This article was found pasted into a scrap book prepared by Dorothea ‘Dottie’ Mc Dole. (She passed away in February, 2014.) The newspaper it was published in was not noted. Handwritten date of article was June 16, 1998. Transcribed by Lynn McCleary, July 2, 2014

Witness Adds to Gladwin History

Editor’s note: Raymond Coon read with interest the reprint of Sharon Hoben Jenning’s article on the village of Gladwin. He points out that as it was written in 1972 the people mentioned are no longer living. He also said that Wanda Skubal, Washington, is a daughter of James ones. Coon wanted to tell a piece of Gladwin history.

By Raymond Coon

I was reared on the County Line Farm, three miles west of Gladwin. Gladwin was our principle place of grocery purchases or produce trading. Gladwin was established by the Milwaukee Railroad on a low sandy rise between Goose Creek and the Iowa River bottoms, so it got floods from two directions. It was at the foot of the long railroad hill. There was over three miles of 1% grade from the prairie at Haskins to the plain between the two rivers.

Stan Miller, Gladwin correspondent for the Columbus Gazette, said Gladwin had to have the most expensive mile of track of the whole 11,000 mile Milwaukee system.

Floods that covered the rails in Gladwin occurred in 1924, 1930, 1965 and 1982, the year the Milwaukee bought the Rock Island Line between Davenport and Washington and abandoned the north line through Gladwin and Haskins.

Most derailments occur to empty rail cars on down grades. Switches will, or course, pile up derailed cars. The worst wreck of all occurred July 21, 1933, when a derailed car caused a pile up of over 20 tanks of petroleum when it hit the west Gladwin’s switch. Train 86 had picked u a load of livestock in Haskins and was in a hurry to get their refrigerator cars iced in the Nahant yards of West Davenport.

Before the wrecked tanks quit rolling, they were on fire. The fire could be seen in Muscatine on that sultry July day. My brother, Hilton and I had just left the store with its gas pump between the store and the railroad. We had stopped for gasoline. Storekeeper Allensworth said he was out, but if we would wait, the gas truck would be there. We waited, but no gas truck, so we went on home. When we got there, Mother came out and said she heard on the party line that Gladwin had a wreck and a great cloud of black smoke was very visible. We went back to see the show, but parked up on top of the bluff known as “High Five,” as the fire looked dangerous.

We could hear a boiling noise in the middle of the inferno. Suddenly a great jet of burning oil shot straight up, making Old Faithful look tame. The whole carload burned in a big mushroom cloud way above our heats. People had cameras, but no one took any pictures – they were all running for their lives! The road at the foot of the bluff was full of people knocking each other down, fleeing for their lives. If that jet had shot out sideways, many would have been instantly incinerated.

Four people riding on the cars lost their lives, many rode the freights during the Depression. After the fire burned down later in the day, I walked around the wreckage. After I ran into two half-burned bodies, I went home and stayed there.

There was a sign in the post office that said the post office would soon be discontinued, but the building burned that day, so the store/post office was gone sooner than expected.

The Des Moines Register plane was on hand and gave the wreck first page coverage. The next day, Gladwin looked like the county fair. Allensworth had set up a stand and was selling refreshments while wreckage was drug out of the way and trains came rolling though. One woman from a distance was distraught because the show was over.

Some photos taken by Walter Marling of this event are on display in the Columbus Junction Library.

Photo caption: This Dec. 5, 1931, photo of Iowa River Bridge wrecked was taken east of Gladwin. A derailed car turned crosswise by the switch west of the bridge. It took the west span of the bridge into the river, along with several carloads of wheat, sacked flour and gasoline. An engine watering tank and pumping station near the site were destroyed b fire in another wreck a year later.

Photo caption: The entire town of Gladwin flooded on a very stormy night in June. Residents spent a fearful night in the church, the highest building in town. This photo, taken June 15, 1930, shows men working on the railroad truck repair at Gladwin. Rodney Jones, 98, of Colonial Manor, Columbus Junction, is one of he workers pictured. None of the buildings now exist in Gladwin.

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