Circus Train Wrecked in Tifton

Circus Train

News article reported the 1902 wreck of the Harris shows circus train at Tifton, GA.

News article reported the 1902 wreck of the Harris shows circus train at Tifton, GA.

The November 23, 1902 issue of  The Valdosta Times, reported on the wreck of the Harris Shows circus train at Tifton, GA.   The story led with, “Valdosta seems to be a jonah for the Harris Nickel Plate Shows…” How prophetic that opening would turn out to be.

The Nickel Plate Circus in a Bad Smash-Up at Tifton


The Circus Train in Another Wreck at Tifton and one of Their Best Horses  Killed – Lions to be Kept in Building at Pine Park  –  Where the Performers Will Go.

Valdosta seems to be a jonah for the Harris Nickel Plate Shows, in spite of the fact that the managers of the show like Valdosta, and the people of Valdosta have been very much pleased with the show and the people who are managing it.
      When the circus started for Valdosta a few days before the State Fair, they were in a collision, near Dothan, Ala., that destroyed several of they cars and came near costing human lives.  Several of their best wagons and cages were torn up so that they had to be placed in the shops here for repairs.
      Last Saturday morning as the circus train was fixing to pull out of Tifton for Valdosta, it had a collision with an engine which was drilling some cars there, doing a good deal of damage.  The show train, which was to be drawn by one fo the Georgia Southern’s engines, was backed into the switch train, which was then on the main line.
      The show train ran into this train in the rear, demolishing several of the cars of the Harris show, as well as the property of the railroad company.  All the show people were aboard their coaches, and were badly shaken up by the jolt.  Mr. Dorsey, the traveling representative of the show, was hurt worse than any of them.  He was considerably bruised by a bump against the side of the coach, and has needed medical attention.  Mr. Bowles, the band master, was bruised below the eye, from the fall of a flute which hung above his sleeping berth.
       The stable cars were next to the passenger coaches, with all the fine and valuable horses of the show.  One of the best ring horses was thrown down by the jar,  and several other of the horses fell over him, crippling him in such a manner that is was necessary to shoot the animal to relieve his suffering.  This horse was valued at not less than $1,000.
      One of the heaviest of the show wagons was demolished in the wreck. This wagon was a costly one, requiring eight horses to pull it.
      The train reached this city about eleven o’clock and the tents were raised for the performances that afternoon.  Two good performances were given and, afterwards, the property of the circus was carried to Pine Park where it will remain for four months , when the circus will go on the road again.  The lions are confined in a little building adjoining the main entrance to the grounds, while the wagons, tents, etc, are stored away in a different part of the grounds and the horses are in the live stock stables.
Most of the performers with the show will join other troupes for the winter, though a number of them will remain in this city and go in practice for the next season’s work.

What this news item did not report was that the Harris Nickel Plate Circus train was also transporting the circus’ star attraction, Gypsy the Elephant. The bloody history of Gypsy the Elephant had already left a trail of dead trainers across America long before she came to Valdosta in 1902. It was in Valdosta just days later that Gypsy went on her final murderous rampage before being executed by the Valdosta police chief.   Fifty years later it was reported that the bones of Gypsy the Elephant were in Ray City, GA.

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