The Swamp Road Chronicles

 

"Alice"

Dear Swamp Road Chronicles,

About 1000 feet southeast of the corner of Watkins Rd and US Route 40 there is a place where a small one-room cabin once stood. Until 1904 A woman named Alice Dorman lived there with her infant child. Alice's child's name isn't known, and neither is there any information concerning any husband.

 

I used to have a garden plot where her house once stood. When I plowed the soil in preparation for planting I found many artifacts: broken glass and pottery, many rusty iron spikes and remnants of burned logs. I also found an 1845 penny that was in pretty good shape. It became apparent to me that a home had once existed on that spot; I wondered what happened to it.

 

I did a little research of local newspapers and land maps and found out about Alice's tragic story. On January 7th, 1904 it was very cold, it was 1 Fahrenheit. Alice's yard had about 14 inches of snow blanketing it. There was a thick freezing fog covering the area, so visibility was quite poor that night.

 

Alice's baby had been very ill, it was reported in the newspapers, and he was being treated by a prominent local physician; Dr. Charles Watkins. Like everyone else, before electricity made it to their area, Alice would have used candles and kerosene lamps for light. At 6:30 pm, when her tragedy occurred, January in Ohio is dark. No one was with her and the baby that night, so what happened can only be theorized. She had apparently been carrying her kerosene lamp across the room to tend to her child when she dropped it. When it struck the floor, it shattered and splashed burning kerosene all over her dress and the small room. She grabbed the baby from its cradle, unbarred the door, and ran outside. By that time she was enveloped in flames and the baby in her arms as well.

 

Between 1902 and 1929 The Columbus, Buckeye Lake and Newark Traction Co., ran an inter-urban passenger train 34 miles from Columbus to Reynoldsburg, Kirkersville, Hebron and Newark with a side branch from Hebron on to Buckeye Lake for the extremely popular Buckeye Lake Amusement Park. The engine was approaching Alice's home at 6:30 pm.

The engineer of the train later reported that as he approached the intersection of Watkins and US 40 he saw a large ball of light rushing down the hill on his right side. That ball of light ran directly in front of his train, and he felt a heavy thump as he hit the ball of light. At the same time he was hearing a loud siren-like sound from the ball if light- the screaming of Alice and her child. I wonder: Did Alice run mindlessly in front of the inter-urban express, or was she seeking help, or was she simply seeking an end to her and her baby's agony? Of course we will never know.

 

Until the inter-urban service was discontinued in 1929, whenever there was a deeply foggy night, the engineer on approaching Alice's old place, would sometimes see a dim ball of light rushing toward the tracks and he would feel a heavy thump at the front of the train. But only occasionally.

 

Submitted by S. O. Roundelay 6-1-23 Reynoldsburg, Ohio


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