Oxford, MS (see Humboldt, MS) Train Plunges Into Ravine, Feb 1870

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Mr. J. W. Simonton has furnished the New Orleans Picayune an account of the appalling disaster on the Mississippi Central Railroad, near Oxford, on the afternoon of Feb. 25, from which we quote the following:
Two and a half miles south of Oxford, Miss., is a ravine crossed by what is known as Buckner's trestle, spanning Buckner's Run, a shallow stream some forty feet below the level of the track. This trestle is approached from the north by a descending grade and a curve towards the right. The train passed around this curve at a speed of between thitry and forty miles an hour. Colonel SAMUEL TATE, president of the road, just previous to the crash, gave or sent word to have the brakes put on and the speed reduced; but the precaution came too late. The locomotive struck the trestle and passed over in safety. But either the engine, or the mail or baggage car, pressing to the right on the rails forming the inner arc of the curve, appeared to have pressed a rail out of place and thus switched the train on the track. Fortunately the leading cars did not fall from the trestle to the ravine immediately below. Had that occurred, the entire number must have been piled up one upon another, in which case the slaughter probably would have been tenfold. Driven by the impetus already acquired, and assisted by the locomotive still pulling away at its tremendous speed, the mail and express car which led the way passed across the timbers and plunged into a ditch to the right of the track beyond the ravine, at a point full 250 feet or more beyond the point at which the rail was displaced. The baggage and express car and forward passenger coach seem to have followed after the same fashion, neither of them leaving the road bed until after crossing the main ravine on the 125 to 150 feet of trestle. But the fearful blows with which they had struck the ties and timbers of the bridge -- the latter not safe under ordinary usage -- had meantime torn the trestle work to pieces, so that the second one of the three passenger coahes fell directly into the ravine, dragging down with it the forward end of the third coach, which crushed in the roof of its predecessor , near the rear, while the rear end of the last coach remained suspendd by the rear truck to fragments of the trestle work on the northern side of the ravine, and hung at an angle of forty-five degrees.
Every car in the train was a complete and useless wreck when the halt was reached, except the rear one, and that, also, it was found necessary to destroy by throwing it down into the bed of the stream, in order to enable the living to rescue the remains of the dead. The impetus with which the forward passenger coach struck the bank is shown by the fact that its framework was utterly shattered by the shock, so that the roof fell in upon the mangled passengers and debris. Not a seat but was torn from its place, and seat backs, cushions, window blinds, panneling, sashes and human beings were mangled in a confused medley, from which it is a wonder that any life escaped. Strange tosay, only one or two of the inmates of this car appeared to have killed, though others were severely wounded or badly cut and bruised, while some crawled out of the wreck in which they were buried, free of cut or scratch.
The scene of principal slaughter was in the middle passenger coach. This car fell in such a manner as to throw many of its inmates to the rear, which brought them directly under the crushing weight of the last coach when its forward end fell. Here seven dead bodies were taken out; five of them laying for an hour side by side with a young girl, who gave her name as ABBY ELLIOTT, of New York, and who was rescued alive. Here, too, MRS. ANN, wife of DUNCAN K. TURNER, just arrived from Scotland, via New York, was instantly killed, her back being broken. Her husband, sitting by her side, esaped with his little boy, 3 years of age, in his arms.
Colonel ALEXANDER SPEERS, a planter, whose home was at Brandon, fourteen miles from Jackson, Miss., was another of the victims who met instant death at the same point. He was returning from Chicago with about thirty men whom he ad hired there to work upon his plantation, several of whom were killed or badly hurt.
Colonel SAM TATE, President of the Mississippi Central Railroad Company, was standing in the aisle of the rear car when the disaster happened, and was violently precipitated to the lower end of the coach, where he was nearly suffocated before the pile of wounded, confused and stunned passengers that were thrown upon him could be removed; but it is believed that he will sustain no permanent injury.
Some of the names could not be had. Two infants were among the number. One of these was taken from under the wreck, clasped with a death grasp to the bosom of its mother, who was also dead. Two colored brakemenwere killed at their posts. One of these must have been thrown from the rear platform of the rear car,for he was found face down upon the roof of the coach lying in the ravine, his throat cut as if by a stout splinter.
The anguish of surviving friends of the killed and wounded was pitiable to behold. A husband, wild with grief at the loss of his wife, suddenly natched from his side by death, just when he had nearly arrived at the home in the new world, which he had crossed the ocean to find, drew tears from eyes not used to weeping. The young girl, ABBY ELLIOTT, on her was to New Orleans, exhibited wonderful fortitude. She was in the rear of the middle passenger car conversing with several acquaintances the life of he little circle surrounding her, when the crash came. In an instnat the notes of mirth and frolic were turned to cries of anguish and lamentation. But ABBY never lost her presence of mind for a mment. By her side lay several of the horribly mangled dead. Fortunately, no part of the wreck had struckher a deadly blow. Bruised she was, and stunned but no bone was broken. Her left hand rested upon the stiffening limb of ne of the companions with whom she had been in gay conversation a minute before, and there it was held in a vice like grasp by a timber of the lower end of the rear passenger car. Otherwise she was free. Calling for help she stated her situation, and gave direction for her own relief. For an hour she lay there, exhibiting a patience and courage that were heroic. At last the timber was sawn assunder, her hand was released and she was carried away, piteously inquisting of those who were assisting her whether she was so hurt that she count not hope to be a future help to her "poor mother."
The railroad authorities report fifteen killed in all; but others insist that nineteen dead were counted, besides more than twenty who were seriously wounded, and as many more who suffered minor injuries.
It is said, and I believe truly, that the excursion train was saved only through the efforts of a MR. EDGAR, of a Northwestern railroad, who, happening to be in the wreck, and unharmed, sent back a flag to apprise the special train of the terrible scene which the curve inthe road concealed until one had approached within a few hundred yeards of the spot.
After stating that the people of the neighborhood were prompt in adminstratng such aid as was in their power, there remains nothing to be remarked further, except that for this terrible railroad horror the managers of the Mississippi Railroad are clearly responsible.
The immediate cause doubtless was a rotten tie just at the north end of the trestle, and there are many more of these rotten ties on the road. This was noticed by some of us, who walked over twenty miles of the track during our twenty hours of detention. The road is unfit for use. Accidents upon it are frequent, if we can believe some of the Company's own employes.

New York Times New York 1870-03-05