Louisville, KY Train Derailment, May 1903

Courier Journal newspaper, Louisville, KY - Sunday 17 May 1903


Of MATTHIS and KERR Are Brought To Louisville


Train Was Going Sixty-Five Miles An Hour

Three Hours Behind Time

Belief That the Locomotive Struck An Obstruction On the Track

Investigation Is Ordered

Additional details of the wreck on the Illinois Central, at McHenry, Friday afternoon, were received in the city yesterday morning. The bodies of JAS. F. MATTHIS, the engineeer, and JOHN KERR, the fireman, were brought to the city on a special train. They were at once taken to the homes of the families. Both KERR and MATTHIS will be buried to-morrow morning from their homes. The body of KERR will be interred in St. Louis Cemetery, and that of MATTHIS will be taken to Cave Hill Cemetery for interment.

***Even though it states Cave Hill Cemetery, he is NOT in their burial database. From Rootsweb there is credible information that he is actually interred in Eastern Cemetery, often confused with Cave Hill and literally right next door, sharing a walled border.

The bodies of both men arrived in this city shortly after 3:30 o'clock yesterday morning. When the special train arrived, Mrs. Matthis, the wife of the dead engineer, and Mr. Henry Kerr, father of the dead fireman, were at the station. They were at once taken to their respective homes, where the preperations for burials were made.

Both KERR and MATTHIS were crushed to death. They met with instant death. With his chest torn from neck to abdomen MATTHIS was found by the passengers. Imbedded in his left hand was a huge piece of machinery. The right hand was clutched desperately to the throttle. He had not the least idea that death was to come, and he did not have time to jump. KERR was standing on the tender of the cab when the crash came. When he was found both legs were cut off. His face bore marks which showed that he had suffered more than his companion. Besides the loss of both legs, KERR had several cuts on the head.

Investigation Is Ordered

The cause of the wreck has not yet been determined. An investigation, however, is being made by the railroad officials. The investigation is being conducted by Supt. Alvah Philbrick. Mr. Philbrick was on the train at the time of the wreck, and he personally supervised the caring for the dead and the clearing of the track. Mr. Philbrick did not return on the special train which brought back the remains of the dead, but remained at McHenry to complete his investigation of the cause of the wreck. He has notified the officials of the road that he does not think that the running gear of the engine of the track caused the wreck. The report made by Mr. Philbrick was to the effect that KERR and MATTHIS had been killed and that J. W. Stalker, baggagemaster, had been slightly hurt.

Statement of Eye-witnesses

Mr. Stalker returned to this city on the special train yesterday morning. His face is in a plaster case as a result of the accident. His nose was broken, and he suffered other injuries. He was not rendered unconscious, and was one of the first to get to the scene.

"The sight was something awlful," said Mr. Stalker. "It was 6 o'clock when the crash came. I had just looked at my watch. It registerd five minutes to the hour. I had hardly placed my watch back in my pocket when the crash came. I was riding in the baggage car. The first thing I knew was when I was sent sprawling from one side of the car to the other. In a few minutes everything was still. Some one remarked that the train had gone off the track. I was able to get out without assistiance. I immediately went to where the engine lay. It was turned over. Two cars were piled on top of each other. When I reached the engine neither KERR nor MATTHIS could be seen. They were found a few minutes later. KERR had lost both of his legs, and looked like he had suffered torture. KERR was not as badly disfigured as MATTHIS.

"I am unable to state what I think was the cause of the wreck," continued Mr. Stalker. "It was one of two things. Flattened tracks or an obstruction. There is a coal chute about fifty feet from where the train went off the track, and I think it is possible that the falling coal might have been responsible for the accident.

--------------------------- did not attempt to slow up. I could not see the crash, but I felt it. The mail car, one of the passengers and the express car left the track."

MATTHIS was considered one of the safest engineers in the employ of the road. He was sent from this division to others to pilot special trains. He had been in the service of the road for thirty years. MATTHIS lived at 1812 Floyd Street, where the funeral services will be held. He is survived by a wife and five children. MATTHIS was an uncle of the Rev. Henry H. Sweets. He was fifty-two years of age.

JOHN KERR, the fireman who was killed, was twenty-six years of age. He was unmarried and lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kerr, at 731 West St. Catherine Street.

James Frederick Matthis
Find A Grave Memorial# 66289311

John Kerr
Find A Grave Memorial# 66289218