1908 C & NW Train Wreck

This comes from The Clinton Daily Herald 24 April 1908




Brakeman John Doherty, Pinned Beneath the Wreckage in the Creek's Bed, Effects His Escape by Tearing His Clothing from His Body, While Swollen Waters Threaten His Life -- Fearful Carnage Among Cattle and Hogs in 17 Wrecked Cars. 

Two Clinton railroad men were killed and one was seriously injured in a freight wreck on the Chicago & Northwestern road at Clear creek, three miles west of DeWitt at 7 o'clock Thursday evening.  The victims are:

The Dead.

ENGINEMAN J. W. BAXTER, 720 Sunnyside avenue
FIREMAN H. D. SEYMOUR, 534 Third avenue

The Injured.

Brakeman John Doherty, 802 Stockholm street.

A storm and cloud-burst in the vicinity of DeWitt swelling the creeks and weakening the bridge on which the wreck occurred were the circumstances which led to the death of the two well known Clinton trainmen last night.  A stock train, No. 132 eastbound, went through the bridge, and seventeen cars were wrecked.  The engineer and fireman were almost instantly killed.  The head brakeman was pinned beneath the wreckage and had an almost miraculous escape from death.

The dead trainmen were taken to an undertaking establishment and prepared for burial.  Today a train was sent out to DeWitt to bring the bodies to Clinton.  Early this morning the wounded brakeman was brought to this city, and he is now at Mercy hospital in the care of physicians.  It is believed, unless it develops that he has been more severely injured internally than now appears, that he will recover.

The train was in charge of Conductor John Lawson.  William Burroughs was the rear brakeman.  These two trainmen were in the way car and escaped injury.

Coronor Kellogg went to DeWitt last night to impanel a jury and commence his investigation of the accident.  The jurors are:

L. S. Harrington
James McDevitt
E. J. Quigley

Awful Scenes at Wreck.

C & NW Train Wreck 1908It was a night of terror at Clear creek or "Honey" creek as the little stream is called.  The bodies of the two men who were killed were quickly gotten from the wreck but not so the injured man, now in a Clinton hospital.

Brakeman Doherty experienced a terrible ordeal last night which must remain fresh in his memory if he survives his wounds and lives many years.  Pinned beneath a stock car which pressed heavily upon his body but fortunately was so braced that the pressure was not sufficient to crush out his life, he lay in the muddy bed of the Clear creek while the swollen water of the stream rose gradually and threatened to immurse him completely.  Although the crowd which soon collected at the scene of te wreck was able to see the imprisoned man they could not reach him, and Brakeman Doherty owes his release from the danger which impended to his own exersions.  Cutting and rending his clothing he succeeded in freeing himself after almost superhuman efforts.

C & NW Train Wreck 1908The seventeen cars which were wrecked were loaded with cattle and swine, in transmission to the Chicago markets.  The engine passed safely over the shaky bridge, but its weight further weakened the structure and the first stock car went through.  The engine went over the embankment on its side and in the twinkling of an eye seventeen cars were piled in a great heap of wreckage in the bed of the creek, and on both tracks on the west side of the structure.

Scores of the animals were crushed or drowned and many others escaping from the cars, some badly wounded, ran frantically about the neighborhood.

C & NW Train Wreck 1908Crowds soon collected at the scene of the diastrous wreck and the two dead men were tenderly carried from the wrecked cab and conveyed to DeWitt.  When the brakeman was gotten out of the wreckage he was taken to an adjoining house, where physicans who had been summoned from DeWitt ministered to his wounds.  The young man is badly cut and bruised and suffers much pain from the effets of his appalling experience last night.  Today he was reported resting more comfortably, however, and the chances for his complete recovery are good.

Trains Late Today.

There were several stockmen on the train, but these having been in the way car, were not injured.  Three hoboes, riding on top of one of the cars had a bad scare but were not hurt.  The cars on which they were riding remained on the tracks, having been near the rear of the train.

As a natural consequence of the wreck near DeWitt, trains from the west are all late into Clinton today.  The night trains commenced to arrive this morning, coming around on the Milwaukee tracks, and the west bound Northwestern trains took the same circuitous route around the wreck. 

Wreckers from Clinton, Boone and Chicago were called to remove the debris and repair the bridge and tracks, and this work proceded during the day.  It is expected that the bridge will be rebuilt and the tracks put in shape within the next 24 hours.

A report comes to Clinton that another Northwestern bridge a mile or two west of that over Cedar creek was washed away by the storm last night.

With Company 29 Years.

Engineer "Walt" Baxter, as he was popularly called, was one of the old employees of the company, and had a wide acquaintance on the Iowa lines.  He was extremely popular in and out of railroad circles, and his tragic death last night has brought sorrow to many Clinton homes.

Mr. Baxter was 55 years of age last January.  He entered the employ of the Chicago & Nrthwestern road 29 years ago, and had since been in the service of that railroad company first as fireman, and since 18?5 as engineer.

Surviving the deceased are his wife and son, Frank Baxter.  Another son was drowned several years ago.  Mr. Baxter is also survived by a sister, Mrs. Will V. Tufford of Clinton.

In his long residence in Clinton Mr. Baxter won many warm friends, and the wife, thus suddenly bereaved, has the deepest sympathy of the whole community.

This sympathy extends in no lesser degree to the sorrowing wife and relatvies of the other victim of the wreck, Fireman Herbert Seymour of 534 Third avenue, who met death at his post when the train went through the bridge last night.