1890 Letters

August 16, 1890 letter to Henry Brown from Claude Brown


August 16, 1890

To: Henry Brown

From: Claude Brown, Galesburg, MI

A very descriptive letter from Claude, complete with a sketch of a train wreck that occurred the day before in which the engineer and fireman were killed.

Galesburg, Aug., 16, 1890

Dear Papa,[1]

We had another wreck Friday afternoon at Agusta[2] in which the North Shore Limited and a freight train were slightly disfuigred. The freight train stood on the side track where it had been switching and the hind brakesman[3] left the switch open. The Passenger was coming at the rate of 50 or 60 miles per hour and went through the open switch striking the freight in the center. It demolished three freight cars and sent the other car and caboose into the main track and they went nearly half a mile before they stopped. The engine lost it cab when it first struck the train throwing the engineer[4] out with it then the train went on about fifty foot when the engine and tender went off the tender going about twenty feet over the engine. The fireman[5] was thrown out past the engine about ten feet. When the engine went off it spread the rails and the trucks of baggage car came off but the rest of the coaches pushed it along about one hundred and seventy feet without trucks and it stopped on the bridge and turned over knocking the front end off. The rest of the train was derailed and scratched up a little but that was the only car that was smashed up much. The rest of the freight was only derailed.

The engineer was had a hole knocked in the back of his head that you could but your fist in. They started him home on the next train but he died before he reached Marshall. He lived in Jackson and had a wife and one child.[6] The fireman staid in the engine until it went off the track when he was throun out. His head was cut about half off around the ears and his right leg was gone. The hot water tank broke and he was boiled so his skin would peel off. Three boys stood to on the caboose platform and the oldest on[e] say the switch was open and told the others to run for thier lives. The[y] all got off. Al Cassadeys boy Clarence[7] who was just half off when the engine struck he told his father the next morning that when the shock came it threw him and when he came too could not move so he shut his eyes and the next he knew a man was carrying him home. He had crawled out into the street and got up tried to run. Three or four men saw him come out from under the engine where I have it marked. The baggage car was about seventy five foot long and contaned the smoking car, barbershop, bath rooms, library, watercloset and saloon. A porter who was passing the saloon when the shock came went hed first through the window and down into the cornor. A man was writing at the desk and he got two ribs broken. I and an writing with the pen he had now the porter gave it to me yesterday afternoon. He was the only passenger hurt. There here were four men in the baggage car and 10 or 12 in the smoking department. I saw Al C. this morning and he said Clarence had his collar bone cracked and that he vomited blood all night. I guess the chances are small for him ever getting well. The fireman leaves a wife and two or three children.[8] I have got part of his pipe. They say that if they had been common coaches they would have been smashed into knidling wood but they were all Wagnor and Pullman vestabule cars. I went over to the Burg[9] that knight about six after having worked for C. Towne[10] all the P.M. While at Skinners[11] Mrs Bradley came and told us of the acident wreck and I went right down. I saw Clarence S. ____ down and came back on the 9.13 and that got to the burg about midnight. I staid with him and went down again Saturday on the 7.30 and came back on 2.30. They had the wreck most all cleared away when I left.

Monday eve.[12]

Got your letter this P.M. Guess it is better to do as you are doing though I think you ought to get more for the time & work you do. Claude is going to Lous[13] Friday to stay a week. She is going to give me some things for the girls[14] and he is going for them. I know you are doing the best you can so dont feel as if you are to blame. I will do the best I can.

With love



[1] Claude was 15 years old at the time

[2] Augusta, Michigan. See attached newspaper article

[3] Research as to his identify continues

[4] Charles McRoberts

[5] Robert Gregg

[6] Elizabeth (Perkins) McRoberts. They actually had two children: Grace (age 19) and Charles (age 11)

[7] Research as to his identity continues

[8] Research as to their identity continues

[9] Galesburg, Michigan

[10] Most likely Charles Towne, a neighbor of his grandfather, Charles “Luke” Keith, Jr. It appears Claude and his mother were visiting his grandparents

[11] His mother’s half-sister, Lois (Keith) Clark Skinner, and her husband, Adelbert Skinner

[12] This portion was written by Claude’s mother, Nancy (Keith) Brown

[13] His mother’s sister, Louese (Keith) Harris

[14] Her daughters, Lela and Bess Brown

Train Wreck - Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph 8-16-1890 p2


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