Hamlet, NC Train Wreck, Jul 1911


Sixty Others Seriously Hurt And Twenty - Eight Escape With Minor Injuries


Over Nine Hundred People Aboard Ill-Fated Train Bound from Durham to Charlotte---Trainload of Injured Brought Here

Special to The Observer.

Hamlet, July 27.-One of the worst wrecks ever experienced by the Seaboard Air Line occurred right in front of the Hamlet roundhouse at 10:40 this morning, when a colored excursion bound from Durham to Charlotte and running as second No. 33, in charge of Conductor WILLIAM BOWEN of Raleigh and Engineman BEN KOONCE of the same place, went head-on into a freight coming into the yards from Wilmington and in charge of Engineer ARCHIE TAYLOR and Conductor BENTON BROWN. The track at this place makes a sharp curve and both sides of the main line were lined with box and coal cars. The freight was crawling into the yards under the impression that no train was coming and Engineer KOONCE was heading for Hamlet at a good clip, sure also that the track was clear. The two engines lie now beside the track fast to each other in a grasp of death. The wrecking crew have so far been unable to separate them.


The crash was heard all over town and the whistles of the roundhouse and the sound of escaping steam from the contending engines called the whole town to the scene of carnage and death. Both engineers are hurt. Mr. TAYLOR is at his home here, partially unconscious, and Mr. KOONCE is at the Hamlet hotel. Dr. MCLOUD of Aberdeen is attending the injured passenger conductor also. Captain BOWEN was seen by the correspondent this afternoon. He is suffering from three broken ribs and a general shake-up.

The Seaboard Air Line crew received the train with 912 passengers from the Durham & Southern Railway at 8:15 this morning at Apex. Everything went smooth and there was no intimation of trouble until the sudden shock of the head on collision.


The great carnage was in the fourth and fifth cars. These were old and frail and crumbled like pasteboard. SAMUEL MILLER was asleep with his hand in the window. The telescoping wall clipped off his head and it rolled clear of the wreck. Where the two cars came together the people were packed four deep, the life-blood of those on top dripping upon the wounded below. Willing hands cut away the side of the car and released a number. The car seats were laid upon the ground under the repair shed and a field hospital opened. Drs. KINSMAN and FOWLKES of Hamlet and four physicians from Rockingham, with several from Laurinburg and Aberdeen, did all that medical skill could do for the wounded. The task was great. Sixty people were seriously injured; twenty-eight more were slightly bruised and scratched; seven more killed outright and, of the sixty injured, one died while on the table.

Mrs. LANDRUM, a trained nurse from the Presbyterian hospital of Charlotte, was nursing a case in town and volunteered her services. She gave skilled aid in a very trying position.


It was a sad and pitiable spectacle to see the suffering forms scattered upon the cushion cots, some covered with blankets and here and there a sheet-covered face showing death. A train was hurriedly made up and the injured were sent to Charlotte to the hospital there. The carpenter shop was made into a morgue and there the eight dead bodies were prepared for burial. They were taken back to Durham tonight.

The wreck destroyed six of the eleven cars and the uninjured were compelled to remain in Hamlet all day, as there was not cars enough to take them away.

The excursion was being run by the St. Joseph's Methodist church of Durham and was scheduled to reach Charlotte today at noon and return tonight. The excursionists will return to Durham with heavy hearts and without seeing Charlotte.

The property loss to the Seaboard will run up near $80,000.

The blame for the wreck has not been placed. An investigation will be held later. An old railroad man expressed the opinion today that the frail construction of the cars had something to do with the great damage. A similar wreck is recalled four years ago between here and Rockingham, when Engineer LEWIS lost his life and twenty-three passengers were killed.


The dead, all of Durham are:


The injured are:

MAMIE STUART, legs bruised and injured internally; JOE CANE, injured internally, condition serious; WILY HOLLAN, bruised about limbs and injured internally; KATIE LAWSON, bruised and cut and injured internally; BESSIE HARRIS, flesh wounds and injured internally; LILLIAN BURTON, bruised and injured internally; CORA ROBINSON, cut and bruised and hurt internally; PERCY DANIELS, cut and bruised and hurt internally; MYRTLE ROBINSON, cut and bruised and hurt internally; DAVID CAMERON, bruised and cut; BINGHAM FAUCET, slightly bruised; ARTHUR MCRAY, injured internally; MATTHEW HARRIS, flesh wounds and bruised about legs and hips; SPRIGGS WALLER, right leg broken and injured internally; OSCAR FORD, thigh broken and mashed through the hips; CHARLES HACKNEY, ankles bruised and cut; LANDER SMITH, leg dislocated at hip and arm disloated at shoulder; SIMPLE BROWN, legs bruised; ERNEST THOMPSON, bruised and cut; J. L. PIERSON, bruised and cut; TIM WALDEN, injured internally; JAMES GOODLOW, injured internally; RICHARD LOCKLAR, cut and bruised about legs and body; NAT MOTEN, bruised about legs and body; ROY TRICE, collar bone broken and leg bruised; JOHN CARTER, legs bruised and cut and injured internally; LILLIE CARTER, back sprained; PLUMER EATON, slightly bruised; WILL WENTWORTH, legs bruised and cut and injured internally; VAN ROBINSON, bruised about legs and injured internally; ANNIE MARTIN, shoulder bruised; SITH CAMERON, right leg broken; ARTHENIA CAMERON, arms and leg bruised and cut; RUFUS HUNTER, slightly bruised; PATTIE DUNNIGAN, feet and legs bruised and cut; MABLE MAYHOE, injured internally; MARGARET HALL, back sprained and legs and arms bruised and cut; NELLIE BATISTE, cut about head; WILL GREEN, legs bruised and injured internally; WILL SIMMONS, slightly bruised; MARTHA HALL, hand cut and bruised through chest; AGNES LEATHERS, injured internally; SOL WILLIAMSON, slightly bruised; NANCY COX, bruised and cut about legs and feet; JOSIE TUNE, bruised and cut about legs and feet; EM BUMPUS, slightly bruised; EARLY CALY, bruised about arm and head and injured internally; ALBERT SHANKLIN, bruised about head and legs; CORNELIA SMITH, injured internally; LIZZIE HARRIS, head bruised and cut; MARY HENDERSON, bruised about legs and neck; LILLIE ROYSTER, face cut and bruised; VIOLA DUNNIGAN, hip smashed; CAROLINE COSART, feet bruised and cut and mashed through chest; LIZZIE JOHNSON, left leg broken; JAMES BALY, left leg broken and side cut; ED BRIGGS, ankle sprained; JENNIE MCIVOR, legs and hip bruised and cut.

The bruised and generally shaken up are:



All of the above were passengers.

Engineer B. KOONCE, on second No. 33, is bruised and cut about the head and shoulders and is injured internally. W. H. BOWEN, conductor on second No. 33, is mashed through the side and has several ribs broken. A. TAYLOR, engineer on No. 17, is bruised and cut about the head, arms and leg and is injured internally. ALBERT GARY, fireman on No. 17, is bruised and cut about the legs and body.


Fifty Mangled and Maimed in Hamlet Wreck Now in Good Samaritan and Mercy Hospitals-Some of These Will Die.

Rushed from Hamlet, the scene of yesterday morning's disastrous wreck, fifty negroes, sixteen women and thirty-four men, according to an unofficial count, were placed last night in the Good Samaritan hospital of Charlotte, bearing injuries ranging from the possibly fatal, the very serious, and the less serious wounds to the hurts which are trivial. There they were accorded with the utmost dispatch possible every alleviation of suffering which modern hospital facilities and surgical skill can afford. Regardless of the nature of their injuries, whether superficial or not, all were accorded equal treatment and were comfortably housed where the best of care will be theirs.

Exactly five years ago this month twenty-six negroes were killed and many injured at a point less than two miles from the scene of yesterday's wreck.

The first information which reached Charlotte was to the effect that the special train bearing its load of wounded would arrive about 4 o'clock. A telegraphic request was made of the Mercy General hospital that preparation be made for thirty-five patients. As rapidly as news of the accident spread groups began to gather at the Seaboard passenger station in expectation of witnessing the arrival of the train and the removal of the passengers.

After an hour had been spent in more or less impatient waiting, it was learned that the train had not left Hamlet and would not arrive until about 7:30 o'clock. Those versed in railroad affairs guessed that the train would not be stopped at the station when it did come and this proved correct. Reaching Charlotte a few minutes after 7 o'clock it was shifted to the Southern Railway tracks and carried down the C. C. & A. line as far as Mint street, where it was almost within a block of the Good Samaritan hospital. The colored population was not long in taking the cue and when the train paused there it was in the midst of a motley throng, sympathetic, curious and interested. The train consisted of two passenger coaches and a baggage car. In the latter the injured were stowed away on cots.

The removal of the wounded men and women from the car to the waiting ambulance in which they were borne to the hospital was accomplished with little confusion. There were no outcries. The only exclamations were uttered by colored spectators, who were moved by the spectacle. "Dat chile shore am hurt bad," the women would murmur, as limp forms passed them on their way to the place of treatment.

At the hospital the hours of waiting had not been passed in vain. Under the direction of ladies of the board of managers, ably assisted by the nurses of the institution, things had been put in readiness, couches, rooms and clothing had been secured and placed in order. A dozen physicians of the city reported for duty and rendered aid wherever aid was needed.

The scenes within the hospital were those of orderly confusion. Practically all of the incoming patients had to be carried upstairs, where room had been made for them, by moving the others downstairs. Five or more rooms were filled with cots, with from six to ten in a room. The corridors were then pressed into service and those for whom no other place was available were laid there. What with volunteer workers coming with their burdens and returning with empty stretchers for others, doctors making ready for operations and nurses undressing the injured and putting them comfortably to bed, the scene was one of activity rarely witnessed. It had hardly been duplicated in Charlotte since the other Seaboard wreck of a negro excursion, whose survivors were brought here several years ago. Recollection of the former incident was awakened anew by last night's scenes.

There was only one way to obtain anything approximating a correct list of the injured and that was by personal inquiry. Physicians and nurses were too much occupied with the tasks of the moment to attempt to gain this information. So representatives of The Observer plunged into the maelstrom and plucked the information in each case from the lips of the wounded, who seemed to appreciate having some attention paid to them. The injuries accredited to the different ones, except in cases of broken limbs where the trouble was apparent, are according to each one's own statement. "Boss, is you gwine to send us back to Durham, tonight?" asked one darkey, with a note of pathos in his voice. With one leg fractured and his body otherwise bruised, he was in poor shape for a journey, but his thoughts turned homeward and the distance was not realized.

"I don't know why I wasn't killed," declared one youth. "Two were killed on the same seat with me and two were killed on the seat in front of me." He had escaped with a bruised limb.

"What is your name uncle?" was asked of a colored man, of advanced years, with iron-gray hair, who lay on a cot, with his right leg broken.

"Smith Cameron," came the answer proudly. "I use to belong to Paul Cameron," he added as though that sentence fairly belonged to his name, and was a part of it, to be quoted so often as the name was given. He semed a man of unusual intelligence and bore the pain with fortitude. He gave his age as 68 years.


W. N. MALONE, a colored hackman from Durham, gave to an Observer man a very vivid account of the accident. He says that he was seated in one of the cars near the front of the train talking to two women when suddenly he heard a crash. The cars seemed as if they were coming down on him and when he was calm enough to notice things around him he was pinned under a beam and the two women that were near him were both dead. There was also seated in front of him a man and woman they both were unconscious for some time. He says that it was about twenty-five or thirty minutes before the rescue party reached him and cut him from under the wreck. At the time of the collision there was a silence for a moment and then the most terrible screams rent the air. After rising from under the debris he made his way to the front and there saw those that were dead and more severely injured. One man, he says, was up at one end of the train and his head was down at the other end. The trains were almost completely demolished, the two engines looking like one and the same mass of iron.

According to what could be learned from those that are here in the city the excursion was run by the St. Joseph's Sunday school from Durham, with Charlotte as the destination. The train was under the personal supervision of the church authorities and up to the time of the wreck the affair promised well. The train left Durham at 7:30 and reached Hamlet at about 10:30. The accident occurred soon thereafter. A relief train was hurriedly made up and hastened to the scene of action. This relief train left Hamlet far [sic] Charlotte and arived [sic] in the city about 7:15.

The sight at the hospital was pathetic. All the wards were crowded and in spite of the efforts of the nurses and doctors present it was some time before those injured could be cared for. Many of the ones in the hospital wanted to send messages to those at home. Some of them had had nothing to eat for more than ten hours and hunger added to their suffering. A great many of those in the hospital are only slightly injured and will be able to be out in a few days. At the last report about midnight all were resting well, but the doctors were still at work.

For the most part the work done by physicians prior to the arrival here appeared to be temporary, so that the work required of the local physicians were voluminous.


The list of injured, as well as could be ascertained, is as follows, all except one being from Durham:

JENNIE MCCIVER, hips and knees bruised.

HELEN WALDON, face badly bruised and legs cut.

LIZZIE HARRIS, rib broken and side torn.

MAGGIE ROBINSON, legs cut up by beam falling across them.

MARY DUNHAM, arm badly hurt and ankle sprained.

LILLIAN BURTON, arms and legs bruised badly.

BESSIE HARRIS, arms and legs cut.

MINNIE ROYSTER, hip sprained and face cut.

MABEL MAE HOKE, side and face cut.

NINNA NELSON, head cut and thigh sprained.

MAMMIE STEWART, leg and right thigh cut.

TIM WALDON, back sprined [sic].

ALBERT SHANKIN, hole in head.

FRED MCCOLLOUGH, legs and thigs [sic] badly cut.

NORLIE SCARBOROUGH, hip and side cut.

JIMMIE OLIVER, head hurt slightly.

JIM PATTERSON, back sprained.

SPRING WALLER, on [sic] leg broken and the other bruised.

CHARLES HACKNEY, ankle hurt.

ORLANDO SMITH, leg and arm mashed.

JAMES BAILES, left leg broken and back hurt.

CANDIS BUGGS, left arm sprained.

P. DUNNICAN, bruised about the legs.

HATTIE MORTON, shoulder dislocated, mouth cut and legs bruised.

RICHARFD LOCKLER, complained of hurt in the stomach.

JAMES GOODLOW, thigh penetrated by some missle.

HENRY BROWN, back and hip perhaps slightly sprained.

STERLING ALBRIGHT, left arm and left side bruised.

ED BRIGHT or BRIGGS of Durham, left leg and hip bruised.

VANCE ROBERSON, who lives in the country near Durham, knee and forehead skinned and ankle bruised.

PERCY DANIEL, who lives in the country near Durham, route No. 7, legs bruised and face cut.

JOHN CAMERON, head cut.

CHARLES HENRY BURTON, head slightly bruised.

MANORA WOMMACK, forehead and chin cut.

JOHN CALLEY, struck on left thigh by a beam.

ERNEST THOMPSON, legs and shoulder sprained.

EMILY HOLMES, right leg bruised from knee down.

CAROLINE KEZAW, right leg bruised.

JOHN JOHNSON, right side bruised falling on it.

WILL WINBUSH, leg bruised.

SMITH CAMERON, right leg broken.

OSCAR FORD, left thigh crushed.

BLANCHE HALL, head cut and leg broken.

KATY LAWSON, seriously injured about the stomach, back and hip.

HUBERT KEE of Lancaster, S. C., bruised.

NATHAN MALONE, leg and arm bruised.

OWEN MCCOY, left hand mashed and face bruised.


TIM WALDON, colored, who works in the factories of the American Tobacco Company, was one of the less severely injured of those that were brought to Charlotte and he gave one of The Observer men an account of the portion of the wreck that was around him. He says that after the first crash he was too excited to pay much attention to anything and that he struggled for some time trying to get out from under the debris before he realized that it was well-nigh impossible. All of those around him were pinned in a like manner and it was some time before the party reached them. The screams of the women mingled with the agonized groans of the injured were in themselves terrible, but the thought that was uppermost in his mind was the fear that the wreck would catch afire and burn all of those that were under the beams before they could be cut out. According to him there must have been at least fifty of these and truly if the fire had started and spread over the ruins the loss of life would have been fearful. He says that this thought evidently did not strike many for had it under the conditions there would have surely been additional confusion. After he was taken from under the wreck and placed on the ground he saw quite a number being brought by in the stretchers. Women that had relatives on the train were running up and down crying wildly for those that they knew. According to his statement some were carried to Hamlet, while still others were carried back to Durham.

Charlotte Daily Observer, Charlotte, NC 28 Jul 1911