Timeline of Slatington History

5 April 1878 (Friday)

Disaster Hits Slatington!

An oil train traveling east on the Lehigh Valley Railroad collided with a freight train that had stopped in Slatington because of an over-heated journal bearing. The oil train struck the rear of the freight train, pushing it into the Trout Creek bridge and then into the creek itself. The cars piled up, an engine exploded and the oil caught fire resulting in a horrible inferno. Some men volunteered to decouple and push away from the flames the oil cars that had not yet caught fire.

As railroad employees arrived on the scene and attempted to clean up the wreck, this is what happened next:

"When in the act of pulling a burning oil tank to one side, it exploded and spurted the burning oil in streams over some of the employees (sic) and a large crowd of spectators. The scene for the next few moments was perfectly indescribable. Men, women and children ran in every direction. Some of them were moving masses of fire not knowing whither to run to save their lives. Some who escaped the fire fiend came to the assistance of their unfortunate friends and did all they could to relieve them of their perilous condition. Children fell and were tread under foot by the running crowd. Several who were entirely overcome by flames fell in the streets with their flesh literally roasting and were pitiable sights in the full sense of the term. Others jumped into the river and thereby extinguished their burning clothing before their bodies were greatly burned."

There were at least seven dead (William Shoemaker, Daniel Reber, Arthur Williams, Irwin Beers, John Kuehner, Irwin Clark, John George) and fifty-two injured.

The New York Times reported that already by 7 April the wreckage had been cleared and trains were running again, but responsibility for the accident had not yet been assigned.

23 October 1878 (Wednesday)

Hurricane strikes Slatington!

According to Wikipedia, "The Gale of 1878, was an intense Category 2 hurricane that was active between October 18 and October 25." (See the NOAA analysis by David Roth and Hugh Cobb III.) The Slatington News reports: "On Wednesday morning ab0ut 1 o’clock as our citizens were in their sweetest slumbers clouds began to lower and rain to pour down in torrents, accompanied by a terrific gale which blew so fiercely towards morning that many became alarmed. At about 9 o'clock the storm seemed to have reached its crisis and blew down the church spire of the Evangelical Church, situated on the north-east corner of Second and Washington streets. The spire fell on the house of Mr. Griffith Kern and demolished a part of the roof and otherwise damaged the building. The Kern family had shortly before left the house, and, consequently, made a narrow escape of their lives."

Sources for these items: New York Times (6 April 1878) and Slatington News (10 April 1878 and 23 October 1878)