Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Train Wreckers Part I

I first heard mention of "The Train Wreckers" in Goodspeed's 1899 History of Pulaski County, Missouri, while I was researching The Pulaski County Poor Farm. Since the trial was in 1878, twenty five years before the Courthouse was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, I assumed that the details of this case were lost to time. I was thrilled when I came across accounts of the incident in the Phelps County New Era newspaper. I have copied the full text of the articles, as they were printed, and will be posting them in this forum.
An 1880's Era St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Engine
An 1880's Era St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Engine

A Murderous Act

Daring Attempt To Wreck and Rob A Train

Phelps County New Era June 9, 18777- A daring attempt by a band of would be train robbers caused a serious accident on the St. Louis and San Francisco railway on Saturday night last, about 11 miles west of Wood End, a point 155 miles from St. Louis. The particulars of the occurrence as obtained from D. Wishart, general passenger agent of the road, are as follows:

The regular Saturday night Texas Express which is due in St. Louis Sunday morning at 6:15, encountered last Saturday night a severe storm of wind and rain some two hundred miles from St. Louis. The storm was so fierce that the speed of the train, consisting of baggage, second-class, first-class, and Pullman cars, was slackened to 10 miles per hour. While running thus through the heart of the Ozark Mountains and on a very lonely point on the road the engine was
By some misplaced rails and turned completely over down a forty foot embankment. The engineer, Frank Caton, was so badly injured that he died in two hours, and the fireman and a DR. E.L. Atkins, of Pacific City who was riding on the engine, were instantly killed. The baggage car was partially overturned, but no one within it received any injury. The other cars remained on the track, and with no damage to their occupants. The engineer lived long enough to testify to have seen a man upon or near the track, and also some slight obstruction. He reversed the engine, applied the air-brakes, and was at the same instant whirled with his engine down the embankment. The first imitation of catastrophe received by Conductor Wilson of the train was a sudden checking of the train, as though the air-brakes had been applied. He sprang to the door and perceiving at once that something serious had occurred, jumped from the car and proceeded as fast as the darkness would permit him toward the front of the train. While scaling a fence which he found was in his way some half dozen pistol shots were discharged at him, one ball passing through his hat. The passengers, many of whom heard the shots, were much alarmed. One passenger claims to have seen
1872 Asher & Adams Railroad Map of Pulaski County, Missouri, showing the settlement of Woodend between Crocker and Richland.
1872 Asher & Adams Railroad Map of Pulaski County, Missouri, showing the settlement of Woodend between Crocker and Richland.

By the light of the pistol flashes, but Conductor Wilson saw no one. The dastards, who by misplacing the rails caused the accident, had evidently expected that the passenger cars would be thrown down the embankment, but finding that this had not happened they were not bold enough to attack the train, and so sneaked away into the woods. As said before-the fireman, Samuel Richardson, was instantly killed, as also Dr. Atkison. As soon as lights could be had, an examination of the cause of the accident was made. It was then found that two rails (one on each side) had been unjoined and swung around so as to tip the engine over almost to a certainty. The work had been skillfully done, and close by were found a new monkey-wrench, a claw-hammer, and a pick, which may be of great service in tracing the perpetrators of the foul deed.
Before any aid could be obtained it was necessary to walk back seven miles to Richland, the nearest telegraph station. From Richland an engine was sent up to the scene of the accident, with a physician, but when it arrived the unfortunate engineer had breathed his last. The train with its twenty passengers was eventually brought on to St. Louis, arriving in this city yesterday at 2:30 P.M.. Mr Wishart, general passenger agent of the road, was at the time on his way down to Springfield. He returned to the city with the disabled train.
The engineer, who was killed, was one of the oldest and best engineers upon the road, having been ten years running upon it. He left a wife and three children living at Pacific.
Samuel Richardson, the fireman, was a single man, who also lived at Pacific. Dr. E.L. Atkison had been for some time located at Pacific, but came originally from St. Louis, where he had a mother, brother, sister, and many friends. He was acquainted with Caton, the engineer, and when the train stopped for supper, the latter invited him to ride a little while on the engine, which invitation he readily accepted. The accident occurred at 9:20 P.M.----[Ex.
Four of the desperados who wrecked the train at Wood End on Sunday night last, have been captured; their names are Leroy Oliver, Geo. B. Gibson, Jas. Long, and Allen M. Greenstreet, and all are residents in the immediate neighborhood of the scene of the deed. Oliver, who is only 20 years of age, has turned States evidence and made a full confession, giving the names of all the parties concerned in this dastardly deed. Four of the gang are still at large, but the large reward of one thousand dollars that is offered for their arrest, has stirred up every officer for miles around, and it is not likely that they will be able to get away. Gov. Brockmeyer is determined to have them prosecuted with vigor. and will request the judge of the circuit court to hold a special term for the trial of those already arrested. A speedy conviction will no doubt follow, whatever the sentence may be, it cannot be too severe---hanging is too good for such miscreants.

No comments:

Post a Comment