Four Mile Creek, IA Train Wreck, Aug 1877

The bridge was over what is known as Little Four-Mile Creek, nine miles east of Des Moines. It is a little stream, generally quiet, and never before known to be as high as it was made by the unprecidented rain-fall of yesterday morning and the night before. The bridge rested on a stone arch, 12 feet in the clear, with walls five feet thick. The bridge is approached from the east round a curve and down a grade. It is thought the rails were left standing alone. As the train approached the engineer slackened his speed till he came in sight of the bridge, and supposing that all was right, dashed upon it. The channel of the stream was 40 or 50 feet wide, and the banks about 20 feet high. The locomotive landed at the foot of the western side and half buried itself in the earth. Barnum's car was next to the engine, and it dropped into the channel. The mail car followed, passing directly over it and mashing it to pieces, but going to the bottom, a bar of iron running clear through it. The men in that car escaped alive. Even the lamps were not put out. The first passenger car pitched down into the channel where the water was at least 15 feet deep. The next car plunged under this, telescoping with it; and the next telescoped half through both of the two preceding it. The sleeping car did not go into the creek. Its occupants were jarred but none of them seriously hurt. The most of the killed were in the car in front of the sleeper. The scene at the timeof the accident is thus described: "A horrific rain was falling in torrents, accompanied by wind, lightning, and thunder. The crash put out the lights, and the scene of terror which ensued may be imagined. The men who were not injured, and could get out, went to work at once to rescue the living and wounded. They had to go a mile to a farm house to get axes to chop them out, but they worked heroically, and by daylight had most of the wounded rescued. There were many pitiful scenes and tender incidents. One mother wa killed while sitting between two children, who escaped unhurt. One little girl, who had lain in the water for four hours with a heavy man lying dead beneath her body, was discovered to be breathing, and was rescued and restored, and now shows no signs of injury. The dead were brought here on a train, reaching here at 11 o'clock. Some 25 of the wounded came with them. The officers of the road were at the wreck all day caring for the dead and wounded.

All the wounded brought here are doing well, and the physicians are confident none will die. The dead were brought here last night, and several bodies were forwarded this afternoon to their friends. The work of clearing the wreck where it was driven into the mud and soft earth is going on to-day. Two bodies are known to be in the debris, and it is feared there may be three or four more, as that number of passengers is still missing. The body supposed last night to be that of Jaffry A. Price, of Cincinnati, was to-day identified as A.V. Flowers, of Wisconsin.


Messrs. Turner, Lee & McClure, of this City, have received a dispatch from Mr. H.B. Turner, in which he says that he was in the sleeping-car of the wrecked train and escaped without any injury whatever.

The New York Times, New York, N.Y. 31 Aug 1877