Louisville, KY Caisson Collapses during Bridge Construction, Jan 1890

An Appalling Accident

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 9. -- The most appalling accident known here for many years occurred this evening about 6 o'clock. Caisson No. 1, about a hundred yards from the Kentucky shore, used in the construction of the bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville, suddenly gave way and the men employed in it were either drowned or crushed to death by the stone and timbers. As those working in the pumping station were watching for the men in the caisson to put off in their boats, leaving for the night, they suddenly saw the low, dark structure in the dashing white waves. The life saving station was immediately notified of the accident and three skiffs were manned and pulled to the scene of the wreck. Word was also sent to the police station and a squad was at once ordered to the ground to aid in the work of recovery.

The site of the bridge is at the upper and of the city just below Tow Head Island.

Within an hour from the disappearance of the caisson, three thousand people were on the shore and strained their eyes to see something of the wreckage. Dozens of boats were flying about over the spot where the caisson had stood and life lights danced to and fro with them, but there was not a trace of the massive structure of stone and timbers. It was soon known that only four of the eighteen men who were at work at the time of the accident had escaped.

The killed are: WM. S. HAYNES, 40 years; JOHN KNOX, 28 years; M. C. ADAMS, 26 years of Hyde Park, Pennsylvania; FRANK MAHER, 23, a native of New Jersey; PAT NAYLOR, 27, of Philadelphia; THOS. ASH, colored, 39; HENRY HENDERSON, colored, 34, of Henderson, Kentucky; CHAS. CHILES, colored, 30, of Henderson; THOS. JOHNSON, colored, 30, of Henderson; G. JOSEPH, colored, 25, of Henderson; HAMILTON MORRIS, 20, of Henderson; THOMAS SMITH, 27, of Henderson; FRANK SOAPER, colored, 25, of Henderson; ROBERT TYLER, 16, of Henderson.

The last man out of the caisson was FRANK HADDIX. He barely escaped being dragged down by a companion where he was caught waist deep in quick sand. ABE TAYLOR, one of the saved, says he stood nearest the iron ladder by which they got in and out. He heard a rumbling and there was a rush of air. Almost at the same instant he jumped up the rungs of the ladder, followed by other men. They had hardly got clear of the caisson when the water burst through the man hole, knocking the men all into the river where they were picked up. HADDIX said he saw MORRIS, who was climbing next below himself, swiftly drawn under by the sand and heard his cries for help but could do nothing.

The caisson is not wrecked, as first supposed, but has settled down in the bed of the stream, completely filled with sand and water. The pumping station is hard at work clearing a way to the bodies but none will be reached to-night. There seems absolutely no hope for any of those caught within the caisson. The negroes who escaped say JOHN KNOX, gang boss, had them dig too deep before letting the caisson settle, and the digging was too close to the shoe of the caisson. Just before the accident, KNOX gave some orders to the keeper in charge of the upper door to the exit. He opened this door and the compressed air which kept out the river rushed out, letting in the stream. The men say they were working in ugly quicksand at the time. The caisson was about 40 feet by 20 and built of timbers twelve inches square.

Aspen Weekly Times Colorado 1890-01-11