Saturday, May 30, 2009

BlackSheepSunday: First "Train-Wreckers"

Although this wreck isn't an Erie train and probably not due to a "train-wrecker", it's easy to see where even less dramatic wrecks are capable of causing severe bodily harm and even death to passengers and crew.  (Image taken from an ebay auction; date and photographer unknown.)
Wrecking railroad trains by putting debris on the tracks in order to steal any valuables aboard was a common plot point in films and perhaps less so in life. However, bandits weren't the only ones to deliberately cause train wrecks. Vandals did so, too. This is an account of the first "train-wreckers"; unfortunately, they weren't the last.



During the last week in November, 1862, the track-walker on the section of railroad near Andover, N. Y., on the Western Division, found obstructions on the track, so placed and at such an hour that it was eveident they had been put there to wreck a passenger-train. This being reported, a watch was set, and about 9 o'clock on the night of Friday, November 26th, a few minutes before the express train, moving east, was due, two persons were discovered going on to the railroad, one of them carrying a log-chain. Near the track was a portion of the wrecked gravel car, having one pair of wheels attached. The men placed this on the track over a culvert, on a curve in the road, and fastened it to the ties with this log-chain. The citizens who were on the watch pounced upon the men and arrested them at once. They were committed to jail at Angelica. They proved to be George Palmer, a cabinet-maker, and Samuel Allen, a blacksmith. Palmer and Allen were tried and convicted on the charge of train-wrecking, Feburary 3, 1853 [sic], before County Judge Lucien P. Wetherby. They were sentenced to four years in the Auburn Penitentiary. Palmer was twenty-five years old, and Allen, twenty-one. This is the first attempt at deliberate train-wrecking on record in this country.

Between the Ocean and the Lakes: The Story of Erie
Edward Harold Mott
Ticker Publishing Co.
45 Exchange Place, New York

Available for downloading: Google Book Search
1908 Edition:
1899 Edition:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Black Sheep Sunday: Victims

Reading about black sheep in the family trees of other people can be amusing, compelling, and frequently repugnant, depending on the details of "who did what and why." Finding a black sheep in your own family tree can be suddenly sobering when you are forced to confront victims as people and there's always at least one victim.
The following news items focus mainly on victims because without victims, there would be no black sheep.

It's safe to say that Ted Ehrhardt had a bad day, but although his property was damaged and goods stolen, he was unharmed. I wonder, though, how they knew so certainly that the same black sheep committed both crimes? And why weren't drugs taken? Perhaps this was a crime of vengeance.


Ted Ehrhardt, Main street druggist, got it "coming and going" Thursday, according to a report he made to police.

Thieves entered his drug store and stole an 8 mm. camera valued at $34 and at about the same time his car was entered and a $5 defroster taken. The car was parked in the rear of the postoffice. In neither case were there any clues.

The Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo, Indiana
Friday December 2, 1937
Page 10, Column 6

In spite of the satirical tone of this item, Peter Phillips irrevocably changed the lives of his wife and children, whether they were able to land on their feet or not.

Peter Phillips, one of Hanover's gentry, eloped with a young girl named Courtwright a few days ago. He leaves a wife and three children to mourn his loss.

The Ohio Democrat
New Philadelphia, Ohio
Thursday, February 22 1877

Page 2; Column 4; Below the fold.
Rose Hess' situation was not enviable for the 19th century; how imprisoned she much have felt.

Pretty Rose Wishes to Die.

New York, April 13.--Rose Hess, a pretty girl of Cincinnati, who was ruined and deserted here by E. O. Goodwin, a commercial traveler in the employ of V. Henry Rothschild, of this city, attempted to end her sorrows by shooting herself in the breast. There is no chance for her recovery.

Middletown Daily Times
Middletown, New York
Wednesday Evening, April 13 1892
Page 1, Column 4, below the fold.

Though victim Harry Beam and his friends may bear some responsibility in this event, Harry didn't deserve the outcome.

Killed by a Cowboy

Flemington, N. J., April 13.---Two weeks ago a troop of cowboys gave a exhibition in Collinsville. They got into a row with some of the local young men. One of the cowboys picked up Harry Beam, a young man twenty-two years old, and threw him so violently against a partition that he died Monday.

Middletown Daily Times
Middletown, New York
Wednesday Evening, April 13, 1892
Page 1, Column 5, below the fold.


This is a harrowing tale of desperation and throat-clutching fear. I grieve for what this child went through and wonder if there's yet more to the nightmare left unsaid between the lines.

Kidnapped by a Tramp

Anniston, Ala., April 13.---The eight-year-old son of Joseph Swayne, a wealthy resident, was stolen from his home by a tramp and carried into the mountains, where he was found unconscious by some hunters. He had been badly beaten and was tied to a tree.

Middletown Daily Times
Middletown, New York
Wednesday Evening, April 13, 1892
Page 1, Column 6, below the fold.