1891 account of train wreck that started 'Ghost Train' legend

Published: Aug. 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM EDT
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A photo of the train wreck from 1891. (Source: Iredell County heritage books)
A photo of the train wreck from 1891. (Source: Iredell County heritage books)

State-Wide, NC - Carnival of Death - Train Wreck, 1891

Among North Carolina's Hills a Train is Wrecked

Twenty Persons Killed

And as Many More Injured - The Night Was Dark and the Train Plunged
65 Feet Through a Bridge - List of Killed

Charlotte, NC, Aug 27 - One of the most disastrous railroad wrecks
known in the annals of this state occurred this morning at 2 o'clock
at Boston Ridge, two miles west of Statesville, on the Western North
Carolina road. Passenger train No. 9, known as the fast mail, which
was made up at Salisbury, pulled out on time at 1 a.m., loaded with
passengers. It was composed of baggage, mail car, second and first-
class coaches, Pullman sleepers and Superintendant Bridge's private
car, "Daisy."

The sleeper which was from Goldsboro usually contains a good number
of passengers from northern points and last night was no exception.
The run to Statesville was made on time, a distance of twenty-five
miles, and just after leaving Statesville there is a high iron
bridge spanning Third creek and down into this creek plunged the
entire train, a distance of at least sixty-five feet, wrecking the
whole train and carrying death and destruction with it.

Twenty passengers were killed outright, nine seriously injured and
about twenty badly bruised and shaken up. The scene of the wreck
beggars description. The night was dismal, and to add to the horror
of the situation the water in the creek was up. It was only through
the most herioc efforts of those who had hurried to the scene of the
wreck that the injured were not drowned. The accident was caused by
spreading of rails. The bridge was not injured and trains are running
on schedule time.

Twenty dead bodies are now lying in a warehouse at Statesville. The
injured are having the best of care at private residences and hotels.

Following is a list of killed:

William West, engineer, Salisbury, NC
Warren Frye, fireman, Hickory, NC
H.K. Linster, baggagemaster, Statesville, NC
W.M. Houston, Greensboro, NC
P. Barnett, Asheville, NC
Samuel Gormad, Asheville, NC
W.E. Winslow, Asheville, NC
Charles Barnett, Hendersonville, NC
W.J. Fisher, Campbell, SC
J.D. Austin, Hickory, NC
T. Brodie, drummer, New York
J.M Sykes, Clarksville, Tenn
Mrs. Poole, Williamston, NC
Jube Thefer, traveling salesman
Doc Wells, colored, Pullman porter
John Davis, Statesville, NC
Mr. McCormick, Alexandria, Va
Dr. Geo. Sanderlin, state auditor, was on the wrecked train
     and was painfully injured
Among others who escaped with injuries more or less serious are:
Col. E.B. Cameron of the governor's staff
Patrick E. Ransom of Northampton County, NC
Otto Ransom, Norfolk, Va
Worthel Cott, Hickory, NC
George Bowles, Atlanta
Col. O.W. Lawson, Louisville, Ky
Miss Lewellyn Poole, Williamston, NC
Mrs. R.C. and Miss Opehelia Moore, Helens, Ark
A.F. Link and wife, Lexington, Ky
B.N. Estes, Jr., Memphis, Tenn
John Gage, Nashville
R.E. Johnston, Newberry, SC
Conductor S.P. Augh
Sleeping Car Conductor H.C. Leeper and Flagman Shoaf
Mrs. Pool was drowned before aid could reach her.

Three bodies have not been identified, one of these is an old lady;
another is a lady with a ticket in her pocket which reads: "Mrs.
George McCormick and mother, Elmwood, NC to Alexander, NC" and the
third is also a lady. Upon her finger is a ring engraved, "T.H.W.
to M.B.R."

It is thought all the bodies have been taken from the debris which
is piled so high that it is impossible to make a thorough examination.

Crowds have flocked to the scene all day and the accident has cast
a gloom over the entire community. Not a soul came out of the sleeper

Miss Ophelia Moore of Helena, Ark., died after being taken out of
the wreck.


From Helena, Ark.

Helena, Ark., Aug. 27 - R.C. Moore of this city received a telegram
this morning stating that Miss Opehlia Moore had been killed and her
mother, Mrs. W.E. Moore, seriously injured in a western North Carolina
wreck near Statesville. The Moores are prominent in literary and social
circles and are well known throughout the south. They were returning
from summering in the Blue mountains.

Dallas Morning News Historical Archive
August 28, 1891