. He then came so near to her
    as to be able to take hold of her hand by extending his arms full
    length. As they joined hands the newsboy pulled and Mrs. Lew threw
    herself forward, coming out of the car. She then walked on the ice
    to the bank, where she was helped up the embankment by men and
    taken to an eating-house, where her wounds were dressed.

    A villager saw a woman caught, back of the platform railing, and
    attempted to pull her out. It was only by superhuman effort he
    succeeded, then only to find them both up to the waist in the
    water. “Can you save me?” she asked him, in tones that went to his
    heart. “Yes, if you hold on,” he said. She did hold on to him with
    all her strength, and he got her safely to the shore, although in
    the water several times.

The story of Mrs. Bingham has been already told. She owed her life to
her own determined spirit, though it is remarkable that any woman with
a broken limb could summon the courage to break a window and then jump
into the water and draw herself to the land.

The heroism of Mrs. Swift has been mentioned by the papers, and the
author takes pleasure in adding his testimony to the noble and lovely
spirit which she manifested through all the sad scenes. The following
is an account of the manner of her escape:

    “Mrs. Swift retained her senses and her presence of mind. She
    was badly injured at the time, but did not realize it. When the
    accident occurred there was a terrible crash; the bell-rope snapped
    like the report of a pistol, and the lights were extinguished.
    As the cars went down there was no noise. Her husband was hurled
    across the aisle and held down senseless. She was wedged in between
    two seats, but extricated herself. She spoke to her husband, but he
    made no reply, and she thought he was dead. The agony of her mind
    at that moment was fearful to contemplate. She finally, with the
    aid of Mr. White, got him out. He was then delirious, and hardly
    knew where he was going. Her anxiety was all for her husband. Miss
    Shepard, Mrs. Graham and Mr. White then took or assisted everybody
    out of the car, reassuring them by words and deeds, and thus aided
    in saving many lives.”

Miss Shepard, of Ripon, Wis., proves to have been a heroine in the
terrible tragedy. Many of the survivors have spoken of her as so brave
in the midst of the danger. She “was very cool and collected,” says
Mr. Sturgis, “and she acted in a heroic manner. She helped the women
out, and while I was trying to get the men out, she was on the outside
smashing the windows with a piece of timber, clearing the way for those

Mr. White, of Portland, says:

    “She was one of the bravest and best women I ever met. She got out
    by herself. When I at last came out of the Palatine, after I was
    satisfied that there were no more persons in the car, the gentlemen
    who had had their legs broken were still lying within a few feet of
    the burning cars, and their lives were now again in jeopardy.

    “To save their lives was my next endeavor. I couldn’t take the two
    at once. So I took hold of one and dragged him some thirty feet
    away. Poor fellow! he had several ribs broken, and his ankle was
    swollen to three times its size. I was very weary at this time. The
    fire was all the time encroaching, more and more, and the agonizing
    cries of suffering and burning humanity were hushed, as they
    suffocated or the cruel flames sent death to relieve them. I got my
    man away, but the other was still there. This one was delirious
    from pain and excitement. I was anxious for both. A citizen from
    Ashtabula came along, and I asked him to watch my charge while I
    brought back the other to a place of safety. He said he would. I
    had just reached the other man, when I looked around and saw that
    the citizen had deserted his post. But there stood Miss Shepard
    by me. We stood in full eighteen inches of snow and six inches of
    water, the ice having been broken and crushed by the cars. She
    said coolly, ‘Can’t I do something to help you? I am uninjured.’
    I got the other man away to a place of safety, some twelve feet
    back from the car. It wasn’t over seven minutes after the fall
    before our car was burning, too.” Mr. C. E. Torris says: He saw
    her standing on the ice and dipping her handkerchief in the water
    and washing away the blood from the face of a wounded man. And the
    citizens of Ashtabula also speak of her, and say that it seemed so
    strange to see her, while all the rest were wounded and bleeding,
    moving around the engine room, assisting in every way, calm and
    self-possessed. She seemed more like some good angel who had been
    sent at such an hour to bestow the gentle ministration of her sex
    upon the suffering.”



The citizens of Ashtabula did all in their power. The disaster was no
sooner known than many of them hastened to the rescue. Great exertions
were made by those who were present, not only to save the living, but
as far as possible in their separate action to extinguish the flames.
The survivors were no sooner in a condition to be removed than persons
were found who were ready to take the worst cases among them to their
own homes. Some of the wounded who were left near the depot, especially
those who were at the Eagle Hotel, were removed to the hotels up-town
and comfortably provided for. Ladies called upon them wherever they
were, and carried to them such delicacies as would tempt their
appetites, and flowers to please the eye, and vied with each other in
giving attention to the strangers, all of them showing how much their
sympathies had been moved by this sad calamity. The mayor of the city
was very energetic amid the excitement of the first few days. He not
only met the responsibilities of his office with promptness, but he
showed the kindness of his heart in that he took one of the wounded, a
Mr. Tomlinson, to his house, and there cared for him until he died.

Mr. Strong, the station agent, also, though laboring under the
oppressive sense of being misunderstood, did all that he could under
the circumstances. Several of the firemen have borne testimony to
the great exertions which he made during the night of the fire. The
disadvantage under which he labored on that night was that he was not
present at the depot at the time of the accident, but was at home,
about half a mile away. The orders from the central office in reference
to surgeons reached him through the telegraph office up-town, and his
first duty was to obey them, but as he reached the scene of the fire
the very sympathy which he felt, led him under the excitement of the
moment, to give those answers which did so much damage and which were
so much misunderstood.

The railroad authorities continued to furnish everything that might
relieve the sufferings or restore the losses of those who survived.
Physicians were procured and nurses provided. Every accommodation which
hotels could furnish was paid for with a liberal hand. Those whose
clothing had been destroyed or injured, were furnished with new suits
throughout. The bills of physicians were paid. Return tickets were
furnished and sleeping-car accommodations afforded to the wounded to
their very homes. As friends came in search of the lost, they at times
received free passes each way, and even escorts in some cases were
furnished. Bereaved mothers and fathers and the widowed, were permitted
to visit the place in search of relics at the company’s expense.

The event was a calamity to the road as well as to the passengers and
their friends. The managers had prided themselves on the success and
completeness of their system. The small number of accidents on the
line had been noticed, but the sudden and terrible calamity eclipsed
all this, and now the grief was great and widespread. The horror was
overwhelming and the excitement high. It was impossible to know this
without feeling it as a personal affliction, and no doubt the sense
of it led to the death of the man who, of all others, was the most
sensitive and sympathetic.

The attention of religious people to the spiritual wants of the
survivors is worthy of mention. Clergymen called and conversed with
them as opportunity was offered. The survivors were hardly able at
first to give expression to their feelings, as the confusion of the
place was so great. Several were crowded into the same room. The wounds
inflicted on the head prevented connected thoughts. The pains and
weakness, and the shock to the nervous system rendered the condition
of nearly every one critical, for several days. It seemed uncertain
whether they might not sink away under the terrible reaction and
depression caused by the excitement and exposure. Wounds and bruises
which no one supposed they had, were felt, and new ones discovered
every day. But as one and another were removed to separate rooms, the
conversations and prayers brought out the deeper feelings which had
been hidden.

It was with great solemnity that one and another would recount the
peculiar method of escape. More than one said that he thought “his time
had come.” One said that he did not expect to live, and that he took
his card in his hand that his name might be recognized if he should die.

The suddenness of death was full of solemnity to all. Even the most
reckless and hardened were subdued. One young man in a spirit of
bravado as he entered the room of a companion, uttered an oath; but
the gentleman addressed arose in bed, lame and wounded as he was, and
with solemn voice and determined manner, exclaimed: “I will not permit
the name of God to be used in that way in my presence--especially at
such a time as this.” The young man felt the rebuke, and turned around
hid his face, and soon retired. A few days after, he came back and
said that “he had not arisen from his bed a morning without thanking
God for preserving his life,” and apologized for having spoken as he
did. A gentleman and his wife who had escaped from the “Palatine,” were
together at the “American House,” happy in being spared to each other,
peaceful, loving and grateful; but they were especially delighted to
receive a letter from their pastor in the distant East, and read, to
those who called, sentences from it so glowing with that pastor’s
affection and sympathy.

The ministration of women was one of the delightful things connected
with the event. A betrothed had no sooner heard of the wreck and of the
survival of her lover, than she hastened to his side and spent the days
in caring for him and comforting him by her presence.

When the clergymen visited those different persons at their hotels,
they were most respectful in their cordial response to prayer and
words of counsel. Even those to whom the subject had not altogether
been agreeable before, listened and seemed stirred to the heart with
grateful emotions. The time and place for prayer was given, and such
nearness to the Almighty God was never known before. It seemed as if
the veil of eternity had opened, and the presence of God was felt. A
loving wife, so gentle and so good, had come to her husband’s side. The
affection and the care were great, but the gratitude to God was more,
and the piety of both became suddenly deep. It was like the stream in
the prophet’s vision. As the past of Christian life was reviewed so
seriously, penitence sprang up within the heart, and then the gratitude
to God, and then the consecration, and then the delightful swelling
love and peace, and then the faith that seemed to hide itself in God’s
own heart, and there was a mingling of the emotions as if the ocean of
God’s presence was receiving them to its own deep love, and they were
taking the first baptism of the Spirit.

The goodness of that precious wife, now had its triumph. It brought the
husband’s heart and soul to the same deep faith and piety which she had

A gentleman, too, who had never made a profession of religion, but
whose conversation showed much of acquaintance with the world, and
habits of observation, was led to unburden his heart’s inmost thoughts
to the clergymen who called in. He said: “I am not a professor of
religion, sir. I am a worldly man--a man of business--but I have been
brought up religiously, have had a praying father and mother, and it
seems to me as if I had some faith, for as I was going down in that
wreck, and felt that indescribable sensation of falling--(and here
he dropped his hands beside the bed with such expressive look and
gesture)--a passage of Scripture flashed into my mind, and has been
running in it ever since. These are the words: “The foundation of the
Lord standeth sure.” The clergyman turned to the Bible, and found the
text, and was impressed with the wonderful appropriateness of it: “The
Foundation of the Lord standeth sure and the Lord knoweth them that are




The time at length arrived for laying away the unburied dead. Nobody
had recognized them. God alone knew them, and therefore to his sacred
earth were they consigned, that at the resurrection day he might bring
them forth to the knowledge of all. Garnered in the harvest of flame,
they were to be laid away in God’s store-house.

The hands of strangers were outstretched to bury them, for the hearts
of others could only mourn for them, without claiming the poor remnants
which were so unrecognizable.

Their sepulchre was in the stranger’s soil, though their memory was in
many a home.

The village of Ashtabula, made memorable by so direful a calamity, was
now to become the sacred burial place of these bodies which perished.
Most sacredly did the citizens of the place regard this trust, which
God in His providence had committed to them. No event in the history
of the place had so awakened sympathy and aroused the people, and now
every attention that was possible, was to be paid at the last sad
funeral rites. The town gave itself up to mourning. Arrangements had
been previously made for the occasion, and the authorities of the city,
the social organizations and the religious bodies were all prepared to
honor those who were to be laid away in their midst.

A beautiful lot had been chosen in the cemetery which overlooked the
whole city, and there, among the sacred remains of their own beloved,
the citizens resolved to place those who were indeed strangers to them,
but whom somebody loved. Among the choicest lots of that beautiful
hill, a place had been chosen for their deposit. The winding-sheet of
snow had been drawn aside, and the graves had been dug, and multitudes
assembled from the vicinity, and the result was that an immense
assemblage was gathered for the solemn services. A special train
arrived from Cleveland, bringing the officers of the Railroad, and
the friends and parishioners of Rev. Dr. Washburn and others. By noon
all the places of business were closed, and the citizens gathered at
the services or arranged themselves in the long procession. The first
church service was held in the Methodist house, as it was the largest
in the place, and at this the clergymen of the village took part. The
opening prayer was made by Rev. I. O. Fisher, of the Baptist Church,
with a few touching words in memory of P. P. Bliss. Rev. Mr. McLeary,
of the Methodist Church, read the hymn, “We are going home to-morrow.”
An appropriate selection of Scripture was read by Rev. Mr. Safford, of
the Congregational Church, after which Rev. J. C. White, of the St.
John Episcopal Church of Cleveland, delivered an eloquent discourse on
the subject of the sacredness of human life. He was followed by Rev. S.
D. Peet, who spoke of the need of a sympathy which should be unselfish
and universal, and of the need of a preparation for death. Rev. Mr.
McGiffert, of the Presbyterian Church, also made remarks upon God’s
knowledge and of the unrecognized dead. The choir sang another of the
songs of P. P. Bliss--“There is a light in the valley.” The services
were impressive, and the great congregation which had assembled,
seemed moved by deep sympathy. The closing remarks of Mr. White were
especially appropriate, being a beautiful illustration, showing that
life itself was but a great bridge, one end of which lay in life’s
beginning, and the other stretched into the great unknown. It spans a
chasm full of fire, of death and doom. There are flaws in it which were
put there six thousand years ago, and although many have gone over it
in safety, it is at any moment liable to fall with some precious soul
into the abyss. God had provided a means of escape, and happy was he
who would avail himself of it.

A second service was also held at St. Peter’s church, at which Rev. Dr.
James Moore officiated, assisted by Rev. Geo. Carter, of Cleveland.

The procession then formed, which was arranged in the following order:

Marshal Fassett and Coroner Richards; Clergy, in sleighs; Bearers, in
sleighs; Assistant Marshal; Masonic Association; Friends of deceased,
in sleighs; Assistant Marshal; St. Joseph’s Society; Ashtabula Light
Guard; Ashtabula Light Artillery; Citizens generally.

Arranged in a long line in front of the churches and along the main
street, with the different badges and insignia of office, this
procession formed one of the most impressive pageants ever witnessed in
the place. It was more than a mile long, and as it moved at the toll
of the bell and with the impressive sound of the funeral dirge from
the bands present, every one was affected with the solemnity of the

Contrasted with the white snow which covered the landscape, this array
of mourning and sympathizing friends and citizens moved slowly to the
last resting place of the dead. As the head of the column entered
the cemetery where were gathered the sacred remains which were to be
deposited in the graves, the members of the Masonic societies divided,
and, acting as pall bearers, silently took up the coffins which had
been arranged in a line for them, and bore the precious freight to the
open graves, amid the tears of the spectators, who were touched by so
unusual a sight. “It was, indeed, a scene which appealed to the heart
with sombre power and deep sympathy.” The nineteen coffins--containing
the secrets of death which will be given up only at the
resurrection--carried between the slow-moving ranks of uncovered men;
the sad faces and intent gaze of the silent witnesses; a few mourning
women, in black, standing apart, made sacred by their sorrow--one
gray-haired man, whose wife and child had been swallowed up in the
gulf, among them; a dull, gray sky overhead; the fitful wind sweeping
through the bare branches of the trees; the shroud of snow, broken only
by those yawning graves; the sad strains of the funeral dirge, in time
with the sobbing of the women; the solemn hush which men feel always in
the presence of death. The exercises at the grave were opened by the
Rev. Mr. Moore, who read the burial service of his church. A selection
of Scripture was read by the Rev. Mr. McGiffert, after which the Masons
proceeded with their ritual, and at its close the assembled thousands,
dismissed with a benediction, proceeded to their homes or to the
evening trains which were to convey them out of the city.




In the Ashtabula “Telegraph” appeared the following article:


    “Our community received another shock on Saturday last, hardly
    less severe than that of the news of the disaster itself. The
    announcement that Charles Collins, the Chief Engineer of the L.
    S. & M. S. road was dead, without any cause but that he was found
    lifeless in his bed, carried every one back in mind to the bridge
    calamity, and there was an intense eagerness for an explanation.
    The evening papers brought that explanation, but with it an
    increased effect upon the sensibilities of our citizens. He was, to
    be sure, found dead in his bed, but beside him were the implements
    telling the manner of death. He died by his own hand. The story of
    his death we abstract and condense from the Cleveland dailies, as
    follows: Mr. Collins’ assistant--Mr. I. C. Brewer, of the Toledo
    division, sought his presence at his office on Water street, on
    Saturday morning, but not finding him or hearing of him, passed
    over to his residence, and being informed by the colored man in
    charge that he was not there, determined to make an examination of
    the house for the settlement of the question--whether he was in the
    house. Upon passing through the house everything indicated order
    and quiet, but loneliness, until the bedroom was reached. Here he
    found the person of his search, dead, and in the first stages of
    decomposition, marked with blood, a revolver at hand, with which
    the deed was done, and the handle of another just showed from his
    pillow. The determined purpose that controlled him was shown by
    the means for making his destruction sure. A razor was also found
    upon the bed. It was found that the muzzle of the revolver had
    been placed in his mouth, and the direction of the ball was upward
    through the roof of the mouth, and out through the upper and back
    part of his head. The first shot seems to be the fatal and only one.

    [Illustration: CHARLES COLLINS.]

    “In casting about for a cause for this violent and shocking death,
    circumstances point to the effect upon his mind of the bridge
    accident at this place. We find that he laid it deeply to heart,
    and when he first beheld the scene, he wept over it in an
    outburst of grief. That effect he seems not to have been able to
    shake off. It followed him night and day, leaving no taste for
    food, and driving sleep from his pillow, until he was led to say to
    some of his more intimate friends, that he believed it would drive
    him crazy. His was a gentle, sensitive nature, and his profession
    carried to its utmost perfection and success, which was shown in
    the superior condition of the road, and all its appointments were
    his chief pride. This pride, we apprehend, never extended to this
    bridge, as his rather guarded observations in reference to it,
    from the beginning, sufficiently indicate. In the minds of many
    of the best informed in this community, he rather shrank from the
    responsibility of it. The special care of it, therefore, seems to
    have been in a great measure, at least, committed to other hands.
    Whatever his feelings, however, he could not in his position escape
    responsibility. The sense of that responsibility seems to have
    had a striking effect upon him in the recent examinations by the
    Legislative Committee, and conferences in which he was present on
    Wednesday afternoon and evening--the night, probably, upon which
    the fatal act was committed. His state of mind was not unobserved
    by some of his intimate companions. We are told that Mr. Brewer,
    his trusted assistant, had, at his earnest solicitation, consented
    to remain with him during Monday and Tuesday nights, and was
    surprised at the alarming state into which his mind had fallen.

    “It was further shown by the act, and the manner of it. He had
    tendered his resignation to the Board of Directors, on the Monday
    before, when with tears he said, ‘I have worked for thirty years,
    with what fidelity God knows, for the protection and safety of the
    public, and now the public, forgetting all these years of service,
    has turned against me.’

    “The resignation was, of course, not accepted, and he was assured
    that his view was entirely unjust and unworthy, but all to no
    effect. The thought of possible injustice still haunted him.

    “On Wednesday night Mr. Brewer intended to go, as he had done the
    two previous nights, and stay with him at his residence on St.
    Clair street. But, upon calling at the office and being assured
    that he had left no word for him either in regard to the evening
    or concerning the trip of inspection contemplated for Thursday, he
    concluded that the deceased had left for his home in Ashtabula,
    where of late he spent much of his time. Thus affairs rested till
    Saturday morning, when, learning that he was not in Ashtabula, Mr.
    Brewer feared that some evil had befallen him, and going to the
    house he inquired of the colored man, went through the house to the
    family bedroom, and found the remains of the deceased as described

    “There is little doubt but that Mr. Collins intended to go on the
    proposed tour of inspection on Thursday, for his traveling-bag was
    found neatly packed in the bed-room. It is probable that the act
    was one of momentary desperation, when the troubled thoughts of the
    previous days and nights, weighing upon him, made life hard to bear.

    “Mr. Collins’ family had been in Ashtabula, where his wife’s
    relatives reside, for several days, and the colored man supposed
    that he was alone in the house. But the quarters of the latter
    are in the back part of the house, while Mr. Collins’ room is in
    the front. It is supposed that Mr. Collins came in without the
    knowledge of any one and went to bed on Wednesday night. Everything
    in the bed-room confirmed this opinion. The various articles of his
    dress were disposed about the room, his collar and necktie upon a
    stand near the head of the bed, his pants, shirt and coat were laid
    over a chair, and his shoes and stockings under the edge of the
    bed. The vest was carefully placed under the mattress. The scene
    presented to view upon entering the room, was most horrible. Three
    chambers of the large revolver at the right of the corpse were
    empty, but only one wound was found. There was a hole in the wall
    of the room, recently made, such as a ball would make, and it seems
    evident from this fact that the deceased was sitting up when the
    fatal discharge was made. There was no appearance of a struggle,
    but the discoloring of the blood from the wound which had flowed
    from the mouth and nose, was terrible to behold. The face was badly
    stained and presented a horribly ghastly appearance. From the fact
    that decomposition had already begun, it is inferred by the coroner
    that death took place some 48 hours before, or on Thursday morning.

    “The deceased was born in Richmond, N. Y., in 1826, and was,
    therefore, 51 years of age. He was from an old and highly respected
    family, received a liberal education at one of the eastern
    colleges, and his professional education and graduation, from the
    Renssaeler Polytechnic Institute. In this latter institute he gave
    full promise of the abilities which he was destined to display
    in after years. Immediately after graduation he was employed
    for several years in practical engineering in various parts of
    New England, and next took charge of some important work on the
    Boston and Albany railroad. He came to this section of Ohio in
    1849 to take charge of locating the C. C. C. & I. railroad. He
    was an engineer also in its construction. Next he was for a time
    superintendent of the Painesville & Ashtabula road, and when the
    L. S. & M. S. consolidation was brought about, he was given his
    present position.

    “As an engineer, Mr. Collins enjoyed the confidence of many of
    the leading railroad men of the country. Among them was Commodore
    Vanderbilt, whose friendship he also enjoyed.

    “We are told that when any work was to be performed upon the great
    lines of which he had control, Mr. Collins’ plans and methods were
    always accepted by the great commander, without question, as the
    cheapest and best.”




The funeral services of Mr. Collins were held at Ashtabula on
Wednesday, Jan. 21st. The occasion was one of great interest. The
Cleveland “Herald” of the following day, says:

    “It was the last tribute of respect that could be paid by the
    citizens of the place to a man who, while not a permanent resident,
    was one among the most respected and loved. He held a prominent
    place in the hearts of the people as an exemplary man and faithful
    friend, and their attendance upon the services yesterday was the
    last act of respect to his mortal remains. Besides the citizens of
    Ashtabula present, there were many of the leading railroad men of
    this city, who had known and respected Mr. Collins during the many
    years they had been his friends and business associates.

    “Rev. Mr. McGiffert made a few remarks upon the life and character
    of the deceased. He said that the assembly of people had been
    called together to pay the last tribute to a man known for
    honesty, uprightness and truthfulness in all things. He was known
    in all his dealings for that strict probity of character, that
    conscientiousness which go so far toward making up the perfect man.
    He had also the gentle qualities of love and affection for those
    near and dear to him. The last time he parted from his wife, a few
    days before his death, not knowing, however, that they were never
    to meet again, he said to her that he wanted her to remember during
    their separation, how well he loved her. He was thoughtful always
    for the welfare of his business associates, and to the young men
    under him he was a father, a kind friend and firm supporter. In the
    midst of his many business and worldly cares he did not lose sight
    of his church relations, and the fruits of his life in this regard
    are left to testify for him. The spiritual benefit of his employees
    was not lost sight of while other cares were pressing upon him.
    After land at Collinwood had been set apart for the erection of
    a chapel for railroad men, he subscribed first $150, then $350,
    and when there seemed to be some trouble in raising the necessary
    amount, he said that the chapel should be built in the spring, any

    “At the request of the family, Mr. J. H. Devereux, representing the
    railroad acquaintances of Mr. Collins, then made a few remarks. He
    said that ever since the accident at the bridge, there had been
    passing through his mind the idea of falling waters, and the song
    of Moses and the lamb came to him most vividly. In some manner the
    character of Moses and that of the dead engineer had assimilated
    themselves together in his mind. Moses was the type of a perfect
    engineer. He ran the line of the Israelites through the wilderness
    to a land of security. He had those characteristics of a noble,
    true man, which made him great, and in just these particulars did
    Mr. Collins excel, and they made him the leading engineer of this
    broad land. The speaker referred to the veneration of the deceased,
    and referred to the fact that he always rested on the Sabbath day,
    and that his office was always closed on that day, and that he
    often went to the house of God. Mr. Devereux attempted to say a few
    words to the friends, but found himself too much moved to speak
    further, and closed with a few words of prayer.”

Mr. Collins was a man who was held in high esteem by all who knew him.
At the memorial services which were held in Cleveland, the Rev. Dr.
Hayden, his pastor, said of him:

    “Mr. Collins had a praying mother, and when one owes so much to
    a praying mother as I do, he will not fail to make important
    mention of this fact. In 1849 he came to Ohio and began the work
    of laying out the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis
    railroad. Here, amidst the hardships of pioneer life, there were
    many temptations to desecrate the Sabbath, yet during all this time
    the young man remembered the influence of the good mother, and
    manifested a high moral sentiment throughout. His life work on the
    Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroad was begun in 1851, and
    from that time till the moment of his sudden death, his constant
    attention was given to this great thoroughfare, and his death
    itself was a sacrifice to it. The busy engineer always had time to
    look after the betterment of his employees, and there is to-day
    many a family living upon its own lot, through his beneficence.”




There was a young lady on that train. Accomplished and beautiful, she
had already become the object of admiration to many, and was the pride
of fond parents. Blooming, buoyant and hopeful, she was a delightful
companion. Her light, rosy complexion so radiant made her a picture
of health. She used to laugh and say to her mother, “I never have any
compliments except that I am such a healthy looking girl.” Her mother

“On her sweet, fair hand she wore a slender thread of gold which held
the setting of a very brilliant, though not large, diamond. On the
same finger she wore a heavy, plain, gold ring. Her wardrobe was very
complete and almost entirely new. Her jewelry consisted of turquoise,
pearls, Florentine mosaics and Genoese silver. Everything she had
in the way of ornament or jewelry, she had with her. She had a link
gold necklace and gold handkerchief ring, with a small ring for the
finger attached by a slender chain. A Chegary medal in the form of a
Greek enameled cross, was in her trunk, the sign of honor from the
school where she had graduated. In that trunk were also many dresses,
beautiful and expensive and becoming to her form. All she had, she took
with her. Her bridesmaid’s dress was with her; she was dressed in it
only the week before at the wedding of her dearest friend; she also had
it on at a wedding the night before she started. Yet she was not a mere
child of fashion! She was born to social position and always accustomed
to society; it was the daily habit of her life but brought no
excitement with it. She really cared but little for parties, and often
spoke in that way. She was an active member of the Episcopal church and
very conscientious in the performance of her duties. Her love of sacred
music seemed like an inspiration; I have watched her face become almost
transfigured by a holiness of expression which would flit across it
while she was singing. She had been kept singularly free from the
little vanities and excitements of a young lady’s life, by the grace of
God, who kept her as pure a child as when He gave her to me a precious
infant. Oh! it comes to me now how carelessly I thought of my treasure.
How little I appreciated the great trust that God had given me. How I
thought of her as an ordinary girl.”

The thought of her death had never entered the minds of her parents.
But she died, and everything connected with her was strangely swept
away. The sad consolation of weeping over her silent remains was
denied. Her picture, for which she stood two days before her starting,
was the only mercy which God had vouchsafed the parents. Her mother
again writes: “It would indeed be a comfort to me to have even one
little thing which would seem a part of herself, but we have not one
trace of her personal belongings.” Her funeral was attended in the city
of her home, but the remembrance of her sweet spirit and beautiful
voice was all that the friends had to comfort them.

The following are the eloquent, heart-felt words which dropped from the
lips of an affectionate and aged pastor at her funeral, as the sweet
fragrance of her life and spirit came before his mind. He says:

    “I dare hardly venture a few words upon the sweet singer of our
    Israel, who was but yesterday the charm, and the graceful and
    elegant ornament to our choir. Here she won the confidence and love
    of all of us. Here she uttered those sweet sounds which captivated
    all hearts. Here she became known to us as the happy, the cheerful,
    the glad and always unselfish and noble-natured girl, the almost
    idol of her bereaved parents and the pride and joy of her
    companions. Here on the last day of our Holy Communion service she
    was present and joined with us in that hallowed song of love and
    worship which she now repeats and sings with the angels and blessed
    spirits of that other and better world, in the presence of God and
    His holy angels.”

Thus passed away the beautiful, the lovely, the song-like spirit of
sweet Minnie Mixer.

The story has been told of a young man who so anxiously looked for
some trace of his mother’s body during those sad days in which so much
sorrow was concentrated.

A description of that mother’s character has been well drawn, by those
who knew her.

Mrs. Adelia E. Moore, of Hammondsport, was a member of the Episcopal
Church and the following are the tributes of affection bestowed by the
clergymen who officiated at her funeral.

Rev. Mr. Cushing said of her:

    “Can I ever forget her presence and her image under my own roof
    during three of the most painfully anxious days of my life,
    watching through the long, long winter night; wakeful to every
    sound, to every movement, to every want; the low, soothing voice,
    the noiseless step, the gentle hand wiping away the clammy sweat,
    and standing by us, patiently and willingly, until the crisis
    was past? (Mrs. C. dangerously ill of pneumonia is the occasion
    referred to.) I could not but refer to this, not only as an
    expression of grateful acknowledgement which is justly due, but
    also as speaking for many others to whom she was a friend indeed,
    because a friend in need--just that kind of need in which, above
    all other needs, we feel the weakest, the most utterly powerless in
    our own unaided selves.

    “In this way, and in these kind offices, she may be said wherever
    residing and through all the mature years of her life, to have
    gone about doing good, unostentatious, unpublished good; and the
    crowning beauty of it all, as respects her, is that she claimed no
    merit for these disinterested acts, expected no human recompense,
    but performed them; went at any one’s call, because she deemed it
    her duty to go, or because it was the impulse of her sympathizing
    heart. She was truly the Good Samaritan of her sex.”

The Rev. Mr. Gardner also said:

    “And oh! how much we shall all miss her; we shall miss her as a
    busy parish worker; we shall miss her in the Sunday-school, and her
    class of little children will sadly miss her; so will the Ladies’
    Sewing Society miss her, for she was one of its chief workers,
    but memorials of her in the Society’s work will long remain--even
    longer, perhaps, than any of us shall live to see. And the sick and
    afflicted will most surely miss her; for it may be said of her as
    it was of her Divine Master, she ‘went about doing good.’ For this
    work she had a peculiar fitness--going in and out among the sick
    as if it were her special calling. Many are the families where she
    has ministered, and with one voice they will attest all that I have
    said of her. But above all, her family will miss her--the wife and
    mother, the sister and near relative are gone, gone before, not

And the Rev. Mr. Howard said of her:

    “Of the estimable lady whose death we commemorate, it may be said
    that one has been taken out from the bosom of this church and of
    this community, who was inspired and warmed with all its life,
    religious, social and domestic; alive to, and promoting according
    to her ability, everything which conduced to its welfare and
    improvement. All the consolation which may ever be legitimately
    drawn from Christian character, may be justly claimed and
    appropriated here. She was indeed a good woman, and one of the
    saints of God.”




Many noble characters were lost to the world in this great calamity.

Very few disasters ever reached so far, or brought bereavement to so
many communities. The breadth of the land was swept by it. There never
was so widespread mourning for any death which brought loss to only
private circles. It was more like the mourning which follows the death
of some public officer--some great and good man--when a nation is
called upon to weep.

It was, indeed, almost a national calamity. The very mention of the
names of the dead, and the places to which they belonged, shows how
many communities were afflicted, and the very funerals which were held,
indicate how many circles were bereaved.

They were not all private mourners, nor were they merely different
circles of friends sharing in a common sorrow. Churches mourned their
beloved pastor or the most useful members; villages and even counties
were made to feel the loss of the skilful physician; the whole
land--yes, the world--has been impressed by the silence which came so
suddenly upon the tongue of the sweet singer of Israel; and the various
circles of society, from the highest to the lowest, were affected by
the death which invaded so many classes.

Out of this number of worthy characters who went down in that awful
plunge where so many mourn, it is difficult to select, for it is easy
to say many things in praise of all. Indeed, a volume might be written
which should contain nothing but the memoirs of the lost. The following
sketches are given out of regard to those who have so kindly encouraged
the author in the task which he has undertaken, as well as from an
admiration of the characters which have been so faithfully portrayed by
those who knew the persons well.

The name of E. P. Rogers has been mentioned. Of him, Rev. Dr. Collyer
has spoken, and the following selection from a sermon preached in
Chicago is given, as descriptive of his character.

Speaking of all of those who perished in the train, he says:

    “They are lost to this world before their time. Hundreds of homes
    will have a shadow on them many years. Children are fatherless and
    motherless. Men and women are weeping. The whole world about us is
    poorer and sadder, and there is no compensation which can reach the
    case. Here was our fellow-townsman, Mr. Rogers, in the prime of
    his life, steady and true as the day, a man whose bond you would
    not want if you had his word, or even his word if you knew he had
    made up his mind. There were a mother and sister in his old Eastern
    home, to whom his presence in the world was as the shadow of a
    great rock in a weary land; people here trusting their property to
    him as the soul of prudence and honor, and resting without a fear
    on his sturdy strength. Gone in the midst of his days, with the
    kiss of his mother and sisters fresh on his mouth. Gone with the
    world in his heart, the sweet, unwholesome world in which he was so
    glad to live. Gone with these things all to be done that only an
    honest and trusty man can do. Gone from every place that knew him,
    and was glad for him. Gone--and not a trace of him friendship or
    kinship or love could recognize. Gone into heaven, and wanted on
    the earth. It is no great comfort, I fear, to those who were very
    near him to think of him in the eternal rest. They want him here,
    and ought to have him here, and would have him but for that which
    human integrity and clear manhood might have prevented. It is such
    sad things as this that put the most terrible emphasis on this
    question. God asks, ‘Why will ye die?’ and starts the wonder when
    we shall summon the better spirit to do whatever can be done to put
    an end to these great disasters.”

The following biographical outlines are given by Rev. L. Hand of Polk
City, Iowa:

    “George Francis Hubbard was born in Ipswich, Mass., May 12th, 1841,
    and so had passed his 35th anniversary. His parents removed to
    Claremont, N. H., before he was a year old, in which place he spent
    his childhood and youth. He studied at Meriden Academy, Dartmouth
    College, and Harvard Medical School. His first professional work
    was in St. John’s College Hospital in Annapolis, Md., during the
    war. He came to Polk City eleven years ago last September, and
    a year later was married to Eliza E. Tone, who survives him with
    three daughters. His life work has been here; here he has won his
    fortune, his good name and a warm place in the affections of our
    citizens. During these eleven years he has applied himself with
    great diligence to his professional work. Few men have been able to
    endure so much labor and fatigue. You all know of his long rides,
    sometimes lost on the prairie in the stormy night, long seeking
    some known object to guide his way, sometimes swimming his horse
    across the high river.

    “During this time he has studied to keep abreast with the progress
    made by his profession, reading medical journals, attending the
    meetings of the profession and most of the time directing the
    reading of a student in his office. Few physicians carry to their
    patients more of sympathy and personal interest, making his visits
    more like those of a wise friend than that of a professional man.
    A man who was very intimate with him for years, told me that few
    persons knew how severely he studied his cases. There is a limit
    to the sympathy any one man can give, but no one could come nearer
    to carrying every patient upon his heart as though it were that of
    a personal friend. His bearing was that of modest self-distrust
    which forbore claiming to fully understand his work or making large
    promises of cure. He carried to the sick bed a cheery kindliness,
    mingled with that dignity and self-reliance which quickly commanded

    “As a citizen he had that public spirit which made him prompt to
    sustain our educational and religious institutions, or any interest
    that promotes the public weal. As a member of our Common Council
    he stood alone in opposing the change in an ordinance which opened
    the door for the licensing of saloons in our village. He has long
    been a member of the orders who have charge of this burial service

    “He became a member of this church, some eight years ago. For it he
    has faithfully worked and generously given. Many is the long ride I
    have shared with him when all these matters were fully discussed,
    and it appeared how closely he cherished and valued these interests
    of religion. He was by temperament, conservative and cautious, not
    the most hopeful, but his hold was steady and firm to any work to
    which he applied himself. It will be asked in many circles, how can
    we get along without him, but nowhere with more feeling and fear
    than in this little church circle.”



One of the saddest things connected with the whole calamity, and the
circumstance which made the event a personal bereavement to many
thousands of people, was the death of Mr. P. P. Bliss and his wife.

[Illustration: P. P. BLISS.]

His name will always be associated with Ashtabula in the sad memories
of that hour. Yet there are brighter visions connected with that name,
which have a tendency to relieve the gloom of that whole calamity.

The very mention of those loved persons brings up the memory of their
sweet songs. These songs may be supposed to echo in the air, and to
mingle with all the mourning, so as to give almost a melody to the
melancholy sounds. It is, indeed, a plaintive song. Yet there is a
hopeful, soul-thrilling strain running through it all. The memory
of the sweet singer is a joyful, happy one, bringing delightful
associations to the minds of all who knew him. Few persons ever
endeared themselves to so many people in so short a life; but his
spirit delighted others with its very sweetness.

The early days of Mr. Bliss were spent in toil. His parents were in
humble circumstances, and while yet a youth, his father died, leaving
him to meet the obstacles of life with only the counsel of his mother,
whom he loved, but dependent on his own exertion for a livelihood. For
a time the young man was engaged as a hired hand upon a farm. His home
was at this time in the western part of Pennsylvania, where also, he
received a partial education as a pupil of the collegiate institution
at Towanda, Pa.

After a short period of study he went to Rome, Pa., and taught a
district school. Here he met the lady who became his wife and to whom
he ascribed the main part of his success. She was the daughter of O. F.
Young, Esq., of Rome, an Elder in the Presbyterian Church. He used to
say to his friends, “All I am, I owe to my wife.” Under the influence
received from her, he entered upon the study of music, and first felt
the stirrings of that gift which made him so useful. Together they went
to Prof. Root’s Normal Academy at Geneseo, N. Y., where he made great
advancement in music, and won the admiration of his gifted teacher.

It was, however, in Chicago, that his musical career really began; but
it is a singular fact that fire was the element that brought out the
genius of the man, as well as that in which his spirit was released
from his body, and borne to higher realms.

He often remarked that it was the great fire which made him, because
it liberated him from secular occupations, and led him to devote
himself to the Lord’s work. At the time, he was in the employ of the
firm of Root & Cady, but the flames which laid in ruins the great
city, also swept away his house, and from that event forward he seemed
to have no home except where the service of song might lead him. He
became connected with Rev. Dr. Goodwin’s church as chorister and
superintendent, and there, he won all hearts, not only by his singing,
but by his remarkable devotion as a Christian.

The choir meetings were always opened with prayer; he spoke and wrote
personally to the members of the choir on the subject of religion; and
he trained and improved them so that they sung from the impulse of
loving and pious hearts. Dr. Goodwin bears testimony to his usefulness
in this position, and says that Mr. Bliss’ services in the choir,
rendered his ministry more earnest, pleasant and fruitful.

It was, however, in connection with the precious revival work that the
genius of Mr. Bliss was brought to that higher flight which gave such a
broad influence, and caused his song to be heard throughout the land.
About six years ago, Major Whittle and he first ventured out in the
gospel work. It was then that he began to put words to music, both of
which had sprung from the deep melody of his own heart.

At a meeting held in Rockford, Ill., a story was told which thrilled
him with its interest, and under the inspiration of it, he with a
glowing heart, composed that noble song, “Hold the Fort,” which has
done so much to arouse and cheer the Christian people in every land.

From this time his own hymns inspired the melody which he sang. There
was the inspiration of a heart full of love, united to a voice rich
and expressive of emotion. “The effect of his singing was wonderful.”
“Melting in the fervor of his emotion, with tears filling his eyes, he
sang his modest lyrics until every heart owned the spell.” He was the
author of the most popular songs used in the Moody and Sankey meetings.
Any one who has heard these, may know what power they have had in
moulding character, and in stirring souls to a lofty devotion.

The hymns “What shall the harvest be,” “Whosoever will,” “More to
follow,” “That Will be Heaven for me,” “Almost Persuaded,” were written
by his pen, and the music inspired by his genius.

He also wrote the music of many other of the favorite hymns which have
been sung by so many thousands. He wrote many of his songs upon the
sudden inspiration of some incident. For instance, when Mr. Moody
at one of his meetings told the story of the wreck of the steamer at
Cleveland, and had said that it was because the lights on the pier were
not burning, he was thrilled with the anecdote, and impressed with the
truth it illustrated, at once wrote out that beautiful song, “Let the
lower lights be burning,” and set it to music.

For the last three years, Mr. Bliss has given himself to the work of
composing and singing for the revival meetings. This was done through
the earnest persuasions of Mr. Moody. His success was very great. It
was said at his funeral that probably no other man has ever reached
so many hearts by song as he. Mr. Moody said: “This man who has died
so young, his hymns are now sung around the world. Only a few days
ago a book came to me from China, and there were his hymns--his hymns
translated into Chinese. They are going into all the world--all around
the world.”

Rev. Dr. Goodwin said that it was a joyful thought that, though dead,
the brother’s work had just begun.

A little time ago a friend from South Africa had written how he stopped
for a night’s rest in the Zulu country, when Brother Bliss’ song, “Hold
the Fort,” burst upon his ear from a company of natives. Just so his
influence for good would spread and increase.

Some of his songs seem to be almost prophetic of his death. The last
one which he sang in the Tabernacle just before starting for the East
was one which will always be associated with his name:

  I know not the hour when my Lord will come
  To take me away to His own dear home,
  But I know that His presence will lighten the gloom,
      And that will be glory for me!

  I know not the song that the angels sing,
  I know not the sound of the harp’s glad ring,
  But I know there’ll be mention of Jesus our King,
      And that will be music for me.

  I know not the form of my mansion fair,
  I know not the name that I then shall bear,
  But I know that my Saviour will welcome me there,
      And that will be heaven for me.

Another has been spoken of by a friend as also prophetic even of the
manner of his death, although it was composed on the occasion of that
other fire which consumed his home and the homes of thousands of others
in the doomed city. It reads:

      Hark! the alarm, the clang of the bells!
      Signal of danger, it rises and swells!
      Flashes like lightning illumine the sky,
      See the red glare as the flames mount on high!

  _Chorus_--Roll on, roll on, O billows of fire!
          Dash with thy fiery waves higher and higher;
          Ours is a mission abiding and sure--
          Ours is a kingdom eternal, secure.

      On like a fiend in its towering wrath,
      On, and destruction alone points the path;
      Mercy, O heaven! the sufferers wail;
      Feeble humanity naught can avail.

The manner of Mr. Bliss’ death was remarkable. He had been with his
wife to the home of his parents in Towanda, Pa., where his children
were staying, but as he had an appointment at Chicago for the Sabbath,
he hastened to return.

Kissing the children a last farewell he left Rome, Pa., and took the
Erie train at Waverly, for Chicago. His last stop was at Hornellsville,
where the strange presentiments came upon him which were so near to
persuading him to forsake the ill-fated train and take another route.

Then came that ride over the Lake Shore and the awful plunge into the
chasm at Ashtabula. His wife was with him. “United in life they were
not divided in death.”

It is said that but a short time before, the good man was seen reading
his Bible, and at the hour of his death was quietly composing a hymn.
The two died together as the fatal flames approached, giving their
lives as a song which should reach the better land.

Like martyrs they died singing their songs of faith, at least in their
hearts, and together sharing the baptism of fire.

Memorial services were held in the Tabernacle at Chicago, where he was
expected on the following Sabbath, at which Mr. Moody, Mr. Sankey,
Rev. Dr. Goodwin, and Rev. Dr. Thompson took part. The Tabernacle was
appropriately draped and the exercises were very impressive.

The funeral services were held at Towanda, Pa., the home of his mother,
on Sabbath, January 7th. Rev. Dr. Goodwin, of Chicago, preached the
sermon, and Major D. W. Whittle gave an address full of interesting
reminiscences, which brought tears to the eyes of many. At its close
Mr. Bliss’ last hymn, found among his papers and entitled “He Knows,”
was sung. “It breathed the full spirit of his life.”

  So I go on in the dark, not knowing--
    I would not if I might--
  I would rather walk with God in the dark
    Than walk alone in the light;
  I would rather walk with Him by faith
    Than walk alone by sight.

Rev. Dr. Goodwin in speaking of this funeral, afterward said that he
thanked God he had the privilege of going to it. “Not a shadow had come
over his face or the face of the friends whom he went to see.

“There was the gray-haired grandmother of eighty-three years, her face
already shining with the light of the Heaven to which she was so near.
When the news was told her she said, ‘Only a step has Philip gone
in advance of me.’ The parents of Mrs. Bliss walked calm, without a
murmur, through the valley of the shadow.

“Of the thirty or forty relatives, with but one exception, all, old
and young, accepted Jesus Christ as the foundation upon which they
stood. The faces of these bereaved ones shone as faces never shine
till God comes into the heart and banishes sorrow.

“Who ever saw a funeral service turned to an inquiry meeting? Yet at
that service twenty-five persons avowed their determination to serve
God, and at the evening service ten or fifteen more did the same.”

[Illustration: MRS. P. P. BLISS.]

Another memorial service was also held at Chicago on January 15th, at
Rev. Dr. Goodwin’s church, where Mr. Bliss began his public life as a
singer, and where his memory is cherished tenderly, affectionately.

The large church was crowded, nearly three thousand people present.

His pastor on this occasion paid tribute to the character of his
friend. He said:

    1st. “He was one of the most hopeful men I ever knew. His life was
    unclouded, or at least the clouds came not to tarry. Not that he
    was exempt from trouble. He had his share of trial, discipline,
    and disappointment. He knew what it was to be misapprehended--to
    have mean and selfish motives imputed. He knew what it was to stand
    by the bedside of one who was dearer to him than life, whom he
    expected might at any time be called away. But his mind was in the
    promises of God. His heart was above the clouds and was assured
    of the truth. Mr. Bliss will be better known in the future as the
    singing pilgrim.

    “As he went on in the Christian life the Hallelujah grew more
    frequent. There are few of his songs, wherever they begin, which do
    not before they close, land us in the glory of the Heavenly Land.
    Take even ‘Light in the darkness, Sailor.’ The last verse begins,
    ‘Bright glorious the morning, Sailor,’ and it ends with a ‘Glory,

    “The second feature of his character was his peculiar benevolence.

    “I know not what proportion he set aside, but I have known the fund
    to amount to $1,000 in six months. He was unselfish in everything.
    His devotion was always fervent. When our old church was burning,
    Mr. Bliss pointed to the cross that surmounted the gable and to the
    great front window illuminated by the flames and asked a member of
    the Sunday-school, ‘Why will you not come over to us on the side of
    the cross? It never looked to me more beautiful than it does now,
    high above the flames, surrounded by stars, and it is certain to
    have the victory.’

    “All these features culminated in the last trait. He was the gospel
    singer of the age.

    “Why is it that while so many hymns pass out of mind, some, like
    ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Just as I am,’ ‘Jesus, lover of my soul,’ have
    become the hymns of the Christian church? Is it not because the
    words of God’s truth, and especially of the Gospel, are in them?
    You do not read John Wesley’s sermons but you sing Charles Wesley’s
    hymns. Recall some of Mr. Bliss’ hymns,--‘I am so glad that Jesus
    loves me,’ ‘No other name is given.’ There is not in the range of
    English hymnology one writer who put God’s truth into song with the
    power and sweetness that Mr. Bliss has.

    “You remember the story of Mr. Latimer, how he wandered drunk into
    the Tabernacle and was so aroused by Mr. Sankey singing, ‘What
    shall the harvest be.’

    “Throngs and throngs are yet to go up from this world to testify
    that the songs inspired of God while Mr. Bliss was on his knees led
    them to Christ.”

    The “Advance,” of Chicago, contains the following: “It takes
    much from the sadness of the singer’s awful death that his life
    was so rounded and complete. His work had been so well done that
    death could not surprise him and find him with his mission
    unaccomplished. He had made his mark, and the mark will remain.
    His life has stopped, but his work goes on; in every church and
    in every home all over the world, and years from now, when even
    his name may be lost, his songs will still continue to inspire
    faltering men and women with courage, to bring consolation into
    the house of mourning, to arouse faith in the human heart. For
    such a life, so perfect, so successful, so far-reaching in its
    influences, spent in the most beneficent of labor and lost at the
    post of duty, there should be no tears. Other voices will take up
    his strains, and the work will go on without stop. Their simple
    beauty is not marred, nor is their wonderful influence upon the
    popular heart lessened by his death. Noble and impressive in his
    physique, affable and genial in his contact with every one, earnest
    and untiring in his work, he will long be missed as a leader in the
    evangelical movement which is now stirring the popular heart; but
    he has left his impress upon the world, with results more lasting
    than the work achieved by heroes of the battle-field or masters
    of state-craft. His harp is forever silent; his voice is forever
    hushed; but the songs which he sang can never die. Their melody,
    like the brook, goes on forever.”



The following is the testimony of some of the more important witnesses
before the Coroner’s Jury. It is taken from the short hand report made
at the time, but abridged as much as possible.


    I was foreman of the raising of the bridge; superintended the
    screwing of nuts to bring the strain upon the vertical rods; Amasa
    Stone examined it and said my part of the work was well done; after
    knocking out the blocks, the bridge settled six inches; it settled
    gradually as we put in thinner blocks and took them out to put in
    still thinner ones; it was not in use during this time; Mr. Stone
    then decided to reconstruct the bridge, by changing the position
    of certain irons and braces; the bridge was constructed after this
    design, with one exception; the struts running from the bottom cord
    to the middle of the first pair of braces were not put in till
    afterward; a change was made in the arrangement of the upper cords,
    which were shortened; after these changes Mr. Stone examined it
    without taking out the blocks, and pronounced it good; the false
    work remained in position from October, 1865, to November, 1866.

    Cross-examined--When the bridge was first put up, it settled, and
    I made the remark that if it kept on, it would go into the creek;
    perhaps I told it to half a dozen others; said it was not Mr.
    Collins’ bridge, but Mr. Stone’s; said the bridge had cost a great
    deal of money, but don’t recollect saying it would cost the company
    a great deal more; was discouraged because the bridge acted so, and
    that I couldn’t see how to remedy it; remember all this was before
    the modifications were made; Mr. Congdon was with Mr. Stone when
    the bridge was examined; the plan of changing the braces was then

    Mr. Albert Congdon, testified as follows: At the time of the
    construction of this bridge I was employed by the Lake Shore Road
    as master machinist; knew something about the construction of this
    bridge, as I had charge of the work in making the bridge; found a
    lack of material to fill the place for which it was designed; told
    Mr. Thompson about it, and he wanted to know if he had better let
    Mr. Stone know it; told him he had better; a short time afterward
    I was told to take the plans and finish the construction of the
    bridge as I thought it should be done; do not know how far the work
    had progressed at the time I assumed control; the braces were not
    marked so as to designate the position they were to occupy; never
    calculated the strength of the tension of compression members; did
    not say much to Mr. Tomlinson or any other man about the bridge,
    as I did not consider myself a competent bridge man; from the time
    of Mr. Tomlinson leaving, I had the management of constructing the
    bridge; Mr. Rogers told me that Mr. Stone had given him orders to
    erect it, but he did not know how; I asked him why he did not go
    and tell Mr. Stone so, and he said that he did not like to; I then
    told him as much as I knew.

Testimony of the man who drew the plans for the Ashtabula bridge.

    Joseph Tomlinson is sworn. Resides in Ottawa, Ont. Is General
    Superintendent of Lighthouses in the employ of the Canadian
    Government. Was engaged in bridge-building from 1840 to 1870. He
    made the drawings for the iron Howe truss bridge over Ashtabula
    Creek--the one which had lately fallen. He did this under
    instructions from Mr. Stone. He never approved of a wrought-iron
    Howe truss over a large span. It makes an unnecessarily heavy
    bridge, and all the strain accumulates at the end braces.
    Notwithstanding its weight, it would have been a strong, durable
    bridge had the main braces been sufficiently strong. They were
    not made as large as designed, and it was his intention that they
    should be strengthened, but his connection with the Company was
    severed on account of a difference that arose between himself and
    Mr. Stone concerning the bridge.

Mr. A. Gottlieb, engineer of the Keystone Bridge Company, at Pittsburg,
Pa., was next called. He testified as follows:

    When the wrecked bridge was constructed, the building of iron truss
    bridges was in its childhood, compared with the progress made since
    that time.

    The first objectionable point in the bridge, therefore, was the
    unnecessarily great dead weight; the second, the lack of sufficient
    section in the upper cord; also the manner in which the beams
    forming said cord were bound together, which brought much more
    strain on some of them than on others.

    I have made a careful examination of the wrecked bridge as it
    lay at the bottom of the river, and also of the map of the bridge
    as made by Mr. Tomlinson, and I think that I have obtained a very
    good idea of the construction of the wrecked bridge. I do not think
    that the Howe truss pattern is very well adapted to a heavy iron
    bridge. During my examination I did not see anything in the plan
    or construction of the bridge that would lead me to think that the
    extremes of heat or cold would injure it. I never knew of any other
    wrought iron bridge constructed on the Howe truss pattern.

Before the committee appointed by the Legislature of Ohio, the
following testimony was also given by Mr. Amasa Stone, the former
President of the Road:

    Mr. Stone swore that he designed the bridge, but only superintended
    the drawing of the plan, while the details of construction were
    given into the hands of Mr. Albert Congdon, who was supervised by
    Mr. Joseph Tomlinson.

    I have never constructed any other Howe truss bridge with
    wrought-iron braces, and know of no other anywhere in the country.
    When Mr. Rogers made the mistake of putting in the braces it was
    not negligence in permitting him to continue the superintendence
    of the erection of the bridge, for there was no other particular
    in which he could have made a mistake. It was not even unwise to
    permit him to continue. When the bridge was changed in correcting
    the mistake there were no more braces inserted.

Chas. Collins, the engineer of the road, testified before the same
committee, as follows:

    About the time the bridge was built, my duties were so heavy I
    was relieved from looking after the bridge. I never mentioned
    to any one that the bridge was not mine and that I did not want
    anything to do with it, since it was placed under the charge of a
    bridge-man; I thought it out of place for me to say anything about
    it. I never knew of another bridge being built of wrought iron on
    this plan. I think the bridge was rather an experiment.




The narrative of this great disaster is finished; space does not admit
of the addition of further material.

All that remains to be said is of a religious nature. Mr. Devereaux, as
representative of the friends of the Road, beautifully alluded to Moses
as a Civil Engineer. So we, in conclusion, go to the word of God for
the lesson of the hour.

Moses went up the mountain and received the patterns of all things
which were to be made; but the Israelites were not permitted to
transgress the bounds set at the base, “lest they die.” Skill in art
and architecture was in those days regarded as an inspiration from
God, as was proved in the case of Bezaleel, who had knowledge of all

In our day we have invaded the region of storms, and have thought
to seize the forces which belong to the Almighty; but the result has
been death--death unforseen, unexpected, appalling, heartrending. Men
have found by hard experience that it is dangerous to lay hold of
these grand elements of nature. Until they have become more reverent,
conscientious, God-fearing and unselfish, they are not fit to enter the
dangerous precincts where the Almighty dwells. In some way, even if
knowledge is attained, the sin and selfishness of men will bring the
lightnings and the fire out of the mountain, and men shall surely die.

The great forces of nature have a sacredness about them, and the laws
of the universe an inviolability, which will admit of no wantonness or
careless handling for selfish ends. But until a sense of accountability
to God prevails, the safety of property and of human life cannot be
secured. No coroner’s jury, no legislative committee, no congressional
enactment, will make men realize how sacred are many of these
responsibilities of life. The haste to get rich and the desire to make
men serve the purpose of money-getting, and the control over many to
the enrichment of the few, will destroy the sense of accountability and
blind men, so that they run profanely into the very place where God
has the hidings of his power, but the result is that they do not know
how to handle the lightnings and to control the storms, and they are
appalled at the calamities which their own temerity has brought down.

The people must understand that with all this control over the
elements, the increase of knowledge and power, there is no safety
anywhere except in God. It is sad that this lesson has to be impressed
by many deaths when it is taught by every one. The terrible experiences
of many, concentrate because we will not listen to the hints given
gently to each of us. The storms and hurricanes and great shocks and
calamities and horrid deaths, come because we will not listen to
wisdom; and yet God is not in the storm or in the earthquake, but is in
the still small voice.

It is indeed well to say that safety must be secured, selfishness shall
be rebuked, laws should be studied, skill employed, this blundering,
heedless, reckless mode of life must be stopped; but where in all
the advance of art and education, has there appeared immunity from
accidents or safety from death. No, with all the conservatism which may
be advocated, with all the plans for skilled labor and with all the
attainment of knowledge, is there not need of that which God alone can
give, even the bringing in of a better hope.

If there were no vanities, errors, or perversities to bring destruction
from out the elements which men have not learned to control, even then
death would come. There must be a higher life which is not subject to
the destructive forces. The mercy of God and the deliverance wrought
out for us by His Son has respect as much to the material creation as
to the moral state. In some way we shall attain to a further control
of the unseen forces and shall know more of the great laws of God. But
happy are we if the death which must come, shall be like that of Moses,
who, after his long wanderings and faithful discharge of duty, went
up Mount Pisgah and looked over the promised inheritance to which the
people should enter, but he himself took up his dwelling place with


    “It is from a careful consideration of the evidence elicited from
    professionals and experts that our verdict is made up in the matter
    of the bridge, and should it seem severe upon the railway company,
    or upon any of its past or present officials, it is because the
    truth, as shown by the evidence, demands it at our hands. We
    cannot do less and feel that we have discharged our duty. Mr.
    Amasa Stone, President of the company at the time of the erection
    of this structure, had been for years a prominent and successful
    railroad contractor and builder of wooden Howe truss bridges. With
    the undoubted intention of building a strong, safe, and durable
    wrought-iron bridge, upon the Howe truss plan, he designed the
    structure, dictated the drawing of the plans and the erection of
    the bridge, without the approval of any competent engineer, and
    against the protest of the man who made the drawings under Mr.
    Stone’s direction, assuming the sole and entire responsibility
    himself. Iron bridges were then in their infancy, and this one was
    an experiment which ought never to have been tried or trusted to
    span so broad and so deep a chasm. This experiment has been at a
    fearful cost of human life and human suffering. Unquestionably,
    Mr. Stone had great confidence in his own abilities, and believed
    he could build and had built a structure which would prove the
    crowning glory of an active life and an enduring monument to his
    name. That the officials of the railroad regarded the bridge as
    safe we have no doubt, as two of them were on the train that
    went down, and all were more or less frequently passing over it.
    That the fall of the bridge was the result of defects and errors
    made in designing, constructing, and erecting it. That a great
    defect, and one which appears in many parts of the structure, was
    the dependence of every member for its efficient action upon
    the probability that all or nearly all the others would retain
    their position and do the duty for which they were designed,
    instead of giving each member a positive connection with the rest,
    which nothing but a direct rupture could sever. That the railway
    company used and continued to use this bridge about eleven years,
    during all which time a careful inspection by a competent bridge
    engineer could not have failed to discover the defects. For the
    neglect of such careful inspection, the railway company alone is
    responsible. That the responsibility of this fearful disaster and
    its consequent loss of life rests upon the railway company, which,
    by its chief executive officer, planned and erected this bridge;
    that the cars in which the deceased passengers were carried into
    the chasm, were not heated by heating apparatus so constructed
    that the fire in them would be immediately extinguished whenever
    the cars were thrown from the track and overturned; that their
    failure to comply with the plain requirements of the law places
    the responsibility of the origin of the fire upon the railway
    company; that the responsibility for not putting out the fire at
    the time it first made its appearance in the wreck, rests upon
    those who were the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster,
    and who seemed to have been so overwhelmed by the fearful calamity
    that they lost all presence of mind, and failed to use the means
    at hand, consisting of the steam pump in the pumping-house and the
    fire engine Lake Erie and its hose, which might have been attached
    to the steam pump in time to save life. The steamer belonging to
    the Fire Department, and also the Protection fire engine, were
    hauled more than a mile through a blinding snow-storm, and over
    roads rendered almost impassable by the drifted snow, and arrived
    on the ground too late to save human life; but nothing should have
    prevented the Chief Engineer from making all possible efforts to
    extinguish what fire there remained. For his failure to do this he
    is responsible. The persons deceased, whose bodies were identified
    and those whose bodies and parts of bodies were unidentified came
    to their death by the precipitation of the aforesaid cars, in which
    they were riding, into the chasm in the valley of Ashtabula creek,
    left by the falling of the bridge, as aforesaid; the crushing and
    burning of cars aforesaid, for all of which the railway company is

Transcribers’ Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; heavy use of commas has
been retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

With the exception of the Frontispiece, all uncaptioned illustrations
are decorative tailpieces.

Page vi: “Westenhouse was printed that way.”

Page 134: Quotation marks added to surround the paragraph beginning “In
the coming down”.

Page 143: Closing quotation mark added to the paragraph ending “upon
the suffering.”

Page 151: The closing quotation mark in paragraph ending “the Lord
knoweth them that are his.” appears to represent the close of a
quotation within a quotation.

Page 170: Extraneous closing quotation mark deleted following “she wore
a heavy, plain, gold ring.”

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