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Subject: [GAMEL-L] Floods Similar To 1906 Storm That Sank Train
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 1998 18:57:03 EST


Floods Similar To 1906 Storm That Sank Train
Ellie Sutter
05/24/1993

"Waters of Raging River Engulf Many Souls When Train Crashes Through Weakened
Bridge. Ten or 12 Lives Lost in Awful Railway Disaster on Rock Island Near
Dover," screamed headlines of The Oklahoman on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 1906.

The engine, No. 614, as well as baggage, mail, smoker cars and a day coach
filled with women and children bound from Dallas to Chicago plunged into the
turbulent Cimarron River after a month 1 of unseasonably heavy rain.

Only three chair cars, two Pullman sleeper cars and a circus advertising car
did not go into the river. The wreck occurred about 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept.
16.

The engine is still there, at the bottom of the Cimarron River, and people who
live around Kingfisher still talk about the train wreck, particularly when the
Cimarron floods.

The coach came to rest against the south bank of the river and many residents
remember using it for a diving board when they were young and swam in the
river.

In 1963, Enid road contractor Jim Cummins tried to raise the locomotive but
was thwarted. The Rock Island Railroad filed a restraining order against him,
maintaining that removal of the engine might result in damage to a pier of the
railroad bridge because the engine, buried under 9 feet of sand, was resting
against one of the concrete piers.

The engine's whistle reportedly was removed in 1940 and is said to have been
installed on the Kingfisher power plant, where until 14 years ago, it blew at
8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. each day.

Plant Superintendent Terry Stewart said the whistle has been on the power
plant for 35 or 40 years but now is mute. The air lines leading to it have
been disconnected, he said.

Miraculously, only four people died as a result of the 1906 wreck. Three were
killed in the crash or drowned in the river, and a 3-year-old child died the
following day of pneumonia. Sixteen people were injured.

The recent flooding in central Oklahoma, which claimed five lives, is
reminiscent of that other flood 87 years ago.

This year, nearly 10 inches of rain fell in less than two weeks.

The Cimarron River near Guthrie crested at 10 feet on May 10 and again Friday
as rain continued to fall in the river's drainage basin.

News reports from 1906 noted 9 inches of rain fell in August and another 2
inches on Sept. 11 and 12.

The forecast for Sept. 16 and 17, 1906, predicted: "Oklahoma and Indian
Territory - fair Sunday; showers Monday. " The Wednesday, Sept. 19, issue of
the newspaper told of the wreck and subsequent issues related more grisly
details.

Kingfisher Sheriff J.P. Love was in the smoker car when it went off the track.

Under the headline, "Sheriff Love Has Remarkable Escape," he told his story:

"Just as the car was turning on 1 its side I fought my way to the rear and
forced my body through the door. The water was then over my head. When I came
to the surface I was swept downstream by the heavy current. Just as I had
given up all hope and was in the last stages of exhaustion I touched the
bottom and drew myself upon the bank. "

Another Kingfisher man, R.G. Nichelson, also escaped the smoker car and swam
to shore.

Several people were reported missing and territorial Gov. Frank Frantz ordered
troops to guard the Cimarron River banks and watch for floating bodies.

J.F. Wright of Denver was found alive, seven miles downriver from the
accident, clinging to a piece of wreckage.

A man identified only as Balmer, a government employee from Lawrence, Kan.,
also was rescued 13 miles downstream. Frank Cullen, member of a four-man
advertising crew for the Forepaugh-Sell Circus, was dragged from the muddy
waters by a farmer.

"My escape is little short of miraculous. As I cannot swim, I held onto a
piece of wreckage until a man pulled me out," he said.

Another member of the circus crew, Hank Littlefield, drowned.

Harmon E. Sells, 3, of Payne, Ohio, died the next day of acute pneumonia.

One report states that 10 days after the wreck, the body of the mail clerk,
Frank GAMEL, was found in a brush pile two miles from the scene of the wreck.
He was identified by his mail clerk's badge on the lapel of his coat. A
conflicting report noted that Gamel's body was found Sept. 21 in the submerged
mail car.

The body of W.L. Douglas, a porter, was found two months later when a couple,
walking along the river downstream from the wreck, noticed a body protruding
from the sand, noted a report in an undated newspaper clipping in Kingfisher's
Chisholm Trail Museum.

Repairs were made quickly to the Cimarron River bridge and Rock Island trains
were expected to begin using it by the evening of Sept. 20.

Within a few days, the railroad was enjoined from running passenger trains
over the quickly rebuilt bridge and that a train crew had been arrested for
doing so.

Sheriff Love posted deputies at both sides of the river with orders to arrest
"every train crew or railroad official who attempts to run trains on which
passengers were carried over the bridge. " On Oct. 2, the paper reported a
bill would be 1 introduced into the territorial Legislature "to compel every
train to stop and blow the whistle before crossing a river bridge. "

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