“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Thaxton in Bedford County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

1889 Thaxton Train Wreck

1889 Thaxton Train Wreck Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, June 26, 2015
1. 1889 Thaxton Train Wreck Marker
Inscription. On 2 July 1889, a heavy storm turned nearby Wolf Creek into a raging river. The railroad embankment known as Newman’s Fill, just north of here, became saturated. About 1:25 AM, it collapsed under the weight of Norfolk & Western Passenger Train Number Two, heading east from Roanoke. The train plunged into the washout. Survivors remained stranded for hours, while passengers trapped inside died in a fire that ripped through the wreckage. At least 18 people perished in one of Virginia’s worst railroad accidents. In Cleveland, Tennessee, a monument was erected to honor three young residents killed in the wreck.
Erected 2014 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number K-160.)
Location. 37° 21.081′ N, 79° 37.597′ W. Marker is in Thaxton, Virginia, in Bedford County. Marker is on West Lynchburg Salem Turnpike (U.S. 460) 0.2 miles west of Thaxton School Road (Virginia Route 831), on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5013 W Lynchburg Salem Tnpk, Thaxton VA 24174, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Hunter's Bivouac (approx. 3.1 miles away); Colonial Fort
US 460 (facing west) image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, June 26, 2015
2. US 460 (facing west)
Near the Big Apple Thrift Store.
(approx. 4.2 miles away); Robey W. Estes Sr. Plaza (approx. 5.2 miles away); D-Day Monument (approx. 5.2 miles away); Randolph-Macon Academy (approx. 5.4 miles away); Avenel (approx. 5.7 miles away); Bedford (approx. 5.8 miles away); Peaks of Otter Road (approx. 5.8 miles away).
Also see . . .
1. Two towns rediscover deadly 1889 train wreck after a coed knocks down 125-year-old monument in Cleve. The Times Free Press' article (July 5, 2015) on the train wreck monument and marker. (Submitted on July 6, 2015.) 

2. A new sign marks site of 1889 train wreck in Thaxton. 2015 article by Dan Casey in The Roanoke Times. “The artifact was a giant brake shoe, ‘way too big for any truck,’ Neely recalled Tuesday. She and Gillenwater pulled a total of three metal chunks from the ground that day. They turned out to be pieces of a train — Norfolk and Western Passenger Train No. 2, which in the wee hours of July 2, 1889, crashed just down the hill from Gillenwater’s house.” (Submitted on October 11, 2015.) 
Additional comments.
1. Statement from Marker Sponsor Allan Jones on the Thaxton Switch Train Wreck Historical Marker.
The Thaxton crash on July 2, 1889, has been called one of Cleveland [Tennessee]’s most infamous tragedies
US 460 (facing east) image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, June 26, 2015
3. US 460 (facing east)
Wolf Creek is behind the marker.
because three prominent citizens were killed - William Steed, John Hardwick and William Marshall.

Steed was a partner with his brother at Steed’s Pharmacy in downtown Cleveland, Tennessee. Marshall was the city recorder and secretary/treasurer for Marshall’s Planning Mill. Hardwick was the son of C.L. Hardwick, who founded Hardwick Stove and Hardwick Clothes. The latter company would go on to become the largest woolen mill in the world by 1929.

Steed’s body was recovered and returned to Cleveland, but Hardwick and Marshall’s bodies were never found, and what happened to them remains a mystery to this day.

The Cleveland men had been en route to New York via the train and were then traveling to Paris, France, which in 1889 was a big deal. A large crowd of over 2,000 people came out to see the men off when they left and everyone was excited. Then when the news came back that all three had been killed and two of the bodies were missing — it was devastating for the community.

My interest in the wreck was renewed on April 25, 2014, when a car crashed into a local memorial monument in Cleveland that had been dedicated to Hardwick, Marshall and Steed on July 2, 1890.

After hearing about the wreck, I visited the monument, located at the intersection of Broad and 8th streets, and eventually contacted Michael E. Jones (no relation) –
1889 Thaxton Train Wreck image. Click for full size.
Norfolk & Western Historical Photograph Collection, October 11, 2015
4. 1889 Thaxton Train Wreck
whose book “Lost at Thaxton” was the first written account about the train tragedy. I also read a book about the accident called “The Day Cleveland Cried” by a Cleveland, TN, author named Debbie Riggs.

I then learned that no historical marker had ever been placed at the site and wanted to get this changed as soon as possible. The absence of a marker was one of the reasons why some have referred to the Thaxton tragedy as Virginia’s forgotten train wreck.

Allan Jones
Allan Jones is Founder and CEO of Check Into Cash and lifelong resident of Cleveland, Tennessee.

This statement accompanied the press release announcing the erection of this marker that was issued by the Department of Historic Resources.
    — Submitted June 28, 2015.

Categories. DisastersRailroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 27, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 481 times since then and 50 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 27, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.   4. submitted on October 11, 2015.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of the Cleveland TN monument • Can you help?
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