The Runaway Streetcar

On the morning of July 24, 1908, Bessie (Wells) Laver was awoken by what she thought could only be an earthquake.  The whole house was shaking, timbers were tearing, and bricks were falling.  Bessie and her husband Philip hurried downstairs and quickly left the home looking for safety.  Once they were outside, they quickly realized an earthquake had not struck Mansfield in the early morning hours, but a streetcar had left the tracks and crashed into the front of their home at 237 North Main Street.  Luckily those renting the downstairs storefront had left the week before and there were no injuries.  News spread quickly of the accident and, in a short time, a crowd had gathered.  Nearly everyone in Mansfield made time to visit the scene before the car was righted on the track.

trolley wreck

Shortly before 5:30 that Friday morning, conductor Ralph W. Fairchild and motorman Charles Schauck had stopped at the streetcar office at the top of North Main Street, opposite Central Park, to prepare for their first trip of the day to Bucyrus.  Car no. 129 sat empty in front of the office building at 3 North Main Street.  Somehow the car’s air brake released and it slowly started to roll, gaining momentum as it made its way down the hill.  By the time it was noticed by Fairchild and Schauck, it was too late.  The streetcar had begun its descent and was gaining speed quickly.


The Streetcar would have started its journey at about the same location as the one pictured here.

The speed increased past Third Street, then Fourth.  It reached the highest speed between Fourth and Fifth Streets where witnesses said the car hit the B & O sidetrack and rose one or two feet into the air.  It landed back on the track and continued its course toward Sixth Street.  It was at Sixth Street where the switch was set for the streetcar to turn that it became airborne once again.  The front of the car continued along the street, but the back end swung around tearing up bricks on the sidewalk on its way to its final destination.  The streetcar barely missed the drug store owned by C. C. Coblentz on the corner of Main and Sixth and exploded through a telephone pole before its collision with the Laver building.


At the end of its half-mile journey, the streetcar sat in a cloud of dust at the bottom of the hill.  Luckily no one was in its unstoppable path and injured.  Had this happened later in the day, it most likely would have collided with another car coming up Main Street, which could have injured and possibly killed dozens.  By 11 o’clock, workmen had the car back on the track and on its way to Galion for repairs.  Men were also immediately put to work repairing the sidewalk and Laver building.[1]  Fairchild and Schauck were disciplined and, in August, a petition was being circulated requesting they be reinstated.[2]  In 1910 Fairchild would accept a position in the shipping department of the Albert F. Remy Company[3] and Schauck, who had been working as a motorman for seven years, would later work for Columbia Tire and Rubber.[4]


[1] The Mansfield News, 24 JUL 1908, p. 3.
[2] The Mansfield News, 31 AUG 1908, p. 10.
[3] The Mansfield News, 03 MAY 1910, p. 10.
[4] Mansfield City Directory 1924-25 (Mansfield, Ohio).


Ebert and Donnellan: Early Streetcar Motormen


On August 8, 1887, Mansfield rode into the future on one of the first electric streetcar railways in the country.  This photograph shows one of the first motormen, George Ebert.  In a newspaper article from 1932, they identify the other man as Edward Donnellan and the residence in the background belonging to John Nunmaker on Springmill Street near Mulberry.  Looking at city directories and Sanborn maps, it appears Nunmaker lived in the house partially obscured by the streetcar and the home in view was occupied by David Stambaugh, a carpenter.  The house is still standing today.


1902 sanborn

1902 Sanborn Map showing location where photograph was taken


Springmill St. today taken from Google Maps

George Ebert would have been only seventeen years old when the streetcars started running.  According to information on, he was born on December 16, 1869 here in Mansfield.  In an article from the Shield & Banner from 1887, it states the streetcars started operation on August 8, 1887, an exciting job for a young man in a fast growing city.  George was still a streetcar conductor in 1894, according to the city directory.  On May 1, 1899, George became a city fireman and was severely injured in a fire set by an arsonist in January of 1900.  George continued to be a fireman and, in 1913, was appointed captain of the No. 4 fire station.  There was scandal in the fire department in 1913.  The previous captain, Charles H. Eyerly, was brought up on multiple charges, including threatening the firemen under his charge, taking vegetables and wood bought with city finances for his own use and kicking the horses on the shin to make them back under their harness.  Ebert was one of the men threatened; a witness testified Eyerly said he would get him out of the station within two weeks.  In March of 1913, Ebert was made a Lieutenant and William Ryder was appointed Captain of station No. 4.  A month later, Ryder resigned a day before he was supposed assume his duties and Ebert was made Captain.  Ebert’s captaincy was short. In November of 1915, he was also brought up on charges, including being intoxicated while on duty, gossiping about employees, incompetency and conduct unbecoming of an officer or a gentleman.  On November 23, 1915, Ebert was dismissed from the fire department, a decision he appealed, but dropped the case and officially resigned on December 15, 1915.  Ebert worked as a clerk for various businesses until his death on July 30, 1932.

Edward Donnellan was an Irish immigrant who came to Mansfield in 1886, according to the 1900 census.  His wife, Mary, arrived a year later and by 1900 they had six children and were living on Cline Ave.  In November of 1909, Edward was injured while working for the Mansfield Railway Light & Power Co. when he fell from the top of a car at the brans where the kept the streetcars  and broke his collar bone.  The following month, Edward got pneumonia and died on December 14, 1909.  He left behind his wife, Mary, and eight children, 5 sons and 3 daughters.

The street cars ran for almost fifty years in the city.  The Mansfield News Journal reported on June 7, 1937 that “the old car rattled around the loop from Park Avenue West to Fourth Street shortly before midnight last night, coming to rest in the East Fourth Street car barns.  “Old 51” had made its last run and the streetcar era had ended in Mansfield.”