A new book to commemorate the Aug. 4, 1914 Tipton Ford train wreck tragedy is now available while there will soon be a ceremony to place a marker at the site as well.
Compiled by local historians and authors Kay Hively and Larry James, the book is titled “The Tipton Ford Tragedy.”
“It is the 100th anniversary of the wreck,” said Hively. “So we wanted to commemorate it by marking the site and having a little celebration.”
On Aug. 5, 1914, more than 80 people boarded a Missouri & North Arkansas motorcar at Joplin’s union depot that evening. Some of the passengers were of Neosho’s black community, which were heading home after celebrating Emancipation Day in Joplin. About 6 p.m. that evening, the gasoline powered motorcar collided with a freight train going toward Joplin. More than 40 people perished.
The local authors researched the 22-page book.
“Between Larry and me, we had the photos already,” she said. “Billie Stewart (a local artist) did the drawing for the cover. We basically reprinted newspapers stories of the day, when the wreck happened.”
After the tragedy, “the people were so badly burned, it was just awful,” Hively said. “They were so badly burnt, they really couldn’t get an accurate count.”
Hively noted that there was a funeral in Neosho.
On the following Friday after the tragedy – at 2 p.m. — 33 of the victims were buried in a mass grave in Neosho’s IOOF Cemetery, some white and some black citizens.
Today, a monument sits at the entrance of the cemetery with the names of those who perished. But soon, there will be another marker, this time at Tipton Ford.
“On Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, we are planning a big event at the Undercliff (restaurant),” said Hively. “We are going to put a marker — with support from the Shoal Creek Heritage Preservation — on the grounds of the restaurant. They promised that they would take care of it. Then as people go to the restaurant, they can go look at (the marker). We are going to have the ceremony there, unveil the marker. It is going to be a short ceremony.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony at the Undercliff, Hively said 41 black and white balloons will be released. Then, people will be invited to go to George Washington Carver National Monument – about four miles away – for a lunch and hear some more speakers.
In the meantime, the book is for sale for $5 and can be purchased at: The Newton County Historical Society, the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, Neosho Gifts Etcetera, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery bookstore, the George Washington Carver National Monument bookstore, the Neosho Daily News or by calling Hively at 451-3415.
“We don’t have a whole bunch of them, so they are probably going to be sold out,” she said. “I think that we have about 400 for sale.”