Chatsworth, IL Train Wreck, Aug 1887
The other Galesburg people agree in the statement about the flimsy character of the bridge, P. P. VAN LIEW, of Galesburg, was in the chair car mentioned. A moment before the accident he walked to the end of the car that suffered the most and was dangerously wounded.
WILLIAM COLLINS, of this city, was killed; MRS. E. M. SNEDAKER, of Abingdon, was killed and her little son lost a leg; MRS. S. M. SMITH of Galesburg, was badly injured; MRS. A. J. McCLURE and baby were killed; her husband is a railroad contractor now employed here. The most intense excitement has prevailed here all day. The Galesburg party, save those mentioned, were in one of the sleepers and so escaped uninjured. So intense was the excitement in Abingdon that business was suspended.
The Times special from Forrest, Ill., sayst [sic]. People came into Chatsworth in wagons, buggies and on horseback from all parts of the country, within fifteen miles of the scene of the wreck for the purpose of seeing the results of the disaster. Shortly before dusk two lawyers with an eye to business, arrived in a buggy, from Pontiac, eighteen miles away, presumably for the purpose of ascertaining the possibility of suing the railroad for damage in behalf of possible clients. The Chatsworth saloons all did such a tremenduous[sic] business that by 4 o'clock in the afternoon no liquor of any kind could be obtained, the entire stock having been sold out. The saloonkeepers closed up their establishments, locked the doors and joined the gaping throngs which stood outside the different morgues and places where the wounded were being cared for. It is safe to say that during the day fully 2,500 people visited the town out of curiosity.
The close, sultry air aggravated the situation, and thousands of flies settled on the bodies and feasted on the blood of the dead. Late in the day the odor arising from the corpses occasioned by the heat became unpleasant and gave notice that final disposition would have to be made of them within a few hours in consideration of the living. Many bodies were taken away during the day, but when darkness fell the flickering light of a solitary coal oil lamp in the depot dimly shone over seven or eight bodies that still remained. In the empty store building twelve or thirteen bodies lay on the floor unclaimed.
THE EXCITEMENT IN CHATSWORTH.
Another dispatch from Forrest, Ill., says: "The news of the disaster arrived at Chatsworth about forty minutes after its occurrence. The peaceable residents of the little town were suddenly awakened by an alarm which was rung simultaneously from all the alarm boxes in the town. In a few minutes everybody was on his or her feet and people were running through the streets from all directions, all inquiring where the fire was. When the actual facts were learned another alarm followed, which was soon vigorously re-echoed by the bells of all the churches in town. The people made a rush for the road to Piper City. DR. VAUGHAN, of Chatsworth, was almost the first to appear at the scene. He was seen by a reportee[sic], and told briefly what he saw.
"When I arrived I found there the greatest confusion," he said. "Hell itself could not present a more horrible picture - men and women fighting with death and ready to clutch at a straw to get saved. One man held his dead wife and a dead little child on his arms while his own feet were broken and propped in the wreck. I relieved the unfortunate of his burden and helped to drag him out and take him to a sleeper. One of the greatest misfortunes was the fact that the wreck took place almost in a desert. It was impossible to accord the wounded sufficient assistance. There were no ambulances --- nothing to carry them on. They were dragged and pushed, and this accounts for the great number of people who succumbed to their pains."
Fire Marshal HENRY H. GAMO, of Chatsworth, says he was the first to arrive at the scene.
"I had no time to observe anything that transpired around me," he said. "Myself and entire force were working like beavers all the time, and to the course of half an hour we had thirty-three people - killed and wounded - dragged out of the debris. Four cars were standing on the track, and the only thing I know about them is that I carried wounded men and women there."
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