The Hauntings of Poasttown Elementary Parts 1 & 2 — Middletown, Ohio

Special thanks to Steve Fisher for pulling me into this location. Everything about it caught me off guard and blew me away.

Thank you soooo much to Eunice Specter for digging your teeth into this one in your historical search. At least you’re an expert in train accidents now.

To book a night at this great location: https://www.poasttownschool.com/

– Evel Ogilville

Video Part One:

Video Part 2:

Poasttown Elementary School


(Also known as Madison Twp. School)
6600 Trenton Franklin Road 
Middletown, OH 45042

Historic Timeline

 Colonial-style school constructed in 1936-37 under Works Progress Administration program with remainder of funding approved by Madison Township voters in a bond issue for a consolidated elementary school at Poasttown and an addition to West Middletown School. Consolidation brought to an end township’s collection of one-room schoolhouses, including predecessor of “old” Poasttown School. New school to be located on eastern edge of Poasttown.

o Consolidation aimed at better school program for students with a graded systeminstead of one-room school where teacher responsible for all eight grades together.

o Original one-room brick Poasttown School built in 1857 located on Middletown-Germantown/Germantown-MiddletownRoad; later used by Grange Hall and eventually remodeled for use by Madison Township Fire Department. Initial school housed in log cabin. 

 New elementary school featuring six classrooms and gymnasium opened in September 1937 on Trenton Franklin Road, with 200 students assigned to new building from previous one-room schoolhouses.

 All construction not complete at time of opening, delaying official dedication of building until April 1938.

o Dr. Walter Collins gave dedicatory address, and County School Superintendent C.H. Williams also spoke. School board members at time of opening included George Finkbone, Carl Seigel (Sigel), Nathan Weikel, Lacy Keith, Harry Selby and Harry Augsburger.

o Among first teachers were Ruth Slade,Francis Riley, Kathryne Boegard/Begard and Lucille Bowlus Finkbone. J. Howard Burns first principal.

 Sixth-grade teacher C.W. Roberts surprised at school with dinner party to celebrate his retirement; veteran teacher at Poasttown for 25 years. (Middletown Journal, 5/23/1960)

o PTA formed in 1937. Among first presidents were Mrs. Orville Wills, C. E. Stutenroth and Mrs. Paul Hoover.

 Six modern-equipped rooms, cafeteria and school’s recognition as “one of the county’s best” touted. (Hamilton Daily News Journal, 2/24/1940)

 Overcrowding prompts plans for new addition, including four classrooms, lunchroom and restrooms. Classes were being held on the stage and in the library to accommodate the enrollment of about 200 in first through sixth grades. (Hamilton Daily News Journal, 1/17/1949)

 Six new classrooms added. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/15/1953)

 School approximately 150 students over capacity. (Middletown Journal, 1/8/1965)

 Space dedicated to serve as central supply office of medical aids for student health care. (Middletown Journal, 12/20/1974)

 Madison Local Schools bond issue approved, allowing proceeds to be used to build new high school. New building brings closure of Poasttown Elementary, whose students assigned to new schools. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/5/1999)

 Former students Darrell and Brenda Whisman purchased three-story, approximately 36,500-square-foot property that includes 54 rooms in 2004 following five-year vacancy. Couple reside in remodeled wing; other rooms updated and leased to businesses. (Journal-News, 10/28/2016)

 

Tragedies, Notes of Interest

 Eighth-grade honor student Richard Wells, 13, killed after lost control of newly repaired bicycle on steep hill, striking tree and catapulting into creek bed. Died of head injury week before school graduation. (Dayton Daily News, 5/27/1962)

 Kindergarten student Cheryl Ann Combs, 5, died after suffering head injuries in fall from rocking chair in her Germantown home. (Middletown Journal, 12/7/1963)

 School custodian Lewis “Butch” Newkirk, 39, killed in fire at his Middletown apartment. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/26/1990) Memorial to him installed at school in 1991. 

 Hail and heavy wind break out 27 windows; water damage to textbooks and library books. (Journal Herald, 4/10/1965)

 Arson damages Union Chapel United Methodist Church; services to be held at school until repairs completed. (Journal News, 12/12/1977)

 Property:

o Land on which school constructed speculated to have been Indian ceremonial ground.

o Home used as church circa mid- to late-1800s located near land where school built.

 Vandalism:

o Burglar ransacked pupils desks and stole estimated $11. (Hamilton Daily News Journal, 5/22/1946)

o Cafeteria raided; meat, cheese, milk stolen. (Middletown Journal, 2/2/1950)

o 11 windows broken. (Hamilton Daily NewsJournal, 8/4/1964)

o Almost each of 32 rooms cluttered in vandalism rampage: theater curtain slashed; vending machines wrecked and cash boxes taken; aquarium overturned; desks and cabinets ransacked; food strewn about cafeteria, including 240 half-pints of milk and 75 pounds of hot dogs. (Middletown Journal, 9/11/1967)

Historic train disasters

Often mentioned in connection with school’s history because of proximity of location of wrecks and treatment sites of victims to the area where the school would eventually be constructed near railroad tracks.

July 25, 1891: ‘A merry picnic party suddenly transformed into a scene of mourning’

Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton excursion train carrying employees of Dayton Cash Register Company struck by fast-moving freight train No. 44 while stopped at Middletown station for disembarking passengers returning from resort picnic. (Also thought train stopped for repairs after prankster turned air brakes on as joke and train struggled to pull heavy load, breaking a drawbar. (Bremen Enquirer, 8/7/1891))

 4 estimated killed (3 deaths said to be immediate); more than 50 injured when excursion train struck by a freight train on track, crushing rear coaches. 

o Some witnesses claimed seeing half-dozen or as many as 11 dead bodies taken from wreck, but railway surgeon declared toll lower. (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/27/1891)

 Injured taken to nearby homes and transfer trainfor passengers. (Hamilton Daily Democrat, 7/27/1891)

 Coroner’s verdict finds Peter T. Slance, conductor of excursion train, and Albert Schwindt, engineer of freight train, both guilty of gross negligence. (Hamilton Daily Democrat, 8/31/1891)

 Tales of deaths, injuries

o “The rear car was packed full of people, and the freight plowed into a mass of broken cars and dead and crippled human beings.” (Abbeville Press and Banner, 8/12/1891)

o Among reports of deaths: 11-year-old boy “cut in three pieces”; woman killed and girl, 6, died shortly after taken from debris. (Macon Republican, 7/30/1891)

 “Another train left for Dayton bearing almost the last of the excursionists and the bodies of the killed.” Coffins contained Minnie Freyer (see below note), Willie Matthews, 12, and Frank Simoner, 17, “who was found dead, with his head almost severed, at the side of the track.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/27/1891)

o Story recounted of two young women who attempted to escape before crash but only made to platform of train car. Mary Gramfound by rescuers trying to free her limb from the wreckage, later amputated. Asked men to help friend/sister Minnie Freier first. Minnie, terribly mangled in crash, reportedly asked man who discovered her on platform to “bid her parents goodbye for her”; carried to freight house opposite station, but finding building locked, rescuers took to nearby house, where she died 15 minutes later. (Dayton Herald, 4/27/1891)

 Details of location

o “Across the little weed-covered rise the wrecked cars lay in all their frightful significance.” (Hamilton Daily Democrat, 7/27/1891)

o “A half dozen of the houses near the station might have been mistaken for field hospitals after some battle” … “Improvised hospitals” – in one home closest to station lay four of the wounded, in home nearest wreck on same road lay nine maimed … a few yards back from siding (low-speed track section) another house sheltered two badly injured and a dozen “who considered themselves lucky to escape with cruel cuts and bruises.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/27/1891)

July 4, 1910: ‘A veritable city of the dead’

Head-on collision of Big Four Twentieth Century Limited passenger train and the second section of a CH&D freight train. Misunderstanding of orders resulted in one of worst wrecks of kind in state history. Disaster site approximately two miles from Poasttown.

 36 estimated killed (21 deaths said to be immediate); 50 injured when southbound passenger train, rerouted because of another wreck, crashed head-on into CH&D freight train within 300 hundred yards of Middletown station. Freight had orders to proceed north to clear tracks for a southbound “flyer” of Dayton and decided to sidetrack at (West) Middleton.

 Passenger pilot engineer had received orders to wait at Post Town (sic), according to railroad officers. The freight train was to have passed him there but was late in pulling out of Middletown. Instead of the seven-minute margin, which he thought had to reach Middletown, the time was less than five minutes. As beginning to back into the siding, Limited came around the corner out of Poasttown at 60 mph. (Washington Post, 7/5/1910; reprinted gendisasters.com; “Madison Township: Bicentennial Sketches,” George Crout)

 Most of the victims pinned beneath debris and carried from wreckage. Dead taken to morgues around Middletown; residents opened homes to care for injured; other injured and dying taken to police headquarters and physicians’ offices. (Butler County Democrat, 7/7/1910)

o Physicians argued death toll may have been smaller if they had been allowed to attend to seriously injured at own offices instead of “first-aid treatment” before received at hospitals. (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

 No local hospital at time left many victims to be transported to Hamilton or Dayton.

 Dead reportedly robbed at wreck site; possessions, money stolen from bodies. (Butler County Democrat, 7/21/1910)

 Coroner’s inquest rules wreck due to carelessness and negligence of train dispatcher, train crew of second No. 90 and pilot engineer in charge of Big Four train. (Butler County Democrat, 11/10/1910)

 Public memorial service marks centennial of disaster. Concern expressed that disaster forgotten over years, and, as no Middletown residents died, significance of accident “didn’t stick.” (Middletown Journal, 7/2/2010)

 Tales of deaths, injuries

o “In an instant the two trains were a mass of wreckage and the moans of the dying and shrieks of the injured filled the air.” (Butler County Democrat, 7/7/1910)

o Impact of collision heard for miles around; “Within a second, more than fifteen mortal souls had passed into eternity.” (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

o Engine crews jumped to avoid injury; brakeman killed. (Washington Post, 7/4/1910)

o Fatal injuries included scaldings, internal hemorrhage, skull fractures, decapitation, broken neck and shock. (Butler County Democrat, 11/10/1910)

 Man, about age 25, decapitated with head found about foot from body. “Terror was frozen on the faces of some of the dead.” (“Ohio Train Disasters,” Jane Ann Turzillo)

o Some (of the injured) taken to the waiting room of the CH&D station, “the last place that many were laid because they died there with no one to weep over them.” (Hamilton Telegraph, 7/7/1910)

o Jessie Bodey, en route to the funeral of a friend, buried in debris. Husband pulled himself through window but after unable to locate her, tried to re-enter wreckage. Falsely believed she must have been taken out. Body later identified by his brother at morgue. (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

o Story recounted of five friends, traveling to ballgame, receiving last sacraments and dying together. (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

o “Poor mother, she’s dead”: Rescuers discovered arm sticking out of debris and worked to uncover seven-year-old Samuel Wayne Garrigus. Freeing boy from splintered wood and metal, they found the body of his mother, Lydia, huddled above him, having attempted to shield her son with her body. “The collision had turned her into a shapeless mass.” Father Ared also victim of crash. Last of victims to be shipped from Middletown. (“Ohio Train Disasters,” Jane Ann Turzillo; Dayton Herald, 7/7/1910)

 Details of location

o Tracks run near west side of Great Miami River near where SR-122 from Middletown crosses. The depot located on east side of the track, just south of SR122. Accident occurred about 200 yards north of the SR122 crossing.

o The engines locked into a mass of smashed steel and iron, the heavy passenger locomotive telescoping its smaller fellow as far as the cab. First in the freight train were a steel coal car and a box car loaded with 6-inch timbers. The heavy gondola car ripped the floor out of the combination car, and tossed it and the locomotive tender down a 10-foot embankment into a cornfield.(Washington Post, 7/5/1910)

o What the people found in that cornfield along the river north of the highwaystunned many with horror. Some of the victims were unidentifiable.” (“Madison Twp. Bicentennial Sketches 1799-1999, Crout) 

o Former railroader J.M. Foley recounted hurrying to scene of disaster. He and neighbor first upon scene and helped carry dead and dying from wrecked cars. Claimed carried 12 bodies from forward coaches and laid them in cornfield alongside of the track. (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

o “Cars were piled sky-high it seemed, broken pieces being hurled several hundred feet from the scene of the disaster. A half dozen undertakers’ wagons were scattered all over an adjacent field ready to receive the wreck victims. As fast as one of the wagons was filled it was sent immediately to the city and rushed back post haste to the scene of the trouble for another load.” (Hamilton Telegraph, 7/7/1910)

o Daredevil teenagers jumped aboard to “ride the blinds.” Four of five bodies found in adjacent cornfield: brothers Tom and William Dunleavy, Richard Van Horne, George Frohle; body of Edward Cain identified later. 

o Infant found alive in cornfield, 700 feet from railroad tracks. “It was across the cornfield in which the baby was found that the relief wagons and rescue parties carried their dying burdens, and it is thought that in the excitement, the child was torn from some unconscious mother’s arms … the wee bit of humanity, lying cuddled between the growing corn.” (Dayton Herald, 7/5/1910)

o Centennial public memorial service commemorated the tragedy next to the Westside Feed Store, 5450 Trenton Franklin Road, close to the site of the original event. (Middletown Journal, 7/2/2010)

Additional wrecks, deaths

 Other wrecks on the CH&D line at West Middletown included ones on July 4, 1895 andon Jan. 2, 1905. Wreck of train No. 349 noted in Poasttown circa 1920.

 Elbert Lee Wells, 17, killed in collision of station wagon he was driving and five-car passenger train about mile northeast of Poasttown. 45 train passengers injured in crash and derailment. (Hamilton Daily News Journal, 8/10/1968)

Additional sources: Madison Township: The second hundred years 1910-2010, J.L and J.E. Gilmore;Midpointe Digital Archives, mainstreetmadison.com; Midpointe Library System; Larry Helton Jr.; Alan Wise

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