Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Lake Shore Wreck at Shadyside Crossing, 1909

According to one enumeration, at least 145 people have been killed and another 437 injured as a result of railroad wrecks in Porter County, Indiana. Four wrecks, in particular, resulted in significant casualties. Three of these four wrecks were, in part, due to the lack of train crews' visual confirmation of signals, flags, and lamps.

Blame for the Sandy Hook wreck (1887) in Boone Township was placed on a freight train engineer who failed to heed the warning of a trackside semaphore lamp indicating that a train was idle on the track ahead; dense fog was said to have made the lamp nearly impossible to observe. Heavy snow and wind played a significant role in Porter County's worst rail disaster at Woodville in Liberty Township (1906). The horrendous Porter wreck (1921), whereby a New York Central passenger train tore through a Michigan Central passenger train crossing its path, was blamed on the failure to observe a stop signal. The stop signal, however, was claimed to have been cloaked by smoke generated by another Michigan Central train standing idle on a sidetrack.

The ability to visually observe a signal had nothing to do with the fourth major railroad wreck in Porter County. Instead, the motorman of an interurban train failed to heed a dispatch order.

On December 2, 1901, the Chicago & Indiana Air Line Railway incorporated with the intention of connecting the Indiana cities of East Chicago and South Bend with electric trolley service. By 1903, the company had completed a 3.4-mile streetcar route between East Chicago and Indiana Harbor in Lake County. The golden age of interurbans was just beginning and the railway company reincorporated and recapitalized in 1904 as the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway, commonly referred to as the Lake Shore, to better reflect the region that it intended to service.

The Lake Shore continued extending it service eastward. Ten trains per day were operating between Hammond and South Bend by September 1908. Before the end of that year, the Lake Shore had extended its service westward into Chicago. Chicago service was achieved by leasing the Illinois Central Railroad's Kensington & Eastern Railroad line between 115th Street in Chicago to the Illinois-Indiana border. On July 1, 1909, a passenger could travel continuously without transfer from Chicago to South Bend on the Lake Shore line; the cost of establishing the line between these two cities was $4.55 million [nearly $118 million in 2017 dollars], $2 million more than had been anticipated.

In 1909, the Lake Shore interurban line was owned and operated by a syndicate headquartered in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Cleveland banking professionals George Newcombe Chandler, Henry Payne McIntosh, Joseph Randolph Nutt, and Myron Henry Wilson were the trustees of the syndicate. Harold Ulmer Wallace, formerly of president of the Wallace-Coates Engineering Company of Chicago and a graduate of Purdue University, was employed by the syndicate to serve as the Lake Shore's general manager. A few years previous, Wallace's father, John Findley Wallace, had been appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as chief engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission, the developers and builders of the Panama Canal.

Photograph of Harold Ulmer Wallace, General Manager
of the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railroad.
Source: Electric Railway Review, 1908.

June 18th and 19th, 1909, were extremely busy days for the Lake Shore. Ridership on the single-track line was at capacity since the Cobe Cup Race, the predecessor of the Indianapolis 500, was taking place in southern Lake County, Indiana. During the early evening of Saturday, June 19th, Lake Shore trains were transporting Cobe Cup spectators, who had earlier in the day witnessed Louis Chevrolet win the Cobe Cup Trophy, back to their homes.

The chain of events that led to the collision at Shadyside in Westchester Township began at 7:55 pm when Lake Shore train No. 59, operated by Motorman George Andrew Reed and Conductor Delmar Kinney, departed the Pullman Station in Chicago for South Bend. When they arrived at the Gary station in Lake County, Indiana, there were more than 50 passengers on board the passenger car.

Pinback souvenir from the Cobe Cup Races, June 18-19, 1909.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

Postcard image of the Cobe Cup grandstands
at Crown Point, Lake County, Indiana.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

Meanwhile, Lake Shore train No. 58, operated by Motorman Fred Schimmel and Conductor E. A. Pahl, had departed South Bend at 7:02 pm headed westbound for the Chicago station at Pullman. The time card schedule for train Nos. 58 and 59 indicated that they would meet at Long Lake at 8:55 pm. Long Lake is situated directly south of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's West Beach parking facility, immediately southwest of Ogden Dunes in Portage Township. Since the Lake Shore was a single line track, one train would take to a sidetrack at Long Lake while the other proceeded past on the main line.

Westbound train No. 58, however, arrived late at its Franklin Street stop in Michigan City. As a result, the Lake Shore dispatcher relayed to the agent at Michigan City an order that train No. 58 would meet train No. 59 at Wilson located 3.4 miles east of the scheduled Long Lake stop. The order was passed on from the station agent in Michigan City to the train's crew.

Eastbound train No. 59 had arrived slightly late into the station at Gary. In addition, Conductor Kinney was ill and had requested to be relieved at Gary. Though Kinney had expected a substitute to replace him, there was no Lake Shore conductor available at Gary to do so. The Lake Shore dispatcher, being made aware of a situation in flux between the two trains, issued to the agents at Gary and Michigan City three separate and distinct orders; each subsequent order extinguished the dispatcher's previous order. The first order stated that train No. 58 would purposely run 25 minutes behind schedule. The second order was that the two trains would meet at the Mineral Springs stop in Westchester Township. The third and final order was that the two trains would meet at the Wilson stop in Portage Township, which was identical to the earlier order received by train No. 58 at Michigan City. Conductor Kinney received the dispatcher's third and final order from the Lake Shore station agent at Gary, which he was required to relay to Motorman Reed.

Thus, both trains departed their respective stations with a dispatch order to meet at the Wilson stop. At Dune Park, eastbound train No. 59 stopped to let a passenger disembark; Dune Park was located one-quarter of mile east of the Wilson stop. Hence, train No. 59 had already passed the ordered meeting point at Wilson. Train No. 59 reportedly started up rapidly when leaving Dune Park and soon collided with westbound train No. 58 at a sharp curve in the line at the Shadyside Crossing in Section 32 of Township 37 North, Range 6 West in Westchester Township.

Map showing location of collision at
Shadyside Crossing (shaded oval) and Mineral
Springs Station in Westchester Township.
Source: George Ogle and Company's Standard
Atlas of Porter County, Indiana
, 1921. [see p. 25]

Therefore, train No. 59 had already ventured more than one and one-eighth miles past the Wilson stop when it collided with train No. 58 shortly after 9:00 pm. Signs along the track were installed at points before the curve at Shadyside Crossing warning trains to slow to 30 miles per hour.

Motorman Schimmel, operating the westbound train, apparently saw that an oncoming collision was going to take place and had fully stopped his train before the eastbound train, traveling more than 50 miles per hour, smashed into his train. Schimmel would later testify that he had even attempted to move his car backward before the collision, but the air brakes had not yet released the wheels when the impact took place. Motorman Reed and ten of his passengers on train No. 59 were killed and more than 40 others between the two trains were injured.

Front page headline concerning the Shadyside wreck.
Source: The Chesterton Tribune, June 24, 1909.

Postcard image of wreck at Shadyside Crossing on the Chicago,
Lake Shore & South Bend Railway near Baillytown, looking eastward. Train
No. 59 (Motorcar No. 73) is the passenger car to the right in this image.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

Nils Haglund, residing very near Shadyside Crossing, was one of the first individuals to arrive at the wreck and assist in rescue efforts. Haglund also telephoned to Chesterton requesting that Dr. Frank M. Axe be immediately sent to the site of the disaster to render medical aid. Chesterton undertaker John B. Lundberg was soon on the scene as well. Within hours, Lundberg had transferred all the dead to the fire engine room at the Chesterton Town Hall.

Postcard image of Chesterton's business district (present
day Calumet Road looking south). At far left is John B. Lundberg's
furniture and undertaking business. Those killed at Shadyside
Crossing were taken by Lundberg to Chesterton's Town Hall,
which is the building with tower immediately adjacent to Lundberg's
business in this image. Thomas Centennial Park is to the right.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

Almost immediately after the collision, the nearby house of Emil R. Borg was converted into temporary hospital and morgue. The Borg family reportedly "assisted in having the relatives of the victims notified and the hospitals to which the injured were to be sent to prepare places for the patients."

Another nearby resident, John Arndt, also rendered aid. These efforts were made difficult, however, since the only light available came from hand lanterns that were procured from residents living close to the scene of the accident.

David Crawford, a resident of South Bend and an uninjured passenger on train No. 59, provided this graphic description of the wreck that was published in the June 21, 1909, issue of the Belvidere Daily Republican:
There were about fifty on our car. Most of us got on at Hammond, having been at the auto races at Crown Point. It seemed to me that the majority were from South Bend and Mishawaka. Tired out by the long day of excitement, many of the passengers were asleep.

About nine o'clock, when we were running between 50 and 60 miles an hour, I noticed Kinney, the conductor, in the smoking compartment. Suddenly there was a terrific crash, smashing of timbers and creaking of steel. Then suddenly everything was dark and a death-like stillness followed.

But it was for a second only. Immediately afterwards the stillness was broken by the cries of the injured and dying. Shrieks and groans horrified the passengers who had escaped. The cars telescoped each other. The forward trucks of each car were welded together. As soon as possible, those of us who were uninjured, helped the living victims who were buried in the wreckage and carried the dead from the scene of the catastrophe. Motorman George Reed was pinned between the vestibules of the two cars so solidly that it was impossible for us to remove his body.

As far as I could determine the accident occurred on a straight-away track. There was no reverse made by the motorman to check the speed of the east-bound car. I was told that the west-bound car was at a standstill.
Many of those injured in the wreck were taken to hospitals in Gary and Michigan City. Interestingly, all but one individual killed in the collision were riding in the smoking compartment located at the front end of eastbound train No. 59. This particular space had originally been designed for use as a baggage and freight compartment, but was later converted to a passenger smoking room. One can speculate as to whether the death toll would have been much lower if that space had remained a baggage and freight compartment.

Railroad employees and residents living nearby quickly removed the debris from the track so that rail traffic could continue between Chicago and South Bend. Within two hours of the wrecking crew's arrival, all debris had been removed from the Lake Shore right-of-way, piled, doused with kerosene, and burnt. The heavily damaged passenger cars were pulled to a nearby sidetrack.

On Sunday morning, June 20, Porter County Coroner Joseph C. Carson arrived in Chesterton to view the remains reposed at the town hall; he also ventured to observe the scene of the collision. Carson authorized Lundberg to prepare all the bodies for burial and to notify families of the victims - if that information was ascertainable. Lundberg numbered each body and placed all contents found on each body in a corresponding numbered bag. With the exception of one victim, all decedents were identified by papers they were carrying with them at the time of the crash. Two passengers that survived the wreck would shortly succumb to their injuries.

The twelve dead included:
  • BARBER, Henry A. - Aged 30 years. Resident of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Barber was a sales agent for automobile companies. Sustained skull fractures and internal injuries. Killed instantly. Death certificate indicates that Henry's remains were removed to a cemetery located in Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut.
  • GILBERTSON, Edward Anton - Aged 40 years. Resident of Porter, Porter County, Indiana. Death certificate indicates that Gilbertson sustained mangled limbs and a skull fracture. Funeral service took place at the Gilbertson residence on June 24, 1909, followed by burial at Chesterton Cemetery located in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana. Gilbertson's wife, Reka M. (Hallberg) Gilbertson, would receive a settlement from the Lake Shore in the amount of $5,000, plus reimbursement of all funeral costs, burial clothing, and burial lot.
  • GONDECK, Michael - Aged 37 years. Died Wednesday, June 23, 1909, at Mercy Hospital in Gary. Gondeck was traveling to Michigan City to visit family members; he was married and had four children. Death certificate indicates that Gondeck suffered a skull fracture. Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Interred at St. Stanislaus Cemetery located in Michigan City. Note that newspaper reports and death certificate provide a given name of Michael, while tombstone is engraved with Nicholas.
  • HUTSON, Herbert H. - Aged 38 years. Killed instantly. Resident of Niles, Berrien County, Michigan. Death certificate indicates that Hutson was buried on June 22, 1909, at Silverbrook Cemetery located in Niles.
  • JOHNSON, Charles G. - Aged 47 years. Resident of Porter, Porter County, Indiana. Sustained a crushed skull. Funeral service and burial took place on June 23, 1909, at Burstrom Cemetery located in Baillytown, Porter County, Indiana. Johnson's wife, Christine (Lindeen) Johnson, would receive a settlement from the Lake Shore in the amount of $5,050.
  • LAKE, Frank A. - Aged 35 years. Resident of Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. Killed instantly. Vice President of the Dowagiac Motor Car Company. Death certificate indicates that Lake was buried on June 22, 1909, at Riverside Cemetery located in Dowagiac.
  • LYLE, Leon Richards - Aged 28 years. Resident of Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. Killed instantly though death certificate fails to indicate specific cause of death. Secretary and Treasurer of the Dowagiac Motor Car Company. Buried at Riverside Cemetery located in Dowagiac.
  • McDONALD, James J. - Aged 22 years. Resident of 5414 Honore Street, Chicago. Employed as a teller for the Chicago Trust & Savings Bank. McDonald had attended the Cobe Cup Race and was traveling to visit friends at South Bend. Sustained skull fracture, crushed chest, and fractured left leg. Death certificate indicates that James' remains were removed to a unnamed cemetery located in Chicago and buried on June 22, 1909.
  • MERRIMAN, Ray F. - Aged 27 years. Death certificate indicates that Merriman died at Mercy Hospital located in Gary, Lake County, Indiana, on Sunday, June 20, 1909, succumbing to a fracture at the base of his skull. He was newly married at the time of his death. Buried in Riverview Cemetery located in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana.
  • MOORE, Edward T. - Aged 50 years. Resident of Hillsdale, Hillsdale County, Michigan. Moore was a sales agent for automobile companies in Michigan. No specific cause of death appears in Moore's death certificate. Buried on June 25, 1909, at Oak Grove Cemetery located in Hillsdale.
  • REED, George Andrew - Aged 28 years. Resident of Villa Grove, Douglas County, Illinois. Motorman of eastbound train No. 59. Body crushed, arm and leg amputated by impact. Death certificate indicates Reed's cause of death simply as "crushed." Buried on June 23, 1909, at Mount Hope Cemetery located in Chicago.
  • SWANSON, Charles "Carl" J. - Aged 41 years. Resident of Porter, Porter County, Indiana. Death certificate lists cause of death as crushed chest and internal injuries. Buried on June 24, 1909, at Chesterton Cemetery located in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana.

Those injured in the wreck included:

  • AUSTIN, Edward - Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Gash on head.
  • BARNUM, George Homer - Resident of Knox, Starke County, Indiana. Not injured, but sick from sight of blood and the injured. Taken to Epworth Hospital in South Bend.
  • BROTHERS, B. E. - Resident of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Broken leg.
  • BRUEGGER, Donald - Resident of 909 Wilcox Avenue, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Son of Mrs. Mary Bruegger. Left leg broken. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • BURLINGAME, Edward W. - Resident of Gary, Lake County, Indiana. Broken nose and head bruised. Taken to Gary hospital.
  • CALVERT, Everett B. - Resident of 1012 Colfax Avenue, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Bruises. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • ERICKSON, Adolph - Resident of Porter, Porter County, Indiana. Badly injured by cuts on head and face. Taken to Gary hospital.
  • GAFFENBERGER, Esther - Resident of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Both ankles sprained.
  • HAGELS, Albert - Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Arm broken.
  • HEATH, Frank or Fred - Resident of Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana. Slightly injured, scratched, and suffered from shock.
  • HERSHEY, Rose - Resident of Goshen, Elkhart County, Indiana. Bruised and severely cut by glass.
  • JOHNSON, Arthur "Art" L. - Resident of Route 1, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana. Serious skull fracture, hip broken, bruised. Death was expected due to injuries suffered from wreck. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • KEENE, Secordus - Resident of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Badly cut on legs, face cut and bruised.
  • KELLY, Richard - Resident of 308 South Williams Street, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Injured about head and face. Injuries not serious. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • KERRIGAN, Paul - Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Cuts and bruises. Not taken to a hospital.
  • KINNEY, Delmar - Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Scalp wound one inch long, two left ribs fractured, right arm broken, and right leg crushed. Conductor on eastbound train No. 59. Treated at Epworth Hospital in South Bend.
  • LAWSON, Mamie - Resident of Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana. Lawson was returning to Chesterton from her place of employment as a stenographer at Tolleston, Lake County, Indiana. Internal injuries. Initial reports indicated that Lawson's injuries were so severe that she would likely die.
  • LEIN, A. - Resident of Stevensville, Berrien County, Michigan. Son of Henry Lein. On leg seriously sprained. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • LORSE, T. W. - Aged 51 years. Resident of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Chest concussion. Taken to Epworth Hospital in South Bend.
  • LUCE, T. W. - Resident of Knox, Starke County, Indiana. Facial artery cut, cheek bone splintered, and numerous cuts on body.
  • MANTOFFEL, Louis - Resident of East Gary, Lake County, Indiana. Broken nose.
  • MENDYKE, Stella - Resident of South Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Slightly injured.
  • MILLER, John F. - Resident of 312 Baltimore Street, Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Leg broken, lip and chin cut, and head injury. Injuries serious. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • MOORE, J. - Resident of Hillsdale, Hillsdale County, Michigan. Scalp injured. Injury not serious. Taken to Gary hospital. 
  • MYDEK, Mary - Resident of South Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Nose injured. Not taken to a hospital.
  • NISSEN, Charles - Resident of Tolleston, Lake County, Indiana. Head, back, and shoulder injuries. Injuries not serious. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • PEO, L. V. - Resident of 125 Franklin Street, Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Grandson of Mrs. Patrick Murkiff. Both legs broken (one broken in three places), but no internal injuries. Treated at Michigan City hospital.
  • PHILLIPS, A. C. - Resident of Chicago. Cut on head.
  • PHILLIPS, Mrs. A. C. - Resident of Chicago. Cuts and bruises. 
  • ROBERTSON, George Aaron - Resident of Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio. Cut and bruised on head.
  • ROBERTSON, Mame - Resident of Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio. Cut on head and broken nose.
  • RODERICK, Meyer - Resident of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Severely cut. 
  • SAWACKI, Fred - Resident of 1909 Franklin Street, Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Slight scalp wound. Not taken to a hospital.
  • SCHIMMEL, Fred - Resident of 1127 Spring Street, Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Son of Mrs. H. Schimmel. Back and knee injured, but no fractures. Motorman of train No. 58.
  • SCHOLLY, Mrs. A. B. - Resident of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Left eye bruised and right leg lacerated.
  • SIMONS, C. A. - Resident of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Sprained back and broken legs. Dr. Axe was quoted in newspapers stating the "I found Simons lying flat on the ground, and he had rolled a big stone on each side of his broken legs to prevent the throbbing and stop the flow of blood. When I stopped to bind his shattered limbs he said, 'Doctor, I can get along with these stones for some time, and I want the injuries of everybody else attended to before you do anything for me. There are dozens who are worse off than I am."
  • STUTZMAN, Maude E. - Resident of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Hole cut in back of head, face severely cut by glass.
  • TUCKER, F. L. - Resident of Mishawaka, St. Joseph County, Indiana. Cut and bruised.
  • WILSON, Paul - Right leg broken and bruises. Treated at Michigan City hospital.Wilson was the Assistant General Manager of the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railroad Company and was a passenger in eastbound passenger train No. 59.
  • WORDINE, George - Resident of Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Leg bruised.
  • WURSCH, Fred - Resident of 1270 Michigan Street, Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana. Chest crushed, scalp wound on back of head. Injuries not serious. Treated at Michigan City hospital.

The Railroad Commission of Indiana would soon conduct an investigation of the Lake Shore accident. The Commission's official report states that Conductor Kinney of train No. 59 had received the third dispatch order from the station agent at Gary indicating that his train would meet westbound train No. 58 at the Wilson stop. Kinney, when interviewed by the Commission, readily admitted to receiving the dispatcher's order from the station agent.

Kinney also testified that he delivered the dispatcher's order to Motorman George A. Reed, but the Commission's report states that "Kinney cannot be believed." Neither the copy of the order given to Kinney nor the duplicate supposedly delivered by Kinney to Motorman Reed, whose clothing was thoroughly searched after the crash, was ever found. The Commission states that it was plausible that the written order was lost at the site of the accident and that Kinney and Reed had simply overlooked the order.

The Commission's report is rather damning of Conductor Kinney:
Kinney stated to the Commission that he noticed when he had passed Wilson, and put on the emergency brake in the toilet room, and sounded the emergency stop, three bells twice, but the fact that he stopped at Dune Parke, east of Wilson, and started up again, coupled with all we have learned about him, shows that his statement is false; the chief and awful fault and crime are his, and if there is any way under our laws to prosecute and convict him, it should be done. He may have been sick, and may have been drinking; in fact, from the manner in which he quarreled with passengers and failed to take up fares, he was mentally and physically incapacitated to perform his duties that night, and should not have been on the road if he was ill, or had been drinking. The order was given to him, and he overlooked, forgot, disobeyed; and primarily he is responsible for the death of ten innocent people.
Despite placing blame on Conductor Kinney for the collision and essentially calling him a liar, the Commission also concluded that the management of the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway was partially responsible for the wreck. The company was failing to properly manage its growth and was ignoring important issues related to the hiring and training of employees. Upon investigation of company records, the Commission found that only 11 of 48 motorman and conductor applications involved a background check. In other words, 37 individuals were put to work on the line "without the company receiving any replies from persons formerly employing these men." In fact, nine of these 37 men had never submitted a formal written application for employment.

Digging deeper into the employment records of the Lake Shore, several examples were discovered of men that should never been hired as either motormen or conductors. For instance, one man had been dismissed by the Wabash Railroad "for violation of Rule G, which is the frequenting of saloons and the use of intoxicating liquor." This man was still employed by the Lake Shore at the time of the investigation of the wreck at Shadyside Crossing. Another man in the employ of the Lake Shore was found to have been recently dismissed for a collision that he was found responsible for near Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois.

The Commission also noted the past employment history of train No. 59's motorman, George A. Reed:
Take also the case of Reed, who was killed in this accident. While Reed was regarded by his companions as a good railroad man, and while he has gone to his final account, it is true of him that he was discharged from a steam railroad for burning an engine, a serious neglect that might have caused the explosion of the boiler and the consequent death of many persons.
Findings from the Commission's investigation also seem to have been supported by eyewitness claims provided by Chesterton area residents concerning the behavior of motormen on the interurban line. For instance, the following statement by Burdick resident William M. Wiesemann was published in several newspapers covering the wreck:
Almost every day green hands at the motor handle are seen racing their cars with the Lake Shore flyers, which they invariably outspeed. The customary interurban speed is 75 to 80 miles an hour, with spurts at the rate of 90 miles, while the fastest flyers on the steam road make 70 miles at the most.
 Accordingly, the first recommendation of the Commission's report stated:
That the personal and past record of all men who may apply for positions as trainmen, shall be scrutinized carefully; that full files be kept of applications and recommendations, and replies to inquiries about them; and that no person shall be employed for the position of motorman or conductor on said railroad until after the most careful investigation has been made, with satisfactory results. This personal record should be kept so as to show the condition of the same without difficulty or delay whenever an investigation is being made, or when there is any need for it for any purpose.
The conclusions made in the Railroad Commission of Indiana's report on the wreck were consistent with those made by Porter County Coroner Joseph C. Carson after conducting an inquest. Coroner Carson's inquest report states, in part:
I find that the cause of said collision was the result of the disobedience of Train Order No. 442 to Train No. 59, Car No. 73, received at Gary, Indiana, eastbound....

I would, therefore, place the entire responsibility of said wreck, with its dire results, upon the mismanagement in the operation of Train No. 59, Car No. 73, for disobeying said Train Order 442, in not taking the siding at Wilson as the said order clearly specified and directed.
The deaths of Henry A. Barber, Herbert H. Hutson, Leon R. Lyle, and Frank A. Lake could be considered a product of fate. All four men had been promoting a truck manufactured by the Dowagiac Motor Car Company, a automobile manufacturer co-owned by Messrs. Lake and Lyle. On June 18, 1909, the men had been in LaPorte and Valparaiso publicizing their truck. Their vehicle broke down in Valparaiso, however, which necessitated repairs.

The four men proceeded to the Cobe Cup Race in the southern half of Lake County. After the race, the men continued on to Hammond where they boarded the South Shore's eastbound train to return to Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. The men sat in the train's smoking car and were killed instantly by the force of the collision.

This photograph was taken on June 18, 1909, at LaPorte, LaPorte County,
Indiana, one day prior to four of these passengers being killed at Shadyside Crossing.
In the front of the vehicle are Frank A. Lake (left) and Herbert H. Hutson.
Seated in the middle of the vehicle are Robert Atkinson (left) and Harry Huston.
Seated in the rear seat are Leon Lyle (left) and Henry A. Barber. Only Robert
Atkinson and Harry Huston were spared from the wreck; they had arranged a
return trip to Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, by taking the Michigan Central Railroad.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

A coincidental story related to the Shadyside Crossing wreck appeared in the June 22, 1909, issue of The Lake County Times. The newspaper reported the following concerning Ray F. Merriman, who died one day after the wreck succumbing to injuries he sustained:
Another incident in connection with this wreck was related by the Sisters of Mercy hospital yesterday afternoon, after the death of Ray F. Merriam [Merriman] of South Bend. This young man had ridden on the cars with them from Gary to Hammond a short time ago and paid their fares, although a perfect stranger. When he did this he remarked: "I never allow a Sister to pay a car fare on a train that I am riding on. It may be that they will have a chance to take care of me some time, and I will have to depend upon them for assistance."

As soon as he was brought into the hospital dying from his injuries he was recognized by the Sisters as the man who had paid their fares.
The death, injury, and damage claims resulting from this collision led to a change in management for the railroad and the installation of automated signals. By October 1909, Charles N. Wilcoxon was appointed the General Manager of the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway. When Wilcoxon was elected President of the company in June 1914, the railroad's debts exceeded $120,000 solely due to court-ordered judgments arising from assorted injuries and deaths on the rail line, which is the equivalent to nearly $3 million in 2017. Claims resulting from the Shadyside Crossing wreck alone reportedly exceeded $80,000.

Incidentally, Charles N. Wilcoxon would later murder his wife, Hettie Elizabeth (Todd) Wilcoxon, beating her over the head with an axe and potato smasher, and then commit suicide by hanging himself in 1924 at Michigan City. The couple had been involved in an automobile wreck on U.S. Route 12 earlier in the day and it was surmised that "The shock of the accident ... precipitated Wilcoxon's loss of mind."

Front page headline concerning Charles N. Wilcoxon
murder-suicide at Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana.
Source: The Muncie Evening Press, July 9, 1924.

The Lake Shore would continue operating its interurban line, but always struggling under considerable debt. In 1925, industrialist Samuel Insull purchased the bankrupt Lake Shore line and reorganized it as the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad. Similar to its predecessor, the name of the railroad was often referred to by a shortened name - the South Shore. The railroad remains in existence and is the last of the hundreds of interurban lines that once operated in the United States.

Remarkably, one of the passenger cars involved in the Shadyside Crossing wreck, Motorcar No. 73 representing eastbound train No. 59, still exists. Motorcar No. 73 was constructed by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company located in Niles, Trumbull County, Ohio, in 1908. The 1909 collision had resulted in about one-half of the car being ripped off its underframe. A railroad company would typically scrap such a heavily damaged car. The Lake Shore, however, was under significant financial stress. Instead of purchasing a replacement car at cost of about $20,000, the company decided that it could rebuild Motorcar No. 73 for approximately $7,000. The rebuilt car, using the same car number, reentered service in 1910 on the Lake Shore line.

In 1927, Motorcar No. 73 was retired from passenger service and rebuilt as Work Motor No. 1126 on the South Shore line. As a work motor, the car was used in various capacities until it was finally retired from service in 1941. The purchaser of the scrapped car used it as a house, and it remained relatively unchanged through the mid-1980s when it was purchased in 1984 by Bob Harris of the RAIL Foundation. The car was put into storage for many years, but has recently been undergoing a complete restoration in Murphysboro, Jackson County, Illinois. One can view the progress of the restoration on a Facebook page dedicated to this rail car.

Niles Car & Manufacturing Company advertisement showing
Motorcar No. 73 in service on the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway.
Source: Electric Traction Weekly, January 9, 1909. [see p. 30]

Photograph of the Lake Shore's Motorcar No. 73, one of the cars
involved in the 1909 wreck at Shadyside Crossing. This photograph
shows the car at the Pullman terminal in Chicago after is was rebuilt in 1910
Source: Central Electric Railfans' Association, 1960. [see p. I-10].

Source Material

Arseneau, Steven, and Ann Thompson. 2005. Images of America: Dowagiac. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. 128 p.

Central Electric Railfans' Association. 1939. Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad. Bulletin 4. Chicago, Illinois: Central Electric Railfans' Association. 12 p.

Central Electric Railfans' Association. 1960. Electric Railways of Indiana. Bulletin 104. Chicago, Illinois: Central Electric Railfans' Association. Unpaginated.

George A. Ogle and Company. 1921. Standard Atlas of Porter County, Indiana: Including a Plat Book of Villages, Cities and Townships of the County. Chicago, Illinois: George A. Ogle and Company. 61 p. [see pp. 25, 28]

Lane, Harold Francis. 1913. The Biographical Directory of The Railway Officials of America. New York, New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Company. 623 p. [see p. 569]

Orogrek, Cynthia L. 2012. Images of America: Along the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Rail Line. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. 127 p.

Railroad Commission of Indiana. 1910. Accident Report No. 4: In the Matter of Investigation of Fatal Accident on the Chicago, Lake Shore and South Bend Railroad near Chesterton, Indiana, June 19, 1909, at 9:15 p. m. In Fourth Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of Indiana 1909 (pp. 399-406). Indianapolis, Indiana: William B. Buford. 656 p.

Anonymous. 1908. Personal Mention. Electric Railway Review 19(9):279.

Anonymous. 1909. Niles Car & Manufacturing Company [Advertisement]. Electric Traction Weekly 5(2):30.

Newspapers (listed by date of publication)
The Butte Miner, Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana; June 20, 1909; Volume 46, Number 276, Page 1, Column 3. Column titled "15 Dead, 25 Hurt in Electric Car Wreck in Indiana."

The Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan; June 20, 1909; Volume 74, Number 268, Page 1, Column 2. Column titled "15 Die in Car Crash."

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana; June 20, 1909; Page 1, Column 1 and Page 4, Column 7. Column titled "Fifteen are Dead and Twenty-five are Injured in Traction Wreck."

The Indianapolis Sunday Star, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana; June 20, 1909; Volume 7, Number 15, Page 1, Columns 6-7. Column titled "Extra. Fifteen Dead, 25 Hurt in Traction Car Crash."

The Muncie Sunday Star, Muncie, Delaware County, Indiana; June 20, 1909; Volume 32, Number 53, Page 1, Column 7. Column titled "Fifteen Dead in Car Wreck. Interurbans Collide on South Shore Electric Line, Near Chesterton, Ind."

The New York Times, New York, New York County, New York; June 20, 1909; Volume 58, Number 18775, Page 1, Column 6. Column titled Twelve Killed in Wreck?"

Belvidere Daily Republican, Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois; June 21, 1909; Volume 17, Number 146, Page 1, Columns 1-3. Column titled "Catastrophe on Electric Road Worst in History."

The DeKalb Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, DeKalb County, Illinois; June 21, 1909; Volume 13, Number 181, Page 3, Column 5. Column titled "Inquest Over Wreck Victims."

The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; June 21, 1909; Volume 38, Number 89, Page 4, Column 1. Column titled "Blames Wreck on Motorman, Killed."

The Lake County Times, Munster, Lake County, Indiana; June 21, 1909; Volume 4, Number 3, Page 1, Columns 1-2 and Page 5, Columns 6-7. Column titled "12 Dead: Score Hurt. Electric Cars in Collision."

The Muncie Evening Press, Muncie, Delaware County, Indiana; June 21, 1909; Volume 9, Number 70, Page 2, Columns 3-4. Column titled "Orders Were Not Obeyed."

The Pittsburgh Post, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; June 21, 1909; Volume 67, Page 1, Column 1 and Page 3, Column 1. Column titled "Big Electric Cars Collide, Killing Ten."

The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana; June 22, 1909; Volume 7, Number 17, Page 4, Column 2-3. Column titled "Conductor Silent on Wreck Details."

The Lake County Times, Munster, Lake County, Indiana; June 22, 1909; Volume 4, Number 4, Page 1, Column 1. Column titled "Another Victim Dies Last Night."

The Richmond Palladium, Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana; June 22, 1909; Volume 34, Number 225, Page 3, Column 1. Column titled "Conductor Very Silent on Wreck of Traction Car."

The Chesterton Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; June 24, 1909; Volume 26, Number 13, Page 1, Columns 3-4 and Page 2, Columns 2-3. Column titled "Eleven Were Killed; Twenty-Five Injured."

The Chesterton Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; July 1, 1909; Volume 26, Number 14, Page 1, Column 3 and Page 4, Columns 4-6. Column titled "Neglected the Order."

The Chesterton Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; July 1, 1909; Volume 26, Number 14, Page 1, Column 4. Column titled "Two Claims Settled."

The Muncie Evening Press, Muncie, Delaware County, Indiana; July 9, 1924; Volume 32, Number 251, Page 1, Column 2. Column titled "C. N. Wilcoxon Slays Wife, Kills Himself."

© 2017 Steven R. Shook. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Chicago & Atlantic Railway Wreck at Sandy Hook, 1887

In a previous blog post, an enumeration of Porter County railroad accidents is provided that includes events leading up to each wreck. The wreck resulting in the most casualties took place at Woodville in Liberty Township in 1906, though the wreck at Porter in 1921 was nearly as devastating, resulting in 37 deaths and more than 100+ injured victims. The Shadyside Crossing wreck of 1909 near Baillytown on the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway left the family and friends of 11 victims in mourning.

The first major railroad wreck in Porter County took place in 1887 on the tracks of the Chicago & Atlantic Railway in the southern half of the county. Like the other accidents mentioned above, this wreck was avoidable and was the consequence of human error.

On December 1,1871, the Chicago, Continental & Baltimore Railway was organized, in part, to provide rail service for the northern portion of Indiana. As a result of consolidation, this company became part of Chicago & Atlantic Railway on June 19, 1873. The company would eventually survey a route through Porter County in 1881 and soon after installed tracks. Traffic through Porter County commenced on the new line in 1883. 

Chicago & Atlantic Railway stations at Kouts and Boone Grove were erected to provide fuel, water, and passenger and freight service. A water tank was also constructed near the Sandy Hook Ditch that provided a filling point for steam locomotives operating on the line. This tank was located approximately one-quarter mile northwest of present day County Road 50 West from where this county road crosses the former rail line.

Note that the community of Boone Grove was originally located in the NW¼ of the SE¼ of Section 28 of Porter Township. The Chicago & Atlantic Railway's route passed south of Boone Grove and the railway company erected their depot near the center of Section 32, thereby bypassing the community by approximately one mile.

Plat maps of Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana,
showing location of Boone Grove in 1876 and 1895.
Source: Hardesty's Illustrated Historical Atlas of Porter County,
, 1876 [see p. 39] and Lee and Lee's Atlas of
Porter County, Indiana
, 1895 [see p. 33].

Similar to members of many communities across the United States at this time, the residents of Boone Grove were keenly aware of the importance of a rail line in the commercial development of their town. Thus, on June 4, 1883, Jefferson B. Woods submitted an application to the United States Post Office Department, certified by Hebron's postmaster Oscar S. Baird, to establish a post office along the newly constructed Chicago & Atlantic Railway line.

Woods' application was quickly approved on June 14, 1883, and mail service to the original Boone Grove in Section 28 was discontinued that same day and transferred to the community of Jumbo to the southwest in Section 32. Jumbo would soon change its name to Boone Grove on July 20, 1883, and the establishment a second location of Boone Grove commenced. The original Boone Grove would fade into obscurity as its residents relocated at the new Boone Grove situated along the Chicago & Atlantic Railway.

Chicago & Erie Railroad station at Boone Grove, Indiana, circa
1910, formerly known as the Chicago & Atlantic Railway.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

Chicago & Erie Railroad station at Kouts, Indiana, circa
formerly known as the Chicago & Atlantic Railway.
Source: Collection of Steven R. Shook.

The Kouts train wreck occurred during the evening of October 10, 1887. The Chicago & Atlantic Railway's passenger train No. 12 had left the Polk Street Depot in Chicago at 7:45 pm consisting of the locomotive, tender, and five passenger railcars, the two rear cars being sleeper cars. Soon after departing, engineer Bryan "Briney" O'Connor found that an eccentric strap on his locomotive had broken. The eccentric strap affixes to the rotating axle of the drive wheels and converts rotary motion into linear reciprocating motion. Despite the damage to one of the eccentric straps, the train could still operate.

Drive wheels of a steam-powered locomotive with eccentric strap highlighted.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The passenger train arrived at Hammond in Lake County, Indiana, to take on passengers and departed that city heading eastbound at 8:15 pm. Despite the situation, O'Connor continued the journey by working only one side of his locomotive's drive, which drastically reduced the train's speed.

Upon reaching Boone Grove, the passenger train, containing 27 passengers, was more than two hours behind its published schedule having lost 30 minutes waiting for connections, 55 minutes in disconnecting the broken eccentric strap on one side of the locomotive, and 31 minutes at Boone Grove in passing a freight train. Indeed, on the siding at Boone Grove was eastbound freight train No. 48 hauling heavy refrigerator cars packed with dressed meat from Chicago's Armour & Company.

Photograph of Bryan "Briney" O'Connor, engineer of
passenger train No. 12 on the Chicago & Atlantic Railway.
Source: Roman's American Locomotive
Engineers: Erie Railway Edition, 1899. [see p. 425]

The passenger train continued eastbound without stopping at Boone Grove. It was soon discovered that the unbroken eccentric strap was loosening and the train was forced to stop. Engineer O'Connor decided to idle the passenger train at the water tank between Boone Grove and Kouts, which was located in Section 2 of Boone Township. Brakeman John W. Jacobs of the passenger train, following safety protocol, activated a red semaphore lamp that was located about 1,200 feet behind the last car. The lamp acted as a warning signal to any potential oncoming traffic that another train was ahead standing idle on the main track.

Reports indicate that engineer John Dorsey, operator of freight train No. 48, pulled out of Boone Grove onto the main line about two minutes after passenger train No. 12 had passed the village. Dorsey failed to see the red semaphore lamp until he was nearly adjacent to it due to heavy fog. His train was traveling at about 35 miles per hour and accelerating at full steam.

Just prior to ramming into the rear of the passenger train, Dorsey and his fireman, William H. Willets, detected the faintly burning lamps affixed to the passenger train's rear sleeper car. Sensing disaster, the freight train's engineer and fireman leapt from their locomotive's cab prior to impact.

Meanwhile, brakeman J. O. Colton of the passenger train testified after the accident that just prior to the collision that he was alerted to the freight train by "sparks flying out from the [freight's] smoke stack." Colton then immediately ran back toward the freight train with a signal lantern. As he approached the semaphore lamp, he was struck by fireman Willets who had just jumped off the freight train's locomotive.

Boone Township, Porter County, Indiana, plat map showing
approximate location of the 1887 Chicago & Atlantic Railway collision.

 Source: Lee and Lee's Atlas of Porter County, Indiana, 1895. [see p. 23]

The force of the collision of the two trains, which occurred about three minutes after the passenger train went idle at the water tower, was apparently quite incredible. It was reported that the freight train engine plunged entirely through the rear Pullman sleeper car. This rear sleeper car's frame then telescoped into the sleeper car ahead of it and the next three passenger cars were splintered to pieces. Meanwhile, the upper works of the freight engine were torn away and its tender was thrown across the track

All of the freight train railcars derailed and "piled up for twenty rods [330 feet] about the prairie were hundreds of pounds of meat." Coals in the stove heaters on the passenger train soon ignited upholstery, and within five minutes the entire passenger train was ablaze. Witnesses reported that several trapped passengers, some only slightly injured, wailed and screamed as the fire overtook them; rescuers were unable to assist them due to enmeshed nature of the wreckage and the intensity of the flames. In fact, cause of death for victims of the accident was largely placed on the stoves used to heat the Pullman sleeper cars rather than the force of the accident.

Local farmers and the train crews attempted to extinguish the flames using buckets of water from the nearby tower. First-hand accounts of this disaster published in newspapers nationwide are heartrending to read. The injured were taken to the small Kouts Hotel on the east side of Main Street for treatment by local physicians, all but one suffering head injuries. Local farmers prepared rough pine boxes and placed the remains of the 11 killed in them and delivered them to Kouts for a coroner's inquest.

The October 12, 1887, issue of The Indianapolis Journal included a description of the water tank facility, its attending operator, and a statement from the operator:
The water-tank at which the accident took place is in the center of one of the vast swamps which cover a great portion of northwestern Indiana. Not a single building of any sort is in sight. On every side are sloughs and stagnant pools of water, with tracts of bog land between. Here and there a clump of willows breaks the monotony of the watery waste. The tank stands on a tall platform by the side of the track. A little shed virtually forms a part of the tank, where the pumping machinery is sheltered, and where the queer little man who attends the machinery has his bunk. For a long time he has not used it, but every night has rode into Kouts on his railroad velocipede and there spent the night, leaving the tank entirely alone. This man, whose name is Orf Fravel, was in the shed to-night, however, and was asked what precautions were taken in his absence to prevent such catastrophes as that which had just occurred. "Not a precaution," he answered, "except a sort of thing they call a semaphore. It is an English contrivance, and is supposed to act as a signal, but it don't."
An article published in the October 12, 1887, issue of the Los Angeles Daily Herald described the scene at Kouts and the accident as follows:
Dozens of blood-stained, smoke-grimed dead and dying women and children, victims of railroad careless and blundering, are littered in the village [Kouts], stationhouse, the hotel and every other available resting-place in the vicinity, while three miles west, down the track of the Chicago & Atlantic railway, near a lonely water-tank, piles of fearfully tangled debris mark the spot where the collision, seldom equaled for its terrible results, occurred.
Blame for the accident seemed to fall squarely upon Engineer Dorsey for failing to see and act upon the warning signal provided by the semaphore light. The passenger train crew, however, was also partly to blame for the wreck. Safety protocols called for the idled train crew to send a one of their members down the main line with flagging to warn oncoming rail traffic. No flagger from the passenger train was dispatched down the line.

The Los Angeles Daily Herald also reported on casualties resulting from the wreck:
When the reporters reached the wreck all the dead bodies had been carefully removed from sight. Only two of the wounded were still in the village [Kouts] and the local employees of the road were deaf and dumb to all seekers of information. About the only person about was Dr. C. W. McKee. He stated that to his best knowledge the collision had cost the lives of fully thirty people. It was a mammoth scene of destruction and there was a difficulty of arriving at a correct idea of its magnitude. Out of the Miller family of six only a boy was saved. Dr. McKee stated that only nine bodies had been recovered, and they were so badly charred as to almost beyond recognition, the most left of some of them being a blackened trunk, and in some cases there was little beyond a handful of ashes.
Newspaper headlines across the United States initially reported that 25 to 30 people perished as a result of this wreck, likely attributable to the estimate provided soon after the accident by Dr. McKee. Newspapers publishing morning editions had no other estimate by which to gauge the number of casualties and, therefore, reported Dr. McKee's estimate. The dead, however, appears to have numbered between nine and eleven. The official number of dead, reported after an investigation of the accident, was placed at nine.

Porter County Coroner Dr. Joseph H. Letherman was tasked with determining the cause of death of the wreck's victims. This undertaking included ascertaining the factors that resulted in the collision on the Chicago & Atlantic Railway line by conducting a coroner's inquest. The law in Indiana at this time did not require the coroner to empanel a jury. Instead, the conclusions resulting from the investigation, including the placement of fault for the deaths, rested solely with the coroner.

Within a week, Coroner Letherman had completed his investigation and rendered the following verdict:
I find the decedents to be as follows: Dr. William Perry, wife and daughter; a family supposed to be Millers, four in number, and one unknown man, not burned, supposed to be from Dundee, Ill.; and one unknown person -- who came to deaths by reason of injuries caused by the fast freight train No. 48 of the Chicago & Atlantic Railroad Company running into and crushing passenger train No. 12 of said road at the state ditch water tank, Porter county, Indiana, at or about midnight of Monday, October 10, 1887; said accident being the result of the negligence of the train dispatcher of said road in permitting passenger train No. 12 to attempt to run with a disabled engine, knowing that a fast freight train, No. 48, was but a few minutes behind it; and by the negligence and carelessness of Engineer Dorsey of freight train No. 48 running his engine at a high rate of speed through the fog, knowing that passenger train No. 12 was but a short distance in advance of his train with a disabled engine.

The verdict, being in accordance with the facts, is that death resulted from careless or negligence on the part of the train dispatcher and the engineer [John Dorsey] of the fast freight No. 48, and censuring the company for allowing a crippled engine pulling a passenger train to be on the road a few minutes in advance of a fast freight, and by the negligence of Engineer Dorsey in not providing his engine with sand and his recklessness in running at such a rate of speed through the fog.
The verdict is confusing in that it mentions that John Dorsey failed to provide "his engine with sand." When Dorsey saw that his train was possibly going to collide with the passenger train, he set his engine's brakes. The brakes, however, did not hold well due to the heavy tonnage being hauled by the train. This was confirmed by testimony provided from the freight train's conductor, R. H. Mattlee.

Trains, especially those pulling significant tonnage, often carried sand that would be manually thrown onto the track to create more friction and increase braking efficiency. In this particular case, Dorsey did not have any sand on his engine to assist in braking his train. In addition, John Kilfoyle, a rear brakeman on the freight train, testified that when he went to the top of the rear refrigerator railcars to manually activate the brakes that he found them stiff and difficult to set. Thus, Letherman's verdict.

The dead included:
  • MILLER, Charles - Aged 50 years. A resident of Dundee, Kane County, Illinois, traveling with his family to visit relatives in Hungary. Charles was instantly killed when an iron rod penetrated his throat.
  • MILLER, Fred - Aged 20 years. Son of Charles and Lena Miller. Survived the initial collision but died in the flames of the wreck.
  • MILLER, Lena - Aged 48 years. Wife of Charles Miller. Lena initially survived the collision. Members of the train crew attempted to rescue her by dragging her out of the wreckage. She was trapped, however, and a seat cushion ignited above her head. "Then she attempted to pass one of her girls, a wee mite of a thing, whose white apron was stained with blood, to the rescuers who were crowded about the terrible scene. When the woman saw death was inevitable she closed her eyes as if in prayer, and, wrapping her only free arm around the waists of her children nearest her, awaited the coming of the flames."
  • MILLER, Wilhelmina "Minnie" - Aged 7 years. Daughter of Charles and Lena Miller. Survived the initial collision but died in the flames of the wreck.
  • MILLER, William - Aged 17 years. Son of Charles and Lena Miller. Survived the initial collision but died in the flames of the wreck.
  • PERRY, Ada Grace - Aged 10 years. Daughter of William and Ann Perry. Ada initially survived the wreck but perished in the flames underneath her trapped father. Buried at Pioneer Cemetery in North Judson.
  • PERRY, Ann - Aged 43 years. Wife of Dr. William Perry. Ann survived the initial wreck. She was trapped underneath her husband and perished in the flames. Buried at Pioneer Cemetery in North Judson.
  • PERRY, Dr. William - Aged 49 years. A resident of North Judson, Starke County, Indiana, and a veteran of the Civil War who served in Company G of the 73rd Regiment Indiana Infantry. William initially survived the wreck and worked his way to a shattered railcar window, getting the upper half his body out of the wreck. Rescuers attempted to drag him from the crushed railcar, but the intensity of the flames deterred their efforts and the physician perished in the flames. Buried at Pioneer Cemetery in North Judson.
  • A "young Irish woman." The woman was caught underneath the passenger car's heating stove. Rescuers witnessed her burn to death. This woman is believed to have been Bridget Malone of Chicago. A Thomas Malone, brother of Bridget, arrived in Kouts the day after the accident searching for his sister. Thomas had a conversation with Joseph McCool, a survivor of the accident. After describing his sister and where she sat on the train, "McCool remembered her, and at once placed her as the unknown Irish woman who was burned to death. An affecting scene ensued as Malone viewed the remains."
  • A "tramp." Of those that perished in the wreck, this is the only individual not to have been burned. Of large build and clean shaven, "his head and breast were crushed to a pulp." A newspaper report enumerating the dead and inured indicates that this individual was "supposed to be A. Limburg."

At least five individuals were injured in the wreck, including:
  • AYRES, Mrs. E. - A resident of Huntington, Huntington County, Indiana.
  • McCOOL, Joseph - Aged 24 years. A resident of Boston, Massachusetts, who had been traveling in the Chicago area visiting relatives. McCool suffered injuries to his back and limbs.
  • MILLER, Herman - Aged 14 years. Son of Charles and Lena Miller. Herman suffered a crushed skull and shattered left leg. He was taken to Kouts where he convalesced in the Kouts Hotel.
  • WRIGHT, Dr. Charles L. - Aged 25 years. A resident of Huntington, Huntington County, Indiana.
  • WRIGHT, Edith (Swain) - A resident of Huntington, Huntington County, Indiana. Wife of Charles L. Wright.

Given Coroner Letherman's verdict, John Dorsey was indicted for involuntary manslaughter by a grand jury and arrested by the sheriff of Porter County, Elias N. Thomas, on December 28, 1887. Dorsey, who was expecting to be arrested, posted bond for his trial appearance.

Dorsey hired the law firm of Skinner & Dille to defend him at trial. The firm was effective in quashing the indictment against him in the Porter County Circuit Court of Judge Elisha Chapman Field. However, the state, represented by Edgar Dean Crumpacker, John H. Gillett, and Louis T. Michener, Indiana's attorney general, appealed Judge Field's decision to the Indiana Supreme Court, which overturned Field's decision (State v. Dorsey 118 Ind. 167). The Indiana Supreme Court's decision said that the act charged in the indictment against Dorsey showed "such wantonness and recklessness as to constitute manslaughter, if not murder."

In addition to the criminal charges against Dorsey, at least four civil claims were filed against the Chicago & Atlantic Railway. The administrator of the Miller family estate sued the railway company to recover $20,000. A guardian's suit was filed to recover $10,000 for Herman Miller, who was the only member of the Miller family to survive the wreck. The proprietor of the Kouts Hotel, George H. Miller, filed a claim against the railway to recover compensation for the room, board, and care of Herman Miller after the accident. Note that George and Herman were not related to one another. Mary Jane (Price) Nimon tended to the care of Herman while he convalesced at the Kouts Hotel. Finally, Joseph McCool, one of the injured passengers of the wreck, settled with the railway company for $1,000 prior to departing Kouts.

Despite extensive research, the outcomes of the criminal and civil suits against Dorsey and the Chicago & Atlantic Railway could not be found. Interestingly, in a biography William H. Willets, the fireman on the freight train, the following information concerning the Kouts wreck contradicts the indictment of John Dorsey and inquest verdict rendered by Coroner Letherman:
During William H. Willets' period of service as a fireman on the Erie he was in one of the most disastrous wrecks the road ever had. It occurred on the night of October 10, 1887, at Kouts water station in Indiana, and was the result of a heavy fog which was so dense that the semaphore protecting the rear of a disabled passenger train could not be seen until too late to prevent a heavy freight, on which Mr. Willets was fireman, from crashing into the rear Pullman of the passenger. The engineer of the freight, Dorsey, Mr. Willets, fireman, and Prouty, head brakeman, saved themselves from serious injury by jumping, but several passengers were killed outright and their bodies burned in the fire that almost immediately enveloped the passenger train. It was one of those distressing accidents, the blame for which must rest upon the elements, for after a searching investigation the coroner exonerated the railway officials and employes from any culpability or neglect.
The Chicago & Atlantic Railway would be renamed once again in 1890, as the Chicago & Erie Railroad following a bankruptcy reorganization. In 1941, the railroad was consolidated into the Erie Railroad. The Erie Railroad officially abandoned their line through Porter County in 1980.

Source Material

Gibbons, John. 1893. Criminal Reports: A Series Designed to Contain the Latest and Most Important Criminal Cases Determined in the Federal and State Courts in the United States. Volume VIII. Chicago, Illinois: Law Book Publishers. 748 p. [see pp. 518-520]

Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard. 1882. Counties of Lake and Porter, Indiana: Historical and Biographical. Chicago, Illinois: F.A. Battey and Company. 771 p. [see pp. 24, 221]

Hardesty, A. G. 1876. Illustrated Historical Atlas of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: A. G. Hardesty. 90 p. [see p. 39]

Lee and Lee. 1895. Lee and Lee's Atlas of Porter County, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Lee and Lee. 81 p. [see p. 33]

The Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Volume I. Chicago: Illinois: The Lewis Publishing Company. 357 p. [see pp. 334-335]

Romans, H. R. 1899. American Locomotive Engineers: Erie Railway Edition. Chicago, Illinois: Crawford-Adsit Company. 614 p. [see pp. 336, 424-426, 555]

Shaw, Robert B. 1978. A History of Railroad Accidents, Safety Precautions and Operating Practices. Kirkwood, New York: Vail-Ballou Press. 473 p. [p. 457]

Anonymous. 1887. The Accident at Kouts Station. Railroad Gazette 19:673. 

Anonymous. 1887. Editorial Announcements. Railroad Gazette 19:686.

Anonymous. 1887. The Kouts Accident. Railroad Gazette 19:689.

Anonymous. 1887. The Kouts Disaster -- The Coroner's Verdict. The Railway Review 27:619.

Anonymous. 1887. Mentions. Railroad Conductors' Monthly 4(12):665.
Shaw, Robert B., Ralph S. Podas, John H. White, Jr., Karl A. Roider, H. Roger Grant, and Mark Reutter. 2001. A History of Wrecks. Railroad History 184:20-77.

Anonymous. 1889. Railroads. The Railway Conductors' Monthly 6(6):287.

Newspapers (listed by date of publication)
The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; October 12, 1887; Volume 47, Page 1, Columns 1-2. Column titled "An Unknown Number Die. Terrible Railroad Accident Near Kouts, Ind."

The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana; October 12, 1887; Page 1, Columns 4-6 and Page 2, Column 1. Column titled "Mangled and Burned."

The Los Angeles Daily Herald, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Indiana; October 12, 1887; Volume 29, Number 10, Page 1, Columns 5-6. Column titled "Death's Harvest. Terrible Train Wreck Near Kouts, Indiana."

Newark Daily Advocate, Newark, Licking County, Ohio; October 12, 1887; Volume 17, Number 76, Page 1, Column 1-2. Column titled "Did Not See the Signal. Frightful Railroad Wreck Near Kout's, Indiana."

Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas; October 12, 1887; Volume 7, Number 125, Page 1, Columns 3-5. Column titled "A Railroad Horror. A Fast Express on the Chicago & Atlantic railroad, Near Koutts, Ind."

Atchison Daily Champion, Atchison, Atchison County, Kansas; October 13, 1887; Volume 23, Number 166, Page 1, Columns 1-2. Column titled" The Kouts Disaster."

The Tribune, Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana; October 13, 1887; Volume 4, Number 27, Page 1, Columns 3-4. Column titled "The Kouts Horror."

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio; October 22, 1887; Volume 45, Number 302, Page 1, Column 7. Column titled "Sad Case. Poor Little Herman Miller, the Victim of the Kouts Disaster."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, St. Louis County, Missouri; December 14, 1887; Volume 38, Number 152, Page 4, Column 4. Column titled "The Kouts Disaster. Four Suits for Damages Against the Chicago & Atlantic Railroad."

Ottawa Daily Republic, Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas; December 29, 1887; Volume 7, Number 306, Page 3, Column 6. Column titled "Engineer John Dorsey Arrested and Released on Bond."

The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; October 1, 1951; Volume 25, Number 75, Page 1, Columns 4-5 and Page 3, Column 1. Column titled "Charles Lauer's Memory of Kouts Dates Back Long Way," by Rollie Bernhart.

© 2017 Steven R. Shook. All Rights Reserved.