President in a Collision (1902)
(From the Washington D.C. Suburban Citizen – September 6, 1902)
Nation’s Chief Has a Wonderful Escape from Death at Pittsfield, Mass.
A Sad Ending to His New England Tour
Secret Service Agent Craig Killed, and the Driver Seriously Injured – Gov. Crane, of Massachusetts, Escaped Injury, Secretary Cortelyou Cut and Rendered Unconscious
PITTSFIELD, MASS. – President Roosevelt was the central figure in a trolley car accident here, in which William Craig, a Secret Service detective, gave up his life in his effort to save the nation’s chief.
David J. Pratt, driver of the carriage containing the president, which was smashed by the car, was severely injured.
The President was thrown to the ground and cut and bruised about the face and body. George B. Cortelyou, Secretary to the President, was severely bruised. Winthrop Murray Crane, Governor of Massachusetts, and George P. Lawrence, Representative in Congress from the First Massachusetts district, escaped with only a few bruises. All these were in the carriage with Mr. Roosevelt.
Under the sunniest of September skies the distinguished party was driving through the Berkshire Hills in a landau drawn by four white horses, the reins handled by Pratt, the President and his companions going from Dalton to Lenox. The carriage was struck squarely just behind the box on Pratt and Craig were sitting. The vehicle was hurled 40 feet across the road.
Craig was instantly killed and ground under the heavy machinery of the car into an unrecognizable mass.
The President was thrown into the air and landed on the right side of his face in the roadway.
Mr. Cortelyou was thrown out and almost rendered unconscious.
Gov. Crane, who, next to Craig, was the nearest to the immediate danger line, was thrown out, but as previously stated, escaped with only slight bruises.
Pratt was turned over bodily in the air, struck on his side and was found afterword to have received a dislocation of the shoulder besides bruises and cuts. He was taken to the Hospital of the Sisters of Mercy.
In Pittsfield there is a little hill. It dips into a valley, where there was once a brook. Down this hill runs the tracks of the suburban trolley line.
Along the road there have been great crowds and on the brow of the hill there had been marshaled an array of camera enthusiasts, because the position offered a particularly good point of vantage. At the foot of the hill the tracks swerved sharply.
Down the hill came the President’s carriage. Down the hill, too, came the car, heavily laden with passengers, who were anxious to reach the Country Club grounds before Mr. Roosevelt’s carriage passed. The car was in the charge of Euclid Madden as motorman and James Kelley as conductor.
When Craig saw the danger and that the collision could not be averted he was heard to say:
“Oh, my God!”
Then he was hurled through the air and fell under the car wheels.
The car struck the carriage squarely, just back of the box on which sat Pratt and Craig.
President Roosevelt was hurled into the air and dropped fairly upon his right cheek.
When the car came crashing down the hill, Governor Crane saw the danger almost as soon as did Craig. He jumped to his feet and instinctively threw his arm in front of the President, as if he could shield him from the danger.
The crash came; the Governor was not hurt. He jumped to his feet and saw the President rising. Again he threw his arm across Mr. Roosevelt’s breast.
“Steady, sir,” he said.
The Governor’s hair was disheveled and he was very pale.
All this had happened in less time than it takes to tell it. Dr. Luang, the President’s physician, had rushed up to the overturned carriage, and his first thought was for the President. Mr. Roosevelt and Govermor Crane were helped to a neighboring cottage and their wounds were cared for.
Mr. Roosevelt’s thoughts were all for Craig, whose body then lay on the tracks in the rear of the car, which had brought swift death to him.
“Poor old Craig,” said the President.
He walked over and looked at the body of the man who had scarcely been beyond the sound of his voice since the day Mr. Roosevelt took the chair of the President.
Then his thoughts reverted to the people who had been waiting for him. He turned to Mr. Cortelyou.
“We will go on with the journey,” he said. “Just as we have planned, but let there be no cheering.”
Frederick S. Clark, who was an eyewitness of the accident, says that he had gone to the top of Howard Hill for the purpose of securing a photograph of the President in his carriage. He was near the Howard House when he saw the party approaching.
Mr. Clark saw the President thrown out on the left side, and saw the Governor assisted to his feet. As the President rose to his feet, Mr. Clark saw him walk to where the motorman was standing after leaving the car and speak to him.
Presently the carriage appeared. In front of the Curtis Hotel a vast crowd had congregated, and when it drove up there was the silence of death.
It was a picture that will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Pale, covered with dust, his eye blackened from the bruise, his cheek swelling visibly, Mr. Roosevelt rose.
“My friends,” he said, “there has been an accident. One of our party has been killed. He was William Craig of the United States Secret Service. I had come to have for this man a genuine admiration, not alone for his rugged honesty and for his loyalty to me, but for the devotion and the love which he showed for my children. I beg of you that there be no cheering and no demonstration of any kind. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the greeting which you have given me.”
The President sat down. Silently the carriages of his party moved ahead. Silently the people who had come to greet him looked into each other’s faces, and knew that the President of the United States had preached a funeral sermon for “Bill” Craig, the great – hearted giant who guarded Mr. Roosevelt with his life, and who on sunny mornings in the White House grounds used to read to little Kermit the legends beneath the funny pictures in the newspapers – because the great big man, who loved him, could tell him the stories with the broad humor of a Scotchman, in whom was born a heart which loved the little children and which quailed never in the face of the strongest man.
Sadly the President continued his journey on to Bridgeport and then to Oyster Bay.