Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Books, a preacher & a rail disaster

Books from the library of the Rev. Marcus L. Evans, donated to the LCHS by his granddaughter, Alice (Mrs. Lloyd) Cottingham.

I've been moving family Bibles and some books this summer from cases in Otterbein Church to the museum library, both to increase their accessibility and give them a break from extremes esperienced in a building that is neither heated during the winter nor air conditioned in the summer.

In doing that, I've handled (carefully) items acquired and used by Lucas Countyans long dead and remembered, when they're thought of at all, in vague and abstract ways. The Bible Fergus Holmes brought from England during the early 19th century, for example; and this set of books, "Clarke's Commentary," from the library of the Rev. Marcus L. Evans, a pioneer circuit-riding Methodist preacher who died 135 years ago, during June of 1875, in Chariton's most deadly rail crash.

I've come across the Rev. Mr. Evans (left) several times before in part because he and his wife, Elizabeth (Hetser) Evans, are buried at Salem, my family cemetery.

Evans, born Nov. 12, 1822, in Bath County, Kentucky, married Elizabeth as his second wife on Jan. 24, 1850, in Owens County, Indiana. They came to Lucas County with their three eldest children during May of 1856 in an ox-drawn wagon and lived, according to tradition, at first in a tent on their claim three miles due south of what now is Russell.

Located on wide open prairie, the claim also was alongside a Mormon Trail shortcut that had allowed LDS pioneers some years earlier to travel a little more directly from Greenville to the current site of Salem Cemetery before rejoining the main trail and continuing on to Chariton Point.

Russell had not been dreamed of when the Evans family arrived in Washington Township (it didn't come along until 1866), so the little ghost settlement of Ragtown and the larger town of Chariton, a few miles beyond, would have been the nearest settlements. Evans' preaching career hasn't been researched, but he probably was instrumental in the founding of the Salem Methodist Episcopal congregation, midway between Ragtown and Chariton.

The Evans had eight children, five born after their arrival in Washington Township --- Wilbur Wesley, Marcus Asbury, Thomas Melville, Olin Hetser, Jason Lee, Sarah Margaret (Jason's twin; married Francis M. Thompson), Mary Matilda and Alice Amelia.  

Olin H., known as "Hets," and his youngest sisters, Mary and Alice, did not marry and continued to occupy the old homestead until after the death of Hets in 1926. Alice, a missionary to India until her retirement during 1920, and Mary then lived together in Russell where they became mildly legendary as the "gold dust twins."

Marcus Evans' preaching career was cut short, however, on June 16, 1875, when he died of injuries sustained the night before in a fatal train crash near the C.B.&Q. Depot in Chariton. Here's an account of that accident taken from The Chariton Patriot of June 23, 1875:

A Night of Death!
On C.B. & Q. R.R.
A Freight Train Runs into another at Chariton
Thunder! Lightning! Wind! Rain! Death!
Five Persons Killed and Eight Seriously Wounded
A Leap for Life - Narrow Escapes! &c., &c.
(From the Patriot Extra of June 17th)

A terrible accident occurred last night between 11 and 12 o'clock near the C.B. & Q. depot, in Chariton, wherein five persons were killed, and eight others very seriously injured, two or three dangerously.

Two freight trains due here at 9:45 were about two hours late. The leading train, known as Sec. 2 of No. 12, had stopped to coal just at the beginning of the heavy wind and thunder storm that commenced just before midnight. The train that followed --- Sec. 3 of No. 12 --- approached the standing train, urged forward by the strong wind. The red signal lights were seen by the engineer and fireman of the incoming train, and the whistle sounded for "down brakes." The brake was applied on the locomotive tender, and the engine reversed, but of no avail. The sweeping wind, and driving rain, rendered it seemingly impossible to prevent the collision. The fireman, Lewis, jumped just before the engine struck the caboose, violently striking the ground, severely bruising his face and shoulder. The engineer, Nelson Best, of Ottumwa, remained at his post and was but slightly injured.


The following is a correct list of the killed and injured:

J.J. Echert, of Council Bluffs, killed. He was a freight conductor on the Chicago & Northwestern R.R. His body was found on top of the locomotive. His head and face were mangled horribly, pieces of skull and brain being found scattered along the track.

Irwin Severn, a stock man and resident of Illinois City, Ill., killed. His body was badly bruised.

J.W. Houston, of Maryville, Mo., killed. He was a stock man.

Also one unknown man, supposed to be from Bridgewater, Mo., was killed. His face and upper part of the body were frightfully discolored.

Martiin Rhine, a stock man of Falls City, Neb., seriously but not dangerously bruised.

David Woods, of Kenzers, Lancaster County, Penn., dangerously injured in upper portion of the spine. His whole body, except the head, completely paralyzed. Seemingly comfortable when seen by reporter, Woods was an uncle of Prof. Perry, of this place.

James Dick, who lives on the Fulkerson farm, a few miles south of Russell, bruised inwardly but not seriously. He is an uncle of Prof. Sim(p)son, of this place.

W.J. Mendenhall, of Quitman, Nodaway county, Mo. Severe scalp wound and otherwise bruised.

G.W. Cooper, Mo., feet and head severely bruised; thinks he escaped very fortunately; was awake at the time, and saw the car door open, and heard the shrieks of horror from passengers, and then knew nothing more until he became conscious, lying on the ground where he had been removed.

N.J. Allen, Lenox, Iowa, seriously injured in spine and back and somewhat paralyzed.

F.P. Lewis, of Creston, Fireman on incoming train, severely bruised on head and shoulders.

Nelson Best, of Ottumwa, engineer, slightly bruised.

Marcus L. Evans, an old and respected citizen of this county, who has lived a few miles south of Russell for near 20 years and who is well known throughout the county, was so injured that he died at the Chariton House about 9 o'clock this morning. He was returning from a Methodist meeting of some sort at Osceola, and took the freight in preference to the night express, simply because the latter does not stop at Russell. We called at the Chariton House just in time to see him breathe his last breath, and hear the wailings of his wife and some other members of the family, who had arrived.

The greatest damage, as might be expected, was done to the rear cars of the standing train, but the front of the engine of the incoming train was badly smashed, and the terrible force of the collision was strikingly shown by the breaking of the large bars of iron, two inches in diameter, supporting the cow catcher. The engine passed under the caboose car, containing the passengers, and the mangling of human bodies was occasioned by the next car, which was loaded with hogs, in front of the caboose, which passed entirely through or over it, crushing it to splinters.


Prof. J.B. Ferguson, was on the train returning from Osceola, and accidentally stepped to the rear platform of the car just in time to make a leap for life over the fence, running close by the track, and enclosing the reservoir. His feet had barely left the platform when the terrible crash came, and he owes his narrow escape from a terrible death to the impulse that prompted him to open the door. Rev. H.H. O'Neal of this place, also Rev. Bartholemew of Corydon, bro. of the Col. of this place, and Rev. Austin of Russell who were at Osceola, all went to the depot to take this train, but after a parley decided to wait for the express, which would soon be due, and thus escaped the terrors of the collision.

On the whole, this was one of the most dreadful accidents that has ever occurred on the B. & M. and altogether, the worst that ever shocked our town. And nothing more was needed to convince any one of the horrors of a railroad disaster, than a walk among the dead and mangled victims of this accident. At 9 A.M., the time of our visit, the four who were killed outright, were lying in the depot building and the Coroner was preparing to hold an inquest, and take evidence concerning the casualty.

T.J. Potter, Superintendent, J.W. Backworth, road master and Dr. Ranson, reached here on a special train at 9 o'clock this morning.

Nearly all the killed and wounded were in bunks, and most of them stock men, and asleep at the time. Part of the injured are quartered at the Clinton and part at the Sherman House, and all are receiving the very best of attention from local physicians, and those in the employ of the company.

We are not prepared to speak definitively in regard to the question of carelessness as contributing to the accident, but as we get the facts nothing appears to justify any (illegible) any of the employees of the company. Whether the raging of the storm and high wind will fully exonerate them remains yet to be determined. But the storm was terrible, as was evidenced by the fact of a freight car being driven from about the depot here, with brakes down, almost to Russell, about the same time the accident occurred.


n the first page of this paper will be found a copy of our extra published on the morning after the recent railroad disaster at this place, giving a full account of the calamity. And we simply add the following items of additional interest in regard to the killed, injured, &c.

Coroner Millan impaneled a jury composed of Messrs. H.H. Day, S.H. Mallory and W.L. Alexander, who, after an investigation, decided no blame was attached to the employees of the company for the accident.

The company took charge of the dead bodies and after providing coffins for them, sent them to their friends at different points.

Messrs. Martin Rhine and David Woods, two of the injured, are still at the Sherman House and doing well, and each have relatives with them and good care. Mr. Woods was not expected to survive the injury to his spine, but we are glad to learn that there is a prospect for his recovery. James Dick has returned to his home near Russell, while Messrs. Mendenhall, Allen and Cooper, who were at the Clinton House, were all sent home on Monday, of this week. They were each doing reasonably well. We called on Messrs. Mendenhall and Cooper, at their request, and they wished that we should mention especially their physicians, Messrs. Heed & Baird, as having been unusually attentive and kind to them, and we think that as much could be said of all in any way engaged in waiting on the various unfortunate strangers, who were left temporarily in the care of our people.

Mr. Marcus L. Evans, of this county, was taken to Russell on a special train soon after his death, and buried at the Salem Cemetery in Benton tp. on Friday, an unusually large procession of his friends and neighbors following him to his grave. He was in comfortable circumstances and leaves a wife and eleven (actually eight) children.

By this accident the B. & M. accounts for the first passengers ever killed upon its road. This speaks well for the safety and management of the great trunk line of the West, over which hundreds of thousands of people have traveled. Employees have been killed, but never before a passenger.

The old C.B.&Q. Depot and Hotel in Chariton.

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