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The Wann Disaster

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


The Wann Disaster was the most horrific railroad tragedy that occurred in Madison County history, involving the greatest loss of life in a single incident, and the most numerous cases of personal injury. It occurred near the Wann Station at Alton Junction (East Alton) on the Big Four Railroad, about 4 miles east of Alton, near the corner of Shamrock and Main in the present-day village of East Alton.

On Saturday, January 21, 1893, the Southwestern Limited train on the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (also called the Big Four) left St. Louis at 8:05 AM, and was due at Wann Station (in Alton Junction - now East Alton) at 8:50 AM. Howard Clelland was the Conductor of the five passenger cars drawn by Engine No. 109. The engineer was Webb Ross of Mattoon, and the fireman was Richard White, also of Mattoon. The train was running at a higher rate of speed than usual, approaching a slight curve. Rounding the curve, it was instantly seen that a switch was mistakenly left open with a long line of oil tank cars on the siding. Fireman White immediately jumped, while Engineer Ross applied the brakes, but it was too late - the passenger train collided with the 25 oil tank cars. Initially, most passengers were not injured in the collision. When the nearby residents and business owners heard the collision, they ran toward the train to give aid, not knowing what was soon to happen. The oil tankers caught fire from the collision, and then an terrible explosion followed, sending 7,000 gallons of burning oil, later called "a rain of fire," fifty feet into the air. Engineer Ross was trapped alongside of his engine as oil poured over him, burning him to a crisp. Fourteen box cars on the siding caught fire and burned like paper. Another tank car which was burning suddenly exploded, and four others did so almost simultaneously, scattering the burning fluid in all directions. The large crowd of over 100 spectators were covered with burning oil, their flesh burning. Seven more tank cars took fire and burned. Houses and trees caught fire and the stockyards also burned. All the houses near the scene of the disaster were destroyed. Thousands of people rushed to the scene to aid the injured and dying. The newspapers soon learned of the disaster, but at first did not realize the full extent of the damage. As the days went on, the true horror was fully revealed.
                                                 Wann Station/Alton Junction location


Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893 (From the Saturday Daily)
An appalling accident happened at Alton Junction this morning. The Southwestern Limited train on the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St.Engine No. 109 involved in Wann Disaster Louis Railroad, leaving St. Louis at 8:05 and due at Alton Junction at 8:50, met with a destruction and loss of life that was awful. The train was in charge of Conductor Howard Clelland and is a solid vestibule of five cars drawn by Engine No. 109. The engineer is Webb Ross of Mattoon, and the fireman Richard White, of the same place. The train was running at a high rate of speed and the track cannot be seen ahead, owing to a slight curve. They dashed around the curve and saw instantly an open switch with a long line of tank cars on the siding. Fireman White jumped and saved himself. Engineer Ross applied the air and the next instant the beautiful palace train crashed into the oil tank cars, 25 in number and all filled. The head of the engine was stove in. The next instant a lurid glare filled the air, an explosion which made the earth tremble followed and then 7,000 gallons of burning oil was sent fifty feet into the air. Engineer Ross was not injured in the collision, but jumped and fell alongside of his engine. The oil poured over him and he was burned to a crisp. Later, he was picked up and carried to a house. Fireman White stood beside the dead body of his companion moaning and weeping as if his heart would break. He exclaimed: "He saved the passengers but lost his life in doing it." The engine and cafe car were enveloped in flames and totally destroyed. In the compartment of the cafe car was the corpse of Miss Morris, enroute from St. Louis. It was burned with the car. Seven tanks took fire. the awful glare obscured the sun. Fourteen box cars on the siding caught fire and burned like paper.

The heat was intense. A switch engine close by removed the rest of the tank line cars and the four remaining cars of the limited to a safeWann Station - one mile sign distance. None of the passengers were injured other than a severe shaking up. A wrecking train appeared from St. Louis, but could do nothing but remove side track cars from danger. The stand pipes at the station were opened and the water allowed to flood the tracks for a hundred yards in front of the depot. The loss will foot up to $50,000 and over. The total destruction being the passenger engine, cafe car, seven union tank cars, all filled with oil, fourteen box cars, a number of which contained merchandise. The Big Four and Burlington trains were compelled to come over the Chicago & Alton tracks to this city [Alton] and from thence to Alton Junction on the Big Four, thus getting around the furnace of burning cars. Hundreds of people were at the scene of the disaster. The tracks where the explosion occurred were twisted out of shape and the oil car thrown onto the main track to the side. How the switch was left open is not known. It was the grossest negligence on the part of someone, for two switches close together were open, so if the train had not run on the first it would have run onto the other. There were switch engines in the yard and some switchman was undoubtedly negligent.

At noon word was received in this city of a disaster more appalling than the first. One of the tanks, which was burning suddenly exploded, and four others did so almost simultaneously, scattering the burning fluid in all directions. The large crowd of spectators were literally covered with the burning oil. The scene was terrible. Most were literally burned into a crisp, others had the flesh burned to the bone. The sight was one that made the stoutest heart faint. On all sides were moans and screams of the wounded. Five dead bodies have been found, two boys and three men. One of the men was a student of Shurtleff College, of Iowa, named Hiram Cornelius. One of the boys burned to death was Edward Miller of Alton Junction. His father, William Miller, was very badly burned. The other three bodies have not been identified, being burned to a crisp. Such a scene has possibly not been witnessed in this country for years.

Seven more tank cars took fire and burned. Two more houses besides those burned earlier. The trees took fire and are burning. The stockyards also burned. All the houses near the scene of the disaster have been destroyed.

Desolation and agony are on all hands. Thousands of people are now at the scene and doing all that can be done for the unfortunates. All the doctors from Alton and vicinity were called and are busily engaged in helping. Mrs. S. Demuth did heroic work in general direction and attending the suffering of the wounded. After the oil explosion Saturday, and the subsequent awful scenes which shocked the country for its ghastliness, Altonians went to work forming Relief Committees to attend the wants of the hundreds of burned and maimed people who are now scattered over the neighboring country. The dead now number twenty.

As the victims were attended at Wann, they were placed on a Big Four special train and brought to Alton. From the depot they were conveyed to St. Joseph's Hospital by the patrol wagon and tenderly cared for by willing hands. The physicians and sisters cared for their sufferings and relieved them as much as was possible. A visit to the wards in the hospital yesterday was a sight that made it impress on everyone who saw it. In the southeast ward where the fatally burned ones are confined, a scene calculated to make the heart sad was presented. There are ten victims in this room. Lying on the beds, surrounded each by a few friends, the victims of that seething rain of oil writhe in their agony. Their quivering flesh is wrapped in cotton from their toes to top of their head. Nothing but lips are visible and it is impossible to tell whom you are gazing. Their lips are swollen to an enormous size, and in some instances glued together, requiring water to be sprayed upon them almost constantly. The bodies enveloped in cotton writhe and quiver and the poor victim gasps for breath and moans piteously. The room has a sickening odor. On the first couch lay Joseph Herman, his form in cotton reclining on the arm of a loving father, a weeping sister beside him, unable to speak. The names of the injured are written on a slip of paper and pasted over the top of the bedstead.

In Ward No. 2 are eight more victims, a few of whom are not entirely enveloped in cotton and present awful appearances, a description of which we will not give. In three wards there were twenty-three victims, seven dead removed since the first arrival. As the victims breathe their last, they are taken to the dead room and placed in the hands of undertakers. The bedding at the hospital gave out. A relief committee yesterday purchased large quantities and had it sent to the hospital.

The members of the Flood Relief Committee got together yesterday morning and collected a large supply of clothes and bedcovering for those that were in need of such and hired buggies to deliver them; a large amount going to Alton Junction. Among those who were active in seeing that nothing was needed by the victims were Mesdames Clement, Hamilton, and Babbits, who collected bed clothes and distributed them about.

Coroner Kinder appeared on the scene at Wann Saturday and immediately got together a jury to inquire into the death of Engineer Webb Ross. The verbatim verdict was:

“We, the undersigned jurors, sworn to inquire of the death of Webb Ross, on oath do find that he came to his death by accident caused by a misplaced switch on the Big Four road at Wann Station, Engine 109 running into a switch of oil tanks and causing a collision.”
Signed by W. W. Lowe, William J. McGauteen, Christian Ulrich, Anton Ringering, John D. Janssen, and Mathias Ringering.

The blame has centered upon Albert Gratten, a switchman in the employ of the Big Four at Wann. It seems that Gratten is by trade a barber and was placed on the force of switchmen a short time ago when a number of men quit on account of a wage difficulty. He was a novice and incapable of doing his work properly. He has not been seen since the accident. [It was later discovered that Gratten was also burned severely on his head, and had not fled.]

Yesterday morning the scene of the disaster was gone over by a number of men who thought it possible that all the injured were not yet found. Their beliefs were well founded, for at a distance from the tanks the remains of two men were found. It was an awful sight. Both men were horribly burned and had lain there for twenty hours. After the burning oil had descended upon them, they ran until they fell. The name of one man was John Burke and he lives at Fosterburg; the other man is not known. Both were alive and have been brought to St. Joseph's Hospital.

Coroner Thomas Kinder held an inquest over the remains of William Shattuck, Henry Penning, Willie McCarthy, John Lock and Charles Maupin, at St. Joseph's Hospital yesterday afternoon. The following verdict was rendered at 3:30 p.m.:

“We, the undersigned jurors, sworn to inquire into the death of ( ), on oath do find that deceased came to their death by injuries caused from the explosion of oil tanks on the C. C. C. & St. L. Railroad, at Alton Junction, January 21. Signed by W. L. Fairman, Foreman, E. F. Braunagle, B. Fahrig, W. H. Platt, F. Volbracht, and Lawrence Fahrig.

All the witnesses examined testified merely to the explosion and not of the collision, and the verdict was rendered in accordance with these facts. The coroner held inquests over a number of the victims in Upper Alton, Alton Junction and Alton, with the verdict in substance the same as the above, and different jurors.

The fatalities of burned victims of the Wann horror are gradually increasing the already large list of dead. Three more victims are added to the number since yesterday. They are, Henry Wiegand of Alton Junction, and W. B. Richardson of Alton. Henry Wiegand is 28 years of age. He leaves a wife to mourn his death. He was highly respected by all who knew him. W. B. Richardson died at the hospital this morning at 6:30 a.m. He was 26 years of age on the 23rd of September last.

Four others at St. Joseph's Hospital are very low. They are:
Otto Hagaman, aged 14; Alton.
Joseph Hermann Jr., aged 12; Alton.
David Richardson, Alton; brother of W. B. Richardson.
Frank Bartel of Stamford, Can., a glassblower.

Many people have a vague idea regarding what caused the victims' burns in Saturday's explosion, and cannot understand how the fire covered such a space. As soon as the tank exploded, the ignited oil was blown to a great height and then descended as a rain of fire within a radius of two hundred yards of where the tanks had stood. Wherever a drop touched a person, it burned deep and all the efforts of the victim to smother it were fruitless. This accounts for the fatality of the burns. In some cases, it descended in bucketsful and the victim was burned to a crisp from head to foot.

A gentleman in Alton who was a witness of the explosion, and who was just out of harm's way, relates the following: "As soon as the explosion occurred, everyone seemed paralyzed. A seething rain of fire descended on those that were watching the fire from the little grove on the bank, this side of the conflagration. Immediately men and boys, blazing from head to foot, started to run through the grove. Many dropped before they had gone any distance, and others stopped, frantically trying to remove a coat, vest or shirt. Some were in such agony that they removed every vestige of clothing and ran pell mell to the station. It was an awful sight."

Another gentleman who is among the list of slightly injured was standing at the corner grocery near the grove. He witnessed the fearful sight mentioned above and says: "Just after the stunning report of the explosion, a man rushed toward where several others and myself were standing. He shouted, ‘For God's sake, men, cut these boots off of me.’ Knives promptly cut the leather from the top to toe. The oil had filled both boots and burned his legs to a crisp. When his boots were taken off, the clothing and flesh came with them. He was in awful agony." The man was fatally burned.

One man, while lying in the depot burned so that it was impossible for him to recover, told the physician who came to attend him to relieve those little boys first, he would wait."

The worst afflicted family is that of William Miller, a farmer living near Alton Junction. Mr. Miller and his four sons went to the scene of the wreck early in the day. At the time of the explosion all were near and consequently all received injuries. The father, William Miller, aged 58 years, and his eldest son, Edward Miller, a student at Shurtleff College, aged 25 years, received injuries from which they died. Frank Miller received severe injuries which may prove fatal. Julius Miller was badly burned about the face, head and hands. William Miller Jr. also received injuries, which however, were slight. A double funeral took place from their home yesterday.

After the wreck was partially removed, curious relic-seekers searched among the charred ruins of the cafe car for valuables. The porter on the car was looser to the amount of over a hundred dollars, his earnings for several months and most of which he had in silver. Melted silver was found, some pieces but little injured. A number of watches were found at the scene of the wreck that had fallen from burning vests hurriedly removed by the victims.

Mr. William Henry of Alton Junction, is deserving of much praise for his magnanimous treatment of the sufferers at Alton Junction. His doors were thrown wide open and the victims brought inside by scores to have their injuries whether serious or slight, attended. Everything necessary was dealt out without a thought of pay for it. Comforts were provided, sheets torn up for bandages, and in many other ways did he give his assistance. At least $100 worth of goods were used up and Mr. Henry received no pay for it at the time, at least. These facts were obtained from an eye witness.

A. L. Gratton, the switchman, who was responsible for the open switch which caused the wreck of the limited Big Four train, has not fled the consequences, as has been stated. Gratton was among the number who received burns. He is now at Alton Junction nursing a severely burned head.

Alton Telegraph, January 26, 1893
Never in the history of Alton, Upper Alton, Alton Junction and vicinity, possibly never in the history of any community in the Mississippi Valley, has such terrible suffering and death entered so many homes at one time. The disaster at Alton Junction on Saturday last is overwhelming. Not far from one hundred people were the victims of the cloud of burning oil sent forth by the explosion. Already twenty lives have gone out, and there is little hope for another large number, who are burned and charred almost beyond recognition. One whole family, named Miller, at the Junction, were stricken, two of whom have died. Other homes are waiting to hear the dread news that loved ones have passed away, and still others are bending over sufferers with but little hope that the heroic fortitude manifested by the stricken will be crowned by a restoration to health. Not a small part of the sorrow is over the large number of children who went down in the fiery flame of oil. Little boys, only 12 years of age, were there, and they have been borne home to grief-stricken parents as charred corpses, or as blackened and terrible sufferers. To say that there is an intense feeling of sympathy with the afflicted families puts the case but mildly. The Altons and vicinity have felt the heavy hand of affliction before, but they are now bowed down with the grief of this great calamity.

Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893
All the burned patients at the hospital had a good night's rest last night. This was occasioned by the dressing of their wounds, most of the patients going to sleep very soon thereafter. All the physicians who were present have done splendid service, not sparing themselves in order that the poor victims may have constant care. Dr. Haskell is in general charge, with the following gentlemen on watch: Dr. Fisher, from 6 to 12 a.m.; Dr. Fiegenbaum, 12 to 6 p.m.; Dr. Halliburton, 6 to 12 at night; Dr. Taphorn, from 12 to 6 in the morning. Other physicians render all the assistance they can. Mr. Eben Caldwell is reported as getting along nicely, obtaining considerable rest. Mr. Charles Harris, while still suffering intensely, is doing as well as could be expected. Nothing more serious than a period of severe suffering will result in either case.

Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893
Dr. Yerkes was at Alton Junction Saturday attending a patient when the oil explosion occurred. In going to the scene of the disaster the Doctor was running. He came in contact with someone else who was also running, and the Doctor fell, his hat dropping off. He got up, replaced his hat and went to work alleviating the suffering of the victims of the explosion. He accompanied the patients to the hospital, dressing the injuries of as many as possible. After the rush was over, Dr. Yerkes turned to another physician who was present and said: "Doctor, I wish you would look at my head; it is burning as if it was going to explode." The other Doctor made an examination and pronounced the cause of the trouble an oil burn. Dr. Yerkes, when knocked down by the collision with the man at the Junction, fell flat on his face, and some of the rain of burning oil fell on the Doctor's bald spot, but so eager was he to help others he did not notice his own suffering until he had attended the suffering of others.

Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893
To get at the truth of the rumors regarding Gratton, and whether or not he had been barbering during the time he was employed as switchman at Wann, a Telegraph representative went there this morning and interviewed a number of citizens. A visited was paid to Gratton's shop. It is an unpretentious little frame addition to the rear of Jacob Baum's saloon, which is at the "forks on the roads" in Alton Junction. There is nothing in the shop but a barber chair and one small looking glass. Jacob Baum, proprietor of the saloon, stated that he owned the barber shop, and the chair and glass. Gratton came to him about a month ago and said he had a job at switching. Baum asked him the first Sunday he worked if he intended to quit the barber business and Gratton replied in the affirmative, whereupon Baum told him to pack up his things and get out of the shop as he wanted a tenant who would be at work, for there was a crowd to get shaved. This Gratton did and his career as a barber ceased. "I remember," said Baum, "of his having shaved one man, but it was for accommodation only." H. Gormley was in Baum's saloon during the interview and came forward with the statement that he was the man Gratton shaved a week ago Saturday night. He says Gratton shaved him on account of friendship and no money was paid. George Steinbach, the bartender at Baum's, stated that he had his hair cut by Gratton one night after working hours, for which he paid him the usual price. George Argus stated that he wanted to get shaved one night, but Gratton would not shave him. Mr. Baum stated also that Gratton had cut Thomas Russell's hair, but that too was out of accommodation and was after working hours. J. W. Cassella stated that he had not seen the shop open during the time. He had asked several friends if Gratton's shop was open but was always told "No." William Henry and George Henry say they have not seen Gratton around the shop since he went to work on the railroad. Thus, it would appear that Gratton did quit barbering, but that when away from the railroad, he cut two men's hair and shaved one, for which he received pay but from one. It can hardly be charged that he neglected his work for barbering, but nearly everybody about Wann is agreed that Gratton is a very forgetful man to say the least.

Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893
The funeral of Matthias Manze [Manns] took place this morning at the City Cemetery. The funeral services of John Wilkinson occurred this afternoon at 2 o'clock from the Cathedral Burial in the City Cemetery. The funeral of William Richardson, one of the oil explosion victims, who died in the hospital this morning, will take place from the family residence 1318 East Second street, tomorrow at 2 p.m. Interment at City Cemetery. Mr. Richardson was 26 years of age, September 23d last. The funeral services of Henry Wiegand, another of the victims of the explosion, will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the unfinished meeting house of the Baptist church at Wann. Mr. Wiegand was a deacon of this church and treasurer of building committee. The burial will be in Upper Alton at 3 p.m., and the funeral will be in charge of Madison 110 A.O.U.W. of Upper Alton. Members of neighboring lodges are invited to attend. The funeral of Webb Ross, the veteran engineer who was burned to death in the wreck of the Big Four limited at Alton Junction Saturday morning, took place in Mattoon, Illinois yesterday from the Methodist church. Mr. Ross was 62 years old, second oldest engineer on the Big Four road and an active member of the Methodist church. Nothing but words of praise can be said of him by all who knew him. Hale and hearty he was one of the most trusted engineers of the road. The church was crowded with friends from far and near and the occasion was a sad one. Members of the Brotherhood of Engineers acted as pallbearers among, then, being Patrick Vaughn, the oldest engineer on the road. The people turned out in one accord and fairly enveloped the casket of their fellow citizen with flowers. An enormous funeral procession followed the remains to the cemetery. Among the number was Mr. George W. Cutter of this city [Alton], one of the oldest engineers on the C. & A. [Railroad].

Alton Daily Telegraph, Friday, January 27, 1893
Still the sad news continues to come, and since last evening two more souls have winged their flight into eternity. Joseph Hermann Jr. died this morning at an early hour, and Otto Hagerman breathed his last at 12:30 o'clock, noon. The boys were yesterday changed from the ward in which they had been with other patients, and were placed in a ward by themselves, in order that their terrible sufferings might not interfere with the comfort of other patients. But the little fellows had not long to wait, after the change, for the grim messenger, and young Hagerman was only six hours behind his little friend in passing over the dark river. The boys were aged respectively 12 and 14 years. The funeral of Joseph Hermann Jr. will take place Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock from the residence of his parents on Piasa street. The arrangements and notice of the funeral of Otto Hagerman, the other victim, will be given tomorrow. The other sufferers are resting as well as can be expected, and are being kindly and carefully attended by the physicians and nurses. Coroner Kinder held an inquest this afternoon at St. Joseph's Hospital over the remains of Joseph Hermann Jr., and Otto Hagerman, who died there today.

Alton Daily Telegraph, Friday, January 27, 1893
Dr. T. P. Yerkes of Upper Alton reports that a man by the name of Green, of American Bottoms, was badly burned in the terrible holocaust of last Saturday. Mr. Green is quite badly burned about the hands, face and ears. Dr. Yerkes has attended fifteen different persons who have not been in the hospital. It is reported that a man who lives in Fosterburg, and was burned at Wann last Saturday, died today. There were only two men burned who lived in Fosterburg. One was Mr. T. C. Dillon, not seriously, and John Burke, very severely.

Alton Telegraph, Thursday, January 26, 1893
The condition of the victims of the oil explosion has not changed materially since yesterday. No deaths have been reported since yesterday morning, although a number at St. Joseph's Hospital, two at Alton Junction and one at Upper Alton are in a very serious condition. Mortification is setting in, in several of the worst cases, and their lives are despaired of. A number inhaled the fire and have their lungs affected. In the worst cases the victims do not seem to suffer nearly as intense pain as those injuries are not severe. This is caused by the deadened condition of the nervous system in those whose burns are dangerous. Seventeen patients are now at the hospital. The attending physicians have a watch of six hours each. Drs. Fisher and Fiegenbaum have day watches and Haskell and Guelich night watches. The bandages had to be removed today from the victims at St. Joseph's hospital for the first time since they were placed there on Saturday last. The extent of their injuries will be more fully understood by the physicians when their wounds are dressed. The entire force of physicians have been at work. A number of the patients are much improved and others did not stand the ordeal well.

The Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, February 1, 1893
Alton, Ills., January 31. -- The death Monday of Bernard Nienhaus at Alton Junction makes the death list from the Alton Junction oil explosion up to twenty-nine. The reports of the various physicians show that most of the injured ones are in a terrible condition. Charles Herriman, a little boy, is perhaps the worst of any. It is reported that the flesh is dropping from his body in certain places. The little fellow is bearing his misfortunes manfully, but there is but one chance in a thousand of his recovery. Thomas Philbrook will hardly survive. John Henry Jr., is in terrible plight, and his death is expected. All the men in the hospital are in a critical condition, and but few of them can survive. Before the death-roll is closed, the first estimate of thirty-five will undoubtedly be passed.

Alton Evening Telegraph, Saturday, February 4, 1893
Henry Pilgrim, another of the victims of the Wann disaster, died this afternoon at 2:15 o'clock, at the hospital. Mr. Pilgrim suffered intensely most of the time, and death came as a relief to the poor maimed and scarred body. The funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock from the family residence, 814 East Third Street.

Alton Telegraph, March 2, 1893
Some of the Big Four employees who were injured by the explosion have settled with the company and claim that the latter acted very handsomely with them. Some of those who suffered because of the explosion intend bringing suit against the company owning the oil as well as the railroad company. A gentleman tells me that there was a rousing meeting held at the Opera House in Jacksonville last Sunday at which considerable money was subscribed for the benefit of the widows and orphans caused by the Wann explosion. Committees were appointed for further solicitations, and he said the prospect was bright for the securing of a large sum from the philanthropic citizens of Jacksonville, alone. It is certain that aid is needed and will be appreciated by those left behind by the wreck.

Alton Telegraph, November 23, 1893
The following dispatch from East St. Louis explains itself: A suit for $25,000 damages for personal injuries was commenced in the City Court yesterday by John P. Mullane against the Big Four Railway. Mullane was a very badly used up man, and besides being permanently injured in both legs and arms, he has lost his hearing and the sight of one eye. His face is a mass of scars, and on account of an injury to his jaw he eats with much difficulty. Mullane was one of the victims of the fearful Wann wreck. When the oil tanks exploded, he was enveloped in the flames of burning oil. His body was found by friends that night about a mile from Wann, and he was taken to a hospital for treatment, and knew nothing of the occurrence for several months, as he lingered between life and death. The plea of the company will no doubt be as in other cases, that all who stood and watched the wreck and were then burned by the explosion were trespassing on the company's grounds. The plaintiff relies upon the fact that the wagon road and path along the tracks have been used for the past thirty years as a public highway, and although the company owned the land, it acquiesced in such public use.


Burke, John, of Fosterburg. Found the next day.
Cornelius, Hiram A., of Wellman, Iowa. Killed instantly. Student at Shurtleff College.
Edwards, William, of Alton Junction. Died at Alton Junction.
Hagermann, Otto, of Alton. Died January 27; age 14; buried at Alton.
Haller, Charles or George, of Edwardsville Rd. near Wanda; died at home.
Harris, Daniel, of Alton Junction.
Herrman, Joseph Jr., of Alton. Died January 27; age 12; buried at Alton.
Houlihan, Tomothy or Thomas, of East St. Louis. Died at home; sectionman on RR
Jennings, Henry, of Alton Junction. Died at Wann.
Locke, John. Died at hospital;. Glassblower in Alton.
Mange, William, of Alton. Found dead ½ mile from Wann.
Manns, Mathias or Matthew, of Upper Alton. Found dead.
Maupin, Charles, of St. Charles, Missouri. Died at hospital.
McCarthy, William or Willie, of Alton. Died at hospital; age 13.
McIntosh, Louis, of Alton Junction. Died at home.
Miller, Edward, of Alton Junction. Died at home.
Miller, William, of Alton Junction. Died at home. Father of Edward.
Morris, Miss, enroute from St. Louis. Found burned in café car.
Murray, James N., of Upper Alton. Died at hospital.
Nieuhaus, Bernard or Barney, of Alton Junction.
Penning, Henry, of American Bottoms.
Philbrook, Thomas, of North Alton.
Pilgrim, Henry, of Alton. Died February 4.
Pinney, Henry, of Alton Junction.
Richardson, William B., of Alton. Died at hospital. 26 yrs old.
Roloff, George, of Upper Alton. Buried at Upper Alton; father (John) died soon after due to grief.
Ross, Webb (Engineer), of Mattoon. Burned in first explosion.
Rucker, George, of Alton Junction. Buried at Alton Junction.
Shattock/Shattuck, William, of Upper Alton. Died at hospital.
Utt, Charles, of Alton. Killed instantly. 8 yrs old.
Wiegand, Henry, of Alton Junction. 35 yrs old. Buried at Upper Alton.
Wiggins, Henry, of Alton Junction. Died at home.
Wilkinson, John, of Alton. Died at hospital. 12 yrs old son of James E.; buried in Greenwood Cem.


Bartel/Barton, Frank, of Stanford, Canada; glassblower.
Barr, John, of Alton Junction. Badly burned.
Berg, John, of Alton. Slightly burned.
Caldwell, Evan M., of Alton. Seriously burned about face, neck and hands.
Chessen, James, of Alton. Slightly burned.
Crowe, Charles. Slight injuries.
Deneaue/Deneane, Louis, of Montreal, Canada. Glassblower.
Dillon, T. C., of Fosterburg. Not serious.
Drucker, George, of the American Bottoms. Hands and face burned.
Estke, Herman, of Alton. Will likely die.
Faeger, William, of Upper Alton. Dangerous condition.
Fietz/Fretz, John, of Edwardsville Crossing. Fatally injured.
Findley, John, of Alton.
Findley, Patrick, of Alton. Glassblower, serious condition.
Fitzpatrick, John, of East St. Louis. Injuries slight.
Frazier, A. P. or E. Tramp, fatally injured.
Freemann, W. F., of alton. Badly burned.
Fretz, Andrew, of Edwardsville Crossing. Slightly burned.
Glassner, John, of Alton. Boy, badly burned.
Gratton, A. L., of Alton Junction. Switchman responsible for open switch; severely burned head.
Green, Unknown, of the American Bottoms. Burned about the hands, face, and ears.
Hamilton, Charles, of Alton Junction.
Hammond, Charles, of the American Bottoms. Injuries slight.
Harris, Charles, of Alton Junction. Injured very seriously.
Harris, Dalton, of Alton Junction.
Harris, Joseph Jr., of Alton Junction.
Harrison, W. Charles, of Alton. Badly burned, but not serious.
Henry, John Jr., of Alton Junction. Intestines slightly burned, can’t walk.
Hermann, Charles Jr., of Alton Junction. Fatally injured.
Herriman, Charles. Young boy.
James, Frank, of Alton Junction. Seriously burned.
Job, Zephaniah B., of Alton.
Joeger, William, of Upper Alton. Dangerous condition.
Luttrell, John, of Alton. Railroad man, fatally injured.
McIntosh, William, of Alton Junction. Brother of Louis, badly burned.
McMillan, A., of East St. Louis. Badly burned.
McPike, John H., of Alton. Hand burned.
Menhaus, B., of Alton.
Miller, Frank of Alton Junction. Face and hands burned.
Miller, Julius, of Alton Junction. Face and hands badly burned.
Monaghan, John. Part of wrecking crew, slight injuries.
Montgomery, J. W., of Atlanta, Illinois. Student at Shurtleff College, badly burned.
Mullane, John P., of Alton Junction. Seriously burned, lost hearing and sight in one eye.
Nuske, Herman, of Alton.
O’Mara, Pat, of Alton. Railroad laborer, hands burned.
Philbrick/Philbrook, John, of Alton Junction. Both eyes burned out, will die.
Philbrook, Thomas, of Alton Junction. Brother of Mrs. E. S. Pullen.
Philfert, John.
Richardson, David, of Alton. Fatally injured.
Richardson, Ephraim, of Alton.
Richardson, William B., of Alton. Brother of David, fatally injured.
Schaeffer, William, of Upper Alton. Seriously burned.
Scullen, Frank, of Alton. Face and hands horribly disfigured. Committed suicide on Feb. 28, 1910.
Seister, John, of Alton.
Staples, George, of Evanston, Indiana. Young boy, frightfully burned.
Staples, Henry, of Uniontown, Kentucky.
Steele or Stetle, John, of Alton Junction. Head burned.
Still, Frank, of Alton. Badly burned.
Sullivan, Timothy, of East St. Louis. Fatally burned.
Valentine, Hamilton, of the American Bottoms. May recover, but critical.
Webster, James, of Alton. Struck in head with piece of iron, badly burned.
Weigand, Henry, of Alton Junction. Fatally injured. Died later. Injured when helping others. Memorial bell has his name on it.
Willen, Mrs. A. L. & child, of Kansas City.
Williams, Thomas, of Upper Alton. Dangerously burned.
Valentine or Ballentyne, William, of Alton Junction. Badly burned.
Ziegler, John, of Alton.



Alton Telegraph, February 2, 1893
A telegram from Springfield announces that the House committee appointed to investigate the Wann casualty met yesterday morning to decide upon the method of making the investigation. The resolution under which the committee was appointed provides that no expense shall be incurred other than that approved by the Speaker, and Mr. Crafts' advice regarding the method of procedure was asked. The Speaker rather discouraged the investigation, saying that he understood it to be the duty of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission to make the investigation. The members of the committee, however, seemed to think that, having been instructed by the House to make the investigation, they could exercise no discretion in the matter and would have to investigate. Doorkeeper Browne reported that he had been furnished a list of witnesses who were to testify against the railroad company. The majority of them are railroad men from Alton, and they are expected to testify that it is the practice of the "Big Four" to employ incompetent men. Six of them, it is said, will swear that they left the employ of the company because of the incompetency of their co-employees, and one witness announces that he will testify that the "Big Four" will not keep a good workman. The labor unions are taking an active interest in the proposed investigation, and the committee has received word from some of them suggesting the names of witnesses whom they desire to have examined. Owing to the committee meeting in Chicago, and the party question which will come under consideration in the House, the committee will not be able to begin the inquiry for two or three weeks.

The Coroner's Juries
In the first of the inquests held over the victims of the oil explosion at Wann, the juries did not attach blame to the railroad officials. The last three or four juries, however, have rendered verdicts laying the blame for the disaster at the door of the company. The principle of the juries' reasoning is about this: An incompetent, or negligent, employee of the Big Four road failed to close the switch at Wann; this failure resulted in permitting a passenger train to collide with an oil train; thus wrecking of both trains causing the death of the engineer; the collision set fire to the oil in the tanks; this fire, later on, caused an explosion which brought about the death of the persons over whom the inquests were held, therefore the railroad company is responsible.

Just how far the juries are legally correct in their reasoning is not for the Telegraph to say. Just how much weight may be given to the verdicts is also a matter that each one will decide for himself. There is not doubt but that the officials of the Big Four road fear serious litigation in the matter, and the fact that their attorneys are looking closely into the matter is evidence that it will contest the legality of any claim for damages because of the oil explosion. The general understanding of the position of the road is that the burned people were at the scene of the disaster merely as spectators; and that when they remained there they took the risk of danger upon themselves. On the other hand, those who hold to the theory that the road is responsible, claim that it is a law of human nature to be interested in such matters; that is only reasonable to expect that people in the vicinity of a wreck would go to the scenes; and that because the officials, knowing the inflammable character of the material in the tanks, did not warn the spectators, the company therefore is responsible for the suffering and loss of life. It is contended further on this line, that as the employees of the company were permitted to work in an attempt to clear the wreck, spectators were led to believe there was no danger. On the other hand, the company will be sustained by a number of witnesses who will swear that they believed the burning oil to be dangerous and left the scene of disaster simply because they feared to remain; and that all others should have exercised similar precaution.

Alton Weekly Telegraph, Thursday, February 9, 1893
The House committee consisting of Messrs. Fowler, Chairman; Snyder, McMillan, Baldwin, Fletcher, Coughlin, and Snedeker, who are to make a thorough investigation of the disaster at Wann and report, arrived in the city Monday morning. After dinner they went by special train to Wann where they looked over the scene of the wreck. The committee took measurements of the ground the distance between switches, and much data that will be useful to them in making up a report.

The Committee in Session at Hotel Madison
Chairman Robert Fowler and Messrs. J. T. McMillan, O. A. Snedeker, L. S. Baldwin, J. P. Fletcher, G. S. Coughlin and W. H. Snyder Jr., the House committee, and E. S. Browne, the Doorkeeper of the House, were busily engaged Tuesday in taking testimony in the Wann investigation. Mr. Browne was engaged Monday in subpoenaing witnesses, and some forty-five or fifty have been summoned. Constable Sam Hayes has been assisting him in this duty.

Besides the committee, J. S. Dye, of Cincinnati, C. R. Meyer of Indianapolis, and G. F. McNulty of Alton, attorneys for the road, were present at the examination of witnesses. The gentlemen took copious notes of testimony. The following is the testimony:

A. D. White was the first witness examined. Mr. White testified that he was fireman on train No. 18, which was bound for Mattoon, on the day of the explosion at Wann. That he was coming in from St. Louis and that he was on the engine that collided with oil tanks at Wann. We were nearly three hundred feet away from the switch before I noticed that the switch was open. I got off while engineer Ross put on the brakes. We were going about thirty-five miles an hour. I have not made statements that we were going forty miles per hour. There were about fifteen oil tanks on the track. I do not know what kind of oil was in the tanks. I heard Yardmaster Miller say to bystanders in my presence the kind of oil that was in the tanks. The engine was badly burned and the cafe car. I judge that the train was going about fifteen miles per hour when it struck the car. I stayed in the vicinity until they found Engineer Ross' body, then I went to the depot about a quarter of a mile away. The track is nearly straight for about a quarter to a half mile before the switch is reached. The cause of the wreck was the leaving open of a switch on main track and also on side track No. 2. Ross' body was burned beyond recognition. The wood work on some of the cars that had oil on was burning when I left there. There was danger of the oil exploding. I went away with the body of Engineer Ross. The round house foreman, Mr. Barnes, of East St. Louis, said that the oil was evidently lubricating oil and was dangerous and that we had better not go back there. I do not know of anyway that the explosion could have been prevented. The switchmen from Alton went there and pulled away what cars they could with safety. We were about fifteen minutes late. It was nearly three hours after we arrived when the explosion occurred. When I left there were about one hundred people there. Mr. Miller said he had charge of the Alton yard and the Wann yard. I do not know who had charge of the switch. The switch engine pulled out the oil tanks first and then the box cars. The counsel for the Big Four asked the witness if he could locate the place his engine was when he first noticed the switch was open. Witness pointed out location on profile. Ross must have seen it when about one thousand feet away. I can not state how far it would take to stop a train with all the appliances for stopping in use. I think that a train could be stopped in one thousand feet. Counselor J. F. Dye asked if he could ask witness some questions in regard to the Big Four discriminating against organized labor. Which were asked. Mr. Fowler here stated that questions of that kind would not be permissible and until they should go into that matter, no questions would be allowed by the company's attorneys.

Robert Curdie being sworn said that his residence was Alton, that he was acquainted with the yard at Wann. He described the yard as he was acquainted with it. I think that the explosion occurred about twenty minutes before twelve. There were about seven tanks there when I arrived. Four or five tanks were burned out when I got there. There were about 300 people there when I got there. The majority of the people were on the bank on the west side of the track. I went to the cafe car to see the corpse that was reported as being there. There was no especial warning of any danger from the burning tanks. I was there about thirty minutes. I do not know the character of the oil that exploded.

Dr. T. P. Yerkes, after being sworn, was examined. I have met a number of the burned victims. I was at Wann when the explosion occurred. I think the oil was coal oil. I think there were about sixty people burned either slightly or fatally. I think the flames reached about fifty or sixty feet in the air. There were two small houses burned on the west side of the track. I heard no warning given.

Joseph Dailey testified that he was a railroad man; that he had been a brakeman, yardman and conductor; that he had served four years as a yardmaster at different points. I am acquainted with the yard at Wann. The yard requires an experienced man. I don't think a man could work two places and give satisfaction in both, and don't think a man should be yardmaster at two places like Wann and Alton at the same time. It would not be safe to put a man in charge of a yard who had only been in it four or five weeks. Witness knew nothing about Gatton. Knew Ray. Never knew of his ever railroading before going on the Big Four. Do not think Ray was a competent yardman. The Big Four made a good many changes while I was at Wann. I employed a number and they were nearly all green men. The labor organizations generally regard these men as incompetent men. Mr. Neinhaus, Mr. Toohey and Mr. Luedeker were among the green men employed there. They are men who have been started there as green men, and numerous others that I cannot name. The yard at Wann requires an experienced man. The yardmaster who has been there has always shown a preference for inexperienced men. The wages paid these green men was not what it ought to have been. We asked for more money and they would not give it. Men have received orders to take out trains when they did not know what their rights were after the orders had been received. I got $65 per month for my work on the Big Four and I now get $85 on the Bluff Line. Committee adjourned to 1 o'clock.

At one o'clock the committee was called to order and Mr. James Derwin was the first witness. He stated that he has been in railway employ since 1879. Last employed by the Chicago & Alton R. R. Acquainted with Wann yard. I would not say that the yard was hazardous nor would I say that it was safe. It would take a skilled man to take care of the yard. It would be risky for one man to be yardmaster at both Alton and Wann, unless he had men working for him that he could trust. I think no train should go into a yard at a rate of 30 or 35 miles an hour. If a train was under control when an engineer was coming into a yard it would not be so dangerous. When a train is under control it should be running from ten to twelve miles per hour. I worked for the Big Four about four years ago. This yard requires skilled men. A raw man only working a month would not be competent to take charge of switches. A man should work six months anyhow to be competent to take charge of switches. The Big Four are in the habit of employing green men in preference to skilled men. The company could not make as many changes as it has been doing and get competent men. They have been in the habit of employing men who do not belong to union labor organizations. A man must be engaged in one place before he can join union labor organizations. I mean by this the brakeman and switchman's organization. One of the objects of these organizations is to get competent men. In reply to a question from Counselor J. F. Dye, witness said. Mr. Spellman had charge of the Alton yards under Mr. Miller's instructions. He is a Union man. I left the C. & A. about two months ago. I have been brakeman, conductor and switchman since 1879. Witness stated that he spoke from what he had seen and heard. Mr. Dye attempted to find out where the witness got his information from. Ruled out. From Chairman Fowler: "Do you know of the Big Four employing green men from the start?" "Yes." "Do you know this of your own personal knowledge?" "Yes." "Do you know of any other men who have been employed by the Big Four other than Mr. Neinhaus and Mr. Toohey?" "Yes sir. Mr. Jim Kirwin who is now working for them." From Mr. Dyer: "Is Mr. Kirwin competent to work under a foreman?" "Yes sir." From Mr. Fowler: "What wages were they paying?" "About $55 when I was working for them." "Is that sufficient?" "No sir." From Mr. Caughlin: "Is the company in the habit of changing men oftener than other roads?" "Yes sir." In answer to a question from Mr. Dye, the witness said that he did not know what wages were now paid on the Big Four, but was talking about wages of men when he was employed by them some three years ago.

H. Nienhaus testified that the Big Four had employed incompetent men. Ray and Bennett being among the number. John Ray was incompetent because he had never been in the employ of a railroad company until he was employed at Wann. I do not know Gatton. I do not know whether he was working at Wann at the time of the wreck or not. It seems that the Big Four has been employing incompetent men. Ludeker had worked in a grocery store. O'Haver and Ferris were also employed; none of these were competent men. The road has been in the habit of making frequent changes. They hire both union and non-union; the union organizations try to get competent men into its organizations. A train should only run from 12 to 15 miles per hour. It would be dangerous to come in there at a rate of 30 or 35 per hour. An engineer could have stopped if he had been going at a rate of 12 or 15 miles per hour. I was night yardmaster when I worked for the company, I got $80 per month. I never had any experience before I went to work for the Big Four. I worked about 7 months before I took charge of the yard. I worked in a planing mill before I went to railroading. I was given charge of the yard before I was competent. In reply to questions from Counselor J. F. Dye: I gave signals the first day I was there and was not competent. I was there six or seven months before I was given charge of the yard. I coupled cars in the interval.

E. J. Tierney stated that he had worked for the Big Four one year and eight months. Had been a brakeman for ten years. It takes a man who has worked at the business about a week to learn a new yard. It depends upon the kind of men employed whether they can become competent in six months if they were green when they began. I do not know Ray, and am not sure whether I know Gatton or not. While I worked there, I worked with a good many green men. I worked with men there who didn't know a link from a pin. I can't give many names; Ludeker was one and "Farmer John," another. They were given positions handling switches. A green man is likely to get "rattled" and make a mistake. The Wann yard requires one man to exclusively attend to that yard. A man cannot do two men's work at different places and do it well. I quit because I had two men's work to do and was not getting but $55 per month to do it. A good switchman ought to get $2.70 per day, that is what I think the schedule is. Mr. Baldwan asked if competent men could always be secured and witness testified that they could if wages sufficient were paid.

The Big Four have their General Counselor and his assistants, C. R. Myers of Cincinnati and G. F. McNully. Beside these are General Manager Joseph Ramsey of Cincinnati and Superintendent A. G. Wells, of Indianapolis, who are carefully looking after their own interests. Occasionally a little parliamentary fight occurs between Attorney Dye and Chairman Fowler, the latter, however, always insists on doing the work exactly as he pleases and accepting or refusing any evidence that he or the committee do not want. Mr. Dye at the same time entering his protests.

Daniel Tochey said that he began railroading about twenty months ago on the Big Four at Wann. I knew Gatton. Last December he was a barber. I do not know of him ever being a railroad man prior to his work for the Big Four. It would not have been safe for him to have been left in charge of that yard in so short a time as he was there. It would take an experienced man from six weeks to two months to be competent to take charge of a yard. It would take a green man six months. The Big Four have been accustomed to employing green men. In reply to questions from General Counselor Dye, witness stated that he did not know whether Gatton had been in railway employ before going on the Big Four or not. I am a union man. Did not quit in December 2, quit in August, was taken sick.

James H. Maupin, Jr., testified that he was a real estate man and that he was at Wann the day of the wreck. Got there about 11 o'clock. Six or seven of the oil tanks were on fire when I got there. I thought that the oil burned like gasoline. I do not think coal oil would generate gas like this did when burning. I did not leave there thinking that there was any danger.

James Webster, of Alton, testified that he was present at the time of the explosion, but heard no warning given to bystanders.

Zephaniah B. Job Sr., of Alton, thought that the blaze only extended up something like ten feet. He heard no warning given to bystanders.

Silas Cooper, of Alton Junction, was examined and testified that he knew Gatton. He regarded him as cranky. Said that he had kept a barber shop previous to working on the "Big Four." He boarded with the witness at one time. He heard no warning given. It is possible that had warning been given the people may have left. There ought to have been a warning given.

Lyman Price, a farmer, was not at the explosion. I was acquainted with Gatton. Have known him for some time. I understand that he has made Wann his home off and on for about two years. He was not a very good barber. He run the barber shop about four weeks. He did not keep the shop open as far as I know after going to work for the railroad company. I saw him beastly drunk one time. I know Ray; "was born and raised with him." He had not been in the railroad business prior to going on the Big Four.

John Ray being called stated that he was a switchman since the first of January. I have been switching cars and riding them in the yard and coupling cars. I did not attend switches; only when called upon by the yardmaster to do so. Previous to my railroad work I worked in a saloon and in a grocery store. We haven't had a regular crew. Lyons was the oldest man and was a kind of foreman. Lyons was generally there but was not there on the morning of the wreck. Gatton and I were the only ones there on the day of the wreck; Lyons was at the other end of the yard. Lyons, Gatton and Miller had keys to the switch. Mr. Gatton opened the switch to put an oil car on the side track. Gatton did not take charge of work unless ordered to by the foreman. I don't think he was working under any orders when the wreck occurred.

James Chessen, a farmer, was introduced. Witness was at Wann about half past ten o'clock on the morning of the wreck. He said that some said the burning tanks were dangerous. The night yardmaster said that there was danger of the oil exploding. I was south on the main track when the explosion took place. I was near the engine. There were about three hundred people there when the explosion occurred. I should think there were fifty people hurt.

A. Barr, a section hand, was examined and said that he was at Wann frequently. I see oil cars there nearly every day on tracks No 2, and also on No. 4. There were about seventy-five people [unreadable]. I Understand there were seventy people hurt. The oil must have gone over me for I fell. I did not hear any railroad man say that it was gasoline. I think one oil tank exploded. I counted seven tanks that had exploded the next morning. I don't know how many cars were on the track that day.

Thomas Lyon was the next witness who stated that he was employed in 1892 by the Big Four. Gatton and I went to work the same day. Ray went to work after I did. Mr. Gatton had the key to the switch, but did not have key to No. 2 switch, as it has no lock, it is a branch off from another side track. When questioned by Mr. Dye, witness stated that he had been railroading since 1873.

Thomas O. Page had been in the employ of the Big Four but was discharged on account of poor hearing. Thought switch No. 2, at Wann safe. Said that the oil cars were generally moved away by the first train. Mr. Page very clearly showed by his evidence that a main line switch was the dangerous switch. Some of the committee contended that switch No. 2 (a side track) was the most dangerous, but Mr. Page forcibly stated that if the main line switch was closed it would be impossible for a train on that track to collide with a train on the siding. His evidence gave the officers of the road great pleasure.

A. D. White, the fireman, was recalled and said that he regarded a train under control when running at the rate of 8 or 10 miles per hour. Had been on this run about a month. We were in the habit of slowing up when going through Wann. Don't know why we were going 30 or 35 miles per hour on morning of the wreck. We did not stop at Wann except to get passengers when train was flagged. I would judge that we generally went through there about 12 or 15 miles per hour. I don't think we intended to stop that morning, we were a little late.

Adjourned to Wednesday morning.

Wednesday Morning, Session opened at 9 o'clock:
William Bennett, a switchman at Wann. Knew Gatton. Takes a man that knows his business to switch in the Wann yard. Gatton run barber shop before going to work on the Big Four.

Engineer Edward Stack has been working at Wann since 1891. Said Norris was his fireman and that he had been railroading about three months. Gatton and Ray went with us to the sidetrack to get coal, but did not help coal the engine. Gatton had worked two weeks with me. I worked every other week in day time. I never knew him until I saw him working there. I was there on the morning of the wreck. I don't know how it happened. Gatton threw the switches and I went onto track No. 5. I don't know whether Gatton set switch or not. (Here witness could not remember his fireman's name.) Fireman has been with me three months. I saw Gatton shut No. 5 switch, don't know whether he locked it or not. Gatton did not shut No. 2 switch.

William F. Freeman of Alton said that he was at Wann on the day of the explosion. I expected two men on train, that is why I went down. He told the scene at the Junction substantially as far as has been told. He heard no warning given. Knows that Frank Scullin was working on the track. I was carried by the explosion about 60 feet. I was not badly hurt, but saw something like a ball of fire. It was a man, he shouted "kill me, kill me, kill me." I shouted to him. I then grabbed him and tore his clothes off. While I was doing this he said, "Oh why did they put me here to be burned up." Scullin is a construction or section hand. I think it was coal oil; if it had been gasoline it would have burned with a flash.

Attorney Dye volunteered the information that oil tanks held from 5,000 to 7,000 gallons.

In the session after dinner, Messrs. McMillan and Coughlin of the Investigating committee, Doorkeeper Brown and Attorney McNulty, with stenographer, went to St. Joseph's hospital where Charles Hammond, Frank Scullin, Louis Dennole and Sister Mary Joseph were examined. The two former have also testified before coroner's jury. Their statements were in accord with the previously published reports of the disaster.

James Mullane, the section foreman at Wann, testified that he had been a section foreman for fourteen years; was burned on right hand, ears, neck and head. Said that the explosion could have been avoided with proper precaution. There was no effort to save the burning train. If the water had been turned on to the train or the gravel from other cars it would have prevented the explosion.

Testimony introduced by Attorney Dye on behalf of the company:
Joseph Ramsey Jr., testified that he had been General Manager of the C. C. C. & St. L. since 1891. Have been railroading since 1869 and since 1872 in the capacities of Superintendent, Chief Engineer and General Manager. We pay as good wages in our yards as any other road. We pay as a rule by the hour. In January 1893 we were paying $2.15 at night and $2.05 per day at Wann. Yard men are not required to coal engines. One man in a yard always has charge of switches. The Wann yard is simple. Only has four sidetracks. Gave description of switches at Wann. We have a yardmaster at Wann and Altons combined. We consider it one yard. Know nothing personally about Gatton. The yardmaster is directly in charge of employing men. We make no test of religion or the fact of belonging to or not belonging to any order whatsoever in employing men. I have been personally thanked by the heads of several labor organizations for our treatment of laborers. The only changes that had been called to his attention was the one where the whole force quit. The inside switches are generally left open and not locked; the main line switches are to be locked all the time. We transport oil in tank cars and sometimes in box cars. In both ways. The principal oil coming to Wann, generally comes from the C. B. & Q. The rule was to inspect cars received from another road and then forward them to their destination. Oil cars are inspected in the day time to avoid danger. Tank cars are considered the safest for transporting oil. I could not suggest any better method.

Representative McMillan asked witness regarding some details in shipping oil. Have known of other accidents from oil tanks. Knew of twenty burning on an eastern road, but did not explode. There is more danger of catching fire to barrels, but not so much danger of explosion.

We never had complaints from men. We have had frequent conferences with committee from organizations but have nearly always arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. Engineers, conductors, firemen and trainmen all pass an examination. Men are tested as to their hearing, seeing, etc., and as to their physical soundness.

The Investigating Committee concluded their investigations last evening and returned to Springfield. In conversation with members of the committee, it was found that there was practical agreement that the committee will introduce bills into the legislature to regulate the employment of men. To examine men employed. Also to provide for side tracks to be exclusively used for oil cars and to be removed at a safe distance from other tracks and not having any direct connection to the main tracks.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 23, 1907
A. E. Benbow, who some time ago purchased the depot and residence building at Wann from the Chicago and Alton Railroad, succeeded in having the edifice moved outright to Benbow City last week. It was located on a lot there Saturday and this morning he sold the building and lot to Carl Dorflinger of St. Louis for $1,000.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 1, 1910
Frank Scullen, one of the victims of the Wann Oil explosion of seventeen years ago, killed himself in the county jail some time during Monday night. He was a frightful cripple, having been burned and very badly disfigured on the face, and his hands were so contorted from the burns that he was able to do very little work. Added to this an appetite for strong drink, he finally drifted to the poor house, notwithstanding the fact that at one time he had enough money to have kept him nicely, had he saved it. Scullen was employed by the Big Four when the explosion occurred, and was in the line of duty when injured. His claim was one of the few that was ever settled by the railroad company, most all the other victims, except railroad employees, being thrown out of court on the ground that they were trespassers on railroad property when they were killed or hurt. Scullen got $3,500, and is said to have spent it in ten days in riotous living. He had been staying at the poor farm for some time. Formerly he was given a home at the Ursuline convent, and at one time was at the hospital, where the kindhearted sisters took care of him, and he did a little work around the place. Strong drink was his undoing there. Finally he had to become a county charge. He had been suffering from hallucinations, and thought that an Alton man was after him. Yesterday he left the poor farm and was finally locked up in the county jail. He was searched, but no weapon was found on him. Charles Trabue, superintendent of the poor farm, says he believes that in his shoe Scullen had concealed a piece of a case knife, about 1 1/2 inches long, and with this he cut his throat, making a thorough job of it. He has a sister at East Alton who did not know where he was. Scullen is reported to have carried an insurance policy on his life, and he inquired about this several days ago to see whether it was still being kept up. It is supposed he had meditated suicide for several days.

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