Herbert Kyger's Experience
Shot in the Muscles of the Right Arm at Virden
He Comes Home and Tells His Story
Bloomington, Ill, Thursday Morning, October 13, 1898
Herbert Kyger, the courageous young Alton engineer, who was pulling the train load of negroes yesterday into Virden, and who was shot by the strikers, arrived in this city last evening at 7 o'clock on the evening accommodation, and was taken at once to his home, 210 West Graham street, where an anxious wife, mother and family were awaiting his arrival. There were all sorts of rumors as to the nature of his injuries but they are not of a serious nature. He was shot in the muscles of his right arm, the bullet glancing upward and lodging near the shoulder. It is an ugly wound and was undoubtedly made by a weapon of a large caliber.
The report that the engineer had been injured created great excitement on the west side yesterday afternoon and there were all sorts of rumors afloat as to the nature and extent of the trouble.
Like hundreds of similar circumstances on the Chicago & Alton the man who was injured yesterday was off his regular run and taking some other engineer's place. Had Engineer Kyger's engine remained in good condition it would not have been he but Art Watkins who would have been suffering from an ugly bullet wound.
The trouble existing at the Virden mines is familiar to all who have been reading the telegraphic accounts of the affair in the newspapers. It culminated yesterday in a riot on the attempt of the mine operators to bring in negroes over the Chicago & Alton.
A special train left East St. Louis early yesterday morning bound for the Virden mines. It was composed of six cars, including caboose.
Four of the cars were from a Alabama railroad and were passenger coaches. These cars were filled with negro miners destined to take the place of the striking miners. Next to the engine was one box car containing the baggage and equipment of the negroes. On the end of the train was the caboose. The train left St. Louis pulled by engine 94, engineer, Art Watkins, and had a slow schedule.
At Godfrey the north-bound limited due to arrive in this city at 12:55, came along and overtook the train of negroes. The limited was pulled by Engineer Kyger and Fireman Albert Anderson was opposite him. They were on the 88 which has seen many thrilling experiences on the rail. The engine gave out due to a hot driving box.
The officials ordered the engines changed and Kyger and fireman with the 88 were given the train of negroes to take to Springfield, while Watkins and fireman were placed on the Limited with the 94 and brought the train in safely, though delayed on account of the change.
Engineer Kyger did not know that he was soon to face a storm of bullets and be the target of hundreds of infuriated men. The orders from the officials on the road were to stop the train at the stockade and unload the negroes and the engineer was ready to obey the mandate.
The train which Engineer Kyger was pulling, he said, pulled into Virden at exactly 12 o'clock and went by the depot at the rate of 15 miles an hour. Engineer Kyger said that when he arrived in sight of the depot he saw the armed miners in great numbers. He sat in the cab window and kept his arm on the throttle until the train came to the stockade.
Acting under orders from the officials the engineer brought the train to a full stop. He said it was right in front of the stockade and on each side of the train were a swarm of armed miners. It was only a few minutes after the stop that the firing commenced.
Engineer Kyger and the fireman were in the cab while six armed deputies and one negro were on the engine. Some of the deputies were in the gangway, others on the tank and also a couple on the hind end of the tender. All were heavily armed. The train had just stopped when a bullet struck the engineer in the arm. He uttered a moan and some one called to him to get down from his seat in the cab and he did so standing on the deck. This was the signal for firing on both sides and the engineer said he had just been shot when the deputies returned the fire. In an instant the whole train was riddled with bullets.
The engineer saw the trend of affairs and with quick wit grabbed the throttle and pulled the train out of the city at lightning speed. Although suffering from the bullet wound Kyger struck to his post and with a shattered arm ran the engine to the next station about six miles. He was getting faint from loss of blood and turned the throttle over to Fireman Anderson who pulled the train to Springfield, the brakeman taking the fireman's place in the cab.
Kyger was taken into the caboose with several other injured deputies and colored men and brought to Springfield. He was taken to a hospital and two physicians probed for the ball but could not find it. He then asked to be sent home and arrived at 7 o'clock. A local physician made a critical examination of the wound but after probing some time could not fine the ball. The engineer stood this ordeal without flinching and though small in stature and physical make-up, evidenced great pluck and never flinched. He will go to Deaconess hospital this morning and after being placed under the influence of chloroform the doctors will cut Mr. Kyger's arm open under daylight and then it is thought the bullet can be found and blood poisoning prevented. The ball is probably imbedded deep in the muscle of the shoulder and is hard to locate.
Mr. Kyger said the bullet must have been a spent ball or it would have ... his body. He believes it went through one and a half inches of the cab wood before entering his arm. His elbow was resting on the window sill of the cab while his hand was on the brake valve. The bullet, he is positive, was fired by someone at the bottom of the embankment near the track.
As great as the excitement was, Kyger had time to observe some of the results of the shooting. The engine and cars, he said, were full of bullet holes. The wooden part of the cab where he was sitting was a mass of holes and had it not been for the fact that he was told to step down he would have been killed instantly. The boiler head and other parts of the engine were riddled with holes. Half a dozen balls passed through the window where the engineer had been sitting a moment before. The windows were all shot out. One ball passed through the cab window and was found imbedded in the copper tube which ... ... ... . If it had pierced the tube the engineer and fireman would have been scalded to death and the train probably ... .
The wounded man was ... in .... to ... much, but said the cars were a sight to behold after ... ... the fire. The negroes had ... ... ... in the bottom of the ... ... ... and would not get up. T... ... ... were on the platform ... ... ... the caboose also crowded ... ... escaped. Fireman Anderson ... ... ... in sight after the train reached ... He was down near the ... ... ... ... not see any of the ... . Kyger said the wounded negroes who were taken to the hospital with him said they did not know they were going to take the place of strikers.
Posted: 25 Sep 2009