With this post I continue what I call "The Browning Series." Samuel and Margaret Browning had thirteen children between them and after Margaret's death, Samuel chose a widow named Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis for his second wife. The two of them had two more children together. My plan has been to feature each one of the fifteen children in a separate post and finally tie the family together with a discussion of their parents.
This post is the third of three about Charles Otho Browning, the second child of Asbury Taylor Browning (son of Samuel and Margaret) and Minerva Corderman.
When last we left the family of Charles Otho and Laura Belle (Tritt) Browning, they and their three children Frank, Tena, and Charles, were living in Marion in Marion County, Kansas. Charles had been born there in January of 1887.
(Events I speak of from now on are culled from newspaper reports at the time and I've done my best to piece a story together from them.)
Fast forward a bit with me now to the 3rd of February in 1889. Charles and his family were living east of East St. Louis -- probably in St. Clair County, Illinois -- at a farm owned by Robert M. Quigley, Charles's employer. Quigley, mentioned in the previous post, was a prominent railroad contractor in the area and owner of a stock commission firm. Charles was employed by Quigley & Co. as a stockman.
The morning of the 3rd Charles, carrying as much as $300 in his pocket, was in Springfield, Missouri. He was scheduled to take a load of mules to Vinita in the Indian Territory (now OK) where the mules were to be employed upon the extension of the Missouri Pacific railroad from Coffeyville, Kansas, south. The mules had been loaded in a railroad car attached to Switch Engine #4 of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, which left for the stockyards west of the city. Engine #4 followed another train, backed up the switch, and then ran the car to the stockyards, where it was left for the mules to be put to feed. After the mules were taken care of Charles climbed onto the step in front of the engine as it started back, heading west towards the depot.
(Update: At the time I posted this entry I believed the site of the accident was in the picture to the right. I have since (3/2012) learned that it was not. For the correct location please see the fourth post of this series.)
There were laws in Springfield at the time limiting engines to a top speed of 10 miles an hour while within the city limits but eyewitnesses that day say that Engine #4 passed the Einsenmeyer Mills at a speed estimated closer to 15-20 miles per hour. The Eisenmeyer Milling Company was near National St., about 10-12 city blocks east of N. Campbell and N. Main. Just as the engine reached the frog of the switch west of Campbell street, apparently the signal to stop was given to the engineer, Ed McLean. (If anyone is curious about what a 'frog' is, take a look at the picture below.) McLean failed to catch the signal and in between Campbell and Main the engine struck a frog and jumped the tracks. It hurled about thirty feet before coming down and tearing her way along the ties and into the embankment on the side of the road.
I won't take the space here to describe the horrible scene of the accident or what happened to all the men on the train; I'll leave that to you to read the account that I've posted above as well as go to this site and read #16-18 and #20 and read what I judge to be the most interesting and detailed account of the accident by far. Three men were killed outright and five others badly wounded, Charles among them. Charles was thrown under the engine. Both his legs were severed above the knee and the upper half of his right ear was cut off.
After the accident physicians gathered and a rescue mission began. One report states that "...Boonville Street from the square to Commercial Street was a perfect stream of moving humanity." Physicians were called and wounded men were carried off to their homes or various physician's offices for medical care. The dead were taken to August Lohmeyer's, an undertaking establishment on Commercial Street, where they were laid out on cots and covered. The railroad superintendent, Col. D.H. Nichols, made sure that the Frisco Railroad took care of the welfare of the wounded and placed two of their physicians in attendence.
Reports vary about where Charles was carried. One source says he was carried to the offices over Crank's Drugstore (a distance of about a mile from the scene of the accident, on the northeast corner of Kimbrough Avenue and Cherry Street.) Another report states that he was carried to the office of Dr. Barnes, though the location of Dr. Barnes' office is not mentioned and was most likely the office over Crank's Drugstore. In the chaos, one of Charles' legs was apparently carried away with the dead to Lohmeyer's, the undertakers. Charles' injuries were grievous and little hope was held that he would survive. In the time between the accident and his death, Charles was said to have raved deliriously about his family and about Sweetwater, a city in Buffalo County, Nebraska. His ravings about Sweetwater caused many reporters to erroneously report that he was native to that place.
Charles lived the night but faded quickly and died the following morning in Dr. Barnes' office. It doesn't appear that Laura was able to get to Springfield to be near her husband. W.D. Broughton, a fellow employee who had traveled with Charles on the trip until parting with him at Dixon, MO, telegraphed their boss R. M. Quigley about the accident. Quigley came from St. Louis as fast as he could. Quigley was interviewed by the Springfield Weekly Republican and stated that Laura and her children were destitute and living on his farm outside of East St. Louis in Illinois. Quigley also said that the $300 that Charles had on him at the time of the accident had disappeared by the time Quigley had claimed the body. Quigley took Charles back to St. Louis with him and arranged for it to be interred.
Meanwhile, Justice of the Peace Charles H. Evans (the acting Coroner at the time) had called an inquest the same afternoon as the accident. The inquest was convened to determine the cause of the accident and its resulting deaths. The jury consisted of the following men: J. M. Adams, Horace Smith, J. B. Carson, D. M. Coleman, Charles Denney and W. P. Stewart. They began the inquest the day of the accident but came together again the day following at the City Hall building on Boonville street. They interviewed at least fourteen different witnesses and other railroad employees, viewed the dead and dying, and visited the accident site to get an idea of how the accident happened. Afterwards they rendered their decision.
My cousins located a copy of the Coroner's Report (it is in PDF and I cannot post it here so I include a transcription of it here.) It is a bit difficult to read but it reads as follows:
"We the undersigned Jurors empannelled and sworn in the 3rd day of February 1889 at the Township of Campbell in the county of Greene in the state of Missouri, by C. H. Evans, a Justice of the Peace in and for said Township of Campbell, acting as coronor, to diligently enquire and ( ? ? ) make how and by whom Charles Mason, Wm Miller, George Lowry, C.O. Browning and Ed McLean whose bodies were found at the yards of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad in the 3rd day of February 1889, came to their deaths, having viewed the bodies and heard the evidence do find that the deceased came to their deaths by being crushed and wounded by the wreck of Switch Engine No. 4 of the St. Louis and San Francisco Rail road in charge of Ed McLean, Engineer, and which wreck the Jury do find caused the deaths of the persons whose dead bodies were found as aforesaid and that the said wreck was caused by the carelessness of the engineer Ed McLean running at too high a rate of speed.
--------Given under our hands this 4th day of February 1889------
H. G. Smith
James M Adams
J. B. Carson
D. M. Coleman
C. H. Evans, JP
In all, six men died. Those who died at the scene of the accident were George Lowry (brakeman), William Miller, and Charles Nason (both switchman.) The day after the accident Ed. McLean, the engineer (and the man the inquest held responsible) died of his injuries. Charles also died that same morning. Finally, Frank Crawford (day yard master) died three days after Charles did from gangrene that had set into his wounds.
In the aftermath of the accident, funerals were held and slowly life got back to normal. Quigley took Charles' body back with him to St. Louis and took out a burial permit for him in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on 7 Feb 1889. Quigley then purchased a plot in the St. Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Lemay in St. Louis County, Missouri. The section of the cemetery that he is buried in is a single grave section and it has very few headstones, so the grave is probably unmarked.
Wikipedia, "Railroad Switch". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad_switch#Frog_.28common_crossing.29
"A Grist Mill Guide For Missouri," Daviess County Historical Society, http://www.daviesscountyhistoricalsociety.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=62
ArcGIS Map of Historic Sites in Springfield MO: http://gismaps.springfieldmo.gov/historicsites/
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