Transportation plays a major role In the development of an area.
Madison Township represents a microcosm of transportation progress in the
nation. The first important mode of transportation, besides the horse, was
the flatboat. For a short time even the keelboat was seen on the waters of
the Great Miami and according to legend, the famous riverboat man, Mike
Fink once operated a keelboat that passed along the Madison shoreline.
These boats could carry big loads much cheaper than large freighters
pulled by teams of horses.
The flatboat opened up the Miami Valley to settlement, for the roads were
originally too poor to take out the surplus farm produce, by which the
farmer made his profit and was able to purchase needed items. One of the
attractions of this land, described by Judge John Cleves Symmes was that
it was well-watered with springs and creeks. He stated that both the Miami
Rivers were navigable farther north than the extent of his purchase. He
promised that interior farms would have navigation in the boating season
within 15 miles of any site. He also noted that the land contained several
good mill streams.
Before dams were built across the Great Miami River to back up and direct
its waters into mill races to turn water wheels along their banks, the
Great Miami was reputed to be almost equal to that of the Ohio River
itself for navigation. The State of Ohio declared that the Great Miami was
"to be and remain a public highway." The General Assembly passed laws
respecting the navigation of the river, but it did not enforce them, and
more and more locks for dams were placed in the river.
The only river craft simpler than the flatboat was the log canoe or
dugout. Sometimes two big logs were lashed together and such a boat could
carry 10 to 15 barrels of produce or several people. One such primitive
boat passed Daniel Doty's cabin along the Great Miami river In March 1796.
In it were Samuel Thompson and his family headed for Dayton. The Thompson
pirogue as such as boat was then called, landed safely with Dayton's first
But the larger flatboat was to become the standard for river travel. These
strong, oblong structures were made of heavy timbers cut from virgin
forests. After being smoothed with an adz, they were lashed together. Most
measured about 15 feet wide, and varied in length from 50 to 80 feet.
The smaller less sturdy ones, were known as "Kentuck" boats as their
destination included that land as well as other Ohio River ports. However,
the larger boats headed for the Mississippi and often New Orleans were
known as "Orleans boats."
The flat bottomed construction with a shallow draft enabled the craft to
skirt over the rocks in the shallow parts of the river bed or other
obstructions. Without any power of their own, the flatboats simply floated
along with the current. A rubber, or swing oar, located at the stern was
often as long as the boat itself and steered it. The "gouger" a smaller
oar was at the prow for added assistance in swifter waters.
The flatboat was known as the ship that never returned. Once at its
destination downstream, it had no way to make its way against the current,
so it was dismantled. Some settlers used the lumber for building their
first shelter, but those loaded with produce were sold for the timber.
By 1799 those Dayton settlers had built a flatboat to get some of the
surplus produce to market. On it they loaded grain, pelts and 500 venison
hams. Daniel Doty at Middletown watched it go past, and decided this was
superior means of transportation. He had just paid a freighter that year
at the rate of $1.25 per 10 pounds of produce delivered to the Cincinnati
market by wagon.
Flatboating on the Great Miami was not easy. If the water was low, or if
the boat met with obstructions, it sometimes took from 10 to 12 days to
reach Cincinnati from Middletown. First it was the rocks, limbs and trunks
of trees, then came the dams built for the operation of mills.
River traffic increased, however. In 1823 it is recorded that spring
shipments alone on the Great Miami consisted of 6,495 barrels of flour,
1,424 barrels of pork, 945 barrels of whiskey, 50 barrels of cucumbers and
pickles, 600 barrels of corn meal, 28 barrels of beans, 15 barrels of
kraut, 950 kegs of lard, 7,000 bushels of corn, 200 dozen of chickens,
50,000 feet of cherry lumber, 1,400 bushels of potatoes, and 80 kegs of
Although laws had been passed by the Ohio General Assembly to keep the
Great Miami River open to navigation, they were not enforced due to the
influence of the owners of the grist mills who had built the dams to run
industries essential to the welfare of the people. Many meetings of
protest were held by those demanding the river remain navigable. One man,
Joseph Hough even conceived the idea of organizing a company to operate
steamboats on the Great Miami. A handbill printed in 1824 gave details
concerning the project. Alas, as his side-wheeler cruised down the river
close to Trenton, the craft hit a snag. This accident among other factors
caused the company to go bankrupt.
The main other factor was to be the state's plan to build two canal
systems, one in eastern and the other in western Ohio, which became the
Miami-Erie. This would shift water transportation off the river. The
Miami-Erie went right through Middletown, giving Madison Township easy
access to the mode of transportation.
Since the Great Miami River had been a natural transportation route, the
first task undertaken by the pioneers was the building of land roads and
bridges to tie the township together. The one known today as the Franklin
-Trenton Road merely followed an old Indian trail along the west bank of
the river. It connected two small settlements platted as Franklin and
Bloomfield which became Trenton.
Originally the road actually ran into Trenton proper instead of
dead-ending at Eck and Howe Road as of today. For many years there was a
bridge over Elk Creek, where Gunckle's grist mill was located. This was
the shortest road between the two towns, and was used even after the
bridge had deteriorated and the stream had to be forded. It was a hilly
stretch between Howe Road and Trenton, passing Frisch's brick yard of
According to Trenton historian, Ed Keefe in 1815 a petition was circulated
to establish a county road which became Howe Road, named for an area
farmer. It began west of Miltonville and ran east past Elk Creek where a
small ferry once operated until the late 1820's when a onetrack bridge was
built. The intersecting Elk Creek Road was laid out in 1809. At the
crossroads a village, Miltonville, was platted in 1816. Around 1820 a toll
road was built between the two adjoining towns, known as the Miltonville-Trenton
Turnpike. Its old toll book is still in existence. It became a free road
Another pioneer road connected with the Franklin -Trenton Road at Trenton
and ran almost due South to the Great Miami River. On the 1836 map of the
county it was named the "Road from Trenton to Gregory's Ford. It is the
Woodsdale road of today. On the east side of the river ran the Hamilton-
Middletown Road opened in 1795, providing access to the county seat.
Trenton's location was probably due to the routing of another still older
road. With the proposal of a reserved site for a university in western
Ohio in 1803, the Ohio General Assembly recognized the need of a road
between Chillicothe, then the state capital, to the college. On Feb. 18,
1804 the legislature authorized the building of a State Road. It began
with an Indian trail out of Chillicothe which wound its way to Lebanon and
westward along what today is Greentree Road. Then Its path followed the
present Oxford State Road, which became State Street in Trenton.
Davis Ball opened a ferry service across the Great Miami at Trenton in
1818, which operated until a covered bridge was built In 1867.
Oxford was platted in 18 10 and the road became known as Oxford State
Road, following some, but not all of the present route 73.
The major road of northeastern Madison Township was marked simply as the
"Road to Germantown." Earliest maps reveal it as a primitive road, running
past the Baptist Church above West Liberty, now Poasttown, founded in
1818. Being in a bad state of maintenance, this road was taken over by a
turnpike company, known as the MiddletownGermantown Turnpike Company which
was authorized by the state in 1846. It was a seven mile stretch of road.
Its chief proponents, Francis Tytus and Henry Gunckel, soon had the
necessary capital raised. According to an article in the Germantown
Gazette of April 3, 1846 farmers who had been "completely shut out from
all communications with neighboring towns and markets unless they went
through mud and water up to their eyes would discover another world." In
1848 the new road was finished and toll rates were established. The road
meant the building of two bridges, one over the Great Miami at Poasttown
and another over Twin Creek at Germantown. The Germantown road being
bisected by the Franklin-Trenton Road gave Madison residents easy access
to that town.
The building of this road had given Madison Township a basic network with
the exception of the Browns Run Valley which shows no road on that map of
1836. Many had opposed building a road along the creek due to the loss of
level land, scarce in the valley. Years ago in an interview a 92-year old
resident of the Run, Calvin Long, recalled his grandfather had told him
that in pioneer days the creek itself had been used as a road for travel,
being restricted to the times when it was dry, and that "the farther up
you went the rougher it got." This would seem to be the case, but
eventually a county road was built, still known as Browns Run Road, off
The latest major road improvement in the township was finally completed
Sept. 21, 1995. Known as Route 122 or the Middletown-Eaton Road the steep
winding West Middletown hill had always presented problems. Being known as
the most formidable one in the area many a car had slid into the ditch at
the side of the narrow roadway.
During the early years of the 20th century, as the automobile was gaining
in popularity, the West Middletown hill became a testing range for a new
car. The old gravity-fed gas lines of the early Fords, sold by the West
Middletown agent, Dan Snider, required a full tank to make it.
The improvement was almost 50 years in coming. When the new West
Middletown bridge was opened in 1948, the state envisioned it as the first
stage of a project which, when fully completed, would eliminate the
railroad and county road intersection. The bridge was angled to be in line
with the proposed overpass that would carry the road over the village to a
point at the top of the hill. This expensive project was soon abandoned
and, in 1964, it was proposed the state build "a new 4-mile, $12 million
highway from the Great Miami River bridge, south of the existing road to
its present intersection with Ohio 744.,"
Although a petition supported the relocation and 80 percent of the
engineering of the project was completed along with an environment impact
report, the project did not get off the drawing boards. This project,
which was to be completed by 1973, created the Circle Parkway. In 1979,
another proposal was made to reroute Ohio 122 to the north and avoid
cutting through Sebald Park and Knollwoods. It was never funded. In 1985,
county officials, tired of the long wait, suggested adding a truck lane to
the present route of the highway and straightening the curving hill which
made traffic dangerous, but the state still declared funds were not
available, although the county engineer classified it "as one of the worst
roads in the county."
In 1988, the Ohio Department of Transportation finally approved funding
for the addition of a lane up the hill to Mosiman Road with work beginning
in 1990. Middletown City Manager William Klosterman said, "This project is
for real this time." Engineering work was begun for adding the new lane.
In April 1994, a $3 million contract for 1.6 miles of widened roadway was
awarded the SK Construction Co.
The new stretch of highway stands in great contrast to the road's
appearance in the first decades of the 19th century. It followed an old
Indian trail off Franklin -Trenton Road. At the time, there was no bridge
over the Great Miami River, but a low water crossing point opposite what
is now Second Avenue. The traveler followed that road a few 100 feet north
to a creek, now under the road at the first culvert at West Middletown.
This location is shown on an 1836 map of Butler County. This primitive
road was first known simply as the "Road to Eaton." Remnants of this first
route up the hill can still be seen behind some of the homes along the
north side of the present Ohio 122.
Even this one-lane road had been built with state aid. On Jan. 22, 1806,
the Ohio General Assembly passed a law to encourage the building of roads
through the wilderness. Under it the state helped pay for materials and
all able-bodied men in the township were expected to contribute the labor,
up to five days.
However, with the growth of Middletown and, probably due to the steepness
of the creek route, township officials decided on a relocation of the
section of road up the West Middletown hill. Also, it would be more in
line with the new bridge built over the Great Miami in 1832, before which
a ferry had operated. In 1817, the Ohio general Assembly passed another
road law, providing for the formation of Turnpike Company, which could
take over a poorly cared for road, form a company, raise capital and
improve it. Then a toll could be charged to repay stockholders and
maintain the road. Such roads were to have a 66-foot right-of-way, cleared
of brush to 33 feet with 18 feet of "artificial road ... stone, gravel or
wood." Toll gates were to be every 10 miles with one such toll house at
West Middletown. It was known as the Winchester Turnpike, because it ran
to Winchester, the original name for Gratis. The road, commonly called the
Pike, would be in use most of the century and one of the last to become a
free road, as noted in the Preble County history of 1881.
Through the years connecting roads were built and today carry such names
as Eck, Mossiman, Michael, Hetzler, Dickey, Kalbfleish, Hinkle, Meyers,
Keister, Thomas, Sloebig, Hursh, Streebe and even No-Man's Road, because
when named, no man lived on it --- some do now.
Historical research reveals that the first covered bridge in Madison
Township was erected over Elk Creek at Gunkle's mills along the Trenton-
Franklin Road. This road originally went into Trenton, instead of ending
at Eck and Howe Road as today. It ran along the river, crossed Elk Creek
and despite the hill it had to climb, on into Trenton. The bridge at the
creek was built, according to old county records, in 1818 at a cost of
$40. Gunckle operated both a grist mill and a saw mill at this point, and
had a large trade.
Undoubtedly a covered bridge once spanned Elk Creek along the old
Winchester Pike, but Getz recalls only the iron bridge which was "fairly
new" when she attended school at Elk Creek.
Ball's Ferry in later years operated by Peter Schertz was used in crossing
the Great Miami at Trenton. On April 25, 1866 the first Trenton Bridge, a
two-span covered wooden bridge was completed at a cost of $16,733 and the
ferry ceased operation. In 1881 the east span washed away in a flood, and
according to Edward Keefe's history of Trenton, the covered bridge was
replaced by a two-span iron bridge, some 500 feet in length. The present
four-lane concrete bridge was dedicated J u ne 11, 1966.
On April 12, 1848 the Manchester Bridge Company was organized with Jacob
Banker, William Baracalow, Samuel Lucas, Henry Lane, Jacob Temple and John
McCray as directors. They set up the company to build the bridge with
private funds, stock, and then charged a toll to repay the investors
hopefully with a profit. At the time a village called Manchester was at
the bridge, on the south side, with Poasttown on the north side. The
bridge cost $8,645, it was a double-trace covered bridge. its piers are
The Woodsdale Bridge, known officially as the Libe rty- Fairfield bridge
spans the Great Miami at the point where St. Clair, Fairfield, Liberty and
Madison townships meet. The first bridge there was a covered one erected
in 1856. The bridge was replaced in 1901 by an iron bridge, which washed
out in the 1913 flood. Then came the concrete bridge built in 1916,
reinforced in 1979. A new bridge is on the planning boards.
The longest and most traveled of the covered bridges was the one leading
to Madison Township out of Middletown. A ferry served until 1832 when the
first covered bridge was erected by the Middletown Bridge Company, headed
by Joseph Sutphin. It was a toll bridge as was the second bridge, a
larger, wider covered bridge of white pine built in 1852 by Ralph Slack.
It was in two spans. This bridge was replaced in two sections --- the
eastern span by an iron bridge in 1875, in 1884 the western. But both iron
bridges were taken out by the 1913 flood. then came the concrete viaduct
replaced by the present structure in 1948, and rebuilt in 1994-95.
The viaduct completed in 1916 was a beautiful roadway lighted with
electric globes. It was the longest such structure in the state at the
time, and attracted tourists to the area.
The last covered bridge in Madison Township was at Miltonville. Originally
a ferry operated at Elk Creek on the road to Miltonville. At the same time
a footlog, some 20 inches wide, afforded a pedestrian crossing. Sometime
during the 1820's a covered bridge was built over the stream. After
deteriorating beyond repair, the first bridge was replaced by a larger one
in 1872, with some of the nearby residents with their own hands and
materials erecting a new structure when county officials did not take
This bridge stood until 1930, although being weakened by the 1913 flood it
had been closed to heavy traffic. Such vehicles as threshing machines used
by farmers had to ford the creek to protect the rotting structure. When
dismantled in 1930, the usable timbers were sold to Harry Augspurger. His
son, Wilda C. Augspurger, 6094 Howe Road, recalled the beams being used in
a hayloft, and donated them to the Canal Museum at Middletown where they
are seen in the ceiling. The 1930 iron bridge was in turn replaced in
Before the Miltonville Bridge was taken down, a few years previously
another old covered bridge was replaced. It was along Elk Creek Road just
south of Route 122 near the entrance to Sebald Park over a tributary of
the creek. It was a narrow one-track bridge which was replaced by a
concrete one, soon to be replaced. Marguerite Marts Getz recalls as a
child playing on it and how "loud the horses' hoofs sounded as they
tramped across." She also noted that in earlier days there was no bridge
over the Elk Creek tributary at Jacktown (Astoria) as it was forded at
that point. She remembers having to wait at the ford after a rain "until
the waters went down."
Most of the crossings over Browns Run were also at fords, it being a creek
filled with many flat rocks. A swinging bridge was across it at the Upper
Browns Run School for students to use, but a ford was in the stream as it
is to this day.
The most unusual covered bridge in Madison Township was described in a
delightful newspaper column by historian Edward Keefe ("Edgewood" July 9,
1992). It was over Elk Creek near Trenton. The covered bridge was built in
1851 to accommodate the wood-burning locomotives of the new Cincinnati,
Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. Since Abraham Lincoln was once a passenger
on this line, he would have passed through this covered bridge in 1859.
The locomotive's smokestack spewed sparks as it puffed along. A fire
watchmen had to be put at the bridge, with large water barrels at each
end. The watchmen worked 12-hour shifts, and had to check the bridge after
each crossing, throwing water on any sparks smoldering.
One night when Fredrick Shafer was on duty, he came close to losing his
life. One freight train had become uncoupled, before the days of automatic
coupling devices, about a mile north of the bridge. Thinking the whole
train had passed through the bridge, Shafor began his inspection. But then
the uncoupled cars came rolling down the rails to the bridge, with Shafor
jumping to the side just in the nick of time.
This unique wooden bridge was replaced with a steel truss type in 1888.
While all the covered bridges have disappeared from Madison township, one
of them is still standing in Butler County. It is at the entrance to
Governor Bebb Park, but is restricted to pedestrian use. The bridge's
story is an unusual one. Known as the "Middletown Bridge" it was in fact,
in Madison township being over the main channel of the Great Miami. At
that time there were two covered bridges at the crossing and this one was
on the western end. It was of Wernwag truss construction erected by the
county in 1867. The construction firm was Bandin, Butin and Bowman, and
charged $26 per lineal foot.
As traffic increased on the Winchester Pike (Route 122) the demand came
for a new iron bridge. In 1884 the county put in an iron bridge, moving
the old covered bridge to Oxford Township at Fairfield Road over Indian
Creek. When it finally had to be replaced in 1966, being of historical
significance, it was dismantled and moved to the Morgan Township park
The railroad would bring growth and prosperity to Madison Township. It
would favor the three stations as listed in Ohio's official railroad map
--- Trenton, Middletown Station (West Middletown) and Poasttown. On March
2, 1846 a charter had been Issued to the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton
Railroad, but it would take 5 years for it to be in operation. At Dayton
the C.H. and D. connected with the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad, thus
opening a whole route between the Ohio River and the Lake at Toledo.
The C.H. and D. secured the best natural approach to Cincinnati. From its
beginning it was profitable, tapping the rich valley hinterland. The
"Middletown Emblem" reported the arrival of the railroad in these words:
Glory Enough for One Day---"I came, I saw, I conquered," was one of Julius
Caesar's dispatches. "I came, I saw, I conquered," was the voice of the
Iron Horse, on the evening of the l8th of September. At its sight enemies
were converted into the warmest friends, and all seemed to join in
feelings of the warmest admiration of the fierce breathing courser. The
ride, to the city of Dayton, was indeed a fine one --- the lengthened
trains conveying thousands of passengers over one of the most fertile
valleys in the Union.
Some of the Madison residents objected to the railroad's naming the new
station as the "Middletown" station, feeling it their railroad since it
went through their village.
On the l8th many local residents were treated to a free ride to Dayton and
back, but for some the ride was not enough, so they went on down to
Hamilton. But the train stopped there, and the enthusiastic riders had to
get off. Many returned to Middletown by canal packet, which cost 50 cents.
Others who couldn't get passage or didn't have the fare had to get home as
best they could. that evening they came into Middletown on rickety wagons,
by foot and some even came home wading along the bank of the Great Miami.
A few local men were angry because they were not given tickets on the
first class cars, even though the ride was free. They claimed that the
railroad management chose passengers for the first- accommodations on the
basis of the tax duplicate, restricting the section to the
"thousand-dollar-a-year" awn. Others were just as happy to ride second
class, for it seemed that the longest distance from the spark-throwing
engine was the cleanest and safest. In defense of the railroad management,
it should be noted that most of the first-class accommodations went to
local stockholders of the new company.
On July 28, 1917 the C.H. and D. railroad became part of the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad system, B&O.
Within 30 minutes after the receipt of an order from the general offices
of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad system, the familiar initials, "CH&D
R.R." disappeared. Within a few hours these letters were erased from
ticket office windows in all the cities through which the line ran.
It just took one stroke of the pen to eliminate a group of letters that
were a familiar sign to travelers.
In 1962 the Chesapeake and Ohio, known affectionately as "Chessie" took
over the Baltimore and Ohio, and in 1980 it became part of a merger with
Seaboard Coast Line Industries becoming the CSX Railroad, which it
remains. CSX also owns the old Cincinnati
Dayton Railroad, which is just across the river at Woodsdale.
The railroad had brought with it some colorful characters. There were the
hoboes and the tramps. A hobo was, in effect, a migratory worker, while
the tramp, often scorned by hoboes, was considered a lazy fellow who
wanted something for nothing, and did not want to work to cat. If the man
were a real hobo he would work for his board, or perhaps a piece of
cast-off clothing. One place the hoboes and tramps used to congregate was
just north of West Middletown around the culvert near the tracks. South of
the depot were other good hide-outs.
Some Madison farmers welcomed hoboes as migratory hands during their peak
work periods. Some hoboes were good farmers. not caring for the
regimentated life of a factory, these "Knights of the Road" often followed
the harvest, starting working the fruit in Florida in the early spring and
moving north with the season. The late Herbert Fall recalled hoboes were
of great help during the busy harvest season, and that some men showed up
every year at the right time. They worked for a few dollars a day plus
meals, lodging in the barn. According to Fall there was a large hobo camp,
or hobo jungle, at the Elk Creek railroad bridge. he said that the hoboes
often referred to the C.H. and D. railroad as the "Cold, Hungry and Damp"
line, not a particularly good route for them.
Most hoboes carried a little bag or sleeping roll which they called a
bindle to carry necessities, such as a toothbrush, razor, towel, change of
clothes or perhaps some left-over food. By tying a rope around the bindle
it could be thrown over a shoulder leaving the hobo's hands free to catch
hold of a rolling boxcar.
Then there were regular railroad laborers hired by the line to care for
the tracks, by keeping the right-of-way cleared of trees and shrubs and do
necessary resurfacing. If a section of rail were sinking, the crew
shoveled rock under it, used a jack to raise it. They put in missing
spikes, or hammered down loose ones. The men went up and down the tracks
in a hand car, a flat, small truck vehicle on which the wheels about two
feet above the track, rode the rails. Four men could lift it onto the
track, and it bad standing room for six. Men pumped the handles up and
down thus propelling it. The men in the crew were popularly known as gandy
dancers, the name given due to the jig-like movements they made when
tampering the ties with the elongated spike hammers. They drove them
facing each other, one spike inside the other. Winfred Duff, a retired
county health official, recalled the gandy dancers camp at West
Middletown. Their boxcars were rolled onto the tracks off the main line
south of the station. Sometime in the 1950's they disappeared. In their
place came an odd-looking machine on wheels that could do that
back-breaking work of repairing tracks once done by the sunburned sweating
At each station, there was a railroad official in charge, who was known as
the master of the depot. The depot was the center of attention with people
coming to meet trains or leaving them. Friends often came to pick
passengers up, so the depot was a busy, friendly place. The master also
had to be able to man the telegraph. Lee L. Crider, was typical of such
masters, and he was at the helm of the West Middletown depot for many
years. Crider is perhaps the best remembered of all area station masters.
The Criders emigrated from Pennsylvania in the early days, settling in
Madison Township, where they had purchased a farm. Among their children
was a son Abram, who was the father of Leo. Leo usually known as Lee, was
born March 24, 1854, on the home place and studied in the township schools
until he was 16. He left home to study telegraphy, becoming quite
He then was hired by the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad as an
operator and put in charge of the station. He was courteous and friendly,
taking part in community life. For 15 years he held the position of
township clerk. He assisted Dr. C.H. Bundy in setting up the Middletown
telephone system in 1881.
The railroad brought several accidents which occurred within sight of the
West Middletown depot --- a few resulting in fatalities. One claimed the
lives of 36 people --- 21 met instant death --- and some 50 injuries.
Death rode the rails that hot July 4, 1910.
A Big Four Twentieth Century Limited passenger train had been rerouted
over the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton tracks due to a wreck which had
occurred on its competitor's mainline at Sharonville. A CH&D freight train
had orders to proceed north to clear the tracks for the southbound "flyer"
out of Dayton. It was decided to sidetrack at West Middletown. As it was
beginning to back into the siding, the Limited came around the corner out
of Poasttown at 60 mph, driving head-on into the freight, causing a crash
that could be heard miles away. The time as 1:02 p.m.
A News-Signal reporter wrote: "With the crash of the terrible impact, the
grinding of iron and steel, the tearing of timber (cars were then made of
wood), the hissing of steam and the wild shrieks of the situation may
better be imagined than described. Those who saw and heard rushed wildly
to the scene. Some called friends on the telephone and in a few minutes
the news was ringing through Middletown and the doctors, undertakers and
apparently the whole population was hurrying to the scene."
Middletown's main thoroughfare became a moving mass of humanity as the
frightful news spread. People came by automobile, in horse rigs, on horses
and on foot. Arriving at West Middletown, they fought for points of
vantage, ignoring the danger of slipping on timber and debris to get a
Men worked in relay teams up to 4 o'clock when the railroad wrecking cars
arrived and began pulling and lifting away the damaged cars. Nightfall
found workers still at the scene, looking for more dead in the wreckage,
but no more bodies were found. Railroad officials refused to comment or
ever fix the blame for the accident. It seemed to be a matter of lack of
communication in a day when safety measures were not so stringent as now,
and railroad accidents were common. Just a few minutes later the freight
would have been off the mainline, which station agent Lee Crider had been
telegraphed to clear at 1:07. The passenger train arrived ahead of
What the people found in that cornfield along the river north of the
highway stunned many with horror. Some of the victims were unidentifiable.
The work of rescuing the injured came first as they were carried to the
West Middletown depot, a quarter mile away. Local automobiles were put to
use as ambulances as the injured were placed in them and taken to local
physicians' offices or to the Elks Temple, the town having no hospital.
As soon as possible, those in serious condition were moved to hospitals,
in Dayton, Cincinnati and Hamilton. Few now disputed the need for a local
hospital, which had been debated for some years. The dead were cared for
by four undertaking establishments of the time: Rathman & McCoy; A.T.
Wilson & Son; J.D. Riggs; and Bailey & Bachman.
Nineteen years before this tragic Fourth, On July 25, 1891, a previous
accident had occurred at West Middletown. Employees of National Cash
Register at Dayton were returning from a company picnic at Woodsdale
Island Park on an excursion train of the CH&D Railroad. It collided with a
freight train, causing some 50 injuries and four deaths.
A local journalist, young James M. Cox, who would later become an Ohio
governor and candidate for president, reported the accident to the
Cincinnati Enquirer so graphically that the Enquirer offered him a job on
that newspaper, thus launching him into a career that would leave behind
Cox Media, today's multi-billion dollar corporation.
Other wrecks on the CH&D line at West Middletown included one on July 4,
1895, and one on Jan. 2, 1905.
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