Point in History: July 1894
By Kris Leonhardt
J.S. Bennett was born in Battleboro, Vermont, in 1864. When his family moved to Wisconsin in his youth, Bennett made a life for himself in the M&N rail-yards of Neenah and Menasha.
After marrying and beginning a family, he took a job as foreman in the Wisconsin Central yard in Stevens Point.
In July 1894, workers at both ends of the Wisconsin Central line were disgruntled and striking. With no work for the day crew in the Wisconsin Central yard in Point, many crew members were left without hours.
Bennett, a kindly soul who was looking to provide for his family, offered to take a Friday night shift for night foreman, Frank Lovejoy when his daughter became ill.
As a crew of railroad workers shoveled coal from the sheds on the east end of the yard, a loaded box car stood on track No.1.
Two loaded coal cars made their way from a side track, as Bennett hopped aboard preparing to couple them to the standing box car.
As the coal cars neared the waiting box car, Bennett hopped from his perch on the first car to couple it. With his back to the cars, Bennett hit the ground and was caught on the left foot by the wheel of the moving car.
The motion of the wheel threw Bennett to the ground, as the car ran over his entire leg and pushed him further down the track.
Having remained conscious, Bennett pulled himself from the track and called for help. He continued to call out until he caught the attention of the crew working near the coal sheds.
The startled men grabbed Bennett and carried him to the nearest switch house and a doctor was called.
By the time the doctor reached the switch house, Bennett had lost a lot of blood.
Two hours had passed since the time of the accident before Bennett was hauled into his home at Oak and Reserve streets. Two additional physicians were called to aid with the surgery on Bennett’s crushed leg.
At 3 AM, Bennett awoke to the sight of his wife and two very young daughters at his side.
Though the surgery was successful and Bennett able to communicate and acknowledge his young family, life slowly slipped away from him and within an hour he was gone.
J.S. Bennett was taken by private car to Neenah, were he was laid to rest.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: [email protected]