Durand, Michigan: Circus Train Wreck Memorial

An obelisk in Lovejoy Cemetery memorializes the humans killed when two circus trains collided in 1903.

Lovejoy Cemetery

Address:
Prior Road, Durand, MI
Directions:
In Lovejoy Cemetery. Two miles south of town on Oak St./Durand Rd, then a half-mile west on Prior Road, south side.
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Circus Train Wreck

My grandmother's father worked for the railroad in Durand when the Circus Train accident happened; we wrote about it in her family biography: "One time, in the middle of the night, my father woke us all up by saying 'those trains are going to crash' we heard the crash and heard him running from the house. Two trains from the barnham and bailey circus were running too close to each other, as they approached the station in Durand, someone was negligent and gave no signal to the engineers that they were too close to each other. Dad heard no signal so they crashed and he knew they would."

"About 40 circus people were killed as they slept in their Pullman cars. All the animals were killed and buried on the railroad right-of-way, leaving great mounds over the graves. The circus people that could not be identified were buried in a little county cemetery, and the grave markers said only 'Barnum and Bailey Circus' and the date." -Bernice Cooney Lewis 1895-1983

[pamela lewis peck, 02/04/2006]
Circus Train Wreck

There are also a few small gravemarkers of individuals with the words "Unknown." This cemetery is 1/2 mile east of my folks and where I grew up. Also, an elephant was killed in this crash, but because of its size, it was buried next to the train tracks at the site of the crash.

[Karla Macelli, 01/29/2004]
Dead Circus Animals - Train Wreck Memorial

In the town of Durand, there is a story that occurred in the early 1900's or the late 1800's. One night, a circus train was going to another town in Michigan and something happened and a conductor was killed and a bunch of people on the train were killed along with some circus animals. The animals are buried somewhere in Durand and the graves are unmarked.

[Sam, 06/03/2003]

It happened on August 6, 1903 -- one train transporting the Great Wallace Brothers circus crashed into the back of the other when its air brakes failed. Some animals succumbed, but human travelers took the brunt of the collision -- it killed 21 circus and three railroad employees. Some of the dead are buried in Lovejoy Cemetery, where an obelisk memorializes the tragedy. 1/2 mile west of Durand Road on Prior Road.

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August 31, 2014

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