1903 Wallace Circus Train Crash

On August 7, 1903, two Wallace circus trains collided in Durand, Michigan in the very early morning hours when the brakes failed on one of the trains. The first train had pulled into town and was standing on the main line. A warning light was in place to warn the incoming train that the track was blocked. The second train crew seeing the signal, were unable to stop because the air brakes of that train failed. What followed these events has been transcribed from area newspapers by Shirley Gorman. The contents of this file are copyrighted. Portions of it may be copied for personal use but may not be copied for distribution in any form, written, electronic or otherwise by anyone or any other non-profit or for-profit corporations. If you find something helpful here, please take a minute to send a thank you note to Shirley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Evening Argus
Friday August 7, 1903

Twenty-three Dead

Frightful Rear-End Collision On the Grand Trunk at Durand.
Two Sections of Wallace Show Train Ran Together
Many Were Badly Injured and Some Will Die--- Hotel Richelieu Converted Into
Trained Animals Killed---Wreck indescribable—Cars Torn to Splinters and Completely Demolished.

The Dead:
James McCarty, trainmaster Grand Trunk Western Ry., between Port Huron and Battle Creek.

A.W. Large, special agent Grand Trunk.

John Purcell, Peru, Ind., boss canvass gang.

Lafe Larson, Cambridge, Ohio, six horse driver.

Geo. Thomas, home unknown, stake and chain gang.

Harry St. Clair, home unknown, reserved seat gang.

John Leary, Springfield, Ill., boss of ring stock.

Andrew Haviland, New York state, canvassman.

Frank Thorpe, Dundee, Mich., trainmaster of circus.

Robe Rice, home unknown, harness maker.

George Smith, home unknown, blacksmith.

George Sands, Peru Ind., driver.

Joe Wilson, Pittsburg, Pa.

W. J. McCoy, Columbus, Ohio, canvass man of side show.

Unknown man, driver of band wagon teams.

Unknown man, rider in six horse race, home Indianapolis, Ind.

Unknown man from Louisville, Ky., four horse driver.

Unknown man, driver of four horse team.

Unknown man, suffocated.

The Injured:

Do Monks, Vassar, Mich., internal injuries.

Edward York, Terra Haute, Ind., both arms crushed.

John Kieibe, Bellaire, Ohio, arm broken.

John Collins, Des Moines, Ia., head cut

Steven Bennett, New York City, back hurt, scalp wounds.

-----Caldwallader, Inianapolis, Ind., arm fractured, scalp wounds.

Geo. Clough, Trumbull, Ohio, spine fractured and dislocated.

J. R. Stewart, Denver, Colo., right leg and spine fractured.

G. W. Terry, Peru, Ind., left shoulder and chest bruised. Both feet cut and bruised.

O. R. Denny, Chicago, Ill., shoulder fractured.

N. Cadwallader, Indianapolis, Ind., both arms and hip badly cut.

Marshall Nellis, Chicago, Ill., contusion of left leg and ankle and right shoulder.

Henry Conklin, Binghampton, N.Y., neck twisted.

Joe Anderson, Evansworth, Ind., contusion of right shoulder.

George Bartley, Los Angeles, Cal., scalp wounds.

John Thompson, Peru Ind., right leg fractured.

Burt McGrath, Maconnelsville, Ohio, scalp wounds, side and back bruised.

J. King, Partsmouth, Ohio, jaw broken.

John W. Coons, Beardstown, Ohio, internal injuries.

C. E. Frisbie, Geneva, Ohio, face badly cut.

E. J. Conley, Emmettsburg, Ohio, right arm broken.

J. H. Row, Armstrong, Ill., internal injuries.

W. L. Cone, DuBuque, Ia., scalp wounds.

J. J. Meadow, Anderson, S.C., badly burned and cut.

Joe Patterson, Grand Prairie, Ill., scalp wounds, internal injuries.

James Foley, special agent for Grand Truck, Detroit, contusion of both cheeks, left shoulder bruised.

J. Abram, Geneva, O., right side of scalp torn off. Right hand cut.

James Coffemire, Oriemt, Ia., internal injuries.

Frank Tulley, Rising Sun, Ind., internal injuries, Hip bruised.

Joseph Benton, New Milford, Conn., collar bone broken, scalp wounds.

C. E. Baer, Hammond, Ind., Back injured.

Durand, August 7—Special—At 3:45 o’clock this morning, in the Grand Trunk railroad yards here, the two sections of the Wallace Bros. Shows met in a rear-end collision, resulting in the death of more than twenty employes of the road and circus, injuring twice as many more, killing several animals, smashing the engine of the second section and several cars of the first section, including sleepers, and doing great damage.
The first section of the train pulled in from Charlotte, en route to Lapeer, and stopped at the west end of the yards, on the main track. A red light was put out as a signal to the second section. The engineer saw the light, and attempted to stop his train, but the air brake refused to work, and the engine crashed into the rear of the other train with terriffic force. The engineer and fireman both jumped, as they saw the collision was inevitable, and escaped with slight injury. The scene that followed is indescribable, the cries and groans from the injured persons and frightened passengers, the roars from the terrified animals and the escaping steam, aroused the whole city, and hundreds rushed to the scene to assist in every way in the sad task of caring for the dead and wounded. The fire whistle sounded, every physician and nurse summoned, and quick preparations made to care for the suffering. In the slowly dawning light the work of rescue was at once organized, and soon the dead and wounded were reached; though much debris had to be cleared away. The wrecking crews of the railroad system were called out, and at once set to work. Physicians and undertakers from surrounding towns came in on hand cars.
Seventeen men were killed instantly, and were laid out on the field as fast as recovered from the debris. The Hotel Richelieu was turned into a temporary hospital, and the injured carried there by volunteer workers from among the showmen and citizens, who worked side by side. Before six o’clock the bodies that had been recovered were transferred to the temporary hospital, and a corps of twelve physicians were to work under the direction of Grand Trunk Surgeon, Dr. R. C. Fair. Many women assumed their share of the work by helping care for the injured.
Seventeen men were killed outright, Detective Large died at 5:30 o’clock. He was conscious only for a short time after the accident. At ten o’clock the number of deaths had reached 21, and it is feared will go higher.
The work of clearing the track was rushed, and the regular train passed at 9;30. The piles of broken wheels, axles, rods, and heavy iron and the pile of splinters into which the cars had been broken told their own story of the terrible affair. The engine on the second section turned a complete somersault, and landed on his back with the pilot in the opposite direction from which it was running. The tender landed on the opposite side of the track.
The engine and five cars of the moving train were completely demolished, and three cars of the train badly wrecked. The most of the dead were taken from the caboose of the head train. The railroad train masters and officers were here, and had not the slightest warning of the coming disaster.

The Engineer’s Story:
C. M. Propst, Battle Creek, engineer of No. 1133, which drew the second section, tells his story of how the accident occurred. He said he saw the red light, and tried to put on the air. The air had been tried at Lansing, and was all right there. He reversed the lever, and hung on hoping it would work, but when with in a few feet of the train he saw a collision was inevitable he jumped, scratching his face badly. The fireman H. R. Colter, also of Battle Creek, tells the same story. He also jumped and escaped injuries. Wm. Benedict, head brakeman, was riding on the engine, and saw the red light, and realized the danger. He said he jumped as soon as the air brakes would not work.

Reports differ as to the speed of the train at the time of the collision. The engineer said he was running at 20 miles per hour, but others claim he was running much faster. The tremendous force of the collision is evident from the fact the heavy timbers of the sleepers are driven through the iron plate on the front part of the engine and stick out like toothpicks.

Durand Aug. 7—Special, 2:30—Two deaths have occurred this afternoon making a total of twenty-three deaths. It is expected that two others will succumb to their injuries before night. The larger part of the injured have been taken to Detroit by special train, where they will be given the best of care in the hospitals.

One of the cars that was demolished carried the elephants and camels. One elephant and three camels were killed outright, and some other animals injured.
The circus performers were in the rear of the moving train and escaped injury. None of the Wallaces were in the cars derailed. The loss will reach into the thousands of dollars.
The Wallaces have had two wrecks within a month. In a wreck at Shelbyville, Ind., two persons were killed, and several cars demolished.
A blood hound valued at $1,000 was also killed. The dead animals were buried early this morning by the showmen.
It is very fortunate none of the wild animals escaped. The field was full of horses this morning. They were caught and tied to trees. The survivors of the wreck are a sober looking lot. One of them was over heard saying "Thank God I’m still alive”.
Several high officials of the ____ listened to the ____ and together with Agent John O’Brian are doing everything in their power to _____ the suffering and care for the proper of the show people.

Saturday August 8, 1903

The Whole World Kin

The distressing accident at Durand yesterday, by which twenty-three men lost their lives and three times as many more were severely injured, was one of the things that brought out the beat side of humanity, and proved that in times of distress and misfortune this in a kind old world, after all. In the first place, the circus men themselves—he workmen—who are usually regarded, perhaps unjustly, as a rough, devil may care set, showed nothing of that spirit yesterday. On the other hand, they were sober, subdued, almost tearful. When they had anything to do they moved quietly and spoke softly, and having finished their task sat or stood about silently, apparently awed at the frightful calamity, which had overtaken so many of their companions, but which they had fortunately escaped.
The citizens of Durand, roused at the early hour of the morning, hurried to the scene, and disregarding their own comfort and convenience, and overcoming their natural aversion of such things, took hold and helped remove from the tangled debris of the wreck the dead, and the torn and mangled bodies of those who even more needed their attention. And the women—God bless them—always and ever angels of mercy, they, too, went about doing good, binding up wounds, offering nourishment, and speaking sympathetically and comfortingly.
Perhaps some such calamity is sometimes necessary to remind us that the whole world is kin.


13 Are Unknown
Bodies of Victims in Circus Wreck Unidentified
County Officers Apathetic
Sheriff and His Deputies Conspicuous for Their Absence—Inquest To Be Held Friday Before Justice Karrer.
Durand, August 8—Thirteen bodies of victims of the awful Wallace circus wreck still lie in the undertaking rooms of G. W. McLean, unidentified, although every effort has been made by the local authorities and the railroad officials. Master of Transportation H. H. Cornell, arrived in the city early yesterday morning and is here still, using his utmost endeavors to restore the remains of the dead to their families and friends. It will be remembered the accident occurred while the men were sleeping in their bunks, and with their clothing removed and no one present who was personally acquainted with them, it is impossible to tell one man from another. The list of dead has been published throughout the country, the telegrams have been received to ship this or that body here or there, but it is impossible to couple the name with the right man. The railroad company has had all the bodies embalmed, neatly clothed and incased in a good cloth-covered casket, ready for shipment the moment they are properly identified. If some means of identification are not discovered in a day or two, the remains must be interred here, and
marked “unknown”. Representatives of the Wallace show, which went on to Bay City last night have been sent for and may be able to give some assistance.
The remains of Chief Detective Large were taken to Jackson last night and Trainmaster McCarthy’ body was taken to his home in Battle Creek.
All the injured, except Foley and Hazel, were taken to Harper hospital Detroit yesterday afternoon.
Great credit is due Dr. R. C. Fair, Grand Truck surgeon, who organized the work of relief and gave the injured all possible care and attention. He was ably assisted by all the local physicians and some from surrounding towns. A. S. Thomas tendered the use of the new Richelieu hotel, which he now owns, and it became the temporary hospital until the injured were removed to Detroit.
Inquest Next Friday:
Justice Karrer has empaneled the following jury: Leonard Soper, hotelkeeper; Eugene Nichols, ex-railroad man; Morrell Harrington, retired business man; W. H. Putnam, clerk of the village; Floyd Derham, baseball player; M. H. Avery, grocery clerk. The jury viewed the remains of the victims and an inquest will be held next Friday morning at 10 o’clock.
County Officials Apathetic:
Shiawassee county in an official capacity has done next to nothing in regard to an investigation as to the responsibility for yesterday’s wreck.
One would naturally expect Coroner Monroe, the only coroner in the county this year, would hasten to the scene of the disaster, yet as late as this noon in response to a query of what he was going to do he said: “Why, nothing. It is not in my jurisdiction. Anything of that kind happening outside of the city of Owosso, is not for me to look after unless I am summoned.”
Sheriff Gerow and his deputies are not in Durand today, he is at Cadillac; Deputy Sheriff, Hovey of Durand, is in Jackson and Deputy Sheriff Curtis in Curunna. Not a deputy is in Durand representing the county in the great crisis. As to where Prosecuting Attorney A. E. Richards is! Only his assistant and the Lord knows, and we can not get them to tell. The assistant W. J. Parker said he had not been notified of the wreck at Durand nor that his services were required. He did say, that he will probably be in Durand next Friday at the inquest when responsibility for the wreck would be attached to proper parties, he expects.
A Fast Ride:
Evening Argus Editor went to scene of Circus Wreck in Automobile

At an early hour yesterday morning the editor of this paper was informed by telephone of the disastrous wreck of the Wallace shows at Durand, and requested to go there by first train. Later, a second request came to report at once, and County Surveyor Elmer F. Joslin kindly offered to drive over in his Oldsmobile.
Through the roads were rough and muddy in places, the run was made in 50 minutes, and it was a very pleasant one, too. Mr. Joslin is an experienced chauffeur, knows his machine perfectly, and handles it as an expert.
We saw nothing of frightened horse, in fact, but few horses paid any attention to the machine. Mr. Joslin is very careful, and shows every consideration to drivers of horses that give evidence of uneasiness. The Oldsmobile is surely a good machine for climbing hills and running over sand roads, such as are found between here and Durand.
The presence on the scene of the accident of a representative of this paper enabled The Evening Argus to publish an excellent report in last evening’s issue.

Monday, August 10, 1903

His Brother Dead
Railroad Brakeman Makes a Sad Discovery
While Looking at Bodies of Durand Wreck Victims
Several More of Unknown Were Identified
Durand, Mich., Aug. 10—Henry Griffin, a brakeman employed on the Grand Trunk, was a visitor at the morgue Sunday, having come from Saginaw, as many other visitors have come since the wreck from every direction.
He passed along the line of coffins and viewed five of the mangled bodies. As he came to the sixth he exclaimed: “ My God, my brother Bill!” There was no question of the identification being correct. The man is William Griffin, home unknown. Griffin is positive it is his brother, although he has not seen him for several years. He will have his brother’s remains inferred at Durand.
The bodies of twelve of the victims of the unfortunate victims of the wreck are still in the undertaking parlors here. More representatives from Wallace shows came yesterday and have identified the bodies of Robert Rice, harness maker of Sand Lake, Mich., and Charles McCoy of Cincinnati, O. These will be forwarded from Durand today.
They have also partially identified three others, which heretofore were among the unknown. One was known among the circus employes as “Animal Red,” and worked about the managerie. His true name was John Stillman, Home unknown. Another they identified as “Fatty Johnson” correct name Allen Johnston, home unknown. The third was known as “ Back Door Red” correct name Joe Keyes, his home was in a little town in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg.
The remaining bodies will be buried here tomorrow if they are not identified in the meantime.
Letters and telegrams have been received from all parts of the United States asking for descriptions of the dead bodies. Master of transportation X. H. Cornell, Undertaker G.W. McLain and village officials have been kept busy furnishing information, but all their work does not seem to straighten out matters very rapidly.
Detriot, Mich., Aug 10.—Frank Tuley, one of the victims of the disastrous railroad wreck at Durand early last Friday morning, and who was subsequently brought to Harper hospital, was reported to be in dying condition last evening at that institution.
The man sustained internal injuries, from which he suffers terrible agony. At first it was thought he had a chance for recovery, but as time wore on and he failed to take the expected turn for the better his condition was considered more grave. Last evening Dr. Ben Brodie said he apparently had little time to live.
John Thompson, of Peru, Ind., died Sunday at Harper’s hospital. His right leg was fractured above and below the knee and he suffered severe internal injuries and was badly bruised. Nothing could be learned of his home or family.
Of the remainder, George Bartley, aged 26, of Los Angeles, Cal.; Henry Conklin, aged 28, of Binghamton, N. Y., and C. R. Denny, aged 27, of Chicago, were able to leave the hospital and departed for Bay City to rejoin the circus. There are 18 patients still at the hospital.
Bay City, Mich., August 10.—C. B. Wallace has not yet made public the estimate he places on his loss. The actual damage to the circus is figured at $20,000, but this does not include the loss due to two cancelled dates at Lapeer and Caro.

Tuesday, August 11,1903

Wreck Victims Buried
Funeral Services Held in Durand Over the Remains of Ten Unidentified Men

Durand, Aug. 11.—The funeral services over the remains of the dead of Friday’s horrible disaster were held this morning at the morgue. It was an union service, with the ministers of the town officiating. Ten bodies were laid to rest in Lovejoy cemetery. Of this number there were two or three who had not been identified whatever, and the balance bore names only.
The remains were kept just as long as possible. Photographs were taken of the dead and an accurate description called for. It is believed that some of the bodies will be identified later and called for. Wire messages and letters continue to pour in.

Wednesday, August 12, 1903
Twenty-fourth Victim
Of Durand Wreck Died Yesterday Afternoon in Harper Hospital

Frank Tilly died yesterday afternoon at Harper hospital, the twenty-fourth victim of the wreck to succumb. From the beginning his condition was considered serious, but after the first day of two, it was thought that he might recover. Coroner Hoffman, who took charge of the remains, last evening telegraphed for W. H. Tilly, of 313 Vine street, Cincinnati, a brother of the deceased. Tilly’s home was in Rising Sun, Ind.

Livingston Republican
August 12, 1903

Twenty-two Killed

And Many More Are Dangerously Injured

Two Sections of Wallace Bros. Show Crashed Together at Durand Friday.
At 3:45 o’clock Friday Morning two sections of the big Wallace show train, east bound on the Grand Trunk road came together at Durand with a deadly crash, the rear train telescoping the first. At the end of the rear train were the regular passenger coaches, two in number, carrying the drivers, some of the performers, railway officials, and others connected with the show. Of these twenty-two- were killed and thirty injured, scarcely any of the occupants of the cars escaping.
The wreck occurred just one half mile west of the depot at Durand, almost at the road crossing the Grand Trunk. The first section of the train had arrived at the crossing, had come to a full stop, and was waiting for the signal to cross. The second was but a few moments behind. For some reason of other the first train stopped longer than usual and brakes were applied by the engineer of the second train to have the train come to a full stop before the crossing was reached.
The engineer and fireman of this second train were horrified to find that the brakes would not work. There is no grade at this point but the train could not be brought to a stand still. It was a heavy train, too and every moment it seemed to go faster. Ahead were the red lights of the last coach of the first section, loaded with human beings.
With ____, after he had applied the brakes and reversed the lever, the engineer jumped from his engine and told the fireman to do the same. A brakeman in the cab had also heard the warning and jumped. The three men just escaped with their lives, although they were scratched by flying pieces of debris when the crash did come.
A number of the killed could not be recognized. Ten of the unknown were buried at Durand Tuesday. Now that the dead have been buried, and investigation will be made to decide who is to be blamed for the accident.
The Charlotte Republican

Friday, August 7, 1903

A Terrible Wreck
The Wallace Circus Trains Came Together in the Grand Trunk Yards at Durand This Morning.
Twenty-three are Dead and Thirty More Seriously Injured Many of Whom are Not Expected to Live
The Injured have been sent to Detroit on a Special Train. The Wreck is the Worst in the History of the Circus Business.
[Special to the Charlotte Republican by Harry L. Izor, City Editor Durand Express.]
Durand, Mich., August 7, 1903

To Charlotte Republican—
There was a big wreck on the two Wallace circus trains here this morning at 3:45 o’clock by a rear end collision. The cause of the wreck was the failure of the air brakes to work on the second train.
The first train had pulled in here and was standing on the main line. A red ____
was placed to warn the incoming train that the track was blocked. The crew of the second train saw the signal but were powerless.
Engineer Propst, of Battle Creek, clung to the lever as long as possible and barely escaped with his life. The escaping steam and shrieks of the injured added to the horror of the scene.
The dead are: James McCarty, trainmaster of Grand Trunk between Battle Creek and Port Huron; home, Battle Creek. John Purcell, Peru, Ind., boss of canvas gang. Lafe Larson, Cambridge, Ohio, six-horse driver. A. Thomas, home unknown, reserved seat gang. Harry St. Clair, home unknown. John Leary, Springfield, Ill., boss of ring stock. Andrew Howland, of New York City, canvas man. Robt Rice, home unknown, harness maker. Frank Thorpe, Dundee, Mich., trainmaster of circus train; Geo. Smith, home unknown, blacksmith. Charles Sands, Peru, Ind., driver. Jos. Wilson, Pittsburg, Pa. Unknown man driver of band wagon. M. J. McCoy, Columbus, canvas man. Unknown
man suffocated.
Among the prominent men who were injured was James S. Foley, of Detriot, special officer of the Grand Trunk.
Two camels and one elephant, also a Danish bloodhound valued at one thousand dollars, were killed.
A hospital has been made out of the Hotel Richelieu and a corps of twelve surgeons are taking care of the score of injured.
[Special Dispatch to the Republican by Gerald Fitzgerald, Press Agent of the Wallace Show.]

Republican, Charlotte, Mich.—
Twenty-four killed, and 35 injured, most of them fatally, is the result of terrible rear end collision of two sections of Wallace Bros.’ circus train this morning. Five cars demolished. Elephant, three camels and other animals killed.
Have sent injured to Detroit by special train.
Have cancelled all dates until Monday.

The Evening Times

Friday, August 7, 1903

22 Dead: 70 Hurt
Shocking Railroad Fatality at Durand
Rear End Smash
Two of Wallace Circus Trains Come Together
Air Brakes Faulty
Majority of Victims Crushed to Death While Asleep
Crash Woke Up the Whole Town—List of Dead and Wounded
The Dead and Wounded.
Durand, Aug. 7, 2:30 p.m.—The revised list of the dead and wounded shows the following:
Killed, 22.
Seriously hurt, 40.
Slightly injured, 30.
May die, 7.
Durand, Aug. 7, --The air brake on the second section of Wallace Bros. circus train refused to work in the Grand Trunk railway yards here early this morning, causing a collision between two sections, in which 21 persons were killed and over a dozen injured.
The Dead:
James McCarthy, trainmaster Grand Trunk Railroad, between Port Huron and Battle Creek.
A. W. Large, chief detective Grand Trunk, Battle Creek.
Lafe Larson, Cambridge, Ohio, six horse wagon driver.
G. Thomas, stake and chain gang, home unknown.
Harry St. Clair, assistant reserved seat gang.
Unknown man, driver band wagon team.
Unknown man, rider six horse circus act, home Indianapolis, Ind.
John Pursell, Peru, Ind., foreman canvas gang.
John Leary, Springfield, Ills., foreman ring stock.
Chas Sands, Peru, Ind., six horse driver.
--McCoy, Columbus, Ohio, canvas man of side show.
Unknown man from Louisville, four horse driver.
George Smith, blacksmith, home unknown.
Joe Wilson, Pittsburg, Pa.
Unknown man, driver four horse team.
Robert Rice, harness maker, home unknown.
Frank Thorpe, Dundee, Mich., trainmaster for circus.
Rew Haviland, canvasman, home New York state.
Edward York, of Terre Haute, Ind.
The Injured:
James S. Foley, special officer Grand Trunk, shoulder dislocated, head bruised, condition serious, Detroit.
Bole Abrams, Sandusky, O., injuries to head and shoulders, will recover.
Burt McGrath, Connellsville, Ohio, back seriously injured.
W. H. Roe, Armstrong, Ills., driver, internally injured; serious nature.
John W. Koons, Bairdstown, hip cut and bruised, will recover.
George Barrley, Los Angeles, Calif., head injured, will recover.
Frank Tilley, Rising Sun, Ind., hip dislocated, body bruised, condition is serious.
Joseph S. Benton, New Milford, Conn., internal injuries of serious nature.
Joe Anderson, Evansville, Ind.
John Thompson, Peru, Ind.
J. King, Portsmouth, O.
B. E. Frisbe, Geneva, Ohio.
E. J. Connelly, Emmetsburg, O.
W. L. Cone, Dubuque, Iowa.
J. J. Meadow, Anderson, S. C.
Jos. Patterson, Grand Prairie, Ill.
Jas. Coffelmine, Orio, Iowa.
C. F. Barker, Hammond, Ind.
Joseph Monks, Vassar, Mich.
John Glieber, Bellaire, Ohio.
John Collins, Des Moines, Iowa.
Stephen Bennett, New York city.
Geo. Clough, Trumbull, Ohio.
J. R. Stewart, Denver, Colorado.
G. W. Terry, Chicago.
N. Caldwalker, Indianapolis, Ind.
Marshall Nellis, of Chicago.
Henry Coulklin, Binghamton, N. Y.
Edward York died at noon at the temporary hospital.
Fifteen injured were placed on a special train at noon to be taken to Harper hospital in Detroit.
The circus people have pitched tents and are camped near the wreck.
How It Happened:
The circus travels in two trains of 35 cars each. After last night’s exhibition at Charlotte two trains left for Lapeer over the Grand Trunk road, the second section leaving a half hour after the first.
It was 3:45 when the first section pulled into the west end of the Grand Trunk yards her. A red light hung on the rear car to stop the second section.
Engineer Propst, of Battle Creek who was running the engine of the rear train, says he saw this light, and applied the air brakes. To his horror they refused to work. He reversed his engine, but the momentum of the heavy train was too great. With a crash that aroused all the town near the yards, the two trains met. Three cars of the stationary first section were telescoped and the engine and five cars of the moving train were demolished.
The rear car of the first section was the caboose in which the train men were sleeping and the next two were filled with sleeping circus employees.
The greatest loss of life was in the caboose.
Among The Animals:
One of the wrecked cars of the second section was occupied by five elephants, and several camels. One elephant and two camels were killed outright while the other animals and their trainers escaped.
Except those in this car, none of the menageries was wrecked. The other demolished cars contained the canvas or wagons, and there was comparatively little excitement among the wild animals.
As soon as they recovered from the first shock the trainers rushed among the cages quieting a few beasts that were excited. The elephants in the wrecked car behaved with surprising calmness, and were led out of the wreck without trouble.
Horrible Spectacle:
Escaping steam and screams and cries of those pinioned in the wreck made a horrible spectacle in the gray of the early morning, when the trainmen in the yards and the aroused townspeople first reached the scene.
Many feared at first that some of the menagerie had escaped, as some of the animals could be heard crying. The fire whistle was immediately sounded and the whole town aroused. The first rescuers could see the unfortunate victims entangled in the wreckage and went furiously to work without waiting for tools to extricate them.
A wrecking crew is kept in the yards here and it was on the scene in a very few minutes, bringing tools and equipment in plenty. All physicians and trained nurse in town were sent for and those in nearby places were rushed to the scene on hand cars. The Hotel Richelieu was converted into a temporary hospital and scores of volunteers with vehicles were in readiness to carry the injured there as fast as rescuers could extricate them. The dead many so terribly mangled that identification seemed almost impossible, were carefully laid on the green award a short distance from the scene.
By 6 o’clock a corps of 12 physicians was operating on the injured and dressing their wounds in the temporary hospital. Four of the injured died at the hospital before 8:30.
When the wrecking train crew had finished pulling to pieces the tangled and broken cars, seventeen dead men were lying on the grass waiting removal to the morgue.
A majority of them were killed while asleep. The circus performers were on the rear of the moving train and escaped injury. Wallace Bros. say their loss will be very heavy, but have given no estimate yet. This is the second wreck the Wallace shows have suffered in a month.
Pitiful Appeals for Help:
All available drays and express wagons in the vicinity were used for ambulances. For hours after the accident there was a steady procession of these ambulances from the accident to Hotel Richelieu. The dining room of the hotel was used as an operating room. A score of wives and daughters of the rescuers volunteered as nurses, and worked with vigor all the morning. More than 20 injured were pinned down in the wreckage so they had to be chopped and pried out. Their groans and cries were pitiful, and spurred the wreckers to redoubled efforts.
Late in the morning, before all were removed to the hospital, all animal cars were unloaded and the cages removed to a field, where the animals could get air and quiet down.
What Trainmen Say:
Engineer Propst of the second train, Fireman H. E. Colter, of Battle Creek, and the head brakeman of the train, Wm. Benedict, of Durand, who as customary on night runs, was riding on the locomotive, all say they saw the right light on train No. 1. The latter train was just beyond the curve but it was not such a curve as would obstruct the view sufficiently to be dangerous. All three agree that if the brakes had but worked as they ought when the engineer tried to set them, there would have been no collision. Fireman Colter and Brakeman Benedict, when they saw the collision could not be avoided, jumped. Propst remained at his post, vainly trying to get the brake to work until the train was within less than 100 feet of No. 1. He then, too jumped when he was within but a very few seconds of sure death in the crash. He was of course shaken up, as was the fireman and brakeman, but not badly. None of the crews of either train were hurt. At the time the crash occurred train No. 2 was running probably 15 miles an hour.
General Manager McGuigin was on his way to Chicago from Montreal and arrived at the scene on a passenger at 7 a. m. He immediately took charge of the work of caring for the victims and clearing the tracks.
Blames The Engineer
Superintendent Brownies Says the Air Brakes Were Not Applied.

Durand, Mich., Aug. 7—The following official report on the accident was issued this afternoon by Supt. W. G. Brownies:
“The first section of the circus train, engine 1126, Engineer Schliyberlet, Conductor Welch, with 21 cars, arrived at Durand about 3 a. m., and was flagged at the west end yard by a stock train turning a hot box. The rear brakeman went back three quarters of a mile with the proper signals. After a delay of 30 minutes the stock train proceeded. The First section of the circus train was just coupled up at the crossing about 4:45 o’clock and had begun to move when the second section of the circus train, engine 1133, Engineer Prospt, Conductor Hubbard, with 17 cars, approached. The proper danger signals were displayed by the brakeman of the first section, using a lantern, fuses and torpedoes. The engineer of the second section answered the signals and claims he applied the air brakes but it was found the train was not charged with air and was unable to stop colliding with the rear end of the first section, demolishing the caboose and one coach in which the circus canvasmen or laborers were asleep, two stock cars, one containing
camels and elephants, and the other horses. Trainmaster McCarthy, Chief Special Officer Large, Special Officer Foley and Foreman of Locomotives J. Hazel were riding in the caboose. The first two were killed outright and the others seriously injured. Nineteen circus employes were killed instantly and three seriously injured. Two have since died. Nine more were severely injured and were numerously badly scratched and bruised. Engineer Prospt states the air brake worked all right at Lansing, where he took water, and he had no occasion to use it again until flagged west of Durand, where he found the train was not charged with air. Five sleepers in the rear of the second section were found about two coach lengths from the end of the train after the accident with the drawhead of one of the cars jammed in indicating it had been broken apart by the accident and rebounded when the train stopped, which is evidence that the brakes were not applied. The air brakes in the train have since been tested and found in perfect condition.
Two of the Victims
Special Officer Large and Trackmaster McCarthy.

Detroit, Aug. 7—Special Officer A. W. Large, of the Grand Trunk was chief deputy United States Marshal during the second administration of Cleveland. He leaves a wife and two children. He was born on a farm and went to Jackson where he became a letter carrier. Later he was on the Jackson Police force and after serving as United States marshal he became an officer for the Grand Trunk.
Trackmaster J. W. McCarthy was aged 35, and an employe of the Grand Trunk since he was 15. He was a conductor between Port Huron and Chicago for 14 years, and promoted to trackmaster last June. His family moved from Port Huron to Battle Creek a week ago. He leaves a widow and four small boys.
The Evening Times
Bay City, Mich.
Saturday, August 8, 1903

24th Victim Dead
All Other Injured in Circus Wreck Doing Well
Some to Rejoin Here
No Official Steps Yet Taken to Place Responsibility
Engineer Probst Says He Did All He Could to Prevent the Collision
Detroit, Aug. 8—The 24th victim of yesterday’s collision between two sections of the Wallace circus train at Durand died at Harper hospital here just before noon. He was John Thompson, of Peru, Ind., who was severely injured about the pelvis, as well as having a broken leg.
The condition of all injured is reported as satisfactorily at 9 o’clock, but during the morning Thompson began to fall. He died between 11 and 12.
At noon the house surgeon at the hospital said there was no change in the condition of the other injured. Several will be discharged today, he said, and will rejoin the circus at Bay City, where repairs are being made today.
No more of the unknown dead at Durand were identified up to noon. It is probable they will be consigned to a nameless grave there.
Dispatches from Durand say no effort has been made yet by the authorities to fix the responsibility for the accident. The coroner has announced he will make a rigid investigation, but there are no officers working on the case for him yet.
A dispatch from Battle Creek says Engineer Probst, when told that he was accused by officials for the responsibility for the wreck, declared he did everything any one could do to stop the train.
“There was no air and when you have said that, you have said all there is to say,” he said.
He says he thinks his air pump may have broken down or that there may have been a gradual leakage from some point.

The Evening Times
Bay City, Mich.
Monday, August 10, 1903

Unknown Graves
Many of Wreck Victims Will Fill Them
Scores of People Come to Durand to Look at Gruesome Sight

Durand, Mich., Aug. 10—Scores of people came to Durand Sunday to view the remains of the victims of Friday’s disastrous wreck in the Grand Trunk railroad yards here. One of the visitors was Henry Griffin, of Saginaw, Mich. He had looked at the features of five different corpses as he passed along the line of coffins when at the sixth he threw up his hands and exclaimed:
“My God, my brother.”
There was no mistaking the identification and the dead man is William Griffin, home unknown. The grieved brother says that he had not heard from his brother in the past six years. To find him thus was terrible. He will let the remains be interred in the cemetery here.
Twelve bodies lie in caskets ready for shipment or burial. Of this number three have been positively identified and instructions received as to what disposal to make of them. Of the remaining nine names have been affixed to three, but their homes or relatives have not been located. These three are John Stillman, home unknown, was called “Animal Red;” Allen Johnson, home unknown, was called “Fatty Johnson;” Joseph Keys, home in a small town in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, was called “Back Door Red.”
Chief Detective Keyes, of the Wallace show, was here until this morning assisting in the work of identification and has returned to Bay City to continue the work. The three injured circus men who were released from the hospital in Detriot also came out here to give their aid.
The bodies will be held in the morgue here until Tuesday, when the unknown will be buried side by side.

Knocked Him Down
Elephant Hazel Did a New Stunt Today
Refused to Appear in the Circus Parade and Gave Keeper a Drubbing

Everything was about in readiness for the Wallace Circus parade this morning when Hazel, whose mate was killed in the wreck at Durand, balked and refused to go out with the procession. She ran back into the tent where Jip, the elephant injured at Durand stood.
Hazel’s keeper in an endeavor to make her obey, ran his spear through her ear. This the elephant did not seem to like and quick as a flash she grabbed her keeper in her trunk and knocked him to the ground. She was then securely chained to a stake, but in her anger, easily broke away.
The crowd of boys and others in the tent thinking that there would be things of a serious nature doing rushed out of the place and took to the tall timber. Soon afterwards the unruly beast was quieted and no further attempt made to take her out.
Jip, the huge elephant on top of whom the rest of the menagerie was piled in the accident at Durand, looks as though she were getting along all right. She seems restless, however shifting her standing position every few minutes and now and then taking a mouth full of hay, but most of the time throwing it towards the roof and scattering it about the ground.

Wallace Shows
First Appearance Since the Wreck
Some of the Leading Features to Be Seen Under the Tents

All were lined up along the streets this morning to see the fine parade of the Wallace circus, the first since the wreck last Thursday. It is always an attraction and there was no lack of crowding and pushing along the main streets. All eyes were turned on the gorgeous costumes and the glittering wagons with their displays of wild animals. The hippopotamus was in full view, and the children had to be lifted a bit to see the monster, which was lying flat in the tank of water which formed the bottom of the wagon. The zebras, tigers, and lions drew out exclamations, and the bands made the blood rush faster as the military like procession swept by.
Among the features which are of special interest at the Wallace shows this afternoon and evening are Madam Marantette and her high school, posing cake walking and high jumping horse, including the world’s highest jumper, “St. Patrick.” This horse duplicated the record he established of 7 feet 5 inches at Madison Square Garden at the afternoon performance here today.
The Heras family of acrobats, seven in number, who were brought to this country by the Wallace shows from Florence, Italy, performed in full evening dress this afternoon.
The four Collins, eccentric whirlwind dancers, presented a striking novelty for a circus performance. This quartet of wonderful dancers enjoys the distinction of being the only act that was ever held over for a longer period than two weeks at Hammerstein’s Paradise Roof garden in New York. The Collins appeared there for six consecutive weeks and were the vaudeville hit of the metropolis. They were immediately engaged as a special feature of the Wallace shows and have created a furore every place they have appeared.
The Marion Zouaves, consisting of 16 handy young veterans of the Spanish-American war, in an exceedingly difficult and graceful fancy military drill pleased all.
Then there were the four Silvertons, fancy single high wire artists; the Stulk family of bicyclists, 12 in number; Capt. Owen Hudgen and his troupe of performing seals; the four Nelsons, the ten Dellomeads, __ving statuary; the happy Hooligan troupe of comedy skaters, and others.
Street cars were loaded, and on the outside people hung on by their eyelashes. The unseasonable weather is very unfortunate.

Transcribed by Shirley Gorman 2002. Copyright © 2002 - 2003