Flat Gap Creek, TN Railroad Accident, Aug 1889



(Special To The World.)
Knoxville, Tenn., Aug. 23. -- The train which met with such disaster at Flat Gap Creek, twenty-five miles north of this city yesterday, was the first run over the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville Railroad. This city subscribed $500,000 two years ago towards the construction of the road. The term named in the contract for completing the road expired today, and yesterday's excursion was organized for the purpose of showing the city officials and other leading citizens that the contract had been compiled with, and that the road was in running order.
It was 8 o'clock yesterday morning when the train left this city with fifty of the leading citizens of Knoxville on board. Three hours later thirty of these men were lying mangled beneath the ruins of a passenger coach and three were dead. The party was composed of members of the Board of Public Works, members of the City Council, directors of the Chamber of Commerce, press representatives, officials of the road and other prominent citizens.
The train proceeded slowly and cautiously along the new road until it reached the trestle across Flat Gap Creek. There the rear coach jumped the track and was hurled to the bottom of the creek, thirty feet below. The remainder of the train did not leave the track. There were thirty-four men in the coach which went down. Three were killed, thirty wounded and only one man escaped without broken bones. The car was broken to splinters, many of the passengers were horribly mangled and several narrowly escaped drowning.
COL. S. T. POWERS, Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the firm of Powers, Little & McCormick, was killed, living only a few minutes after being taken from the wreck.
Ex-Sheriff ALEXANDER REEDER, died in two hours from internal injuries.
Judge GEORGE ANDREWS, a member of the law firm of Andrews & Thornburg, died before reaching the city from internal injuries.
The passengers who escaped unhurt in the other coach worked heroically, and in two hours had the wounded all extricated from the wreck. The train then started back for the city.
Those thought to be fatally injured are:
Col. ISHAM YOUNG, Chairman of the Board of Public Works.
Gen. HERBERT SCHUBERT, a director of the Chamber of Commerce.
E. S. BARKER, of the Barker Manufacturing Company.
H. B. WETZELL, a director of the Chamber of Commerce and a large capitalist interested in lumber and timber lands.
The others will probably recover but at least a dozen of them will be maimed for life. President ARTHUR, of the Chamber of Commerce also President of the American Association and the originator of the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville Railroad enterprise, was among the injured. He was dangerously hurt in the back, but will probably recover.
No cause for the accident can be found. The track was in good condition and the trestle was not damaged, an engine and car passing over it a few minutes after the accident.
Business in Knoxville is almost entirely suspended today and the city is in mourning. At 1 o'clock the leading business houses closed for the day. An immense public meeting was held at 8 o'clock, at which memorial addresses were delivered and suitable resolutions of sympathy and condolence were passed. At 5 o'clock funeral services were held at the First Baptist Church in memory of COL. S. T. POWERS. his remains were sent to Augusta, Ky., his former home, for interment.
The only man in the wrecked car who escaped serious injury was Fred W. Vaughan, a reported of the Knoxville Tribune. When he found that the car had jumped the track and was about to be hurled from the trestle, he seized the arm of his seat and bracing himself against the side of the car, awaited the shock. The car turned completely over, falling thirty feet and striking on its roof. Vaughn crawled out of a window unhurt and proceeded at once to rescue the wounded from the wreck.
The Coroner's inquest today returned a verdict exonerating the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville Road from all responsibility. The roadbed was examined and found to be in perfect condition. The wheels were tested before the train stated and the cars were just out of the shop. A small stone found between the plank crossing and the rail may have lifted a flange from the track, but this is considered improbable.

New York World New York 1889-08-24