Many came out to Rohman Park in Shohola, Pa., July 12-13, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Shohola train wreck. The events, sponsored by the Shohola Railroad & Historical Society, included presentations by Civil War re-enactors, a visit by “Abraham Lincoln,” a slide show, firing of a refurbished Civil War cannon, and visits to the cemetery and the site of the train wreck.
On July 15, 1864, during the Civil War, a wood-burning steam locomotive with 17 cars, and 833 Confederate prisoners of war and 128 Union guards on board (from the 11th and 20th Regiments of the United States Veteran Reserve Corps.), hit a coal train in Shohola. According to historical accounts, a telegraph operator stationed in Lackawaxen accidentally said it was clear for the locomotive to come through. That was not the case.
Between 60 and 72 on board died in the crash, and five prisoners escaped.
Township Supervisor Keith Raser welcomed everybody to the commemoration at the opening ceremony and gave the run-down of events.
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, at the beginning of her remarks, mentioned that it was her birthday, and the crowd sang a resounding “Happy Birthday” to the senator. Immediately after, the cannon was fired.
“Much of our history is not about happy or uplifting events. It is good that we remember the lessons that come from dark moments …” said Baker, referring to the train wreck. “The Shohola train wreck is one of those unfortunate incidents where tragedy brings out the humanity in people. There is credit in the way this community responded. Medical people provided care, citizens offering clothing and supplies, many opening their homes.”
Harry Forbes, the northeast regional director for Gov. Tom Corbett, also said a few words.
Jokingly, he said, “I think it’s really befitting to put this big birthday party together for Lisa Baker.”
He read some comments from the governor commending the Shohola Railroad & Historical Society for organizing the event. “As governor, on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I am pleased to welcome all those gathered here for this commemoration,” part of the letter reads.
Raser also welcomed state Rep. Mike Peifer, R-139; Pike County Commissioners Matt Ostenberg and Karl Wagner; and the chief of staff from Sen. Pat Toomey’s office.
Township Supervisor George Fluhr Jr. said, “We are in a time when there is a lot of divisiveness in our country. I think it’s time for us to harken back to Lincoln’s philosophy to bring us back together and realize that we are one and that divided we cannot stand.”
The Shohola Railroad & Historical Society also hosted a ham dinner to help raise money for the nonprofit organization.
Film maker Dennis Lee was at the event, shooting footage for a documentary that will be put on a DVD that will be for sale in the future.
For more information about the Shohola Railroad & Historical Society, visit https://www.facebook.com/CabooseGroup.