Mr. Rufus Wells
The Courant American
March 23, 1888, Page 1
|Transcribed by 2006|
True To His Throttle.
Mr. Rufus Wells, a very few years ago, was one of the most popular engineers that pulled a train into Cartersville, and it was with general regret that he threw up his engine on the East and West to go to Florida to take another on the Florida Southern Railway. The details of his horrible death, the sad ceremonies around his now desolate, but once happy home, and the laying away of his remains with imposing ceremonies, will be read by our people with interest. Rufus was a true man in every sense and his untimely death is deplored by all.
A Palatka paper gives the following details of the deplorable occurrence:
The South-bound fast mail train, which left Palatka yesterday at 9:40 a. m., met with a serious accident by colliding with the North-bound freight train of the Florida Southern Railway, at Webster, Sumter county, in which Engineer Rufus Wells, of the fast mail, lost his life.
The circumstances of the collision are about as follows: The freight train had reached Webster and was side-tracking in order to let the fast mail train pass. Before it had succeeded in doing so, however, the fast mail came up, and the air-brakes failing to work, was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision.
The engineer and fireman of the freight jumped in time to save their lives, also the fireman of the fast mail; but Engineer Wells remained at his post, and his lifeless body was found under his engine after the accident. Both engines were badly demolished, but lucky to say, no other persons on the train were injured.
No blame can be attached to the railroad company as it was but one of those unfortunate occurrences which have happened with the most ably managed systems. It was the failure of the air brakes to work properly that caused the accident.
Chas. H. Pratt, of the Herald, was riding on the engine with Mr. Wells, but returned to the passenger coach about five minutes before the accident, thus, in all probability, saving his own life.
Engineer Billy Coldwell was at the throttle of the 21 when she went out, but being a Royal Arch Mason, and wishing to attend the meeting of that order last night, had made an arrangement with Engineer Wells to take his train on from the meeting place and returned to the city at 4:50 p. m. Mr. Coldwell feels very much grieved at the unfortunate death of his brother engineer and excused himself from the lodge and its following festivities, in order to spend the evening with the family of the deceased.
Rufus Wells was born in Gilmer county, Georgia, in 1854, and was consequently 34 years of age. He moved to Florida in 1882, and for the past two years has been in the employ of the Florida Southern. His family reside on the corner of Oak and Sixth streets. He leaves a wife and six small children to mourn his loss. The sympathy of all go out to the widow and the fatherless in this hour of their deep affliction.
Mr. Wells was a Mason of good standing and a member of Brotherhood Locomotive Engineers. It is also reported that there is an insurance of $5,000 on the unfortunate man.
Yesterday morning the hero, who so manfully met his death on Monday, was laid to rest in West View Cemetery with appropriate ceremonies.
Long before the hour named for the funeral, 10 o’clock a. m., the people began to assemble at the late residence of Rufus H. Wells, corner Oak and Blake streets, to assist in paying the last sad tributes of respect to all that was mortal of what had once been a brave man.
The remains were lying in the parlor, and the coffin was beautifully decorated and nearly hid from view by the flowers that had been contributed. The most noticeable designs were a wreath of evergreens surrounding a cross of orange blossoms, and a bank of white elderberry blossoms, massed, with a delicate tracery of violets, which was very beautiful.
The esteem in which the dead hero was held was evidenced by the numbers who attended. The Masonic Lodge marched up from their rooms in full regalia, and a special car brought up from the Florida Southern buildings President Candler, Major Conant, S. C. Boylston, and other officials, attaches and employees of the company. When all were assembled it was impossible for all to enter the house, and the verandas, grounds, and even the street in front were occupied.
The feeling displayed on all sides was deep, and it was impossible for most of those present to suppress some open manifestation, notwithstanding that an American appears to take pride in a seemingly stoical indifference. That human nature can feel, however, and feel deeply was abundantly shown yesterday morning, for tears were seen where tears are but little wont to show themselves, and many an individual, stern-voiced and earnest, betrayed by the unsuppresable tremor in the voice of that human nature has depths which, when stirred, overcome the sternest resolution and the most stoical indifference. Many there were who, while listening to the eloquent and touching address delivered by the pastor of the Baptist church, Rev. John H. Johnstone, as he paid his tribute to the high character of the dead hero, or to the beautiful and soul-stirring prayer to Almighty God, the creator of heroes such as was Rufus H. Wells, and the appeal for comfort for the widow and the orphans, or to the heartrending lamentations of that wife, now a widow, bereaved of her stay and comfort and those children, now orphans, deprived of their best guide and protector through life’s journey, almost down through the weight of their emotions. Some, when the invitation came to form in line and pass around the open coffin to view the remains, would gladly have stepped aside if they could have done so without making themselves too prominent in their action, for there is a chord in the human soul which can bear but little rude handling, and the evidences of the heart-breaking sorrow of the bereaved ones elicted responsive echoes in all hearts almost impossible to be borne.
After the services at the house, the procession was formed, and after the chief mourners came the Masonic Lodge, followed by a large concourse of friends and sympathizers. At the grave the services were in charge of the Masonic body, and their beautiful and appropriate ceremonies were performed under the direction of E. E. Haskell, Acting W. M.
And thus was laid away one whose memory Palatka will ever delight to honor, and though we deplore the circumstances of his terrible death, we can but feel great pride in the fact that among our humblest citizens there was one on whose soul dwelt the instincts of a hero and martyr.
The insurance upon the life of Rufus H. Wells had been kept up punctually, and Major Conant has notified the widow that the name of Rufus H. Wells shall remain upon the pay roll of engineers of the Florida Southern Railway Company, and that she shall receive every month the same sum which her husband had received.
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Last modified: September 11, 2006