Greer, SC Train Collision, Oct 1887


A passenger and freight train on the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railroad were in collision Thursday morning last, 20th inst., two miles south of Greer, which is nine miles north of Greenville, S.C. The passenger train was running north with nine coaches loaded with passengers returning from the Atlanta exposition. The freight was running south. The passenger train was four hours late but was running under orders and had the right of way. The collision occurred on a grade and in a shallow cut. The engineer of the passenger train was running 43 miles an hour when he saw the headlight of the freight train, whereupon he blew his whistle, applied his air brakes and was very nearly stopped when the freight struck him. The express car was next to the engine in the passenger train, the postal car second and the baggage car third. The express and postal cars were completely demolished, as were also both engines and two freight cars. The freight engine, when it struck the passenger engine, made a complete somersault in the air, and fell with its head in the direction opposite from that in which it was running. The passenger engine was mashed out of all shape and was massed under the wreckage of the freight engine with its wheels in the air. Both boilers exploded at the moment of the collision and this served to make the wreck the more complete.
MR. J. B. ERWIN, of Asheville, was the express messenger on the ill-fated train, and on account of the crowded condition of the coaches had his kins-woman, MRS. HAMP McDOWELL, her sister-in-law, MISS McDOWELL, and his sisters, MISSES MARY and NANNIE ERWIN, in his car.
MRS. McDOWELL was killed instantly, her body being cut in two; MR. ERWIN had one leg broken and the foot on the other leg badly mashed; MISS McDOWELL'S nose was broken.
The engineers and firemen of both trains jumped.
Engineer ROBT. WALL, of the passenger train, was killed, as were also Fireman WEBSTER, of the freight, and a colored train hand, PHILLIP BLACK. Fireman PARNELL, of the passenger, was awfully scalded. Engineer HARRIS, of the freight, received internal injuries but not of a serious character. Three postal clerks on the train were all injured but none of them fatally. The wreck caught fire but the flames were extinguished with water from a branch nearby.
The blame for the occurrence is laid on the conductor and engineer of the freight train. They should have stopped at Greer and waited for the passenger train, but miscalculated as to where it was. The coroner's jury tax them with the responsibility.
The above account is condensed from the Charlotte Chronicle, which sent a reporter to the wreck, and is gathered from other newspapers and from private sources.

Statesville Landmark North Carolina 1887-10-27