Coverage of the Grand Trunk Railway aftermath as published in the Hamilton Spectator, April 30, 1889 :
The inquest opened at eleven o’clock yesterday before Dr. A. Woolverton at the hospital. The following jurors were sworn : John Hoodless (foreman), Samuel McKay, George Magill, B. Winnifrith, Thomas Littlehales, C. R. Smith, George Luxton, Charles Bird, John Alexander, Samuel Thorne, John A. Barr, John A. Bruce, Henry Arland, Charles Black, Wm. Somerville, Wm. Newport, J. K. Applegarth, and Rudolph Rissman.
In his opening remarks, Coroner Woolverton said that the frequent occurrence of these accidents made it necessary that a searching investigation should be made in the interest of the public. He was glad to see such an intelligent and representative jury empanelled, and hoped that no pains would be spared to sift the affair to the bottom, and determine on whom lay the blame.
Mr. Hoodless suggested that a detective should be placed at the disposal of the jury, and the coroner said this could be done.
The jury then adjourned to the morgue and viewed the bodies of Ederer and Guerney. The remainder of the bodies are still in the shells and were not looked at.
On resuming Joseph Wallace, Chief clerk to Superintendent Stiff, was sworn: The wrecked train was No. 52 limited express from Detroit to Suspension bridge via Sarnia. At London the composition of the train takes place, sections coming over the Wabash from Detroit and the other over the Chicago and Grand Trunk via Sarnia. A sleeper and coach are taken on at Detroit and the train leaves Windsor at 1:40 daily. It is due at Dundas at 6:44. The accident occurred four and one quarter east of Dundas and it would take about eight minutes to run that distance. The train was due to leave London at 4:45, but left at 4:55. The following is the due time and actual time along from that point : Paris, 6:08, 6:19; Harrisburg, 6:23, 639; Copetown, 6:36, 6:52; Dundas, 6:44, 7:00. The wheels were examined at Paris, three minutes being occupied in doing so. Since the St. George accident, the engineers have had orders not to make up for lost time by fast running.
Mr. Magill – Is it true that the St. Louis express felt a bad jar at that point on Saturday and had to run back?
Witness – Had not heard anything of that sort. The running time of the limited is forty-three miles an hour? The St. Louis expresses east and west are timed for forty-five and forty-nine miles an hour. Trains should slow down to twenty miles at the point where the accident occurred.
The Grand Trunk authorities put two cars at the disposal of the coroner, and they were run up to the Victoria avenue crossing, where the jurors embarked, accompanied by the coroner, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Barker, Mr. Hobson and Mr. Armstrong.
When the wreck was reached, it was at once apparent that the large gang of men had been industrious during the night. The track was rebuilt, and all the wreck removed except the upturned engine and a nest of wheels and debris in the hole between the tracks. The jurors made a thorough examination of the surroundings and were facilitated in every way in the investigation. The only trace of the run off on the rails removed from the wreck was on the outside rail immediately east of the switch, where there was a deep nick in the in the end as if the rail just before it had spread and allowed the flange of the engine to light on the end of the rail. When the jury was looking over the ruins, the wreckers unearthed the front truck of the engine, the axle of which was broken. This was the only axle broken in the wreck, and some of the jurors thought it might have caused the run off., while others considered that the engine leaping headlong into the hole between the tracks might have caused the break by alighting on the front wheels.
G. A. Black,
traveler for Young Bros., another Hamiltonian who was on the train, escaped unhurt. He was seen yesterday morning and told the following story about the catastrophe : “I got on the train at London, and was in the second passenger coach, four or five cars from the engine. After the train passed Dundas it was running very rapidly – about thirty-five miles an hour. The passengers were mostly Americans, and they complained because they could not get a good view of the scenery. I changed seats with one of those so that he could see the Dundas valley. The train slackened its speed, and I felt a jolting and concluded it was caused by the putting on of the brakes. I suddenly realised, however, that it was more serious, as the shock was followed by the smashing of timbers and glass. The car was badly demolished, the roof was taken off; the floor was broken and the right side of the coach was smashed in. The only passenger in the car who was hurt was a man who stood near the end of the coach. His head went through the car door and his dead body was found afterwards. I think the window was broken before his head went through. I assisted in getting the body out of the wreck. The survivors all willingly went to work to save the other passengers. I paid particular attention to a respectable-looking old gentleman, his wife and another gentleman on the train. They were all from Chicago and got acquainted on the train. They were in the first passenger coach. The lady’s husband left to go in and have a smoke, leaving the other gentleman to entertain his wife. Afterwards the other man started to go into the smoking car, and was killed on the platform by the telescoping of the two cars. The scene which followed was a very touching one. The husband returned from the smoker, having escaped with a few slight bruises. When he found that his wife had been saved they embraced each other and could not speak for a few minutes. I had a conversation with the lady afterwards. She told me that the man who was killed had intended to take his wife with him, but fortunately she was left behind. I am almost certain that R. H. Climie, traveler for Know, Morgan & Co., was not on board the train.
The Charred Relics
The remnants of the burned victims were taken to Blachford’s undertaking establishment yesterday, and are now laid out there. So far as they can be ascertained at present, they are the remains of seventeen persons, and possibly eighteen. There is no doubt that three of them are the remains of women, and one is a child of five or six years, but whether a boy or girl it is impossible to say.
The headless body of Ederer and that of the supposed Gurney are also at Blachford’s. There is now no doubt of Ederer’s identity. The initials R. J. E. are on his shirt. A careful examination of his scalp – to which a portion of the skin of the face is attached, reveals that Ederer’s hair was brown, and that he wore it short and cut pompadour; that he had a full beard and moustache, reddish brown and close cropped. He was a man of about five feet ten inches in height. The supposed Gurney had no mark on his clothing or anything in his pockets to identify him. A small sum of money - $8.15 in all – was found in one of his pockets yesterday. There were $7 in bills and the remainder in American silver, which was in an envelope bearing the name and a cut of the Leland house, Chicago. Gurney was a tall man, fully six feet high, and quite young.
A Hamilton Survivor
Robert McCauley, traveler for Atkinson Bros. was on the wreck. He was on his way home from London to spend Sunday with his parents. A Spectator representative saw him yesterday morning and got his version of the accident. He said : “I was in the passenger coach behind the smoker. The first intimation I had of the accident was when the train seemed to slacken its speed and the car lunged forward. The coach jumped the track and I was afraid that it would go down the embankment. I was thrown forward a couple of seats and got badly shaken up. I crawled along the floor and got out of the end of the car. I saw a woman with a child in her arms at the front end of the coach. I think they were both cremated, because I did not see them after that. My arm was slightly hurt and my overcoat was torn. I think I was lucky to escape so easily.”
Firstbaseman Phillips Safe
Yesterday morning Manager Smartwood received a telegram from Bill Phillips stating that he had not left Chicago yet, but would leave in the afternoon. He will go direct from there to Syracuse. The reason Phillips did not leave sooner was because he did not receive the letter sent to him by Secretary Mackay. It is fortunate that Phillips did not get the letter earlier, as he most likely have been a passenger on the wrecked train.
A Boston Man’s Story
Malcolm McKay, of Boston, on his way from Chicago to New York, was injured. In relating his experiences he said : “I was in the smoking car and felt the car settle to one side, and placed my hand on the seat. That is the last I knew for some time. I have no idea how I received my injuries or how badly I am hurt. My right temple is very sore and I think I must have gotten a blow that made me unconscious. I have no idea how I got out of the wreck, but would not be surprised if I went through a window, as the doctor took several pieces of glass from the cut in my head. I am hurt here’ – placing his hand over his heart – “and can feel the pain through my body. I remember the doctor saying my back was all black and blue. I have a faint remembrance of two men helping me to stand, but I was halfway to Buffalo before I clearly understood what happened.”
The Buffalo Courier interviewed some of the passengers at the Suspension Bridge and prints the following :
Another Injured Man
was of slender build and accompanied by his wife, the only woman that got out of the first day coach alive. They were on their way from Chicago to New York to visit relatives there, to whom they intended their coming to be a surprise and refused to give their names. At the time of the accident of the accident he was in the smoker. His head was bandaged and plastered, and strips of plaster own his face told of the cuts they covered. When he left the day coach to go into the sleeper a train acquaintance promised to follow in five minutes, and F. W. Jefferson, of No. 806 Monroe street, Brooklyn, who was in the day coach told of how he started to keep his promise and “just as he was opening the door of the smoking car the accident happened, and I saw his body afterwards headless. It was cut right off.”
Not one of those who were in the accident but were loud in their praise of this woman, too modest to allow her name in print, for her really heroic efforts in releasing the injured from the debris of the wreck. She was apparently about thirty years old, dark eyes, wore a dark shirt with velvet trimmings, a short black jacket, from the pocket of which the end of a red-bordered handkerchief protruded, a brown straw bonnet trimmed with blue ribbon, and from her ears dangled small amber balls. “I saw her,” said one man, “using her whole strength to free a passenger from the broken timbers when the flames were right on them, and just as she got the timber loose a man aided her, and the passenger was pulled out just as the flames licked his clothes.”
“ I can remember,” said she, “six women and seven men in our car that I have not seen since, and I think they must be lost. I think I am the only woman alive out of our car, and how I succeeded in throwing the timbers off of me I do not know. I feel bruised about my body, and it makes me shiver and tremble when I think of that man crying : “’Pull me out! Pull me out!” The flames came near catching my clothes.”
She was loud in her praise of the employees of the road for the good work they did. “They did nobly,” said she, “and I will never cease praising them.”
Not a High Rate of Speed
A. D. B. Wylie, of Rock Island road, whose home is in Chicago said : “There is one thing that I want you to correct,” said he to a reporter. “I am a railway man and I don’t think the train was running over twenty miles an hour when the accident happened. The worst sight I saw was a man who had his head cut off. He had been the life of the whole train all the way from Chicago, and I was talking with him only a minute before the crash came.”
A Woman Survivor
Mrs. H. Benjamin was at Tucker’s hotel last evening and claimed that she was the only lady on her coach that came out alive. She said I was sitting on the left hand side of the coach looking out at the beautiful little hamlet in a sort of ravine below us. A gentleman had been standing near me talking about the picturesque view, and had started for the smoker. Just as he reached the door there came a terrific crash, a whirl of dust and stars (it seemed to me) and then everything was dark. In the next instant I came to my senses, and then everything was dark. In the next instant, I came to my senses and found that I was lying on my wedged in so tight that I could not stir. Near me, I could hear a man crying; ‘My God! my arms; get me out of here!’ His cries were something terrible, and somehow hearing them made me struggle.
“All about I could hear the moans of people under the wreck, but this man was nearest me, and I cried out to him : ‘Wait a minute and I’ll get you out.’ I somehow got lose from the timbers, but just as I was trying to get the poor fellow out of his terrible place the flames came darting up between the timbers, and to save my own life I had to leave him to die. Oh, my God, it was awful! I wish I could forget it all. I remember a mother and a beautiful daughter whom all on the train had nothing, but nothing had been found of them when I left the scene. I think the railroad men ought to be praised for what they did. They did not stop for anything, but did all they could to save the lives of the poor creatures who were buried in the burning ruins. I remember one poor fellow, a baggage man, I think his name was Mills. His shoulder was dislocated in the accident, but he had the other men twist it into place again and worked all through the terrible hours that followed.”
Gurney’s Remains Identified
There arrived in town last evening a handsome old man named E. R. Saxton. He is a Buffalo man. His mission in Hamilton was to identify the body of R. S. Gurney and take charge of it. Mr. Saxton visited the undertaking establishment where the body lay, but the face was so disfigured that he hesitated to pronounce it the face of his friend, with whom he had shaken hands at parting only a fortnight ago. Several of the articles of which had been taken from the clothing the dead man were, however, recognised by Mr. Saxton as undoubtedly the property of Gurney. When a little later, by the skill of the undertaker, the dead man’s distorted face was made to wear a more natural expression, Mr. Saxton recognised him. “Yes,” he said, “there’s no doubt about it now; it’s poor Sam. To a Spectator representative, Mr. Saxton said : “I am a very old friend of the family, and am here because of a telegram which I received from the young man’s father, my friend, Fred B. Gurney, of New York. Sam was quite a young man – not more than twenty-five, and he was, in many ways, a model young man. His father, an Englishman, is agent for of the most important of the English cutlery firms, and dows a very large business, which extends all over the country. Sam was his only son. Some years ago he joined his father in the business, and such was his tact, energy and ability that he very soon acquired management of the whole business. He was on one of his regular trips through the west, and stopped over to see me at Buffalo two weeks ago. He said to me then : “On my way home I will stop over at Buffalo to test your vaunted hospitality, and then we will go on together to New York to take in the centennial. Poor fellow !” Mr. Saxton’s eyes grew moist and his voice faltered. In a few moments, he continued : “This will be a frightful blight on a bright and happy home in Brooklyn. Mrs. Gurney is a superior woman – a perfect lady. Miss Gurney, the only other child, is a lovely and accomplished girl. Sam was idolised by his mother and sister, and he deserved to be, for he was a good son and brother – always kind, cheery and thoughtful. I will leave here early tomorrow morning. My poor old friend Fred Gurney will meet me at Buffalo and I will go with him to New York. I dread the thought of our reception there.”
Examining the Remains
Yesterday afternoon the burned fragments of the seventeen unfortunate passengers were examined by Dr. Ridley, Mackelcan, White, Gaviller, and A. Woolverton. After a minute anatomical examination, the doctors came to the conclusion that the charred lumps of flesh and bones represent the mortal remains of four women, two children, seven men and four individuals whose sex it is impossible to ascertain. During the afternoon, B. Weller, 264 Parliament street, Toronto arrived, and on looking over the remains thought he recognised one of the bodies as that of David Booth, of Toronto, who was expected from Chicago on that train.
No more bodies have been discovered since last reports.
Constable Bainbridge, who has charge of the inquest, brought in a small bag from the wreck containing valuables of various kinds, including gold watches melted into nuggets.
Instructions have been received to forward the body of Ederer to Chicago.
The injured at the hospital are doing well – all but Hamilton Clark, whose condition is still critical.
Coroner Woolverton gave orders that no material be destroyed until after the inquest.
Mr. Barker has telegraphed full particulars regarding the dead and injured to the company’s agents at New York and Chicago.
It is now definitely known that Andrew Dallas was not on the train. Mr. Dallas’ relatives in Hamilton have heard from him.
After returning from the wreck Coroner Woolverton adjourned the inquest until Wednesday evening at eight o’clock at No. 3 station.
Knox, Morgan & Co. have heard from the traveller, Mr. Climie, who was supposed to be on train. Mr. Climie is all right.
It is likely that W. A. Robertson, formerly mechanical superintendent of the Great Western railway, will be employed by the jury as an expert in the case.
The engine on the train had been in use for six years. Four years ago it was converted from a small wheel to a large wheel locomotive, especially for speeding purposes.
Amongst the baggage recovered from the wreck was a trunk addressed “Dan Ferguson, joiner, Boston, Mass.” As it not been claimed it is probable that he was killed.
James A. Palmer, of Ilion, N. Y., and Andrew J. Carpenter, of Yankton, Dakota, the injured travellers who left the hospital and went to the Royal hotel, went east yesterday.
W. Vallance, of Wood & Leggat, received a telegram yesterday from the friends of L. S. Gurney, the commercial traveller who was killed, asking him to look after the body until a representative of the firm arrives from New York.
Among the debris were found two notebooks belonging to “E. Simons, Pueblo, Colorado.” The owner was evidently a foreigner from Poland, and arrived in America on Oct. 8 1886. An arithmetic with the name Edmond Johnson was also found.
A.L. Doney, one of the injured at the hospital, has a railway accident policy which he took before leaving Danville, Illinois, and he feels joyful over it. It is said that this gentleman when the accident occurred, though badly hurt, caught up a flag and ran back round the curve to protect the train from any that should follow it.
D. J. Peace, sir knight commander of the Alpha division, Knight of Pythias, received a message yesterday from Byron Synder, of Amsterdam, N. Y., inquiring about a missing man, but not giving any description. Mr. Peace wired him to send a description of his friend’s baggage as the most likely way to decide whether the missing man is among the dead.
Dr. Mackelcan was at the scene of the accident before the auxiliary train arrived. He was the only surgeon there, and, unassisted, dressed the injuries of the wounded and accompanied them to the city hospital. When the other doctors arrived on the scene, there was nothing for them to do.
Each of the Toronto papers yesterday had a note to the effect that the staff of the Toronto hospital offered to supply material and surgical assistance. This is true; but there was no occasion to accept the generous offer, for the resources of the Hamilton city hospital were fully equal to the emergency, and would have been equal to a much greater pressure.
Herein is a mystery : On the legs of one of the charred female bodies were a pair of white stockings. These were removed yesterday afternoon, and the legs which they covered were found to be burned black. The mystery is how the legs could be burned and the stockings preserved almost intact.
William Lipsey and Hamilton Clark, two of the wounded passengers, are members of Guiding Star, L. O. L. 169, Chicago. The former is secretary and Clark is chaplain of the lodge. When W. Nicholson heard that they were Orangemen, he visited them at the hospital and explained that the local brethren would give them any assistance they required. The travellers were on their way to the Washington centennial.
A Hamilton gentleman who doesn’t want his name mentioned said to the Spectator last night : “I was a passenger on the St. Louis express on Saturday evening. It is due here at 6:35 p.m. When we reached the exact spot where the disaster occurred yesterday morning, there was a sudden jolt which everybody noticed. The train was stopped, and some train hands were sent back to examine the rails.” The next fast train to pass over this spot was the ill-fated limited express.