Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1904
In a wreck on the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad at Glenwood, twenty-three miles south of Chicago, twenty-six members of the Doremus Congregational Sunday School were killed and eighty more injured last night.
Six only of the dead are men; the others are women and children.
Homeward Bound, Singing Hymns.
The Sunday school had held its annual picnic at Momence, Ill., and was homeward bound, happy and care free, after a lovely day in the country.Nine cars made up the train. The first two, where the greatest carnage took place, were literally packed with the children. They had organized little choirs of their own and were singing as joyously as youngsters only can when death stilled the little voices and agony turned song to cries of agony.
No Warning of Horror.
The train on which they rode to death and injury dashed into the rear end of a string of coal cars which had broken loose from a freight train. The collision came on a sharp hidden curve, and less than ten seconds after the engineer had perceived his peril.
All the horrors of a wreck followed, save only that of fire, which was mercifully spared.
Trying to Shift Blame.
Just who is responsible for what happened and turned this party of 750 happy women and children into a band of crazed mourners and bereaved relatives and wounded humanity is known now. All night long there were efforts at shifting the blame. The most logical story of what happened is as follows:
Two accidents, trivial in themselves, combined to make the disaster. The most coherent and detailed explanation offered indicates that a stalled freight on the north bound track compelled the north and homeward bound excursion train to take the south bound track.
Track Supposed Clear.
When this was discovered it was divided to pull the head section of the broken train to Chicago Heights and then return for the cars which had broken off.
What became of the flagman who should have been left to guard this detached section has not been explained thus far. It is not stated whether there was more than one or at which end of the string of cars he had been left.
It is a theory that but no one was left with the cars, and that he was at the wrong end, as it proved. His natural conjecture would have been that the north end was the danger point on a south bound track, and there he may have been.
Wherever he was he was useless.
Curve Hides the Danger.
A sharp curve just south of the detached cars hid them from view. The excursion train approached this curve at fifty miles an hour, its nine coaches filled with the excursionists and so crowded that people could not find seats but were sitting in each others’ laps.
Engineer Stays at Post.
Engineer C. W. Downey, 3332 Dearborn street, stuck. He threw the brakes with a suddenness which tossed passengers from one end of the coaches to the other. Into the freight his engine jumped. It plowed through the first coal car. It tossed cars right and left off the track.
The baggage car was telescoped by the coaches behind it. It reared in the air under the impact and three cars were driven together and splintered in one mass, the baggage car coming down on the passengers in the first coach.
Tangle of Wreckage.
The wreckage of the engine and forward cars showed gthe fearful force of the collision The locomotive was almost unrecognizable. Coal cars which it threw to the right and left with the impetus of its impact took their revenge by knocking off smokestack, steam dome, cab, and everything else that gives individuality to a great modern steam engine. What was left looked like a dismembered human trunk.
So suddenly and finally did the engine come to a stop that it threw the baggage car bodily back on the top of the first passenger coach. Here the wreckage was unbelievably complete.
The passenger car literally was reduced to splintered kindling wood. The baggage car was forced backward along the tin sheeted roof of the coach, and its overpowering weight was sufficient to crush the latter like an egg shell. The smash began at the forward end. The sides opened outward and the floor broke in two in the middle.
The heavy trucks of the baggage car ground the wooden framework beneath them into splinters and toothpicks. All that stood the strain at all was the steel skeleton work at the rear of the car, but this was of too light construction to keep the ponderous timbers of the upper car from crushing down upon the human beings that were tangled up in the wreck of their seats.
Polished woodwork in the coach split right and left with the brittle, crackling noise that thin glass makes when a hot iron breaks it.
People Thrown in a Heap.
At the front of the doomed car the people had been thrown into a struggling heaped up mass against the door. Back of that they all seemed for an instant to be standing up in their seats in a viselike grip around the knees, caught by the movable backs of the seats. The next second the heavy baggage car came crashing through, smashing and breaking the mass of humanity.
The killing and maiming principally was done in the first two coaches. The shock of the collision threw the occupants of the others out of their seats, bruising them and inflicting slight injuries.
Survivors Re Dazed.
Out from the rear coaches a few moments later staggered bruised, cut, and wholly dazed passengers whose comprehension was too shattered for the moment for them to realize the fate they had escaped or to see the work ready for them to do.
To them the situation comprised an instant of utterly bewildering shock, a moment where some unexplained, mighty force had shaken them, thrown against seats, over seats, under seats, against the windows, and through the glass.
They had been bruised and cut, shaken until their senses were dazed. There had been the crash with which the locomotive hit the coal car, the crunching and crashing with which it pushed its way into the freight, another crash as the passenger coaches telescoped the baggage car—all forming one great upheaval.
Locomotive and coal car of the excursion train standing on railroad tracks with three men standing to one side after the wreck.
Quiet Follows the Crash.
Then there was a quiet and calm which seemed unnatural, coming, as it did, after such awful tumult.
From the heaps into which they had been thrown these dazed but comparatively unhurt passengers gathered themselves up and looked at each other. The fear which comes after the danger is past was written in each face. Wild women and children looked upon them ad if to grasp a fact or some explanation to account for the disaster.
Cries of Children Heard.
The cries of babies and children arose and the shrill questioning of alarmed mothers.
But from outside there came a sound of more meaning. It was the groaning and cries of the mortally injured.
Men who had been thrown the length of the car picked themselves up. Children, who from seats in their mothers’ laps, had been thrown over in the aisles, sat up, and women collected their wits.
There was a movement towards the doors and white faced men stepped to the ground. Then the meaning of the shock was found in the piled up mass of cars ahead they saw the nature of the disaster.
Hurry to Save Relatives.
As the men rushed toward the wrecked cars a still louder cry went up—that of persons who realized their friends and relatives were lying under the wreckage of demolished cars.
They found the dead and injured thick in its first two cars. The next two had escaped injury, but the fifth and sixth were partly wrecked. The remaining cars were intact. Some of the injured were taken from the fifth and sixth cars, but the great work was in the first two.
Masses of Struggling Persons.
Here there was a confused mass which seemed thick with struggling persons, with here and there a body which did not struggle. The first effort was one to remove those clear of the wreck. This the passengers, now alert and weakened, did rapidly.
Children still clasping the hands of playmates, babies tightly holding their dead mothers, were found where they had been throw by the collision or were dug out from the wreckage in which they had been buried.
The screams of frightened children and the cries of the injured added to the confusion which met the calmer people as they toiled at the work of rescue.
The children were carried in the grass at the side of the track, the injured ones being given such restorations as the passengers happened to have with them.
Bodies Laid on Seat Cushions.
“Get the cushions out of the cars,” shouted a quick witted passenger. “Don’t put them on the ground.”
A rush was made for the uninjured coaches and quick hands soon stripped them of the seat cushions. On these they laid the bodies as rapidly as they were taken from the wreck.
It began to get dark and bonfires were started, the passengers carrying the splintered wood from the cars to a safe distance to prevent fire from being added to the wreck.
In the light of these fires the work of rescue went on. With the removal of the bodies thrown clear of the piled up mass of wood and iron, the task became more laborious. Heavy masses had to be lifted. Plies of wood had to be raised to reach persons pinned down by them.
Trainmen Direct the Work.
It was the splintered cars that the scenes were most harrowing and that the rescue went most slowly. The trainmen, most of whom were unhurt, directed the work of the passengers.
The women tore parts of their dresses to make temporary bandages for the injured and were busy binding up cuts and giving momentary relief.
A call for physicians and nurses and a relief train had been sent to Chicago Heights at once, but the work of getting out the injured went on without waiting for skilled aid. The intuition of what was needed had to supply the place of experience and knowings.
Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad
Poor’s Manual of the Railroads of the United States
Three Relief Trains Sent.
A relief train was started from Chicago Heights the moment the news of the wreck was received. Two other trains were made up to follow the first carrying hastily summoned physicians and nurses. On one of the trains the dead were placed and on the other two the injured.
As rapidly as possible these were started to Chicago. Uninjured passengers were carried back to Chicago Heights to await transportation to Chicago.
Girl Rescues Her Companion.
Heroism marked the rescue of Miss Ida Ackland, 3920 Wallace street. In the seat with her was Miss Lillian Johnson, 2052 Parnell avenue. The collision buried both beneath debris, but Miss Johnson managed to lift the broken timbers from her body and then crawled up to the side of her friend. Feebly, almost overcome from her own injuries, she tore away the wreckage and dragged Miss Ackland from under the weight. Together rescuers found them. They will recover. Each is 20 years old.
Acts of Bravery and Self-Denial.
There were acts of bravery and self-denial on every hand, the stronger giving way to the weaker even at the risk of their own lives. One heroic fellow, whose legs were cut off, told his sweetheart, who had gone to the picnic with him, to stop crying. He removed his necktie and with it and his handkerchief bound up the stumps of his legs without assistance. One of the surgeons came to help him. He bravely replied:
Do not mind me, help those women and children first.
And when the surgeon got around to him again he was dead.
Three generations of one family were wiped out in that tomb of death, the first coach. Grandmother Mrs. Ellen Lander of 3207 South Canal street was sitting by the side of her daughter, Mrs. Emma Palmer. Lena Palmer. Across the aisle sat her granddaughter, Lena Palmer, 12 years old. All were breathing when removed from the debris, but they died within ten minutes while lying on the bank.
Escape from the First Car.
Here is the story of the experience of Mrs. D. D. Smith of 6232 Marshfield avenue:
Mrs. Smith had gone to the picnic with her two children, Charlie, 11 years old, and Daisy, 7 years old. When they boarded the train for the return they got into the first coach. The two children were playing a game of horse in the aisle, and in the course of the game ran to the front of the car. They were standing against the door of the car, next to the baggage car, when the crash came.
Mrs. Smith was hurled through a car window near where she was sitting, and for some little time could not realize what had happened. Then suddenly the thoughts of her children came to her, and she tried to get up from the ground to search for them. Then she discovered that she was badly hurt, both legs being broken.
Helpers finally placed her on the relief train. From where she had lain on the ground she could see nothing but a pile of debris where the forward coach and long-gauge car had crashed together, and she gave up both of her little ones for dead. She was overjoyed a few minutes later when she was told that both her children had been found beneath a pile of wreckage of broken woodwork and splintered seats. Both children were hurt internally and with their mother were taken to the Englewood Union Hospital.
Mother Hurt; Child Escapes.
Mrs. Frank Zitnik, 2900 Emerald avenue, was nursing her baby in the first coach when the crash came. The mother was hurled toward the rear and buried beneath a mass of wreckage. Both her legs broken and she was picked up unconscious. The baby was found under a seat unharmed. When Mrs. Zitnik regained consciousness in the relief train she cried out for the child, and the infant, till then unidentified, was restored to her.
Teacher Rescues Charges.
George Dors of Lamark, Ill., a student at the Moody Bible Institute, who was in charge of a Sunday school class at the picnic, rescued several children from the ruins of the first car. While he was engaged in the rescue work he was himself half unconscious from severe internal injuries he had sustained in the collision.
“I have been teaching a Sunday school class at Doremus mission several weeks,” said Dors, who is 21 years old,” and was put in charge of a class of children at the picnic. I was in the fourth car from the rear when the collision occurred. I had left most of the children in the first and second coaches, and as soon as I could break the car windows and escape from the car I went to the ruins.
“I began pulling away the timbers in which several of my pupils were imprisoned, I could hear the little children cry out my name as I worked, and from behind frantic mothers urged me on. I rescued six or seven little ones.”
Carries Three Girls from Wreck.
Paul Tejenz, 14 years old, Thirty-first and Butler streets, himself injured because he had fallen between seats in the third car, pushed the wreckage from above his head and carried out three young girls with whom he had been laughing a few moments before. One had fainted from fright, and another from injuries, while the third, Rosa Swenson, only 16 years old, aided in caring for the injured in the car.
Child Dying; Mother Dead.
Alice Cherry was with her mother, Mrs. Mary Cherry, when the crash came. The mother was killed and the child was hurled partly through a window, She was cut by glass and injured internally so severely physicians say she cannot live. She was taken to her home.
Brave Brother and Sister.
Harry Gustafson and his sister, Ruth, who live 3201 South Canal street, attended the picnic by themselves. Little Ruth was badly injured. Her leg and arm were broken, and her face lacerated in many places. Harry was not so badly hurt.
He was thrown in the aisle of the car and scores of men and women stepped on his face and body. A big piece of iron kept his head fastened to the floor under a seat for a long time. Finally he managed to break loose and scrambled and kicked until everybody got off of him. Then he climbed on a seat and kicked out a window and fell out. He started ti look for Ruth and finally found her under the engine.
Bewails Lost Sunbonnet.
When the doctors were through with them they sat holding hands.
“I lost my sunbonnet, Harry,” she whispered.
“No matter,: replied the boy. “You’re alive.”
Keeps Her Plaything in Death.
Little Rosie Probaska of 3130 South Canal street took her hoop to the picnic. All day she rolled in about the grounds. It was still tightly clutched in her hands when they bore her unconscious form to the hospital.
Mrs. Mary Geringer, 3121 Union avenue, and her family were in the first coach. Walter, the 18 year old boy, was so cadly injured that he died on the relief train. Catherine, the eldest child, was badly bruised, but the 2 year old baby Mrs. Geringer held in her arms came off without a scratch.
Children Are Heroes.
Many of the children who were injured proved themselves heroes on the train. Frank Duffy, 10 years old, 3222 Butler street, although severely injured himself, took charge of 2 year old Ethel Stewart, who was badly cut and bruised. Her mother had been separated from her, and the boy cared for the little one until she had been taken to an ambulance.
George Duffy, 13 years old, lay beside his brother on the improvised bunks in the ambulance train, and with his left arm broken, declared he would not be taken to a hospital, but would first find his mother, who he believed had been killed. Unable to find her, he aided in cheering girls who had been badly hurt.
Many of the injured boys refused medical attention.
“Take the girls and women first,” they said. “We can stand it.”
Mother Sees Children Killed.
One instance of a family being wiped out before the mother’s eyes was especially unnerving to the spectators. She was in a double seat with her four children ranging in ages from 2 years up. The four children were killed and the mother escaped unscathed.
Story of a Survivor.
Frank E. Williams, 2923 Butler street, was one of the survivors from the first car. He told this story of the wreck:
I was leaning out of the window of the coach when I saw a freight train directly ahead. I shouted a warning and threw myself to the floor of the coach. The coach, torn down the middle and broken in two, was thrown far to one side. All of us were buried in the wreckage, and tons of coal were thrown on the pile. It seemed hours before we were taken out, and the man beside me was dead.
Doctors from Several Towns.
Doctors hurried to the scene from Chicago Heights, Glenwood, and nearby towns.
Men from Glenwood knocked off the doors of cars and took the backs of seats to use as stretchers for carrying the injured to nearby houses. The Glenwood Manual Training school, which is more than a mile from the wreck, sent all the help it could.
Twenty-five women and children were taken to Harvey in farmers’ wagons and took the trolley cars to Chicago.
The women at Glenwood and points near the wreck did heroic work. They opened their homes to the excursionists and took care of mothers and sisters of victims who had become hysterical or had fainted. Members of the Glenwood Golf Club came to the scene in automobiles and rendered efficient service.
Aid Sent from Chicago.
A wrecking train was sent out from Chicago by the Chicago and Western Indiana within an hour after the wreck, carrying a corps of physicians and surgical appliances.
A second relief train arrived from Chicago at midnight.
Work by Light of Bonfires.
The work of rescue and of clearing the tracks was hampered by the darkness. Fires were lighted along the railroad on either side and lanterns were used, but even then it was difficult at times to make headway.
Camp by Side of Wreck.
Parties of rescuers from adjoining towns who had been worn out by the hard work decided after midnight, when the last relief train had left for Chicago, to camp out by the fires along the railroad. They sunk down on the car cushions, which had been used as stretchers to carry out the dead and injured, and went to sleep.
Tired mothers with babies in their arms sought rest on the grassy banks, little children who had been in the wreck wandered alone in the village.
Lucky Escape of Engineer.
Engineer Downey, 3332 Dearborn street, who courageously stuck to his engine even after Fireman C. E. Draper had jumped, escaped death by some miracle accomplished for the brave. His engine hit the coal car and was buried in it. It threw freight cars to the right and left and worked its way for into the train. He came out of the crash without a scratch.
Draper made his jump without injury.
Downey’s was not the only miraculous escape from death. In the baggage car was a conductor of the road, L. S. Ballou, who was acting as ticket taker for the excursion. He had just completed the work of taking up the tickets and was sitting in the baggage car counting up. He was injured slightly, but the other two men in the car with him were killed instantly. Conductor Dewitt had his leg broken.
Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1904