Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Four Members of the Piper Family Killed When Struck by Train 1920

Sumner Press, January 8, 1920.  Sumner, Illinois.

A train struck an enclosed Hudson Supersix car at 8:17 o’clock, killing four prominent Sumner people at Christy Avenue on Sunday night.  Herbert Piper, Mrs. Shelby Piper, formerly Daisy McNece,  and son Randall were killed instantly, but Shelby lived until 10:30, when he died at the Olney Sanitarium just as they were putting him on the operating table.  At first it was thought all were dead, but Shelby’s heart was beating strong and at one time it looked as though he had a fighting chance.  He was taken to Dr. Green’s office where Dr. Turner and Lyle D. Spencer, of St. Louis, did what they could for him, but there was a fracture of the skull about three inches long, which made it almost impossible for him to recover.  He was later put in the caboose of the train and taken to Olney, but to no avail.  The body of Herbert Piper was thrown farthest, being fifty feet farther down the track than the others.  He was dead when reached, practically every bone in his body being broken.  Mrs. Shelby Piper’s body was thrown against the ties and there were no signs of life. Randall, whose neck was broken, was thrown between the ties and died as he was being removed.

The freight which hit them was a west-bound double-header, No. 97.  It was going at a great rate of speed, having gathered speed on the downgrade to get momentum for the upgrade west of town.  The train stopped as soon as possible and returned to the site, later taking Shelby to Olney.

It is a mystery why the accident happened, as the car was leisurely going across the railroad in no seeming hurry and seemed all unconscious of the danger.  They were just returning from John Culbertson and wife’s home from church.  The fact that it was a light night and the headlight of the engine, therefore, was not prominent, might explain the reason for the accident.  The engine struck the car near the left rear wheel and turned it completely over, demolishing the body of the car and throwing the occupants out.

The news was at once telephoned to the relatives.  Bruce Piper was called at Olney and Dr. Clark Piper had just left Olney at 7:45 for Chicago, but was intercepted by telegram at Mattoon and returned Monday.  Miss Meryl McCool, R.N., of Chicago came Monday.  Miss McCool had made her home with the Piper’s for a number of years.

Engineer’s Story

Engineer Thurber, of the forward engine which struck the car, was greatly wrought up by the accident.  He said he saw the car for a long distance ahead.  The car seemed to be just creeping along and he expected it to stop before the track was reached.  But the car kept on and was square across the track when it was too late to prevent the collision.

The accident was a shock to the whole community.  It was so unexpected and of such magnitude that the people who first arrived on the scene seemed dazed.

Herbert Piper was one of our most influential citizens.  He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and was high up in Masonry.  He was the president of our School Board and was interested just at present in finishing our school building.  He was one of the main boosters for a farm advisor for our county and to him is due much of the credit for the fact that we will have an advisor.  He was one of the most faithful members of the Sumner Presbyterian Church.  He had been much interested in hard roads and was boosting strong for the Lincoln Trail.  For many years, he was trustee for Normal at Carbondale.

Mr. Piper made much money in oil and is considered one of the wealthiest men in the area. Since his wife died about a year ago, Shelby and family had been living with him endeavoring to make life pleasant for him.

The funeral services were held at the United Brethern Wednesday at 1 p.m. with the Masonic Lodge in charge and with the remains being laid to rest at the Sumner Cemetery.