An Indiscribable Horror
The Worst Wreck in the History of the Alton Road
Occurs Between Slater and Marshall

The worst wreck in the history of the Chicago & Alton railroad occurred last Wednesday morning about 7:30 o’clock on a curve just south of Sulphur Springs, and about midway between Marshall and Slater. Seventeen persons are known to be dead, between thirty and forty injured, two engines totally demolished, one sleeping car and one dining-car, two coaches and a baggage- car shattered to pieces and half a train of cattle killed.

The wreck was caused by a head-end collision between passenger train No. 7 (known as "The Hummer") in charge of Conductor Robt. Densmore, Engineer F.A. Briggs and John Varndell, and freight train No. 2nd 88, in charge of Conductor Dan McAnna, Engineer Dave Anderson and Fireman Dan Donelly. Both trains were about an hour behind time, and doubtless, both engineers were trying to make up lost time.

The place at which they met was at the foot of two grades on a sharp curve and about fifty yards east of a bridge which spans a small stream, the dividing line between the grades on either side. It would be difficult to find a place on the road where trains, which were behind time would be running at a higher rate of speed. Both engines were large and powerful, the 309 being one of the new Baldwin moguls, and the 225 one of the large passenger engines. The force with which they came together was sufficient to strip both engines of all machinery, and each train seemed to crush about half of the other. Engine 309 went on the north side of the track and Engine 225 on the south side. The baggage car was completely demolished. The smoking-car landed on the north side of the track, and just behind it was the chair-car – both badly wrecked.

The next was a Pullman-car, which stood diagonally across the track, and the escaping steam from both engine boilers into its open windows, scalding nearly all the passengers. Steam also scalded passengers in the other coaches in the front and those in the dining-car in the rear of the Pullman. Three Pullman-cars at the rear of the train remained on the track, but one of them and the dining-car burned before they could be removed. Only two coaches of this magnificent train were saved from destruction The stock train fared but little better, as only five cars and the caboose were left of it. The remainder of it, which was loaded with cattle, was crushed and piled up in a shapeless mass, where wails of wounded, scalded and dying men and women were mingled with the groans of the cattle. To add to the horror of the scene, the train caught fire, but it is not thought that any of the passengers perished in the flames that consumed the two coaches.

An accurate description of the awful disaster will probably never be given, as it is impossible to describe it. Death seemed to exist on every hand. Under every shade tree in the locality lay men and women – young and old – scalded, bruised and bleeding. The atmosphere was polluted by the fumes that came from the dead. It was a sight that stirred the coldest hearts and no one present will ever want to witness again.

The Dead

The list of dead is as follows:

  • Frank A. Briggs, of Slater, passenger engineer
  • D.J. Anderson, Slater, freight engineer
  • Dan McAnna, Slater, freight conductor
  • Dan Donnelly, Slater, fireman of freight train, died at hospital in Kansas City
  • I.S. Raser, Chicago, express messenger
  • B.W. Hooker, an aged man of Phoenix, N.Y. died en route to Kansas City
  • Mrs. Rhoda Curtiss, elderly woman died en route to Kansas City
  • Mrs. Gilliam, Goodland, Ind.
  • Two unknown men and an unknown woman about 35 years of age
  • Sidney Jones, Chicago, 45 to 50 years of age, sandy mustache, light gray eyes, weighed 190 to 200 lbs. Identification not positive. Died at St. Joseph’s hospital, Kansas City
  • Mrs. Dixon, 67 years old, died at University hospital at 10 o’clock
  • Miss Lulu Rider, 25, Kentland, Ind. Died at University hospital at 8 o’clock
  • Unknown woman, died at St. Joseph’s hospital
  • Mrs. S.A.D. Harry, Hoopeston, Ill., died at St. Joseph’s hospital at 10 o’clock

The Injured

The injured are as follows:

  • H.J. Titus, trainman, dislocated arm
  • John Varndell, of Slater, fireman, ankle dislocated
  • Miss Ora Tallman and mother, of Valparazo, Ind., both scalded and bruised
  • Miss Luly Rider, Kentland, Ind., scaled on face and body
  • Leslie D. Colburn, Pawpaw, Michigan, arm and leg dislocation and face scalded
  • Mrs. S.L. Ray, Wilmington, Vermont, scalded about head, face and arms
  • Jas. Whittle, Gilliam, Mo., leg and arm bruised
  • G.P. Dixon, Fairbury, Ill., face and leg scalded
  • O.D. Sanburn, Chenoa, Ill., scaled hands and face
  • C.E. Bray, 151 State St., Chicago, traveling man, slightly injured.
  • Miss Cora Colburn, Topeka, Ind., leg dislocated
  • Mrs. Mary Bird, Vandalia, Mo., ribs broken
  • C.E. Nully, Mexico, Mo., express helper, slightly injured
  • Robert Densmore, conductor on passenger train, face slightly cut and rib fractured
  • Walter Walsh, son of Conductor Walsh, of Slater, badly burned on the back
  • George Allen, colored, of New Frankfort, hurt on side and back
  • Mrs. C.W. Snider, Jasper, N.Y., hands and face scalded
  • Miss Lottie L. Still, New York City, face and arms scalded
  • Miss Julia Hayslip, Chenoa, Ill., face and arms scalded
  • Miss Annie Morrison, Valpariso, Ind., scalded head and arms
  • Prof. S.A.D. Harry, Supt. of Schools, Hoopestown, Ill., arm sprained and hand scalded
  • Adolph Kaufman, white cook in dining car, Hoopeston, Ill., bruised and burned – not serious
  • Mrs. J.S. Adsit, Hoopeston, Ill., scalded about the head and shoulders
  • Miss Emma Dixon, Wilmington, Ill., scalded about the neck and face
  • Gus Williams, negro porter, New Orleans, back sprained and ribs broken
  • Mrs. J.A. Miller, of Bloomington, Ill., slight cut on body and scalded on head, not serious
  • Mrs. Levy Arch, Crumwell, Ind., broken arm and hurt in side.
  • Miss Dora Wickline, Goodland, Ind., hip dislocated
  • Sadie E. Taylor, Wilmington, Ill., face and arm scalded
  • Jos. Baldus, Salt Springs, Mo., slightly scalded
  • C. Johns, Shackelford, Mo., slightly scalded
  • Miss Gertrude Duncan, Elgin, Ill., bruised about the chest, was on her way to the Epworth League Convention at San Francisco
  • Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Berth Mitchell, Pontiac, Ill., faces and hands scalded.

The first news of the wreck came to Slater from Norton and was sent by the flagman. The message simply read to send wrecker and doctors. Drs. Howard and Duggins went on a special train and as soon as possible sent word to all the physicians in Slater and Marshall to come. Everything possible was done by the physicans, officials and men and women of Slater and Marshall to relieve the suffering. Relief trains were sent from Higginsville and Slater. Slater’s dead and crippled were brought home about 1 o’clock and the rest sent to Kansas City in charge of twelve physicians.

The body of Engineer F.A. Briggs was not found until the afternoon, when his crushed form was discovered under a stock car. His remains, with those of engineer Dave Anderson, Conductor Dan McAnna and Expressman I.S. Raser (part of the article is missing here) Baptist Church this afternoon at 3:30. Expressman Raser’s remains were shipped to Chicago. The remains of the other two will remain in Slater until relatives arrive before it is decided where they will be buried.

The cause of the wreck is thought to be dure to an oversight on the part of Conductor McAnna. There was an extra west-bound passenger train on the road Wednesday morning running as "2nd No. 7". The St. Louis train passed the freight train at Marshall. Soon after this message was sent to Marshall for No. 88 to meet "2nd No. 7" at Slater. It is supposed that McAnna failed to read the order closely and supposed it meant the regular No. 7 and was probably not aware of the extra train being on the road. He had been assisting the engineer and fireman in running the engine, and as he ran toward the engine he is said to have called to the rear brakeman "We meet them at Slater". He was on the engine when the crash came. Another report is that the word "2nd" was left out of the message by the operator.

The loss to the company will probably run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The loss of property, great as it is, will be small when compared with the amount that will have to be paid the relatives of the dead and for damage claims of the injured.

Slater’s Dead

Frank A. Briggs was born in Plainfield, Michigan, Oct. 17, 1857, but has lived in Slater for a number of years. He leaves a wife and four small children. He was a Mason of high degree, being a member of the Blue Lodge and chapter of Slater and the Commandery at Marshall.

D.J. Anderson is also one of the old railroad men of Slater and was recently promoted to engineer. He also leaves a wife and children. He was a member of the Odd Fellows lodge at this place.

Conductor McAnna has not lived in Slater a great while. His relatives live in Pennsylvania and will be here to take charge of his remains.

Fireman Donnelly came here a short time ago from Mexico, Mo., and his remains will be taken home for burial.

Source: The Slater Rustler, 12 July 1901

Submitted: Conni Braun