Today, the Liberty Head (Barber) Dime Coin remembers when the Fast Mail Train, No. 97, going too fast, jumped the track on September 27, 1903.
Printed in the St. Louis Republic newspaper of September 28:
Nine Killed in Train Wreck.
Fast Mail Jumps the Track Near Danville. Va.
Charlotte, N. C., Sept. 27.
Fast mail train No. 97, on the Southern Railway, jumped the track near Danville. Va., this afternoon, killing nine persons and injuring seven.
The following are the names of, the known dead in the wreck; James A. Brodie, engineer. Statesville. N. C;. J. T. Blair, conductor. Central North Carolina; John L. Thompson, postal clerk, Washington, D. C; W N. Chambers, postal clerk, Washington. D. C; mail clerk in charge, name not yet known.
Among the injured, all postal clerks, are: L. W. Spies. Jr., Washington. D. C; Hooks of Culpeper, Va.; Dunlop, Washington; Endimeyer, Washington: Reims, Culpeper, Va.
There were eighteen persons on the train.
Several days later, the Richmond Planet newspaper provided insights into the wreck:
Saved Tons of Mail.
Postal Property Rescued by a Norfolk Clerk.
Aided Wounded Also.
B. R. Boulding, of This City, Was One of the First on the Scene of the Wreck of the Southern New York-New Orleans Fast Mail Train—Assisted in Rescuing Fellow Mail Clerks From the Debris.
Norfolk, (Va.) Landmark, Sept 29th.
The first man to arrive in Norfolk from the scene of the wreck of the fast mail train at Danville, told of the chaotic scenes of the catastrophe to a Landmark representative last night.
He is Benjamin R. Boulding, colored, railroad postal clerk, and he, as the first railroad man to arrive after the crash, look charge of the United States’ property and did all that was possible to relieve the wounded and dying.
Boulding was at his window in Danville when the fire bell sounded the alarm, followed by continued ringing of a bell on a cotton factory near his home.
He investigated the cause of the alarm, found it was the wreck of the fastest mail train in the Southern service, and after securing his postal badge hurried to the scene of the disaster.
The train had left the track almost directly across the river from Boulding’s house, and within eighteen minutes after the actual accident Boulding had arrived and by virtue of his employ with the government had taken charge of the mails.
He found that several bodies had already been removed, but with professional instincts his first thought was for the safety of the mail entrusted to the care of the post office and for the property of the government.
He consequently went immediately to the house where three of the wounded postal clerks had been carried and succeeded in finding one, J. J. Dunlap, who, though badly injured, retained sufficient consciousness to direct Boulding to the rear of the last mail car where the loose registered packages were.
Boulding called on the crowd of citizens which had gathered to help him in digging away the debris, and he says that all white and colored alike worked hard with a common desire to save the wounded and to preserve the property of the Postal Department.
One of the first men rescued was W. F. Pinckney, a postal clerk, and he, though slightly wounded, assisted Boulding in the work.
In the rear of the last mail coach they found sixteen loose registered letters all in good condition except one, which was torn in two and with no contents, two purses belonging to the clerks, two postal badges, two postal commissions, two watches and the clothing of the clerks who had been in that car.
Tons of ordinary mail were taken out and Boulding thinks that even the newspapers which were on the train were saved intact.
Fire was not added to the horrors of the situation, though once a small blaze that was quickly extinguished, started, and this accounts for the saving of practically all the inflammable mail matter.
At 5 o’clock Mr. J. P. Sherril, of the Richmond postal service, arrived and an hour later six clerks engaged on the postal train from Greensboro to Atlanta came and these seven men, having endorsed what Boulding; had done, helped him to handle the mail, he remaining in charge. Mr. R. S. Birch and James T. Kilby arrived on the scene and went to work caring for the wounded.
The records and other valuable Government property secured by Boulding were turned over to C. T. Barksdale of the Danville post office, and these records will enable the department to ascertain later how much mail, if any, was not saved.
The commissions, money and other property of the postal clerks were sent by registered mail by Boulding to Mr. Charles W. Vickory, superintendent of the railroad service in Washington.
Boulding says that two bodies pinned down by heavy irons and wreckage could be plainly seen, but though the men worked furiously to get them out, their work had been in vain at the time he left the wreck. He also says that it is reported that a boy was sent on the train by the express company at Lynchburg to lock file express safe and that he has not been seen nor heard from since. It is supposed in Danville that the lad, whose name Boulding does not know, was in the wreck.
Boulding, who has had long experience as a railroad postal clerk, has been in five wrecks himself and he says that in taking charge of the Danville disaster the experience so dearly bought stood him in good stead and that he knew instinctively how to use the men at the scene for the beat results, both in saving the mail and in getting out the wounded.
The train. No. 97, is the fastest mail train in the South, and has been running about a year, cutting down the schedule time from New York to New Orleans by seven hours. It carried an immense amount of mail for all the Southern States and consisted of three mail cars and an express coach, four in all.
Boulding is a well-known colored man of Norfolk, and was very active among the members of his race in raising money to rebuild St. Vincents Hospital after the fire.
Hero of the Wrecked Fast Mail Train, No. 97.
Benj. R. Boulding, of Norfolk, Va.,— Born at Crewe, Via., in 1868, graduated from Hampton Institute, Va., 1888, was principal of the Blackstone, Va., Public schools for three years and resigned to enter the United States Railway Mail Service in 1891.
Was the first and only colored railway postal clerk ever elected as delegate to the R. P. Clerks National Convention in 1892 and was jumped from junior to senior clerk of line, and promoted to a class created for him in 1893, and runs clerk in charge from Norfolk to Danville, Va. 208 miles on the Southern Railway.
He is the State Grand Lecturer of Masons and furnishes all kinds of supplies to the fraternity at Past Chancellor of Pythians and Colonel commanding the 2nd Regiment, Uniform Rank.
Col. Boulding is the brother of Mrs. Lucy B. Stephens, preceptress of Morgan College, Lynchburg, Va, over which her husband, the Rev. Geo. E. Stephens presides; and the oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. B. R. Boulding, highly honored, respected and popular citizens of Nottoway county, Va.
The Liberty Head (Barber) Dime Coin shows with an image of the wrecked No. 97 Fast Mail Train.