Adrian to Honor Italian Immigrants killed in 1901 train crash
On Thanksgiving Eve in 1901, two trains No. 4 and No. 13 collided near Adrian Michigan, killing over 100 Italian immigrants who had recently come to the United States for a better life.
On impact, cars on Train 4 exploded but were saved from fire by the quick thinking of the Train’s engineer, Aaron T. Strong. Train 13’s cars were shattered on impact but instantly caught fire when an overhead kerosene lamp fell to the floor of one of the cars blocking the escape of those now trapped inside. Fire burning at over 2,000 degrees instantly cremated all those trapped inside. Local residents of both Seneca and Sand Creek rushed to the aid of the victims but could only watch in horror as the white hot flames consumed the wreckage. Fire burned into the night and could be seen up to 5 miles in all directions.
On the aftermath of the Wreck on November 28, 1901, the wreck draws hundreds to view the ghastly scene. They suddenly realize they are walking through the ash of human remains. Victim’s remains were taken to Croswell Opera House for identification. Those who remained unidentified, because of their fragmented remains were placed in five coffins and buried here in Oakwood Cemetery.
For decades, they were forgotten- lost to history. However, thanks to recently discovered records, their unmarked graves have been located. “Now is the time to honor them”, said Adrian Mayor Jim Berryman.
The City of Adrian, the Consulate of Italy in Detroit, Dr. Maria Luisa Lapresa, and other community partners are worked together, hoping to tell this compelling story through a Memorial Service and dedication of a sculpture created by Italian/American artist Sergio De Giusti.
“After 115 years, it is time to honor the memory of the men, woman, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that lost their lives in one of the most tragic train accidents in United States history.” The Mayor went on to say “that we can only accomplish this with the generosity of caring people from around the Country and the World.”
The Memorial service and Dedication took place on September 24, 2016 at Oakwood Cemetery located in Adrian Michigan.