Train Wreck, 4 The Caboose and the Loose Wheel

Union Cemetery, Uhrichsville, Ohio

Union Cemetery, Uhrichsville, Ohio

Charles E. Witting

Died May 4, 1900

Aged 27 YR 6 MO 4 DA

This intricately carved gray marble caboose, track, and wheel displaying the letters: B of RRT can be found in the Union Cemetery at Uhrichsville, Ohio.  The tale told by the cemetery maintenance crew about the marker is that the man buried under the railroad car was killed by a wheel that came off the train, which is displayed in front of the car.

Besides being a cruel joke to show the weapon of one’s demise at one’s graveside, the story is only partially true. The wheel depicted in front of the caboose commemorates Witting’s membership in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.  BUT, it was the caboose that actually killed Witting NOT the wheel.

In an ironic twist, the very thing that killed Charles E. Witting became the image for his gravestone.  The caboose sculpture marking his grave also represented the job he loved and held for 8 years–again, the thing he loved, killed him.

According to the Ohio Democrat and Times, Thursday, May 10, 1900, Witting was crushed by a caboose, “One of the saddest accidents of its kind was that which occurred just west of Coshocton on Friday evening last, in which one of the best men in the employ of the Pan Handle railway company suddenly met death. Charles E. Witting of Columbus, acting as a flagman until his promised promotion to conductor, was crushed to death by an overturned caboose. The breaking of the axle on the front truck of the car next to the caboose caused part of the train to be derailed while going at the regular rate of speed. Witting and two others, one of whom was the conductor were in the overturned portion of the train. Witting jumped from the platform of the swaying car. The others who were in the caboose went over with it and received only bruises while Wittings lifeless body was extricated with difficulty from under the overturned car. He leaves his wife and infant son, a twin brother, William E. Witting, an aged father and mother who live in Frazeysburg and other relatives. Charles was only 27 years of age and had been in the employ of the Pan Handle railway company continuously for more than eight years. The funeral was held Monday at 2 p.m. from the home of his father-in-law Frank Davis in Uhrichsville and Charles Witting is now quietly sleeping away the years of his promising manhood in the beautiful Union Cemetery at that place.”

Charles Witting, at only 27, died leaving a pregnant widow, Margaret (Davis) Witting, with a small son, Charles E. Witting, named for his father.  Just 5 months after the tragic accident, Margaret gave birth to a second son, William, named for Charles’ twin brother.

According to an article printed by the Modern Mechanix, March, 1937, it was reported that Witting’s tombstone was, “designed after the old-fashioned type of freight caboose, the headstone is mute evidence of the work Witting so much loved.  Members of the Uhrichsville chapter of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, of which Witting was a member, helped to erect the marker.”

Note: I first saw the gravestone above on the Website:  Beth Santore, the Webmaster, has photographed hundreds of cemeteries in Ohio, as well as, making photo forays into neighboring states.  I highly recommend her Website, especially for those tramping around Ohio graveyards!

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2 Responses to Train Wreck, 4 The Caboose and the Loose Wheel

  1. Paul Breda says:

    Reminds me of a Kenny Rogers song – “You choses a fine time to leave me, loose wheel”

  2. Thomas Umpleby says:

    I have been to Union Cemetery many times and first saw this grave marker when I was a child. Both of my Grandfathers were Pennsylvania Panhandle engineers at Dennison OH.

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