Rock Island Tragedy Claims Sixteen Lives
September 09, 2013
Very early on the morning of Friday, Sept. 23, 1910, Rock Island Train # 27 left Norton, KS westbound with a final destination of Denver. The train consisted of four Pullmans, two chair coaches, a smoker, a baggage car, and a mail car. One of the passengers in the smoking car was Harvey McIntire, a resident of Rexford, KS who was returning from Concordia, where his wife was recovering from surgery. Harvey was a father to thirteen children, the youngest aged two. Around 2 a.m., the train barreled into a torrential rain going at full speed, not suspecting the trouble that lay ahead. Two miles east of Clayton, the cloudburst had washed out the track over a normally dry creek bed, creating a raging river fifteen feet deep. The train plunged into the water, throwing cars off in all directions, ripping a chair car into the smoking car, and throwing trunks from the baggage car one hundred feet. In the chaos that followed, a mother lifted her daughter and dropped her out a window, hoping to keep her from danger, but instead, the child was dropped into the water, where she drowned. In the pitch darkness, it was difficult for the survivors to see where assistance was needed, but the crew that survived the initial impact helped some passengers find their way out of the wreckage until they themselves were overcome by water.
Physicians and rescuers didn’t arrive until daybreak, but it was too late for sixteen unfortunate passengers. Nineteen others were seriously injured in this, the worst wreck to that time on the Goodland-Phillipsburg division of the Rock Island line. Harvey McIntire, my great-grandfather, died in the smoking car that night. His body was recovered hours later and was identified by papers he had in his pocket. He was buried in Rexford Cemetery.
Midwest Genealogy Center