Sulphur Springs Train Wreck 1922



sulphur_springs1922.jpg (72227 bytes)
(Photo Contributed by Marvin Ringer)

Thirty four were killed and 150 or more injured in a rear end collision last Saturday afternoon at Sulphur Springs, MO, when fast train No. 4 from Texas to St. Louis crashed into the rear end of local train No. 32 from Hoxie, Ark., to St. Louis.

No. 32 was taking water at Sulphur Springs and was standing on the main line.  They had no orders against the fast train except they were to let it pass them at the same place they let No. 1, a fast southbound train pass.   No. 4 had no orders against No. 32 except that they were to take siding at Cliff Cave for No. 1   It is supposed that engineer Matthew Glenn on No. 4 failed to see the block signals set against his train and did not see the halted train until too late to stop to prevent the terrible crash.

The rear end of the local train was standing on the bridge over Glaize Creek when the accident happened and the cars were telescoped and hurled into the deep creek bed where many bodies were later taken from.  Huge wreckers set to work about 3 o’clock to clear the tracks after all the dead and injured had been rescued.  It is said that striking shopmen from Poplar Bluff and DeSoto manned the wreckers and helped to rescue the dead and injured.

How anyone riding in any of the rear coaches ever escaped death is a miracle.  Residents of the community declared the crash could be heard for three miles.

                (2 sentences unreadable)

A coroner’s inquest was held in Hillsboro on Tuesday and placed the responsibility of the wreck on engineer (unreadable) for failure to see the block manual danger sign.


Ralph Degonia, 6, of St. Louis 
Melvin Degonia, 5, St. Louis
Robert Degonia, 3 months, St. Louis
(The three children are those of Mr. and Mrs.
Thomas Degonia who were on the train from
Desloge to St. Louis where the husband had obtained a job and where they were going to make their home) 
Matthew Glen, 55, St. Louis
(Engineer of No. 4)
Susan Boyer 17, St. Louis 
A.E. Dynan, Bethlehem, Pa.  
John Crafton, 19, Oran
James McKeevers, Winchester, Ill. 
Mrs. Delia Campbell, 36, McCamon, Ind.
Mildred Campbell, 9, McCamon, Ind. 
Samuel Campbell, 6, McCamon, Ind.
Irene Moon, Festus
Alice Cooper, Festus
Mrs. Amanda Wilkinson, 60, Belgrade
George D. Wilkinson 23, Belgrade
Irene Hise, 23, Desloge
Mrs. Isabelle How, 54, St. Louis
Mrs. Florence Hitt, 60, Chaonia
Thelma Eaves, 10, St. Louis
(formerly of Desloge)
Mathilda Koby, 44  St. Louis
Mildred Koby  10, St. Louis
Dr. Charles A. McClelland, St. Louis
Rudolph Eickenberger, 45, Hopewell
Mrs. Nellie Mulhall, 45, Chaonia
Beulah Goff, 13, Cadet
Darius Masten, 56, Coatsville, Ind.
Bryant Horn, 43, East St. Louis
George Litton, Sr. 55, Potosi
George Litton, Jr. 25 Potosi
Ishma Cook, 17, Granite City
Rev. V.O. Penley, DeSoto
William Goff, Cadet
Essie Potter, Herculaneum

The following from this section of Southeast  Missouri are listed among the seriously injured:

Mildred Degonia, Desloge
Thos. Degonia, Desloge 
Mattie Degonia, Desloge
(The last two named are the parents of  the Degonia children named in the list of dead while the first named is another child.)
Mrs. Edna Klimp, Fredericktown
Miss Ruth Isenberger, Hopewell
Miss Esther McDonald, Crystal City
Mrs. Mary Hahn, Fredericktown
C.J. Hamilton, Des Arc
Robert Thomas, Des Arc

Those from this section of the country who are listed as slightly injured are:               

Mrs. Mary Agnew, Flat River
Mrs. C.S. Bryan, Shelt, Mary, and Bobby Bryan, all of Desloge
R. C. Martin, Farmington
Mrs. John Pumo, Lillie James, and Robert Pumo of Crystal City
Chas. Anderson, Bonne Terre
Marie Bendel, Hopewell
Mrs. W.E. London, Elvins
Mrs. John Moore, Farmington
Pete Politte, Old Mines
A.E. Drissel, Crystal City


GEORGE  DEWEY  WILKERSON, aged 23 years, 3 months and 16 days, and Mrs. AMANDA WILKERSON, aged 69 years, were killed in the wreck at Sulphur Springs on Saturday evening.  A double funeral service was held at Belgrade on Tuesday morning at 9:30 o’clock and interment was made in Belgrade cemetery.  The Flat River Masonic Lodge had charge of the funeral.

Mrs. Wilkerson was in poor health and was going to St. Louis, accompanied by her son, to enter a hospital.  She leaves three sons and three daughters.

Dewey was employed in the Doe Run Lead Co. office at Rivermines.


Mrs. and Mrs. THOMAS  DEGONIA  lost three of their children in the Sulphur Springs wreck, and a fourth child and both of the parents were seriously injured in the collision.

The father had come to St. Louis from Desloge, Mo., four weeks ago in search of work.  He had been idle for two years, with only a few odd jobs.  He got work here almost immediately, arranged for the rental of a home at 408 Marceau Street, just around the corner from the home of his friend, DANIEL DEGUIRE,  8410 Reilly avenue, where he had been staying.

His family was to join him Saturday night.  Instead of waiting at St. Louis for them, he planned a little surprise.  He went to Riverside and joined them.

The crash killed three of the children, RALPH, 6 years old;  MELVIN 5;  and ROBERT, 3 months old.  They fell into the ravine in the crash.   MILDRED, 7  years old, fell near them, as did their parents.

When placed on a cot, MILDRED, suffering from lacerations of the scalp, was slowly repeating the Lord’s prayer.

The father and daughter are at the Missouri Pacific Hospital and the mother is at the Jewish Hospital.

They lived in St. Louis two years ago at 426 Marceau Street.

                         --Post Dispatch (Reprinted from St. Louis Post Dispatch)--


Mrs. C.S. BRYAN,  SHELTON, MARY, and BOBBY BRYAN were extremely lucky last Saturday evening in experiencing the wreck at Sulphur Springs and escaping without injury except for a few minor scratches.  The coach in which SHELT was riding, overturned and tumbled down an embankment and there were several persons injured and killed in the coach.  The coach in which Mrs. BRYAN and the other two children were riding, did not leave the rails, but was badly smashed up on one end.  Mrs. BRYAN and the two small children were on their way to Bowling Green, Ky., to visit, and after resting over Sunday in St. Louis, they resumed their journey.

Above article
transcribed and contributed by Wanda Cole. 

Articles from THE DESLOGE SUN, Friday August 11, 1922, as republished in the Lead Belt News of Flat River, St. Francois County, Missouri.            

The Charleston Daily Mail – August 7, 1922

Investigation Started – All Hands Point to Dead Engineer as Chief Blame for Killing of 38 Persons

Sufferings Described – Sulphur Springs, Mo.

Eye witnesses were summoned today before a coroner’s jury at De Soto, Mo., to recount details of the rear-end collision of two Missouri Pacific trains here Saturday when 37 are known to have been killed and 138 injured. Just south of the scene of the disaster there is a curve in the road, and this cut off view of the local train, standing at a water tank, from the engineer of the limited. Missouri Pacific officials, however, emphasized that the block signals were operating in perfect order, and Engineer Glenn, of the fast train, should have slowed his train down to such a speed that he could have come to a halt almost instantly Survivors drew a vivid picture of the accident. A blast from the whistle of the limited told of its approach around the curve along the high towering bluffs and this caused a few who had alighted from the local to look back nervously. Rushing around the curve came the fast train. There were shouts, then the roar of the crash, cries of women and moans of men. The rear coach was hurled down the embankment. The next two cars standing on the trestle across Glaize Creek, and on the embankment were crushed and splintered. The fourth tumbled down the incline north of the creek. The roof of one of the demolished cars fell spanning the creek, and afforded a bridge for the rescuers. Where the day coaches of the local had stood across the trestle, now stood the steel cars of the flier. The locomotive had plowed its way through more than half the length of the halted train, and come to rest across the trestle, steel girders bent around its forward end and splinters of what had once been a car compressed into a space about ten feet before it, against a coach which seemingly was uninjured.  

Coroner Elders promised a thorough investigation of the disaster, the worst train wreck in the history of this part of the country. While Matt Glenn, dead engineer of the fast train which ploughed through four coaches of the local train near the station, was blamed for the accident, according to John Gannon, assistant general manager of the road, relatives of the dead and injured joined in demands for a thorough inquiry. The crews of both trains were summoned by the coroner to testify. Officials of the road declared the block signals were found to be in order after the crash occurred, and all asserted that Engineer Glenn did not heed the warning signal.  

All day yesterday rescuers removed bits of wreckage in their search. A ghostly silence hung over the scene and was broken only by the muffled grind of the wrecking crews' cranes. Tales of many miraculous escapes were repeated, mingled with stories of pathos and horror. Stories of young girls offering their assistance in caring for the injured and dead were numerous. Some were seen hurrying from one victim to another, bandaging their injuries, washing their wounds and giving what assistances they could. The impact hurled two of the local coaches down a fifty foot embankment and telescoped four other coaches, crushing a number of passengers to death in their seats. Both trains were behind time, the fast passenger running from Fort Worth, Texas, to St. Louis, carrying 150 passengers and the local 100 persons. According to Mr. Cannon, Matt Enger Glenn of St. Louis, engineer of the fast passenger, failed to heed a block signal warning him the track was NOT clear ahead. Glenn, 57 years old, an engineer for 35 years without a black mark against his record was killed when he jumped from his cab just before the crash. Edward Tineley, also of St. Louis, fireman of number four, remained at his post and was injured seriously. Engineer Glenn, shortly before arriving in Sulphur Springs, received orders “on the run” to pull over on a siding at Cliffe Cave, ten miles north of here to allow “sunshine special number I” enroute from St. Louis to Texas points to pass, and Mr. Cannon explained the engineer failed to heed the signal because he apparently was reading these orders when he passed the block. The orders were found near his body.  

Ghouls appeared on the scene shortly after the crash and robbed the dead and dying. Only one was arrested and he said he was William Halt of St.Louis. Several pieces of wearing apparel taken from the unfortunate were found on his person and a bible was in his waist. The bible, it was said, had been the property of the Rev. V.O. Pensley, of Desoto, one of those killed. The dead and injured were spread over an area of several city blocks and chicken crates, automobile cushions, baggage, and the railroad tracks constituted their couches. This little village of village of 150 inhabitants was unable to care of the injured and they, along with the dead, were taken to St. Louis and Desoto. Dr. W.W. Hull was the only physician administering to the injured for several hours until relief trains arrived. “Had I had some assistance, we might have saved some of the dying,” Dr. Hull told a representative of the Associated Press. “At one time I was trying to treat 25 persons simultaneously.”  The cries of the injured had to go untended in many cases. Mothers begged for news of their babies and children cried for their parents. One fourteen months old child, unable to tell her name, was found a mile from the scene of the disaster asking for “Mama.” A woman from St. Louis took her in charge.

One of the saddest cases reported was that of the Degonia family of St. Louis. Five of the family of six were killed and the father is reported dying in a St. Louis hospital. Four of the Degonia children, Mildred, 7; Ralph, 6; Melvin, 5; and Robert 14 months lay dead to the right of their father, before he could be removed and Mrs. Degonia lay dead to his left. Mildred had been mumbling audibly the Lord’s Prayer and just as she recited, “Thy will be done,” death sealed her lips. Mr. Degonia, in his delirium, clasped his infant son to his breast repeating between groans of pain, “Thank God, Bobby, we’re all alive,” not knowing the hearts of his wife and children were stilled. In the confusion, several bodies were hustled on the relief trains before being checked, leaving the number of deaths uncertain. Many of the bodies could not be identified because their effects had been scattered over such a wide area.  

The railroad tracks parallel the Mississippi River and the tracks on which the disaster occurred spans Glaize Creek where it enters the river. As a result, a report was current that a number of bodies were washed into the Mississippi, but there was no way of verifying this report. Rescue work was hampered by lack of light. This village is without electricity and the rescue workers and morbidly curious made their way among the twisted steel and wooden coaches by the aid of lanterns, torches and candles. Thousands of persons visited the scene late last night and today and roads were blocked for three miles. Dr. Hull said bodies were found 300 feet from the scene of the accident. One body was buried waist deep in a bog. Dr. George W. Elders, coroner of Jefferson county, said a thorough investigation of the accident would be made.

List of Identified Dead:

John Crafton, United States Soldier, Oran, Mo.

A.E. Dynan,

Isabelle Howe, Milda & Mildred Robey, W. Ward, Dr. Charles A. McClellan, Sam Davis, Eugene Clemens, a boy scout, Mrs. E. Degonia and four children, and Engineer Glenn, all of St. Louis

Irene Moon, Festus, Mo.

Alice Cooper, Festus, Mo.

Rev. V.O. Pensley, Desoto, Mo.

Essie Potters, Herculaneum, Mo.

William Goeff, Cadet, Mo.

James McKeener, Winchester, Ill.

Among the injured:

Henry Wilson, Godfrey, Ill, fractured shoulder

Levi Woodlock, Piedmont, Mo., fractured leg

Carlisle Hann, (negro) Tory, Mo., fractured leg

Morris Schumer, Conway Springs, Mo., lacerations of the body

A. B. Anderson, (negro) Herculaneum, Mo., abdominal wounds

Bernice and Mary Campbell, McCammon, Mo., lacerations

C.C. Dotson, Potosi, Mo., fractured ribs

J.J. Hamilton, Desarc, Mo., probably fractured skull

Robert Thomas, Desarc, Mo., fractured hand

Mrs. Essie Wilson, Monterey, Mo., scalp wounds

Obi Anderson (negro) Herculaneum, Mo., head wounds

Paul Smith, Piedmont, Mo.

Miss McDonnell, Crystal City, Mo.

Lucille Burlem, Dallas, Texas

__ Whitlock, Piedmont, Mo.

Mary Hahn, Fredericktown, Mo

Matthew & John Pink, Panama, Ill

E.H. Robinson, Jefferson City, Mo

Nellie Hicks, Fredericktown, Mo.