Wreck involving Buffalo Bill Cody

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I am looking for information about a Southern Railway train wreck that occurred near Lumberton,NC and Linwood,NC around 1903 that involved my g-g-grandfather. He was the engineer of a train that somehow got on the same track as Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show train. They collided killing many of the show's animals. I have an article that was done around 1960 about the wreck but it doesn't give much detail. If anyone can help, thanks in advance.

-- Mike Lynch (m-elynch@Webtv.net), January 14, 2000


I have an autobiogrophy of Buffalo Bill Cody called "Buffalo Bills Own Life Story of His Life and Deeds" published in 1917. The book makes no mention of any such event and goes on to say "In 1902 the exhibition was taken to England (and other European countries)...for a tour of four years." I do not know how complete the book is so this cannot be considered the final answer. There were a number of "other" Wild West shows out there and Cody may have even had several troupes touring at the same time. I would suggest looking at the local libraries for old newspapers. It sounds like an interesting story, good luck finding out more.

-- Albert E. Pope (aepope@worldnet.att.net), January 18, 2000.

My memory seems to recall a story of the wreck on the Carolina Central near Lincolnton, NC. I do have a source for this type of story and will post something later this week.

-- Matt Bumgarner (stealthnfo@aol.com), January 23, 2000.

This wreck happened in Davidson County,NC.It was in the Abbott's Creek area,between Lexington and Thomasville.The train had left the rail yards in Linwood and wrecked soon after.I don't recall the date,but am aware that Annie Oakley was also on the train.There were many animals killed,some also got away and were never captured.Annie received some serious injuries herself,she did live. This was what actually stopped the wildwest show and it never was the same. The Lexington Dispatch or the Thomasville Times newspapers should have it somewhere on file.

-- Richard Carson Harper (rhgen@aol.com), March 17, 2000.

What I have read of this wreck was that it happend in 1901. They had a show in Charlotte, NC on Oct. 29 and boarded three trains for a overnight trip to Danville, VA. At the time, the Southern main line was single tracked and a southbound freight train was orderd onto a passing siding to let the show's trains pass. After the first train passed the freight eased on to the mainline and proceded south thinking there was only one train. A few minutes later the southbound train was confronted by the 2nd show train.

The crews both jumped in time, but about 110 horses didn't make it. The freight's engineer ran from the wreck and the conductor resigned on the spot. Locals claimed Buffalo Bill grabbed a tremendous shot gun used in the shows and went after the freight crew.

I got this from the book "Southern Railways Spencer Shops", TLC Publishing Inc., 1996.

-- Evan W. Whatley (fwhatley@bignet.net), January 01, 2001.

The Train Wreck you speak of happened October 28, 1901 outside of Lexington, NC. As others have mentioned a freight train missed a telegraph informing its crew that Buffalo Bill's Wild West show was in two sections. After the first section passed the freight train got back on the main line heading south towards Charlotte. A little while later the freight train, Number 75, collided with the three section train carrying the rest of the Wild West. The wooden cars of both trains were destroyed. 110 horses, including Buffalo Bill's personal mount Old Pop (or Pap), were killed, impaled or otherwise injured by the splintered rail cars. The cowboys and indians were forced to put down many of the injured animals, while some were given to locals. Only two horses survived and Buffalo Bill is said to have cried when he arrived, while another account says he pursued the freight train crew with his gun. Annie Oakley was partially paralyzed in the wreck, and required five surgeries at St. Michael's Hospital in Newark, NJ and many months of convalescence at a sanitarium in Buffalo, NY before she was released and began rehabilitating herself. Eventually she regained full motor skills and continued giving exhibitions and touring until her death in 1926, however the wreck marked the end of her association with Buffalo Bill's Wild West, although she remained a dear friend of Buffalo Bill, eulogizing him at his funeral. Annie Oakley and her husband moved to Pinehurst, NCa in 1915 and lived at the Carolina Hotel teaching shooting and giving exhibitions on and off for the next 7 years. The insurance settlement for the Souther Railroad almost bankrupt the enterprise, but they eventually paid off the debt and went on to great prosperity. For Buffalo Bill this third train wreck in less than two years (Detroit-July 1900 and Louisville-June 1901) marked the beginning of the end of his Wild West. He began touring again about a year later but never regained the prestige seen before the wreck. He turned the company over to creditors in 1913 and died in 1917. I hope this helps.

-- Patrick Wade (pmwade@unity.ncsu.edu), June 16, 2004.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show had at least one other tragic accident, this one on the Virginian Railway on October 31, 1916. This one was apparently less terrible, and in the accounts I have read, there is no mention of people hurt, but many animals were injured or killed. It happened about 130 miles west of Portsmouth, VA where the show was next to perform. This one was apparently a derailment, attributed to a split switch. Thank goodness the modern RBBB and the Strates trains have a far better safety record than back then. There is more on this story in "The Virginian Railway", by H. Reid (Kalmbach, 1961) or you discuss it in the Virginian Railway Enthusiasts Group on Yahoo.

-- Mark Fisher (vaoverland@aol.com), July 25, 2004.

I am researching this incident for a book and have gathered lots of material about it. What I am looking for now is a picture of the wreck. I have checked the following places without success: - Denver Public Library's huge collection of Wild West Show pictures - Buffalo Bill Historical Center - Lexington Library (Lexington, NC) - NC State Archives - Special Collections, UNC-CH - Rowan Public Library (NC)

Has anyone come across any pictures of this incident?

-- Scotti Cohn (sm_cohn@hotmail.com), August 18, 2004.

http://www.news14charlotte.com/content/entertainment/looking_back/? ArID=77813&SecID=99

Here's a link to a photo. I'm going to try to visit the site over Thanksgiving...I used to live in Salisbury, a few miles away.

-- Michael Edwards (neversanever@hotmail.co), November 08, 2004.

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