Items Regarding the Wreck of
S O U T H E R N R A I L W A Y
Train Number Seventeen--October 21, 1921--under which
Conductor James Bassett Gwin, Sr.
died, the sole
near Greensboro, Alabama, on the Akron run.
Item 1: News article from a Selma, AL, newspaper:
MONDAY, OCT. 24, 1921
(Page one; continued to page five)
Conductor Gwin, Subbing For Comrade, Is
When Train Wrecked
Brotherhood Official Leaves Wife, 5 children--Student Is Worst Hurt of Several Injured In Southern Passenger Mishap.
Shortly after 2 o'clock, Mrs. Gwin and four children reached Selma in their car, having come through from Goodwater, from which place they started at 7 o'clock this morning.
They had made the trip in ignorance of the sad news awaiting them at home. Sympathetic friends offered every service possible to the bereaved family, and through the afternoon many expressions of sorrow and telegrams of condolence were received.
Conductor J. B. Gwin was killed and several white persons and four negroes were injured, none of them seriously, when the Southern train for Akron struck a broken rail three miles this side of Greensboro Sunday night at 7 o'clock, overturning the two passenger coaches in one of worst wrecks to visit the Southern lines out of Selma in many years.
The injured were: James Gilmer, son of W. J. Gilmer of Marion Junction, injury to back and bruises over the body; Miss Marguerite Alexander, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R. G. Alexander of 513 Parkman Avenue, Selma, who suffered a scalp wound; Mrs. Kate Lewis and son Ivey, of Birmingham, who continued their journey; and four negroes, now in Union Street Hospital here.
At the time of the wreck, Conductor Gwin was standing at the front end of the negro coach, when he felt a slight jar and sensed something wrong. He reached for the bell cord, and as the coach listed to its left side, he was pushed through a window and imprisoned by the wreckage. Mr. Gwin never lost consciousness and was able to talk to those who rushed to his aid in an effort to free him. His body was mangled terribly from the waist down. Death occurred at 8 o'clock, after his body had been released from the wreckage.
Mr. Gilmer was perhaps the most painfully injured of the passengers, but it is believed that he will be out of the hospital soon. He was returning to the University of Alabama after a weekend spent at Marion Junction. Miss Alexander, after having her wound dressed at the Vaughan Memorial Hospital early this morning, was removed to her home, where she is said to be doing nicely. Among the injured negroes was John Rivers, flagman of the wrecked train, who has been on the railroad for 40 years and is a well known character. This makes his fifth wreck, it is said, and in none of them has he received more than slight bruises.
A record was set by these crews in building up 200 yards of track, torn up when the negro and white passenger coaches left the rails and turned over down a fifteen-foot embankment. Within an hour the track was re-laid, and the relief train crossed over and went into Greensboro, the injured being in the baggage coach of the wrecked train [the engine of] which had left the scene of the accident. They were given every assistance by the physicians and citizens of Greensboro. Several of the passengers were vocational students, returning to Greensboro, and their wounds, minor injuries, were treated by the local doctors.
It was estimated by persons who saw the Akron train pull out Sunday afternoon and by those who visited the wreck, that perhaps 50 persons, most of them negroes, were passengers on the ill-fated train. Possibly a dozen of the number were white. That the death list was not higher is considered remarkable by railroad men and others who viewed the overturned coaches last night and today. The engine and baggage coach never left the track.
He was secretary-treasurer for the Order of Railway Conductors and was also prominent in fraternal circles. His entire railroad life had been on the Southern.
Five years ago Mr. Gwin removed his family from Anniston to Selma, where they reside at 2101 Broad Street.
Absence of Mrs. Gwin from the city Sunday evening, when news of her husband's sudden death was received, lent an added note of tragedy to the sad occurrence. Mrs. Gwin recently left Selma with her four children for Goodwater to visit her mother, with intention of returning home Sunday night. Up to noon today, it was impossible to communicate with her, as she had left Goodwater in an automobile for Selma without learning of her husband's death. J. P. Doherty and other friends from Selma went out from Selma in cars to meet Mrs. Gwin on the road. They will probably reach Selma late this afternoon.
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Gwin have not been made, pending the return to Selma of Mrs. Gwin.
Besides his wife and four small children, Mr. Gwin is survived by four brothers, W. S. Gwin, Birmingham; J. L. Gwin, Prescott, Ariz.; G. H. Gwin, Manchester, Ga.; and P. K. Gwin of Tuscaloosa; and three sisters, Miss Kate Gwin, Birmingham; Mrs. G. M. Marable, Talledega; Mrs. L. R. Hebb, Prescott, Ariz.
John Bassett and Henry Bridger of Martin Station, and Henry Bassett of Columbus, Ga., are uncles of the deceased.
Mr. Gwin was born at Frog Level, Dallas County, and was raised in
Shelby County. He entered the service of the Southern
the age of 16 on the Alpine-Selma run, and continued with the same
railroad until his death. He was 49 years old.
Item 2: News article from an unknown newspaper:
Conductor Killed in Railroad Wreck Near
Mrs. Kate Lewis of Birmingham and Son Are Badly Injured When Train Turns Over
Southern railway passenger train coming from Selma was wrecked this evening just four miles from Greensboro. Conductor A. J. Gwinn [SIC] was badly injured and was rushed into Greensboro for medical assistance but died just as the train reached the Greensboro station. John, the negro porter, who has run on the train for forty years, was badly injured. The rest of the crew escaped unhurt. Mrs. Kate Lewis, 2210 Ridge Park Avenue, Birmingham, was badly injured. Her son, Ivey, who was with her, was also hurt. Three or four vocational students coming to Greensboro to enter school were badly bruised. Both passenger coaches left the track, turning completely over.
When the engineer went over the track, he remarked to his fireman: "That's a broken rail."
At that moment somebody applied the brakes, and both coaches left the track. Nine or ten negroes are in town for medical assistance being badly hurt. Every car, truck, doctor, and trained nurse were rushed to the wreck as soon as the news reached town, to render what aid they could.
Mrs. Lewis and her son were brought into Greensboro in a private car and carried to the home of a friend, where they are being cared for.
Item 3: News article from an unknown newspaper:
Conductor Gwin Is Buried Today
Funeral of Conductor Gwin Held At Residence Today
Many sorrowing friends crowded the home and stood with bared heads about the porch and in the yard, paying their tribute of respect to a man who in life had commanded esteem and a full mead of friendship from his fellow workers and acquaintances.
Words of comfort for the stricken widow and four small children were spoken in the beautiful funeral service, and masses of beautiful flowers bore silent testimony to the sympathy of hundreds of friends here and in other parts of Alabama.
Interment was made in Live Oak cemetery, pall bearers being Southern Railway conductors who had been closely associated with Mr. Gwin in his long years of service on the railroad and including, besides Capt. J. D. Riggs, whose place Conductor Gwin was supplying when he met his death, S. T. Walker, J. A. Freeman, S. E. Farrington, D. G. Mott, H. H. Hillman.
Gathered here for the last services were relatives from several distant points in Alabama and Georgia, among these being Mrs. Julia Vardaman, mother of Mrs. Gwin, and Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Webb, the latter a sister of Mrs. Gwin, all of Alexander City; Miss Kate Gwin and W. S. Gwin of Birmingham, George H. Gwin of Manchester, Ga., T. K. Gwin of Tuscaloosa [sic--should be P. K.], and Mrs. G.M. Marable of Talladega, all brothers and sisters of the deceased. A cousin, Emmett Gwin of Mississippi, arrived Tuesday morning in time to attend the funeral.