Kansas City, MO Street Car Wreck, Aug 1902


Francis Fisher Powers More Seriously Injured Than at First Believed in Kansas City Wreck.

The grip car accident at Kansas City last Friday evening in which Francis Fischer Powers of this city [Oshkosh, WI] was badly bruised and shocked, was one of the most serious wrecks that has happened in that city for several years. And there have been a number of bad accidents on that same deadly incline at Ninth street, near the Union station. More than one grip car has gone crashing down the steep hill to the foot of the drop and persons have been injured until now passengers never ride down this slope without a thrill of fright.

The last disaster on the Ninth street incline of the Metropolitan Street fallway, which resulted in the death of the gripman, is of especial interest to Oshkosh people from the fact that one of the injured, Mr. Powers, is an Oshkosh man, having spent his early life in this city. For several years, however, he has had a studio in New York city and each summer he conducts a studio in Kansas City, returning to New York for the winter. Mr. Powers ranks as one of the leading baritone singers and vocal instructors in the country. At first at [sic] was supposed that his injuries were not of a serious nature, but it is now believed that he was more seriously hurt than was thought at first. He was on the front seat of the first grip car on the wrecked train. He is now confined to his bed. In addition to a cut on the back of the neck made by the car wheel, Mr. Powers has severe bruises on the left side. His left wrist was sprained in the fall from the car and one finger was broken. The nervous shock was also very great.

So great was the force of the collision that the four cars crashed together on the incline were jammed into the length of three cars. So fearful was the wreck that it looked as if one train had been going up and the other down the hill at full speed. Many of those on the car on which the dead gripman was stationed jumped before the train reached the viaduct on the steep hill.

Mr. Francis Fischer Powers, who is instructing pupils in vocal work, had a narrow escape from death. He was on the front seat of the grip car of the train that was struck and but for the timely aid of his valet, Arthur Pullam, who was in the seat behind him, would have been ground to pieces by the cars. When the car struck he was thrown high in the air and came down unconscious across the track with his head over one rail and his feet over the other. A car was being pushed toward him and was not two feet away when he was dragged off the track. Mr. Powers says he considers it a miracle that he is alive and he realizes that his life was saved by Pullam. Mr. Powers weighs 250 pounds and it was no easy task to drag him from the rails. Both arms are in bandages, a large gash was cut in the left hand and one finger is broken. His left hip was also severely sprained.

"It is a wonder I am alive to tell of it," said Mr. Powers. "I was as near death as anyone could be and but for my valet would have been killed. I was on my way to Topeka and had boarded the car at Locust. I got into the front seat and as we began to descend the incline I looked over at the rope and wondered to myself why there were no more accidents there.

"As the car neared the bottom I continued to look over at the rope, thinking of what might happen when the shock came. As clearly as I remember it we were about thirty feet from the bottom when, without a moment's warning, I heard the crash and felt the end of the car going into the air. As it came down I was thrown over the front onto the track and, as my head struck, for the moment I became unconscious. I had no idea the cars were coming behind until I head [sic] the crash. If any bells were rung I didn't hear them. I regained semi-consciousness as I was lifted off the track onto my feet and led below to a seat. My valet, who was in the seat behind me, was thrown out the side and in the excitement had the presence of mind to drag me from in front of the cars. It was a horrible thing. Just as I arose I saw the gripman, who died as they were taking him from under the car, and two women, who were unconscious, were being pulled from the wreckage. As I was helped down the incline I saw a pitiful sight. A small boy who couldn't have been over eight years of age, had received a terrible gash in the head, and while he was holding his bleeding head in his hands another youngster about his own age was leading him away. I consider it wonderful that I escaped so easily. I thought at first that every bone in my body was broken, but I came off luckily except for a severe nervous shock."

The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 27 Aug 1902