Thursday, July 24, 2008

Horace was a Hero

An article in the Washington Post dated 20 April 1908 caught my eye tonight as I was exploring the web site using my Carlsbad (CA) library card to access their online databases. The article reads (from page 6):



Sits by side of Engineer and Guards Him from Danger

From the Chicago Journal.

No danger lurks in the path of No. 15.

Two drivers perch on the same bench in the locomotive cab and guide its destiny. One is Horace L. Seaver, veteran engineer and hero of numerous hairbreadth escapes; the other is the ghost of a man that was.

Unseen, unheard, the specter has been at the throttle for years, guiding and guarding the lives of those sleeping in the darkened coaches behind.

No. 15 is the "Big Four fast express" which which runs into Chicago over the Illinois Central tracks from Kankakee. The train is pulled by an Illinois Central locomotive, of which Mr. Seaver is the engineer. For forty-three years the veteran has been handling the throttle of Illinois Central engines.

For forty-three years Mr. Seaver has been a spiritualist, not one of the table-raising, bell-ringing kind, but an intelligent believer that spirit bodies exist. He says he has had innumerable evidences that a spirit hand guided his engine through fearful dangers and happy escapes. Whenever he climbs up in his cab he knows that the spectral engineer is sitting beside him ready to extend the hand of warning in time of need.

Mr. Seaver was in the cab, gazing far out along the track, one dark night, wondering how many more trips he would make before his good spirit deserted him. In the train were more than 1,000 old soldiers going to a reunion at Champaign, Ill. The throttle was out to the last notch and the speed more than sixty miles an hour. Suddenly the engineer heard a soft voice whispering in his ear: "The bridge is burned; the bridge is burned."

As quickly as possible Mr. Seaver set the air brakes and stopped the train. In the coaches 1,000 old soldiers were sleeping. The conductor hurried forward to the engine.

"What do you mean by stopping this train out here," he demanded, angrily.

"You would better go along the track and find out," said the engineer quietly.

Only a few feet ahead of the engine was the river, and over the river hung the charred remains of the big bridge, which had burned only a short time before. The 1,000 veterans were saved.

This happened in 1890, and Mr. Seaver was hailed as a hero all over the country.

"But it wasn't me that did it," said the engineer, modestly. "It was something unseen, something that we do not know anything about. I did not deserve any credit at all. I just heeded the warning that was given to me. There are numerous other instances where the same voice has given me warnings just in time to save the lives of my passengers."


Who was Horace L. Seaver? He was born 24 December 1846 in Waukegan, Illinois, the son of Nathaniel Leonard and Abby (Carver) Seaver, who were natives of Taunton, Massachusetts. Horace married Lulu or Luella Robertson on 15 October 1878 in Centralia, Illinois. They had one son, Charles Leonard Seaver, born 4 September 1891 in Chicago, Illinois. Horace died 19 July 1916 (I don't know where - I'll have to look for an obituary!).

Another tale found in a historic newspaper article that would be priceless information for a descendant. Hopefully, someone will Google Horace L. Seaver in the future and will find this transcription of the article. The power of the Internet!

The question I have is - who was the ghost? The article doesn't say. We'll probably never know!

UPDATED 25 July: Tom Kemp found an article in the Sunday Inter-Ocean (in Illinois) newspaper dated 5 July 1890 on GenealogyBank that describes the train incident described above - the details are different! If you have a GenealogyBank account it is at An Engineer's Good Angel. How Horace Seaver of the Illnois Central, Saved a Train

And there's another article on 19 October 1896 in the Sunday Inter-Ocean newspaper - see it at Safe from All Harm Engineer Horace Seavers is Protected by a Mysterious Power. Has Never

The first article is also on GenealogyBank at Ghost Runs Locomotive Sits by Side of Engineer and Guards Him from Danger from the Duluth News-Tribune on 14 June 1896.

Thanks, Tom!

No comments: