St. Charles, MO Bridge Collapse, Nov 1870


Horrible Calamity at St. Charles-Falling of a Railroad Bridge-Six Men Killed.

Chicago, Nov. 11, 1870. A dispatch received from St. Charles, Mo., states that a span of the railroad bridge across the Missouri River there, fell at three o’clock this afternoon, killing six men and wounding nine others.

New York Herald, New York, NY 12 Nov 1870


The Bridge Disaster in Missouri.

A Span of the New Bridge at St. Charles Gives Way and Precipitates Sixteen Men Into the River Below-Five Lives Known to be Lost-Others Injured or Missing.

[From the St. Louis Republican, Nov.12.]
An appalling accident occurred at St. Charles, Mo., yesterday afternoon, at the new bridge now in course of construction across the Missouri River. The piers of the bridge are built and the superstructure is being placed in position, and it was in connection with this work that the accident occurred. The first chord of the span springing from Pier No. 1 is in course of erection, and presented a busy spectacle a moment before the accident occurred, surrounded by its network of scaffolding, among which a number of workmen were actively engaged. The accident, in addition to resulting in serious loss of life, occasioned much damage to the works. The part of the bridge where it occurred is between the first and second piers. There were on this portion sixteen men at the time. There were near the first pier, two or three hundred feet from the St. Charles bank of the river, an engine and steam derrick being used to hoist the first chord of a span, an iron casting of five tons weight. This had been elevated to such a height that it was almost ready to be placed in the desired spot when the wire rope of the derrick sustaining it snapped with the great weight and the ponderous iron mass fell on the false work beneath, and about 100 feet of the structure gave way. In a moment the scene enacted was of an appalling character. Amid the shrieks of the unhappy victims the engine and fifteen men went down with the broken mass of the timbers, and lifeless and mangled bodies were soon floating in the river beneath. One man jumped from the engine on the pier when he saw what was going to happen, and in a few seconds found himself isolated, contemplating from his high and solitary position the shocking sight below. The drowned and killed were Captain Odell, Mr. Thompson, foreman, and James Fannin, of St. Louis; Daniel L. Carr, of Cleveland, Ohio, and two others. The rest are reported to have been saved. The distance from the top of the works to the water was about eighty or ninety feet. One of the men who was killed was got out alive but had a leg broken, and had received other injuries. He lived but a short time. Two men among the saved were rather badly injured. One of the others succeeded in pulling off his coat while in the water, and swam ashore, dragging another man out who was unable to swim. None of the bodies were brought to St. Louis. A person who was present at the time of the accident, and who arrived in the city last night, stated that twenty-five persons went down with the timbers, and that twenty persons were killed or are missing, fifteen bodies not having been recovered. The disaster caused much consternation and excitement at St. Charles, and a large crowd collected in the vicinity. In this city during the evening it was difficult to obtain because information of the disaster. The officers of the North Missouri Railroad looked mysterious and “knew nothing about it,” as is generally the case with such officials in reference to accidents.

New York Herald, New York, NY 15 Nov 1870