Sunday, January 8, 2023
SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY: Train and Buggy Wrecks
The Vine Street Tower was near the site of one major freight accident in Shelbyville’s history. | photo from the files of DOUG LINNE
by DAVID CRAIG
Daily the paper lists auto wrecks. The newspapers of 1908 also told of wrecks. Most of the 1908 wrecks were of the horse and iron horse variety. As frightening as an auto wreck is, to be flung onto dirt or gravel road from a speeding buggy could be just as serious.
Before addressing the two “horses,” the Aug 5, 1908, Shelbyville Republican had an amusing tale about the “horseless” carriage.
A farmer was driving into Shelbyville in his automobile from the northern part of Shelby County. As he was puttering along on Boggstown Road not far from Shelbyville, his car broke down. The disgusted farmer hoofed it to a farmhouse and phoned for a mechanic to come to his rescue. He then returned to his disabled vehicle to wait for the mechanic.
Charles Sindlinger, owner of Sindlinger Meats, came upon the scene and decided to offer his help. “Is it out of fix again?” Mr. Sindlinger asked. The farmer replied, “Yes, and I hope you can fix it.” thinking Sindlinger was the summoned mechanic.
When Mr. Charles Sindlinger examined the auto, he noticed some of the gears had been clogged. Upon removal of the debris, the auto began to operate normally.
The farmer asked what the bill would be. Mr. Sindlinger replied in jest to call at the garage and settle.
One of the more frightening train wrecks occurred in Shelbyville on August 8, 1908. The Shelbyville Republican called this one of the worst train mishaps in decades.
Many longtime Shelbyville residents will remember the old Vine Street Tower that sat halfway between East Hendricks Street and East Broadway along the New York Central tracks. The Pennsylvania tracks crossed the NYC line at this point.
Early on the morning of August 3, 1908, a “Big Four” freight was entering Shelbyville from the east. As the locomotive steamed under the Amos Road viaduct the engineer was given the signal to stop. At the same moment a Pennsylvania train was crossing the line and the “block” was closed for NYC traffic.
Normally, there would have been ample time to brake. That is, if the air lines do not have a hole in them. Unfortunately, this was the case and the train refused to brake. As the thundering freight neared the switch south of Hendricks Street, the brakeman and fireman leaped from the doomed train. This was credited with saving their lives.
When the massive locomotive neared the Vine Street Tower, it jumped the rails. Four cars immediately behind the locomotive also derailed. Boxcars were in splinters and the track was bent and signal wires ripped out of the ground. Work crews were summoned from Greensburg and Indianapolis. It took two days to remove the wreckage.
Wrecks of a horse and buggy nature also appeared in the papers of the period. One very interesting and horrifying buggy wreck occurred on Aug. 4, 1908.
Henry Roberts, Superintendent of the County Farm, was driving his rig along Amos Road. He reached the viaduct just as a train was passing under the concrete structure. The train frightened the horse, and he began to run. Mr. Roberts was thrown out of the buggy and rolled down the embankment. The buggy was in pieces. Henry Roberts was lucky to escape with only serious bruises.
A LOOK BACK: This is the First Column of What I Hope Will be Many
Editor’s note: Since columnist Kris Meltzer has moved over to The Shelby County Post, we will republish one of his historical articles here each Sunday until our closure at the end of next month. Below is Meltzer’s first-ever column, which appeared in The Shelbyville News, January 24, 1992. It provides context for his column’s run, which has spanned over 30 years.
I was quite flattered when The Shelbyville News asked if I would consider writing a weekly column. However, I suspect that it was only because The Shelbyville News has been more successful than usual in selling advertising space and needed something to put between the ads.
I believe the suggestion that I do a weekly column came from reporter Kevin Maroney, who is always hanging around the Shelby County Courthouse. He tends to be there between court hearings when I generally ramble about unimportant things in daily life, and he told me that he believed the readers would also find my ideas interesting.
Of course, one advantage to reading anyone's newspaper column is that a person can always quit reading it at any time and go on to reading the advertisements.
When I went home to give my family the exciting news that I would be writing a weekly article, instead of being met with the enthusiasm that I expected, my wife Sandy immediately threatened me with divorce if I ever divulged any embarrassing things about my family. I explained to her that one of the enjoyable things about writing a column is getting to tell everyone of the embarrassing things about your family.
In fact, I pointed out to her how she has told me on many occasions how much she enjoys Mary Lou Simpson's column. She, of course, noted that all of Mary Lou Simpson's four children have moved away from Shelbyville.
My wife believed that this no doubt was a direct result of living in fear that every time they opened The Shelbyville News, they would discover what their mother had told the entire population of Shelbyville about them. I agreed to write a column in the hopes that it would be syndicated and I could quit my job. In later years, I would merely reprint the old articles and thereby make a living doing nothing.
I realize many readers believe that lawyers don't have a real job anyway. I have had real jobs in my lifetime. In fact, I have spent my entire life as of now living and working in Shelbyville.
Some of my past jobs have included newspaper boy, corn detasseler, and carry-out and stock boy at a grocery store with jobs as an adult at both Certainteed and K T Corp. Therefore, my views and ideas are actually the sum total of all these life experiences.
I have decided to call my column "A View from my Schwinn" because of the great enjoyment that I get observing things while riding around town on my Schwinn bicycle. I have owned several Schwinn bicycles. At the risk of this column sounding like the Wonder Years' version of a John Scott column, allow me to reminisce for just a few moments.
Some of my fondest memories are of my very first Schwinn bicycle. It was a gold-colored Schwinn Stingray, which I purchased when I was a paperboy for The Shelbyville News in 1966.
I purchased the bicycle at the Schwinn bicycle shop on East Washington Street. I don't remember what happened to my Stingray, but I probably sold it sometime after getting my drivers license. Since then, I have owned some different makes of bicycles, including some with gears, but for riding around town, I have always preferred a bicycle with just a coaster brake and no gears.
A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me an old Schwinn Heavy Duty. I believe that it was a model popular in the late 1960s. It is called Heavy Duty because it is built a little heavier and has heavier spokes than the usual bicycle of that time.
I was very content riding my Schwinn Heavy Duty around town. However, for some reason, and that reason is probably because I tend to ramble about Schwinn bicycles whenever given the chance, some people thought that I needed more than one Schwinn bicycle. Before I knew it, all of my friends brought their old bicycles to my house and left them on my front porch, much to the delight of my wife, who has made me get rid of most of them.
I still have, in addition to my Schwinn Heavy Duty, an older Schwinn with very wide tires. This bicycle has been repainted, and I don't know what model name it originally had. I also have a Schwinn Stingray. This one is not a plain, run-of-the-mill Stingray, but the very best Stingray, a Schwinn Applecrate. It is a red five-speed with a spring shock absorber on the front and two shock absorbers on the back of the seat. It also had a drum brake on the front wheel and a disc brake on the rear wheel.
In the next year, I hope to bring you some interesting views from my Schwinn. Most importantly, when I am out riding my bicycle around Shelbyville, I can no longer be accused of goofing off. It will be obvious that I am working on next week's column.
Shelbyville High School wrestler Pacey Virden finished second in girls regional action yesterday, advancing to State. Angel Kreider finished fifth at regionals and qualified as an alternate for State.
HOOSIER NEWS: The three Republicans who have launched campaigns for the 2024 Indiana governor’s election all say they ended December with about $3 million in the bank. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s campaign said Friday that it had $3.1 million in cash for her bid to replace current Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who can’t seek reelection because of term limits. The gubernatorial campaigns of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden had announced similar bank balances on Tuesday. Those totals signal a possibly expensive primary battle for the 2024 Republican nomination as the GOP seeks to extend its 20-year-hold on the governor’s office. State law, however, prohibits the candidates from campaign fundraising once this year’s legislative session starts Monday until it adjourns in late April. No Democrats have yet announced a 2024 governor’s campaign, although former state schools superintendent Jennifer McCormick has said she is considering a run. Complete campaign finance reports must be submitted to the State Election Division by Jan. 18. (Indiana Public Media)
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2003
The city announced a public hearing on a proposed road project for the city’s Southeast Corridor. The Southeast Corridor, also known as Progress Parkway, was a three-phase project to provide easier access between State Road 9 and State Road 44 to Interstate 74. Construction was slated to begin on the first part of the project, along Clark Road to Michigan Road and down to McKay Road, in the fall. Work on the second phase was slated for 2004, with the construction of a road from McKay Road to CR 200 South. The last phase, to be built in 2005, would begin at CR 200 S and connect to SR 9. David Finkel said closing the viaduct on McKay Road would be a good safety measure.
30 YEARS AGO: 1993
Elvis stamps went on sale at the Shelbyville Post Office, and sales were brisk, clerks Sherry Mohr and Becky Boaz reported. They expected all 12,000 stamps to be sold by the end of the day.
40 YEARS AGO: 1983
Former Mayor Ezra Dagley, 58, a Democrat, announced plans to run for mayor again. Dagley had been mayor from 1976 until 1980. Dagley had been a Shelbyville policeman for 20 years, including three years as chief in the early 1960s. He was a Shelbyville High School graduate and a Navy veteran of World War II. He and his wife, June, (Hurley) had two sons, Mike and Steve, who each had a son. The senior Dagleys had lived in Rolling Ridge since 1959. In 1979, Dagley at first declared he would not run for reelection, but he changed his mind several weeks later. Nevertheless, he was beaten in the Democrat Primary by then Clerk-Treasurer Delight Adams. She lost the general election to Republican Dan Theobald, who was running for reelection. Dagley would face Police Lt. Bill Cole for the Democrat nod.
50 YEARS AGO: 1973
City Councilman Kenneth McCoy applied a gasoline-soaked torch to the stack of Christmas trees as Councilman C.M. Bennett hurled his torch onto the top of the pile to start the traditional Twelfth Night tree burning held at Sunset Park.
Junior and Prep League bowling tourneys were held at Blue River Lanes. Winners were Bobby Martin and Sharon Marshall; girls’ doubles winners Lori Gessling and Nancy Hebbe; and boys’ doubles winners Danny Toon and Tom Hebbe. Also, Junior circuit winners included girls doubles Diana Fritz and Sherry Owens; boys doubles Mike McComas and Robbie Robertson; and Merrill Todd and Teresa Marshall. Jean Roe was coach for the young bowlers.
60 YEARS AGO: 1963
Four Shelby County people gathered in Washington for the opening of Congress and oath-taking ceremonies for Indiana’s new senator, Birch Bayh Jr. They were Mr. and Mrs. Joe Long and Mr. and Mrs. John Mitchell.
70 YEARS AGO: 1953
Smith’s Jewelry Store, 37 Public Square, was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Dean Hartley. The Smith’s Jewelry had been operated and managed by James Spera for two years.
80 YEARS AGO: 1943
As the 78th Congress of the U.S. opened its session, a former Shelbyville man was in the spotlight of national attention as he opened the House of Representatives’ session with prayer. The man was Dr. James Shera Montgomery, veteran chaplain of the House, who had lived in Shelbyville for many years. His brother, the late E.K. Montgomery, had also been a long-time resident here.
90 YEARS AGO: 1933
Although there had been two diphtheria deaths in the county within a week, there was no danger of an epidemic, county health authorities said. Ruth Cowen, 14, a relative of a small child who had recently passed away from diphtheria, was recovering from the illness, her doctor said.
100 YEARS AGO: 1923
The state legislature was reportedly discussing a tax on gasoline and a tax on cigarettes. The Republican newspaper was opposed to the former. “Most everybody is now a user of gas; gas has become a first necessity if you want to go any place or have the women do the work. No person has to smoke cigarettes; about all they are good for is a first aid to the undertakers; children should never have them; men would be better off without them.” The paper said a new tax would “create some smoke.”