The Ashtabula Bridge Disaster of 1876 - Chapter 9
Darrell E. Hamilton
There were many heroes the night of the bridge disaster. There was the firemen, the locomotive Socrates' engineer and fireman and the ticket agent to mention a few. Probably one of the most unlikelyheroes was a woman.
Miss Marion Shepard of Ripon, Wisconsin was probably the greatest heroine of the tragedy. She was only slightly injured. Instead of moving to safety to minimize the danger to herself, she stayed and assisted others. She stayed and saved lives while many men and woman would have only thought of saving their own lives. In fact, many men and women that were uninjured or slightly injured, did exactly that. They saved themselves and only themselves.
After freeing herself from the wreckage of the car, "Palatine", she alone, with little assistance of others, managed to free most of the passengers of the car "Palatine" that sur-vived the fall.
She was able to assist many of the passengers out of the car before it was engulfed in flames. Some of the passengers had to be dragged out of the car. Once all the survivors were out of the car, her work did not end there. It was not long before the flames had en-gulfed the car. Miss "Marion" who just dragged survivors a few feet from the car so she could quickly assist others, now found the lives of the survivors in jeopardy again. She then drug the survivors another thirty feet through the ice, snow and freezing water to the banks of the river to safety. More passengers survived from that car than any other car directly because of her heroism.
Miss Shepard's heroism did not end there. She was then seen taking broken planks from other railroad cars and smashing car windows to free passengers. She assisted the fireman and other rescuers until no more survivors could be found.
Miss Marion Shepard's heroism did not end there either. The survivors were taken to the engine house, she was there wiping the blood from their faces and comforting them the best way she knew how. When the survivors were taken to the make shift hospitals, she went with them and assisted the doctors throughout the night.
Even though the book by Rev. Stephen D. Peet states that this young lady was un-injured, she actually had been injured although not serious. Other much later newspapers articles and letters indicate she had been indeed injured. It wasn't until a doctor pointed out to the blood on the back of her dress that she realized that she might be injured. All along she thought the blood came from one of the other survivors.
Miss Marion Shepard was one among many heroes and heroines that night. When a lot of men and women would have only thought of their lives and other people's money, she risk her life time and time again.
I always thought it would be nice to find out what happened to some of the survivors. I am now in the process of trying to find out what happened to Miss Marion Shepard and other survivors of the train disaster. I have found the person who was the last living survivor of the train disaster. This person had quite a story to tell and lived to be over a hundred.
The Ashtabula Bridge Disaster of 1876 - Chapter 10
Darrell E. Hamilton
On Friday, January 19, 1877, the burial and memorial service took place for the unrec-ognized dead. Arrangements were made with the Associated Press to send an announce-ment by telegraph throughout the country at least three days before the funeral so as to give all who wished to attend, sufficient time to reach Ashtabula.
A burial plot had been carefully selected at the top of a hill in Chestnut Grove Cem-etery. It was among the choicest lots on top of a beautiful hill that overlooked the village.
It had been exactly three weeks since the disaster. Had it been warmer weather, the funeral would have had taken place much sooner.
Unlike the day of the disaster, the day of the funeral was pleasant and clear. Some of the snow had melted. Later on that evening, rain turned the snow into slush.
On the day of the funeral, all business was suspended and crape was hung on most doors in Ashtabula. The hotels and most public building were draped in mourning for the victims of the train disaster.
A special car was furnished by the railroad for persons who lost friends and relatives in the wreck. Many railroad officials and Senator Haines were aboard. With all the people arriving by train and different parts of the county, the streets became immensely crowded. Almost every resident in the city was in attendance.
The services of the day were opened at 12:30 at the Methodist Church, in which all the congregations of the city, except the Episcopalian, took part. The services were opened by the singing "Oh, Think of the Home Over There", by select members of the Congregational, Presbyterian , Baptist, and Methodist Church Choirs. Prayer was then offered by Rev. J. O. Fisher, of the Baptist Church. After the prayer the choir sang, "We Are Going Home Tomorrow," a song composed by Rev. Philip P. Bliss, who was killed in the accident. A portion of the 49th Psalm was read by Rev. John Safford, pastor of the Congregational Church, after which Rev. Mr. White, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in Cleveland made a few remarks. He spoke of the terrible and sudden calamity, and made it a warning
for all to be prepared to give up this world, and to be ready to meet their Maker. He was followed by Rev. Stephen D. Peet, formerly pastor of the Congregational Church, who spoke of the sacredness of human life. He spoke concerning those whose lives had been graciously spared, having since heard them uttering profane language, and referred in-decently to those who went down to death with gaming cards in their hands. Rev. James McGiffert, of the Presbyterian Church, was the next speaker. He spoke of the bodies which had been so badly burned as to be beyond recognition by human eyes, as yet recognized by God. His remarks were very appropriate and touching.
After music by the choir, the benediction was pronounced and the audience dismiss-ed.
At the close of the service at the Methodist Church, which lasted for about a hour and a half, an audience of almost equal size gathered in the Episcopalian Church. The regular service was conducted by Rev. Mr. Moore, pastor of that church.