|Harrison County Iowa Genealogy|
Extracted from the 1915 History of Harrison County, Iowa, by Hon. Charles W. Hunt, Logan; published by B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc., page 276.
Transcribed and submitted by Mona Sarratt Knight
On July 11, 1896, occurred one of the most disastrous railway wrecks that ever took place in the state of Iowa. The Union Pacific Pioneers, of Omaha, were holding their annual picnic at Logan on that day, having a special train of their sixteen passenger cars and one baggage car. Towards evening, when they were returning home, a misconstrued train order caused the special to collide with a fast freight train, just around the sharp curve southwest of Logan and about half a mile from the station. The train they met was No. 38, fast freight and return mail coaches, east bound. The excursion train was to wait for No. 2, and the passengers were all occuping their seats. A freight had passed them, which they supposed was the fast freight, but which proved to be another train. The train orders for No. 38 had been overlooked or forgotten by the agent and train crew; hence the awful disaster. W. R. SHAFFER, an old-time agent at Logan, was then stationed at that town.
The two trains met full speed, and the result was fearful. The baggage car was driven entirely through the first passenger coach. Several passengers were beheaded and many were badly mutilated. The meeting of the fated trains was plainly seen by John F. SMEADLEY, a farmer living three miles north of Missouri Valley, who was near the curve at the time of the collision. He stated at the inquest: "When I saw the two trains, they must have been fully twenty rods apart. I realized that nothing could prevent a collision. I stood up in my buggy, swung my hat and cried out in an effort to signal the engineers of the two trains. That my signs were not observed is apparent to my mind for the reason that there was no effort made to stop either of the trains, or at least not as far as I could see. I screamed at the top of my voice, but still the two trains moved toward each other. Then I waited. It seemed like an hour. The cold sweat streamed from my face as I stood there waiting for the crash which must have been but a few seconds later. I was but a few rods ahead of the excursion train and not to exceed five hundred feet from the track when the two engines came together."
COLLISION GRAPHICALLY DESCRIBED. "The moment the two iron monsters struck was the most trying of all my life. I had served in the Civil War and was in twelve battles, but never did I experience such a feeling as I did when I stood upon the Iowa prairie, knowing that in a very short time scores, and perhaps hundreds, of brave men, dedicated women and innocent children would be killed, and that no power could prevent the catastrophe. At last the end came and that strange spell passed from me."
"As the two trains continued toward each other, there was a dull, heavy shock that seemed like the rumbling of distant thunder. This was followed by a hissing sound and in an instant the two engines and the front car of each train became enveloped in clouds of steam, completely obscuring them from view. Soon the clouds cleared away, and as it did, I saw the engine of the freight train climbing on top of the one attached to the excursion train. Behind the engine of the excursion train there seemed to be cars crowding and pressing together. The floors of the baggage car seemed to rise almost at the same instant it struck the body of the coach immediately behind. As the floor struck, it plowed into the coach, just above the windows and continued on in its course until it reached within a few feet of the rear end, when it seemed to waver, topple and then settle down upon the coach, crushing it to what seemed to be but a mass of kindling wood. As the noise of crashing timbers subsided, there arose upon the air the cries of men, women and children, mingled with groans of the maimed and dying."
There were forty-two maimed for life and twenty-five killed outright. The rescue work commenced within ten minutes after the wreck occurred. The sides of the passenger coaches were broken in and the work of taking out the dead and injured begun. Dr. I. C. WOOD, of Logan, was near the scene, and after giving instructions, went hastily back to town to prepare the old skating rink for the reception of the dead and injured, as they should be brought in. Doctors WATT and WEISE were on the grounds directing the rescue work. [see PHOTO].
The wrecking train reached the place at 10:30 p.m. A Special from Missouri Valley, with Doctors COIT, McGAVREN, MASON and TAMISIEA arrived before the wrecking train. Doctor BEATTIE of Dunlap, and other from nearby towns, soon responded to calls for help. The scene at Omaha, upon the arrival of the train at the Union depot at 8:30 o'clock the next morning, when two cars -- a passenger coach and what seemed to be a "chamber of horrors," the other car of the train -- beggars all description of pen and tongue. The entrance was guarded by police, and seventeen bodies covered with muslin shrouds and laid on pine boards were carried, one at a time, to the baggage room and placed in a long row on the floor. The silent forms gave evidence of the awful collision at Logan the day before. Headless trunks, bodies without limbs, and limbs without bodies, a gruesome spectable, were all gathered in that small space. The coroner's inquest (Doctor MACFARLANE being coroner) had as jurymen, J.A. BERRY, Albert LOSS, and T. F. VANDERHOOF.
Suits for damages amounting to almost a million dollars were worrying their way through the courts for nearly, if not quite ten years after the wreck. Counting the large amounts received by friends of the deceased, and by the injured, together with the large amount of property destroyed, it was one of the most financially expensive wrecks that ever occurred on Iowa soil. It was also the worst in way of loss of life and limb.
[end of article]
THE CORONERS' INQUEST
Extracted from the Harrison County News newspaper, July 17 1896, Logan, Iowa
(Transcibed and Contributed by Vicki King)
Now being held at Logan ostensibly to ascertain the causes of that wreck seems really to be designed to give a per diem to the coroner, as only three or four witnesses are examined in a two days session. The first witness examined was the station agent, SCHAFFER, at Logan who testified in part as follows:
The excursion train pulled out at 1:42, the conductor, REID, received an order delivered by me for him to run special from Logan to Council Bluffs. I have no copy of the order, as the train agent took it. The order would imply to a crew to look out for all regular trains. Then No. 2 is due at 6:44 and No. 38 at 6:44. It was the conductor's duty to remain here until after No. 38 had gone. I saw the conductor and engineer at various times during the day in the yard. I did not see anything which would indicate that either of them had been drinking. I don't know that either of them drinks and understand that they do not. When I received the order for REED I went up to him, handed it to him in duplicate and said 'That don't help you out much on 38 does it?' and REED answered 'No'. It was about 6:35 when I received the order and when I gave it to REED the engineer, MONTGOMERY was oiling his engine.
Dr. KNOWLES testified to dressing Engineer MONTGOMERY's hand. During the operation the sad man kept moaning and groaning and exclaiming that he was to blame as he had forgotten No. 38.
The feeling is growing that the trainmen have suffered enough and nothing more should be done as to them.