Towns - Post Offices - Rail Stops
of Jefferson County

(Center or Locust Grove)

"BERNHART STATION.  Secs. 25 & 26, Locust Grove Township. Est. 1899 on the C. B. & Q. RR between Fairfield and Batavia; named for Bernhart Henn, early resident of Fairfield and representative in Congress. P.O. Est. 2 Apr., 1901, with John W. Garber first p. m.; office discontinued 15 Oct., 1904."
The above information was compiled by Mary Prill and published in the Hawkeye Heritage, July 1967.

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The following story was originally one of a number of articles in the Fairfield Ledger which was later included in the book Villages and Towns of Yester-year in Jefferson County by William R. Baker. We hereby include it on this page with the permission of the Fairfield Ledger.
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
        Harley Clay family; Bernhart Henn.

She has vivid memories of rail crash

   The story of Bernhart Station, once a water stop and livestock shipping center located about four miles west of Fairfield along the Burlington Railroad, would not be complete without mention of the great train wreck that took place October 4, 1937.
   One of the many freight cars that derailed plunged into the old depot which had been converted to living quarters and occupied by Harley Clay, section foreman, and his family.
   The car plunged through the east end of the building which was the living room. It filled the room with debris and bulged the wall to the bedroom in which members of the Clay family were sleeping.
   The doors were jammed and they couldn't get out. Finally after help arrived they were rescued by crawling out a window.
   Mr. and Mrs. Clay and their six year old son escaped injury. Clay is deceased and Mrs. Clay resides in Mount Pleasant.
   During a recent visit with Mrs. Clay at her home in Mount Pleasant, she stated: "The wreck took place about 9:45 p.m. There was a loud roar and rumble and as we jumped out of bed we noticed there was coal all over the bed.
   "The entire experience was unbelievable. After we were able to escape from the building my husband told me to notify the neighbors. They just wouldn't believe what had happened." She said as they later searched through the ruins for personal belongings, they found their canary's bird cage upside down with the door open, but no canary. They assumed the little bird was dead.
   A day later, the engineer with the work train found the canary buried in the debris still alive. They treated the bird, it survived and lived for three years.
   Mrs. Clay has a number of pictures of the wreck in her photo album. They had lived in the depot about four years before that memorable date in October, 1937.
   Clay was a native of New Virginia and had started to work for the railroad in 1926. Mrs. Clay is a native of Tracy and they were married in 1930 in Illinois. They moved to Bernhart in 1933.
   Mrs. Clay said at the time of the wreck the elevator and stock yards were still located on the south side of the tracks but were not operating. Mrs. Clay commented, "It wasn't a place one would likely call home." Her husband died June 19, 1961, and her son is a pharmacist at Osco Drug store in Bloomington, Illinois. He is the father of two daughters.
   An account of the wreck in the October 5, 1937, edition of the Ledger said, "One person was killed and two injured Monday about 10 p.m. when 14 cars of a CB&Q freight train piled up west of Fairfield at Berhnart."
   A Missouri man was killed in the wreck and two other men, also of Missouri, were seriously injured. They had been riding in a box car loaded with steel.
   The article went on to state, "One of the cars that left the tracks plunged like a thunderbolt into the frame station, wreckage and debris piled into the room where the family was sleeping but none of them were injured.
   Pictures the next day in the Ledger showed the end of the freight car forced into the building. Other pictures showed the bedroom wall punctured by the intruding car, and pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Clay.
   Following the wreck the Clays moved to Fairfield and later to Mount Pleasant. He died in June, 1961. Mrs. Clay still resides in Mount Pleasant.
   At least two other major train wrecks occurred at Bernhart. On August 5, 1932, two persons were killed and ten injured when a freight train piled up. They were all riding on the train.
   In more recent years 19 coal cars left the rails at Bernhart and spilled coal along the right-of-way October 20, 1975.
   Bernhart was established by the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in 1900 when the railroad re-routed the right-of-way.
    The re-routing project took place in 1898-1900, and left the little town of Krum south Cedar Creek "high and dry". It had served as a wood, and later coal and water, stop since the railroad first reached the area in 1858. Krum soon passed from existence following the rerouting project.
   The new station was named in honor of Bernhart Henn, a prominent citizen of Fairfield and Iowa who died in 1865. He had lived at Burlington before he was appointed registrar for the land.

This page was created 06/28/2001. The page may be copied and used for personal purposes but can not be republished nor used for commercial purposes without the author's written permission.

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