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Reporting from the Mountain Lake wreck

February 27, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS, For The Leader-Herald

Headlines and sub-headlines in July 1902 broke the news: "Gloversville's Awful Electric Railroad Wreck!"; "In Which Fourteen Lives Were Sacrificed and Scores of Persons More or Less Severely Injured"; and "The Frightfully-Fatal Electric Car Wreck Near Gloversville." The associated photo captions added to the story: "Scenes of the awful trolley wreck near Gloversville"; "The scene of death and frightful injury"; "Where many injured were cared for (hospital)"; "Ministering Angels (nurses)"; "They did splendid service in the work of rescue (vaudeville company)"; and "Midnight Hours of Death and Awful Suffering." These, and other pictures of the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad Fourth of July Tragedy were cut out of the newspapers of that day and carefully pasted with flour wheat paste on the pages of a Department of Agriculture Yearly Report book by my Grandmother Whitman.

Newspapers are a great source of local history and the Mountain Lake accident was widely reported. Many of the photographs in the scrapbook were taken by L.H. Austin of Cedar Street, Gloversville. The story has been told many times and details are recorded in my Arcadia books. The news clippings add more to the story. Basically, the wreck occurred when a heavier and faster car smashed into the back of a smaller one on the way down the mountain at the end of the Fourth of July celebration at Mountain Lake.

The first picture in the collection shows the wrecked cars, the sharp curve in the tracks and the incline. Another shows the wrecked cars where families were killed and nearly half a hundred injured. A picture of the tragic scene before help arrived is captioned, "Midnight hours of death and awful suffering." The hospital photo is of the original Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville where the "crushed and maimed were taken and were tenderly cared for by those ministering angels." The "low-voiced, soft-handed nurses" were under the direction of their matron, Ms. Root.

The "splendid service" photo shows the 15 members of the Patten and Perry Vaudeville Company. They were first on the scene and did "yoeman's service of rescuing the injured." The remaining photos, numbering about 30, include those who were killed in the wreck and some of those who were injured.

A family photo of six members of the E. L. Heacock family of 2 W. State St., Gloversville, included the parents with their children, Laura, Philander, Lucy and James. All were in the wreck with three escaping with bruises. Mrs. Heacock suffered severe facial contusions. James had a hip injury and a broken leg. Lucy's foot was broken in two places.

Other families suffered in many ways. Glove manufacturer Ornan was seriously injured and his wife was killed. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sully were both crushed by the car, but their two little boys escaped injury. Glove cutter Benjamin Rice had two severe scalp wounds, a sprained shoulder, a fractured thigh, a sprained ankle and two lacerations on his left leg. Mrs. Edward Baird and her daughter, Rhoba, were both killed. Mr. and Mrs. George Fischer and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Maxon were all injured in the wreck. Mrs. Maria Anibal of Northville perished in the accident. Edward Trevett, a glove factory foreman, and Edward Shull also died in the crash.

The motorman of the trolley, William Dodge, died from the injuries suffered in the wreck. Recorder Frank C. Wood was expected to die from his extensive injuries.

There were several heroes who rose to the occasion on that fateful night. J. V. Hine, a glover, helped throw on the brakes after the collision. He was thrown forward breaking his nose and face and rendered unconscious for more than an hour. Seventeen-year-old F. Willli Berghoff was thrown from one of the cars and injured, but he ran back up the dark track and, waving his hat and shouting, he stopped the next car from crashing into the wreck.

After the tragic wreck and loss of passengers, the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad bought the line and kept it going for another 15 years without mishap.

 
 

 

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