Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Portage to the Past: Early 1915 deadly time for local railways

10:55 AM, Feb. 27, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
  • Filed Under

Early 1915 was a bad time for railway accidents in the Stevens Point area, according to various local newspapers of that time.

While the chance for injury or death presented itself more often back then, sometimes there still were more instances than normal.

Although little information exists, it was Jan. 23, 1915, when L. W. Schmitz, a Soo Line switchman, was killed in the local railroad yards.

Then on Feb. 18, 1915, another tragedy occurred.

Agnes Simolke, 21, had left her family's farm in Auburndale in December to seek work as a domestic in the Alfred O'Brien home on West Church Street.

Agnes was in the habit of visiting her sister, Mrs. Charles Bellin, every Thursday and Sunday afternoon, and this particular Thursday at 2 o'clock, a short distance east of the Soo Line bridge over the Wisconsin River at the end of Wisconsin Street, Agnes miscalculated the distance between herself and an approaching locomotive. She turned south and had nearly crossed over the track when the No. 12 passenger train struck her.

Mrs. Bellin, who had been resting, was awakened by the sound of the train bell, and peering out her window saw the body of her sister at the bottom of the steep embankment not more than 35 feet from the front of the house.

Backing up, Conductor Elmer Thew and Engineer B. Willett placed the body in the baggage car and proceeded on to the depot where Dr. von Neupert, city health officer, examined the remains before removal to Boston Undertaking Parlors.

Although escaping the wheels of the train, her back was broken, and death was thought to be instantaneous.

Just a month later, two more deaths were reported in the March 20 Stevens Point Daily Journal.

A 40-year-old man named John Johnson, a native of Norway who was in town from Sheridan, Waupaca County, was killed by a Soo Line train in Amherst.

Arrested for being drunk and disorderly on Friday night, he was released Saturday morning from the Amherst jail and told to leave the village. Instead, Johnson continued to drink, and in an intoxicated condition, lay down on the train track, unmindful of the danger - or so it was assumed.

Sadly, very little else ever was found out about the man, except he had half a pint of alcohol on his person and a book of seaman's rules, which perhaps explained the seaman's tattoo marks on his left arm.

As far as anyone in Sheridan knew, the only family he had in the states was a sister in New York City, but since no one knew her name, it was assumed she never would know of her brother's sad fate.

Meanwhile, at almost the same time in Junction City, a young Milwaukee man, William Collins, met his death beneath a Soo Line freight train.

Collins and companion James Garrison, machinists by trade, arrived in the city Tuesday night. They looked up a former co-worker and had dinner at the house of the man's mother.

Although planning to leave town Wednesday night, ultimately bound for San Francisco to work, they changed their minds and instead went out on an extra freight in charge of Conductor Resech and Engineer Janes.

The accident occurred the next day when after their return, Collins attempted to re-board the train as it was pulling out. His foot slipped, and he was pulled beneath the wheels.

After the body was taken to Stevens Point to be prepared for burial, it was returned by train to Junction City where Collins' father, an engineer on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, took charge of the body, placing it on a train for Milwaukee where burial took place.

Rhonda Whetstone is a columnist for Stevens Point Journal Media, Daily Tribune Media and News-Herald Media. Rhonda's Twitter ID is TribRendezvous if you wish to follow her musings there. You also can get previews of upcoming columns by clicking "like" on Portage to the Past on Facebook. If you have story ideas of a historical nature, email her at Rhonda.Whetstone@gmail.com.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
574 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1014 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1271 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports

ORDER YOURS

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports