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Dawson County Caliche Slide Disaster of 1937

Dawson County, Texas
Caliche Pit Disaster
January 22, 1937 

The Dawson County Courier carried the following story on January 28, 1937 Volume 7
Four Lamesa Residents Killed by Caliche Slide;
Three die Instantly; One dies Saturday

Five Lamesans, members of the maintenance department of the Texas State Highway department had just finished their lunches on last Friday, January 22, and were sitting around a fire they had built to warm by. They had been working in a strip caliche pit on the Tom Kellam place six miles south of town on the Big Spring highway. Building their fire on the north side of the pit to ward off a cold north wind, they sat under a slight ledge of a six foot bank to relax a few moments before returning to their work in the afternoon. Suddenly and without warning the ledge gave away, hurling hundreds of pounds of caliche on the small group, killing three outright and injuring a fourth so that he passed away Saturday afternoon. The fifth and surviving member of the group escaped without sustaining any permanent injury.

The dead were: N. G. Scott, 60 a long time resident of Lamesa, whose back was broken by the impact of a large boulder, and who had been a member of the highway department about five years.

Walter Breeding, 43, probably the victin of internal injuries was pinned over the fire and suffocated by the smoke, a member of the department for four years.

Tom Hailey, 58, part time worker, was crushed by the rocks and killed instantly.

Willie Emmett Busby, 43, received internal injuries, when a large boulder pinned him to the ground, and although he was brought to a local hospital where he underwent an operation in an effort to save him, the injuries proved fatal and he passed away Saturday afternoon.

Victor Crawley, the other workman, was sitting directly against the bank and the cave-in pitched over his body, although loose dirt pinned his legs and feet so that it was several minutes before he could extricate himself to give aid to his companions. He received painful bruises and shock, which still confines him to his home, but no serious injuries were received by him. As soon as Crawley got himself free he went to work to rescue the four trapped men.

Realizing that Busby was the only one who was not then oast human aid, he tried to pry the large rock off Busby, but it was too large for one man to move, he started to the highway tohail some passerby. At this moment Jap Randle and Jack Phinizy of Lamesa were returning from a call to Ackerly, and seeing Crawley running to the road, stopped to see what had happened. They sent Crawley to Lamesa in their car while they set about to get the injured men out of the pile of caliche and dirt. The rock that held Busby to the ground had to be broken with a crowbar before he could be gottn out. He was then carried to the highway where a car stopped and he was sent in to the hospital. Randle and Phinizy remained and continued the rescue work until all the men were dug out and brought to Lamesa in an ambulance.

Hundreds of people have viewed the place of the cave-in since the accident and marvel at how comparatively small it appears, to have been the cause of the most tragic accident which has ever happened in Dawson County. Various explanations have been given for the mysterious slide, most plausible being that the extreme cold weather had frozen the ground solidly and the heat of the noon day sun augmented by the fire which had been built by the workmen, had caused the ground to expand and crack under the weight of the overhanging ledge.

Breeding Buried in Callahan County The body of Walter Breeding was taken to Cross Plains Friday night, where funeral services were held Saturday, and burial was made in the Cottowood cemetery near that place. Breeding, who was unmarried, is survived by his father, H. L. Breeding, and three brothers: Leonard Breeding of Lamesa, J.M. Breeding of Lamesa, and Arvie Breeding of Cross Plains; Also three sisters, Mrs. F. A. Oglesby of Cross Plains, Mrs. B. B. Jones of Cross Plains and Mrs. S. M. Scrivinge of Dayton, Texas

Hailey Funeral Saturday Funeral services for Tom Hailey, victom of the caliche pit diaster, were held Saturday afternoon at 2:30 at the First Baptist church in Lamesa. Rev. E. F. Cole, pastor, conducted the services. Burial was in the Lamesa cemetery. Mr Hailey had been a member of the Baptist church for 24 years. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Ora Hailey, and three daughters, Mrs. Dock Gillispie and Mrs. Elbert Brown of Lamesa, and Mrs. Rufus Aten of Kermit, Texas.

Scott Buried Saturday N. G. Scott was laid to rest Saturday afternoon in the Lamesa cemetery following funeral services which were held in the Lamesa Church of Christ at 3:15, Minister J. C. Foster conducted the services. Mr. Scott leaves a widow and three sons to mourn his passing, Mrs. Anna Belle Scott, Lamesa, Loy Scott of Lovington, NM, Linnie Scott, Lamesa, and Aaron Scott, Big Spring. Also his parents Mr and Mrs G.W. Scott and three brothers and four sisters.

Legion Funeral Given Busby. The final chapter in Dawson County's tragic accident of last Friday, was ended Monday afternoon when the remains of Emmett Busby was laid to rest in the Lamesa cemetery beneath a bank of beautiful floral offerings which attested to the high esteem in which he was held by his many friends in Lamesa. Funeral services were held in the First Methodist church at 2:30 p.m. with Rev. M. m. Beavers in charge of the services, assisted by Rev. E. F. Cole. A male quartette composed of Owen Taylor, Essie More, A. J. McDaniel, and Tom Barron sang "Rock Of Ages". Members of the local post of the American Legion escorted the cortege to the cemetery where he was buried with military honors. Willie Emmett Busby was born in Atlanta, GA, in 1893. He had been a resident of Lamesa for several years. In 1927 he married a Lamesa girl, Miss Nell Barrington, who survives him. He had been a mamber of the Methodist church since youth. He was a member of the masonic and Odd Fellows lodges and of the American Legion. Besides his widow, Mrs. Nell Busby, the deceased leaves five brothers to mourn his untimely death. They are L.L. Busby, of O'Donnell, H. G. Busby, of Greenville, Texas; C. F. Busby of Dallas; L. C. Busby of Farmersville, Texas, and J. A. Busby of Celeste, Texas

Copied in 2000 by granddaughter Louise Gillispie Stratton

Submitted by Louise Gillispie Stratton, April 2007. 

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