Articles in the Charleston Mercury about Rail Road Accident, 18 June 1831

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The Best Friend of Charleston made headlines on June 18th, 1831, when it met with disaster.  The fireman working on the locomotive closed the steam release valve, which caused the hot air needed to power the train to build up.  Eventually, the increasing pressure caused the boiler to explode.  The accident killed the fireman and injured the engineer.  The incident frightened some potential passengers, but it did not stop the progress of the line westward.  The railroad company salvaged parts from the Best Friend to build another train, appropriately named The Phoenix.  The history of the Best Friend may be short, but it plays a central role in the story of the railroad in South Carolina.  The original engine was destroyed, but models of the locomotive can be found at both the Charleston Museum and the South Carolina State Museum.


“Rail Road Accident” and “Gentlemen.”  Charleston Mercury.  18 June 1831.  Newspapers on Microfilm.  Published Materials Division.  South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina. 


Rail Road Accident – We regret to state that an accident occurred yesterday on our Rail Road, from the bursting of the boiler of the Locomotive Engine “Best Friend,” by which several persons were injured, though none, we hope, dangerously.  The bursting of the boiler is ascribed to the negligence of the fireman, who, pressing on the safety valve, (when the Engine was stopped at the revolving platform,) prevented the surplus steam from escaping the consequence was that immediately on the starting of the Engine the boiler burst, and was thrown to the distance of upwards of twenty feet.  Mr. N.W. Darrell, the Engineer, was scalded, from his shoulders, down his back.  A Negro, belonging to Mrs. Surr, had his thigh broken; and another, belonging to Mr. Lesesne, received a sever cut on his face and a slight one on his breast.  The attendant. Mr. Butler, received a slight cut on his head.  A number of persons, working on Mr. Eason’s contract, were near the Car at the time, none of whom were injured.  A more particular account of this disaster will probably be published by Mr. Dotterer (Steam Engineer,) who went to the Rail Road yesterday, we understand, for the purpose of examining and reporting on the subject.

Since the above was in type, the following letter from Mr. Dotterer to the Directors of the Rail Road Company, has been handed us for publication: -

CHARLESTON, June 17th, 1831

Gentlemen – I have just returned from examining the situation of the Locomotive Engine “Best Friend,” since the accident of this morning, and have come to the conclusion that the bursting of the Boiler originated from an over-pressure of Steam, and believe it to have occurred from the Safety Valve being held down by one of the Negroes attached to the arranging of the Car, (while the Engineer was attending to the arranging of the Lumber Car) and thereby not permitting the necessary escape of Steam, above the pressure the Engine was allowed to carry, while delayed in altering the position of the Lumber Cars at the Revolving Platform. 

                                                Yours Respectfully,

                                                            THOMAS DOTTERER.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of places and regions and the role of human systems in South Carolina.
Indicator 3-1.2 Interpret thematic maps of South Carolina places and regions that show how and where people live, work, and use land and transportation. (G, P, E)
Indicator 3-1.4 Explain the effects of human systems on the physical landscape of South Carolina over time, including the relationship of population distribution and patterns of migration to natural resources, climate, agriculture, and economic development. (G, E, H)
Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.
Indicator 3-4.6 Explain how the Civil War affected South Carolina’s economy, including destruction of plantations, towns, factories, and transportation systems. (E, H)
Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.
Indicator 3-5.1 Summarize developments in industry and technology in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, including the rise of the textile industry, the expansion of the railroad, and the growth of the towns. (H, G, E)
Indicator 3-5.2 Summarize the effects of the state and local laws that are commonly known as Jim Crow laws on African Americans in particular and on South Carolinians as a whole. (H, P, E, G)
Indicator 3-5.4 Explain the impact and the causes of emigration from South Carolina and internal migration from the rural areas to the cities, including unemployment, poor sanitation and transportation services, and the lack of electricity and other modern conveniences in rural locations. (H, E, G)
Standard 4-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and its impact on the institution of slavery.
Indicator 4-5.2 Explain the motives for the exploration in the West and the push for westward expansion, including the concept of manifest destiny, economic opportunities in trade, and the availability of rich land. (G, E, H)
Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.
Indicator 4-6.1 Compare the industrial North and the agricultural South prior to the Civil War, including the specific nature of the economy of each region, the geographic characteristics and boundaries of each region, and the basic way of life in each region. (G, E, H)

Indicator 4-6.6 Explain the impact of the Civil War on the nation, including its effects on the physical environment and on the people—soldiers, women, African Americans, and the civilian population of the nation as a whole. (H, P, G, E)

Standard 5-1: The student will demonstrate an udnerstanding of Reconstruction and its impact on racial relations in the United States.
Indicator 5-1.5 Explain the purpose and motivations behind the rise of discriminatory laws and groups and their effect on the rights and opportunities of African Americans in different regions of the United States. (P, G, E, H)
Standard 5-2: The student will demonstrate an udnerstanding of the continued westward expansion of the United States.

Indicator 5-2.1 Explain how aspects of the natural environment - including the principal mountain ranges and rivers, terrain, vegetation, and climate of the region— affected travel to the West and thus the settlement of that region. (G, H)

Indicator 5-2.3 Summarize how railroads affected development of the West, including their ease and inexpensiveness for travelers and their impact on trade and the natural environment. (G, E, H)
Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States' becoming a world power.
Indicator 5-3.3 Explain the effects of immigration and urbanization on the American economy during the Industrial Revolution, including the role of immigrants in the work force and the growth of cities, the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy, and the rise of big business. (P, G, E, H)
Standard 5-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of developments in the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in 1992.
Indicator 5-6.2 Explain how humans change the physical environment of regions and the consequences of such changes, including use of natural resources and the expansion of transportation systems. (P, G, E)
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.
Indicator 8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina, including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin. (H, G, E)
Standard 8-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of Reconstruction on the people and government of South Carolina.
Indicator 8-4.1 Explain the purposes of Reconstruction with attention to the economic, social, political, and geographic problems facing the South, including reconstruction of towns, factories, farms, and transportation systems; the effects of emancipation; racial tension; tension between social classes; and disagreement over voting rights. (H, G, P, E)
Standard 8-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place inthe United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Indicator 8-5.1 Summarize the political, economic, and social conditions in South Carolina following the end of Reconstruction, including the leadership of Wade Hampton and the so-called Bourbons or Redeemers, agricultural depression and struggling industrial development, the impact of the temperance and suffrage movements, the development of the 1895 constitution, and the evolution of race relations and Jim Crow laws. (H, P, E)
Indicator 8-5.4 Compare migration patterns within South Carolina and in the United States as a whole in the late nineteenth century, including the population shift from rural to urban areas, migration between regions of the United States, the westward expansion, and the motivations for migration and settlement. (H, G, E)
Indicator 8-5.5 Summarize the human, agricultural, and economic costs of natural disasters and wars that occurred in South Carolina or involved South Carolinians in the late nineteenth century, including the Charleston earthquake of 1886, the hurricane of 1893, and the Spanish American War. (H, G, E)
Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nienteenth century.
Indicator USHC-3.1 Explain the impact and challenges of westward movement, including the major land acquisitions, people’s motivations for moving west, railroad construction, the displacement of Native Americans, and the its impact on   the developing American character. (H, G, E)
Indicator USHC-3.3 Compare economic development in different regions of the country during the early nineteenth century, including agriculture in the South, industry and finance in the North, and the development of new resources in the West. (E, H, G)
Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.
Indicator USHC-4.5 Summarize the progress made by African Americans during Reconstruction and the subsequent reversals brought by Reconstruction’s end, including the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau, gains in educational and political opportunity, and the rise of anti–African American factions and legislation. (H, E, G, P)
Standard USHC-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the ninnteenth century.
Indicator USHC-5.5 Explain the causes and effects of urbanization in late nineteenth-century America, including the movement from farm to city, the continuation of the women’s suffrage movement, and the migration of African Americans to the North and the Midwest. (H, G, E, P)


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Charleston Mercury Article about Railraod Accident, June 1831





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