Thronged with boys and girls on their
way to school and with teams and drivers, the Wire Suspension Bridge
across the Elk River at the foot of Lovell street collapsed Thursday
morning at 8:15 o'clock with terrible results. Although, such a catastrophe
has been predicted time and time again by some people no one ever
anticipated the occurrence at such time when the victims are mainly
of the school age.
The fatalities first reported were young
girls. Mamie Higgenbotham aged 11, daughter of Ed Higgenbotham, and
Ray Humphreys, aged 15, who resided on the West Side. Ed Higgenbotham,
father of first girl resides on Roane street on the West Side and
is janitor at the Lincoln School building on the West Side.
The injured include Zella Smith aged
17, daughter of Wilson Smith, of Pennsylvania avenue. Compound fracture
of the elbow.
William Holmes, colored driver for Gates
and Hogeman, who resides on Truslow street. He sustained a number
of cuts and bruises and suffered from the shock.
Henry Fielder, driver for Gates and Hogeman,
resides on the West Side, sustained serious internal injuries.
Among those who escaped uninjured were
Lillian Cavender, aged fifteen, who was about the middle of the bridge
and who broke the effect of her fall by catching a wire as she fell.
She was rescued from the debris among the first. George Woodall, driver
fro Gates and Hogeman, also escaped unhurt. Gordon Young, driver for
West Charleston Feed Company, also escaped.
The two large cables on the upper side
of the bridge pulled from their moorings in the stone anchor on Lovelll
street. The accident was due to this. The flooring was tilted and
the people and wagons were slid off. The strain later snapped one
of the cables on the lower side. The flooring dropped and turned completely
Although only two have been recovered
dead so far it is feared that there are several bodies still under
the debris and the ice. A small body was seen on one of the teams
by several people but has not been heard of yet. Ira Woods driver
for the Charleston Milling and Produce Company, is being searched
for by friends who fear that he did not escape.
Immediately on the arrival of people
on the scene of the disaster about twelve skiffs were manned and people
commenced getting out the injured. The fire department was summoned
and under Chief White's direction commenced doing all they could.
Miss Cavender, numb with cold and suffering from the shock although
uninjured was carried from the ice where she dropped by Chief White.
His men and civilians rescued the others.
George Woodall, son of Judge E. A. Woodall
and who is a driver for Gates and Hugeman, was driving a team about
the middle of the bridge when the drop came. He jumped and landed
on the ice and was uninjured.
Gordon Young was driving a one-horse
delivery wagon of the West Charleston Feed Company on the bridge when
the crash came. He jumped onto the ice and crawled to shore uninjured.
His horse was lead out of the water and up the bank on the West Side
and was one of the two horses that were saved out of thirteen. The
animal was barely scratched.
William Holmes, a colored driver for
Gates and Hogeman was carried out among the first. He was cut about
the head and was thought to be badly injured. He was taken to the
Elk Bridge saloon and Dr. W. W. Tompkins called in. His injuries were
found not to be so serious as first supposed and he was bundled in
blankets and taken in the police patrol wagon to his home on Truslow
Henry Fielder, another driver for Gates
and Hogeman who is thought to be seriously injured, was taken to his
home on the West Side in the patrol wagon.
Tom Mickey, colored driver from R. A.
Marshall, was driving a covered delivery wagon across the bridge when
it dropped. His escape with little or no injury is regarded as miraculous.
He was taken to his home on Piedmont road.
The body of little Mamie Higgenbotham
was the first of the dead to be recovered. One of the skiffs was breaking
up the ice near the middle of the river when the body was seen near
the surface. She was taken out streaming with water and with an ugly
cut on the forehead. The little body was carried to the store of A.
P. Silverstein near the bridge where she remained until she was taken
to the undertaking establishment of the Mead Brothers and Company
Nearly an hour lapsed before the body
of Ray Humphreys was found. It was taken charge of by J. W. Hill of
Mead Brothers and Company and was removed to that establishment where
the inquests will be held.
By this time several thousand people
gathered on the banks of the river and it was all the police could
do to force the crowds to observe the police line.
Mayor Rudesill arrived on the scene early
and under his supervision the police and fire department conducted
the work of rescuing the bodies. The patrol wagon was kept on the
scene all the time. The steamer Baxter was secured to come up the
river and break the ice and that work is now going on.
United States Engineer Thomas E. Jeffries
has sent for a diver from one of the government locks and the man
and the heavy apparatus used in his work are expected Thursday evening.
Miss Lillian Cavender of Ohio avenue
who was about the middle of bridge when the crash came and who was
uninjured in spite of the terrible fall she had, was removed as soon
as she was rescued from the ice and debris to the residence of James
Bibby on Lovell street. Wrapped in blankets and heavy comforts she
coolly talked to a Mail reporter barely an hour after her terrible
"A party of girls composed of Mamie
Higgenbotham, Zella Smith, Louise McWhorter, Ray Humphreys, my sister
Louise and myself were all walking across the bridge on our way to
the Union School building. Ray Humphreys and Mamie Higganbotham were
a short distance behind Zella Smith and me and my sister and Louise
McWhorter were just ahead. It was exactly 8:15 o'clock.
"I didn't hear any crash and the
first thing I knew was that I was falling. As I fell, I clutched a
wire and stopped myself for a moment, but it cut my hand so I had
to let go. I think that wire kept me from being hurt. On the bridge
at the time, I remember six wagons. There was a little boy on the
seat of one of them. I don't know who was behind us. My sister and
Louise McWhorter felt the flooring sinking and they ran and got off"
Although some of the people on the bridge
declare there was no crash, residents in that vicinity declare the
noise could be heard all over that part of the town.
The wire suspension bridge across Elk
was built in 1852, and at that time was considered quite a wonderful
structure. It's cables were severed during the civil war and then
a pontoon bridge was erected and used for a time. After the war the
old cables were spliced and new ones added to make it a safer structure.
Of late years the bridge had been very
wobbly and some two years ago it shook so when a team or two was crossing
it that passengers on the bridge at the same time had to walk like
sailors to keep their balance, and it became popularly known as the
"drunken bridge." At the same time it was badly sagged and
one corner dropped down and the West Side end toward Kanawha became
badly sagged. A new floor was then laid and this seemed op give the
structure more stability at least temporarily.
Of late years, owning to the growth of
Charleston, and its industrial and commercial development, the traffic
over this bridge became very heavy; in fact, by many, it was considered
too heavy for a structure of that character, as the span was a very
long one, between 600 and 800 feet.
Last September, on Labor Day, when the
parade of the labor organizations of Charleston was arranged for it
was originally on the program to start from the West Side, but the
program was later changed so that the parade started from the east
side of Elk, abandoning the West Side, and thus dispensing with the
crossing of the bridge on account of the statement as published in
the Charleston papers at the time, of the "unsafe" condition
of that bridge.
Two schoolgirls who had just stepped
on the west end of the bridge when it collapsed and who sustained
falls of but ten or twenty feet were worse injured than those who
dropped to the water. Ottie Gibbs, fifteen-year old daughter of A.
A. Gibbs of Cinder Road, had both hips broken and an arm broken. Her
injuries are thought to be fatal. She was moved to the residence of
Mrs. Hubbard on Charleston street near the bridge. Elma Tucker aged
13 years, daughter of J. F. Tucker of Glenwood Heights who was in
company with the Gibbs girl, sustained fractures of both arms and
a broken leg. She had regained consciousness at noon and hopes for
her recovery are entertained.
Among the wild rumors circulated were
those that Dr. C. E. McMillian, John C. Thomas and a girl named Beckwith
were missing. These reports have proved untrue when investigated by
the Mail and all the persons are safe and sound.
About one o'clock, Miss Zella Smith,
who sustained a compound fracture of the arm and who was taken to
the nearby residence of C. G. Gebhart, was operated upon by physicians
and is resting easily.