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Source: Wisconsin State Journal - Wisconsin
Dated: Aug. 19, 1887
PEORIA, ILL., Aug. 12 - It was a large and gay excursion party that steamed out of the Union depot Wednesday night over the Toledo, Peoria & Western railway.  Its destination was Niagara Falls, and, as it had been extensively advertised,  it drew largely from all the towns around here.  The train consisted of fifteen coaches, including five sleepers, and was probably the largest passenger train ever taken out over the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway.  Two engines were required to pull it, but only one of these was attached at the depot, the other being sent on ahead and being taken on after the train had cleared the Illinois river bridge, a switch engine being placed at the rear end of the train to assist it in starting.  At the depot, before the train started,  E. B. McClintock, one of the engineers, expostulated with General Superintendent Armstrong about the way the train was made up, insisting that it ought to be sent out in two sections, but his words were of no avail.  Poor fellow, he is dead now, and probably scores of lives would have been saved had his advice been taken.
     The majority of the excursionists were from Peoria, and included many leading citizen. Most of the Peorians occupied the sleepers, while those who came in from the surrounding towns, being unable to secure berths, were obliged to seek accommodations in the chair cars or day coaches.  The railroad officials were jubilant, the party being accompanied by Superintendent Armstrong in his special car, with him besides others being the wife and daughter of H. D. Gould, the general freight and passenger agent.  The party was in the best of spirits, and enthusiasts pronounced it the most successful excursion that ever left the city.  Nothing further was heard of the train until about 2 o'clock the next morning, when the awful intelligence came that it had been wrecked between Chatsworth and Piper City, seventy-one miles from here.  A relief train was at once sent out, and the three-hours' ride brought the rescuers to a scene of anguish and ruin that baffles all description.  On swift wings the report of the wreck spread over the city at early dawn, and soon the Union depot and the newspaper and telegraph offices were thronged with anxious, agonized people begging for news that they might learn of the fate of friends and relatives.  Weeping women and stern-faced men could be seen hurrying from every direction.


     CHATSWORTH, Ill., Aug. 12. - At 7 o'clock this morning Master Mechanic Warren, with a wrecking train and a large force of men, went to work, and Warren was confident that the track would be cleared for trains by noon.  It was certain that all the bodies had been removed from the wreck.
     President Leonard, Superintendent Armstrong, and other Toledo, Peoria & Western officials were seen this morning.  They have given devoted attention to the relief of the injured and the care of the dead.  Both show signs of the terrible shock which the accident has been to them.  President Leonard said that so far as the railroad officials could estimate there were about eighty killed and 100 seriously wounded.  There are many who were slightly injured of whom no record has yet been obtained.  The list is being completed in the Peoria offices of the company.  Leonard said that near as he could ascertain the train was making about thirty miles an hour at the time of the accident - not an excessive rate of speed, as the track was in good condition.  The bridge, an ordinary fifty-foot wooden structure,, was all right at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when a train passed over it, and half an hour later the section men inspected it, under orders, in advance of the excursion train.  It was all right then.  As to the liability of the company or future of the road President Leonard could not say.  It was a blow which would of course be most severe to the road, but that was as nothing compared to the death and injury of human beings.  Leonard said he could in all conscience say that he believed the road had provided every reasonable and customary safeguard, and could only ascribe the accident to one of those inscrutable acres of Providence which it seems impossible to always guard against.
     With the consent of the coroner, President Leonard has arranged that all unclaimed bodies will be cared for, washed and placed in coffins and conveyed to Peoria, where, with all their effects, they will await identification.  The bodies will be kept there as long as possible and then if not identified will be interred.
     The railroad and warehouse commissioners are expected here to investigate the accident.  As several desired witnesses have not yet arrived it is not expected the coroner will complete his hearing which was commenced yesterday, till late this afternoon.
     The general estimates of the dead this morning are about the same as the figures sent last night.  The coroner's list, revised up to the time the inquest was resumed today, foots up seventy-six dead.  Nothwithstanding contrary opinions expressed by railroad officials, a survey of the wreck early today confirmed the belief that several bodies are still under the debris of the smashed engines and cars.  The report yesterday that twenty dead were at Piper City is denied this morning by Frank Leonard, president of the road.  Three or four of the wounded, who were carried to Piper City yesterday, died there.  With the seventy-eight on the coroner's list here and those supposed to be yet under the wreck, the estimate of eighty-four deaths appears to be very close to the actual number.  Information of the Piper City victims can best be obtained of the company's officials, who have gone to Peoria.
     The horror of the wreck seemed deepening, early this morning, instead of lessening.  Added to the pitiable spectacle of the dead and the miseries of the dying, the stench and foul washing and running from all the numerous places where the corpses of the victims yet remained, made a picture of horrible occurrences indescribable.  The west end of the little depot here in the coal house and lumber room, where promiscuously stretched on the floor in coal and rubbish, were seen unidentified bodies.  Blood-stained beds, rugs, sheets and blankets were thrown loosely over each, but afforded little protection from the swarms of flies continuously hovering over them.  The awful odor emenating from the bodies kept the room clear of all but the hardiest of the still lingering and curious crowds.  Two of the victims were women, and the sight of their faces was one never to be forgotten.
     Sensational features were developed this morning as to the cause of the wreck.  Rumors were afloat last night that it was due to robbers who fired the bridge, but little credence was given them.  This morning new facts apparently showing that the catastrophe was the work of an organized band, come to light, and the company find them worthy of serious investigation.  Superintendent Armstrong said that the more he investigated the more it appeared to him that the bridge had been set on fire.  The burned grass in the immediate locality was not of a nature that seemed likely to admit of bridges catching from it.  He had observed many theives at work, and stopped them while despoiling the wreck of property and many instances of robbing of the dead were being brought to his attention.
     The excursion had been extensively advertised, and the time it would pass over the bridge was well known.  Citizens say that a gang of suspicious looking fellows have been loitering around Chatsworth for some days.  Many of these were early at the wreck, paying more attention to relieving the bodies of their valuables than to caring form them.  Train men and passengers had frequent contentions with the vandals.  In one instance, Superintendent Armstrong found a well known thief in the depot room, where the property taken from the wreck was stowed, and ordered him out.  While the people of the town have done everything in their power for the sufferers, there is a horde of tramps and thieves in this vicinity who do nothing but carry off everything they can lay hands on.
     At the morning session of the coroner's jury some decidedly significant testimony was given.  Timothy Coughlin, a section foreman here, testified he had four men helping him on his six and one-half miles section.  He received orders Wednesday to go over his section and see that the bridges and track were all right.  Coughlin then went to the east end of the section and burned the grass along the track, for half a mile.  He burned a piece a little over half a mile from the wreck and put the fire out.  He examined the bridge about 5 o'clock and found no smoke about it, and it was otherwise all right.  About three weeks ago the grass under the bridge had been cut away for ten feet from the bridge timbers and he had no idea how the bridge could have caught fire.
     Christopher Ennis roadmaster for the line from the state line to Peoria, said he went over the road Wednesday from Fairbury to Gilman.  He went over the fatal bridge just before 4 o'clock in the afternoon.  He was on the rear end of the car and saw that the bridge was all right.  There was no fire or smoke about it.  Ennis said: "My opinion is that the bridge was set on fire by somebody.  My train was the last trail over before the special, and if there was a fire there the men would have discovered it.  The bridge could have been burned in two or three hours.  About three years ago, two attempts were made to ditch the 10 o'clock passenger train at that bridge, and we kept a watchman there for six weeks.  Obstructions were placed on the tracks.  It is a very lonesome place, being far from any house.


     CHATSWORTH, Ill., Aug. 13. - The most comprehensible account of how the terrible railway wreck occurred is given by Engineer Sutherland.  Three miles east of Chatsworth is a little slough, where the railroad track crosses a dry run about ten feet deep and fifteen feet wide.  Over this was an ordinary wooden trestle, and as the excursion train came thundering down on it, what was the horror of the engineer when he saw that the bridge was afire.  There was no chance to stop.  Had there been warning, it would have taken half a mile to stop that on-rushing mass of wood, iron and human lives, and the train was within 100 yards of the red-tongued messenger of death before they flashed their fatal signals into the engineer's face.  But he passed over in safety, the first engine keeping the rails.  As it went over the bridge fell beneath it.  But the next engine went down, and instantly the deed of death was done.  Car crashed into car, coaches piled one on top of another, and in the twinkling of an eye nearly 100 people found instant death, and many more were so hurt they could not live.  As for the wounded, they were everywhere.


     CHATSWORTH, Aug. 13. - In the second coach was a man, his wife and little child.  His name could not be learned, but it is said he got on at Peoria.  When the accident occurred the entire family were caught and held down by broken woodwork.  Finally, when relief came, the man turned to the friendly aid and feebly said:
     "Take out my wife first.  I'm afraid the child is dead."
     So they carried out the mother, and, as a broken seat was taken off her crushed breast, the blood which welled from her lips told how badly she was hurt.  They carried the child, a fair-haired, blue eyed girl of 3, and laid her in the cornfield, dead, alongside her dying mother.  Then they went back for the father and brought him out.  Both his legs were broken, but he crawled through the corn to the side of his wife, and feeling her loved features in the darkness, pressed some brandy to her lips and asked her how she felt.  A feeble groan was the only answer, and the next instant she died.  The man felt the form of his dead wife and child and cried out:  "My God, there is nothing more for me to live for now," and taking a pistol out of his pocket pulled the trigger, blowing out his brains.


   FORREST, Ill., Aug. 13 - The names of the dead victims of the Chatsworth disaster have nearly all been learned.  There are still about ten bodies unidentified.  Several of the dead, conveyed westward by friends, cannot be included in the names given here.  The officers of the Toledo, Peoria & Western road have endeavored to keep a record of the dead bodies removed from the wreck, and the president thinks that in two or three days they will be able to render an accurate account of the fatalities.  The report that there were eight dead at Piper City proves to have been incorrect.  Only two persons had died there up to noon yesterday - Mrs. Peter Valentine and C. P. Vanlieu, of Galesburg, Ill.  Three or four persons who were reported as dead are among the wounded at Piper City.  It was found that there were forty-four wounded and two dead at Piper City.  The following is a list of those who had died up to 2 o'clock this afternoon, as far as their names could be learned from Coroner Long and friends and relatives:

Mrs. Geo. Meek
Mrs. Miller,
Mrs. E. E. Putney, Peoria
Henry or Oscar Johnson, Monarch, Ill.
Azro Gale, Orange Prairie, Ill.
Mamie Clark, aged 14, and
     Josie Clark,
aged 3, residence unknown.
Julia Valdejo, Peoria
Mrs. Nancy Alter, West Point, Iowa
Miss Minnie Alter, West Point, aged 16
Miss Eva Alter, West Point, aged 30
E. F. Adams, Blackstone, Ill.
Mrs. W. H. Allen, Peoria
Miss Susie Ball, Peoria
J. Body
S. G. Breese
, Wyoming, Ill.
Mrs. Wm. Bell, Peoria
Mrs. Josie Blandin, Parker's Corners, Ill.
Chowder Farmer, Chenoa
Mrs. Thomas Cooper, Pekin
Mrs. Patton M. Cress, Washington, Ill.
Mrs. Archie Croswell, Peoria
Mrs. J. M. Clay, Eureka
Mrs. Eveline Carithers, Evans, Ill.
William Craig, Cuba, Ill.
Rev. William Collins, Galesburg.
Mattie Cassell, Washington, Ill.
Capt. R. T. Dahlke, Peoria
Mrs. Emily Duckett, Forrest, Ill.
Mrs. James Deal, Peoria
R. Estrobaum, Peoria
Millard Fillmore, Pontiac
Pearl French, Peoria
J. A. Green, Breed's Station
Mrs. W. Garrettson, Peoria
E. Goodell, Peoria
G. T. Hartley, Bushnell, Ill.
Mrs. E. Hill, Berwick, Ill.
T. R. Hill, Berwick, Ill.
Babe of Mrs. Hill, Berwick, Ill.
Noah Havermill, Canton, Ill.
Mrs. Hicks, Chillicothe.
Job P. Kelly, Breed's Station.
Miss Kelly, Peoria
W. P. Lott, Elmwood
_____ McDonald
Engineer Ed. McClintock, Peoria
J. B. McFadden, Peoria
Jesse Meek, Eureka, Ill.
Miss May McEvery, Peoria
Miss Agnes Murphy, Peoria, aged 18
Rose Murphy, Peoria, aged 3
Mrs. H. A. McClure, Keithsburg.
Infant of Mrs. McClure
Mrs. John Murphy
, Peoria
N. A. Moore, Jacksonville, Ill.
A. Martin, Bloomington
Infant of Mrs. Neal, of Peoria
Miss Neal, Mossville, Ill.
Miss Jennie O'Shaughnessy, Peoria
Mrs. Maggie Powers, Peoria
W. H. Potter, Bushnell
Millard Patterson, Wyoming, Ill.
Geo. Press, Washington, Ill.
James D. Richards, Franklin, Nebr.
Michael Regan, Binghampton, N. Y.
Paul Sackenreuter?, Pekin, Ill.
Mrs. G. C. Suedecker, Abington, Ill.
R. E. Strachan, Peoria
Wm. Stephens, Peoria
Miss Emma Stephens, Peoria
Miss Ella Stephens, Peoria
Melville Smith, Metamora
Mrs. M. Smith, Metamora
Geo. A. Smith, Peoria
Henry Swegelso, Keokuk, Iowa
Oney Spaits, Green Valley
Mrs. E. D. Stoddard, West Point, Iowa.
Jesse Sherman, Brimfield, Ill.
W. V. Trovillo, Abingdon, Ill.
C. P. Van Lieu, Galesburg
Mrs. Peter Valentine, New York
Mrs. Mary Valdejo, New York
Mrs. Ida Webster, Peoria
D. R. Wright, Peoria
Fred D. Weine_te, Peoria
John Zeitler, Pekin, Ill., aged 24
Mrs. Zimmerman, Peoria


     FORREST, Ill., Aug. 13. - The list of wounded is not completed, and as here given probably does not more than half cover the number of those who received more or less injury.  Following is the list of those whose wounds are the most serious:

Miss Pearl Adams, of Peoria, serious
B. F. Ayers, of Martram, Ill., arm broken and hurt internally
Mrs. Ayers, collar bone broken and head injured
Dr. C. Auringer, of Detroit, ribs broken and shoulder dislocated.
H. Abraham, Peoria, left arm broken and left leg and ribs fractured.
Miss Emma Alter, West Point, Iowa, badly cut on the face and head; right leg bruised.
J. M. Brown, Breed's Station, shoulder dislocated.
Flora Brown, Breed's Station, aged 6, hand cut.
Mrs. Blaisdell, Brantford, Ill., cut badly about the head, but not seriously.
J. L. Bogart, Clare, Ill.
Mrs. Isaac Baden, Morrison, badly hurt.
Homer Bond, Colchester, internal injuries and shoulder dislocated.
Ida Blandin, Parker's Corners, hips crushed.
Bertie Blandin, Parker's Corners, slight.
David Crawford, Peoria, head and side cut.
Edward Compton, Peoria, (brakeman), slight.
Mrs. Jame Cording, Riskills, slight
Marvin Coon, Peoria, slight
G. H. Cottermail, LaHarpe, ankle cut and leg bruised.
G. Charleston, Galesburg
Mrs. C. H. Clarke, Rootstown, Ohio, leg broken and head badly cut, probably fatal
Newton Chellew, Glasford, both legs broken
Mrs. Edith Chellew, Glasford, hip dislocated.
G. W. Cress, Washington, Ill., head cut.
Mrs. Dahlke, Peoria, bruised about the head
Mrs. William Ellis, Peoria, leg broken
John Fry, Peoria, back injured
Forbes, Elmood, Chest bruised and ear torn off.
Miss Forbes, Washington, Ill., leg broken
Miss Phenia Fraham, Peoria, badly hurt
F. French, Peoria, slight
Mrs. J. W. Grant, Cut in the face and on hands
Theo. Goodel, Peoria, head cut and leg badly bruised.
Maude Harris, ankle broken
Isaac Hicks, Chillicothe, Ill., badly injured
Dr. E. P. Hazen, Fort Madison, Iowa, shoulder dislocated.
Mrs. E. P. Hazen, Fort Madison, Iowa, badly cut about the head and face and bruised from head to foot.
George W. Holmas, Mossville, head and legs hurt
Bishop Judd, Chatsworth, badly hurt
Otto Johnson, Burlington, Iowa, left leg bruised
Miss Anna Kellogg, Tremont
W. R. Kierchoff, Peoria (brakeman), slight
John B. Kelly, Breed's Station, badly cut and bruised.
Antonio Labert, Syria, Turkey, serious
Thomas Lawrence, Colchester, Ill., mortally injured
Catherine Lott, Peoria, badly
Miss Sarah M. Louis, Eureka, face cut and jaw broken
Mrs. E. Louis, Eureka, side bruised and deep gash in head.
B. Lawrence, Burlington, Iowa, will die
Peter and James Moran, Syria, Turkey, slight.
W. B. McDonough, Macomb, leg broken
M. F. McDonald, Peoria county, breast injured
Andrew McGrew, Peoria
Eliza McDonald, Robertsville, Ill.
John McMasters, back and legs hurt
E. F. Magee, LaHarpe, bruised
Miss Mary Morris, Peoria, bruised
A. J. Miller, Peoria, leg broken
C. B. Newfan, Canton, Ill., hip dislocated.
Miss Peterson, Peoria
Edward Putney, Peoria, leg broken
E. A. Parks, Peoria, bruised
L. E. Rotterman, Peoria, head injured
Robert Reed, Astoria, hurt internally
E. D. Stoddard, West Point, Iowa, ribs broken
Arthur Stoddard, (boy) leg broken
G. R. Stillwell, Bippers, Ind., arm broken
Mrs. Sommers, Peoria
Mrs. S. Smith, Galesburg
Mrs. W. H. Smith, Arlington, Ill.
W. Smith, Peoria
John W. Stern, Green Valley, leg broken and
John Steen, Wansgrove, Ill., leg broken and spine injured.
G. W. Swank, West Jersey, foot crushed
Mrs. W. V. Troville, Abington, Ill.
Frank Taylor, Peoria county, leg broken
Mr. Trimm, traveling salesman for John Kranz, Chicago, hips crushed.
Elsie Ulrich, Peoria, slight
Wm. Ulrich, Peoria, Thigh broken
C. W. Webster, Peoria, leg broken
Anna Walters, Peoria, aged 6, slight
Miss Pearl Wernett, Peoria, serious
Mrs. J. K. Welch, Peoria, bruised
Mrs. Henry Walters, Peoria, leg broken and jaw crushed.
Elton Walters, Peoria, thigh broken, head cut and injured internally
J. N. Wagner, Burnside, body bruised
Mrs. W. A. Zindell, Peoria, slight
Robert Zimmerman, Peoria, side and head bruised and foot crushed.
Mrs. Zimmerman, Peoria, collar bone broken and head wounded; very serious.


     CHATSWORTH, Ill., Aug. 13. - Although up to the present the dead, including the body recovered from the wreck late last night, number not more than eighty-seven, there is reasonable room for belief that there have been deaths - perhaps half a dozen - resulting from the tragedy, which cannot be definitely reported, owning to the confusion and lack of system when the bodies were taken away.  Neither can a full list of the injured be presented to the public, as scores whose injuries were light enough to permit it, took trains at Chatsworth or Piper City at the first opportunity and went home at once.  The official list of the wounded, who have been cared for here and in Piper City, both do not at present show any more than 100 victims but there is no doubt whatever that many more than that were wounded, notwithstanding the details are not and cannot be put into writing.

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