Back to the North Wood column: 1905 records several train deaths

6:31 PM, May 31, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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As I have researched for the various papers all these years, I have noted some years are worse for fires, some for suicides and some for train deaths, etc. In Marshfield, 1905 was not a good year when it came to train fatalities.

Herman Jahn, a widower and resident of Rozellville, had been in Marshfield all day Sunday, May 7, 1905, leaving late at night in a somewhat intoxicated condition to walk up the Wisconsin Central line. At about 2:30 a.m. May 8, the limited train No. 3 hit and killed Jahn just west of the station.

Although a coroner's jury, empaneled by Judge Andrews on notice from Officer Griffin, concluded it was an accident, still no one knew if Jahn had been walking on the tracks, had lain down on them or was just near them and fell as the train approached.

It was recorded that two other freight trains passed by before Upham's logging train, which had just gone through the cut near the Adler crossing, when the engine crew spotted the body by the tracks, so it was possible one of those freights struck the man.

The logging train could do nothing without orders, so it continued to Spencer and wired back to Marshfield. It mattered not as Jahn had been killed instantly.

The body was taken to the Upham undertaking parlor, where Jahn's mangled body was identified by letters found on the person.

The Marshfield Times reported that Jahn was about 55 and had four grown children.

Two months later, another fatality occurred when the 1:37 p.m. passenger train entered the city July 5, 1905, and at the Central Avenue crossing, struck and killed Michael Arntz, a stone mason about 50 years old.

Arntz was thrown some distance and sustained serious injuries. Dr. Doege of Marshfield was on the train, and immediately rendered assistance, but Arntz was too seriously injured and succumbed later in the afternoon.

Arntz was crossing the track on the sidewalk, and no one knows why he failed to see or hear the train bearing down upon him. He left a wife and son.

And then there is the story I did last year on Walter Johnson, the 8-year-old son of Nels Johnson of Marshfield, who likewise had an unhappy end.

It was Oct. 9, 1905, and Walter and some friends were playing around the school yard after school before returning to their homes. When they heard the north-bound Northwestern Freight pulling out of the station, they ran to the Vine Street crossing to watch. Suddenly, Walter shouted to his friends, "Watch me jump her," and before anything could be done, he jumped for the train, missed his handhold and in the blink of an eye was drawn under the wheels.

With the injuries Walter sustained, it was thought he died instantly, but he had not. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died a few minutes after arrival. His injuries were far too severe for anything to have been done.

Sadly, all three of these 1905 train deaths could have been avoided had caution and common sense prevailed.

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