The March 18, 1870, issue of Harper's Weekly, an illustrated newspaper published in New York, featured this wood engraving of a sketch made at the site of the Buckner's trestle train wreck. The story, which appeared in the same issue, is below.
Train Wreck In 1870 Killed Many, Injured Three From Water Valley
By Jack Gurner - from the North Mississippi Herald - June 28, 2007
On February 25 of that year, the 3:00 P.M. Mail Train had just pulled out of Oxford headed south for Water Valley. One of the passengers was Colonel Sam Tate who was president of the Mississippi Central. As the train approached Buckner's Trestle, which is about three miles south of Oxford's depot, Tate sent word to the engine crew to apply the brakes and slow down.
His warning came to late.
The engine or one of the leading cars struck the trestle which either caused it to collapse or tore the tracks loose, derailing the train. The engine, mail and baggage
The passengers in the second passenger car were thrown to the rear which put them directly under the crushing blow of the third car. Col. Tate was standing in the aisle of the third car and was almost suffocated before the pile of wounded could be removed. He was seriously but not fatally injured.
The accident took the lives of 20 people at the scene at several more of the 50 to 60 who were injured apparently died later. The people of the vicinity and the citizens of Oxford and Water Valley took care of the wounded, according to newspaper reports of the time.
Reports of the accident appeared in newspapers all over the country and the railroad was blamed for the accident. This wasn't unusual as railroads of that era did have many accidents and the newspapers were quick to place them blame on carelessness on the part of railroad officials.
J. W. Simonton of New Orleans was a passenger on the train and provided an eyewitness account to the Chicago Tribune. He said that a rotten tie at the north end of the trestle was the cause. However, another witness told the Oxford newspaper that a wheel had broken off of one of the cars and it had struck the trestle.
Whatever happened, the accident at Buckner's trestle is considered one of the worst railroad disasters in Mississippi history.
Along with Col. Tate, among the inured from Water Valley were Charles McConnico, M. M. Mannly and W. Tolliferro.
Bruce Gurner provides this account--taken from the Oxford FALCON--of one of the greatest rail disasters in the history of Mississippi.
Greatest Railroad Disaster on the Mississippi Central Three Miles South of Oxford
Oxford, Miss. Feb. 25, 1870 - - The 3 PM Mail Train passed down yesterday (Sunday) putting off at this place some forty or fifty immigrant passengers, and in less than an hour after the startling intelligence was received that the trestle work three miles below Oxford, which is over one hundred feet long and fifty feet high, gave way, dashing the whole train, except the Locomotive and Tender, to the bottom in a heap of ruins, killing some twenty persons and wounding some fifty others, many of them seriously mangled and others but slightly injured. Several persons were supposed to have been crushed under the ruins that could not be recovered last night. Colonel Spears of Brandon, and Mr. McConald, the Roadmaster were among the killed. Colonel Sam Tate was seriously but not dangerously wounded. Mr. A. B. Shell of Louisville was severely wounded.
A number of our citizens rushed to the scene of the disaster, and rendered all the assistance in their power. A train passed down from the north soon after the accident and returned about 8 o'clock to our Depot with a number of the wounded and several dead bodies. A large number of our citizens were at the Depot with vehicles and mattresses to take charge of the wounded and made them as comfortable as possible. It was impossible to get a list of the names of the killed and wounded. Several women and children were killed and wounded. A train came up from Water Valley and returned with many of the wounded and those who escaped injury and a number of the wounded were carried to houses near the ruins. Most of the dead were left near the wreck, guarded by citizens.
We have had several suggestions as to the cause of the disaster. Negligence on the part of the railroad authorities has been freely charged, the truth of which we know nothing about; but if the statement of one of our citizens be true, who visited the scene of the disaster soon after it occurred, (and we know of no reason to doubt his statement) it certainly was an accident that could have been foreseen or provided against. His statement is as follows: on closely examining the wreck and the road approaching the trestle, he discovered that a segment, about one-sixth of the right front truck wheel had broken off, about sixty feet before reaching the trestle, throwing the car off the track; and that he could see where the broken truck wheel had struck the cross ties, dragging some of them out of their places and I think it must have torn the trestle down on striking it. He could see pieces of wood sticking to the freshly broken truck wheel.
The following is a list of the killed and wounded. We learned that Mr. Chailes McCannico, and the lady and
children named among the wounded, ~have since died of their wounds.
The injured included Colonel Same Tate, Charles McConnico, M.M. Mannly, and W. Tolliferro, all of Water Valley.
Copyright © 1998 Jack Gurner