Jeannette's Creek Train Wreck

The scene presented after the collision was a horrible one. Intermixed with the fragments of the broken cars, dead bodies lay in profusion, many of them mangled in the most dreadful manner while from out of the heap of ruins issued the groans and shrieks of the wounded.”

— Detroit Free Press, October 28, 1854

On 27 October 1854 at Baptiste Creek, 24 km west of Chatham, Ontario, a gravel train sent out to shore up rail beds was hit by an express that was running 7 hours late. The accident killed 52 and injured 48 others, the worst rail disaster in North America at that time.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the passengers who were fortunate enough to escape injury immediately set to work drawing out the wounded and the dead from "the heap of ruins in which they lay".

By 11:00 A.M. the bodies of twenty-five men, eleven women and ten children had been recovered and it was estimated, at this time, that from "ten to twenty others yet remained to be discovered". Several of the dead discovered were described, by witnesses, as "crushed out of all human shape, presenting a heart-sickening sight".

The two second-class cars, which bore the main brunt of the collision, contained a number of emigrants from Germany who were on their way to various places in the United States. They were on their way to start a new life in what they had been told was an exciting New World full of hope, promise and prosperity.

Great Western Railway express train hits a gravel train between Chatham, Ontario, and Windsor, Ontario; 52 Killed, 48 injured in Canada's First major rail accident, Baptiste Creek, Ontario.