Thursday, May 23, 2013

5/23/13 Saltsman Newspaper discovery

The internet is an amazing tool, especially in the dusty corners of small libraries where the grand undertaking of digitizing microfiche is going on. Dad called this evening with a new discovery. This year was not available the last time we checked. The Friday edition of the paper on August 26, 1927 has a front page story of the death of the youngest of the John Saltsman children from the day before.

Switch Engine Kills Youth at Dangerous Grade Crossing
Did Not Hear Brother's Cry of his Danger

Boy Lives Only Few Minutes After Hit by Freight

Two Escape

Trunk Splintered by Engine, Boy's Body is Recovered

While his brother stood beside his truck screaming to him of his imminent danger, Travis Saltsman, about 20 years old [this is incorrect], was almost instantly killed by a T. &. B. V. switch engine at the Milam street crossing in Mexia Thursday morning. F.L. Harmon seated beside Travis in the ice truck they had loaded to take to the Reunion grounds escaped by jumping as the switch engine bore down on them. Pierce [also incorrect] Saltsman, brother of the victim, escaped for he was on the ground following the truck across the rough crossing. The truck was demolished.

Truck broken

Parts of the truck were scattered for 75 feet along the right of way, and blood from the victim stained the the ties and steel of the tracks. The steps and part of the wood work of the engine were torn away. 

Saltsman had just come from the ice plant with a load of ice for his home, near the Reunion Grounds, when the accident occurred. 

Trainment gave aid as soon as possible, and  J.I. Riddle company ambulance took the boy to the Brown Hospital, where he died within five minutes.

With the knowledge that their engine had just taken a human life, the trainmen were forced by the call of duty to continue their work. The face of E.L. Johnson engineer, was strained and haggard as he resumed his position at the throttle. W.H. Hildebrandt was conductor of the freight train.

The crossing where the accident occurred is one of the worst in town. A steep grade gives access to the tracks, and the view to the south is cut off by buildings. The death-engine was coming from the South when it stuck the ill-fated truck.

Funeral arrangements had not made at a late hour. 

The father of the Saltsman boys operated a community store near the Reunion Park on the Rock Crossing road. No official statement was issued by the railroad. The freight is known to the railroad as the "dodger" and operated from Teague to Mexia, switching here and at Teague. Members of the crew live at Teague.

The engine was pulling a number of freight cars and was backing across the grade crossing. There were only a few witnesses to the tragedy. 


So this adds some details to the sketchy story we had before. Price [not Pierce], who suffered debilitating depression and psychological scars for the rest of his life from this, was not in the truck as we had assumed, but had gotten out to walk over behind the truck as it climbed up the steep, blind grade to get over the tracks. If you've ever seen a picture of Price, you would understand why his weight would not be welcomed by the truck on that kind of a climb. It would make sense that the driver (Harmon) might have a split second to get out the door, and why Travis, who would have been the smallest and seated in the middle of the cab's bench seat, would not. It also, sadly, meant that Price would be eye-witness just long enough to try to warn them.

Travis was not 20; that was closer to Price's age. Travis was born in 1917, according to his tombstone, and had not yet turned 10.

That crossing, pictured below, runs directly alongside the Dick Scott Ford property where, years later, Travis' oldest brother and my grandfather, would work. There is now an overpass for vehicles elevated above the train tracks. Very center, bottom, you can see a train on the tracks pointing toward Milam street.

I found that the J. I. Riddle Company (who owned the ambulance) was the same company who ran both a furniture and funeral business in Mexia since 1910. Interesting combination.

Brown Hospital has since been torn down. I could not locate an address.

I do want to know what "trainment" means.

The last picture of Travis:


Post a Comment