Monday, May 23, 2011

23 May 1907: Injured Odd Fellows Return to Athens

On this day in 1907, Athens residents who had been hospitalized in Macon after surviving  a Central of Georgia Railway train wreck on May 20th, returned to their homes. The announcement ran in the Weekly Banner:

According to news reports, other Athenians injured in the wreck were A. C. Bishop (shoulder), F. H. Bowden (cuts on head and left shoulder), A. B. Harper (left hip), H. L. Garabald (general shake-up), R. L. Bramlett (right leg and shoulder), J. W. Baker (bruised on head), and J. W. Fox (sprained left knee).  

The No. 18 train from Athens was 20 minutes from it's next stop in Macon when it derailed at a speed of 30 to 35 miles per hour (reports vary).  On board were approximately 50 passengers, including a special coach with a delegation of Odd Fellows members from Athens and area towns en route to the week-long state convention in Columbus. After being checked by doctors, those passengers not hospitalized continued on to the state convention.

The wreck was described in the Macon Twice-A-Week Telegraph:

As the engine struck the curve two miles south of Hillsboro the rails turned, probably caused by the weight of the engine coming around the curve. The locomotive, however, was over the rail before it had turned sufficient to throw it and so escaped. The three coaches were hurled about ten feet from the track, the first and last being badly smashed and the second, somehow, miraculously escaping damage and being laid intact against the embankment at the side of the track.

It was first thought impossible that the coaches could be so completely wrecked and yet no one have met their death, and all were greatly relieved when it was verified none had been killed. This was all the more miraculous as the train was unusually crowded because of the Odd Fellow's party.

The morning after the wreck, a short Atlanta Georgian and News update noted that "no cause is known for the Hillsboro wreck other than it was a derailment on a sharp curve." In 1907, train accidents were fairly common across the country, and this particular accident had too few injuries to garner much media attention.

The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows began in England, and were established in the United States in 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1851, they became "the first national fraternity to include women" with the establishment of the Rebekah Degree. They still exist today, with 10,000 lodges in 26 countries, working toward their mission "To visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan."

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