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South Bend, IN Railroad Disaster, June 1859

THE TERRIBLE RAILROAD SLAUGHTER ON THE MICHIGAN SOUTHERN RAILROAD.

SIXTY OR SEVENTY PERSONS KILLED -- THIRTY-SIX BODIES FOUND -- FORTY OR FIFTY WOUNDED -- DISTRESSING DETAILS -- NAMES OF THE KILLED AND WOUNDED, &c.

From the Chicago Times, June 29.
The most dreadful railway disaster which ever happened in America, took place night before last, not far from twelve o'clock, about two miles east of South Bend, Indiana. A train, consisting of six cars, was totally demolished, and over seventy passengers were killed. The precise number is not known, but no less than sixty dead bodies had been recovered at the date of the latest intelligence. People were searching for more.
It is stated that there were 150 passengers on the train, only 75 of whom are now living. We think the estimate of whole number is rather small. When the train left this city at 8 o'clock P.M., there were two first class cars crowded to excess, one sleeping car comfortably full, one second class car full, and one emigrant car empty. The latter was taken along for the purpose of carrying down a number of railroad hands, who were taken on board at Ainsworth, Calumet, and other stations along the road. Among the passengers were quite a number of Chicago people, of whom we have the names only of L. P. HILLARD, E. CICKINSON, MRS. SUMNER, and some others which appear below. DAVID RUNNION, late proprietor of the Revere House, left the train at South Bend, two miles this side of the place of the accident.
During Monday afternoon and night a heavy rain storm prevailed throughout the region traversed by the Michigan Southern Railroad in Indiana. All the streams were fearfully swollen in a very brief space of time. Rivulets were augmented to rivers, and fields previously dry were changed to miniature lakes. The accident took place at a culvert, crossing a ravine some twenty-five feet in depth, and about one hundred feet broad. The bottom of the ravine forms the channel of a small brook, which in midsummer is usually dry. One the morning before the accident a men stepped across it without difficulty. The passenger train which arrived here the same night crossed the culvert at 8 o'clock in the evening with safety. It is thought that the water-way had become choked up with floodwood, thus causing the ravine above the crossing to fill with water, the great weight of which pressing against the embankment caused it to give way while the train was crossing. The entire train was precipitated to the bottom of the ravine, or against its opposite side, and every car was broken into fragments. The loss of life was much greater, however, than it otherwise probably would have been on account of the water which was about fifteen feet deep. Many persons were drowned.

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Date clarification

This wreck actually happened on the night of June 27, 1859. An anniversary article appears here: http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/michiana-s-great-train-wreck-...



article | by Dr. Radut