CHIEF SCHEVERS DIES IN RACE TO DUTY’S CALL
Drives in Front of a Switch Engine and is Horribly Mangled
EXPIRES AN HOUR LATER
His Son and Another Fireman In the Wagon With Him Are Scarcely
SNOW STORM BLINDS HIS VIEW
Is Unable to See the Engine Before It is Upon Him – Hook and
Ladder Crew Has a Narrow Escape
madly in the face of a blinding sheet of snow, unable to avert the
catastrophe, with no sign of warning, Fire Chief G. F. W. Schevers was
carried to his death last night. While responding to the call of duty
he drove in front of a Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern switch engine and
was crushed and mangled almost beyond recognition. In the wagon with
him at the time were Firemen “Billy” Hamilton and Bert Schevers, the
chief’s son. Both of them escaped with barely a bruise.
accident occurred at 9:30 p. m., at Seventh and Madison Streets. Ahead
of the fire chief’s wagon, the police patrol wagon passed safely across
the network of tracks. Dimly sighting the fleeting vehicle, Chief
Schevers supposed that the way was clear. Suddenly, the lights of the
engine loomed upon him, and unable to control the horse he drove, the
chief endeavored to turn the animal westward in a direction parallel to
the course of the locomotive. The ice and snow made this feat
Hamilton’s Escape Marvelous
(Word illegible) with the momentum acquired in a race begun several
blocks back with the fire trucks, the chief’s wagon struck the side of
the engine and was carried a half block before the locomotive crew was
able to check the engine. Chief Schevers fell heavily under the
footboard of the locomotive and was pulled along the iron rails for a
distance of a hundred feet or more. Hamilton managed, with peculiar
good luck, to secure a grip on the hand rail of the engine while Bert
Schevers was thrown to the sidewalk fully ten yards away, when the wagon
Schevers was the first person to recover from the shock of the
accident. He hastened around the engine in search of his father and the
sight that greeted him was horrible. In seeking to pass the horse which
was down under some of the wreckage, he dimly distinguished the form of
the chief, lying beneath the footboard and still being pulled along the
rails by the locomotive, which had not yet been brought to a standstill.
the condition of his father, Bert called to the enginemen to stop the
(word illegible), which they did. Then, with the crew of the hook and
ladder trucks, he picked up the mangled form of his father and, with the
assistance of the police who had heard the crash of the collision and
returned with the patrol wagon, took the injured man to St. John’s
Unconscious When Picked Up
the chief was unconscious. He was bleeding at the nose and ears and
every gasp emitted a stream of blood from the mouth. A number of
physicians and surgeons were at once summoned but all their skill was
unavailing and the unfortunate man died at 10:39 o’clock, an hour after
house number 1, where he is stationed, “Billy” Hamilton told of the
accident with a graphicness that was thrilling. Almost overcome from
shock, himself injured to an extent that had not yet been determined by
the physician that examined him, he bravely bore his pain and sought to
cheer up those that were anxious about his condition.
know how the thing happened,” he declared. “It was so sudden that I had
no chance to think. All I remember is that when we arrived at Jefferson
Street in our course north in Seventh Street the patrol wagon shot out
of an alley and took the right side of the street. We remained on the
left side, which we had taken to pass the fire trucks a block back.
patrol wagon went ahead of us, the chief, with his usual desire to be
first at the fire, spurred up the horse, which by the way, was not “Bob”
his regular horse, and sought to beat the patrol wagon. The fact that
the patrol wagon passed safely over the tracks evidently led him to
believe, as it did me, that the road was clear. Just as we reached the
tracks, the lights of the engine glared up.”
instant I knew what that meant and yelled to the chief to look out. He
saw the lights at the same time and tried to turn the horse westward,
the direction in which the engine was going.
His Chief Dragged Down
had only one thought and that was whether I could reach the hand rail
alongside of the engine. Somehow, after what seemed like ages, I did
get hold of it. I hung on with all the despair that a man would have
under the circumstance.
feel the wagon going to pieces beneath me and felt the body of the chief
sinking. It was horrible and when the end finally came I was so dazed
that I hardly knew where I was.” Here Hamilton stopped his recital,
overcome by its horror.
marvelous good fortune saved the members of the ladder truck from a
similar fate. Flying along the street as fast as the team of horses
could bear them, with a clear track ahead, apparently they were settling
down to a race with the chief’s wagon when they got across the tracks.
When the engine shot out of the darkness and struck the chief’s wagon,
the whole scene was plainly visible to them.
swerved the plunging horses as Chief Schevers had done, but with better
luck, and the stopped fifty feet from where the engine halted. All of
them hastened to the wreck and did what they could to assist their
injured officer. The place of the accident was thronged within ten
minutes by a crowd of several hundred people.
Physicians Exert Every Effort
injured man was taken to the hospital a number of physicians and
surgeons of the city were notified at once. As speedily as possible
they assembled and held a consultation as to the best procedure. Every
means known to modern science was resorted to in an effort to control
the hemorrhage that persisted from the time the victim was picked up.
When the lungs seemed to be unable to properly assimilate air and the
pulse weakened a final resort was made to oxygen, which it was hoped
would stimulate the circulation.
and without recovering consciousness, Chief Schevers died. The scene at
the bedside was pathetic, as all of the family had been summoned. Bert,
who was with him at the time of the accident sought to keep courage in
those around him to the last. His own injuries were slight.
Death’s Shadow Before
This is not
the first time Chief Schevers has had the shadow of death at his elbow.
Only a month ago he was thrown under a car of the street railway company
and was laid up at home for some time as a result. Late yesterday
afternoon, while on his way to a fire in the north end, his wagon truck
and the shafts were broken, Schevers being hurled into the street. This
latter accident occurred between Washington and Jefferson on Fifth
on which the department was called out was insignificant and, when the
accident occurred, was forgotten by a major portion of the men. At
headquarters when the apparatus returned, struggling in, the news of the
accident was received with the greatest grief.
long minutes that the chief hovered between life and death at the
hospital the most feverish anxiety prevailed and when the news was
finally announced at 10:45 o’clock that the chief was dead every man
that was up took off his hat and stood reverently until the bell began
had been with the fire department as chief since last May. He succeeded
the late Otto Miller, one of the most popular officials the department
ever had. New in some respects to the governing of a large force of
men, Chief Schevers at first was handicapped, but in the months that
elapsed since his assumption of office he succeeded in inspiring the
respect of those associated with him.
Man of Courage
was courageous to the last degree and never sent any man where he would
not go himself. In several of the large fires this city has experienced
lately, he displayed the ability to handle his men satisfactorily. He
was a disciplinarian and insisted on strict observance of the rules and
regulations of the department. It was this that for a time provoked a
feeling of discontent, which, with his characteristic intuition, he was
one of the first to observe and correct.
When a boy
of fifteen years he entered the employ of the Wabash Railroad, which he
served as office boy for a considerable time. Dissatisfied with the
work, he applied for a position as fireman, which was given to him when
he was eighteen years old. His progress in this department was rapid.
years he was made an engineer, in which capacity he served until the
strike of 1894. Then, with many others, he left the Wabash service,
never to return. For a short time he was enrolled as a fireman on the
Springfield department. This position he resigned to become an engineer
for the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railway, with which he remained
time on he had conducted the Windsor Hotel at Fourth and Adams Streets.
For several years he thought that the management of that place would
satisfy him for life, but the earlier call was greater and when the
opportunity was extended to him to become chief of the fire department
he entered active service once more.
of His Life
Schevers was born in Keokuk, Ia., and was nearly 44 years old. He came
to Springfield when a small boy and had since made his home in this
city. When Mayor Woodruff was elected he was made assistant fire
marshal and also had charge of the city rollers.
survived by his widow, three sons and one daughter. The sons are Bert,
who was with him at the time of the accident and who is 21 years old;
William, aged 18; Leo, 16 years old, and Marie, aged 14 years.
arrangements have not been completed and will be announced later.
Illinois State Journal