36 Mutilated Bodies Recued
The headline on the Monday Evening Edition of the Atlanta Journal on June 25, 1900 foretold the extent of the accident: “36 Mutilated Bodies Rescued from Southern Wreck at McDonough.” Torrential rain fell twenty-three (23) days leading up to the largest train wreck in Georgia history. The rushing water at Camp Creek undermined the culvert.
The Southern No. 7 was heading north from Macon to Atlanta. Most of the passengers were railroad workers returning from a week’s worth of work. The train was comprised of the engine, combination car, day coach, and a Pullman. The red lantern on the north end of the trestle gave no warning. By the time the conductor noticed that the rails washed away, it was too late. One survivor noted, “There was not even time to pray.” The nine (9) survivors were all in the last car, the Pullman.
Although Internet stories vary on the number of casualties, the final number will remain unknown. The majority of the passengers did not have tickets; there was no final count on the passenger number. Many bodies were mutilated and dismembered. Twenty-four (24) men were identified within days. Nine (9) men were left unidentified. Of those identified, one man, J.E. Wood, survived the crash but lost consciousness when he was engulfed in flames and pulled from the river.
Engine “836” as No. 7 was known had been involved in three (3) prior accidents. Three (3) people were killed in one incident at the Etowah River, near Cartersville. The engine was never used after the Camp Creek accident.
The survivors included: Jesse F. Rohr, Baltimore; Walter Pope, 104 Ellis Street; Miss Mary B. Merritt, Boston; Miss Clara Alden, Boston; J.O. Flynn, 65 Woodward Avenue; E. Schryver, Chattanooga; E.E. Mack, Chattanooga; J.J. Quinlan, flagman on train; and P.C. Carter, Pullman porter.
The passengers killed were: W.W. Ipark, 500 Houston Street; W.F. Maddox, 170 Decatur Street; George W. Flournoy, Bellwood Avenue; W.J. Pate, Brotherton & Whitehall Streets; Jesse Pate, 13 year old son; D.C. Hightower, Stockbridge; and J.L. Florida, Nashville.
The crew consisted of: J.T. Sullivan, 698 South Pryor Street; William A. Barclay, 340 Courtland Street; H.R. Cressman; William Green; and W.W. Bennett, baggage master, 274 Woodward Avenue.
The railroad employees returning home were: J.H. Hunnicutt, 305 Luckie Street; J.E. Wood, Mill Street; G.Y. Griffith; W.R. Lawrence; W.O. Ellis; John Brantley, Buena Vista Avenue; J.H. Rhodes; W.L. Morrisette, Pocahontas, Virginia; Ed Bird; Bob Smith; Robert Spencer; and John Early.
The most heart-wrenching story is of W.J. Pate and his son Jesse. At the time of the crash, Jesse was sound asleep on his father’s lap. His dad was found with his arms wrapped around his son.
Investigation: Upon arrival at the train tracks, we discovered dried animal bones and teeth. Nothing unusual appeared in the photographs. The Ghost Radar produced some blips, but most vanished quickly. The location seemed quiet. Nothing unusual occurred here.