FILES FROM THE CHATSWORTH PALINDEALER
Stories of interest from our hometown paper over the years.
TIRES OF LIFE SO ENDS IT BY HANGING SELF
EDSON ROBERTS IS FOUND DEAD WHEN WIFE RETURNS FROM ERRAND
APRIL 4, 1935
Edson Roberts ended his life by hanging in his home in Chatsworth last Thursday (Mar.28) afternoon shortly after 3 o'clock.
He carefully planned his deed. He had been ill for some time and had not left his home for several weeks. Diabetes and then a stroke of paralysis had left him in an enfeebled condition.
After directing his wife to go up town and secure some medicine and insisting that she take along the baby son, he locked all the doors to the house, tied a small rope to ____________(undreadable in a fold of the paper) his bedroom, then threw it over the top of a door and standing on a chair arranged the noose around his neck and kicked the chair away. When Mrs. Roberts returned home a short time later she found the doors locked and entered the house through a window. She found her husband hanging with his feet touching the floor. A physician and other help was summoned but life was extinct. In his enfeeble condition the spark of life was easily extinguished.
Coroner Keeley of Forrest had been called earlier in the afternoon by the sudden death of Mrs. M. Haberkorn, and was still in town when his services were needed. He impaneled the following coroner's jury: Edward Cooney, Louis Ortman, W.C. Quinn, Raymond Kurtenbach, Hilko Remmers and Walter Fielding. Their verdict was that he "came to his death from strangulation as a result of hanging himself while temporarily mentally deranged."
Funeral services were held at the home Saturday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock, conducted by Rev. A. E. Kalkwarf, pastor of the Lutheran church. Burial was in the Chatsworth cemetery.
He was the son of Marion and Emma Roberts and was born on a farm south of Chatsworth Dec. 11, 1871. In 1904 he moved to town. He married Margaret Knittles Oct. 11, 1924. She survives him with four children, Mary Frances, Emma, Joan and James. There are three brothers, Charles and Bert, of Chatsworth and Lester, of Gilman; and one sister, Mrs. Mae Chambers, Pierpont, South Dakota.
Except for a few brief periods the entire life of Mr. Roberts was spent in this locality. He served as a policeman in Chatsworth for more than twenty years of this time and as a deputy sheriff and constable. His hobby was fishing and hunting and in the earlier days when there was game and fish he was an enthusiastic sportsman. His health had been gradually failing and it is presumed that he had became despondent and decided to hasten the end of life.
MISS HELENA AARON, LIBRARIAN, RESIGNS
APRIL 4, 1935
At a meeting of the Chatsworth public library board held Monday evening, Miss Helena Aaron, resigned her position as librarian, to take effect at once. Miss Aaron served on the board as a member for a period of six years, after which she was appointed eight years ago to succeed Mr. L.J. Haberkorn as librarian. For fourteen years she has been an efficient and faithful servant of the public in connection with the library. Her industry in keeping up the work of her office and her patient, intelligent management of the office has been a distinct favor to the public and was highly appreciated by the library board. Her resignation was accepted with regret and with well deserved praise. Mrs. Alice Swarzwalder was named as temporary successor to Miss Aaron, pending a permanent appointment to be made at the nex monthly meeting of the board.
JUNE 27, 1935
Martin F. Brown, Chatsworth baseball fan, who put on an old-time ball game last summer which attracted more than 1000 persons, has announced that the fans and players enjoyed it so much that he has consented to repeat his stunt this summer and has selected July 14 as the date of the 1935 conflict. He has the acceptance of old timers like Al Koestner, Mike Sampson, Hod Eller, Harry Halstead and others and plants to install a loud speaker system and put the game on in regular league style. He will also have a 75-piece band on hand.
ALUMNI TRIUMPHS OVER C.T.H.S. SEVEN TO 0
OCTOBER 17, 1935
Through over confidence in themselves the C.T.H.S. pigskin toters met defeat by their old standbys of '33, '34 and '35, with the aid of some non-alumni. In the first quarter the high school boys kicked off to the Alumni, who returned the ball for the first two downs. In this quarter the high school boys tried short passes which did not gain them much ground. To start the second quarter out the Alumni punted and the punt was fumbled by C.T.H.S. and recovered by the Alumni on the C.T.H.S. 35-yard line. This made the school boys mad and they held the Alumni until the half. To start the second half the high school kicked to the Alumni who couldn't make the first down so they punted. C. T.H.S. then started a passing attack which resulted in Finefield's intercepting a pass and running 45 years for a touchdown. Cooney then carried the ball across for the extra point. After this the high school kicked to the Alumni and then blocked the Alumni punt on the 8-yard line but the Alumni recovered. In the fourth quarter the high school started another passing attack which didn't affect the alumni; thus the high school boys bowed to their older brothers -- 7-0.
Substitutions: Hummel, J. Smith
Extra Point-Cooney 1
FOUNDING OF CHATSWORTH
OCTOBER 17, 1935
BY DOROTHY JEAN HERR
The following contribution is a paper written for the course in Community civics by Dorothy Jean Herr. The class will appreciate any further information of any kind dealing with the history of Chatsworth.
The first settler in this locality was Franklin Oliver, who came here in 1833. He was a government surveyor who was on his way from Bordentown, N.J., to what is now the state of Missouri. When he saw this land and large grove of trees around here, he decided not to go any farther, but to settle here. He took 4,000 acres but didn't pay the government any money for it because he was a surveyor.
At this time there were seven different tribes of Indians in this vicinity. The Algonquins were constantly at war among themselves, but the Kickapoos were the most savage.
At this time also there were many wild beasts such as wolves, bears, panthers, minks, muskrats and beavers.
In 1857 the T.P. & W. railroad was extended from Fairbury to Chatsworth and in that same year the site of the village was purchased by Wm. H. Osborn, president of the Illinois Central railroad, at that time, from Solomon Sturges. In 1858 Mr. Osborn surveyed Chatsworth, and it was given that name by Wm. H. Jones, the first supervisor of the township. He named it for "Lord Chatsworth," the principal character in a story which he was reading. Also in 1858 Charles D. Brooks came from New York and opened a general store. He was the first actual settler in town and the first postmaster. A little later, J.H. Megquier moved to town, built the first house in town where Wm. Kueffner's residence now stands and worked for Brooks.
The first hotel was built in 1860. It was called the Drake House and situated where the Geo. Walter home is. Later there were three hotels built --The Minor House, Walker House and American House.
People began to arrive, mechanics, speculators and men of other trades. There was no depot for coming and going trains, but just a platform. Michael Henry built the first elevator. My great-grandfather, E. Haberkokrn, and his brother-in-law, Louis Mette, built a large elevator also and Michael Henry put his on flatcars and moved it in Brenton or what is now Piper City.
In 1863 the Germania Beet Sugar Company established a factory here. It was built where Leslie Schade now resides. They had fine machinery, 30 horses, cattle barns, 1,000 cattle, several hundred acres of land, and between 500 and 600 people worked in the factory. They were mostly Germans and came directly here from Germany. It was the first beet sugar industry in the United States. Nearly 30 houses were erected to house the workers.
The factory had a large pond and a deep well was constructed. They dug down 1440 feet and found water but decided to dig 25 feet further to be sure of having it. In so doing the bottom fell out of the well and the water ran away. As a result the factory closed and the machinery and land was sold. Had the factory continued to operate in Chatsworth would now be a city of several thousand people.
The first public school was on the second floor of a harness shop, which stood where the Shols sandwich shop is. About a year later a school house was built east of the present Albert Walter home. The same one is now standing two miles east of town on Route 8. In the middle 70's the present grade school was built. Chatsworth has changed a great deal since then, having made many improvements along educational, business and social lines.
WAR VET IS SPRY AT 95
AND HAD A BIRTHDAY JAN. 29
JANUARY 30, 1936
Chatsworth's only surviving veteran of Civil war, John W. Speer, was 95 years old yesterday , January 29th.
During the forenoon two of his friends for more than 40 years, Patrick and Mary Drinan, of near LaHogue, came over and spent a few hours with Mr. Speer. His son, H.B. Speer, of Watseka, also came and spent the day at the Speer home.
Mr. Speer is in exceptionally good health for a youngster of 95 and is able to be around the home most of the time. His niece, Mrs. Charles Walsh, and husband, reside with and keep house for Mr. Speer and minister to his every want.
He has been an honored resident of Chatsworth for many, many years and his activities as a stock buyer made a large acquaintance for many miles around. The past few years he has lived a quiet, secluded life but The Plaindealer is sure the entire community honors and respects him and trusts he may be spared with us many more years.
GEORGE J. WALTER DEED TILE POND LANDS TO VILLAGE
FEBRUARY 13, 1936
George J. Walter has executed a deed to the village of Chatsworth for the parcel of land east of the tile factory and the Illinois Central railroad tracks for park purposes.
The land contains two large ponds made from excavations for clay for tile and brick manufacture for many years past. This is the ground that was proposed months ago for conservation into a park and game preserve through government financed plans. A WPA work project for the village included this ground and it is proposed to use WPA labor for converting it into a park.
A clause in the deed provided that the name George J. Walter shall be used in any name given to the park; that the tile factory shall have free use of all the water they may need from the ponds and that the ponds are not to be drained. The road leading to the tile factory between the ponds is to remain open and the road running north and south east of the two ponds is never to be closed to traffic. In accepting the gift the village board named a temporary park committee as follows: Joseph Dietz, Claude See, William Turner, Clair Kohler, Rev. W.W. Crockett, C.L. Ortman, Robert Rosenboom, Henry Rosenboom, L.J. Haberkorn, Arthur Walter and Carl Kyburz.
WIFE FINDS HER HUSBAND DEAD ON FLOOR
CYRUS ANDERSON IS EITHER SUICIDE OR HEART ATTACK VICTIM
SEPTEMBER 10, 1936
Cyrus Anderson, a resident of Chatsworth since last winter, was found lying dead on the floor of his leased home Friday morning about 7:30 o'clock by his wife.
POISON VIAL FOUND
He was unclothed except for his underwear and indications first pointed to suicide by drinking strychnine. An empty vial containing a strychnine label was found in his trousers pocket and a glass in the bathroom contained dregs of a white powder that is thought to have been a portion of the contents of the bottle.
POSSIBLE HEART ATTACK
While indications point to suicide it is possible that Mr. Anderson may have been the victim of a heart attack. When a post mortem was held Friday his heart was found to be about twice the normal size and the lungs showed signs of congestion. It also is reported that he had suffered from heart trouble for some time and had had slight hemorrhages at times. It is also possible that the bottle labeled "Strychnine" may have contained tablets to be taken as heart stimulants. Physicians seem to doubt that the man could have taken a dose of strychnine in the bath room on the second floor of the home and then reached the lower floor, where the body was found, before he would have collapsed from convulsions. So until the report of the chemical analysis of the vital organs is received, the cause of death is a mooted question.
Mrs. Anderson spent the night in the home of a neighbor, the Baptist parsonage.
INQUEST AND POST MORTEM
Coroner John Keeley was notified and during the day impaneled a jury that viewed the body and then adjourned until Friday, September 11. Dr. B. Markowitz, of Bloomington, and Dr. H.L. Lockner of Chatsworth, conducted a post mortem examination of the body and removed portions of the vital parts to be sent to Chicago for chemical examination.
The coroner's jury is composed of Edward Cooney, William Baldwin, Dennis Kerrins, Junior Ehman, Elmer Pearson and C.L. Ortman.
A SAD STORY
The story of this tragedy is a sad one: Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and their five year old son, Richard, came to Chatsworth to reside from Wheaton. He was employed out of the Champaign office of the Federal Resettlement Administration and is said to have been a capable and efficient worker. He had been drinking heavily for some time, it appears, and when under the influence was quarrelsome and abusive to his family. Unable to further endure his conduct Mrs. Anderson and child, it appears, had left the home several days prior to the tragedy and went to some of her relatives. He also spent Wednesday night it is reported, at the home of his mother in Wheaton. Mrs. Anderson and son and Mr. Anderson all returned to Chatsworth last Thursday. Mrs. Anderson and son went to the E.W. Crockett home. In the early evening hours he telephoned his wife a time or two, requesting her to come home. She informed him, it appears, that she deemed it better to remain where she was until morning and implored him to go to bed. She found his body being near the telephone when she went to the Gingerich dwelling, which the couple leased, next morning.
BURIED AT LISBON
Relatives of the couple came here during the day and remained with the grief stricken widow until the body was taken to Lisbon, the country home neighborhood of the family near Morris.
The funeral part left here at about noon Sunday and motored to the country home of Arthur Larson, an uncle of the dead man, near Lisbon, where funeral services were conducted by Rev. E.W. Crockett, of Chatsworth, at 2:30 followed by burial in a nearby cemetery. The funeral was largely attended and the floral offerings were profuse, indicative of respect for the deceased.
BORN AT KEMPTON
Mr. Anderson was born at Kempton, August 24, 1898, later lived near Pontiac and for many years in Wheaton where his father conducted a hardware store in which he was employed. Eight years ago he married Olive Calkins. One child, a handsome boy of five years, is the result of this union.
Surviving relatives include his mother, Mrs. Jacob Anderson, and brother, Earl, of Wheaton; another brother, Alvin, of Washington, D.C.; and a sister, Mrs. Cecil Danielson, of Rockford.
The Andersons did not enjoy a wide acquaintance here but were well liked by those who had met them and the home seemed a happy one until drink wrecked it.
Mrs. Anderson, we understand, will visit for a time at the home of her father C.A. Calkins, in Oneida, Illinois, and later take up work in Chicago.
SURVIVORS OF WRECK IN 1887 RETELL STORY
CHATSWORTH DISASTER RECALLED BY PEORIA COUPLE ON ANNIVERSARY
OCTOBER 1, 1936
The following interesting item from an illustrated feature article that was published in last Sunday's Peoria Journal-Transcript:
Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Parker, of 307 Seventh Ave., will observe their fiftieth wedding anniversary Tuesday, September 29, but it will not be the usual celebration of a couple who have marched side by side through half a century of life.
Mr. and Mrs. Parker have the distinction of being survivors of one of the greatest railroad tragedies in the history of the country -- the Chatsworth wreck which occurred just 49 years ago last August 10.
On a belated honeymoon the couple faced death together on that memorable and tragic occasion just 11 months after they became man and wife.
Relatives and hundreds of friends from all over the United States will meet at the Parker home for a dinner Tuesday and there will be a reception throughout the day.
Looking back clearly through the past both Mr. and Mrs. Parker recall the terrors of the wreck which occurred when a double engined excursion train of the Toledo, Peoria and Western railroad bound for Niagara Falls crashed in a burned out culvert east of Chatsworth, Ill.
"We were married September 29, 1886," Mr. Parker said. "After a short wedding trip we settled down here in Peoria and planned to take our honeymoon trip later."
"That opportunity came the following August when the T.P. & W. announced its annual excursion to Niagara Falls. And thus it happened that we were in the terrible wreck which claimed 75 lived outright and caused fatal injuries to 14 others."
The picture of horror which they witnessed can never be forgotten by either Mr. or Mrs. Parker. They have described it thousands of times. It is bound to be one of the topics most discussed at the reception Tuesday. But both prefer not to talk about the gruesome details.
In an earlier interview relatives to the wreck a statement was made that Joseph E. Houghton was conductor of the ill-fated train. This was an error, Mrs. Parker said, the conductor being the late James Stillwell, who died several years ago. Mr. Houghton was baggageman on the train.
Tuesday's Associated Press dispatches from Peoria published further statements from Mr. and Mrs. Parker. It was stated that Mr. Parker was chief train dispatcher for the Toledo, Peoria a& Western and that he and Mr. Parker were riding in Superintendent E.N. Armstong's private car.
Mr. Parker stated that then the crash came he was knocked out and badly bruised and Mrs. Parker more seriously injured. If the ice box in the private car hadn't broken, letting water trickle down on some burning splinters of the car, Parker said, he undoubtedly would have burned to death.
The fire was charring sticks right alongside of me, he explained, "but the melding ice and the water in the box put out the flames and the rescue squads pulled me out."
"Years later," Mrs. Parker said, "I got to Niagara, but Mr. Parker never did get there."
COUPLE HURT IN CAR WRECK MONDAY NIGHT
MRS. HENRY KERBER IN HOSPITAL; MR. KERBER IS SLIGHTLY INJURED
JANUARY 7, 1937
Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Kerber suffered injuries which resulted in Mrs. Kerber going to a hospital when their car turned over on the gravel road a mile east of Chatsworth Monday evening. Mr. Kerber's injuries are of a minor character, but Mrs. Kerber's were more severe, her escape from death being considered little less than miraculous.
Members of the family who have visited Mrs. Kerber daily at St. Joseph's hospital in Bloomington report that she has rallied from her severe shock and loss of blood and that at present her condition does not justify any alarm.
Her principal injury consists of a deep gash in the throat, extending so close to the jugular vein as to be termed a miraculous escape. She also sustained a severe blow to the right side of the head, with numerous head cuts and a laceration of the right ear that required surgical stitching. There were no body bruises or cuts in spite of the fact that a large quantity of shattered glass was showered upon her. Mrs. Kerber was wearing a fur coat, which seems to have afforded excellent protection in that respect.
Mr. Kerber escaped luckily, considering the hazard he experienced. He was at the wheel when the car turned over and was still behind it when he and his wife were extricated from the wreckage. He suffered a bad bump on the nose, which occasioned considerable bleeding and gave rise to an unfounded report that he had suffered internal injuries. He was pretty sore about the chest from contact with the steering wheel, but a thorough examination revealed that he was not seriously injured. he is at present stopping at the home of a relative in Bloomington, to enable him to visit his wife daily.
Mr. and Mrs. Kerber had motored to their farm in Charlotte township Monday evening, it being Mrs. Kerber's first outing since going through an attack of the flue, she being still quite weak. Driving home about 6 o'clock, Mr. Kerber came to a stretch of loose gravel about a half mile east of the Chatsworth cemetery. Attempting to get out of the rut his car swerved and turned over. To all appearances the car made a nose dive and turned completely over from rear to front, then landed on its side.
Mrs. Kerber was sitting beside him, but was found in the rear of the car, the right front seat being broken. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kerber were stunned and she was removed from the wreckage in practically unconscious condition.
The crash was heard by the Curtis boys at their home not far from the scene and they and other neighbors who were summoned removed the Chatsworth couple from the wreckage and brought them to their home in town. They were attended by Dr. H. L. Lockner, and then Mrs. Kerber was taken to the hospital in the McGuire ambulance.
The car, a 1936 Plymouth was badly damaged.
MAY LOSE EYE AS RESULT OF NIGHT CRASH
PARTY OF FIVE CHATSWORTH MEN FARE BADLY ON HIGHWAY
FEBRUARY 18, 1937
Five Chatsworth men were injured two miles west of Gilman on Route 24, Monday night during a snow storm when their car skidded and struck a cement culvert at the side of the road.
ONE SERIOUSLY INJURED
K.R. Porterfield and William Kibler were taken to St. Mary's hospital in Kankakee as being more seriously injured. Mr. Porterfield's right eye was badly injured when cut by his broken glasses and he may lose the eye. His other injuries were not thought to be serious. Mr. Kibler's nose was cut, his chest bruised and a small bone fracture in his right ankle. He had numerous small cuts.
FIVE IN THE CAR
With Kibler and Porterfield were C.G. Bartlett, J.W. Heiken and F.L. Livingston. Heiken and Livingston were the only ones thrown from the car and it remained upright on the pavement. Messrs. Heiken and Livingston went to a farm house and summoned aid from Gilman. The men were taken to a Gilman doctor who gave them first aid. Two were then taken in an ambulance to a Kankakee hospital. The condition of Mr. Porterfield's eye was deemed so serious that a specialist was called and dressed the wound and he also sewed up the cuts on Mr. Kibler's nose. Later in the day another doctor gave them attention.
Mr. Livingston caught a ride home and went back in his car and brought the other two men home. All three were confined to their beds Tuesday from injuries and shock. Mr. Heiken was able to limp around his store Wednesday.
HAD ATTENDED A GAME
The party had gone to Champaign to witness the basketball game between the U. of I. and Purdue teams. Snow was falling and blowing across the highway and it appears that the car left the pavement either when it struck an icy spot or when the driver was unable to see the slab. About all of the new car worth salvaging seemed to be the five wheels. It was towed to Gilman and later to Chatsworth.
One of Mr. Bartlett's legs swelled so badly that it was feared he had a broken bone. An x-ray taken Wednesday did not reveal any fracture. Mr. Livingston's injuries are not bad but the men will all be out of any foot races for a while.
Wednesday afternoon both Mr. Porterfield and Mr. Kibler were very sore and suffering much pain but it was thought Mr. Kibler would be able to come home in a day or two. They were both in the front seat of the car when the crash came.
BLACKSMITH HAMMERS WIFE WITH A POKER
MRS. L.C. WADE IS BADLY BEATEN BY HER HUSBAND SATURDAY
FEBRUARY 25, 1937
L.C. Wade, 63, Chatsworth blacksmith is being held in the county jail in default of $1,000 bail on charges of assult and battery.
He was given a preliminary hearing before Justice J.A. Sutherland Saturday afternoon in Pontiac and his case continued for ten days.
WIFE BADLY BEATEN
Wade's wife was taken in an ambulance Saturday about noon to the Pontiac hospital suffering from severe wounds alleged to have been inflicted by Wade at about 11 o'clock Saturday forenoon at the Wade home. His is credited with hitting her several blows over the head and body with a stove poker. She had at least two head wounds, several across her back and shoulders and chest wounds. It was feared her skull had been fractured, but a x-ray examination did not reveal any fracture and it is believed she will recover.
TROUBLE OVER MONEY
The trouble is alleged to have started when Clifford Milton, 16, step-son of Wade, refused to give him money. According to information given out, young Milton recently was awarded $110 in a bank night award. He gave his mother $10 of the money and deposited the balance in the bank. Wade, it is alleged, has been trying to get all or part of this money but the boy steadfastly refused to give it up. The boy left the house Saturday morning after some words with his stepfather, and after he left, Wade appears to have renewed the quarrel with his wife. She ran from the house screaming with Wade in pursuit, it is stated.
The Wades live a block north of the middle business block in Chatsworth and she was seen running from the house. With assistance she was able to reach a doctor's office and receive treatment. The head wounds seemed so serious that Dr. Lockner advised taking her to a hospital and his was done.
Officer William Lafferty arrested Wade and held him in the village jail until turned over to the sheriff. Mr. Lafferty also filed the complaint.
The Wades came to Chatsworth a couple of years ago from Cullom and he leased the Silberzahn blacksmith shop. He is a good workman and seemed to have plenty to do until illness compelled him to delegate the work to others.
BOTH PREVIOUSLY MARRIED
He is reported to have been married three times before the present marriage and has at least two grown sons who are members of the Detroit police and fire departments. Mrs. Wade was married and divorced before wedding Wade. Her first husband is a guard at the Pontiac prison and there are at least a son and daughter by the marriage. The Wades have one child, a daughter about 5 years old.
SPENDS LONG TIME AS LOCAL BUSINESS MAN
L.J. HABERKORN COMPLETES 55 YEARS
MARCH 11, 1937
L.J. Haberkorn completed his fifty-fifth year as an active business man in Chatsworth March 7th.
Last July 4th marked the 37th year he has been located in his present building in the center of the middle business block in town.
ACTIVE AND ENTHUSIASTIC
Mr. Haberkorn is not only the oldest business man in Chatsworth but the most active man. He has more enthusiasm and more ideas than any other fellow in town. He is at his place of business every day.
He began business March 8th, 1882, in a frame building on the corner where T.E. Burns' hardware store is now located. His first business was a confectionery and restaurant. This he continued successfully for a number of years, finally dropping the restaurant and adding music and musical instruments. During the era of the phonograph, Mr. Haberkorn sold hundreds of Edison's best. He has also sold many pianos and other musical instruments, but for 55 years he has never ceased selling roasted peanuts.
BUILT NATIONAL MARKET
As a peanut vendor he has a record probably not surpassed in the state. Back in 1913 he conceived the idea of having a cardboard container made in the shape of a huge firecracker with an imitation fuse on one end. This carton holds a pound of peanuts and a careful record he has kept reveals that he has shipped roasted peanuts in pound "firecrackers" to 30 states, Canada and the Hawaiian Islands. He sent many of these postpaid at 25 cents a carton and the customers sent back for more. He has become an expert at roasting yet never tastes his product to see if it was properly roasted, relying on the touch and looks to decide when they are properly cooked.
HISTORIAN AND MUSICIAN
Mr. Haberkorn's a regular fountain of information on early events of Chatsworth. He was one of the first to reach the scene of the great railroad wreck east of town 50 years ago and aided in rescue and care of dozens of killed and injured that fateful night, and his remembrances of the horrors are still vivid.
Mr. Haberkorn for many years was a band leader and is one of the few men who successfully handled a cornet with false teeth. However, that is only characteristic of the man. He hardly knows what failure means.
During his long residence on "Main Street" he has witnessed the passing of many interesting characters and unusual incidents. Probably one of the most amusing was during a fire in the business section of the town many years ago. While assisting in fighting the fire a citizen who lived in what is now the Ed Roberts property along paved highway 24 fell into a cess pool along the alley back of the fire, and was submerged up to his shoulders. After being pulled out the fellow divested himself of all of his clothing except his hat and ran in that condition to his home for a bath and new clothes.
OUTSTANDING TOWN BOOSTER
Mr. Haberkorn has been identified with the upbuilding of Chatsworth in many ways. He owns a brick business building and a few years ago constructed a rock covered bungalow home which is the only one of the kind in this part of the state. Many of the stones were gathered from other localities and several truck loads were hauled from Logansport, Indiana.
He is hale and hearty, aggressive to a marked degree and The Plaindealer hopes he is here 55 years more.
See his picture here.
HUMAN BONES FOUND IN BAG ON HIGHWAY
GRUESOME DISCOVERY MADE AT CHATSWORTH, SATURDAY MORNING
JUNE 3, 1937
The finding of a laundry bag containing human bones beside the concrete road a mile east of Chatsworth at 8 o'clock Saturday morning created considerable of a sensation for a time.
Out of the Livingston county sheriff's office, police inquiry was launched concerning the identity and address of Owen A. Rice, whose name was recorded on the inside of a pocket surgical case that was also in the bag.
It was learned that Rice, of Melford, Michigan, a sophomore at the Kirksville, Missouri College of Osteopathy and Surgery, had just completed work in surgery, during which the bones were studied.
Roy Irwin, of Pontiac, is also a student at the college, and Dale Richardson, of Flanagan, was his roommate. Rice, according to Irwin, made his home at the Acacia Club, a fraternity house in Kirksville. Completing his year's work, Rice had packed the bones in a bag, given to students by a clothing house, placed it in a carrier attached to the side of his 1933 Chevrolet car-and the bag was lost in route.
OFFICER MOORE NOTIFIED
Official notification of the finding of the strange bag was first given to Deputy Sheriff Jesse Moore, of Chatsworth, from the Walter Brock home. Moore went out to the school house two miles east of town and brought the bag to town. It was learned that Thomas March, Jr. 24, of Bradley, a guest at the Brock home, and Leota Mae Brock, 16, had picked up the bag on the shoulder of the highway a few rods east of the Brock home. A glimpse of its contents led them to reporting the find, after depositing it further along the road.
SKULLS AND PELVIC BONES
The collection of bones, as afterwards listed by the authorities, included the complete skull of a male, the cap piece and lower jaw of a female skull, three lower lumbar vertabra and pelvic bones, also a female. The instrument case, which contained a scalpel, tweezers, probers, etc., was inscribed "Owen a. Rice, Acacia Club, Oct. 7, 1935." A pair of red house slippers, a pair of white calf shoes and several bath towels were also contained in the bag which was stamped with the words "Better Clothes at Bamburg's, Kirksville."
Deputies H.H. Davis and Bob Jones, of the sheriff's office, reached Chatsworth soon after the local deputy received notice of the discovery and they conducted a careful examination which resulted in the development of the facts, the substantial part of which had been correctly assumed at the outset.
BACK ON THE CORNER AFTER LONG ABSENCE
JAMES A. BALDWIN BUYS CORNER GROCERY FROM REBHOLZ & MAURITZEN.
JUNE 24, 1937
James A. Baldwin, late of Tiffin, Ohio, has purchased the Corner Grocery from Joseph Rebholz and Howard Mauritzen.
The change in ownership of this well known store came as a surprise. Mr. Baldwin, a native of Chatsworth, has been connected for the past ten years with the Penney Store organization as a clerk and manager. Most of the time was spent in Wisconsin but lately Mr. Baldwin has been in Tiffin, Ohio.
FATHER BUSINESS FOUNDER
The return of Mr. Baldwin brings back pleasant memories to the older residents. His father started in the grocery business in this same building about 37 years ago when the two-story brick building was built by James A. Smith. Several years prior to that date there was a grocery store conducted on the site in a frame building which burned down, during a fire. The Baldwins, first the father, T.E. Baldwin, and later Baldwin & Sons, including John and James, conducted a grocery store on the corner. Approximately twenty years ago they purchased the Bushway dry goods store, adjoing the grocery store on the east and for about three years conducted both stores. Later the grocery store was sold to Hugo Trunk. Mr. Trunk sold the store 16 years ago to Rebholz & Mauritzen, who have continued the business up to the present time.
About 11 years ago the Baldwins sold the dry goods store and retired from business in Chatsworth.
"JOE AND HOD"
Joseph Reholz and Howard Mauritzen are two of the finest fellows in the village. They were at all times courteous, pleasant and accommodating. They have conducted a clean store and were always on the job. The writer is sorry to know they are leaving the business field. We understand they have made no plans for the future at this time. However, many friends trust that they may continue as residents of the village, at least.
STORY OF THE GREAT CHATSWORTH WRECK OF 1887 IS RETOLD
AUGUST 5, 1937
Fifty years ago, August 10th, Chatsworth was the scene of one of the worst railroad wrecks in history.
When a Niagara Falls excursion train of sixteen wooden coaches, pulled by two engines, went through a small wooden bridge about 2 1/2 miles east of Chatsworth, 81 persons were killed outright and 372 injured. Many of the injured died afterwards from their hurts. Practically all of the people who were on the train and escaped are now dead.
A new generation has taken the place of those of fifty years ago but the horror of that fateful night still lingers in the memory of the few that remain.
L. J. Haberkorn was one of the first persons to reach the scene of the disaster. He has consented to retell the story. Here it is:
"Grand Excursion, Wednesday, August 10th, Peoria, Ill., to Niagara Falls and return for only $10.00 for the round trip. Come and be with us on this wonderful excursion trip. Tickets on sale at all stations."
(A notice similar to the above was passed out by the company, which also gave the time of arrival and departure of the excursion at each station.)
Just think of it, over fifty years ago we read this poster passed along their line by the officials of this company, about the middle of July, 1887, and many of us began to lay plans with a view of taking in this vacation trip and seeing Niagara Falls. Little did we dream of the suffering, and heartaches the future held in store for many of us only a short time ahead.
AUGUST 10, 1887
May hundreds got up that morning, full of life, pep and expectancy, thinking of the find sightseeing trip they were about to take. "That evening the excursion train was made up at Peoria, Illinois. Two engines and sixteen wooden coaches (one of which was Superintendent Armstrong's private car).
MAKEUP OF TRAIN
First we have freight engine No. 21 (weight 40 tons) and in the hands of Engineer Sutherland and Fireman Rodgers.
Second we have passenger engine No. 13 (weight 34 tons) in the hands of Engineer McClintock and Fireman Applegreen.
Then follows the baggage car, private car, chair car, eight day cars and in the rear are five Pullman sleepers. The excursion was in charge of "Billie" Putnam, one of the oldest and best conductors of the time.
The entire road was not in the best condition, the culverts or bridges were of flimsy wooden construction. The bridge that was the cause of this most horrible catastrophe, like the rest, was constructed of wood, some twenty feet long, and about ten feet from the rails down to the bottom of this ordinary country ditch which it spanned.
"The summer had been very dry, it had not rained for ten weeks, the bridge and the ditch were all dried up and there were crevices in the bottom of the ditch three to four inches wide and the weather was very warm.
It is early evening, the train is all ready for the trip, the coaches are soon filled with a throng of laughing, singing, merry-making men, women and children, about to start on a wonderful pleasure trip. The entire train with about 800 on board was so heavy that the officials of the company thought best not to trust the river bridge with this weight hence, the train was taken over the bridge in two sections, and as the bells ring and the whistles blow, an accompaniment to the cheers and good wishes of the hundreds of friends and relatives who were there to see them off and wishing them a happy return, the two sections pull across the river bridge, where they are joined together as one train. Says Engineer McClintock to the superintendent: "This is a dangerous trip." Reply: "Well, if you don't want to go, stay at home, there are plenty others to take your place." So McClintock, the obedient, dependable engineer that he was, kept still, climbed into his place in the engine cab and the train pulls out to carry him to his death which is awaiting him only seventy-three and three-quarters miles down the road east of Peoria. The train got a late start and lost time all along the way, but all on board seemed happy and were exchanging greetings with their fellow passengers.
Listen, a beautiful song is heard, floating along on the night air and coming from one of the head coaches. A mixed quartette composed of two young ladies and their gentlemen escorts, are entertaining the passengers with beautiful songs. When about fifteen miles west of here (Chatsworth) they stopped singing and one of the couples left their seat and were strolling through the train and an elderly couple had taken the seats they had just vacated. Finally the train reaches here at 11:30 (instead of 8:30, its scheduled time) and Mr. and Mrs. T.Y. Brown, William Hallam Sr., and son William, Alva Cunnington and Bishop Judd get aboard. While this was taking place the passengers were calling for more music from the quartette but they are separated. In order to please the passengers the couple that vacated their seats and which were now occupied by the elderly couple says; "Grandpa and Grandma, if you will kindly let us have our seats we will sing some more for you."
The old couple gladly gave them their seats, and themselves taking seats further back in the coach. The train started out from here at 11:35 with the quartette singing "Nearer My God To Thee". Oh, would that God in His mercy and benevolence had stopped this train, but the engines with their sixteen coaches of human freight, roll on and pass over a country road that crossed the railroad two miles east of here, and just beyond this country road there is a small knoll, or raise in the railroad which obstructs the bridge from the view of Engineer Sutherland.
As his engine reaches the top of the hill he is nearly struck dumb with horror as he sees ahead; he can hardly believe his eyes; he thinks quickly, and calls to Fireman Rodgers, "My God, Rodgers, the bridge is burned, jump for your life," which he did. He received some bruises but saved his life.
Alone in his cab poor Engineer Sutherland was powerless to stop his train which was rushing on with the burned bridge and open ditch only a few hundred feet away. He, no doubt, gave a signal to the second engine crew of what was just ahead, then quickly made a wonderful decision, pulled his throttle wide open, tore loose from the second engine and smash, he struck the rails from under which the bridge had been burned and the momentum evidently carried him across to the other side, where he hit solid rails and kept on going. Several hundred feet further on his tender left the track and jumped into a space on the north side of the track, where it came to rest right side up.
Here comes the train, and, oh, what a smash it must have been! The quartette of young singers was instantly killed, while the elderly couple who had exchanged seats with them, escaped death.
McClintock's engine jumped the ditch, plowed along the south side of the right-of-way and nearly buried itself in a bank, where it lay half tilted on its side, with its tender on the north side of the track some distance east of the ditch.
Fireman Applegreen was thrown out of the cab and his life was saved as if by a miracle. Engineer McClintock was killed instantly. We found him sitting on his seat, in the cab, his had on the engine throttle, his head and the upper part of his body crushed and his watch stopped at 11:45 midnight. (He was the only one of the train crew killed).
When the first car reached the ditch, which was not wide enough to allow the car to up-end into the same, both front and rear trucks dropped from under the car into the ditch. The front end of the car reached the opposite side, where it tore up what was left of the ties and rails and swept them on ahead of it. The second car also dropped both trucks into the ditch but had no ties nor rails to impede its speed, consequently slid on and into the first car ahead, and thus seven cars lost all of their trucks, thirteen of which were found in the ditch.
When the train finally came to rest all coaches ahead of the five sleepers were badly wrecked, three floors of cars lying atop of one another with the car bodies smashed into kindling wood. Every chair in the car held a passenger and the car following this split this car wide open and swept passengers, chairs and all to within a few feet of the front end. Here many were killed.
The first sleeper came to rest in a sloping position, with its front trucks resting on the pile of trucks stacked up in the ditch among a few short upright timbers of the bridge, still standing in the ground and still smouldering. No one in the sleepers was killed.
After the crash the cries of the wounded must have been heartrending, and there was danger of the wrecked cars east of the bridge all catching fire from the lower bridge timbers which were still smouldering and no water within a half mile of the scene, and the wind blowing down the track from the west.
In order to get help to these unfortunate hundreds the brakeman, lantern in hand, started to run up the track to Chatsworth, two and three-quarters miles away. As he neared town, Walter Madigan who lived in the southeast part of town and who was employed at the Walter tile and brick works, (his hours being from midnight to morning) was crossing the T.P.& W. tracks at the east side of town, also carrying a lantern. He saw this man in uniform running toward him and suspected that something must have happened. As the brakeman rushed up he began calling, "For heaven's sake where does the T.P. & W. agent live: The Niagara excursion is in the ditch several miles east of here and I am afraid it will catch fire before we can get help out there."
About this time Mike Bergan (one of our night owls), seeing the two men with lanterns. came rushing up and was also given the horrible news, so Bergan rushed down Main street and aroused all living, or sleeping, in stores along this street. I was in business on the corner where the Burns hardware store is located and was living in the back and upstairs over the store when Bergan nearly shook the store door off its hinges. I jumped up and over to an open window and heard the news of the wreck. It did not take me long to get into a few clothes and across the street where the fire bell was located and give the fire alarm. People came running from all directions, asking one another, "Where is the fire? Where is the fire?" They soon learned why the fire alarm had been sounded and all made hurried preparations to reach the wreck and help put out the fire, alleviate the suffering of the wounded and take care of the dead.
While this was going on, Madigan and the brakeman had aroused Agent Liston and all had reached the depot in a short time, where the agent was busy sending messages to Peoria and other places for doctors, nurses and help and soon the whole country was in a high state of excitement and many were on their way to the wreck to do all in their power to help.
While all this was going on we organized a party of some twenty or more. We had about three lanterns in the outfit (the night was very dark) so these lanterns came into good play as we sprinted down the track as fast as we could in order to reach the wreck as soon as possible. (You see, the railroad runs along the half mile line hence in order to reach there by team one would have to drive one mile out of their way and then walk back one quarter of a mile to the wreck, but by afternoon of the next day (Thursday) crops, fences, and everything were beaten down and many were driving straight down to the wreck.
When we were within about one-half mile of the wreck, to our pleasant surprise we met Mr. and Mrs. T.Y. Brown, arms locked, toddling along on the railroad, on their way back home. We all thanked God for having saved this loving old couple. Joe Watson, of our party, led them over to a pile of ties by the side of the track and had them sit there while he hustled back to town and got his team and buggy, drove through fields, got them back home, tired and heart-broken over this night of terrible and horrible experiences.
The rest of our party pushed on, and when we were still some distance from the wreck we heard a man's voice coming from a cornfield quite a distance north of the wreck. He had a very strong voice and about every half minute he would cry, "oh, my God." This voice coming out of the darkness, nearly froze our blood, and we understood what we were soon going to experience. As we neared the wreck the cries and moans of the wounded and dying was almost too much for even a heart of stone. No one can imagine what this scene might have been had the wreckage all east of the bridge caught fire from the smouldering ruins of the bridge.
Our first work was to smother these embers by scooping up dust in our hands, which we threw on them. The fire out, we could scarcely tell where to commence work, such hollering, crying and begging for help on all sides, we can never forget to our dying day. Oh, the terrible wailings from the ones held fast in the cars, and by wreckage on the outside. We first got out as many wounded as we could locate. We had worked, I think a little over an hour when the relief train from Peoria arrived on the scene. They had picked up doctors, nurses and first aid equipment and many who were all too willing to help. They also had on board the Chatsworth fire department and many pails and tubs filled with water as they, too, feared the wreckage might catch afire.
The fire department, under the leadership of (the late) Fire Marshall and Foreman H.H. Game and his able assistant, William H. Walter, rendered great service. I will here mention an incident that at this late day makes me feel like saying something, that would not look good in print. Two of our boys were carrying a young man between them, his arms around their shoulders. He was all right from the hips up but his legs were very badly crushed. We were taking him to the rear of the sleepers where we intended to place him. I was ahead with the lantern; Game came next carrying a fire hook in one hand and following were the two boys with the badly wounded young man. As we approached the car a lady, (no, not a lady, simply a woman) opened the rear door and shouted, "Oh, don't bring that man in here. I just got my baby to sleep." Well, this very much aroused our ire; Game jumped over the end railing of the car and hollered, "Git out of here, you --- before I run this hook through you."
The poor baby was disturbed from its slumbers and all piled out of the car in a hurry. I think it would be very hard for you to realize when I tell you that some had not left their sleepers. Well, we went through all the sleepers and took out bedding, heavy curtains, etc., upon which we laid the dead and wounded. There were about sixty-five dead, lying along the fence south of the track, as also were many wounded.
We gathered up one little fellow (named by the newspapers as the hero of the wreck). He was about ten years old; his left leg was badly broken and crushed, his eyeball was dangling on his cheek and as we laid him on some pillows the poor little chap looked up with his good eye and said "I'll be all right now gentlemen, go and take care of them that are hurt worse than I am." I might mention that the doctors amputated his leg but saved his eye.
They tell me that he grew to be a big, fine man, is still alive and is holding the position of station agent in some city in Indiana, (his name is Schnedicker). He was in the same seat with his mother. She was instantly killed, being decapitated. The roof of Superintendent Armstrong's car was entirely torn off and the car badly mashed. He was thrown through this opening and landed in the weeds north of the track, badly torn and bruised, but very lucky to escape with his life.
We had great difficulty trying to put the wounded into the sleepers, hence we firemen asked some of the road officials to pull the four sleepers that were in condition, and still on the rails, back to town and bring out some box cars so we could better take care of the many wounded and get them into town. They did this which made it much easier. We then had the wide side doors to take them through and lay them on the floors. As soon as these freight cars were filled they were slowly hauled to town, emptied and taken back to the wreck for more wounded. When all of these had been taken care of the dead were brought in the same way.
While we were busy at his work, others in town were also busy making arrangements to take care of the dead and wounded. The late David Brobst and several other old gentlemen were over in the lumber yard making stretchers. For this purpose, they used board one inch thick, one foot wide and twelve feet long; these they sawed in two, nailed three cleats under the bottom and cut two handholds on each side. They came in handy to move the wounded.
The town hall, a two story building about 32 x 60, stood right west of the Grand where the road is now. The upper story was used for dances, entertainments, etc., while the lower story housed our fire apparatus. As the stretchers were filled they were carried upstairs into the hall, each end placed upon a chair and room left between these so the doctors and nurses could take care of them.
The hall was beautifully decorated with flags, etc., as a patriotic drama had been given for the benefit of the G.A.R. by local talent, and the whole scene presented as it now was being enacted, was very touching. One lady lay dying on the stage, another on the piano, while three others passed away on the main floor.
When the upper floor was filled the fire apparatus was moved out below and in a short time this floor was also filled with the wounded and still they were being brought in, and then the late mayor, Jas. A. Smith, asked the citizens in general to throw open their homes to these poor unfortunates.
This was gladly done and in many of our homes our people were doing all they could to alleviate the suffering. Doctors and nurses arrived in great numbers and there was work for all of them.
August 12, 1937
The Second Half of the Story is Told
In this paper last week, L.J. Haberkorn retold in part, the story of the tragic railroad wreck of 50 years ago a few miles east of Chatsworth.
Today the story is finished. Many times during the past few years there have been requests to The Plaindealer for copies of the (Original) paper telling the story. There were none available so, at this time, the golden anniversary of the wreck, Mr. Haberkorn was asked to tell the story, as he saw it. We think the job was creditably done and we trust readers of the paper will preserve a copy for any future day.
The Plaindealer is indebted to The Bloomington Pantagraph for mats from which the four large pictures were made and for that of Mr. Judd. The Pantagraph also co-operated splendidly with us in presenting the picture of the bridge today and the picture of the group taken Tuesday at the reunion.
And now, here's the remainder of Mr. Haberkorn's story:
There was an empty store building located on the south side of the track where the Clearwater Tank company is located. This was soon filled with the dead, then one room of the schoolhouse was used for this purpose, and there were still twenty-two bodies laid out in front of the depot on the platform. A train came up from Bloomington, bringing many doctors, nurses and a wonderful undertaker with a full carload of caskets, and every so often a train would start for Peoria taking the less wounded to their homes and the dead to their last resting place.
One of the most horrible sights that came to my attention about 3 a.m. at the wreck was the man in the cornfield north of the wreck, that I told you about earlier in this article, added to his previous wailing, "Oh, my God, won't someone bring me a drink of water?", so I had Martin Hickey, a home boy about ten years old who had stayed close to me during these gruesome sights, pick up a pail of water and a cup (of which there were many brought out by the relief train) and we went over to this man to give him a drink and see what we could do for him.
He had crawled away from the wreck and out into this corn field where in his bodily and mental agony, he had torn up quite a patch of corn and was lying on his back as we came up to him. This was a frightful sight, his clothes all torn, covered with blood and he was badly hurt. He raised up to a partial sitting position. I got down and put one arm around him and helped him to a good drink of water, which he seemed to enjoy so much. I asked him if he was alone on the train and he replied, "No, my dear boy, my wife and three children were all killed."
I did my best to console him telling him that he might be mistaken in their being killed, but he said, "No, I am sure they are all killed." It was terribly hard to even try to console a person laboring under this mental agony and personal injury. We left, telling him to rest easy, as we would be back to see him again. So we went back to the wreck. Just before dawn it turned very dark and a few drops of rain began to fall. So, thinking again of this poor fellow, I told Martin to pick up a pillow and some blankets (there were many we had earlier stripped from the sleepers) and we would wrap up this man out in the corn field.
As we came up to him he raised up on his left arm, raised his right hand, in which he held a big revolver and sent a bullet into his brain. Martin dropped the bedding and ran away from the scene and I did not see him again that night, and I confess I was unable to stir out of my tracks for several minutes. Just before I left the scene (1:30 p.m. next day) I told some of the men to please follow my footprints in the dust out into the corn field and get the body of this poor unfortunate. I made inquiry later as to his family and learned that he was right, they had all four been instantly killed.
Shortly after we had reached the wreck an old couple, arms locked, came up to me. the old lady was crying and as she laid her hand on my arm, said pleadingly, "Mr., won't you please go in that car (one of the sleepers) and get my hat?" "Why, grandma, you're not hurt are you?" "No, thank God, we were both saved." "Then both of you go over to that pile of ties and sit down and we will take care of you later.
When the relief train arrived from Peoria they had a telegraph operator and a lineman with them and it did not take the lineman very long to go up a pole near the wreck and tap the wire and bring it down to a table and make the connection with a telegraph instrument. In a very short time the operator was sending accounts of the proceedings at the wreck to the officials of the company at Peoria. Many telegrams (stacks of them) were also sent out both from the wreck and the office in town by the passengers of this ill-fated train to relatives and friends.
The late Wm. Walrich was swinging a fireman's axe, trying to chop a hole through the side of one of the cars so that we could have a pass through which to bring the dead and wounded, when a very faint voice was heard, "Look out, you are going to hit me in the head." And right on the opposite side from where he was chopping we found a man wedged in, and covered with all kinds of wreckage. We got him out, very little hurt, but very much surprised when he heard what had happened. Terrible to think what might have happened to this man slightly hurt in the wreck, and then nearly killed by being hit on the head with an axe.
The crowd kept getting larger, and larger, and a conservative estimate placed the number at about 15, 000 by Thursday evening. Some parties told me they had driven sixty miles to get here. If automobiles had been in use at that time, it would have been necessary to call out the state troops. I was next to impossible to take care of the crowds in and around the store, but there was no pleasure in doing business as every time we glanced out of the store front windows, twenty-two pairs of feet from the twenty-two bodies lying on the depot platform met our gaze. We were all sick at heart and if it had not been that I was furnishing ice for the wounded, I would have taken my family and left the terrible scene behind for at least one month.
As evening came on these twenty-two bodies (all men) were laid in the freight room of the depot. That evening a passenger train arriving from Peoria had among it passengers two ladies who seemed very nervous and excited, and were evidently looking for someone who had been on this excursion and from whom they had not heard a word. It was a habit of the late Officer Sylvester Moore to meet these trains and as these ladies stepped off Moore saw that they acted very much worried so he kindly offered his services in anything that he could do for them. They told him they were looking for a men who was on the excursion and had probably been killed, so Moore thought it best to look over these bodies in the freight room, so he and the ladies stepped into the room and a very pathetic scene was enacted. The officer, with lantern in one hand and raising the coverings from each face and hearing the ladies say, "No, that isn't him", so they passed out into the night to look further and see if they could locate him.
One of the most peculiar and exciting scenes of the entire wreck took place at the depot in Peoria. A young man by the name of Smith (son of "Candy" Smith), who traveled through here selling confectionery for some Peoria firm, was on the excursion. After the wreck his folks could get no word from him, so an older brother came out to find him. He found the brother's club bag all torn and smashed; he brought this to my store and went out to continue the search for the brother, who's body he soon located.
An undertaker, after taking care of this, placed it in a casket, and after sending a wire to the father that he had found his brother dead, and telling him what train he was coming on, he took the first train for Peoria with the body. The father and mother were at this train to meet him and as the undertaker was lifting the lid from the casket box the telegraph operator handed the father a telegram from the son telling them where he was, badly wounded, but alive. They got him to a Peoria hospital as soon as they could and last accounts he was still living. The body in the casket was that of a young man belonging to another family and was eventually laid to rest by them.
I think the only thing that saved the superintendent of the road from serious trouble after the wreck was the fact that he must have thought the excursion safe, otherwise he would not have had his private car in the train.
However, I call the whole thing a much bungled up affair. Why was a freight engine and crew put in the lead? Why did they not run what they called a pilot engine several stations ahead, carrying in addition to the engineer and fireman a brakeman whose duty it was to carry torpedoes, torches, etc., with which to warn the excursion following should there be danger ahead or anything found wrong with the track.
Accident! No, criminal carelessness. In fact, I fully believe that ninety percent of all of our so-called accidents are not accidents, but purely and simply unadulterated criminal carelessness.
Well, the wreck past and all over with, and nearly everybody back to normal once more, the question naturally came to people's minds, "Who was to blame for this, one of the most horrible railroad wrecks on record?" Somebody had to be made the goat. Headquarters furnished the answer. It's plain to be seen that the section boss (the late) poor old Timothy Coughlin (as honest and faithful a man in his work has ever lived) and put him in the county jail.
I ask for what was this innocent man put behind the bars? The answer is plain -- public sentiment-- someone had to be made the goat, so they kept him there for some time, or at least until public sentiment died down a little, after which he was given his liberty.
They claimed the bridge caught fire from dried weeds and grass that he failed to burn. As I told you earlier in this story, I helped smother the burning embers of the bridge by throwing dust on them. It was plain to be seen that the bridge burned from the top down, and not from the bottom up, the smouldering timbers were the ones standing and might have been set afire by an earlier passing train. Now draw your own conclusions as to who you think was to blame for this terrible, uncalled for train wreck.
The Chatsworth passengers on the train were very lucky, Bishop Judd being the only one hurt. He seemed to be slightly crushed through the hips, however, he was able to be around in a short time.
My wife and I had planned and made all arrangements to go on this excursion, but the powers that be had thought otherwise. About the middle of July an infection developed on her right hand and for a time we feared she was going to lose her hand. However, the doctors saved it, but at the time of the excursion she was carrying the arm in a sling, consequently, we gave up the trip. Some time about Thursday noon she sent word out to me at the wreck to come in, as she could not handle the crowd that was in and around the store, hence I came in.
One reporter from the Chicago papers sent in this report to his paper: " While the women were taking care of the wounded, the men were pilfering the dead." Now, good people, I do not believe this; I was on the scene for hours and if anything like this had been going on, I think I would have seen, at least, some of it. Many others of our citizens believed this report a lie, hence run this reporter out of town. Had they got their hands on him they no doubt would have treated him as he should have been treated.
As the late Miles Cook and I were running up Main street, with our party on our way out to the wreck, I said, "Miles, it would be a good idea if we had some brandy to take out to the wreck for the wounded." About this time the late John Hummel (barkeeper for Wm. Walrich) had just come out of his place and was locking the door when we asked him about some brandy, so he stepped inside and brought out a three gallon demijohn filled with brandy and we three lugged this out to the wreck, placing Cook in charge of it. He had no cup or glass with which to dispense this, hence a lady from one of the sleepers noticing that he needed a cup handed him a beautiful silver, gold-lined cup, telling him she would make him a present of it to remember this event. Later he sent the cup to Chicago and had it engraved with the date of the wreck, etc., placed a black bow on the handle and thus had a very fine souvenir of the wreck.
One very pathetic scene took place in the upper room of our town hall. They had carried in a lady on one of our improvised stretchers. She was not so badly hurt, but her mental agony was terrible to witness. She kept calling incessantly, "I want my Bob; I want my Bob." Nurses and doctors seemed powerless to quiet her or find out who she meant by Bob. After she kept this up for some time, two of the boys were bringing a wounded man sitting in a chair into the room (the stretchers were all occupied). As they came in the door with is man she raised up; and the nurses had to hold her as she began to cry, "Oh, there's my Bob, there's my Bob." It was her husband (Bob Zimmerman) who conducted a drug store in Peoria. They carried him over and set the chair down by her cot and no one ever witnessed a love scene like that. They both recovered from their injuries, and I hope are still living and in love.
The late Dr. C. v. Ellingwood was in Chatsworth at this time visiting an old classmate, a Dr. Vaughn, one of our local doctors, when the wreck occurred. Dr. Ellingwood was called into service, along with other doctors and gave very valuable service. He had intended to locate in Cullom, but later on decided to locate here, where for many years he gave his best services to the sick and ailing. Thus, what was Cullom's loss was our gain.
I understand the company paid out in damages some $305,000 - all they were able to pay - and then went into bankruptcy. I am pleased to say that the road is now in better hands, and in a much improved condition, is doing a big business and in my estimation, will in no distant day be one of the best railroads in the United States, or in other words, the most centrally located and best link connecting the east and west.
Many of our men and women did all in their power to help during these trying, heart-breaking days. However, much deserved credit was given to the late Mrs. Jas. A. Smith, Mrs. H. P. Turner, and Mrs. Jos. Watson for their untiring efforts to alleviate the pain and suffering of the wounded.
The crushed and bruised bodies of fourteen little boys and girls were laid out in one of the rooms of our public school building.
I have it on good authority, that a certain doctor that rushed here to do all he could at the wreck, came across and picked up a little unhurt baby girl. It seemed impossible to locate father, mother or relatives of this beautiful
less-than-one-year-old baby. The doctor and his good wife were never blessed with any children of their own, so the doctor was highly elated to take this baby home with him. She grew to be a fine young lady, the doctor being financially able gave her a very fine school and musical education. She never learned the true story, but was left to cherish and love Mr. and Mrs. doctor as father and mother.
After all the wounded and the bodies of the dead that we could locate had been removed from the wreck, the company built a temporary track across the ditch, removed the fourteen pairs of car trucks, then moved on to the pile of broken up coaches. These were all carefully moved around by the powerful crane of the wrecker as we looked for more wounded or dead. When they were certain that there were no more of these in the wreckage, engine No. 13 and two tenders were lifted back onto the rails and together with engine No. 21, were headed back to Peoria.
And now with everything cleaned up, track and bridge repaired, trains moving as usual, the dead laid away and all the wounded (with the exception of several in private homes so badly hurt that they cannot be moved for some time) all taken to hospitals or their respective homes, we look back upon these heart-breaking scenes and as ourselves why, why did all this happen?
The following Sunday at 2 p.m. what was nothing but a pile of wreckage was set afire and all was soon reduced to a pile of ashes. Sometime afterward the company raised the track about five feet, bringing it up to a level and replaced the bridge with two large concrete waterways. The deaths from this terrible, uncalled-for catastrophe were 81, while the number of wounded was 372. and now kind readers, I have given you, to the best of my ability, the story of this great grain wreck as I saw it two and three-quarters miles east of Chatsworth, Illinois, at 11:45, midnight, August 10, 1887, fifty years ago.
As a finale to my story of the wreck, I might mention a few more things that happened in and around the wreck that might be of interest to the reading public. Too much credit cannot be given to the foreman (H.H. Game) and his able assistant, Wm. H. Walter (now living in Bloomington) of our fire company. Both of these men were covered with blood from the wounded and dying that had carried out of the wreck.
L. J. Haberkorn
The following articles also appeared in this issue:
MR. JUDD REMEMBERS
B.M. Judd, Colfax watchmaker, is among the wreck survivors now residing in Central Illinois. He was 29 at the time of the wreck.
"I was riding in the first day coach," Mr. Judd recalls. "When the crash came I was knocked unconscious. My first recollections as I regained consciousness were of a baby beneath me and of the pleas of its mother lying helpless upon me, not to crush it."
"Later I found some of the baby's playthings inside my coat. The child had been killed by the impact."
Mr. Judd has kept as a souvenir of the wreck a wooden cane, fashioned from a piece of one of the coaches. He also has at his home a wool blanket and hair mattress upon which his wounded body was laid when he was removed from the wrecked car.
HELPED CARE FOR THE DEAD
George Walter, Chatsworth long-time business man, has an interesting souvenir of the wreck - a transom from over the door of one of the wrecked coaches. He had some wood from the wrecked coaches which he intended to have fashioned into a walking cane when he got old enough to need a cane but a fire a year or so ago destroyed the wood.
Mr. Walter was one of the workers in rescue work at the wreck. He was engaged in the furniture business at that time in a building which stood on the site of the present Hall building and assisted in making many wooden boxes in which the bodies of the crash victims were placed and then put in box cars and iced for shipment to Peoria for further care. It was a gruesome job, he recalls, but was the best that could be done at the time.
John Fischer is one of the few still livings who assisted in the unpleasant work.
BROWNS HAD CLOSE CALL
Mr. and Mrs. T.Y. Brown, of Chatsworth, had perhaps the closest call from death of any couple on this ill-fated train. They had their berth in one of the sleepers reserved and entered the train several cars ahead of these sleepers. Mr. Brown was carrying two traveling bags and they were naturally slow in reaching the first sleeper. They had just entered the vestibule when the terrible crash came. The conductor, the brakeman and the Browns were all thrown in a heap, but none hurt very much. The mirrors and marble work were all shattered and the platform of the car at the front end, that they had just left, was by the impact of the crash, driven against the end of the car and had they been five seconds later, both of them no doubt, would have been crushed to death against the end of the sleeper.
CHATSWORTH PASSENGERS ESCAPED
William Hallam and Alvin Cunnington are the only surviving passengers of the train residing in this locality. B.M. Judd, now a resident of Colfax and Messrs. Hallam and Cunnington all resided 50 years ago in the same neighborhood, a few miles northwest of Chatsworth. The Chatsworth people who boarded the train had not found a seat when the crash came and to this fact they probably owe their lives. Mr. Judd was severely injured in his back and at first thought to be fatally hurt but later recovered. William Hallam, Sr., now dead, and his son, William, then a boy of 19, were in the aisle of one of the forward coaches and were thrown forward under the large stove of the car which prevented the roof from crushing them. Mr. Hallam, Sr., was held fast by one boot from which he finally managed to pull his foot, leaving the boot. He had 14 places on his body where the skin was broken but his injuries were slight. The son had the hair torn loose on one spot on his head. Mr. Cunnington escaped with a few cuts and bruises.
Also in this issue is the story of the reunion:
STORIES ARE RE-TOLD OF THE GREAT WRECK
NINE SURVIVORS ATTEND THE MEMORIAL REUNION IN CHATSWORTH
An estimated crowd of 200 attended the memorial reunion program held in the village park Tuesday afternoon for the survivors of the famous Chatsworth wreck of fifty years ago.
There were nine survivors of the wreck registered. Only one of the two Chatsworth survivors was present.
L.J. Haberkorn presided and gave a brief word of welcome to the guests and then introduced each of the survivors, most of whom spoke a few words of appreciation for the reunion arranged for them.
A quartet composed of Mrs. Albert Wisthuff, Mrs. Phil Koerner, Albert Walter and J.W. Heiken, with Mrs. Clara Game at the piano sang "Nearer My God to Thee". This was the song four young people from Peoria were singing on the train when it crashed. Dr. John Ryan, of Peoria, gave a graphic story of the wreck as he saw it. He was in Colfax and came to Chatsworth with a physician from that town to care for the wounded and assisted in caring for the wounded and rescuing them from the wreck. Dr. Ryan, always an interesting speaker, added much to the occasion with his talk.
The quartet sang the famous wreck song "The Bridge Was Burned at Chatsworth" very beautifully and touchingly.
Chairs were provided in the band stand for the survivors and a few others and after a short period of hand-shaking, seventeen automobiles bearing the survivors and others motored out to the scene of the wreck where pictures were taken.
The reunion was arranged on short notice and may not have been all that some expected but there was no way of knowing whether there would be one or two or fifty survivors present. Fifty years is a long time and the larger part of the people who were in the wreck lived in another generation and have long since passed on. To others, infirmities of age or distance prevented their coming. To a few it meant the reviving of sorrow and suffering and they would prefer to forget.
Those registered Tuesday were: George A. Smith, Peoria; Louis E. Retterman, Peoria: B.M. Judd, Colfax; E. F. Swearingen, Canton; Mrs. Mary Barran, Pontiac; R.F. Quisenberry, Atlanta; A.F. Cunnington, Chatsworth; Mrs. W.K. Sharp, Pontiac; W.B. McDonough, Macomb.
Mrs. Barron is now in her 89th year and had been anticipating a visit back to the scene of the wreck for years. She was accompanied here by a son. Another son, six years old at the time of the wreck and who was with his mother on the train, died a few years ago.
H.B. Davis, who lived most of his life within sixty rods of the wreck scene and perhaps was one of the first to reach the scene of the accident, and F.L. Rice, another resident at the time of the wreck of that vicinity, were both here to attend the services and were photographed at the scene of the wreck Tuesday.
George Smith and Louis E. Retterman, both of Peoria, and friends before and since the wreck, walked into the Plaindealer office Tuesday morning and introduced themselves. Mr. Smith is the man referred to in Mr. Haberkorn's story as reported dead and his supposed body taken to Peoria for burial. A delayed telegram announced that he was not dead. Mr. Smith was severely injured. Surgeons wanted to amputate his left leg above the knee but he objected and for 48 years his knee-cap had a running sore but is now entirely healed and he says that leg is his best one. He is 70 years old and employed regularly as a machinist in the Caterpillar Tractor factory in East Peoria.
Mr. Retterman is a retired printer by reason of losing most of his right hand in a press a number of years ago. In the wreck a splinter of wood with a small nail in it was driven up his nostrils and back of the left eye. It was not known until long after the wreck that the wood , a piece about an inch long, was in his head. It was finally removed by a Chicago surgeon. He enjoys good health, too, but he and Mr. Smith both consider themselves very lucky to have escaped with their lives. They were both taken to Piper City after the wreck and state the people of Piper City and Chatsworth were most kind to them. They visited Piper City Tuesday while attending the reunion.
R.F. Quisenberry, of Atlanta, his daughter, Mrs. Gladys Sigler, and Misses Ada, Bettie and Shirley Cheek, arrived before noon and visited around town. Mr. Quisenberry was one of five residents of Atlanta who were on the wrecked train. One of this number was a twin brother, now deceased. None of the five were badly hurt but Mr. Quisenberry had nearly all of his clothing torn off. He walked back to Chatsworth in his bare feet and recalls distinctly that it seemed a long distance. He is now 77 years old but the incidents of the night are still very vivid in his memory.
FIVE ARE HURT WHEN CAR AND TRUCK CRASH
TINKER FAMILY, OF CHATSWORTH; ELMER KING, OF FAIRBURY, INJURED
AUGUST 19, 1937
Five persons were injured in an automobile-truck collision a half mile west of Charlotte Saturday afternoon about 1 o'clock.
A sedan, driven and owned by William Tinker, of Chatsworth, and an empty gravel truck driven by Elmer King, of Fairbury, crashed. In the car with Mr. Tinker were Mrs. Tinker, their daughter Irene, 17, and Bobby 8. The truck was going west and the car north. The car was struck on the right side and forced off the road into a bean field, but did not overturn. The truck swung around and landed on its side in the ditch, facing east. All except Bobby were rendered unconscious and Irene was thrown from the car. Four of the injured were taken to the Pontiac hospital. Irene was first brought to Chatsworth and then taken to the hospital, still unconscious.
X-rays revealed that all four of the Tinkers had broken ribs and were badly cut from glass; Mr. Tinker received a fractured shoulder and Mrs. Tinker, a wrenched back which will keep them in the hospital for several days. Irene also received a cracked clavicle. Bobby was the least injured, but had several face lacerations in addition to the broken ribs. Mr. King received a brain concussion from a blow on the head, and liquid gasoline burns on one arm. He was able to go to his home the fore part of the week.
The Tinker car was almost a total wreck. The impact of the heavy truck against the side of the car damaged the body badly and the car was forced against a cement line post which was broken off and this added to the damage of the car. The truck did not seem to be badly damaged.
The Tinkers were on their way to the Cullom celebration when the accident occurred and the truck was going back to the gravel pit. The writer does not presume to fix the blame for the accident but can testify that both Mr. and Mrs. Tinker are as careful drivers as there are in Chatsworth.
Late reports from the hospital indicate that the Chatsworth people are recovering slowly but will have to remain in the hospital for several days.
Later developments showed that Mr. Tinker had a fractured shoulder, two cracked ribs and two severe scalp wounds. Mrs. Tinker has six rib fractures, a bad scalp wound and numerous other cuts and bad bruises. Irene, besides the fractured collar bone, has a badly swollen head and bruises. Bobby has two broken ribs, a bad cut across the nose, one eye and forehead, and numerous small cuts.