Franklin County, Massachusetts
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News Stories of
Fires, Accidents, Train Wrecks
and other Calamities

The Sattinett Factory, near Greenfield, Mass. Was lately destroyed by fire ? with 6000 lbs. of wool, and 2300 yards of cloth. 80 persons thrown out of employ and damaged estimated at $30,000. The Cheshire Cotton Manufactory, at Jaffrey, N.H. was also lately burnt. Loss very heavy to the owners.
   [December 17 1828, "The Adams Sentinel" (Gettysburg, Penn)NP; Sub by FoFG]

Awful Casualty
Greenfield, Mass, Nov. 4 - Mr. William Bridges, a respectable young man in Deerfield, was killed on the 28th ult., in a shocking manner. He was working at a machine constructed for teasing cloth, when by some means his foot was caught by the band, which passes over the principal perpendicular wheel, so that he could not extricate himself. In this situation he was carried round by the wheel several times, his head in each revolution being struck against the floor with such violence as to be heard a considerable distance, and to induce his wife to suppose she heard the report of a gun. It was some time before the machinery could be stopped, and then life had departed. His head was literally bruised to a jelly. He had always sustained a fair character for industry and sobriety, and has left a wife and infant child to mourn their terrible bereavement.
["The Republican Compiler" 19 Nov 1823; Page 1; NP; Sub by FoFG]

 April 7, 1886

GREENFIELD, Mass., April 7. - A terrible disaster occurred on the Fitchburg railroad to-night, midway between Bardwell's ferry and West Deerfield station, the east bound passenger train, due at Greenfield at 6:05 P. M., going over an embankment 200 feet high. Six bodies have already been taken out of the ruins and it is not known how many others were killed. The train was the eastern express, and consisted of a baggage car, smoker, sleeping car, mail car and two ordinary passenger cars. The train was in charge of Conductor FORSTER, with HERBET LITTLEJOHN as engineer. The point where the accident occurred is the most dangerous on the road. Trains run on the edge of an embankment 200 feet above the Deerfield river. The bank is steep and covered with huge bouilders[sic] and masses of rock.

When the train arrived at this point the track commenced to settle under it for a distance covering its entire length. The coaches broke from their trucks and went rolling over and over down the precipice. The engine broke from the tender, tearing up the track for twenty feet. Below rolled the Deerfield river, on the very edge of which the cars were thrown. As soon as they struck they caught fire from the stoves. The sleeping car was an entire wreck. It was occupied by seven passengers, not one of whom at this hour is known to have escaped injury. One man whose name is unknown is imprisoned in the wreck of the sleeper, where he is being buried alive. One little girl was picked up dead.

As soon as the news reached Deerfield a special train was made up and sent to the scene of the disaster, having on board several physicians, section men and a few citizens. On arriving at the scene of the wreck a horrible sight was witnessed. Darkness had settled over the spot. Far down on the river bank could be seen the smouldering embers of the holocaust. It was impossible to tell who was hurt and who was killed. Stout-hearted trackmen were lowered cautiously down the treacherous height and the rescue began.

MERRITT SEELY, superintendent of the National express, of Boston was found in the wreck and taken into the relief car. He had a wound four inches long and half an inch wide over the left temple. His left thigh was broken and also his left leg at the knee. Besides which he sustained internal injuries from which he will die.

D. CRANDALL, postal clerk, was plunged into the river and got ashore with difficulty. He was wounded about the head and his arm was fractured.

The Fitchburg coach was the only one that escaped conflagration. Deputy Sheriff BRYANT, of Greenfield, who was in this car, rescued two children from the flames but one was dead and the other dying. Their parents were on board, but cannot be found. Some of the injured and dead were taken to Shellburne Falls and some of the wounded to Greenfield.

C. P. BELL, of Nashua, N. H., was cut slightly on the head and leg, but was not seriously hurt. He was thrown head foremost into the river and went to the bottom barely escaping drownding[sic].

Conductor FOSTER is reported safe and but slightly injured.

D. C. WELLS of Andover had his shoulder hurt and his head cut. The car in which he was riding was broken in two and stood on end within a few feet of the river bank.

NICHOLAS DORGAN, of Greenfield, had his left arm and ankle broken and was seriously injured internally. A little girl who was a passenger on the train died in his arms from injuries received.

J. E. PRIEST, of Littleton, N. H., had his face and head cut.

Engineer LITTLEJOHN, of North Adams, was badly scalded, it is believed fatally.

A. K. WARNER, chairman of the Greenfield board of selectmen, was badly hurt, but his injuries are not fatal.

Great excitement prevails all along the road between here and North Adams.

Being interviewed by wire to-night at Shellburne Falls, Conductor FOSTER, said: 'I am unable to state how many were on the train. Only three men have thus far been found who escaped injury, and they place the number of passengers all the way from 25 to 100.'
No doubt half a dozen were killed outright while falling, and as many more fatally injured. The west bound express was delayed at Greenfield and West Deerfield two hours while the relief train, with surgeons and their assistants, was sent out on its time. The locomotive is a complete wreck but remains on the track, while the tender is down the bank.

The following persons were taken to Shelburne Falls more or less injured:
H. G. LITTLEJOHN, brother of the engineer, with wife and child, both of whom have since died.
A. C. HARVEY, of Boston, badly hurt.
A. R. WARNER, of Greenfield.
H. COULLARD, of Charlement.
E. W. DUNNELLS, of Waltham.
H. G. LITTLEJOHN, with his wife and two children, both of whom have since died.
A MISS CORNELL is badly hurt, as is Mail Agent PUTNEY.
A. M. WATERHOUSE is missing.

It was reported in Shelburne Falls that thirteen persons were killed outright, but this could not be verified. Fears are entertained that morning will increase the list of deaths and casualties. A portion of the mail is reported lost in the river. At 11 o'clock to-night men are still working at the wreck. It is learned that the injured at Shelburne Falls number nineteen.

Engineer LITTLEJOHN is dying. HENRY C. COULLARD will die before morning. Three more dead bodies have been found at the wreck.

The train at the time of the accident was running at the rate of about twenty miles an hour. FRANK LANK, of Boston, a salesman for a New York firm, jumped from the train, and is believed to be the only person who saw the cars go down the embankment. He says there were three passengers in the drawing car.  [The Quincy Daily Whig Illinois, April 8, 1886] [Transcribed by a FOFG]

In Hawley

 The following records have been collected from various sources, and it is a matter of regret that so many are without date.

Many years ago, Thomas Pixley was killed by a falling tree when at work on the farm now owned by Wm. O. Bassett.

Moses Rogers was killed in the winter of 1808, while cutting ice from the water wheel in his mill, near the present town house.  He went out to the mill one morning before breakfast, and not returning, search was made, and he was found crushed between the wheel and the wall. It was supposed that the wheel started sooner than expected, and drew him in.

Sylvester Sears was drowned just below the bridge near Lewis W. Temple's, Sep. 8, 1820, while bathing.

Harlan H. Rice, aged 16, son of Champion B. Rice, was drowned Aug 18, 1858, at Hoosac Tunnel. He went in company with two others to visit the tunnel while work was in progress there, and it being a very hot day, he went in bathing, just east of the portal of the tunnel, in the Deerfield River, and was drowned. To add to the terrors of the scene, a terrific thunderstorm occurred when the party carrying hom his body were within two miles of home, accomopanied by a very high wind which destroyed trees and buildings.  A messenger was sent in advance to break the sad news to the family before the body arrived.

Dea. Ebenezer fales hung himself at the Town farm, June 30, 1853. He had previously made repeated attempts at self-destruction by pounding his head, cutting his throat, and drowning.

Roswell Longley hung himself Feb. 28, 1846, while confined in an insane asylum.

A Mr. Bassett from Charlemont was once killed in this town by being thrown from his wagon.

Daniel Fletcher, came to Hawley before 1800, settled a little east of where Otis Beals formerly lived, fell from a wagon and broke his neck.

Jotham King's house and contents were burned in the early years of the town's history.

Theophilus Crosby's house was burned in 1809 or 10.

Warriner King's sawmill and a large lot of lumber was burned about 1820.

Joseph Merriam, aged 15, son of Rev. Jonathan Grout, was drowned in June, 1823, while playing in the water with a party of other boys.

Otis Longley, a native of Hawley, moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in middle life.  He was found murdered Aug 23, 1863, at the age of 51, by Quantrell's gang in their raid upon the town. Abbott, in his History of the Civil War, describing the scene, says, "The wife and daughter of a man threw themselves on his body, begging for his life. One of the rebel gang thrust his revolver between them and shot the man.  Mrs. Longley since married Dea. Samuel Williams of West Hawley, and died a few years ago. The daughter, Angeline, married Dr. Ashley, a western clergyman.

Leavitt Hallock's tannery and sever thousand cords of bark were burned Feb 11, 1846. The heat from the burning piles of bark was so intense for two days that it was necessary to keep the adjoining buildings wet to prevent their taking fire. This was the most disastrous fire ever occurring in town, and was the cause of reducing a once prosperous hamlet to a place known only in the memories of the past.

The Col. Noah Joy place, including hotel, two barns, and most of their contents were burned in 1865.

Chandler Blanchard's house and barn were burned in Dec. 1880.

Other fires without record of date were Ichabod Hawkes' house, Nathan Clark's house,  S. Burt's house, the Jonas King house, occupied by the Larrabee family, the Union schoolhouse, C.W. Fulleres store, kept by A.G. Ayres, a house at Fullerville, occupied by a French family, a schoolhouse at West Hawley, P. Starks' shop and sugar house, a sawmilll run by Elisha Hunt and Zenas Thayer.

the well-remembered flood of Oct. 4, 1869, was very disastrous to property, particularly on Chickley's river, where every bridge was carried away, also Edward Peck's sawmill and other mills were disabled.

Andrew, a little son of Ziba Pool living Warriner Kings, died Jan 3, 1829, in consequence of a kernel of popcorn lodging in his throat.

Thomas L., aged 22, son of Gen. Thomas Longley, was drowned July 15, 1843.

About 1827 the body of a Mrs. Town of Plainfield was found in a swamp near the site of a sawmill formerly owned by Phineas Starks. She had wandered away from home in a fit of mental aberration and called at the house of Warriner King, now the Town farm. Amos Griggs then a boy living there, saw her leave the house and pass on up the road, which was the last account her friends could receive of her. A large party of men organized a search and scoured the country for miles around and after several days' search they decided to look one day more and give it up, and on the last day she was found as above stated.[SOURCE: History of the Town of Hawley, Franklin County, Massachusetts, William Giles Atkins, 1887]


Police Chief Clarence Demers has reported that Arnold R. Witto of River road was involved in an accident Monday morning while on his way to work at Monroe Bridge.

The accident occurred at Mausert's four-corners, where the icy condition of the road caused Mr. Witto's car to skid to the side of the highway.  The car was damaged.

He was uninjured and continued to work in another car. [The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) 22 Apr 1953, transc. by aFOFG]

E. Fairbanks of Heath, Mass., asks the town to pay him $10.00 to his wife, caused by the backing of her horse over an insufficiently protected embankment. [Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, Feb 3, 1875; transc. by a FoFG]

Patrick Murphy, while crossing the railroad with his team Thursday, was run into by a freight train, his wagon demolished and himself and horse thrown into the ditch. No serious injury.
[Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, June 4, 1879; transc. by aFoFG]

The house of Dr. Sansom was struck by lightening Saturday evening. Several windows and one mirror were broken and some plastering torn off, but none of the family were injured. A tree near the house was struck, and a squirrel that happened to be on it was killed. [Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, June 4, 1879; transc. by aFoFG]

Michael Finn, A Fitchburg railroad trackman, was killed by the cars Friday morning. He was lying near the track and the engine struck his head. Medical Examiner Coy held a view on the body.
[Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, June 4, 1879; transc. by aFoFG]


Dwight Nash had one of his horses killed Wednesday, by being backed down a steep bank with a heavy load attached. [Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, June 4, 1879; transc. by aFoFG]

The dwelling-house, barn and other outbuildings of Lyman A. Newton in Sunderland were burned Friday morning, together with a horse and several swine, and a part of the household goods.
[Source: The Turners Falls Reporter, June 4, 1879; transc. by aFoFG]

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