UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – It was 112 years ago on Saturday, April 29, that the Utica City School District suffered one of the worst tragedies in its history.
On April 29, 1911, a train carrying a contingent of 175 teachers from across Central New York left the Utica train station on Genesee Street at approximately 8 am. Teachers from Syracuse, Clinton, New Hartford, Waterville, Norwich and Utica were all heading to Washington DC for an education convention.
The train, which stopped in Pennsylvania in the early afternoon to pick up workers to take them across the state, was going at about 50 miles per hour when it hit a curve near Martin’s Creek, near the town of Easton, Pennsylvania. It was reported that workers had been working on the curve before the train arrived there. It was there that the locomotive and four cars left the tracks and rolled down a nearby hill approximately 40 feet.
On the way down the hill, the cars hit a tank, which spilled oil onto the cars and lit them on fire.
Seven teachers from Utica lost their lives in the crash. Among the survivors were the president of the Utica Teacher’s Association and the principal of Utica School #18. Four railroad employees were also killed in the crash, and another 50 people suffered injuries.
Lobbyists would use the crash – known thereafter as the “Teacher’s Wreck” — to lobby for the discontinuation of the use of wooden passenger cars, replacing them with steel.
Soon after the accident, another train would take the survivors back to Utica, where the crowd was so big that the train was directed to the intersection of Schuyler and Columbia Streets so that passengers could get off on both sides of the train.
The seven Utica teachers who lost their lives on that day are as follows:
- Bessie Walker,
- Susan Sessions,
- Eleanor Rutherford,
- Marion Brown,
- Sophia Knoutt,
- Sarah Jones,
- And Louisa Linsman.