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Wreck of the Pacific Express Bridge before the Disaster
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Ashtabula, Ohio Train Wreck - Bridge Disaster

December 29, 1876

Cleveland, O., Dec. 29. - - A terrible accident occurred at Ashtabula, Ohio. Train No. 5, bound west, went through an iron bridge and down seventy-five feet to the river.  A heavy snow prevails there.

Later.  In the incident at Ashtabula, O., on the Lake Shore Railroad, it is reported that seven coaches, together with the baggage and express cars, were burned.  One person out of every five was killed.

Further Details.   The scene of the railroad accident at Ashtabula, Ohio, is a few rods east of the depot.  An iron bridge spans Ashtabula creek, seventy-five feet above the water.  On both sides are high banks of snow, which has been falling almost constantly for the past forty-eight house, and a now a driving storm is raging, making it difficult to get news from the wrecked and

Burning Train, but assurances are given that the citizens of Ashtabula, with a competent corps of physicians are doing everything possible for the sufferers.

List of the Sufferers.  The following is a partial list of the wounded: 

Geo. W. Waite, wife and son, of Ashtabula, badly hurt;

J. W. Martin, wife and mother, thought to be from East Avon, Livingston county, fatally injured;

J. M. Murray, Hartford Conn., injured;

W. H. Shepherd, Brooklyn, N. Y., leg broken;

Bernard Sawyer, White Hall, slightly bruised;

Thos. C. Wright, Nashville, Tenn., slightly;

H. L. Brewster, Rochester, N. Y., slightly;

Mrs. Lew, Rochester, N. Y., slightly,

Robt. Monroe, Rutland, Mass., badly;

Edward Trueworthy, Oakland, Cala., badly hurt;

Trueworthy's wife and daughter both killed;

R. Austin, Chicago, bruised slightly;

R. Karrall, Chicago, slightly hurt;

child of Mrs. Mary Bradley, of San Francisco, killed,

a Mr. Barlow, supposed to be connected with Wood's Museum, Chicago, badly hurt;

Minerva Brigham, Chicago, dangerously wounded;

A. Busham, Milwaukee, slightly.

By Fire and Water.  10:45 p.m., the storm has somewhat abated and the weather, fast growing colder.  It seems that the falling train and bridge smashed the ice in the creek, and those not killed by the fall or burned by the burning cars were held down by the wreck and drowned before they could be extricated, many too will be or have frozen.  All the good citizens of Ashtabula are at the wreck, and as many as can are working to rescue those that are not already claimed by death, while hundreds of strong arms stand ready to relieve those who have become exhausted with toil.  At this time they have been unable to learn the name of a single one of the killed except a little babe of Mrs. Bradley, and know there were a large number of eastern people on the ill-fated train.  It is said that the seven coaches that fell through were all well filled.  The express messenger of the American Express Company is missing and supposed to be among the killed.

11 p.m.  A special train with physicians, nurses and everything for the comfort of the wounded at the wreck, left Union depot at 10 o'clock. 

The weather still growing colder and only four bodies so far have been taken from the debris.

Number Killed.  It is estimated that there were one hundred and seventy-five passengers on the train, at least one third of whom were killed, burned to death or frozen.  The train was drawn by two engines.  One engine remained on the bridge, everything else went down.  The engineer and fireman on the engine that went down were badly but not seriously injured.  The work of removing the dead still goes on but very slowly.

Sedalia Daily Democrat, Sedalia, MO, 30 Dec 1876


Train No. 5, Conductor Henn, left Erie for Cleveland one hour late, and neared the bridge at Ashtabula about 8 o'clock.  Very few particulars can be learned at this hour, but assurances are given that the citizens of Ashtabula, with a competent corps of physicians, are doing everything possible for the sufferers.  The following is a partial list of wounded ...

W. H. Vosburg, Buffalo, N. Y....

Edward Trustworty, Oakland, Cal., badly hurt ...

R. Karroll, Chicago, Ill., slightly hurt...

A. Burnham of Milwaukee, slightly burned...

Minerva Bingham of Chicago, Ill., dangerously wounded.

It is feared that Mr. Trustworthy's wife and daughter are killed.  A child of Mary Bradley of San Francisco, Cal., was killed.

Mary Frame of Rochester, N. Y., is fatally injured.

Evening Gazette, Port Jervis, NY 30 Dec 1876


All witnesses so far agree as to the main facts of the accident. It was about eight o'clock, and the train was moving along at a moderate rate of speed, Ashtabula station being just this side of the ravine, when suddenly, without warning, the train plunged into the abyss, the forward locomotive alone getting across safely.  Almost instantly the lamps and stoves set fire to the cars, and many who were doubtless only stunned, and who might otherwise have been saved, fell victims. ...

The Scenes Among the Wounded were as suggestive almost as the wreck in the valley.  The two hotels nearest the station contained a majority of these, and as they were scattered about on temporary beds, on the floors of dining rooms, parlors and offices, various scenes of horror were transpiring while over it all there were brooded that awful quiet which always accompanies such calamities.   Toward morning the cold increased and the wind blew a fearful gale, which, with the snow which had drifted waist-deep at points along the line, made all work extremely difficult.

The Fallen Bridge.  From an interview with Collins, chief civil engineer of the railroad, I learn that the bridge was a Howe truss, built entirely of iron and eleven year old.  It was sixty-nine feet above the water and had an arch one hundred and fifty feet long in the clear, the whole length of the bridge being over one hundred and fifty-seven feet.  It has been tested with six locomotives, and at the time of the disaster was considered as being in perfect condition.  It was built in the Cleveland shops.  Collins gives no opinion as to the cause of the accident, expressing himself as being utterly unable to do so.  He estimates the loss on the bridge alone as  being near seventy-five thousand dollars, but has no opinion as to the total loss by cars, and as soon as the debris is cleared away and the bodies all taken out, which will occupy a couple of days, a temporary bridge, which was built for the Wilson avenue crossing and in at Cottonwood, will be put up. He expects to have a  running connection made within ten days.  ...

A Passenger's Statement.  The following special to the Leader is the very latest received up to one o'clock:  Charles S. Carter, of Brooklyn, N. Y., says he was sitting in the palace car with three others, engaged in a friendly game of cards, when suddenly he heard the window glass in the forward part of the car breaking, and almost instantly the car began to fall.  He was seated with his back toward the front, and as he went down he sat as quiet as he could and held on.  When the car struck at the bottom of the ravine he found himself almost unhurt, although one of the gentlemen playing with him, whose name he did not know was killed instantly.  While another, a Mr. Shepard of New York, had a leg broken.  The front of the car was much lower than the rear, and the flames in front began to eat their way upward an spread with great rapidity.  He turned to the assistance of Shepard, and with great difficulty succeeded in getting him out, his broken leg impeding their advances.  When Shepard was fairly out, Carter returned to the assistance of a woman who was calling for help at the front of the car. He got her out, and as she was quite thinly clad he gave her his overcoat, and after reaching the hotel he found himself severely bruised in several places.

A Heartrending Incident.  In the great peril of the hour a man rushed down to the scene of the disaster, ready to help.  He saw a woman struggling for life and went to her assistance.  He carried her by main force to the solid ice, and then, urged by the cries of the mother went to rescue the daughter, a sweet child of three or four years.  The treacherous wood, in splintering, had caught the child in its grasp, and the fire completed the horrible work.  The man was compelled to see the child enveloped in flames, and to hear her "Help me, mother!" ringing out in the agony of death and on the ears of the cruel night.  In a moment she was lot, swept up by the sharp tongues of the fire, while her mother, in helpless agony, fell to the earth in a deadly swoon.

Fortunate Family.  There was on board a family named Bennett on their way from New York state to Jefferson, Ashtabula county.  The father and mother got out of the wreck, and the children were only saved by being tossed from the arms of one man to another over a pile of burning wood, one of the four being seriously injured and all scratched slightly.  On Saturday morning the mother, who was enciente, gave birth to a child, the event being hastened by the excitement she had undergone.  ...

Moving the Wounded.  A special train loaded with some the injured left Ashtabula at 8:15 o'clock this morning, consisting of an express, a passenger and palace car.  In the latter the beds had all been made and in them placed the worst of the victims, those able to set up being accommodated in the front car.  The names and destinations of these are as follows:

Peter Lovebaragh, 26 Ross street, Cleveland;

Donan, Charles Ricker, A. Gibson, W. B. Sanders, John I. Lalor, R. Monroe, A. Burnham, R. Austin, Walter Haze and Charles Patterson go to the hospital in Cleveland

R. Harrold, Cincinnati

Mrs. W. H. Lew, 81 Walnut Street, Cleveland;

Tilden, 52 Hamilton street, Cleveland;

Dr. Champlin, 53 Water street, Cleveland;

Mrs. J. A. Davis goes through to Cincinnati. 

Correct List of Saved and Wounded....

A. E. Hewitt, Bridgeport, Connecticut, slightly

J. C. Earl, Chicago, ditto;

B. B. Lyons, New York, safe;

R. S. McGlee, residence not given, safe;

Mrs. Anna Graham, New York, slightly;

John J. White, Boston, leg broken;

Mrs. William H. Bradley, Chicago, slightly, child and nurse, dead;

C. D. Marmandville, Albany, head and stomach;

Mrs. M. Bingham, Chicago, leg broken;

Wm. B. Sanderson, Auburn, Missouri, slight;

Robert Monroe, Rutland, Massachusetts, head back and leg;

A. Burnnam, Milwaukee, slight;

Mrs. W. H. Lew, Rochester, slightly;

B. Hazleton, Charleston, Illinois, probably fatal;

V. Nausman, dangerous, residence not given;

Miss Mary Frame, Rochester, probably fatal;

C. E. Jones, Beloit, Wisconsin, slight;

J. M. Martha, East Avon, ribs broken;

Peter Seevenboro, fireman, slight;

Andrew Gibson, Carey, Ohio, slight;

Henry W. Shepherd, Brooklyn, N.Y., leg amputated;

John J. Tabor, Chicago, slight;

F. Osborn, Michigan, head;

Richard Harold, Cincinnati, slight;

Mrs. F. A. Davis, near Indianapolis, not hurt;

J. A. Thompson, California, head;

Dr. C. A. Griswold, Fulton, Illinois;

A. Maillard, California, back and head;

D. H. Clark, Mass;

F. A. Ormsby, Boston, head, slight;

Miss Marion Shepard, Wis., safe;

C. H. Tyler, St. Louis, hand broken;

R. Austin, Chicago, burned;

Alexander Morris, Somerville, Mass, leg broken;

Walter Hayes, Lexington, Ky., dangerous

J. W. Lobdell, N. Y.;

Charles S. Carter, Brooklyn, N. Y., slight;

H. T. Tomlinson, Bridgeport, Connecticut, arm and leg;

G. M. Reed, Cleveland, injuries not given;

C. N. Gage, Charleston, Illinois, fatal, died;

Thomas Jackson, Waterbury, Connecticut, back and head;

Louis Beauchate, Kent's Plains, Connecticut;

Chas. C. Richard, Biddeford, Maine, arm, head and leg;

P. B. Lewellins, Illinois, head, severely;

Alf. H. Parsloe, Wood's Museum, Chicago, shoulder;

J. E. Burchell, Chicago, slight;

G. D. Folsom, engineer;

Mabel Arnold, North Adams, Massachusetts, slight;

H. L. Brewster, Milwaukee, slight;

Edward Trueworthy, Oakland, California, rib; his brother is supposed to be killed;

B. Hern, conductor, safe;

H. D. Champlain, Cleveland, legs hurt;

Bernard Sawyer, Chesterfield, Essex county, New York, head and internally;

Henry A. White, Westhersfield, Connecticut, back and head;

George A. White, Portland, Maine, slight;

Alex. Hitchcock, Port Clinton, Ohio, severe, head and legs;

Mrs. and Mrs. Swift, North Adams, Massachusetts, slight;

Mrs. Frank Eastman, Rochester, New York, probably fatal;

Frank Coller, Elmira, New York, dangerous;

Thomas C. Wright, Nashville, Tennessee, serious, hip, etc.;

Charles Patterson, unknown residence, probably fatal;

J. M. Mowry, Hartford, Connecticut, ribs.

The Dead List can only be ascertained when it becomes gradually apparent that those who were known to have been passengers on the ill-fated train do not make their appearance.

Bliss, the Evangelist, Among the Killed.  Chicago, Dec 30.-- Private dispatches confirm the report that Mr. [Peter P.] Bliss, wife and two children were killed by the Ashtabula disaster.  Mr. Bliss was extensively known as a singer and evangelist.

Removed to the Hospital.  Cleveland, Dec. 30. -- A. Gibson of Cairo, R. Austin of Chicago, C. Demonconhill of Davenport, and John Salor of Chicago, were to-night removed to the Cleveland hospital.

Burlington Hawk Eye, Burlington, IA 4 Jan 1877


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Ashtabula Bridge Disaster Lithograph Main Street, Ashtabula, Ohio 1910s
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Ashtabula Bridge Disaster Official Site from the Ashtabula Railway Historical Foundation Fatality Listing

Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster from Wikipedia

Ashtabula Disaster article from Harper's Weekly 20 Jan 1877

Ashtabula Bridge Disaster, Memoirs of Philip P. Bliss, Newspaper Articles



Philip P. Bliss Perishes in Fiery Train Wreck

Ghosts of the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster

Biographical history of northeastern Ohio : embracing the counties of Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake all Read it online at Use this Free Trial to search for your ancestors.