Monday, May 01, 2006

Gasconade River Bridge Wreck

From: "Dot Duncan"

It was with great interest that I read your outstanding article about the Gasconade River Bridge Wreck outside St. Louis, MO in 1855. According to information I've obtained, my great grandfather, Franz Johann Georg Specht (Francis G. Specht), M.D., of St. Louis was a survivor of that train wreck. He was with the German newspaper, Anzeiger des Westens, prior to his graduation from Washington University School of Medicine (Class of 1858), so I don't know why he would have been selected to ride that inaugural train at the tender age of 23! I would be most interested to obtain any info you have regarding a list of passengers, list of injured and dead from the wreck, or any references you could cite where I might obtain this information. It would be nice to validate the info regarding my ancestor.

I am in the process of obtaining a copy of Dr. Specht's obit from an English-written newspaper in St. Louis where it was mentioned that he was a survivor of the Gasconade Train Disaster of 1855 ...

Dot (Wilson) Duncan
Tampa, Florida

Dorothy Wilson Duncan
d/o Dorothy Gibson Dawson and Gerald Franklin Wilson
d/o James Gibson Dawson and Doretta Caroline Specht
d/o Franz Johann Georg Specht and Doretta Caroline (Rosenthal) Specht

Gasconade River, August, 2012,
Gasconade River, August, 2012


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Jim Cawood"

Where are there available detailed reports on the Gasconade bridge wreck? Is there a list of passengers/victims? I'm trying to track down a great grandfather that may have died in the wreck.

—Jim Cawood

8/18/2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bob"

At the time I wrote the article, I had access to info from the two references listed at the end of the article. You might check with the Missouri Historical Society to see if they have any more detailed information.


8/18/2006 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your article regarding the Gasconade River Bridge. My husband & I live ... in a log home. We decided to put an addition on our log home and discovered a resource that ... 20 years ago ... was asked to remove the wooden pilings from the old bridge from the river & dispose of them. He took the timber to his land and will now be selling some of it to us to be used in our new addition. It will be a fun story to tell our friends that this timber was part of this historical moment in history.

Thought you might enjoy knowing that the bridge piling will be used yet again. ...

10/13/2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Candy"
Subject: Gasconade River Bridge Wreck

Thank you for the story of the two horrific train disasters. Please tell me, is there a list of those who were killed in the original accident? I'm trying to sort out a mystery in my family tree. TIA.

—Candy, NSW Australia

4/12/2007 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. Louis Repulican reported the following list of the killed and injured:
Killed.—A.. L. Chappell, Rev. A. Bullard, B. B. Dayton, Cyrus Melvin, Mann Butler, Thomas Grey, Rev. Mr. Teasdale, S. Best (fireman), Patrick Barry (wood-passer), T. J. Mott (representative of Dunklin County), Thomas S. O'Sullivau (chief engineer), E. C. Yosti (firm of Shields & Yosti), Capt. C. Case, E. C. Blackburn, J. A. Ross
(firm of Ross & Gillum), Athey (late assessor
of St. Louis), Henry Chouteau (of the firm of Chouteau & Vall6), Capt. O'Flaherty, Joseph Harris (of St. Louis County), E. B. Jeffrees (representative of Franklin County), Adolph Abeles, George Eberle, William L. Lynch, R. M. Dubois, H. W. Huhn, Joseph A. Finnegan, Mr. McCulloch (of Dunklin) ; one body, left at the Gasconade; one body, identified at Hermann, name unknown.
All of the above not otherwise specified were residents of St. Louis.
Wounded.—Hon. Washington King, mayor of St. Louis, badly cut.
F. L. Billon, arm broken.
Carlos S. Greeley, slightly injured.
L. M. Kennett, slightly injured.
Judge Wells, United States District Court, slightly injured.
John M. Wimer, badly hurt.
Henry C. Hart.
George K. Budd.
Francis Lane, leg broken.
James Mullery, slightly injured.
D. H. Armstrong, right arm broken.
Capt. Connelly, right leg injured.
Wilson Primm, bruised about the head.
John Schuetze, not seriously hurt.
Edward Colston, badly cut on head.
S. J. Levi, bruised about face.
L. A. Benoist, leg hurt.
Judge Thomas, of Bridgeton, face injured.
John J. Hoppe, face cut.
Wayman Crow, leg bruised.
Peter Oehman, badly bruised.
Mr. Dyson, firm of Taylor & Dyson, lower jaw broken, and otherwise badly injured.
John C. Ivory, much cut and bruised.
William Lindsey, shoulder out of joint.
John K. Field, firm of Beardslee & Field. Mr. Field went out the day after the accident, having heard that his brother was seriously injured at the Gasconade Bridge. He failed to get across Boeuff Creek before the bridge there was washed away. Afterwards he crossed the river, took a hand-car, and was at work on it when his coat was caught iu the wheel and he was thrown out. The wheel passed over him, doing him very serious injury, principally about the face.
W. H. Tucker, the engineer on the locomotive, had his legs badly bruised.
William D'CEnch, right arm broken.
Julius Bush, face cut badly.
John Neindenhofer, face bruised.
James McDermott, leg broken.
A number of others were more or less seriously hurt.

4/23/2011 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


From the St. Louis Democrat of November 4.
Last evening about 8 o'clock we received the terrible information, through Mr. David H. Bishop and William Rumbold, citizens of this place, that the excursion train of twelve or fourteen cars that departed from St. Louis yesterday morning at 9 o'clock, to attend the railroad celebration at Jefferson City, met with an accident at the bridge of the Gasconade river, the details of which are not yet attainable, but which, when fully known, will, we fear, be of the most awful and heartrending character. The information we have derived from these gentlemen is as follows:
They were passengers coming down the Missouri river on the steamer Ben Bolt, and landed at Hermann for the purpose of taking the downward 2 o'clock train for this city. Just before the boat landed, at the hour of 1 o'clock, the excursion train passed up by Hermann, and the passengers, both of boat and cars, exchanged greetings.
Shortly after landing of the Ben Bolt, and just as the downward train was about starting, a locomotive that had accompanied and was pushing at the rear of the excursion train arrived at Hermann from above bearing the terible news that , as the excursion cars were passing over the railroad bridge recently erected at the mouth of the Gasconade river, at a distance of about eight miles from Hermann, the bridge gave way and precipitated the front locomotive and ten of the passenger cars of the train down into the river.
The height of the bridge above the water was about thirty feet, and the depth of the water beneath stated to be twenty feet. The locomotive which brought the news to Hermann, together with one of the passenger cars, became disengaged from the train as the accident took place, and were thus saved. About one hundred and fifty of the passengers, it is stated, got out of the cars before passing the bridge, in order to inspect the structure and observe the trial of the heavy train upon the timbers. These, if they were not standing on the bridge at the time, may have escaped injury.
The locomotive and tender of the downward train from Hermann were immediately disengaged, and the passenger cars atttached to the engine which had just come back to the bridge, while the former, on which were Messrs. Bishop and Rumbold, proceeded with all haste to this city.
The excursion train had on board at least six hundred persons. While so much uncertanty surrounds the catastrophe it is most fearful to contemplate the consequences.
Among the excursionists were many of the leading merchants and railroad men of the city, judges of courts and members of all the professions, besides two companies of our military, the National Guards and the St. Louis Grays. Indeed, we may say the very flower of our citizens were on the train.

7/30/2011 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The St. Louis Intelligencer says that the accident occurred where no houses are to be seen, in a wild forest, and during the time a heavy storm of rain, accompanied with lightning and thunder of the most vivid description, fell without intermission.
"Couriers were dispatched forthwith to Hermann for another train, and in an hour or less the wounded were in comfortable cars on their way to St. Louis. It was an awful spectacle, one that would appal the stoutest heart---the dead and dying lying without shelter, save that afforded by the hand of friendship or philantropy, exposed to a pitiless storm, and the wounded groaning from amid the ruins and supplicating the succor of the more fortunate."
The Intelligencer gives the names of a portion of the killed and wounded:
Killed---Rev. Dr. Bullard, Capt. O'Flaherty, B. B. Dayton, Thos. O'Sullivan, E. Church Blackburn, Thos. Gray, Henry Chouteau, Judge Lackland, Mann Butler, E. C. Jeffrees, representative of Franklin county, Adolph Ables, Mr. Mott, representative of Dunklin county, Mr. McCollough, of Dunklin, Capt. C. Case, E. C. Yosti, (firm of Shields & Yosti,) Joseph Harris, of St. Louis county, ---Chappell, father of J. T. Chappell, and George Ebeele.
We copy also the names of thoes reported to be badly wounded, viz:
Wounded.---George K. Budd, Dr. Post, Mr. Taylor, firm of Warren & Meritt, Thomas C. Chester, Mr. Little-john, Mr. Layton, representative of Perry county, Heber Livermore, Wm. Edge McClean, of Cape Girardeau, Mr. Moore, of Ste. Genevieve, (will die,) Mr. Jecke, firm of Hart & Jecko, Henry C. Hart, Rufus K. Lewis, Mr. Griswold, Frank Lane, Mr Hitchcock, John B. Carson, Mr. Roberts paymaster, JOHN M. WIMER, Peter Brown, of Jefferson, Mr. Radcliffe, brakeman, W. Linge, Jos. White, representative from Ripley, F. L. Billion, Mayar King, Col. D. H. Armstrong, Dr. Vansant, and Mr. Hendle, druggist.

7/30/2011 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE DAILY CLEVELAND HERALD, (Cleveland, OH) November 05, 1855; Issue 263; col D
[From the St. Louis Intelligencer, 2d inst.]

TERRIBLE DISASTER ON THE PACIFIC RAILROAD---BRIDGE over the GASCONADE broken Down---Ten Cars in Twenty Feet Water.Messrs. Rumbold and Bishop, well known citizena of St. Louis, came to our office last evening, with the melancholy intelligence of a terrible disaster which happened on the Pacific R. R. yesterday, between one and two O'clock P. M. to the excursionists to Jefferson City. We have no language at command to express our feelings. Never did we receive or have occasion to record more shocking intelligence.
The gentlemen who bring the sad tidings were on their way to the city as passengers on the Ben Bolt, and saw the train of cars pass up with the company on board, and exhanged salutations. The boat soon came to a landing, and the train proceeded on to the Gasconade river, about eight miles distant. Before the boat was ready to leave, a locomotive which had followed the train, for the purpose of rendering assistance in case of accident, or of seeing that it was right along the road, came back from the river, with work that the bridge over the Gasconade, standing thirty-five feet above the water, had broken down while the train was crossing, and that ten or eleven cars with their occupants had been precipitated into twenty feet water. The consternation of the men with the locomotive was so great that they could barely announce the fact, only adding that they thought at least one hundred and fifty had got out of the cars to walk over the bridge. There were probably five hundred persons in the company. Two of our military companies were along---The Grays and the National Guards---as were also many members of the press, and private citizens.
The locomotive came down to the train bound for St. Louis, which was immediately taken by the Superintendent and his men back to the scene of suffering, and may have been the means of saving many lives.
Messrs. Rumbold and Bishop at once prevailed upon the ticket agent and engineer, at Hermann, to come immediately to the city with news, which was consented to, and a locomotive and baggage car were dispatched, on which our informants took passage, to bear the mournful tidings to the friends who had with joyous hearts, but just before as it were, bid father, brothers; husbands, and associates, God-speed, and regretting that they themselves were not of the the party.
The gentlemen deserve much credit for the promptness with which they acted in getting to the city with the heart-rending news. They also stated that the Ben Bolt would lay to at Miller's landing until something more was heard from the scene, and hold herself in readiness to take on the wounded, and bring them to the city.---The Polar Star was also expecting along every moment, and would of course stop at Hermann, where it would be in her power to render assistance, which we hope has been the case.
As we are writing, we hear that an espress train has gone up the road, and we defer any further statements or comments until its return, or intelligence is received by some other channel.

7/30/2011 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Anna Lee Frohlich"

Your article about the Gasconade disaster is very interesting to me, and it was great to see all the sources that it led me to. I am a self-taught, but happily well-mentored, historian of short duration. My research started because I am a Great-great-great granddaughter of Oakes Ames. I have been speaking and writing about the Ames Monument and will be doing a presentation at the UPHS convention in North Platte next summer.

My interest in the Gasconade disaster comes from another family line. Thomas Allen, the first President of the Pacific RR was my Great-great grandfather. Currently I am writing a series of columns for the Colorado Gambler and the Villager newspapers here in Colorado which focus on my family's rather extensive connections to the West in the 1800's. These start in 1804 in St.Louis which, of course, was the West at that time. I think of these articles as an extended outline for a book sometime in the future. I have an article in my queue about the early history of Thomas Allen. Now I am working on an article about the Gasconade episode to be followed by more about Thomas Allen and the railroad network that he helped to build. There are plenty of directions to go from there.

... To learn more about my historical escapades Google "Anna Lee Ames" and look for the article entitled Inside the Ames Monument, preferably the illustrated version. If you are interested in what I am doing, I would like to enlist your aid in my current pursuit of historical justice.

With thanks for your contributions toward recording our precious history.

—Anna Lee

9/21/2011 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Due to the low water levels it appears that the wrecked locomotive is now visible!

8/16/2012 12:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's been fairly well established that this boiler is not from a steam locomotive but rather a boat.

2/01/2016 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Edward Steinhardt said...

Yes, the boiler pictured in this article thread is not from a locomotive, but from a river pile driver. The entire 1855 wreck (the locomotive and cars) were removed from the wreck site and nothing remains. I researched and wrote an article in the late 1980s for the Hermann Advertiser-Courier declaring the same, when the boiler was visible on account of low river levels then. But this was pre-Internet, and the article, like those of many small-town newspapers, has not been digitally archived. I believe the article title was "Boiler in the Gasconade River is not 1855 Train." ~edward steinhardt

1/02/2017 5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: James Oberkrom "

My great great grandfather, John Henry Oberkrom died as a result of working on the bridge over the Gasconade.

"He died from injuries incurred on the first of October 1866, when he was working on the trestle over the Gasconade River near where it enters the Missouri. One account has a railroad tie falling on him. Pension records indicate it was an iron that impaled his side. The eventual cause of death was probably gangrene."

I had thought the trestle work was due to some sort of damage from an accident, but now I'm not sure.

Anyway would you have any information as to why they would have been working on it, or about the accident that killed John Henry.

Also, He was a farmer so I assume he was doing this to earn a little extra money. I'm assuming a lot of workers were like him, temporary. Is this so? ...

—Jim Oberkrom

9/24/2017 10:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Wikipedia article has just been updated. The accident report of the investigation commissioned by the railroad is available at the Merchantile Library in St. Louis (in the University of Missouri St. Louis UMSL Library). It has been digitized and is now available on line.

The final bridge was a truss bridge. The trestles were temporary falsework intended for construction of the truss bridge, but strengthened for the excursion train. When the route opened in March, 1856, the truss bridge was presumably completed. It was burned June 11, 1861, in the Civil War. Trestles may have replaced the damaged bridge until end of the war.

1/15/2018 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gasconade Bridge train disaster on Wikipedia

1/15/2018 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Report of the Committee of the Pacific Railroad to Investigate the Causes of the Accident at Gasconade Bridge. Courtesy of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.

1/15/2018 6:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have been searching for some time for a photo/deguerotype of the accident scene. the best I have come up with is a drawing taken from an image that came from the Mo historical society. It shows that the locomotive made it almost to the other bank before falling. the most likely photographer would have been Benneke as he was especially interested in bridges and trains. No one seems to know where the pic is?

10/25/2018 2:05 PM  
Blogger oldfatcowboy said...

Can anyone provide coordinates or directions to the train wreck location? I'd like to visit the site.

10/28/2020 10:05 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Recent Messages