James Edward Manning
(Witness of the Disaster, Pump House Operator and Second Person on the Scene)
Born: Sept. 8, 1860 in Ashtabula, OH
Married: Martha Manning
Died: 1953 in Ashtabula, OH - Burried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Ashtabula, OH
James Manning was an interesting character. He was the engineer of the pump house located next to the river by the bridge. His older brother was John Manning, head of telegraph operations at the Depot.
It was amazing James Manning could even walk, because at the age of eight he lost both his legs just above the knees in a childish dare attempting to jump onto a moving train. When he was older he made his own set of legs so he could work and support himself. Luckily, he was able to get a job with the railroad and did well.
On the night of the disaster, James Manning was walking towards the pump house just east of the Lake Street crossing while fighting the blizzard strength winds. As he neared the crossing he heard the trains whistle blow and saw its headlight piercing the blowing snow as it approached the bridge. Suddenly, James Manning heard a terrible cracking sound followed by the crashing sounds of the Columbia and its cars falling into the gorge below. Limping toward the engine on the track, he was met by the Socrates' engineer, Daniel McGuire, who yelled – “My God, Manning, they're all down in the river!" Both men then ran down the side of the engine Socrates to the edge of the bridge abutment and looked into the gorge. The crashed cars and the Columbia are lying in the gorge in a smoking destroyed mass.
Dan McGuire wanting to alert the station, which was only about 100 yards down the track, jumps back in his engine and begins blowing the whistle. Both men worked to save passengers and get help.
James Manning died at the age of 93 in 1953 in Ashtabula, OH. He was loving known as “Uncle Jim.”
Photo of James Manning (far left) standing on the steps of an Ashtabula Saloon.