Women In History: Kate Shelley

Catherine Carroll “Kate” Shelley (December 12, 1863 – January 21, 1912) was a midwestern United States railroad heroine and the first woman in the United States to have a bridge named after her, the Kate Shelley High Bridge. She was also one of the few women to have a train named after her, the Kate Shelley 400.

Per wikipedia:

On the afternoon of July 6, 1881, heavy thunderstorms caused a flash flood of Honey Creek, washing out timbers that supported the railroad trestle. A pusher locomotive sent from Moingona to check track conditions crossed the Des Moines River bridge, but plunged into Honey Creek when the bridge fell away at about 11pm, with a crew of four — Edgar Wood, A. P. Olmstead, Adam Agar, and Patrick Donahue.

Kate heard the crash, and knew that an eastbound express passenger train was due in Moingona about midnight, stopping shortly before heading east over the Des Moines River and then Honey Creek. She found two surviving crew members, Edgar Wood and Adam Agar, and shouted that she would get help, having to cross the Des Moines River bridge along the way. Although she started with a lantern, it went out, and she crawled the span on her hands and knees with only lightning for illumination. Once across, she had to cover about two miles on ground to the Moingona depot to sound the alarm. She then led a party back to rescue Edgar and Adam. Edgar, perched in a tree, grasped a rope thrown to him, and came ashore hand-over-hand. Adam couldn’t be reached until the floodwaters began to recede. Pat Donahue’s body was eventually found in a cornfield a quarter mile downstream from the bridge, but A .P. Olmsted was never found. The passenger train was stopped at Scranton, with about 200 aboard.

Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan
27 Jul 1881, Wed • Page 8

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