By Shane Bennett
Ever find an old photo in a box or the attic and wonder what it was? One Davis resident had that experience this week, except she was able to find out the truth about the photo, which unlocked unknown family history from over 110 years ago.
Patsy O’Shields brought a very aged photograph into The Davis News, looking for some information. Fortunately (for her and for us) a slow week afforded us a rare opportunity to look into history, instead of just the weekly current events.
A recent blurb in the “Long Ago” section, which appears weekly on page two, was a memory jogged by the photograph. After a little digging, we were able to lay our hands on the actual newspaper, the Dec. 15, 1910, edition of The Davis News.
This newspaper contained a story about a major train wreck from the day before with many interesting details. Then, came the Dec. 22, 1910, edition and to my delight, I discovered a photo of the accident, published in that week’s edition. Upon comparing the photos there is little doubt that O’Shields’ photo is of the same event, over 110 years ago.
A copy of this photo is on display at The Davis Muesum, but some of the information associated with it needed to be corrected. With her help, now the picture can be displayed with a detailed account of the event as well.
O’Shields had been going through the belongings of either her grandfather or great-uncle when she found the photo. The discovery got her curiosity going and that curiosity spread to our office as well.
Time has obscured the photo some, but about 50 people can be seen in it. A close look reveals the two cars in the river, two on the tracks and in the distance what is likely the special train that brought doctors to the scene.
One lingering question is why the photo was there in the first place. That question was answered by the newspaper story. O’Shields’ grandfather and his brother were in the train wreck. Both P.K. Kunauntubbee and his brother, Joe, with their names spelled “Cunnentuby” were listed among those injured in the wreck.
“I had no idea that he was ever in a train wreck,” O’Shields said of her late grandfather.
The Davis News’ story about the accident described the events as follows:
“South bound train No. 11, due here at 12:08 p.m. but being about two hours late, was wrecked at the bridge across Washita river at the rock cut three miles south of Davis yesterday afternoon, the accident being caused by the train splitting a switch. The baggage car and smoker fell into the river, a distance of 25 or 30 feet, and lie on their sides in the water. Water in the river is only about two feet deep now, which fact saved many of the unfortunate passengers from death by drowning.
Floyd Goins, a Cherokee Indian aged about 30 years, who has lived around Davis several years, was instantly killed. His neck and head were horribly cut. Two or three others are probably fatally injured. Forty or fifty, in fact all in the smoker and baggage coach, were wounded, some seriously, others just bruised. A special train took all the doctors in Davis to the scene, carrying medicine and bandages, and the injured were given medical attention as quickly as possible. Physicians were also sent from Ardmore.
The injured were brought to Davis in a car about dark and after midnight started for the railroad hospital at Temple, Texas. Dr. A. P. Brown, local surgeon for the Santa Fe, accompanied the wounded to the hospital . . . .
Passengers say the train was running at a perilous rate and it is miraculous that more were not killed. The track was torn up for some distance and the bridge considerably damaged but repairs sufficient for trains to pass were completed by 3 a. m. today.
Many Davis people hurried to the scene of the wreck and assisted in ministering to the wounded.”
The story also stated that unverified reports claimed that two more bodies were trapped under the cars in the river and another wounded individual had died on the way to the hospital.
O’Shields said she likes to learn about her family history and the things that happened here many years ago. She was able to match the picture she found to an identical one at The Davis Museum. Not only did this search shed light on the actual date and event in the picture, but it also revealed a century-old piece of unknown family history in the process.
Many today search for information about their ancestors and where they came from. You can buy a kit, swab your cheek and send away for answers. Perhaps, though, we can learn just as much from the pictures in the attic.