His Life Sacrificed To Save His Whiskey

An Employe of Sellers Killed by a Flying Train.


A Tragic End to a Long Trip for Shipment of Illicit Liquor.

As the result of the efforts of W. H. Sellers, the blind tiger king of Columbia, to evade the dispensary constables during the dark hours of night, one of his henchmen, Charles Thompson, is dead, killed by the Seaboard’s flying “Florida Limited” another of his hirelings, Elias Waiters, is languishing in jail; the whiskey and Waiters’ mule and wagon have been seized by the constables, and the mules and wagon of the dead man are destroyed by the same train which in an instant ended the life of their owner.

The accident in which Thompson was killed happened about 300 yards beyond Weddell, a small station non the Seaboard Air Line, nine miles north of Columbia. The time of its occurrence was 9:53 o’clock on Thursday night.

Sellers expected a shipment of whis- from the Carolina Distilling Company of Hamlet, N. C., to be delivered at Blaney that night. This point is on the Seaboard just across the line in Kershaw County and is 21 miles from Columbia. The whiskey arrived and Thompson and an unknown helper were there with a two mule team to receive and bring it to Columbia or what ever place it was to be stored. The shipment consisted of 1,000 half-pints of the celebrated “King’s Choice” corn whiskey and six kegs, containing five gallons of corn each. The half pints were packed in five barrels, containing 200 bottles each.

Thompson loaded the stuff on his wagon and started on his way toward Columbia. It was dark and raining. All went well until the party neared Weddell, 12 miles from the starting place. About 300 yards beyond Weddell from Columbia the wagon road crosses the railroad. This road, instead of crossing the track squarely, approaches it gradually and crosses it at an acute angle. There is a small bridge 12 1-2 feet wide over the ditch beside the road bed. The ditch is about two feet wide and two feet deep at this point. When Thompson approached this bridge, driving through the rain and dark, he cut his team to cross the bridge just a little too soon. The front wheels passed over safely, but the back wheels, of course, did not track the front one and the back wheel on the inside of the turn missed the end of the bridge and dropped into the ditch. The predicament was a serious one; the wagon could not possibly be moved backward or forward until the load was removed, and the mules were standing directly on the railroad track.

This was the situation when the “Florida Limited” came in sight, running as fast as she could turn a wheel on a piece of track as straight as an arrow and down a heavy grade. It is evident from the indications- and the whole story is clear to those who saw them – that Thompson, already anxious over his responsibility and vexed by his dilemma, when he saw the train bearing down upon him, realized that it meant the loss of his valuable team and wagon and of his employer’s property entrusted to his care unless the train could be stopped.

Tried to Stop the Train.

With a reckless disregard of consequences, he rushed along the side of the track toward the oncoming train in a vain effort to flag it down with his hat, He had gone about 50 feet up the track when the thundering train was upon him, and before he could realize his danger it had struck him and hurled him fully 40 feet away, dashed the wagon and its load aside like a wisp of straw and crushed both mules into a lifeless and mangled mass.

The train was brought to a standstill and remained there until it was seen that no aid could be rendered.

News of what had happened reached Division Chief Osborne about 1:15 o’clock. He immediately detailed Constables Haring, Pegues and Boland to go at once the scene and seize what whiskey they could find. They were soon on their way, and reached there about 3 o’clock yesterday morning. The illicit liquor had been carried away, but the constables nosed their game and were soon away in hot pursuit. Sellers’ other employee, faithful to their employer, had notified him of the accident. Sellers left the city such a short distance ahead of the constables that they saw his buggy about a block away. It is stated by them that he was accompanied by R. R. Sceley, a well known blind tiger dealer on lower Main street. As soon as they arrived at the scene of the tragedy preparation were begun to get the booze out of the way. Elias Walters, a negro farmer who lives nearby, was employed with his horse and wagon to do the work, as he himself expressed it, was promised good pay. The statement was volunteered on the quiet from another source that Sellers had to pay the darkey $125 to do the work.

The Liquor Seized.

The constables followed their trail of the fleeing wagon back towards Blaney and finally caught it in a road off the main road.  The driver, Elias Walters, upon being questioned, said that he was carrying the whiskey to the home of a man name Thomas, who is a brother-in-law of Sceley. The wagon contained four barrels, holding 200 half-pints each, and 28 bottles saved from the fifth barrel which had been smashed by the train. Strange to say when the wagon was struck it was turned bottom upward against the bank of the slight cut and the barrels were rolled out on the edge of the bank without any damage except to the one barrel. It was learned from the waybills at Blaney that all of the barrels and one keg were consigned to Sellers, one keg to T. F. Osborn, one to  —– Morrison and one to T. N. Brown. The others are not accounted for. The negro, Elias Waiters, was placed under arrest fro transporting illicit liquor, and as the transporting was done in the night his horse and wagon were seized and will be sold.

Coroner Walker was notified of Thompson’s tragic death yesterday morning and at once left for the place where he had been killed. He was accompanied by Dr. L. A. Griffith, who made the post mortem examination.

The body of the dead man was found lying as it fell, on the side of the track. The head was toward the direction from which the train had approached, showing  that as it was hurled through the air the body had turned completely over at least one time. It was lying face downward in a pool of blood, both hands raised higher than the head and the fingers were crooked as if clutching at something. Part of the body was in the water that flowed from the spot. It could be seen from the impressions made by the body, in the clinker ballast, as it was hurled by the train, the man had been struck about 40 feet from where the body lay.

Probably having run up the track in his effort to meet the train he was standing on the ends of the ties or just off of them. Judging from his injuries he was truck on the right side by the pilot, or perhaps the steam chest  and cylinders, as his right thigh was broken and his right arm was broken between the elbow and the wrist. His neck was broken and the face, badly scarred by the jagged clinkers, was crushed on the left side, indicating that the force of the blow had turned him around and thrown him violently headfirst to the ballast on the side of the track. Marks in the cinders showed where he struck three times before coming to a stop. A few splotches of blood were to be distinctly seen near these impressions.

The body, after being viewed by Coroner Walker and Dr. Griffith, was brought to the city to VanMetres undertaking establishment. The inquest was begun there at 7 o’clock Sunday Morning, when the train crew will be present to testify. The  jurors are: J. P. Rawls, foreman; B. R. Heyward, L. P. Harmon, F. F. Simons, J. C. Easterling, D. J. Alley, R. G. Ortagus, J. H. Skinner, S. R. Stoney, R. H. Hearn, James Powell, J. T. McCants, J. W. Blease and E. St. C. Walker.

An effort will be make today to discover the negro who was on the wagon with Thompson. It is supposed he got off in time and was therefore a witness of the tragedy. It was probably this assistant who notified Thompson’s employer and he probably went off with Sellers and the other negro.

1905.03.11 -His Life Sacrificed To Save His Whiskey
March 11, 1905 State (published as The State) Columbia, South Carolina News Article Issue 5106 Page 8

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