Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Train service and the unfortunate Fortune Fox Rash

Once the first trains arrived in Chariton on the new Burlington & Missouri River Railroad (soon thereafter C.B.&Q.) tracks during July of 1867, transportation that previously had been a major challenge for the region rapidly became much easier. Those tracks soon reached the Missouri River; the South Branch was built in 1871, connecting Chariton with St. Joseph, Missouri; and the North Branch, during 1878 to connect Chariton and Indianola, then Des Moines, via Oakley, Lacona and Milo.

By 1891, it was possible to catch a train at the depot northwest of the square and travel the world, albeit at a considerably more sedate pace than today. (The north-south Rock Island line --- now Union Pacific --- came along in 1913.)

Here's the passenger schedule, as published in The Chariton Democrat of Feb. 2, 1891.

Passenger trains both eastbound and west arrived at regular intervals at the depot both day and night. Only one round trip was made daily between Chariton and Indianola on the northern route. One round trip was available daily on a designated southern route passenger train, but at least one passenger car was attached to a round-trip freight to enhance the service. This schedule does not include trains that carried only freight.

Ten days later, the Chariton newspapers reported the unfortunate demise of a Derby farmer named Fountain Fox Rash, a victim of cutting-edge transportation technology. According to reports, the freight that killed him was unscheduled, was traveling just ahead of the afternoon passenger train (due to arrive in Chariton at 3:45 p.m.), was traveling at a high rate of speed (40 or 50 m.p.h. depending upon which report you believe) and the engineer did not sound his whistle as he approached the fatal crossing just east of Derby. Here's The Herald report:


About three o'clock last Saturday afternoon, there occurred a sad and fatal accident at what is known as the Chariton crossing just east of Derby about two miles. The particulars of the case are these: Mr. Fountain F. Rash was returning to his home from Derby, and just as the team and wagon were on the crossing, a wild train from the west, running at 40-miles-to-the-hour rate, struck the team and wagon, killing instantly both the horses and driver, scattering the wagon and contents 15 to 20 rods along each side of the track.

The engineer stopped his train as soon as possible and brought the body to Derby on Wm. DeSomber's hand car. The patient was still alive when they arrived at Derby, but died in a few minutes thereafter. The body was badly cut and bruised, the left leg being broken close to the knee and the left shoulder was also broken, besides being injured internally.

It seems as if he was fated to be killed on that crossing, for it hasn't been much more than a year since he had a colt killed while crossing there, the colt being tied to the back part of the wagon.

On Monday coroner Stanton and county attorney Bartholomew came down from Chariton and held an inquest and investigation into the cause of the accident, as to whether the train men were guilty of negligence in failing to give the crossing whistle, and after the hearing of the witnesses in the case the jury returned a verdict exonerating all parties concerned of any blame for the casualty.

Deceased was a native of Kentucky, a soldier in the late war, a kind and loving father and a good neighbor. He leaves a large family of children, and the widowed mother to mourn his sad demise. To the bereaved family we extend our deepest sympathy.

The funeral services were held at the M. E. Church Monday forenoon, Rev. A. C. Heckathorn officiating. The body was laid in its last resting place in the Tedrick (Murray) cemetery.


The site of the accident is circled on the map at the top of this post, lifted from the 1875 Andreas Atlas of Iowa. So the North Branch isn't shown --- hadn't been built yet.

Today, the 13 and a half mile stretch of the South Branch between Chariton and Humeston is known as the Cinder Path, a popular trail maintained through Derby to the Wayne County line by the Lucas County Conservation Commission. 

Some of my favorite prairie remnants are located a short walk down the path from the site of Mr. Rash's fatal encounter with a freight train and I quite often park about where the accident occurred in order to walk down to them.

Mr. Rash is buried in what now is known as the Murray Cemetery, located just just to the southeast.

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