Thursday, September 19, 2019

Seavers in the News - Train Engineer Horace L. Seaver Saves Lives

It's time for another edition of "Seavers in the News" - a weekly feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Seaver that are interesting, useful, mysterious, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week's entry is from The World [New York City] newspaper dated 3 February 1898:

The transcription of the article is:


"CHICAGO, Ill. Feb. 2 -- Horace L Seaver of No. 67 Twenty-third street, for over thirty-two years an Illinois Central Railroad engineer, has traveled at least 1,000,000 miles as an engineer and has never been in a train wreck.  Stranger still, he has been saved from wrecks time and again by premonitions.

"In 1890, late on Fourth of July eve, Mr. Seaver started from Springfield to Chicago with a passenger train on which there were 300 persons.  An hour or more after midnight he dropped into a state of semi-consciousness as he sat straight up in his cab.  Suddenly something resembling the voice of a person whispered to him: "Stop.  The bridge is burned - the bridge is burned."

"In an instant the engineer was wide awake and leaning out of his cab window.  In less than twenty minutes he saw far ahead at the side of the track a glow such as is ordinarily cast by the dying fires which tramps leave at the side of the roadbed.  Two or three hundred yards from the fire Engineer Seaver stopped the train, and, running forward, discovered that a bridge which had spanned a thirty-five foot stream had been burned, having been set on fire by an engine which had passed over it five hours before.

The Bridge Was Wrecked.

"About eight years ago, Mr. Seaver started from his home in Chicago down to the depot to take out his train to Springfield.  Even before he climbed in his cab he felt a premonition that a certain bridge a few miles from the town of Bulkley was down.  There had been heavy rains and ice was coming down many streams in the country in great quantities and his vision showed that ice had carried away the supports of the bridge.  The engineer said nothing about it to any one, lest it should turn out that the bridge was all right.  So, pulling his train out into the dark, rainy night, without mentioning his fears, he began the run to Springfield.

"About midnight the train neared the bridge.  A quarter of a mile this side of it the engineer stopped the train.  The conductor ran forward to see what was the matter.  Seaver told the conductor that he was sure there was something wrong ahead at the bridge.  The conductor laughed at him and told him to pull ahead.  Seaver insisted that they should go ahead together and examine it.  The two men went forward through the rain and found the bridge almost ready to drop into the stream.  The ice had carried away the pillars and the bridge was sunken, broken and twisted until it would have been unsafe for a dog to cross.

"An even more startling instance occurred once when the engineer was taking a train out of Cairo.  Near Cairo is a great bridge nearly half a mile in length.  Just as Mr. Seaver was starting from town with the train it seemed to him that he could see cross ties sticking up between the ties a few feet from the far end of the bridge.  The night was dark and the engineer could only see ahead as far as the light was thrown by the headlight of the locomotive.

"As he drew near the end of the bridge he slowed down until the headlight threw its glare within a few yards of the end of the bridge.  Half a dozen cross ties protruded above the bridge a foot and a half or two feet.  Train wreckers had placed the ends of the vertical ties between those of the bridge so that their ends rested on the ground.  As soon as the ties came into view Seaver stopped the train and the crew went forward and removed the obstruction.

Saved a Babe.

"Some years ago Mr. Seaver was taking a train out of St. Louis on an important run.  Two roads had been told that a big freight consignment would be made to the one which made the best time on a given run out of the city.  Mr. Seaver took out the trial run train.  He took enough water at St. Louis to last the time which was ordinarily expended at the little town of Manteno making a stop for water.  The engineer felt when he started out that danger was impending.

"When he arrived at the water tank station in Manteno something impelled him to stop for water.  He did so and while water was running into the tender he walked ahead on the track and 200 yards in front of the engine he found a baby about a year old asleep between the rails.  The engineer picked up the child and carried it into the first house and went ahead on his run.  He made up all the time lost and won the freight contract for his road."

The source citation for the article is:

"Premonitions Saved Seaver From WrecksThe World [New York, N.Y.] newspaper, story, Thursday, 3 February 1898, page 15, column 7, Horace L. Seaver story;   ( : accessed 19 September 2019).

So Horace L. Seaver was either lucky or prescient - at least four times in his work life.  

Horace Leonard Seaver (1846-1916) was the son of Nathaniel Leonard Seaver (1809-1880) and Abby Carver (1816-1880).  Horace married Luella Robertson (1860-1922) in 1878 in Centralia, Illinois.  They had one son, Charles Leonard Seaver (1891-1931), who married Josephine R. G'Sell (1896-1935) in 1928.  

Horace Leonard Seaver is my 6th cousin one time removed.  

There are over 8,000 Seaver "stories" in my family tree - this was one of them.  Horace Leonard Seaver had a career that helped people and in the process saved some lives.   Life happens, accidentally and intentionally, and sometimes it is lucky and/or heroic.


Disclosure:  I have a paid subscription to and have used it extensively to find articles about my ancestral and one-name families.

Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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