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Drives in Front of a Switch Engine and is Horribly Mangled
His Son and Another Fireman In the Wagon With Him Are Scarcely Bruised
Is Unable to See the Engine Before It is Upon Him – Hook and Ladder Crew Has a Narrow Escape

            Driving 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.

            The 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 impossible

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 was struck.

            Bert 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.

            Realizing 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 Hospital.

Unconscious When Picked Up

            When found, 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 the accident.

            At engine 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.

            “I hardly 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.

            As the 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.”

            “In an 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.

Saw His Chief Dragged Down

            “I 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.

            “I could 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.

            Only 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.

            The driver 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

            When the 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.

            This failed 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.

In 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 Street.

            The alarm 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.

            During the 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 to toll.

            Schevers 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.

Was a Man of Courage

            He 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.

            Within five 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 until 1898.

            From that 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.

Sketch of His Life

            Mr. 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.

            He is 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.

            The funeral arrangements have not been completed and will be announced later.
Illinois State Journal – January 11, 1905