Highway 50 at Twin Bridges

Sad Accident.  Automobile Dashes Off A Bridge Into A Ditch.  Judge Simpson Killed.

Newtonians were shocked last evening by the news of one of the most deplorable accidents that ever happened in this city or its vicinity – news that immediately caused a spirit of gloom to settle over the city. People found difficulty in accepting as true the first reports that reached the community awoke to a realization of the fact that an awful tragedy had taken place and that sudden and violent death had come to one of the most widely known and highly esteemed men in central Kansas. The earlier versions of the affair were, as usual, grossly exaggerated and even today there was not a correct understanding of the accident in all its phases on Main street.  About seven o’clock last evening S. Lehman decided to make the most of the very fine evening with a ride in his automobile. He left home intending to take certain of his friends out for a pleasure trip, Mrs. Lehman not feeling well enough to care to accompany him. In passing the W.E. Francis home, Mr. Lehman saw Judge and Mrs. M.P. Simpson and Miss Anna Lees, a teacher in the high school, on the porch and he quickly made up his mind to offer them the pleasure of a ride in the vehicle. They were glad to accept his invitation and all being in good spirits the ride was thoroughly enjoyed. Judge Simpson was in particularly good spirits and laughed and joked as he rode over the Halstead road west of town, this being the direction chosen by Mr. Lehman for the ride. Mr. Lehman came near turning north at the Hupp corner four and a half miles west of the city but, perceiving that his guests seemed to be greatly enjoying the ride, and realizing that it was still early, he decided to go another mile and then turn north and return to town. A mile further west, at the Shafer corner, the road slopes very abruptly down to the north and south road. A few feet west of the corner there is a bridge and about twenty feet north of the corner there is another bridge. It was at this latter place that the accident occurred.  Mr. Lehman realized that the machine was acquiring a good deal of momentum in descending the slope and applied the brakes to reduce the speed, in which effort he was partly successful. Rounding the corner, and turning to the north, the vehicle came quickly to the bridge and the momentum acquired forced the automobile close to the railing on the west side. There was imminent danger of the machine dashing off the side and Mr. Lehman, realizing this fact, quickly turned the running gear to the right. The apparatus by which this gear is controlled is very delicate and in the crisis, when quick and decisive action was required, Mr. Lehman may have turned the lever too far. Be that as it may, the automobile shot off in a diagonal direction towards the right and crashed into the wooden railing at the side. The vehicle was completely over-turned, falling bottom side up with the rear end towards the east. Mr. Simpson and Mr. Lehman were in the front seat and both fell face downwards under the front part of the automobile. Miss Lees and Mrs. Simpson, who occupied the back seat, were partly under the back part of the vehicle, escaping injury from the fact that the brush and the willow trees held the back end of the vehicle several feet off the ground. The ladies were not caught and were able to get out of the wreck easily. Mr. Lehman was pinned face downwards, his left leg being pressed down into the mud by the top of the lazy back which, bearing heavily down on the calf of his leg, gave him his most serious injury. He struggled for several moments to free himself which, with the assistance of the ladies, he was finally able to do. In the meantime he saw Mr. Simpson, who lay at his side face downwards, lift his head once or twice, murmur “oh, oh” as if in pain, and then drop his head to the ground. It is supposed that this was the moment death came.  Mrs. Shafer, who lives in a house south of the east-west road, heard the crash and hurried down to the scene of the accident. Her husband and her son, a young man, were summoned by some of the smaller children and, after considerable lifting by these men and Mr. Lehman and after chopping down a small tree, Mr. Simpson’s body was reached and taken out of the wreck. Tender hands carried the body into the Shafer home while the children ran to the George Hupp home a mile and a quarter away and telephoned to town for a physician. Dr. A.E. Smolt hurried to the scene with A.R. Champlin in the latter’s automobile and dressed the bruises of the ladies. Mr. Lehman and the ladies had in the meantime worked with the body of Mr. Simpson in the vain hope that life was not yet extinct. In their efforts they had the assistance of Miss Shafer, a trained nurse. There is little doubt, however, but that Mr. Simpson was killed almost instantly, the nature of the wound sustained indicating that at some time during his fall he encountered the sharp end of a broken-off limb, which penetrated the lower part of his abdomen fully a foot, inflicting a large and ugly wound.  The body of Mr. Simpson was brought to town in an ambulance and taken to the undertaking parlors of Duff and Duff, while the other members of the party were brought into Newton by George Hupp. They were very much affected by the awful experience they had under-gone, though none of them, fortunately, was seriously hurt. Miss Lees and Mrs. Simpson sustained bruises and scratches of slight importance. Miss Lees was not able to take up her school work this morning, but will probably do so tomorrow. Mrs. Simpson was able to leave on this morning’s Missouri Pacific train for McPherson. Mr. Lehman fared rather worse, being afflicted with a very severe bruise on his left leg which kept him confined to the bed today. No bones were broken however, and he will soon be able to be out. Though suffering great pain last evening, Mr. Lehman entirely forgot his own injuries in his desire to help the others of the party and kept persistently at work though urged and entreated to accept medical attention himself.  The sad duty of informing the relatives of Mr. Simpson fell to the lot of Ewing Stumm, Mr. Ssimpson’s court stenographer, and Dr. W.S. Cheney, who is related to Mr. Simpson. The only son, Fred, was known to be in Oklahoma somewhere, traveling with the Kansas City wholesalers who were here last Monday. He was located about midnight and told of his father’s death. He will arrive in McPherson tonight. Jim Simpson, internal revenue collector for this district, who has a farm at Spring Valley twenty miles north of here is a brother of the deceased. He was in Leavenworth last night but his son came down this morning and accompanied the remains home.  The body of Judge Simpson lay in state in the Duff and Duff store this morning and hundreds of the dead man’s friends called to take a last look at the familiar features. The members of the bar association and the court house officials attended in a body. The remains were taken on No. 6 to Florence this noon, thence to be taken to McPherson this afternoon. C.E. Branine and John C. Nicholson, represented the bar association, accompanied the body.  The awful affair had been the sole topic of conversation in Newton today and the deepest sympathy prevails for Mrs. Simpson and the other relatives in their awful bereavement. The blow was sudden and crushing in its severity but Mrs. Simpson is bearing up bravely under the load of sorrow. Great sympathy, too, is felt for the other members of the party and especially for Mr. Lehman, who feels the situation keenly and who is included to reproach himself for an accident for which he was in nowise to blame.  No arrangements had been made this morning for the funeral but it will probably be held Friday afternoon.  (The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. May 11, 1904. Page 1).

Matthew P. Simpson, whose untimely death all central Kansas is mourning today, was born in Harrison county, Ohio, in 1837. He lived in his native state until 1861, in October of which year he enlisted in company I, Fortieth Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry, being made sergeant major of his regiment. He participated in all the battles of his command and was mustered out after an honorable career as a soldier in November, 1864. After leaving the army he went to Christian county, Illinois, and farmed until September, 1865 when he entered the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He graduated from this institution in the spring of 1867 and engaged in the practice of law at Taylorville, Ill., in 1869 and continued in this work until 1871. He was admitted to the bar in 1867 in the supreme court of Illinois. He was married in 1868 to Miss Margaret Cheney of Marion county, West Virginia, to which union one child was born Corydon Frederick, who is now living in Kansas City, Mo., being manager for Kansas of the Missouri and Kansas telephone company. His wife died in 1875 and he was married again in 1877 to Mrs. Mary E. Gildersleeve Montgomery, a native of Pennsylvania, who survives him.  Judge Simpson came to Kansas in 1873, settling in McPherson city in July of that year. He engaged in the practice of law and after being there for some time became a member of the firm of Simpson and Bowker, who did a general collecting, insurance, real estate, and law business. He served as county attorney four years, and was commander of James B. McPherson post No. 27 of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was appointed judge of the Reno-Harvey-McPherson district court to fill the unexpired term of F.L. Martin of Hutchinson, who resigned the office in December of 1896, entering upon the discharge of his duties January 1, 1897. He was re-elected that fall for the remainder of the term, two years, and was again re-elected for the full term of four years in 1899. Governor Bailey appointed him on January 1 of this year to hold over until the election this fall and his name would have gone before the Republican convention for the nomination for the office for another term.  Not only in his home town, but throughout central Kansas where he is known so well, Judge Simpson stood high in the estimation of the people. His fine Christian character commanded the highest respect of those who came under the influence of his life. In his judicial duties he was broad and fair and his decisions were always tempered with the milk of human kindness. His goodness of heart and his kindly sympathetic interest in the weak and suffering was often noticed and commented on by the attorneys practicing in his court. His sympathies always went out to the unfortunate and, prompted by his innate goodness of heart, he has many times helped those who have come before him in the court room, especially young men and boys, by words of kindly counsel and encouragement. Unsympathetic even to intolerance with crime or immorality, he was never insensible to any spark of goodness or promise of future usefulness in those convicted before him of wrong-doing. In his death, Kansas loses one of its truest and noblest men.  (The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. May 11, 1904. Page 1).

A session of the district court was to have been held today commencing at nine o’clock a.m. The sad accident of last evening deprived the court of a presiding officer, however, and when the court was called to order this morning, a heavy spirit of gloom pervaded the court room. C.S. Bowman was chosen by the members of the bar association judge pro tem and after being sworn by the clerk, entered upon the duties of presiding officer. The members of the jury who had been ordered to return this morning at nine o’clock were discharged until further orders of the court, and they will not be expected to report at the court house until notified. Court then adjourned until May 23 at 1:30 o’clock. Immediately after the close of court, a meeting of the Harvey county bar association was held. A committee consisted of C.E. Branine and John C. Nicholson was appointed to make arrangements for the attendance of the members of the bar at the funeral services. Judge S.R. Peters, Col. T.J. Jackson, and C. Spooner were appointed to draw up resolutions for adoption by the association. W.J. Puett and H.C. Bowman were constituted a committee to secure flowers. To B.H. Turner and G.J. Hetzel was entrusted the securing of a photograph of Judge Simpson, and to have an enlarged likeness of it suitably framed and hung on the walls of the court room. Ezra Branine and w.H. von der Heiden were appointed a committee on finance. The general feeling among the members was that the association should attend the funeral in a body.  Before adjourning the members and the court officials draped with mourning the chair so long and so honorably occupied by Judge Simpson in presiding over the court, and the stand back of the judge’s chair. (The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. May 11, 1904. Page 1).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email