South Bend, Train Wreck 1859
Submitted by: Julie Chitwood    

South Bend, Indiana Train Wreck

June 27, 1859

Fatal Accident on the Michigan Southern Railroad.

Thirty-Three Passengers Killed.

Sixty to Seventy Wounded.

--- A train on the Michigan Southern Railroad ran off the track last night, near South Bend. The accident was caused by the washing away of a culvert. Twenty or thirty are reported killed. Particulars as soon as possible.

The stream where the accident occurred, on the Michigan Southern road, last night, was naturally but a rivulet, which was, however, swollen by the extraordinary rains during the previous afternoon and evening, causing a flood; the wood carried was probably checked by the culvert, converting the embankment into a dam, and the great weight of water, with the concussion of the crossing trains, caused the sad calamity. About one hundred and fifty persons were on the train, of whom thirty-three were taken from the ruins dead; fifty-seven others were wounded; the rest have not been heard from.

The killed, as far as we have been able to ascertain the names, are as follows: HARTWELL, express messenger; BABBINGTON, baggage master; the engineer and fireman, both names CULP; E. W. SMITH, roadmaster; MRS. E. GILLET, and CHILD, of Stone Mills, N. Y. ; THOS. MISHAN, Michigan City.

Wounded: FRED. MILLER, AUGUSTUS WHITE, of Holmesville, Ind.; E. M. KNAPP, of Hudson, WIS.; MISS HATTIE KNAPP, of Auburn; J. R. GARDNER, of Jonesville, Miss.; CHARLIE SHERMAN, Boston; WM. FLANNERY, P. MYERS, P. QUINN, C. ANDERSON, W. R. ANDERSON, all of Ainsworth, Illinois; A. D. PISER, of Ohio; DR. RHODES, of Cleveland; MISS MOORE, of Freeport; MR. and MRS. A. G. GURRY, of Brooklyn; C. JACKSON, of Miss.; C. MELDER, of Waukesha, Wisconsin; WALWORTH, father and son; C. BENNETT of Adrian; OSCAR WARFETON; M. H. REGAN, lady and daughter, of Rockford, Illinois; S. C. ROSE, of Coldwater; M. I. HAWK, of Charleston, Va.; C. GAW and lady, of Ostego co., N. Y.; A. VANSYCKE, wife and four children, of Warren co., O.; himself and one child seriously; STEPHEN H. ARNOLD, of Decatur, Iowa; MARY COATES, of Youngstown, Ohio; MISS D. A. PORTER, of Hudson, Michigan. The following are uninjured: R. W. TAIT, Susquehanna Depot, Pa.; E. A.. GURLEY, of Addison, Vt.; HENRY CREASE, of Philadelphia; CALVIN HOGAN of Milwaukee.

The train was running at the rate of 10 to 20 miles per hour. The train coming west passed over the embankment safely three hours before the accident. Conductor OSGOOD arrived in this city this afternoon, slightly hurt. We are unable to forward any more names of the killed. The following additional killed were reported this afternoon. J. M'CARTHY, Holmesville, Indiana; MARY CURRAN; MR. WALWORTH of Adrian, Michigan; MRS. SUMMER of Chicago; a man unknown, marked on the right arm, W.S.E.S.; M. M'WEATY, Fondulac county, Wisconsin; RICHARD MULDARY, Calumet, Indiana; MR. STREETER of Sparta, Wisconsin; HENRY FLECKINGER, Reading, Pennsylvania; P. B. M'CULLOUGH, Lawrenceburg, Pennsylvania; two boys named TIDESWELL; other seventeen so disfigured that is is impossible to identify them. Thirty-four bodies have been found up to 10 o'clock. Other passengers are missing, supposed to be drowned. Those injured are not expected to live; MRS. REAGAN of Rockford, Illinois; E. C. SMITH, banker, Wall street, New York; JOHN D. WISEPOTUCK; GUIAN Ainesworth, Illinois; MR. WALWORTH of Adrian. No fault is attributed to the officers of the train by the passengers.

The Erie Observer Pennsylvania 1859-07-02

Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!


Terrible Railroad Calamity.

Over Sixty Lives Lost!

Fifty or Sixty Persons Wounded!

South Bend, Ind., June 28. A little before midnight, the Night Express train from Chicago to Toledo, when between South Bend and Mishawaka, passing over an embankment spanning a ravine, at the base of which is a culvert, the embankment suddenly gave way, and the whole train was precipitated into the ravine, which was filled with a perfect torrent of water.

The engine was literally buried in the opposite side of the ravine in quicksand and mud, and the tender, baggage and express car, and two second class cars, were shattered almost into kindling wood, and piled on the top of the engine.  The two first class passenger cars followed, and were torn to pieces and carried down the stream, while the sleeping car, although making the leap with the rest, was less injured.

The stream is naturally but a rivulet, but was swollen by the extraordinary rains of the previous afternoon and evening.  Floodwood probably checked the culvert, converting the embankment into a dam, and the great weight of water with the concussion of the crossing train, caused the sad calamity.

About 150 persons were on the train; of these 60 have been taken from the ruins dead, and 50 or 60 more are wounded, or escaped unhurt; the rest not heard from; as many of the dead were drowned in the ravine.  It is feared that others not heard from have lost their lives in the same manner.

Mr. Bliss, President of the Road, and Mr. Hiram Sibley, one of the Directors, were in the sleeping car and escaped uninjured. -- The engineer and fireman, both named Chulp, of Laporte, were killed; Hartwell of Toledo, Express-man, and Babbington, baggage-master, were also killed, in the baggage car.  C. W. Smith, Road-master, killed.  Mrs. E. P. Gillett and child, Stone Mills, N. Y., dead - E. P. Gillett, but little hurt.  W. H. Gillett, Cortland, N. Y., missing.

The names of the dead it is impossible to obtain.  The wounded are Fred Miller, Holmesville, Ind.; E. M. Knapp, Hudson, Wis.; Miss Hattie Knapp, Auburn, N. Y.;  J. R. Garner, Jonesville, Mich; Charles Sherman, Boston; Augustus White, Holmesville, Ind; Wm. Flannery, P. Myer; P. Quinn, C. Anderson, W. R. Anderson, all of Ainsworth, Ill., A. D. Piser, Chicago; D. P. Rhodes, Cleveland; Miss A. Moore, Freeport; Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Jurry, Brooklyn, N. Y.; C. Jackson and Miss C. M. Elder, Waukesha, Wis.;  Oscar Warpeton, Rockford, Ill.;  Wallworth, father and son, Adrian; G. Bennett, Adrian.

Thos. Mishan, Michigan City, train boy, dead; M. H. Regan, lady and daughter, Rockford, Ill. -- lady badly hurt, daughter not yet found.  S. C. Rose, Coldwater, slightly injured; Jesse Dyling, Louisville, Warren co., Pa., slightly; W. J. Hawk, Charleston, Va.; slightly; C. Yard and wife, Otsego co., N. Y. slightly; A. Van Sycke, wife and four children, Warren co., O., he and one child badly hurt.

Stephen H. Arnold, Decatur co., Iowa, badly hurt; W. H. Weller, Milwaukee, slightly. B. O'Brien, Chicago, slightly; W. N. Connell, slightly; Mary Coates, Youngstown, O., slightly; Samuel Atkin, Belleville, slightly; Olmstead, brakeman, leg broken; Miss D. A. Porter, Hudson, Mich., slightly.

The following are not hurt:  Lewis Heller, Strausburg, Pa.; John Heck, Rome, Jones co., Iowa; R. W. Tair, Susquehanna Depot, Pa., E. A. Gurley, Addison, Vt.; J. K. Gardner, Chicago; Henry Crease, Philadelphia; M. White, Dekalb, Ill.; S. Arnold, brother of the wounded Arnold; Calvin Hagan, Milwaukee.

Citizens of South Bend and Mishawaka turned out en masse to assist the wounded and search for the dead.

One lady was carried down the stream towards the river, but lodged in a tree-top, and heard several float by crying for help.

The Engineer had been running over the bridge from Laporte each way carefully.  The train was not running faster that 10 or 20 miles per hour.  The train going West had passed over the embankment safely at 8:30 P.M.

The U. S. Express had over $30,000 in their safe, which broke to pieces by the collision, but the agent here has found most of it in the ruins.

One of the through mail bags was found near the river, two hundred yards from the break; whether others are lost, cannot be told.

The ravine is about 25 feet deep, and 75 to 100 feet wide.  The night was very dark, and there was a curve in the road just before the embankment was reached.

Note. -- Mr. William Osgood, the Conductor of the train, arrived in the city this afternoon.  He is injured, but not severely.  He is unable to give the names of the killed, as it was impossible to identify them when he left. -- Chicago Jour.


South Bend, Ind., June 28.  In addition to those reported killed in the afternoon dispatch, we have the following:  J. McCarthy, of Holmesville, Ind.; Mary Curran and Mr. Walworth, of Adrian, Mich.; Mrs. Sumner, of Chicago; a man unknown, with W. S. E. S. on his right arm; Mr. McNealy, of Fond du Lac county, Wis.; Richard Muldany, of Calumet, Ind.; Mr. Streeter, of Sparta, Wis.; Henry Fleckinger, of Reading, Pa.; B. P. McCullough, of Lawrenceburg, Ind.; two boys named Tideswell.  The other seventeen are so disfigured that it is impossible to identify them.  Up to ten o'clock this evening thirty-four bodies have been found.  Those injured and not expected to live are Mrs. Regan of Rockford, Ill.; John D. Wire and Patrick Quinn of Ainsworth, Ill.; E. C. Smith, a banker of Wall street, N. Y., and another a Mr. Walworth, of Adrian.

A number of those reported wounded this afternoon are so far recovered that they will be able to leaver to-morrow morning.

The money belonging to the U. S. Express Co., has nearly all been recovered.

No fault is attributed by the passengers to any of the officers of the train.

Quite a number of the passengers are still missing and are supposed to be drowned.


The scene of the banks of the ravine, Mr. Pardee says, was truly awful, as one may well suppose, but he says the amount of human misery among the wounded was terrible to behold.   In the Mishwauka [sic] hotel he saw a fine little boy about 9 years old, with his left leg broken, and almost open through the thigh, while the right leg is cut completely off.  The lad was failing fast and it is almost impossible for him to recover.

He was one of a family of five children, with the mother, who were going to meet the father and the husband of this family.  The mother was killed, a daughter is missing, and another boy is wounded not seriously.  He is in the same room with his wretched brother, while he saw another of the young ones, six years old, dead, having had is face completely cut off.  The bodies of the females were not much mutilated.


He was in the sleeping car at the time of the accident, which occurred about midnight.  The first he knew of anything being the matter was when the water was rushing over the cars.  The lights were out, and nothing but an occasional flash of lightning was there to see by. He jumped from the cars, but instead of landing on terra firma, he leaped into the torrent, but succeeded in making his way to a clump of bushes and got up the bank afterwards.  He heard a great deal of screaming while in the current, and after landing the cries of distress were awful.  There being no lights, everything was confusion, and survivors were rushing wildly about the banks of the ravine in vain search of their missing friends.  He says on one was killed in the sleeping car, but one old gentleman jumped out and was drowned in the current.  Mr. Rice says Osgood (the conductor) seemed crazy, he ran to South Bend and to Mishwaukea [sic], an then returned a distance of eight miles, without his hat.  He took charge of him and brought him to the cit at 3 1-2 o'clock yesterday.

One woman who was on the train with her husband and five children, ran wildly about all night seeking her family, but without success, until morning, when she found them all dead.  She then went to a farm house a few yards off, where after sitting some minutes, the wretched wife and mother expired.

Mr. Rice says that a gentleman, with his wife and two children, were on the train on a pleasure trip to the East.  But in the accident the parties became separated.  The husband found one of his young ones dead in the morning; next he found his wife dead, but with her arms closely embracing the other child, who was saved.

Davenport Daily Leader, Davenport, IA 30 Jun 1859


....Among the slightly wounded ... Mrs. H. B. Hoffman, of Davenport.

.... It is feared that Mrs. Parsons, wife of Mr. W. S. Parsons, of Le Claire, is among the lost by the recent accident on the Michigan Southern road.  Mrs. P. was to have left Davenport on Monday morning for Dunkirk, N. Y., and would, in all probability, be in the ill-fated train.  We do not find her name on the list of killed, wounded, or saved.

Davenport Daily Leader, Davenport, IA 1 Jul 1859



Three More Bodies Found

Further Particulars

Hon. Schuyler Colfax informs us under date of Friday evening, in a note written in the cars, that two bodies were taken out of the ravine where the accident occurred, Thursday afternoon.  They were completely buried in the sand.  The first one was discovered by the toe of his foot being noticed.  One of these persons is named Campbell; the other is not known.

This morning the body of Miss Regan was found in the St. Joseph river, less than a mile below the fatal creek.  She was identified by Mr. Whinery of South Bend, (at whose house her mother died,) by her dress.

Pieces of clothing have been found to-day by the workmen at the wreck, but up to 3 o'clock P. M., no more bodies.  The whole number of dead thus far discovered is forty-one.

Before the work of rebuilding the culvert is commenced, the people of Mishawauka [sic]  have determined on excavating the ground, to see if more bodies cannot be found.  This course was determined upon a public meeting held in that place on Wednesday evening. --Chic. Press, 2d.

Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, IA 4 Jul 1859



Two miles east of South Bend, midway between that place and Mishawaka, the track of the Michigan Southern & Lake Shore railroad crosses a narrow ravine on an embankment about 25 feet high. At its base was a culvert through which ran a rivulet, too small a stream, indeed, to be called a creek, and whose waters were drained from the high ground south of the road. When this culvert was put in, the neighbors, remembering the sudden and extraordinary rise of this rivulet in 1841, contended that it was too small; but it seemed impossible that its waters could be swollen to such an extent as to exceed its capacity to carry off; and it had not been until the fatal night of June 27. The afternoon and evening of that day the rain poured down in torrents, and the little rivulet grew rapidly, but no danger was apprehended. At half past 8 o’clock P. M. the express train from the East passed over it in safety. What happened after that time until midnight can only be inferred; but it is evident that the culvert must have been choked up with driftwood and sand, as it might have done even if larger—that the embankment thus became a dam, behind which the water rapidly accumulated, and that it rose to almost the level of the track.

A little before midnight, the night express from Chicago passed South Bend, Mr. Osgood, conductor, and T. Chulip, of La Porte, engineer, and one of the most careful ones on the line. The passengers all testified as to how carefully he had run his train when it passed over a bridge or other locality he thought might be dangerous. He checked up the train when passing the Studebaker bridge, less than a mile west of the ravine, and then regarding the embankment as unquestionably safe, increased his speed. He must have been running, however, at less. than twenty miles per hour when he reached the fatal spot. The embankment was, beyond a doubt, thoroughly water-soaked and ready to give way as he reached it; and the weight of the train, or any other violent concussion, was all that was needed to complete the work of destruction. Down went the track, train, embankment and all, into the narrow gorge. The tender, baggage car, and two second-class cars mostly shattered into fragments, piled up their ruins on the engine upon the opposite side of the bank. Two passenger cars followed, landing nearer the center of the channel, and the sleeping car, the last of the train, with all its inmates, escaped apparently uninjured, though taking the frightful leap with the rest. The vast volume of water thus released by the destruction of the dam which had confined it, swept for a few moments over them, carrying several, who finally escaped down its stream, and drowning many others. Three of the dead bodies were found two hundred yards below where the rivulet Three ties into the St. Joseph river. In a short time the waters of the rivulet had run down, and the uninjured were enabled to look for the wounded and the dead.

As soon as possible the alarm was given at Mishawaka and South Bend, the citizens of both places going to the wreck and working zealously through the remaining hours of the night and the following day. Physicians, with many other citizens, Three from La Porte and other neighboring towns, and all was done that was within the power of man. The engineer and fireman, who were brothers, were killed at their post—so were the baggage man and express messenger. The express safe was broken open by the crash, but the money (over $60,000) was nearly all found during the day.
The dead, as they were found, were mostly taken to Mishawaka, and many of the wounded also. The rest were taken to South Bend. The scene at the wreck was sorrowful beyond description. There were at least 150 passengers upon the train.

Editor's Note: Patrick McNealy (sic)  - should be McNeely - was my GG Grandfather - have no idea where they might have buried the dead - I presume at either South Bend or Waukesha - wouldn't think the bodies would be in a condition to be brought home.