Down To His Death
The Courant American Newspaper
March 17, 1898 Page 8:
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Down To His Death
Awful Fate of Engineer Spencer R. Phillips Last Week.
Dies At Bottom Of Wreck.
Trestle Afire Not Observed in Time to Make Escape. A Touching Funeral—A Fine Tribute.
The tragic death of Spencer R. Phillips has been the talk among all for a week past. He was a man well thought of by everybody who knew him.
The story of his death is tragic in the extreme.
For eighteen years his trusted hand has been on the throttle of an engine on the East and West railroad. He was the oldest engineer on the road having been on the old Cartersville and Van Wert railroad before the name of the road was changed to the East and West.
Like all railroad men, he had a presentiment that some time he might be killed, and prepared for the end by arranging his earthly affairs in a way suitable to himself.
He was a prudent man as he was a prudent engineer.
On Thursday morning last at about nine o’clock, Mr. Phillips was manning his engine and came to Trout Creek trestle, in St. Clair county, Ala., and a number of miles beyond the Coosa river. He was coming eastward on his daily run, with a mixed train. The trestle was afire, but Mr. Phillips did not see the flames till he was full on the trestle. It was then too late. The supports to the trestle had burned away at the bottom and when the engine ran on to it the train, or a part of it, went through.
Jim Phillips, the fireman, but no relative of Spence Phillips, jumped and saved himself. Spence Phillips jumped too, but the engine and cars came down on him and crushed him before he could gain his equilibrium on the ground. The trestle was about forty feet high, but the engine and cars fell only about twenty feet, the fall being on the bank rather, and not directly over the stream.
The tender of the engine struck Mr. Phillips on the head, and the other parts of his body were untouched.
His death was instant and it took some time to recover his body from beneath the wreck.
His body was brought to this city on Friday evening and a large crowd was at the train. Colonel Chas. P. Ball, the genial and efficient superintendent of the road, went down and personally looked after the remains, and seemed to be much downcast at the death of one of his faithful and trusted employees.
Spencer Phillips, was the son of Maj. S. K. Phillips, an old railroad man and an ex-confederate soldier, who now holds a position under the government at Chickamauga park. His father and his brother, Mr. William P. Phillips, of this city, are the only ones of his family who survive the deceased engineer.
As to how the trestle caught fire, all is mystery. There was a fire in the forest several weeks previous, and it is certain the trestle could not have caught from burning woods, and no engine had passed over the trestle for twelve hours previous.
The funeral of Mr. Phillips occurred at Cassville, on Friday morning. It was largely attended. Dr. W. H. Patterson, pastor of the Baptist church at Cartersville, officiated, assisted by Rev. Mr. Ansley, of the Kingston circuit M. E. church. The remarks of Dr. Patterson were peculiarly touching and appropriate. They were based on the scriptural words “Be still and know that I am God.”
Mr. Phillips was in his thirty-fifth year and had spent about half of his life as an engineer.
The engine he was manning was a total wreck after the accident except strange to say, the glass and headlight, which was intact.
Mr. Phillips left a will and made Mr. Lowther executor. We learn from Cedartown where the will is that he left Miss Dukes about five thousand dollars; W. H. Best and B. F. Lowther $2,000 each; S. K. and W. P. Phillips $1,500 each. Estate estimated at $15,000. It is said that he was engaged to Miss Dukes.
April 7, 1898
Resolutions on the Death of Mr. S. H. Phillips
[By J. B. S. Holmes Division No 389 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.—See March 17, 1898]
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