Kingville, SC Train Crashes Off Bridge, Sep 1869
They worked with spades, axes, levers, and some, in their frenzy, tore up the dirt from around him with their fingers; but, alas, all in vain. The fire steadily approached, the heat increasing every moment, until at last the workmen were compelled to leave the unfortunate man to his fate. He saw that he was doomed, and told those who had been working to release him that it was useless to do anything further. At this time, MR. SYMMES, who had stepped aside for a moment, came up. HARGROVE recognized him, and exclaimed, "Oh, Tom, come here." MR. SYMMES went as close to him as the fire would permit, as the flames were nearly touching their victim, and asking him if he could do anything for him. To which he replied, "Oh, no, it is too late; but tell my family how I died, and that nothing could be done for me," and, as the flames were burning his hair, he gave MR. SYMMES a message for his wife. Those assembled then turned away; the sight of a man burning to death before their eyes was more than they could bear. They had done all that human strength and ingenuity could devise to release him, who now with folded arms and a prayer upon his lips calmly awaited death.
During the confusion no one missed JAMES GILBERT, the fireman, but when the excitement had partially subsided he was asked for, and no response being made, a search was instituted - all hoping that he would be found uninjured. But they were doomed to disappointment. Alongside of the tender was found the mangled body of him for whom they searched. There was every indication to show that he had been instantly killed by the fall, and had not suffered from the flames which had scorched and blackened portions of his body.
The passengers, most of whom were asleep, were suddenly awaked from their slumbers by the shock, and for some time could not realize that they had made so narrow an escape from almost certain death. The majority were most zealous in aiding those connected with the train. The passengers are as named:
D. Ravenel, Jr., and lady, child and servant; E. T. Jervey; A. C. Kaufman; W. H. Dara, Charleston; Mrs. T. S. Budd and child; Miss Anna T. Fickling; W. D. Peck, Columbia; J. C. Mackerell, Blackstock; John Nellighan; G. W. Conner, Baltimore; J. W. Perkins, Augusta; J. M. Bunch, Union; Mrs. H. H. Oiot, Spartansburg; J.W. Prevost, Charleston.
The fire commenced about fifteen minutes after the accident, and after destroying the freight cars and the freight extended to the trestle work, (burning about three hundred feet of it,) and also to the telegraph poles, a number of which were burst. The trees in the swamp also took fire, and for a time it was feared that the conflagration would become general.
During the fire an attempt was made to save the baggage by smashing in the car with coupling pins - the only implements obtainable - which was partially successful, and five trunks were rescued; but a majority of the passengers lost their baggage. In the express safe were a number of packages of money, $11,000 in all. To save this money, Mr. Symmes, as witnesses state, risked his life by going into the burning car. He succeeded in unlocking the safe, and as he thought, took out all of the packages, but, when he counted them, found that one containing $120 had been lost. All of the express freight was destroyed. The freight was, we learn, principally for merchants on the Greenville Railroad, a small portion for the Charlotte Railroad.
The origin of the fire is not known, or at least if the witnesses knew they did not state it in their testimony yesterday. Some assert, upon what grounds we know not, that the boiler of the locomotive exploded and scattered the fire which was in the engine. But this does not seem probable. Had the boiler exploded the engineer would have been blown to pieces, instead of lingering with his entrails crushed out to meet death by fire. A gentleman who had not been examined before the jury, but gave his testimony after the verdict had been rendered, stated that there were among the freight kerosene oil, whiskey and matches. It takes a very slight shock to set a box of matches on fire, and when we reflect that the cars fell a distance of twenty-five feet, causing a shock sufficient to explode matches, no matter how well secured, we must conclude that the fire originated from these matches. There is another fact in support of this view of the matter. All the witnesses and one or two others who were on the train, but did not testify, agree in saying that the fire did not commence at the engine, but among the merchandise. One witness seemed to know of the fire first from the explosion of the oil and whiskey barrels.