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The Story of the Hatfield Train Wreck of 1900

Source: The Lansdale Reporter, 13 September 1900



Groves, Shelby and Beidler Surrender at Norristown


Three of the four men declared by the Coroner's jury at Lansdale to have been responsible for the wreck which occurred at Hatfield gave themselves up at Norristown Monday, and were held in $1000 bail each for court. They are charged with criminal negligence. The maximum penalty for their alleged crimes is $5000 fine or five years' imprisonment.

The men who surrendered are Train Dispatcher W. S. Groves, Conductor Thomas Shelby, of the excursion train, and Operator David B. Beidler, of Souderton. The fourth man censured by the jury was Engineer Davis, of the excursion train. He is at present confined in St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, where he has not yet recovered from the effects of his injuries. Groves, Shelby and Beidler all knew that warrants were to be issued for their arrest, and as a consequence of an agreement with District Attorney Hendricks decided to give themselves up.

Shelby's bondsmen were James McGinnis and Cyrus Baker, of Norristown, and Nathan Lewis, of Philadelphia. Jacob S. Geller, of Lansdale, furnished security for Dispatcher Groves. Beidler's bondsmen were John M. Beidler and S. D. Hunsberger, both of Souderton.

At the hearing Montgomery Evans, of Norristown, acted as counsel for the three men. He explained to Judge Lenhardt that owing to the gravity of the case he would waive a hearing on behalf of his clients and wait until their trial in October before making any defense. By this means he hopes to cripple the forces of the prosecution by making them work in the dark.

The charges on the warrant under which the hearing was given to Train Dispatcher Groves set forth that he had neglected to keep a correct record of the arrival and departure of trains on the morning of the wreck; that he had neglected to keep the excursion train at the prescribed time and distance from the milk train, and that in consequence of this neglect a collision of the two trains had been caused, resulting in the deaths of thirteen people.

Operator Beidler is charged with having neglected to display the red signal board of warning, which would have prevented the excursion train from running into the milk train. The affidavit further charged that as a result of this neglect the collision occurred and the death of the people followed.

Conductor Shelby is charged with having permitted his train to run ahead of schedule time at a reckless rate of speed, thereby causing the collision and being responsible for the death of the victims of the disaster.

Engineer John Davis is charged with having neglected to obey the red signal alleged to be displayed to him at Souderton, and with running his train at a reckless rate of speed ahead of time, thereby causing the wreck and being responsible for the deaths of those killed.

The warrants for the four men were sworn out and the affidavits made by County Detective John J. O'Connor. He has been instructed not to serve the warrant for the arrest of Davis until he is reported to be recovered from his injuries.

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Posted 15 December 2003 by Kelley Wood - Davis- last updated 28 March 2011