NINE MEMBERS OF ONE FAMILY HURLED INTO ETERNITY
Shocking Tragedy Yesterday Afternoon at the Crossing of the Old E. T., V. and G Railway and the Harrison Pike.
WOODWARD FAMILY THE VICTIMS
A Day That Opened With Gladness and Joy
CLOSES WITH GRIEF AND SORROW
A Family Party Struck by a Train While En Route to This City
SEVEN ARE KILLED OUTRIGHT
And Two Little Girls Fatally Hurt, Dying Later at St. Vincent's Hospital
The Most Deplorable and Heartrending Accident Ever Known in This County - The Entire Community Shocked and Appalled
The engine of a passenger train on the
Georgia division of the Southern railroad, bound for this city, and running at
the ordinary rate of speed, struck a vehicle at 12:46 p.m. yesterday at the
Harrison road crossing, between Sherman Heights and Citico furnace, in which
were seated ten members of the family of W. J. Woodward, a highly esteemed
farmer of Jersey, this county, killing nine persons, only one, an infant child,
surviving the horrible crash.
The above paragraph, though brief, tells the complete story without details of the most horrible and shocking tragedy that ever occurred in the county. It tells of the sundering by the rude instrumentality of sudden accident the tenderest of human ties, and the almost complete annihilation of an entire family. The list of the dead are given tells with stunning force the cruel stroke that robbed Mr. Woodward of his devoted wife and his happy loving children.
MRS. LAURA WOODWARD, aged 41.
GEORGE T WOODWARD, aged 21.
JOSIE L. WOODWARD, aged 22.
MRS. LIZZIE WOODWARD MONTGOMERY, aged 20.
MRS. MONTGOMERY'S SON, ROY, aged 2 months.
DELIA WOODWORD, aged 17.
DAISY WOODWORD, aged 10.
MARY WOODWORD, aged 13.
ADA WOODWORD, aged 8 years.
Stripped of all the surplusage, the bare story is as
Near the little village of Jersey, about ten miles northeast of the city is the homestead of W. J. Woodword. It was a large family of girls and boys, and they lived happily and contented, and were frequent visitors to the city. Living within an easy drive of Chattanooga, they made their purchases here, and when the father was busy getting his corn lands turned the son drove the girls and their mother into town. One of the girls, Lizzie, had recently married, and with her husband, Ira Montgomery, was going to move away from Jersey to East Florence, Ala. The departure of the sister made a break in the family that caused the parents and children many a heart-ache. The young couple were to do for themselves, and they would not get along well; but before they went away they must "get their pictures taken," and the drive into the city yesterday was for that purpose.
The party was riding in a large double wagon, behind a good span of horses, and the second son, George, was driving. All went well till they reached the railway track where it crosses the Harrison pike between Citico Junction and Sherman Heights, about four miles from the Central depot.
The horses had just reached the rails when the driver heard the shrill whistle of train No. 7 on the Georgia division, due in Chattanooga at 1 o'clock. That he heard the whistle is apparent from his action in trying to cross the track at once, as detailed by witnesses. And then there was a terrible crash. Engine No. 846, driven by Engineer Laird, had struck the load of living freight, and shrieks arose for an instant above the hiss of escaping steam, bodies were hurled into the air in all directions, and the train came to a standstill a short distance from the road, in front of Copeland's Cotton Press factory. Conductor RANDALL and his crew and a number of passengers ran back to the crossing and the horrible sight that was presented is best told in the following account gathered from those who were active or passive participants in the terrible tragedy:
THE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPH
The Object of the Visit to the City Was to Get a Family Group.
For a week or more the Woodword family had
been looking forward with happy anticipations to yesterday as the day fixed for
a general reunion and a general good time.
Something over a year ago, Lizzie Woodword, then 19 years of age, was married to Ira H. MONTGOMERY, an honest farmer residing near their home at Jersey. Shortly after the wedding the couple decided to seek a new home, and the young husband made application and secured a position on a government dredge boat at Florence, Ala., and he left at once for that town. Recently he has been importuning his wife to join him. Two months ago a son was born to the young couple, a bright little fellow, and was named Roy. He was cherished by the fond parents.
Only a week or so ago MONTGOMERY came home and visited his wife. The home was one of happiness. It was then decided to move their household effects to Florence and make their permanent home. The arrangements were made. A letter was received by Mrs. Montgomery on Monday, to this effect. It also contained the necessary funds for transportation.
The thought of Lizzie leaving home and breaking the family circle caused a sadness in the hearts of the old people, although they did not want to stand in the way of the success and happiness of the young people.
"We must have a photograph of the family taken before it is scattered," suggested the mother; "one we can keep forever."
This was unanimously agreed upon and it was decided to have the picture taken at once, Wednesday being fixed as the day.
Albert M. WOODWORD, the eldest son, has a wife and child and resides some distance from the parental home. Josie L. WOODWORD, one of the daughters, was at work at the residence of W. W. SILVER, on the Harrison pike. She was notified if the family photograph idea and that she would be called for on Wednesday.
Albert, the son, left his home Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by his wife and child, for his father's residence, but were turned back by the high water. The husband, not to disappoint his father and other members of the family, made a second start by himself, telling his wife he would return Wednesday. He reached his father's home and about 9 o'clock yesterday preparations for the start to Chattanooga were in progress.
The Start for Town.
They had a large wagon, such as used on the
ordinary farm, to which they had hitched a fine team of horses. The family was a
large one and a number of chairs were placed in the wagon bed. Finally, about 10
o'clock, everything being in readiness, they drove off from the happy home for
the last time. Little did they dream of the awful calamity which was to follow.
In the wagon were W. J. WOODWORD, father; Laura WOODWORD, the mother, aged 44
years; Mrs. Lizzie MONTGOMERY, daughter aged 29 years, and child, Roy, 2 months
old; Albert, the oldest son, 26 years; George T. WOODWORD, son, 24 years of age;
Delia WOODWORD, aged 17 years; Daisy WOODWORD, aged 10 years; Mary WOODWORD,
aged 13 years; Veggie WOODWORD, aged 3 years; Ada WOODWORD, aged 8 years. The
weather was pleasant and the drive to the city was an enjoyable one. The
youngest children spoke of the pleasure of having their pictures taken. The trip
to the SILVER home after Josie was an uneventful one.
When this place was reached, on the Harrison pike, at East Chattanooga, the father and the oldest son left the wagon, placing the team in charge of George T. WOODWORD, Mr. Woodword saying: "We will walk ahead and you folks will overtake us down the road."
The remainder of the family proceeded to the SILVER home, Josie was met and all were in high glee. SILVER and the WOODWORDS have been friends for years. Dinner was furnished the family and all partook of a hearty meal, after which George drove off from the SILVER residence with the happy family now augmented by the presence of Josie. The Harrison crossing of the Southern railway was but a short distance and was soon reached. Passenger train number 7, the vestibule, due in Chattanooga at 1 o'clock from Atlanta, passes the point at 12:40 and was on time yesterday.
THE FATAL COLLISION
The Family Wagon Struck by an Engine Rapidly Running.
The crossing is peculiarly situated. As the railroad track
approaches Harrison pike it passes through a deep cut, and is on a heavy grade
coming from the Missionary ridge tunnel. By the side of the cut, which is also a
curve, is a clump of woods. As a consequence, an engineer can see ahead only a
few hundred feet, while a pedestrian or person in a vehicle cannot see a train
until it has passed through the cut. George, it seems, did not notice the
approaching train, which came thundering along at the usual rate of speed.
The engineer saw the wagon after passing out of the cut and blew his danger whistle. He had previously blown for the road crossing. The bell of the locomotive was ringing. When within a few feet of the track, George, who had seemingly paid little heed to the warning of the locomotive whistle, looked up, and seeing the engine fast bearing down upon the load of human freight, made an effort to check his team. He evidently saw it was too late to stop the horses, and struck the animals several blows with a whip to get them over the crossing ahead of the train, but he
Was Too Late.
The wagon with its load of human beings, was
struck squarely in the center, and the impact was terrific, the occupants being
hurled with frightful violence through space, the shock doubtless killing them
before their bodies struck the ground. One of the horses was instantly killed
and the wagon was smashed to splinters.
The front portion of the wagon was thrown with violence upon the mail catch-crane standing along side the track, and a piece of the axle protruding grazed the passing coaches and broke the windows on one side, producing a state of panic among the passengers. The train was stopped as soon as possible and the crew and passengers made a brief and hurried investigation.
FINDING THE BODIES
The Gruesome Task of Getting Up the Dead Bodies.
The front end of the locomotive presented an awful
appearance; it was bespattered with human blood, and on the pilot, which was
partly demolished, lay the dead body of Mrs. MONTGOMERY, horribly mangled. In
her arms was her child, Roy. She was clinging to the infant, the ruling,
dominating mother-love being strong in death. The child was breathing when
reached, and was removed by John PALMER, a resident of Avondale, from the arms
of the dead mother and tenderly carried to a nearby house, the home of a Mr.
REED, which was converted into an emergency hospital, where the child died
within ten minutes.
Ada, the next to the youngest child, was found a short distance up the track. She had been struck by the pilot of the engine and hurled against the side if an embankment. Her head was horribly cut; the skull was fractured, and blood flowed freely from the horrible wound. She was breathing and was carried to the REED home. She was unconscious.
These unfortunates disposed of temporarily, a telephone message was sent to the city for medical aid. Drs. BAXTER and HOLTZCLAW arrived on a special train soon afterwards.
By the time the physicians arrived the other members of the ill-fated family had been found. On account of the recent rains a great hole had been washed at the side of the railroad track, filled with water and mud. Here, the bodies of four victims were found, all mangled and covered with mud. They were Mrs. WOODWORD, Josie, George T. and Daisy. The bleeding bodies were taken out and laid on the side of the railroad embankment presenting a most ghastly and shocking spectacle. All had evidently died instantly.
On the other side of the track the remains of Mary were found, also badly mutilated, a portion of her clothing having been torn away in the crash.
On the east side of the track Della was found, still alive, but unconscious. Her face was horribly bruised and swollen to twice its normal size. She was internally hurt, and her head was badly crushed. She was removed to the home of Rev. PIKE, where a number of ladies gathered to make her as comfortable as possible until the arrival of the physicians.
Then a search was begun for little Vergie. In the excitement, friends of the family who had arrived, missed the child. She was curled up in a heap, over the pilot of the engine and under the boiler head, resting as if placed there by her mother. She was not much hurt, but was badly shocked. Evidently the little one had been thrown over the body of her sister, Mrs. MONTGOMERY, striking the body, which prevented her from being dashed against the locomotive. She was cared for at the REED home, and at last accounts was doing well. She is the only one of the ten occupants of the wagon who survived the accident.
BROUGHT TO THE CITY
The Mournful Train Brings the Dead Bodies to the Morgue.
After the remains had been found the passenger train came
to the city. The locomotive, which was in charge of Engineer Abe LAIRD, of
Atlanta, was attached to an express car, and taking on board the physicians
mentioned above and a few railroad men, a trip was made to the scene.
One by one the bodies of the dead were carried into the car, and the seven corpses were brought to the city and taken to Sharp's morgue.
Death of the Two Girls
Delia and Ada, both whom were still living, it was decided
by Drs. BAXTER and HOLTZCLAW, should be taken to St. Vincent's infirmary, which
was later done.
The physicians, after a close examination of their wounds, found that both were fatally hurt and that death must follow in a few hours. They administered aid as best they could under the circumstances.
For two hours after being removed to the infirmary both girls suffered excruciating pain. Both were unconscious and never uttered a word after the collision. They died about 5 o'clock and the remains were brought to the city at 8 o'clock last night, prepared for burial and placed in the room with the bodies of the other members of the family.
The greatest excitement prevailed along the route of the train carrying the dead bodies, and everywhere all showed the profound sympathy which the entire community felt for the survivors.
It was nearly 2:30 o'clock when the Central depot was reached. There were several hundred people there. The news of the awful collision had spread through the city like wildfire. Everyone tried to reach the depot at the same time. Policemen had to clear a way for those who removed the bodies.
The father of the family, and son, Albert, who reached the city afoot, had been informed of the fate of their loved ones and were at the depot to receive, not the happy, joyous party bent on a family excursion they expected to greet, but the mangled corpses of all they loved and held dear. Their sorrow and grief when the train arrived beggars description, and there was hardly one of that large throng, drawn there, many through curiosity, that did not weep in sympathy with them in their poignant and inconsolable grief.
Sharp's Undertaking Establishment
The tragedy caused much excitement in the city and was the
sole topic of conversation. Last night, in fact, all yesterday afternoon, Ninth
street, in front of Sharp's establishment was lined with people anxious to see
the bodies of the victims. This privilege was denied to all save those of the
immediate family and to newspaper men.
The scene within the parlors of the establishment can hardly be imagined. The nine dead bodies were lying side by side, in the center being the corpse of Mrs. WOODWORD, dressed in black. By her left side was Mrs. Montgomery, the married daughter; next to her, apparently on her right arm, was her infant; the remains of the dead had been carefully prepared for burial and looked quite natural, although the faces of several were badly disfigured.
At about 8 o'clock in the evening Mr. Woodward called and viewed the dead. He was completely overcome by the shocking spectacle; his son accompanied him and the grief of the two men was piteous to behold. Last night they stopped at the home of Mrs. WHITLOCK who resides near Citico; their own home at Jersey was deserted. When George saw the family seated in the wagon, before getting in himself, he carefully locked the doors and had the keys on his person when he met his tragic end. The thought of the desolate home so moved the riven heart of the stricken father that the hideous catastrophe was made more horrible and he would not remove the keys from the pocket of his dead son.
Bodies To Be Buried at the King's Point Burying Ground.
The remains will perhaps be interred Friday morning in the
cemetery near King's Point. Funeral services will be held at the church at that
place. Today the remains will be taken home.
The railroad company will provide coffins and pay the expenses of burial.
STRICKEN FATHER AND SON
Mr. W. J. Woodword Talks to a Times Reporter
When seen after the accident, W. J. WOODWORD, the father
and husband, was almost frantic with grief. At periods he broke down and cried
in his grief.
"It is awful," he said. "It came so suddenly, I can hardly realize the truth, I am simply overcome with sorrow and crushed under the blow."
"Myself and son, Albert, left them near Mr. SILVER'S home and came on to the city. Albert wished to come across to town to collect some money, and we thought we would make time. The rest of the family said they would overtake us.
"We came to the city and remained until 2:25. They did not come. I wondered what was the matter. We went to the court house, and there my son heard an old man speak of a whole family being killed. I was at the fountain and Albert ran up and told me that a whole family had been killed by a Southern railway train. I was shocked. The thought struck me that it was our folks. A man later said it was the WOODWORD family. I was at the Citico furnace by this time, accompanied by my son. We got in the rig of Mr. FARRIS and rushed on. We met John BROWN, a step-son of Mr. SILVER, at whose house Josie worked. He said that all of the family were killed except one, which was hurt. He said they had been taken aboard a train and carried to town.
"George was a good driver, and I cannot account for the accident. He has been very careful about driving across railroad tracks. He always looked up and down a track before trying to cross.
"I cannot talk about it," he said, as his voice broke down. "George had only a short time ago purchased a small ten acre farm and we were all working so hard to try and pay for it. We had just built a new home and were so happy. We were trying to get the place paid for, and after all our hard work to get it improved, everything has been destroyed by this blow of Providence. My God! Why has Thou stricken Thou servant?" and the strong man, heartbroken and bowed with grief, turned his head and sobbed.
Albert, the only surviving son, who left the wagon with his father, said when
seen: "My father and I are the only ones left. It is awful. We left the rig
near the SILVER house and intended, as my father says, to join them later. The
next thing I heard was that they had all been killed.
"As Lizzie expected to go off mother wished to have a family picture taken before the children were separated. We had started to town for this purpose. My wife left my home with me, but on account of the high water and our baby returned. Had they been along all would have been killed.
"After we left the party we looked for them to arrive in the city about 1 o'clock. When they failed to come we thought something wrong. I was told at the court house that six people had been killed and I knew at once it was them. Something seemed to tell me this."
Here the man broke down and placing his head between his hands sobbed pitifully. He was overcome with the loss he and his aged father had sustained.
He Was at East Florence and Will Arrive This Morning
Ira H. MONTGOMERY, husband of Mrs. MONTGOMERY and parent
of the dead infant, will arrive here this morning from East Florence, Ala.
At the solicitation if Mr. WOODWORD, the following message was sent to Mr. MONTGOMERY by a Times man:
Chattanooga Feb. 24
I. H. MONTGOMERY, East Florence, Ala:
Your wife and child, also entire Woodword family, except the father, Albert and Virgie, killed inrailroad accident.
Come at once.
WILLIAM MOFFETT, JR.
This was the first information Mr. MONTGOMERY received as to the awful fate of his family. He was prostrated. Late last night he had recovered himself, and the following reply was received:
Florence, Ala., Feb. 24
William MOFFETT, Jr., Care Times, Chattanooga:
I will be there first train. I leave tonight.
I. H. MONTGOMERY
Transportation was wired him by Southern railway, and he will arrive on the Alabama Great Southern train this morning.
Abner Laird Tells When He First Saw the Wagon
Engineer LAIRD, of Atlanta, who was in charge of the
locomotive, No. 840, which struck the wagon, is prostrated with grief.
Immediately after reaching the Central depot he left the engine and went to his
boarding house on Cherry street, where he remained the remainder of the day.
"The accident could not be prevented," he said to a reporter. "I did all in my power to save them. I blew the whistle, I applied the air-brakes, and also reversed my engine. It was too late, and we ran by, almost powerless, as far as stopping the train was concerned.
"I saw the wagon after we had come around the curve, and sounded the warning at that time. The driver seemed to pay no attention to the whistle. He at last, it seemed, looked around and then applied the whip to his horse. That is the last I saw. The accident has completely unnerved me, although I am not in the last degree to be blamed. It is too horrible to talk about!" And then LAIRD turned away and would not talk any further.
Capt. T. M. RANDALL, the conductor, knew but little as to the details of the collision. He worked like a beaver, however, endeavoring to assist those in distress, and did all in his power to alleviate the sufferings of those not instantly killed.
WHO THEY ARE
The Woodword Family Well-Known, Having Lived in the County for Nine Years
The WOODWORD family is one of the best known families in
the vicinity of Jersey. They have resided in that immediate neighborhood for the
past nine years and have many warm friends. They came here from Murray county,
Georgia, and have been farming since. Their palace adjoins that of Dr. W. J.
TRIMBLE at Jersey. Dr. TRIMBLE yesterday spoke very highly of them. Mrs.
WOODWORD was a Miss WORLEY before her marriage. She has a sister, Mrs. Hampt.
DESHA, residing near here. Mrs. DESHA and her daughter were in the city
yesterday afternoon and were greatly affected.
The entire WOODWORD family belonged to the King's Point church, and were all respected and enjoyed the highest regard of all their neighbors.
What Some of Those Had to Say Who Saw the Accident
There were several eye-witnesses to the accident. They
were W. H. ROGERS, of Avondale; Johnny HARRIS, a small boy, who resides on the
Harrison pike, near the crossing; J. W. REED and wife; G. T. ROSS and Fred
Mr. ROGERS was standing in the road about 300 yards from the scene of the catastrophe:
"My attention was first arrested," he said, "by the whistle of the locomotive. I was coming down the pike in the direction of the railroad crossing. The engineer sounded the danger whistle three different and distinct times. The people in the wagon were trying to cross the track, the driver whipping the horses. After the crash I saw the people hurled through the air. It looked to me as if they went as high as the telegraph wires. I saw five of them in space at one time, and all appeared to be falling head downward." The witnesses all made the same statement in substance.
The team which was attached to the demolished wagon was a handsome one. One of the animals was instantly killed. When released, the second animal, which through a miracle, escaped injury, ran away. Returning, however, shortly afterward, he was taken charge of by a small boy and brought to the city. The wagon was entirely wrecked and the chairs and seats demolished.
NO INQUEST HELD
Under the Present Law No Inquest Can Be Held Unless Death Results From Unlawful Means.
No inquest was held over the remains of the dead. As is
known, by a recent action of the legislature, an inquest cannot be held in any
case unless a sworn statement is made by some person "that to the best of
their knowledge and belief the person or persons came to their death by unlawful
means." There was no evidence of murder in this accident and the coroner
could not take charge of the remains or investigate the accident.
Chief HILL was soon at the road crossing, but no arrests were made. It was plain that the accident had been unavoidable.
The Chattanooga Daily Times, Thursday, February 25, 1897
Submitted by Dennis C. Wilson