McLennan County, Texas
September 1898

Waco Times-Herald
Monday Morning
September 5, 1898


     At 10:30 o'clock last night a Cotton Belt train run over and mangled the bodies of  R. L. Sims, of the Oriental restaurant, and J. E. Perry, of Perry Brothers, cigar manufacturers.
     The accident happened on Mary Street, between Fifth and Sixth Street.  The two gentlemen, both of whom are well known in this city, were riding on Mary Street, going west, to the left of them being the tracks of the Cotton Belt Railway. Just behind them was a big freight engine of that road, puffing and blowing under a long train of heavily loaded cars.  It was through freight, just making the end of the division, and was coming slowly, the main portion of the track being yet upon the grade leading from the Brazos bridge.  It was in charge of a crew composed of Engineer Lowe, Fireman Chappie, Conductor J.C. Jiggers, Head Brakeman J.J. Cunningham, and was moving slowly. It was not far behind the vehicle, and just before Sixth street was reached the horse became unruly.  Jim Ellis, colored, an employee of Alf A. Edwards, was passing along at the time.  He says that one of the occupants of the vehicle jerked the reins and the horse made a jump, and dragged the buggy across the track.  As he did so, both Perry and Simms were thrown to the ground, almost under the approaching train.  It was impossible for the engineer to stop his train, and the men could not crawl from the dangerous position in which they were thrown before the wheels were upon them. There was a cry, and a groan, a whistle for down brakes was given, the throttle was closed, and short and quick was the stop made by the mogul engine, but it was to late.  Beneath the wheels the body of the two men had been torn and mangled.  The lower portion of each was almost uninjured, but the upper portion was in terrible condition.  Head, face, neck, arms, breast, all were caught beneath the wheels, and all were torn, cut, and bleeding. Carefully the trainmen removed the remains from beneath their train, and laid them at the roadside.  A large crowd gathered, and Justice W.H. Davis was summoned to view the bodies for the purpose of an inquest.  The dead men were identified by the marks
upon their clothing, and within a short time friends were present, and had the bodies taken to the undertaking establishment of Fall & Puckett.
     William W. Perry, a brother of one of the unfortunate men, was on the scene soon after the accident happened. With the crowd of anxious ones he was standing over the mangled forms, and asked the question: "Who are they?"
Just at that moment his eye caught site of a ring upon a bleeding finger, a ring upon which was the Knights of Pythias.  He knew this ring, and at once uttered a cry. Weeping and groaning, he was carried from the place by friends, the sudden death of his brother plunging him into a state of deepest grief.
     The news was carried to the sister of Robert L. Sims, and the lady at once became hysterical. The brother, who she had seen in health and happiness during the day, was dead, and the sudden, terrible manner in which life had ceased, added to her anguish.
     John E. Perry, aged 27 years, was one of the Perry Brothers, engaged in the manufacture of cigars on South Third Street. He has been a delegate to the Central Labor Council of this city, from the Cigar Makers union. He is a member of Waco Lodge No. 140, Knights of Pythias, and was well liked by those of the order who knew him. He was a regular attendant of the lodge.
     Robert L. Sims has been engaged in running the Oriental restaurant on South Third Street, with an associate. He was a young man, aged about 26 years, and had many friend among those who knew him.

Waco Daily Times Herald
September 05, 1898

Three little girls, two of them twins, ages 7 years, and one aged 3, were burned to death Saturday afternoon at the home of their parents, near Speegleville, Texas.
The news of the affair did not reach the city until early yesterday morning. The story as told is horrible in detail. The children, Tennie and Furbie, aged 7, and Mary aged 3, daughters of H.H. Prate and wife, were playing about the place, and in some way secured possession of a lot of matches. They selected the smokehouse as their playground, and going within closed the door. Soon after E.M. Tucker, who was working in a field near by, heard a scream, and turning saw that the smokehouse was in flames. At the same time the mother was attracted to the place and rushing to the door opened it. As she did so, the flames burst in her face, but through the blinding smoke she could see her last born and grasping the child, she drew it out into the open air, and to her bosom. The little one was dying, however, from the effects of the burns, and not a shred of clothes remained upon the body. The twins rushed back into the burning room when the door opened for them, driven wild probably by the flames that were about them, and soon thereafter the timbers of the house fell upon the cremated bodies.
The mother was almost frantic with grief. She gazed upon the dying child at her side and cried to those about her to rescue those who were within, hardly realizing that it was an impossibility that she asked. The fire was not stopped until it had destroyed the entire building, and when the debris was searched, the cremated bodies were discovered, but they were beyond any recognition whatever. The one drawn from the building by the mothers anxious hand lived but a few moments. The child had been burned terribly, and the flames had played about her head and throat, making it impossible for her to survive the experience.
The rapid spread of the flames is accounted for by the presence in the smokehouse of a can of kerosene oil. It is supposed that this exploded, and that the burning oil was thrown about the entire room. The flames in this way became scattered, and the grease of the bacon assisted in feeding the fire.
Mr. Tucker came in and purchased a single coffin, and yesterday afternoon the charred remains of three children, in a single box, were consigned to grave, a large concourse of persons being present to witness the funeral rites. The children were all bright, and they made happy a suburban home. They were favorites with the entire neighborhood, and the news of the unfortunate death brought many sympathizers to the mother and father. Comforting words were said, but comforting words fail to ease the pain.
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