Dixon, IL Bridge Collapses at Baptism, May 1873

Terrible accident.

Dixon, Ills., May 4. --- A terrible accident, involving a fearful loss of life, occurred here this afternoon. The rite of baptism was being administered to a number of recent converts to one of the Baptist churches here, at a point in Rock River just below the Truesdell Iron bridge. About two hundred persons, including many ladies and a number of children, had gathered on the bridge to witness the ceremony, when suddenly without warning, the bridge gave way and precipitated its living freight into the stream. The scene which ensued was indescribably terrible. The struggling victims vainly endeavored to force themselves from the ruins of the bridge and from each other. A large crowd of people on the banks rushed wildly to and fro, many so distracted with terror as to be unable to render assistance. Others, more self-possessed, speedily brought ropes, planks and boats and went nobly to work to rescue the living and recover the dead. Some of those who were on the bridge when it fell were so near the ends that they were able to reach the bank without assistance, while others were fortunately within reach of those on shore, but up to 6 p. m., thirty-two dead bodies had been taken from the river. It is almost certain that there are others still under the wreck of the bridge. Twenty-four were rescued alive but more or less injured, some fatally.

Denver Daily Times Colorado 1873-05-05

DIXON, ILL., May 5.
No other bodies of the victims of the bridge disaster were recovered up to the present hour, but several bodies were picked up at Sterling, six miles below, and doubtless the swift current has borne others down the stream. General estimate of the loss is from ninety to one hundred. Five bodies floated past the men at work at the wreck, and have been found. It is supposed that at least fifty bodies are still in the water. The bridge was of iron, Truesdale pattern, and of five spans, elevated about twenty-five feet above the river, which is from fifteen to twenty feet deep. Only the two end spans fell. The other spans are standing, but it is thought they will fall when the wrecked spans are removed. It is stated that there were three hundred persons on the bridge at the time of the accident.

Essex County Republican New York 1873-05-08