Corwin, OH Circus Train In Collision, Sep 1888



Cincinnati, Sept. 9 -- At 2:30 o'clock this morning a train containing JOHN ROBINSON'S circus, while stopping to take water at Corwin station on the Little Miami Railroad, 51 miles from this city, was crashed into be a heavy freight train, and a scene of terror seldom equaled ensued. The circus train left Xenia at midnight, where an exhibition had been given in the evening. The train was in charge of WILLIAM ROSENBERG, conductor, and JAMES GOLDEN, engineer. It was composed of about 50 cars, containing the people and property of the show. At 12:10 A. M. the second section of freight train No. 53 left Xenia in charge of "AL" WILKE, conductor; JAMES LONG, engineer, and FRANK HOWELL, fireman. The circus train had its caboose protected with danger signals. WHile the engine was taking water at Corwin the fireman saw the headlight of the train following flash around the curve to the rear and called to the engineer, who instantly gave his engine all the steam he could and did all in his power to prevent or lessen the force of the collision. When the circus train stopped Trainmaster AIKEN of the circus got out of the cars, and was looking about the train when he saw a headlight flash around the curve, less than 1,000 feet distant. He ran through the three forward sleepers, shouting to awaken the sleeping occupants. The occupants of these three cars all escaped. When AIKEN reached the fourth sleeper he shouted and jumped to save his own life. As he did so the heavy freight engine came plowing into the circus train, and then followed a scene that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
In less than one minute the wreck was piled up, and then came the terrible screams of the crushed and wounded and the wails of agony from the dying, all surrounded by a darkness which was impenetrable. The rear of the circus train was made up as follows: caboose sleepers "Walnut Hills," "Gravelotte," "Terrace Park," "Madisonville," and "Milford," When the engine plowed into the train, the caboose was split in twain and thrown down the bank. The rear end of the sleeper "Walnut Hills" was crushed in by the engine and its front end driven into the next sleeper, "Gravelotte," which, in turn, was forced into the "Terrace Park," which drove the "Madisonville" up on the top of the "Milford." In the "Milford were the victims. This sleeper was cut through by the flat in front and reduced to kindling wood, all remaining being the roof. In it were all the dead and the wounded. When the shock of collision was over the inmates began to scream for help and the crew began at once the work of rescue. Torches were secured, a bonfire was made of some of the debris and willing hands were soon at work at the pile of boards, mattresses and shivered frames.
Almost the first body found was that of BENJAMIN CISBOY, who was dead. A row of mattresses was laid upon the grass at the side of the track and upon these the wounded were placed. As soon as the collision occurred the doctors form Waynesville were summoned and did all they could for the wounded. As the work proceeded "JACK" LACEY was found dying. When the searchers found FRANK SMITH, colored, he was completely doubled up under a pile of timbers dead. JOHN CLIFFORD was alive when taken from the wreck and talked rationally, but died an hour later from the effects of his injuries. Superintendent RALPH PETERS, with a special train and physicians from this city and Morrow, arrived at 5:30 and the work of searching the wreck was soon finished and the doctors completed their examination and a schedule of fatalities of the wreck was made. It was as follows:
JOHN CLIFFORD, aged 60, Xenia, Ohio, died within an hour after the accident.
BENJAMIN CISBEY, aged 35 years, Grafton, West Va., killed outright.
FRANK SMITH, aged 25, (colored), Richmond, Ind., killed outright.
JACK LACEY, aged 35, Chicago, killed outright.
B. BROWN, Holliday's Cove, West Va., back badly hurt.
JOHN MOTT, Cincinnati, shoulder crushed.
ANDREW SMITH, Petersburg, Ill., paralyzed.
FRANK LARKIN, Jackson, Tenn., leg crushed.
WILLIAM WHALEN, no home, leg and arm crushed.
ELMORE FAIRBANKS, Coolville, Athens County, Ohio, badly bruised and cut.
DAVIE HARRISON, Delaware, Ky., body bruised and cut.
WILLIAM HOPKINS, Franklin, West Va., bruised and cut.
JOHN GARDINER, Martin County, Ind., right leg hurt.
GEORGE WILLIAMS, Princeton, Ind., hurt in chest.
ALBERT McCARTY, Tipton, Ind., hurt on the head.
SAMUEL WRIGHT, Coal Valley, West Va., hip hurt.
LOUIS BUTLER, Lexington, Ky., bruised and cut.
JOSEPH MONCRIEF, La Platte, Mo., hurt on the head.
EDWARD TAYLOR, Louisville, Ky., leg hurt.
DICK DON, Mt. Sterling, Ky., hurt in neck and shoulders.
GEORGE POWELL, Beverly, O., life side hurt.
WM. EDWARDS, Newark, O., scalp and face wounds.
Besides these many others were injured, but refused to permit any surgical examination until the train should reach Morrow. DR. JOHN W. SCHOCKEY, Coroner of Warren County, went to the scene of the wreck on the special with Superintendent PETERS and received the four dead bodies and turned them over to the railroad company. The bodies were placed in charge of Undertaker A. MAFFITT, who drove them to the railroad warehouse at Corwin, where they were prepared for burial.
The wounded received careful attention of DR. KELLS and his assistants. Close examination found only eight seriously hurt and these were placed in an improvised hospital car and, in charge of DR. KELLS, brought to the Good Samaritan Hospital in this city. The circus train was made up and in a rear car the not seriously wounded were placed and sent to Morrow in charge of DR. MOUNTS. After the wounded had been removed the circus train was sent on to its destination at Morrow. The wrecked sleepers "Milford" and "Madisonville" were piled up with the other debris and burned. The work of clearing away the wreck was pushed so rapidly that by 3 o'clock in the afternoon only the fine pieces of sticks and the spots colored by the blood of the mangled victims remained to show where, only 12 hours before, had occurred the most terrible wreck in the history of the Little Miami Railroad or of JOHN ROBINSON'S circus. The cause of the collision was due to the extreme carelessness of the train men. The question whether both crews are to blame or only one, and if one crew, which one, has not been settled.

The New York Times New York 1888-09-10