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Hammond, Indiana

Hagenbach-Wallace Circus Train Wreck

June 22, 1918



CHICAGO, June 22. – Early this afternoon the Michigan Central List, subject to change, showed 59 dead and 115 injured in the circus train collision.

CHICAGO, June 22. – Between fifty members of the Hagenback-Wallace circus, were killed early today when a Michigan Central train of empty Pullmans, running sixty miles an hour, crashed into a special train of sleeping cars of the show at Ivanhoe, six miles east of Gary, Ind.

It is believed the entire personnel of the circus was wiped out in the smashup.

Four wooden coaches in which the circus performers were sleeping were demolished and the victims caught in the wreckage are believed to have been burned to death as it caught fire and burned for hours.

Killed As They Slept.

Most of those killed were crushed to death in their sleep. The crash came so suddenly there was no chance to escape.

Six hours after the wreck eight bodies had been taken to morgues and twenty-five persons were missing and believed to have been incinerated in the wreck.

One hundred and twenty-five persons were taken to hospitals at Gary. Twenty others were brought to Hammond, Ind.

At Gary it was said that twenty-eight of the injured could not survive and six at Hammond were reported beyond hope of recovery.

Four died at Hammond and four on the relief train carrying it from Ivanhoe to Gary.

Manager Gollman, of the show, which exhibited under canvas at Michigan City, Ind., last night estimated the death list would reach sixty-seven.

Circus Stars Dead.
Mr. Gollman named the following among the missing believed to be dead:

ROONEY FAMILY, bareback riders.
MEYERS FAMILY, animal trainers.
COTTRELL FAMILY, bareback riders.
ART DARICK, strong man, died in hospital.
ROSIE ROSILAND, equestrienne.
DONOVAN FAMILY, elephant trainers.
MRS. JENNIE CODD, Bloomington, Ill., performer, died on relief train.
JOSEPH COYLE, clown; MRS. JOSEPH COYLE AND TWO CHILDREN, said to have died on relief train.

Heavy loss in dead and injured is said to have occurred among the ballet of 100 girls.

Helpless to Render Aid.
Daylight was just beginning to show, when the crash came. Those thrown free from the wreck stood in their night clothes, helpless while their comrades perished in the flames.

Surgeons and nurses were dispatched from Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Whiting and other nearly towns.

The circus train had been compelled, by a hot box, to stop and a flagman was sent back to protect the rear of the train by usual precautions, none of which, it appears, were neglected.

The signals were all ignored and the Pullman train crashed at terrific speed into the rear of the circus train, telescoping all of its coaches.

Engineer May Have Been Dead.

L.W. Landman, general passenger agent of the Michigan Central, said that his only explanation of the wreck was that the engineer of the train of empties must have been dead at the throttle.

“In no other way can I account for the fact that he ignored all of the usual danger signals placed by the circus train.” Said Mr. Landman, “He ran past two block signals, two red light signals and the usual fusees placed between the rails and throwing off a brilliant red light visible for a long distance.

This engineer is missing. My information is that, with the exception of the engineer, whose fate is a mystery, not one on the train of Pullmans was hurt. It will be some time before an accurate list of the dead can be compiled. It is the worst wreck in the history of the road, I believe.”

The large number of persons in the casualty list is said to be due to the practice of show trains of sleeping two persons to a berth. The coaches were Pullmans of an obsolete type converted into gaudily painted show cars.

The wrecked train was the second section which carried performers and officials of the show. The cause of the accident was a mystery to officials of the Michigan Central.

Engineman Escaped.

Deputy Coroner Green at Hammond said at noon that the engineer and fireman of the Michigan Central train escaped, but that he would not divulge their story of the cause of the wreck until the inquest.

Their train consisted of empty Pullmans which were returning from the east where they had taken a detachment of troops.

There was no fire fighting apparatus at Ivanhoe and the wreck burned for hours. The bodies removed from the wreck were burned beyond recognition. Those who were thrown from the wreck stood helpless watching the horror, and some were later found wandering half crazed in the woods in their night garments.

Wires Down; News Slow Getting Out.

News of the disaster was slow in getting out as the wreck tore down the wires.

Ed Ballard, of French Lick, Ind., owner of the show was in this city when notified by telephone. Relief trains with doctors, nurses and fire engines were sent from Hammond, Gary, East Chicago and other nearby cities. The firemen, however, found their apparatus useless in the absence of water connections.

Four sleeping cars, gaudily painted, but of obsolete type in which performers were sleeping, and a way care were demolished and the destruction completed by flames. They were of much lighter construction than the modern steel cars of the troop train.

Later Deputy Green said that the engineer of the empty train was in a hospital too badly injured to talk. The fireman, he said, was in custody.

Engineer Asleep?

There was a flagman on duty near the wreck and it is reported that he saw the approaching train on the Michigan Central. When the engine passed him he threw his lantern through the cab of the engine, awakening the engineer, who, it is said, was asleep. Both engineer and fireman jumped.

Officials of the Michigan Central reported that the fireman, G. Krause, of Michigan City, Ind., had gone temporarily insane from shock.

The engineer was T.L. Sargent, of Jackson, Mich.,

Many deeds of heroism and sacrifice were reported. One woman, screaming in agony beneath the burning timbers, saw the flames near those who were trying to release her. She shouted, “Get away, get away, quick, or you’ll get burned too.” The rescuers wee unable to release the woman and her cries were stilled by the flames.

Removal of bodies is made difficult by the fire, which is still smouldering.

Due to Fault of Signals.
(By United Press.)

DETROIT, Mich., June 22. – E.D. Bronner, federal manager of the Michigan Central divisional headquarters, in a statement today said the wreck of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train near Ivanhoe, Ind., was due to a default in signals.

The circus train of twenty-four cars had stopped on account of a hot box and a flagman was sent back to head off a government equipment train en route to Chicago. The equipment train was not stopped, however, and crashed into the stalled circus cars, telescoping twelve of them.

Further information was lacking.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, In 22 Jun 1918

Transcribed by Loraine Jordan.  Thank you, Loraine!



Admitted by M.C. Officials He Did Not See Signals and Caused Circus Wreck.


(By Associated Press)

HAMMOND, Ind., June 24. – Attorney Charles J. McFadden, representing the Michigan Central, issued a statement today explaining that Engineer Alonzo Sargent, of the empty troop train, which crashed into a circus train near Gary Saturday, was asleep owing to illness and did not see the signals of danger. Sargent, he said, remained near the wreck for six hours and then, being worn out, left for Kalamazoo.

According to Oscar Timm, flagman of the circus train, wrecked with heavy loss of life near Gary, last Saturday, there was no one visible on the engineer’s side of the cab of the engine which a minute later crashed into the show train. Timm estimated he was thirty-five car lengths back of the circus train and having frantically signaled the train to stop, stepped to one side and threw a fusee through the window of the engine cab. He reported to his superiors that the engineer was not visible to him at that time. Michigan Central records give the engineer’s name as L. Sargent. His full name, however, is said to be Alonzo Sargent.

Says Engineer is Released.

(By Associated Press.)
KALAMAZOO, Mich., June 24.Alonzo J. Sargent, engineer of the train of empty cars which crashed into the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train near Gary, Ind., Saturday, was released from custody this afternoon.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, In 24 Jun 1918

Transcribed by Loraine Jordan.  Thank you, Loraine!



Engineer Blamed for Circus Wreck at Gary Refuses to Testify


HAMMOND, Ind., June 25
– Alonzo Sargent engineer of the empty troop train which caused the disaster to the circus train near Gary, Ind., last Saturday was arrested charged with manslaughter while at the inquest today Sargent called as a witness declined to testify on advice of counsel.

Although Sargent waived extradition and returned from his home at Kalamazoo Mich., voluntarily he greatly feared mob violence it developed today.

He was accompanied to Gary by night police captain James Vodicka of Gary and as the train neared the city Sargent asked, “They won’t mob me will they?”

The captain assured him that there was no danger but Sargent insisted that the officer find out if there was a crowd at the station before alighting. He was taken to Hammond shortly before noon to appear at the inquest and there was arrested on a warrant sworn out by Prosecutor Clyde Hunter charging him with manslaughter.

Said He Was Dozing
(By United Press)

HAMMOND, Ind., June 25 – Testifying before a coroner’s jury, Conductor Lewis Johnson of Michigan Central train that ran down the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train at Ivanhoe Saturday, swore today that Engineer Alonzo Sargent told him he was dozing when the wreck occurred.

After the crash I ran forward, Johnson testified. I ran to Sargent and said, “My God, this is awful, how did it happen?”

Sargent answered, “I was dozing.”

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, In 25 Jun 1918

Transcribed by Loraine Jordan.  Thank you, Loraine!



(By United Press)
HAMMOND, Ind., June 25. – Practically all of the fifty-eight bodies of victims of the wreck of a Hagenbeck-Wallace train here Saturday will be taken to Chicago tomorrow to be buried.

The unidentified bodies will be laid in a huge grave in “Showmen’s League Rest,” a portion of Woodlawn cemetery owned by the Showmen’s League of America. Identified dead will be buried in individual graves in the same plot. Monuments will be erected in the cemetery and on the scene of the wreck by Edward Ballard, an owner of the circus.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, In 25 Jun 1918

Transcribed by Loraine Jordan.  Thank you, Loraine!



Sixty-Two Found in Train Wreck – Manager of Circus Declares Over Score of Employees Missing.

Gary, Ind., June 23.
-- Sixty-two bodies of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus employes who were killed in the wreck six miles west of Gary on the Michigan Central railroad early Saturday lay in temporary morgues in Gary and in Hammond, Ind., tonight while circus officers made frantic efforts to compile an accurate list of dead and injured. Only 24 of the bodies have been identified. Most of the others were charred and mangled beyond recognition.

EDWARD M. HALLARD, general manager of the circus, tonight issued a statement saying figures compiled indicated that probably 85 persons had been killed. He said a hasty tabulation of scattered employes showed that 60 are missing in addition to the 24 identified dead.

Lowville Journal and Republican New York 1918-06-27

Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!


The Hammond circus train wreck occurred on June 22, 1918, and was one of the worst circus train wrecks in U.S. history. 86 persons died and another 127 were injured when a locomotive engineer fell asleep and ran his train into the rear of another near Hammond, Indiana. more

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