This month MidPointe Library salutes the “Hometown Heroes” who have made our local communities even better places in which to live, work and play.
Question: How does a community turn tragedy into triumph?
Answer: When “Hometown Heroes” assist those in peril and their selflessness and courage help lead to the formation of a hospital where there was none.
Such was the outcome of one of the most tragic transportation disasters in the history of the greater Middletown, Ohio, area:
The July 4, 1910, collision of a freight train and a passenger train “just north of the West Middletown depot” that led to the deaths and injuries of numerous passengers in a city that “had no place to care for the injured. This tragedy inspired the drive locally for a hospital...” (1)
Local historians Roger L. Miller and the late George C. Crout recalled the catastrophe in their book, “Middletown Ohio,” part of the “Images of America Series”:
“...a passenger train on the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton line drove head-on into a freight that was backing into a siding. The crash could be heard miles away, and Middletonians rushed across the bridge with rescue units…” (2)
They continued : “The wreck claimed 36 lives and 50 injuries. Since there was no local hospital, the injured had to be rushed to a Hamilton hospital...The wreck caused local residents to realize the need for a hospital, and this resulted in a drive for such a facility.” (2)
In her front page article in the July 10, 1960, Middletown Journal, writer Patty Mummert recalled the train disaster:
“...with the crash of the terrible impact, the grinding of iron and steel, the tearing of timbers (most the cars were wooden then), the hissing of steam and the wild shrieks of the wounded that rent the air, the horror of the situation may be better imagined than described…” (3)
“Two locomotives imbedded in each other -- torn and twisted masses of steel -- once powerful engines of motion, now mute and silent, told the story of the disaster… (3)
“Many of the victims were unidentifiable, and a list describing the dead was published, resulting in a flood of calls and letters from people scattered around this area…” (3)
In an accompanying article, “Those Who Saw Can’t Forget,” the hometown heroes who struggled to help the victims that Fourth of July recounted their sad, grim memories: (3)
“Those who saw and heard the crash ran wildly to the scene. Some ran for the telephone, and in a few minutes the news was ringing through Middletown, and doctors, undertakers, liverymen and apparently most of the population were hurrying to the scene… (3)
“The sight of the dead and the groans of the suffering made such a permanent impression in the minds of the onlookers that even after 50 years, details of the accident are still clear to them...” (3)