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Morris Crouse, Joseph Wheeler and Elisha Hendricks
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Morris Crouse, Joseph Wheeler and Elisha Hendricks
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Coroners Inquest on the bodies of
Morris Crouse, Joseph Wheeler and Elisha Hendricks
March 24, 1870

State of Illinois
Adams County


Coroner Brown being at LaGrange A. W. Blakesley, police magistrate, was requested to conduct the examination as acting corner. At nine o'clock he summoned a jury for the purpose of holding the inquest. The following is a list of members of the inquest: W. G. Ewing, foreman; Wm. Thompson, Henry Lansing, John Meyers, Ira M. Moore, Wm Evatt, Dr. Charles Zimmerman, Herman Moecker, E. S. Mulliner, Harris Swimmer, Isaac Abrahams and F. Nelka. After being qualified, the jury proceeded to the late residence of Morris Crouse to view the body.

They next visited the Sherman House, where they took a look at the disfigured lifeless remains of Joseph Wheeler and Elisha Hendricks. They next proceeded to the scene of the accident and examined the ground, which they found by the traces of blood along the track. The way the car was inspected, and the evidences of the collision found to be plainly visible. The front platform was broken off and the front of the car spattered with blood, gore and particles of flesh. The engine of the extra train was also examined and the result of the explosion of the steam chest noted. The jury then had a measurement taken of the distance from the point of collision to the curve in the road where the accident happened to the engine of the extra train. After taking these observations, the jury separated to meet at the court house in the afternoon for the purpose of listening to the testimony.


The jury assembled at the court house at two o'clock, for the examination of witnesses. The first person called was B. B. Reagan, a boy, who testified that he was on the regular train that was run into by the extra. He was not in the way car, but with some stock in a freight car, in front, near the engine. The train, at the time of the explosion, was moving about as fast as a man could walk. The witness stated that after the train was struck, he looked back and saw that something was the matter - saw them taking the men out; the extra train followed the regular train from Bushnell as witness saw it in the rear several times, but could not tell the distance between the two trains. He knew nothing about the collision and was dismissed.


Wm. Wheeler, a brother of Joseph Wheeler, deceased, was then called.
His statement is as follows: I was on the freight train that arrived here yesterday; I was moving to Missouri and my brother was going with me to assist me with my stock; we were both on the way car at the time of the collision; there were eight persons in the car; the first notice I had of danger was from the conductor, who hollowed, "look out". He was on the platform car, in front of the way car; I rushed out on the front platform, went down the steps and jumped off. I had just struck the ground when I heard the crash, and the train went past me. They run some distance below me, I think a quarter of a mile. I saw the train in the rear several times between Bushnell and this city. Did not know it was close to us until I heard the conductor call out.
Saw the rear train twice, this side of Plymouth, don't think it was more than half a mile distance. The front platform at the time of the collision doubled under the platform car. My brother told me that he was trying to step over the railing on the platform car at the time the cars struck.

JOHN POLLOCK was next called. He said: I was on the train; got on at Coatsburg in company with the deceased Hendricks. There were eight persons in the car. At the time of the collision, the train I was on was moving. The first intimation I had of danger, was a man I supposed to be the conductor, came to the front platform, held up his hand and said, "look out". I ran forward; Gray was ahead of me. He jumped off, and I followed him. The first I knew of danger was the action of the conductor; when I recovered myself after jumping, the rear engine was about two rods from the way car, and struck immediately after. The cow catcher was under the way car and lifted it up, threw it forward and down, and pushed it under the platform car. When I got to the train, I found the three deceased lying piled up in front door with their feet and legs wedged under the iron rails. I saw the rear train approach this side of Paloma, not more than half a mile. Helped to take Hendricks out of the car, and was with him last night. He died this morning at half past nine.

JAMES R. GRAY testified as follows: I got on the train at Paloma. Think there were eight men in the car. The first intimation I had of danger was hearing the conductor say, "look out", in a loud voice. Think he was on the front platform. He jumped off; I ran to the door, went down the steps. Saw the engine in the rear, then I jumped off. I saw the rear train several times; noticed it particularly this side of Paloma, when it was not more than the distance of three telegraph poles in our rear; was afraid of it at the time. Saw the cars coming together after I got off; saw the freight cars coming down the track about three minutes after the collision. I followed the cars down to where they stopped. Took ten or twelve minutes to extricate the deceased, who were piled upon the door, their feet and legs held fast by the rails.

SYLVESTER CLARK said: I got on the train at Camp Point; the first intimation I had of danger was from the conductor, who said, "look out", and I jumped off. I ran out, jumped to the ground and fell. As I got up I heard the crash; the train was running about four miles to the hour at the time.

MAX CROUSE was the next witness. I am brother-in-law to the deceased Morris Crouse; we both took the train at Camp Point; the first idea I had of any danger was hearing the conductor say, "look out"! The passengers all rushed to the door; I was behind and when I got forward there were three men at the door, and I could not get out; I ran to the rear and saw the engine right under us. I again ran to the front and as I approached the door the collision took place, and I was thrown from my feet, my brother-in-law was carried home, where he died of his injured last night.

JOHN MENNE At the time of the accident, was near where the collision took place.
He stated: I saw the first train running slowly, and noticed the rear engine coming about two blocks off. When the engine was about twenty feet from the way car, the smoke stack fell off, I heard an explosion and saw steam escaping from the side of the engine immediately after the collision occurred. The forward train was going slow; I saw no brakeman on the rear train; I went down and assisted in getting the injured men out from between the cars.

WM. MOUNTS the conductor of the regular freight train, was the next witness. The train in the rear of mine was an extra, and followed us from Galesburg; saw it several times in our rear during the day; sometimes it was a miler and a half and at other times half mile off; sometimes it was nearer; at the time of the collision my train had not come to a stop; I saw it just before the engine struck; heard the explosion and saw the steam and knew it would run into us; I have no rational recollection of what followed; I don't know what I said or how I got off; I was under the impression that I jumped off the car platform; the three men injured were wedged between the way car and the platform car in front; the rules of the company require a train following another train to keep one mile in the rear; I think when the explosion occurred the rear engine was the distance of a block away; I was running between five and ten miles an hour, and was slacking up to stop as usual, at the semaphore; first intimation I had of danger was hearing the explosion in the rear; I knew the engineer had lost control of his engine, and I think I must have lost control of myself; don't know what I did from then till after the train struck; had the steam chest not blown out there would have been no danger, as the engineer could have checked the engine.

MATTHEW BONE the engineer of 66, the engine on the extra train said: My train followed the regular train from Bushnell into Quincy; was a mile off most of the time; was nearer than that twice in going upgrade; I was in three quarters of a mile then; the first danger I discovered was in the sand cut; there I looked back and saw my train broke in two, looked forward, saw way car of regular train; I reversed the engine and put on tender brake; the stem chest blowed out; think at the time I reversed I was half a mile off; when the stem chest blowed out the steam escaped and did not operate in cylinder; the engine ran ahead; think she increased in speed; was coming in at rate of eight or ten miles n hour; I struck the way car at a speed of six miles to an hour; Five cars were next to the engine; eighteen remained behind; two brakemen were on the rear of the train; conductor was on the way car; I staid on the engine until she struck; ran a quarter of a mile before the cars stopped; after the engine struck I jumped off and ran ahead; the engine was 150 yards past the curve when I reversed the engine; ran 100 before the explosion; the strain on the machinery is greater when the engine is reversed; the engine was carrying from 115 to 120 pounds of steam; a piece of the steam chest was found 400 feet above the point of collision; freight trains have two breakmen; one forward near the engine and one at the rear; both breakmen and the conductor were on the rear as we came in yesterday; had the steam chest not blown out, the reversal would have stopped the train without the use of the brakes; it would have stopped in 450 feet; the smoke stack did not fall off until after the collision and the engine had run 40 feet after it struck before it tumbled over; the steam chest was put on near about three months ago; the engine on that day appeared upon examination to be in perfect order.


A. J. Wade, fireman on engine No. 66, was next called, and stated that at the time the train broke, he was on the forward part of the engine; as they turned the curve he saw the way car and knew there was danger; when the steam chest exploded, he climbed back on to the first car to put on the brake, but did not reach it before the collision; the explosion took place after they had turned the curve; the engine then was within a quarter of a mile of the way car; in coming down from Bushnell the extra was sometimes a mile and sometimes five miles distance from the regular train.

James Darcy, a section boss of the road, testified that he had counted the rails on the track from the place where the collision occurred to the curve in the road, and made a distance 1350 feet; he found the piece of steam chest imbedded some six inches in the sand back about three hundred feet this side of the curve; he did not see the collision and knew nothing of what occurred there.

Joel West, master mechanic of the railroad shops in this city, testified that the bursting of a steam chest would take away from the engineer all control of his engine; the steam would escape instead of running into the cylinder. He also stated that there was a greater strain upon machinery when the engine was reversed, until the wheels stop and turn the other way; than at other times he considered Mr. Boone an experienced engineer; he had been a fireman four years, had acted as engineer two years in the yards and been on the road but a short time; he was not a machinist but thought him to be a good engineer.

Dr. Charles Zimmerman testified that he attended Mr. Crouse, that he died from the injuries received by the collision; that he saw Wheeler and Hendricks after they were hurt and their injuries were mortal and produced death. This was all the evidence, there being no witnesses known who could throw more light upon the case. The jury retired and after an hours deliberation, agreed upon their verdict, which was certified top the coroner, and is as follows:


We, the jury summoned by A.. W. Blakeskey, a justice of the peace, in and for the county of Adams and state of Illinois, acting coroner in the absence of the coroner of said county, to inquire into the cause of the death of Elisha Hendricks, Joseph Wheeler and Morris Crouse, do find that said persons came to their death by reason of injuries received by a collision of freight train No. 21 and extra to train No. 21, coming on and belonging to the C.B. & Q railroad; that said collision occurred by reason of the extra train being broken in two, and the steam chest of engine No. 66, drawing the extra, bursting, thereby depriving the engineer of engine No. 66 of any control of his engine; that said collision occurred on the 23rd day of March, 1870, in Quincy, in said county, and that while we regard the occurrence as most deplorable, still we regard it as purely accidental, and that no person can be charged with negligence or carelessness; and further we, the jury, recommend that said railroad company require the employees to rigidly observe the rules of said company in reference to running of trains and ask every employee join against the repetition of so deplorable an accident.

Witnesses: W. G. Ewing, foreman, Ira M. Moore, Ed. S. Milliner, Wm. Evatt, H. Moecker, Wm. Thompson, Isaac Abrahams, Harris Swimmer, Henry Lansing, John Meyer, Dr. Chas. Zimmerman, F. Nelke.
Quincy, Ill., March 24, 1870
I Asa W. Blakesley, Police Magistrate and Exofficio a Justice of the Peace hereby certify that the above is a correct copy of the evidence and the verdict of the jury impounded and sworn to hold an Inquest as above indicated.
March 24, 1870 Asa W. Blakesley (Seal)
Police Magistrate

Special Thanks to Helen E. Bortz for sharing the inquest information.

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Submitted: 05/24/10 (Edited 06/01/10)

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