Gasconade Bridge Train Disaster, 1855
30 people died and hundreds more injured when the newly built Gasconade Bridge collapsed under the weight of a passenger train.
The bridge was part of the newly constructed Pacific Railroad that connected St. Louis, MO to the Pacific Ocean. Construction had actually lagged far behind schedule due to poorly fed workers who delayed progress due to numerous labor strikes. Once completed, an inaugural train ride was scheduled for November 1, 1855, with several diginitaries and invited guests.
It was a rainy afternoon when the celebratory procession started. Once the 15 passenger cars reached the Gasconade Bridge, the train was supposed to stop so that the chief road engineer could make inspections to ensure safe passage. However, a decision was made not to stop due to time constraints, and the fact another train previously crossed the bridge a day earlier. Once the train entered the bridge, the wooden trestle supports gave way, sending all but one car rolling down a 36 foot embankment into the river.
Recovery efforts were slowed due to a swollen Gasconade River from the torrents of pouring rain.
Numerous politicians, dignitaries, and clergymen were dead. Residents of St. Louis were in shock, and local newspapers carried the story for weeks. It remains as Missouri's greatest railroad disaster in history.
Names of Dead and Injured
Names of passengers below were taken from Daily Missouri Republican, published in St. Louis, MO, on the front page, dated Monday, November 5, 1855. The newspaper had first reported a list of dead and injured on November 2, but over the coming days revised its list as new information came in. Copy of this newspaper can be accessed from: http://statehistoricalsocietyofmissouri.org/
Complete List of the Dead
A. L. CHAPPELL, father of J. T. Chappell
Rev. A. BULLARD
B. B. DAYTON
Rev. Mr. TEASDALE
S. BEST, Fireman
PATRICK BARRY, Wood-passer.
T. J. MOTT, Representative of Dunklin county.
THOS. S. O'SULLIVAN, Chief Engineer
R. C. YOSTI, (firm of Shields & Yosti)
Capt. C. CASE
E. C. BLACKBURN
J. A. ROSS, firm of Ross & Gillum
____ ATHEY, late Assessor of city.
JOSEPH HARRIS, of St. Louis county
E. B. JEFFREES, Rep. of Franklin county
WM. L. LYNCH
R. M. DUBOIS
H. W. HOUN
JOS. A. FINNEGAN
Mr. McCULLOCH, of Dunklin
One body, left at the Gasconade
One body, identified at Hermann - name unknown
Frank Lane, has leg broken
James Mollery, not seriously hurt
D.H. Armstrong, right arm broken
Capt. Connelly, right leg injured
Wilson Primm, bruised about the head
John Schuetze, not seriously hurt
Edward Colston, badly cut on head
S.J. Levi, bruised about face
L.A.Beneist, leg hurt
Judge Thomas, of Bridgeton, face injured
Jno. J. Hoppe, face cut
Wayman Crow, leg bruised
Peter Oshman, badly bruised
Mr. Dyson, firm of Taylor & Dyson, lower jaw broken, and otherwise badly injured
John C. Ivory, much cut and bruised
Wm. Lindsey, shoulder out of joint
John K. Field, firm of Beardsley & Field. This gentleman went out the day after the accident, having heard that his brother was seriously injured at the Gasconade Bridge. He failed to get across Boeuff Creek before the bridge there was washed away. Afterwards, he crossed the river, took a hand car, and was at work on it, when his coat was caught in the wheel and he was thrown out. The wheel passed over him, doing him very serious injury, principally about the face.
W.H. Tucker, the engineer on the locomotive, had his legs badly bruised, but will get well.
W. D'nch, right arm broken
Julius Bush, face cut badly
John Neindenhofer, face bruised
James McDermott, leg broken
Deaths & Obituary Notices: Newspapers 1690-Present
Death Records (United States)
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