Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area



1899 January 7 - Collision between a sleigh and a train at Main Street, Ottawa, O.A. & P.S. Railway, two fatalities


Ottawa Citizen 7 January 1899

Father and son killed together
County Treasurer Cowan and Holmes Cowan, of the Gilpen House, Meet an Instant and Shocking Death at Ottawa East
Team Running Away Crashed into O. A.& P.S. Express, Killing Occupants of Sleigh, except Driver Who is Fatally Injured
Killed
Wm. Cowan, Treasurer of Carleton County
Holmes T. Cowan, Proprietor of the Gilpen House
Injured
Napoleon Dumais, Coachman
One of the most appalling accidents that has happened to Ottawa for years and which resulted in the death of two of the city's most estimable and best-known residents, occurred this morning at rhe Ottawa East crossing of the Parry Sound Railway. County Treasurer William Cowan and his son, Holmes Cowan, proprietor of the Gilpen House, were struck by a westbound express train while driving in a cutter and killed outright while Napoleon Dumais, the coachman was fatally injuered.
The accident occurred at 8.35 on the Main street crossing. Mr. Cowan, his son and the coachman Napoleon Dumais, left their home on Nicholas street shortly after eight o'clock to attend the funeral of the late Charles A. O'Gara, son of Magistrate O'Gara, at Ottawa east. They drove a splendid pair of horses and all went well until Landriau's corner at Ottawa East was reached, when near this point the horses became suddenly frightened at some object or more probably at the sound of the locomotive whistle and started to run away. The driver held on to the terrified horses and did his utmost to stop them but his efforts were to no avail. The frightened animals dashed down the street at a terrific pace, around Landriau's corner and made for the railway crossing. Just at this moment the 8:30 west bound train of the O.A. & P.S. railway came around the corner going at a good rate of speed. Seeing that an accident would be inevitable unless the horses were stopped the flag man at the crossing shouted to the coachman to stop, but the efforts of the latter were futile and the terrified animals ran into the the train striking it between the tender of the engine and the baggage car. The sleigh was instantly turned around and struck the baggage car with terrific force, the occupants being thrown a distance of 75 feet and horribly bruised and cut about the head and face.
The horses were cut off from the cutter and killed immediately. The Messrs. Cowan, who occupied the rear seat in the cutter, were killed outright, but the coachman, Napoleon Dumais, while probably fatally injured, escaped death. He maintained consciousness for about a minute exclaiming. "Where am I?" and "My arm is broken," and then lost reason.
As soon as the driver on the engine saw that an accident would happen, he immediately shut off steam and applied brakes, but not in time to avert the collision.  The train was stopped, however, after proceeding about thirty feet from the scene of the accident. The dead bodies were at once taken up and placed in the flag house at the crossing, while Dumais, the coachman, was taken to the hospital. Undertaker S.M. Rogers was summoned and moved the bodies of the dead father and son to his morgue on Rideau street, where an inquest will be held this evening,
The train was in charge of Conductoe Bracken and Driver Harry Brown. Both of these officials continued on the trip to Madawaska.
Story of an eye-witness
Albert White a resident of Ottawa East, who was standing near the crossing at the time of the accident, related the following to the Citizen: "I was standing near the flag house on Main street, when I saw the team of horses coming around Landrieu's corner at break neck speed. The driver was holding on to the reins tightly and apparently doing his utmost to stop the horses but they kept on running and going faster as they approached the track. The occupants did not appear to make any attempt to jump out of the cutter. At this instant the 8.30 Parry Sound train rounded the curve going at a good rate of speed and I then saw that unless the team could be stopped a bad accident would happen. James Taggart, the flagman was standing near me at the middle of the crossing and he signalled the driver of the cutter to stop, but the latter was unable to do so. Seeing what was going to happen I ran up the street a short distance and jumped for the bridle of the horses as they rushed by, but was too late. The team ran on and just as the engine reached the centre of the crossing the horses ran in between the tander and the baggage car. They were cut off completely from the sleigh, which by this time had turned around and was struck by the baggage car. The occupants were thrown fully 75 feet and when we reached them both father and son were dead. The coachman kept his senses for a minute and then sank into unconsciousness."
The flagman's story
James Taggart, the flagman of the O.A. & P.S Railway at the Main street crossing was seen by the Citizen. He said: "When I first noticed the runaway, the horses were coming around the corner --- and the coachman was jerking them up and shouting "Whoa." As soon as I saw the train coming around the corner I knew that there would be a collision and I waved my flag and shouted to the driver to stop, but he was unable to do so. The team came on faster than ever and the engine had crossed the street when the horses were within twenty-five feet of the team (sic) They kept on and ran in between the tender and the baggage car. The shafts were smashed the horses cut off from the sleigh and badly mangled. The cutter was thrown a great distance and the occupants of the rear seat were killed outright. I did all in my power to stop the team and prevent the accident but was unable to do so."
W. Humpas, of Ottawa East, was near the crossing and saw the accident. The horses were running away and the driver was attempting to stop them. The occupants of the cutter were hiolding on but did not appear to make an effort to jump out. Mr. Humpa's story of the accident corroborated those of Messrs. Taggart and White.
Gates are needed
The crossing of the Parry Sound railway is situated in the centre of the village of Ottawa East, and although freight trains, expresses and shunting engines are passing up and down at all hours of the day and night no gates have ever been put up, although the necessity was an urgent one. At the side of the road is a little flag house and a watchman stationed there is supposed to give the signals  and keep the track clear. The village council of Ottawa East intended to place gates at the crossing and this was one of the improvements suggested during the recent election campaign.. The gates will now be put up, but not until two lives have been sacrificed on account of insufficient protection. Had there been gates at the crossing the horses might have been killed but the occupants of the cutter would probably have escaped with slight injuries.
O.A. & P.S. Official Report
Mr. M. Donaldson, General Superintendent of the Canada Atlantic and the O.A. & P.S. railways, makes the following official statement relative to the accident at the Russell road crossing this morning:
"No. 50 O.A. & P.S. train left Central Depot at 8.30 for Parry Sound, engine 600, Engineer H. Brown, Conductor T. Bracken. While passing over the Main street crossing in Ottawa East, Mr. Cowan's team ran into the side of the train, striking it between the tender and the baggage car. Mr. Cowan and his son were instantly killed and the driver, whose name is Dumais, was seriously injured. The train was immediately stopped, coming to a standstill -- lengths past the crossing, and from the facts, as given -- reported to my office, it would appear that the driver lost control of his horses, which was the cause of the accident. The flagman, J, Taggart, stationed at the crossing, used every effort in his power to stop the team, and narrowly escaped being killed in his efforts to do so. The horses and wreck of the sleigh, and the bodies of Mr. Cowan and his son were found after the collision on the north side of the track some distance west of the crossing.
"Drs. Hanna, Robinson and Small and the ambulance were summoned by telephone immediately after the accident, and arrived within a few minutes. The -- was conveyed to the Protestant Hospital in the ambulance and the bodies of Mr. Cowan and his son were removed to their home by order of the coroner."
Survivor's Story.
Coachman Dumais Tells How the Accident Happened.
Coachman Dumais, the only survivor of the shocking affair, lies at the Protestant Hospital. The poor fellow's sufferings were terrible and made even those accustomed to such scenes shudder as they watched by him.  Dumais regained consciousness shortly after 12 o'clock but was so weak that he could only speak in whispers. Mr. William Cowan was driving, Dumais states, and the horses were travelling at an ordinary rate of speed when suddenly something frightened them, they took hold of the bits and dashed off down Main St. at a terrific rate. Mr. Cowan did his utomost to stop the now uncontrollable animals, buit all of no avail. Dumais stood up in the sleigh and did his utmost in checking the horses, but even with his assistance the animals could not be pulled up. The occupants could hear the approach of the fast moving train. Every yard brought them nearer the track. The horses became terrified at the noise of the locomotive and  Mr. Cowan realized that the only thing that could save them from destruction was to get over the crossing. But the iron monster was the more speedy and the engine had passed over the crossing when crash went the horses, sleigh and occupants into the rear end of the baggage car. The horses were hurled to the side and the car struck the sleigh with awful force.
Dumais, when he first saw the engine, made an ateempt to get out of the sleigh and was about to jump when the collision occurred. To this he probably owes his life. His head is frightfully cut and his right arm it is thought will have to be amputated. The Messrs. Cowan were instantly killed, and it is a source of consolation to their relatives to know that death came with such awful suddenness that there practically was no pain whatever.
Sad Scene at the Homes of the Deceased
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Grief at the Court House
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Inquest Opened
An Inquest in the sad affair was opened at Rogers' morgue by Coroner Freeland this afternoon. The jury is composed of Messrs. A.P. Fournier, George Hollingsworth, High carson, W.R. Striud, H. Baldwin, George Mcgregor, John Davison, Patrick Brankin. John Thompson, H. Bobier, Samuel Davison, Frank Ladouceur and E. Ladouceur.
Biographical sketches
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Ottawa Citizen 14 January 1899

Ottawa East Fatality
More evidence touching the death of the late Wm. Cowan and his son.
The adjourned inquest into the death of the late William Cowan and Holmes T. Cowan was resumed last night before Coroner Freeland at Rogers undertaking establishment.
The first witness called was Thomas Donoghue, an Ottawa East boy, who was on the south side of the O.A. & P.S. tracks at the scene of the accident last Saturday morning. (Jan 7) He said he saw Cowan's team coming down Main street. The horses were at a trot opposite Fourth street. When the team passed the post-office they were galloping. The train whistled when it was middle way between the semaphore and the crossing. The flagman was in the middle of the road and when the team came closer he waved the flag and shouted.  The flagman had walked up the road to meet the team.
James Brown, fitter in the C.A.R. roundhouse, was at the shoemakers shop on Fifth avenue and heard the flagman shouting. The horses were then galloping and he thought at the time that the team was going to knock the man into the engine. The flagman was about seven or ten feet from the rail at the middle of Main street. In answer to a question from Juryman Hollingsworth as to whether the flagman did all in his power to stop the team, the witness answered; "Well, he did more than I would have done."
Mr. John H. Roberts, conductor on the Parry Sound railway, was on Sixth street, Ottawa East, on that morning. He saw the horses running and saw the team then about 65 or 70 feet from the crossing.  He did not actually see the collision, but he was sure that the engine had cleared the crossing before the team struck the train. The steam was turned off the engine. In answer to questions from Mr. J.C. Grant, witness said that whem steam is turned off there is no unusual escape of steam unless the cylinder cocks are turned. He did not see any unusual escape of steam at that time.
Mr. Albert White, fireman, was leaning against the side of the flagman's shanty. He saw the team trotting the post-office. The flagman was in the centre of Main street about eight or ten feet from the track. When the horses did not seem to be stopping the flagman proceeded up the road a little way to meet them.  In answer to Mr. Grant, witness said that the team was trotting when they struck the train. It appeared to him that when he noticed the horses there were two men holding the lines. When the team came opposite the shanty witness jumped out and grabbed at the horses' heads and they swerved to the right.
Mr. James Ballantyne, of Ottawa East, gave evidence to the effect that he had been a member of the County Council and the Council of Ottawa East, and he had never heard of any notification having been given the railway company to put gates at that place.
The inquest was adjourned till the night of Wednesday next week.

Ottawa Citizen 19 January 1899

Verdict of the Jury in the Cowan Fatality
Two recommendations
Gates at Main Street Crossing and a fence around railroad property.
The adjourned inquest into the death of the late Wm. Cowan and Holmes T. Cowan was resumed last night before Coroner Freeland in Rogers undertaking establishment.
Michael Keeley, cab driver, was about half way between Slattery's corner and the track when the accident happened. The Cowans were ahead of him.  He had followed the Cowan team from the Cowan residence and kept about 100 yards behind. His team was trotting. He saw the Cowan team going from the post office to the track, and they were going easily. He heard one whistle before he turned from Fifth street on to Main, but he did not know where the train was, and he halted up slightly. He saw the flagman in front of the horses with something in his hand.
After cabman Dan Holmes and Robert Pettapiece had given evidence, Mr. H.J. Roche, commercial traveller, of Ottawa East testified. He was on the tracks at the crossing on the morning of the accident.  He saw the train about three quarters of the distance between Main and Centre streets down the tracks. He looked around and saw Cowan's team near the post office. He saw the flagman after he had crossed the first track and was on the second track.
This finished the evidence, and the jury, after a short deliberation, returned the following verdict.
"We, the undersigned jurymen, have come to the conclusion that Wm and Holmes T. Cowan came to their deaths on the 7th day of January, at about 8.30 o'clock, a.m. on the P.S. crossing on Main street, Ottawa East, through a collision with the O.A. & P.S. railroad train, and believe the same to have been accidental.
"We would recommend that the proper authorities be compelled to erect a fence on the line dividing the railroad property from Fifth street westward from Main, and also that they be compelled to erect gates on the Main street crossing.

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