Friday, April 10, 2009

Was the Engine of the Camp Creek Train Crash Cursed?

As many of you may know, I have been doing a lot of research on the Camp Creek Train Crash of 1900. During my research, I have uncovered some macabre stories about the wreck. A few seem to indicate that something weird was going on with the engine that pulled the train. Consider the stories and see what you think.

Before arriving at the bridge which would carry so many of “Old #7’s” passengers to their final destination, it pulled in to the depot in McDonough around 9:30 p.m. that evening. Already behind schedule due to the weather, the train pulled in to the depot with a passenger car, baggage car, first class coach, and a Pullman sleeper. The train carried 48 passengers and crew. According to reports that surfaced shortly after the wreck, the locomotive for Old #7 had a sordid history. Put in to service in 1888, the locomotive claimed its first victims between Knoxville and Lenoir when it plowed in to a farm wagon and killed three persons. Eleven years later in 1897, the cursed locomotive took another nine lives when it collided with a covered wagon carrying members of the Woodward family at Avondale near Chattanooga. After this episode, the locomotive was rechristened number 851 in hopes that it could escape its apparent bad luck. However, the new number did nothing to stop the killing spree on which the engine appeared to be. For in 1898, the locomotive made its first dive in to a river. According to an article in The Atlanta Constitution on July 4, 1900, the rechristened locomotive crashed more than sixty feet into the Etowah River. The freight cars it pulled caught fire and destroyed a large amount of freight. Like Camp Creek on the night of June 23, 1900, the Etowah River had been swollen by rains at the time of the wreck. In fact, 851 lay buried in mud for several weeks. According to the article, “It was finally raised by the aid of a monster-derrick and a ten wheel locomotive. . . . It was rebuilt, and sent again on its career of killing, behaving well until it culminated in the Camp Creek affair. The original number 846 had been restored after raising it from the Etowah.” However, the eerie history of the 846 does not end there. The first engineer to handle the 846, John Ramsey, met a quirky fate when he was scalded to death. The second engineer, Abe Laird, died of typhoid fever during the summer of 1899, just one year before the wreck, and one year after the Etowah River crash. In addition, J.T. Sullivan, who drove the train on June 23, 1900 when it went down in the Camp Creek and killed dozens of people, was not the actual engineer. He was a replacement for the regular who could not make the trip for some reason.

Was the engine cursed? Who knows? But after the incident at Lenoire, the collision and death of the Woodward family near Chattanooga, the deaths of John Ramsey and Abe Laird, and the ill-fated run on June 23, 1900, there are many people who think it might have indeed been!!!


Sometimes It's Good said...

This could be a Stephen King book. Reminds me of "Christine." I love your blog. I fell in love with Georgia when I went to Savannah last fall. Lots of mysteries there.

The Professor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Professor said...

I am so glad you came to visit our wonderful state. Savannah is such an enchanting and beautiful city. I am also glad you enjoy the blog. Please keep reading and post comments anytime you would like.
Glad to have a California friend on the blog!!!

madge1967 said...

Hey Prof Jeff!
I found another Eye Witness account for ya on the 1900 Train Wreck in McDonough Ga.
Very Good Article indeed!

MacDonough, GA Train Wreck, Jun 1900
Posted November 19th, 2007 by Linda Horton
ATALNTA, GA., June 24.----A passenger train on the Macon branch of the Southern railroad ran into a washout one and a half miles north of Macdonough, last night, and was totally destroyed. The wreck caught fire and all the persons on the train, except those in the Pullman car, perished. The dead number thirty five in all. Not a single one of the train crew escaped. Ten people, none seriously injured, were rescued. Overwhelming rains of the past two weeks have swollen all the streams in this vicinity. Camp creek, which is over its banks, runs alongside the railroad near Macdonough and finally goes under the roadway through a stone culvert. A cloudburst occurred over that point early last evening and a stretch of track one hundred feet long was washed out. When the train went down, the storm was still raging and all the car windows were shut. The passengers met death without an instants warning.
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, NH 25 Jun 1900
Transcribed by Linda Horton. Thank you, Linda!
I like the way they spelled McDonough to MacDonough GA!

The Professor said...

It is kind of neat to see that this story was covered by papers as far away as New Hampshire. Thank you for sending this along.

Caprice said...

Thanks for the article quote Madge1967! It really puts into perspective just how awful the wreck was! It is amazing to me to find out just how many locations carried this story - especially when you consider how slow and limited communication was in 1900!
McDonough was named after Commodore MacDonough, but they decided to loose the "a". I always assumed that was done in the beginning, but now I wonder...
Do you know, Prof, or anyone?

The Professor said...

Well, in the History of McDonough by Scip Speer, written in 1921, he spells the Commodore's last name like the current spelling of the name of the town. I would assume that is in error, as Commodore Thomas MacDonough includes an a in his last name. In addition to our town being spelled without the "a", McDonough, New York dropped the "a" and McDonough County, Illinois dropped the "a". However, the USS Macdonough, a ship named in his honor, leaves the "a" in tact. I am not sure why McDonough, Georgia dropped the "a" but I will keep digging to see if I can find out.

Lifting Creme said...

Common Causes of Train Accidents

· Human error, usually the negligence or poor decision making of a conductor or other operator. In the United States, the most recent train crash tragedy is believed to have been caused by a conductor who was on their cell phone and not paying attention to the more important task at hand.

· Derailment: This is when the train actually leaves the tracks that it is on, causing complete malfunction, instability, and often the crashing of the train itself. Derailment is most often caused by excessive speeds, broken or misaligned rails, collisions with any obstructions on the track, or faults in the train wheels.

· On board explosions: The most common type of on board explosion that applies to trains is a boiler explosion. This happens when there is too much pressure built up in the boiler. Also, furnace explosions are possible as well. These only apply to steam trains, which are not used in current times nearly as much as electric or gas powered trains.

Visit accident compensation claims to get more information about this.

charlene said...

My Great-Grandfather was named John Ramsey and he died at age 32 in a Railroad accident (between 1897-1900) that I'm told involved some sort of "mystery". I saw your story and am wondering if you might possibly have more information about the John Ramsey you wrote about?


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