Traverse City Record - August 21, 1919 - Page 1 - Contributed by Matthew and Brenda (Sheneman) Ozog
Traverse City Record - August 21, 1919
"Wreckers Tear At Twisted Mass Of Metal In Search Of Trainmen's Remains.
Compilation of Injured Shows No Fatal Hurts-- Coroner's Jury Awaits
Recovery of Missing Bodies
It is not difficult to determine the cause of the wreck. There was
only one cause. The freight train crew completely overlooked the passenger
train. The freight train should have headed in at Beitner. It did not.
The passenger had the right of way. There is no question over the cause,
and you may so quote me. We have not yet interviewed the conductor of the
freight train, but will do so as soon as possible. The railroad
investigation will be thorough.---E. E. Cain, General Superintendent Pere
Marquette, Grand Rapids.
Fletcher Gage, passenger engineer, Grand Rapids
Frank Cushman, mail clerk, Petosky
Earl Beeman, passenger fireman, Grand Rapids.
(Died at General
Hospital 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.)
John Davis, freight brakeman, Grand Rapids
Earl G. Eighmy, freight engineer, Grand Rapids
Guy Shenneman, freight fireman, Big Rapids.
Clarence Spaulding, Sparta, cut over and under left eye, leg bruised.
Meyer Robinson, Trenton, N.J., bruises and scratched, black eyes. (Has
departed for home.)
Mrs. W.H. Harris, Sparta, Mich., bruises
Amanda Hanson, Chicago, 7212 Chaplain Ave., bruises on face, shoulder
L.B. Heeniskerk, of the Netherlands Legation, Washington, D.C. was
among those injured. He was badly cut over the left eye.
G.N. Conradt, of Kokomo, Ind., a man 85 years of age. He sustained
face injuries and an injured eye.
A.J. Blue, Chicago, cut over left eye and minor body bruises.
Amanda Hanson was the only injured person remaining in the local
hospitals today, and information obtained at the General hospital
was she will be able to leave for her home tonight.
Herman Cantor, Grand Rapids, minor injuries.
Buried beneath tons of twisted steel, the bodies of Earl G. Eighmy,
freight engineer, and Guy L. Shenneman, freight fireman, are not yet within
reach of the wrecking crew that is working frantically to clear the
right-of-way. It seemed improbable, late this afternoon, that the bodies
would be recovered before night, and it is doubtful if the road with be
cleared before another 24 hours.
Identity of the two missing men has been established through the
arrival here of relatives and identification of the mangled body at
Weaver's undertaking rooms, as that of John Davis, freight brakeman, Grand
It is believed that Eighmy and Shenneman are encased in the mess of
steel comprising what was the freight engine, and the big wrecking crane is
having difficulty pulling this to the side of the right-of-way that its
contents may be examined.
E.E. Cain, general superintendent of the Pere Marquette, Grand
Rapids, arrived this morning. He asserted that the freight crew was
entirely to blame for the accident saying: "There is only one cause. The
freight crew overlooked the passenger train. The freight should have
headed in at Beitner, but neglected to comply with this order." He further
stated that the officials had not interviewed Fred Neubecker, conductor of
the freight, and stated that the railroad would make a thorough
One of the saddest sights at the wreck today was the presence of Emory
Shenneman, aged father of Guy L. Shenneman, freight fireman, whose body is
still pinned beneath the wreckage. Guy Shenneman was a married man, lived
on Second Avenue, Big Rapids, and leaves aside from his wife, four
children, the oldest five years of age.
"Guy had been working as a street car conductor in Detroit, and just
quit last week because Pere Marquette wanted him back," said the father. He
started to work only Friday."
The general impression today is that the boilers did not explode. They
seemed to be in good condition. In fact, the boilers, drive wheels and
bells are about all that can be salvaged from the wreck. Too, it is
apparent today that the tragedy would have been far greater but for the
fact that the engines were pulling light trains, and that the coaches were
A temporary telegraph station has been set up at the scene of the
wreck, so that officials may devote all of their time to the important work
of securing the two missing bodies and clearing the right-of-way.
Grimly struggling to get to the remains of the two trainmen, known to
be somewhere in the mass of twisted wreckage on the Pere Marquette
right-of-way, near Beitner, a wrecking crane and a large crew of workmen
labored throughout the night and today, pulling at the twisted metal that
once was a freight locomotive, a passenger engine, and several cars.
Through a night of thunderstorms, by the uncertain light of acetylene
flares, the wrecking gang sought to learn the last, sad details of a fatal
crash that, according to Trainmaster James Kehoe, was due to the fact that
"five men in charge of that freight train, all responsible and each
dependent upon the other, forgot that No. 6, was coming," at about noon
Wednesday. As a result, the freight extra, No. 362, met passenger train
No. 6, in head-on collision, and six deaths and many injuries was the toll
of that forgetfulness.
In spite of the ominous skies, and frequent downpours, hundreds of
local citizens watched every move of the wrecking crew throughout the
night. As each piece of wreckage came loose, to the etug of the powerful
crane, hundreds of eyes were riveted on the resultant gap in the death
pyre, hoping to catch a glimpse of what might remain of the missing men.
The scene was a ghastly one, in the half-light of the flickering torches;
and there was a sinister tenseness in the dank throng that dotted the high
sand banks of the deep cut.
Coroner E.B. Minor last night performed the preliminary work of an
inquest. A jury, composed of Frank Joy, A.W. Bartak, Fred Hunter, Major
Robinson, Charles Johnson and J.A. Montague, was drawn by Sheriff Taylor,
and viewed the remains -- two bodies at Anderson's and two at Weaver's. The
inquest was then adjourned until a later date, when officials, railroad
employees and witnesses will be subpoenaed to testify. It is the duty of
the inquest to determine the cause of death of the six trainmen, and place,
if it sees fit, responsibility for the tragedy.
Earl Beeman, the passenger fireman, was alive when taken from the
wreckage yesterday afternoon. He was taken to the General hospital, where
physicians battled for his life. He was scalded from head to feet, great
patches of skin being burned from his body. He begged to live for the sake
of his four children, having lost his wife last winter, but it was not to
be. He died at about 4:30 p.m.
Though several trainmen have viewed the unidentified body at Weaver's
establishment, identification has not been definitely established. The
general belief is that the body is that of F. Davis, freight brakeman,
Grand Rapids. The "NX" sheet is here. listing the crews of the ill-fated
trains, and Davis is among the missing. It seems certain that if this body
is not the body of Davis, it is Eighmy of Spaulding, and the other two
bodies will be recovered before night.
While many passengers were injured, no serious injuries were
reported. It was learned that one of the victims was L.B. Heeniskerk, of
the Netherlands Legation, Washington, D.C. He was taken to the Johnson
hospital, where it was ascertained that his injuries were slight. He
sustained, aside from his body bruises, a bad cut over the left eye.
The main line of the Pere Marquette will be tied up all day. The
early morning southbound train left over the M. & N.E., getting back to the
main line at Kaleva. The northbound resort special came over the G.R. & I.
Railroad officials did not leave the scene of the accident throughout
the night, and physicians and working crews were not driven away by the
storm and lack of working lights. Some heroic work has been done, in the
way of relief, since the wreck. Dr. Swanton was at Elk Rapids when he
learned of the wreck. He made the trip to Beitner so fast that he ran one
tire completely off his car, but did not stop. Dr. Kyselka has been at the
scene of the wreck constantly since it occurred.
Generously Contributed by:
Matthew & Brenda Ozog