On August 27, 1891, one of the worst train wrecks in North Carolina occurred at the Bostian Bridge, two miles west of Statesville, NC.
In the wee hours of the morning, a westbound passenger train jumped the tracks and hurtled off the 60-foot high bridge. When the train got to Bostian's Bridge, it was 2:00 a.m. Most of the passengers were asleep. As the train crossed the bridge, it left the tracks and plunged off the bridge into the creek. At the bottom of the fall, seven train cars crashed into Third Creek. A few of the passengers walked into Statesville for help. Others crawled out of the wreckage, dazed and confused, while some wandered around. Still others sat on top of the train cars until help arrived.
When that help did come in the form of Statesville townspeople, the group began to pull and cut people out of the wreckage. Since the water in the creek was high, some of the injured drowned. By dawn a large crowd of townspeople had arrived and began to move the dead and wounded into town.
The dead were laid out in the Farmers’ Tobacco Warehouse. Twenty passengers were killed outright and nine were seriously injured. About 20 more received minor injuries.
The Bostian Bridge train wreck has been the subject of many ghost hunting expeditions, as a ghostly specter of the train is said to be seen each year on the anniversary of the tragedy.
A legend surrounds the wreck, though. The story people tell goes like this: Fifty years later, very early in the morning of August 27, 1941, a woman was waiting along the road that ran beside the railroad tracks near Statesville. Her husband had gone to get help after their car had a flat tire.
The woman heard a train whistle in the distance. A headlight appeared down the tracks, sweeping through the trees as the engine approached. The woman noticed the huge bridge in front of the train. As the engine began to cross it, she heard a horrible crash. She saw the train plunge off the bridge, its old-fashioned wooden passenger cars splintering into pieces. They piled into a jagged mound below.
The woman could hear the screams and groans of wounded people. She ran across the road and through a field to the side of the creek. Up close, the sight was even more terrible. The engine, its tender (the car attached to the engine carrying its water and coal), and passenger cars formed a twisted mass of wreckage being flooded by the waters of Third Creek.
Hearing a car pull up on the road behind her, the woman ran back across the field, screaming that a terrible train wreck had just happened. Her husband was in the car with a stranger, the man who owned the country store just down the road. The three of them headed back across the field and looked down into the quiet waters of Third Creek. No wreck was there.
Of course, the men thought that the woman had fallen asleep and dreamed up the whole thing. But when they continued their trip, she made her husband stop by the Statesville train station to find out if there had been a wreck. When the couple asked at the ticket window, the station agent looked up from his work. "Funny you should ask," he said. "There was no wreck on the railroad last night. But, fifty years ago today, there was a horrible wreck out there at Bostian's Bridge." As he said this, the woman screamed and fainted. She knew that she had seen a ghost train.
On August 27, 2010, a group of twelve individuals who considered themselves amateur ghost hunters gathered at Bostian's Bridge hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost train. Unfortunately, a real train came down the tracks about 2:45a.m., the same time they anticipated a sighting of the ghost train. The group did not immediately run from it, initially believing it was, in fact, the ghost train. Christopher Kaiser, 29, who had ventured onto the bridge itself, died at the scene and two others were injured.
The most horrible disaster in the history of railroading in North Carolina occurred at 2 o'clock this morning at Bostian's bridge over Third Creek, two miles west of Statesville. At that hour west-bound passenger train, No. 9, which had passed Statesville on time at 1:52 a.m., was hurled from the top of the bridge a distance of 60 to 75 feet, the engine, tender, baggage and second class car, the first class coach, the Pullman sleeper car "Saluda" and the private car of Superintendent R. R. BRIDGERS, all going overboard. The bridge was swept clear of iron from end to end.
GEORGE BOWLEY, traveling for the Atlanta Rubber Company, and one or two other passengers who made their wasy from the car alive, came on foot to town and gave the news of the accident. In a little while the town was aroused, citizens in vehicles began hastening to the scene and the work of rescue began. Some of the passengers had crawled from the car and were perched, dazed, on their tops. Axes were put to work and the cars cut open, and so many of the passengers as could be found were dragged out -- some dead, some alive.
By dawn great crowds of people were on the ground and nothing was left undone. The dead and wounded were brought to town -- the wounded disposed of at the hotels and private houses, the dead laid side by side on the floor of the Farmers' Tobacco Warehouse, and the bodies tagged. How many were killed or drowned it is yet impossible to learn. Nineteen dead bodies had been taken out up to 10 o'clock, but it appears probable that others are yet in the water under the cars. Twenty-five is probably not an overestimate of the number dead.
*The Landmark Statesville North Carolina 1891-08-27
Below is as complete a list as can be had up to this hour, 10:30, of the number who were killed or who lost their lives in the water:
Engineer WM. WEST, Salisbury.
Fireman WARREN FRY, Salisbury.
Baggage Master HUGH K. LINSTER, Statesville.
W. M. HOUSTON, merchant, Greensboro.
PERRY BARNETT, Ashville.
SAMUEL GORMAN, Ashville.
CHARLES BENNETT, Hendersonville.
JULE THEFER, Traveling Salesman
W. J. FISHER, Camppello, S. C.
W. E. WINSLOW, Asheville.
MR. DAVIS, Statesville, (one-legged man.)
J. B. AUSTIN, Hickory.
Lady, Unknown, ticket in pocket reading "Mrs. George McCormick and Mother," Elmwood to Alexander's.
Unknown Old Lady.
Unknown Lady, ring on finger inside of which is engraved, "T. H. W. to M. R. R."
Unknown Colored Man.
MRS. POOL, Williamston, drowned but body not recovered.
T. BRODIE, New York, traveling for a glove house, killed but body not recovered.
REV. JAS. M. SIKES, Clarksville, Tenn.
DOCK WELLES, colored porter.
COL. BENNEHAN CAMERON, of Raleigh, a member of the Governor's staff.
OTTO RAMSEY, Norfolk, Va.
WORTH ELLIOTT, Hickory.