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Bookmarks: Anniversary of a train wreck   The night the firehouse burned  1922 Langhorne Leader

The Bucks County Gazette.

   Bristol, Bucks County Pa.   July 5, 1912


          Langhorne now has four ice cream parlors and a soda fountain almost within a radius of one block so the entire community could be readily supplied at a short notice. The new ice cream parlor and restaurant was opened by Taylor Praul on Saturday, in the William B. Parry building. Mrs. Sara P. Gillingham, the store of the late Carl Hibbs, Frank Thomas and Pryor's soda fountain are the three other places where warm humanity will be refreshed this summer.

          Mrs. J. R. Goodwill and daughter, of Trenton, were Sunday visitors.

          Mr. and Mrs. Green, of Bethayres, were guests of A. F. Porter on Sunday.

          Rev. and Mrs. William H. Michaels have been spending the week at Rising Sun, Maryland.

          Miss Anna White, of Irvington, N. J., has been spending some time with Mrs. Sara P. Glllingham.

          Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Vansant, of Germantown, have been recent Guests of Mrs. John LeCompte.

          John P. Black has opened an automobile repair shop in connection with the carriage and wagon establishment.

          The Ladies Auxiliary will bold its regular business meeting in the lecture Room of the church, July 5th at 2.30.

          Isabella Taylor Ridge is making her home with Dr. and Mrs. Samuel Leroy Ridge, on West Richardson Avenue.

          Mr. and Mrs. John P. Black, and Mrs. Elizabeth Glllingham, spent a couple of days with relatives at North Wales.

          The alumni banquet of the Langhorne high school was a very pleasant occasion and was given at the Bellevue as usual.

          The Woman's Missionary Society of the M. E. church were entertained by the Bristol organization Wednesday afternoon.

          Walter Jenks Injured his hand quite severely while lowering a window necessitating about seven stitches to close the wound.

          A number from here attended the commencement exercises of the Trenton Business College, the guests of Finley Knotts, who was one of the graduates.

          The Philadelphia Agency of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company enjoyed a several days outing at Atlantic City this week, Mr. Samuel C. Eastburn being one of the number.

          Mr. and Mrs. Warren J. LeCompte and Miss Grace LeCompte left on Monday for Allenhurst to spend some time with Dr. and Mrs. William C. LeCompte of Bristol at their cottage on Ocean Block.

          Mrs. William Mclhenny, of Bristol, has been visiting her sister, Mrs. Marmaduke Saxton. Lincoln Saxton and son, Francis, of North Wales, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Barton and son of Bristol, were also recent visitors.

          The Langhorne baseball team defeated the Southampton team on Saturday. Score8 to 6. This will be a game long to be remembered sadly as it resulted in the death of one of our players, Carl Hibbs, having' been struck in the temple during the latter part of the game.

          The cotillion at the Bucks County Country Club on Saturday evening in charge of Miss Alyse Matthews was a beautiful affair, the figures being especially pretty, the favors added greatly to both the beauty and the pleasure of the affair also. The Casino was attractively decorated, adding its full quota to the occasion. The cotillion was led by Mr. Fletcher, of Philadelphia.

          About 200 enjoyed the picnic at Neshaminy Falls, of the Presbyterian Sunday school, including 40 from the mission school at Parkland. In the morning various sports were enjoyed, boat races, running high jump, 1600 yard dash and other field sports. In the afternoon a baseball game between the Junior Brotherhood and a picked team resulted in victory for the Juniors, score 14 to 13.         

          A number availed themselves of the opportunity of viewing Samuel C. Eastburn's house on North Bellevue Avenue on Saturday, and possibly the greatest compliment paid to him was the remark that it looked as if it belonged there, not an aggressively new looking structure, but having an air of real homeliness, the garden well started, flowers blooming, and beautiful shade substantiating the home feeling and Lydia in the kitchen helping along with the good cheer of hospitality. Mr. Eastburn entertained his out-of-town friends Saturday, June 29, visiting the new house and dining at Home Farm.

1922 Langhorne Leader newspaper

January 26, 1922


Burglars visited Odd Fellow’s Hall, Langhorne, in the early hours of last Saturday morning, forcing their entrance into the Cigar Store of George Paxson and the Advance and Leader printing office. At the latter place nothing seems to have been taken, but at Paxson’s two $5-notes, a gold watch and a large number of cigarettes and cigars were stolen. Windows were forced open at both places. The State Police are investigating.


An error in printing the tickets for the movie show to be given for the benefit of the Nursing Activities Committee of the Langhorne Branch of the American Red Cross made some confusion as to the date for the affair. The correct date is Tuesday, January 31, and the place is Odd Fellows Hall, Langhorne.

Features of the entertainment will be a scenic picture, "The Flaming Ice," a feature picture with the great Japanese star, Sessue Hayakawa in "The Swamp," and a Fox comedy, Clyde Cook in "The Toreador."


A petition is being circulated to have the name of Hon. Henry W. Watson, of Langhorne, placed upon the ballot at the coming primaries as a candidate for congress from the Eighth District, to succeed himself.

March 26, 1922


John Hennessy, 6 1/2 years old, of South Langhorne, deserves a gold medal for pluck. Yesterday afternoon he stood bravely on ahla12 (7).jpg (73389 bytes) flat farm wagon, without sides, while the team of horses hitched to the vehicle raced madly for a mile through Langhorne, never losing his presence of mind and maintaining his position as firmly as though he had been a chariot rider, until the horses collided with a pole and came to a sudden stop, whereupon John alighted hurriedly, but unhurt.

John was with his father N. J. Hennessy, at the residence of C. J. Matthews, in Langhorne Manor. Mr. Hennessy is Mr. Matthews’ farmer and was doing some hauling about the place when the horses took fright and started on a run up Bellevue Avenue, right through the heart of the town and across the (Lincoln Highway *) and other cross streets. Citizens gazed with horror at the sight, but were unable to do anything to stop the team. As the outfit approached Winchester Avenue, with the almost certain trip headlong down the steep hill to the trolley track, with the sharp turn at the bottom, nothing but certain death was looked for, for the boy.

Paul Tomlinson, the Bell Telephone lineman, chased after the runaway in his automobile, and when he caught up to the team kept crowding in front of it, in order to slow it down. At Winchester Avenue, the horses collided with a pole in front of the Bellevue, and the race ended. Neither boy nor horses were hurt, and the wagon also escaped injury. John was taken into the home of Dr. E. E. Everts to collect his equilibrium, but it was found he had not lost it, and when an auto came along to take him back home he was unperturbed and ready for the journey. John will be seven years old next July.

(* Maple Ave., the main road from New York to San Francisco in 1922)


Langhorne lost one of its most highly-respected citizens and few remaining Civil War veterans in the death at about 9 o’clock yesterday morning of George Moser Reed, which occurred at his home at Bellevue and Watson Avenues, following a lengthy illness. Death was due to heart trouble, super induced by hardening of the arteries. Deceased had also suffered two slight strokes, but he had been bedfast only a few weeks.

Deceased was born November 23, 1839, in Ireland, and was brought to this county at the age of five years by his parents, Davidhla12 (6).jpg (110481 bytes) and Jane (Hunter) Reed. His grandfather was Moses Reed. He attended school in Philadelphia and Bensalem Township and later assisted his father on the farm. In 1866 he began farming on his own account in Hartford County Maryland, where he remained for eight years. He left there to purchase and take possession of a farm in Middletown Township, Bucks County. Here he devoted his attention largely to dairying, and established a fine trade in Bristol.

On August 8, 1862, Mr. Reed enlisted for service in the Civil War, and was mustered in for three years in Philadelphia, in Co. K. 13th reg. Penna. Cavalry, under Capts. J. S. Strusher and J. W. Berks and Cols. J. H. Galligher and N. Kerwin. His regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps. Army of the Potomac, and participated in the following battles: Strasburg, Va. Feb. 25; Middletown, Va. June 12; Winchester, Va. June 13 and 15; Culpepper C. H., Sept. 11, 1863. Mr. Reed was wounded here by a gun shot in the right side, and was in the Washington, D.C. hospital over three months.

His regiment was engaged at Jefferson or White Sulphur Springs, Oct. 12, 1863. He was promoted to Corporal, and later to Quartermaster Sergeant. Other battles participated were the Wilderness, May 5 to 7; Spotsylvania, May 10; Beaver Dam Station, May 26; Hawes Shop, May 28; Gaines Mills, June 2; Trevillian Station, June 12; White House Landing, June 211 and 22; St Mary’s Church, June 2 and 4; Lees Mills, July 12; Jerusalem Plank Road, July 15; Deep Bottom, July 27 and 28; Wyatt’s Farm, Sept. 29; Boydton Plank Road, Oct 22; Hatchers Run, Dec. 8 and 9, 1864; Gravelly Run, Feb. 5; Hatchers Run, Feb. 2, 6 and 7; Raleigh, N. C., April 4 to 13.

Mr. Reed was honorably discharged July 14, 1865 at the close of the war, in Raleigh, N.C.

The Night the fire house burned By Art Thompson 1944

The year was 1944, and it was three days before Christmas when the supreme embarrassment happened in Langhorne. The fire house caught on fire. Charles Lauble, a veteran fireman and for many years a member of the Borough Council, lived across the street from the firehouse on Maple Ave. and he came to it's rescue in a most bold way.

Shortly after 4 a.m., next-door neighbor, Mrs. Leonard Yocum. saw large clouds of smoke emanating from the Langhorne town hall that housed the fire equipment, the post office and the borough council chamber. She aroused her neighbor Mrs. Lawrence Tursi, who ran into the street barefoot in the dead of winter. The two women sought to sound the fire siren but the wires evidently had burned out.

They dashed across the street and routed Charles Lauble from his sleep. Fireman Lauble was unable to enter the small door to the fire house because of the intensity of the flames inside. Acting quickly to gain access to the building, he revved up his large truck and backed it through the large fire house door.

Mr. Lauble jumped into a pumper and drove it out into the street. By this time, another fireman, Edward Hummel, had arrived and he moved another pumper out. However, he burned his hands severely in the attempt.

Lacking a fire alarm system, Mrs. Tursi and Mrs. Yocum telephoned members of the local fire company as well as fire companies at Penndel, Hulmeville, Yardley, and Newtown.

First aid treatment was given at the Tursi home to Firemen Lauble, Hummel, and Joseph Picciotti for cuts and burns. The Fire Company Auxiliary showed up and made coffee at the Tursi residence to warm the stalwarts who braved the cold to fight the blaze.

No one knew the cause of the fire that started in the basement, probably in a closet, following the two chutes in which the town clock weights operate as well as the ventilating chamber to the upper floors.

The sturdy stone Structure, today a familiar landmark on Maple Ave. held up well. One of the fire engines was damaged, fire equipment was destroyed, and flames reached to the top of the building, ruining rafters supporting the slate roof.

Postal workers labored feverishly during the blaze removing mail, much of it of the Christmas variety, from danger. However, the post office section was undamaged. The large town clock had stopped at 4:20 where it was to remain until the building could be restored, a job the town began the next day.

 From the ADVANCE of Bucks County January 29, 1998


Anniversary of a wreck, tragedy took 27 lives.

by Art Thompson

    On a Sunday afternoon several years ago my daughter and I hiked along the Pennypack Creek and up to the Reading rails justhla12.jpg (72602 bytes) above Bryn Athyn. There they were -the stark, stone cliffs, jutting from the narrow cut where sixty years ago this week the north and south bound Newtown- Philadelphia trains collided on the single track following a morning snow flurry, killing 27 and injuring 70.
    Monday, December 5,1921, the first snow of the season. By the time the 7:30 a.m. train left Newtown the day was clearing. About a half-inch layer of white covered the picturesque country-side. The commuter coaches ram-bled past George School, Holland, Churchville and on to Southampton.
Robert Brown of Newtown was aboard that morning on the way to his job in the Philadelphia accounting office of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. He sat in the next to the last coach of what he remembers as a five-car train.
    The early morning milk run that left before the Newtown express was late. The light snow had made it slippery going. Heading north on the single track to Bryn Athyn, Southampton and Newtown was the Reading local. Usually, the local passed the milk trainhla12 (1).jpg (78502 bytes) at Fox Chase and the Newtown express at Southampton, standing off on a siding to allow the city-bound commuter special the right-of-way. But today the schedule went awry.
    At Bryn Athyn, station master Russell Clayton handed orders to the conductor of the northbound local, relayed from the Terminal. The local was to wait on the Bryn Athyn siding for the milk train and commuter express to pass.
    The milk train rumbled past. Abruptly, the local pulled back on to the single track, heading for the cliffs north of Bryn Athyn, Clayton, realizing the express had not gone by, ran off in pursuit of the local, frantically waving to no avail as the engine picked up speed.
    A few minutes before, Harry Parker had boarded the express at Southampton, sitting in the first seat of the second coach withhla12 (2).jpg (95161 bytes) his brother, Dr. Paul Parker. They greeted their next door neighbor, Elizabeth Shelmire, going to her city secretary job. She joked about not being able to find her accustomed seat, and went on into the lead car.
    The two trains plummeted on their collision course. Making about 40 miles per hour, both locomotives entered opposite ends of a blind curve in the Bryn Athyn cliffs.
    The impact of the heavy engines was like an accordion being pushed together, according to Mr. Parker. "The front car was crushed, demolished back to the window where we were sitting," he remembers.
    The coal-fired camelbacks were upended showering flames on to the first coaches of the two trains, turning their wooden structures into blazing death traps.
The Parkers were stunned, but unhurt. The neighbor, whose banter they had shared moments before, perished.
    In the fourth car, Robert Brown picked himself off the floor. Everything was intact, only his glasses were broken. He emergedhla12 (3).jpg (91231 bytes) from the nightmare, helped put the wounded in the rear wood coach, and then bent his back to pushing the car to a road several hundred yards away, where ambulances eventually gathered.
    Mrs. Herbert Krusen of Newtown was on her way that day to the city with her five - year - old son. She was hurled by the crash from the front car to the cliff where she lay unconscious. The boy was killed. Her husband was a trainman on the milk run ahead. She spent six weeks in hospital.
    Ambulances and volunteer rescue workers descended on the area, aiding the injured, comforting the dying and sifting the ashes for remains.
The two firemen were among the 27 who were killed. The two enginemen survived after months in the hospital. James Rook, engineer of the express, as he lay injured on the ground is said to have preferred papers to rescuers exclaiming, "Here's my orders. I was running according to orders."
    The engineman of the northbound local and his conductor were tried, found guilty of criminal negligence and sentenced to prison. Both were pardoned later. What brought about the negligence can never be known.
    Did the engineman believe the passing milk train was actually both trains passing together? Or. were the orders misread or just ignored? Nothing can be gamed by hind-sight speculation.
    Now 60 years later, the tragic aftermaths are diminished, but the memories of sorrow brought to many families remain. 
    In the Churchville cemetery there is a large communal grave marked by a stone bearing the names of nine whose ashes could not be identified. One of them is Elizabeth Shelmire, the Parkers' neighbor.
    Both Harry Parker and Robert Brown continued to commute by rail for many years. Mr. Brown retired after 55 years of riding trains daily to work in Philadelphia and New York. , 
    "It was a long time before anyone would sit in the first . car," Mr. Parker once told me. ' Today the Newtown local is a singlehla12 (4).jpg (85783 bytes) engine-less metal car, rolling on the same single track through the countryside. Automatic signals, not installed in 1921, provide insurance against accidents, and the wooden coach has been banned. The tracks recently were upgraded, although current operation under SEPTA has a shaky future.
    I looked at the cliffs on that Sunday, thinking I might find traces of the scorching the holocaust gave the Bryn Athyn rocks. Only moss and water dripping. Nature had taken over.

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