The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


January 15, 2012

Railroad, disaster birthed hospital

Crude ‘emergency hospital’ of the late 1800s paved the way for Ashtabula General Hospital

The Great Lakes shipping industry in the mid-1800s was fraught with losses of both human life and property. In 1851, the year before the east-west Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad was completed through Ashtabula County, there were 79 lives lost on the Great Lakes. The prior year, the lakes claimed 395 lives.

The railroads were not necessarily safer, however. As the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster pointed out, a mishap involving a passenger train could claim as many lives as a shipwreck. Bridges collapsed, trains derailed and sometimes ran head-on to each other. Steam engines were well equipped for inflicting injury and death with their belching fireboxes, exploding boilers and sheer motive force. Further, there was the danger of being crushed between cars, having limbs amputated by the massive steel wheels and being thrown from or knocked off moving stock. Coupling in the early years of railroad was done manually, setting a scenario for crushed hands. Braking was, likewise, a dangerous occupation, with the manual brakes applied from the top of rolling stock.

The first U.S. railroad worker to die in service to his employer was a fireman on the South Carolina Railroad, who was killed June 17, 1831. The engine, “Best Friend of Charleston,” exploded when the fireman restrained the safety valve because its noise annoyed him.

As the railroads expanded, so did the incidence of deaths and injuries. Although accurate data prior to 1910 is impossible to come by, the estimate for the decade 1882 to 1892 is 5,623 deaths and 20,445 injuries on America’s railroads. During that period, only mining surpassed railroading as the most dangerous occupation in the United States. It is said that the experience of trainmen was judged not by the number of years they worked but the number of fingers missing from their hands. A trainman in 1893 had a 1-in-9 chance of being injured and 1-in-115 of being killed in the line of work.

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  • Historic Kirtland Nativity Exhibit Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland

    Volunteers are still busy putting up more than 600 Nativity scenes for the nationally acclaimed exhibit at Historic Kirtland in preparation for the formal opening on Friday. A lighting celebration and musical program will begin 6 p.m. Friday. Nativity sets representing countries and cultures from around the world will fill the Visitors Center and the one-room schoolhouse located next to the center. The theme of the 11th annual exhibit is “Unto Us A Son Is Given.” Admission is free and open to the public. Historic Kirtland is located at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road, just off Route 306 south of I-90.

    November 27, 2013 2 Photos

  • newspaper bicent.jpg Odd Tales of Ashtabula County

    Twins were pretty rare in Williamsfield Township, so when Correne Cutlip delivered twin girls on April 22, 1939, her husband, Bob, started calling neighbors and relatives with the good news and a plea for help: they would need twice as much of everything.

    December 9, 2012 1 Photo

  • axis salley and sister.jpg Guilty of treason!

    She was a lonely child, precocious, some said; others said she was simply aloof. Two things for certain, she was beautiful — neighbors often remarked on her black curls — and odd, especially by  the standards that existed in Conneaut in 1916.

    November 25, 2012 2 Photos

  • OHAST108.jpg Those 10 Calaway girls

     In an era when many couples are happy to dote on just one offspring and most U.S. McMansions have at least 2.5 bathrooms, the story of the Calaway sisters is amazing.

    August 5, 2012 3 Photos

  • Hewitt.jpg The music got him 'All stirred up inside

    Floyd Hewitt loved to listen to the radio, especially that cool jazzy music that got him “all stirred up inside.”


    July 30, 2012 1 Photo

  • Burton's house.jpg The romantic bachelor

    The brass plate is partially obscured by the July grass that grows about the stone substrate.

    July 15, 2012 1 Photo

  • Smith Marine Museum Owen.jpg ‘Perfectly fearless’

    Second of a two-part series on the Big Blow of November 1913

    July 8, 2012 1 Photo

  • cef Davidson launch.jpg Launching an industry

    Shortly after midnight on Sept. 26, 1941, German  U- boat No. 203 fired four torpedoes into convoy HG-73 north of the Azores.

    June 17, 2012 2 Photos

  • bicen whitla.jpg Ransom for an attorney’s little boy

    Tony Muscarelli, 13, and Willie Madden, 12, were walking down Depot Street, Ashtabula, on the evening of March 20, 1909, when a 30-year-old man accosted them from across the street.

    June 10, 2012 1 Photo

  • cdf bicent run 2.jpg Jumbo legend

    Kelsey’s Run rambles through the flatlands of Conneaut Township Park, carving graceful curves in the grassy area just north of Lake Road and slipping quietly under the two stone bridges in its final stretch toward Lake Erie.

    June 3, 2012 1 Photo

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