March 18, 1907
"Oh what will mamma say? What will mamma say? I know this will kill her?"
This unselfish remark was the first to pass from the lips of Frances Shaw, 14-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Shaw, 2043 North Valley street, Kansas City, Kas., last evening after an incoming Chicago & Alton passenger train had passed over and completely severed her left foot above the ankle. The accident happened about 6 o'clock on a curve in the tracks at Mount Washington, just east of the city. Frances had been out there visiting her cousin, Minnie Eaton, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Eaton. Both are about the same age. While on the way to the station to take a car for home the little girls were walking along the C. & A. tracks. In crossing over a cattle guard Frances' left foot became tightly wedged in between a rail and the guard. The children worked away casually to remove the imprisoned foot, not realizing the danger.
When a train was heard approaching, however, they were seized with fright and both girls pulled with all their mights to loosen the involved foot. All the while the puffing and steaming of the oncoming iron monster could be heard. The children could not see the train for the embankment. When all hope of freedom had fled Minnie jumped back from the tracks and Frances drew her right limb under her and laid down flat away from the track. Her presence of mind saved her life but the whole train passed over the left foot just at the shoe top and severed it as if with a cleaver.
The train was going at a rapid rate, so many witnesses said, and did not stop until several hundred yards beyond where the injured girl lay. Then it backed up and the conductor and train crew tried to do all they could for the child. Not a tear came from Frances Shaw during this terrible ordeal and her first words were of her mother -- not of herself. "What will mamma say?" she said. "What will mamma say? I know this will kill her."
It was a pretty day and many persons were out near Mount Washington. Probably a dozen persons heard the screams of the children and ran to the top of the cut in time to see the train pass over the girl's foot. Until she was reached it was thought she had been killed. Tenderly she was carried to the home of Dr. W. L. Gist, an assistant city physician, who lives nearby. There emergency treatment was given by Dr. Gist and Dr. W. L. Gillmor and when the shock of the accident was over she was removed to St. Luke's hospital, 2011 East Eleventh street. Dr. Gillmor and Dr. C. E. Nixon, whose wives are related to the injured girl, later completed the amputation, assisted by Dr. Pierce, house physician at the hospital.
This is the second serious accident to occur in the Shaw family. Fifteen years ago Newton Shaw, the 4-year-old son, was killed by a Chelsea park car at the "L" road crossing and Fifteenth street in Kansas City, Kas. It was said last night that Mrs. Shaw had never quite recovered from the shock of her little boy's death and that the accident to Frances would prostrate her. There are four children in the family, two brothers and one sister being older than Frances. The father, William Shaw, has for a long time been crippled with rheumatism and can do no manual labor. He is employed as a watchman for the Metropolitan Street Railway Company.
People living in Mount Washington have long called the place where the accident occurred as "Death Curve." The road makes a sharp curve at that point, which is right in the settlement of Mount Washington.
"It is a wonder to me," said Dr. C. E. Nixon last night, "that more accidents have not occurred there. It is almost necessary to use that portion of the tracks going to and from many of the homes across the tracks. One can see only a few yards on account of the embankment and if the train doesn't whistle as a warning it is right on you before you know it. Only a short while ago I came near getting caught there myself. It was night and I was returning from the city with my wife. Before I realized it a train had whisked around that curve and was right on me. My wife was off the track but I had to leap to save myself."
Many persons, it is said, who live out there, have similar stories of narrow escapes to tell. Few witnesses yesterday heard any whistle.
After the train had passed over Frances Shaw's limb the foot was left so tightly wedged in the cattle guard that it took a man's strength to extract it. Frances and her cousin, Minnie, said that they thougth of taking off the shoe to release the foot only when it was too late -- the train being nearly at the entrance to the cut. Those who witnessed the accident said that they never saw such presence of mind displayed by a child. Had she not laid down perfectly flat as she did she probably would have been killed by being struck by the steps of the coaches.
After the operation at St. Luke's last night the little girl was reported as doing well. The accident is not regarded as serious enough to result fatally. The girl's mother was at the hospital waiting long before the ambulance arrived. She remained all night by her daughter's bedside.