TO DEATH AND DESTRUCTION 09-10-1899
Train Plunges Through Trestle of C, N. & L.
Bridge. Four were killed instantly.
With a tremendous crash and with out a moment's warning
a portion of a rock train and a locomotive plunged
through 41 feet high trestle leading up to the
steel work of the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens
railroad bridge across the Broad River yesterday
afternoon at 1:30 o'clock and found a resting place on
the island in the river. Several lives were
crushed out and the scene was one of horror. The
accident was due to no weakness of the trestle work but
to the derailment or collapse of one of the heavy laden
rock cars this simply tearing down the trestle for a
distance of possible 200 feet from the point where it
left the trestle fork evidently being hurled through the
air as if from a catapult. Only two days ago the
trestle force, which is kept at work on the trestle and
bridge in an average of nine months out of the year
turned the trestle over with a report that it was in
perfect operating condition.
All of the victims must have been instantly
killed. Two of the bodies were badly mutilated.
The crash was heard up in the city. This was due
to the fact that the two flat cars that went through the
bridge were heavily loaded with granite, which, when
once the trestle began to give way made its destruction
a mere matter of seconds.
The train that went through the structure
was one composed of C. N.&L. engine No. 3 just a few days out
of the shops with Engineer Weathersbee at the throttle
and five flat cars loaded with granite, in charge of
conductor Dawson. It was coming from the rock
quarry just across the river and was moving
backwards, the engine in the read. Conductor
Dawson was standing on one of the first three cars.
On the cars next to the engine were Will Bates a
white fireman of the C.N.&L. and James Watson the
negro in charge of the explosives at the quarry.
Before leaving the quarry two negro boys who had been
over to carry dinner buckets tried to get aboard but
were put off. They must have gotten back on the
train some way, for both were among the dead.
When the train started across the bridge at not more
than 10 miles an hour a regular freight train followed
at a distance of 100 yards. Road master W. H.
Shelley, of the C. N. & L road was riding on the engine
of this train and was an eyewitness to the disaster.
He says when the rock train reached the highest point of
the trestle and three cars had gotten on the steel
bridge, he notice that something had gone wrong with one
of the cars next to the engine. In a second more
the crash came. The three first cars with
Conductor Dawson going ahead on the bridge. In
less time than it takes to tell it the engine seemed to
fly through the air towards the pier in the distance
being hurled forward by the falling supports of the
double-decked trestle. Then the steam and dust
rose and all was quiet. The following
freight train was at once stopped and the crew rushed
down to save life. If life were left in those who
had gone down with the train. The engineer and
fireman were found as stated; beyond aid. In a
short time the body of J.S. Martin, a negro boy with
head horribly mutilated being almost decapitate, was
found. On the other side the body of Stewart
Martin, the other colored boy, was found. When Jim
Watson, who was standing on one of the cars felt the
collapse starting, he jumped to his right through the
air. Though it was almost 12 feet to the ground
the negro struck some willows, breaking his descent.
He was brumeled and more or less hurt but was able to
The rescuers found that there was a man under the pile
of wreckage. It was proved to be the white fireman
Mr. Will Bates. All hands went to work and it took
half an hour to extricate him. As if by a miracle
he had escaped. He was slightly bruised and his
nerves were out of gear, but he was uninjured. He
soon climed up the bridge and came on to the city.
The dead were covered with bushes and the news was sent
to the city. In a short time a force of men was at
work clearing the wreckage preparatory to the rebuilding
of the trestle. Boats were secured and the bodies
were taken to the bank of the canal. Undertaker
VanMetre was sent for and by 6 o'clock his wagons
arrived and removed the dead to their respective homes.
The dead engineer lived in a pretty little cottage home
on Gervais street nearly opposite the Coast Line depot.
There his remains were taken to the stricken young wife
and three little ones. He had brought the down
passenger train in the day before and a short time
before going over to the quarry yesterday morning was
talking of exchanging runs with some other engineer.
When his body was taken from under the engine his watch
was still running though it was so hot that one could
scarcely hold it.
The civil engineer testified at a coroner's
inquest that a car derailed and jammed the
crossties at the end of the trestle.
Three cars passed over the trestle onto the
steel bridge before the collapse.
The trestle was repaired by noon the
following day when the east bound passenger
train was scheduled to depart from Columbia.
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