Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Cousins killed in 1867 Harlow Bridge collapse at Northfield, Vermont

My great grandmother Rose had an older brother, Edward Caroline (1835-1867). They also had a younger first cousin, Thomas Caroline (1849-1867), the son of Michael Caroline and Julia Anne Ryan.

Original Harper's Weekly illustration 4 Jan 1868
Edward and Thomas both found work in just over the border from Granby in Vermont, working on railway construction for the Vermont Central Railroad.

I don't know how long they were doing this work before disaster struck, and this wasn't a work-related incident in the sense that it happened while they were working. Thirty-eight workers were returning by train to the construction site at Harlow Bridge from their lunch break. The engineer was asked to speed up so he could return to bring the rest of the workers back from lunch. The increased speed caused the train car to derail and plunge 25 feet before breaking in two, with the second piece plunging a further 60 feet. They were two of 15 fatalities in what was known as the Harlow Bridge Disaster on 11 Dec 1867.

Here is one relatively contemporary account written in 1878. And here is another:
"Harlow Bridge Train WreckThe accident near Northfield, Vermont on the Vermont Central Railroad on December 11, 1867, was the most destructive to life of any disaster which has ever occurred in the "Green Mountain State", since railroads were established. it occurred at which is known as the Harlow Bridge - a structure which spans a chasm some three hundred feet in width. Its abutments were sixty feet in heights, and its middle pier about seventy-five feet. This bridge was burned on December 8, and a heavy force of laborers had been employed in erecting trestle-work for temporary use. About a hundred of these men, having dined at Northfield, were returning to their labors on December 11 when the terrible calamity occurred. They were in a passenger car, and were being backed up to the works. By some unaccountable hallucination the engineer proceeded at an unusual rate of speed-sometimes running it as high as thirty miles an hour. He was reminded of his strange mistake by his fireman, but not till too late to avert the terrible consequences. The car, with its freight of some ninety men, was precipitated down a perpendicular distance of sixty feet. The tender broke from the engine and instantly followed. The scene was a fearful one. Fifteen dead men, with more than as many others suffering wounds more or less sever, lay in one heap, seven of whom were under the tender." -- Harper's Weekly Illustrated Journal, New York 4 Jan 1868
Local accounts identified the Vermont fatalities, but all uniformly didn't list the names of the Canadian fatalities, who numbered nine of the 15 killed.

The two Caroline families, large and close knit, were grief stricken. Thomas was only 18, with his whole life ahead of him. Edward was 32, the eldest child of Hugh Edward Caroline and Mary Donovan. He was unmarried.

Both were buried after a joint funeral on 16 Dec 1867 in the original cemetery of Notre Dame de Granby, which as I've mentioned in previous posts, was paved over for a parking lot decades later.

The never ending story continues....

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