At 8:30 am at the Grand Trunk railroad yards in Durand, MI, two separate trains of the Wallace Bros. Shows met in a rear end collision that resulted in the death of 23 people and twice as many were injured.
Several animals were killed including an arabian horse, 3 camels, one great dane and an elephant named Maud. The accident occurred about 1,500 feet west of Oak St. crossing of the main line as the engine of the second train smashed into several cars of the first. The animals were buried at this location.
The first train had pulled into Durand from Charlotte en route to Lapeer. It stopped at the west end of the yards on the main track.
A red light was put out to signal the second train. The engineer saw the light and attemped to stop his train, but the air brakes failed and the engine crashed into the rear of the front train with "terrific force".
The engineer and the fireman both jumped from the train once they realized that the collision would be inevitable. Both men escaped with minor injury.
According to the Owosso Argus Press, "The scene that followed is indescribable, the cries and groans from the injured persons and frightened passengers, the roars from the terrified animals and the escaping steam aroused the whole city, and hundreds rushed to the scene to assist in every way in the sad task of caring for the dead and wounded."
In the rear car of the first section were sleeping circus employees who had no warning of the danger. Ten or fifteen of these men were killed and number seriously injured. Trainmaster McCarthy, Special Officers Large and Foley and Traveling Engineer Hazel, of the Grand Trunk, also were in this car. McCarthy and Large were killed and two others escaped with injuries.
In all, 22 men died that morning and four more died after being transported to a hospital in Detroit.
A temporary hospital was set up in the Hotel Richelieu at Durand. Several doctors from around the county worked for many hours on the wounded, which reached nearly 100.
Seventeen people were killed instantly and were laid out on the field as fast as they were recovered from the debris.
The wrecking crews of the railroad system were called and had the track cleared and regular service restored by 9:30 pm that night.
The Argus Press reported that, "The survivors of the wreck are a sober looking lot. One of them was overheard saying, 'Thank God I'm still alive!'"
G.W. McLain and C.J. Mapes, with the assistance of imported undertakers, embalmed the largest number of bodies in McLain's undertaking rooms.
The wreck was one of the worst in the state's history and maybe the nation's in 1903. One of the deplorable features was the inability to identify some of the dead. The bodies lay in state for severla days and were viewed by hundreds of people from all over the country. Many a sad scene was enacted as a distant relative would enter the room, view the long row of dead and find their lost son, brother or relative. Ten bodies were unclaimed. They were buried in Lovejoy Cemetery. Of this number, one of the bodies were claimed, taken up and removed to New York state. Nine board signs were prominent in the cemetery, over each of the unknown victims.
The cemetery is located 1/2 mile west of Durand Rd. on Prior Rd.
A large monument was erected in their honor.
In Memory of the Unknown Dead.
Who Lost Their Lives in the
August 6, 1903
The following article was taken from the Durand Express....Thursday May 26, 1904
The monument to the unknown dead victims of the Wallace Brothers circus train wreck will be unveiled in Lovejoy Cemetery on the afternoon of Decoration Day. At a meeting held Thursday evening, a committee appointed Rev. John McLean and Wm. H. Putnam to solicit funds to defray expenses. Other committees will also be named.
The following program will be carried out at the cemetery:
Music..Durand City Band
The Monument..B.P. Hicks
Reading..Miss Alice Terry
Rev. John McLean will be chairman of the day and preside at the exercises. The graves will be decorated and at the proper time the monument unveiled.
The Durand City Band will furnish music for the occasion. At 1:30 pm an informal parade will go to the cemetery. It is asked that the city teamsters and all others provide means of transportation. The farming community also is asked to join in this event.
The monument is in place and is located at the entrance of the cemetery on the west side. This monument was purchased by circus followers by popular subscription. The Bill Board published at Cincinnati, had charge of the fund and accepted no amount over one dollar. The sum raised was near the four hundred dollar mark. This shows fraternal feelings of the circus followers.
Wallace Bros. Circus Railroad Car
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