Terrible Wreck Kills Six Glendale Young People
Story furnished by Clarence Crocker

Glendale Residents

Four Dead; Two Dying; Two injured

When Auto Is Wrecked - Buick Automobile driven by S.F. Sutton, filled with Glendale people falls into railroad cut at Mayo.

The above emblazoned headlines which appeared in the Spartanburg papers the first week of August, 1920 summarizes the stories of a tragic wreck which happened on Sunday afternoon August 1, 1920 in Mayo, South Carolina. Taking the lives of six Glendale residents, it was classified as one of the worst accidents that had ever happened in Spartanburg County. Stories appeared in both papers, The Spartanburg Herald and the Spartanburg Journal/Carolina Spartan. After picking up every copy of articles covering the wreck and funerals of the victims that I could find at the Spartanburg County Library, I have sought to glean and condense excerpts from them to compile this story for preservation in the history files of the historic village of Glendale, South Carolina. 


 Mr. S. F. (Frank) Sutton, a foreman of the chain-gangs of the Spartanburg County Roads department was driver of the car. (Mr. Sutton was this writer’s great uncle). Being a very prominent resident of the Glendale community, he had taken a group of seven young people on a motoring trip to the northern part of the state in his new seven passenger Buick car. The report stated that they were returning home when the accident happened, taking the lives of four of Glendale’s most promising youth, leaving two more in a dying state, one seriously injured and one with broken bones and bruises. 

Map of Wreck Site

While some suggested that speed was a factor, it was believed that Mr. Sutton for unknown reasons, failed to negotiate the curve approaching the narrow two lane bridge which crossed the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio railroad tracks on the crest of a hill in Mayo. Losing control of the car, they crashed through the railing and plunged upside down some thirty feet to the tracks below. It was reported by those who witnessed the accident that all passengers fell or were thrown out of the car and that the car fell on top of them. One was mangled beyond recognition.

Dr. Painter, from Cherokee Springs and Dr. Chapman from Whitney, were reported to be the first to arrive on the scene to render first aid to the survivors. Reports were that all victims of the wreck were unconscious when the rescuers arrived with the exception of Miss Lottie Gilmer. It was she that identified the mangled body of Mr. John W. Morris. Obviously, he had been killed instantly. Custer Hunter died within minutes after being pulled from beneath the wreckage. It was believed that Miss Lottie Gilmer who had only a broken arm and bruises, had been protected from the impact of the car falling upon her by the bodies of Mr. Sutton and Mr. Morris, between whom she lay on the tracks. 

An ambulance from Floyd’s in Spartanburg, S. C. driven by Mr. Romaine Dreyer arrived on the scene and carried the two, Ila Gilmer and Samuel L. Clark, which appeared to be the most seriously injured survivors, back to the Spartanburg City Hospital. Reports were that Samuel H. Clark died within thirty minutes of arrival at the hospital. It was determined that he had major chest and back injuries. Ila Gilmer had major head and body injuries and died about 9 the next morning. (Monday).

 The CC&O train came upon the scene within minutes after the wreck and the other surviving injured, Ellen Rogers, Callie Reel, Lottie Gilmer and S.F. Sutton were placed in the baggage car of the train and were transported to the depot where Mr. Dreyer met them and transferred them by ambulance to the City Hospital.

Drs. Sam O. and Hugh H. Black were the first to attend the victims in the hospital. Mary Ellen Rogers and Callie Reel were so seriously injured, death was expected at any moment and it was determined that it would be useless to operate. They had suffered major head and internal injuries. 

At 8:30 Monday night, Dr. Hugh H. Black issued a statement saying that; “Misses Mary Ellen Rogers and Callie Reel were possibly holding their own and that the condition of Mr. Sutton, who had suffered a brain concussion and other body injuries, was unchanged.” Miss Lottie Gilmer, the 14 year old daughter of Franklin Herbert and Sallie Lee Gilmer who had suffered only a fractured arm, bruises and brazes, had been able to return home.

A release on Wednesday stated that the two young ladies, Callie Reel & Mary Ellen Rogers who had not been expected to recover, were living and that Miss Reel showed improvement while Miss Rogers was holding her own, being no worst. It also stated that Mr. Sutton had greatly improved and that full recovery was expected barring some unforeseen complications. 


The Glendale Community Cemetery

The first funeral for the wreck victims was conducted on Monday evening August 2, 1920 in the Glendale Community Cemetery. It was a joint service for John Wilton Morris and Custer Hunter. Morris was the 28 year old son of Mr. Gus M. and Jane Lockman Morris and a distant cousin of this writer. Since Mr. Morris was a member of the Woodman of the World, a Woodman spokesman had charge of his part of the service. Hunter was the 26 year old son of John Holden and Sue Emma Hunter. Being a Mason, the Honorable S. T. Lanham served as the spokesman for the Masonic Order in Hunter’s part of the service. It was said that the floral tributes were magnificent. The newspaper articles stated that attendance for the service was in the thousands.

Custer Hunter's and John Morris' Tombstones

Morris and Hunter had been friends for many years. John Morris was born October 11, 1892. Custer Hunter was born October 15, 1894. They both lived at Glendale. They entered the Army together. They both were members of the American Expeditionary Forces in WW1 and fought together in France where Hunter was seriously wounded. They were discharged and returned home to Glendale together. They were the first to die in the wreck, only minutes apart. They were buried in connecting grave plots at the same hour. Mr. Morris is buried in the Morris Square at the head of Mr. Hunter’s grave which is in the Hunter Square. 

Mr. Hunter having been severely wounded in battle, was undergoing special vocational training at Cecil’s business college in Spartanburg, S. C. at the time of his untimely death. Mr. Cecil, principal of the school stated that Mr. Hunter was an excellent student and was one of the most popular students to attend the school.

Ila Gilmer's  Tombstone

The Funeral service for Miss Ila Gilmer who had died early Monday morning was held on Tuesday afternoon August 3, 1920 in the Glendale Methodist Church with interment following in the Gilmer Square, which is located just one square from the Morris and Hunter Squares in the Glendale Community Cemetery. Ila was the 16 year old daughter of Franklin Herbert and Sallie Lee Gilmer and the sister of Miss Lottie Gilmer who had also been injured in the wreck.

Mr. Samuel H. Clark regained consciousness shortly after being removed from beneath the wreckage. Recognizing a friend who had come upon the scene, J. M. Parris of Mayo, he asked of him a cigarette which he smoked while waiting to be carried to the hospital. After arriving in the hospital, he engaged once more in conversation with Mr. Parris who also had arrived at the hospital and again asked for a cigarette, also a drink of water. He told Mr. Parris that his back was broken and that he knew he was dying. It was reported that he also recognized his father who arrived at the hospital shortly before he died. 


Samuel Clark's  Tombstone

 Funeral service for Mr. Clark, the 19 year old son of Mr. W. H. and Clara Clark was held on Wednesday afternoon August 4, 1920, place not given. Interment followed in the Clark Square in the Glendale Community Cemetery. His mother who had been ill for some time, became gravely ill following the shock of the loss of her only son. Samuel was a very popular young man in the community and was employed by the D.E. Converse Mill in Glendale.

Mr. Sutton, 61 years of age, did recover and returned to his home and farm on the Sutton Springs Road in Glendale, directly across the river from the mill where he lived for another five years. He died on August 22, 1925. Click on Sutton Family for more information.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any records regarding the life or death of Miss Reel and Miss Rogers. Miss Callie Reel was identified as being the sister of Judson Reel, a resident of Glendale and a postal carrier with the Spartanburg Post office. Miss Mary Ellen Rogers was identified as the niece of Senator W. S. Rogers. I have been unable to identify the parents of either.

It was reported that the young ladies were considered to be among the most attractive of the Glendale community. The young men were also well known and very popular in the area.

Miss Lottie Gilmer fully recovered and married Lawrence Carter becoming the mother of two children, Jean and Don Carter. Mr. Carter died in February of 1938. Some years later, Lottie married Mr. Troy Freeman of Glendale. Her published obituary shows that she died at the age of 90 in June, 2003. 


Footnotes; The car shown above is believed to be the model purchased and driven by Mr. Sutton. According to Buick information which I pulled up on the web, this seven passenger model was built in 1919 through 1923 with slight modifications. Incidentally, I found two or three of this model Buick which had been restored for sale on the web. Going prices ranged from $18,000 to $28,000.

The overpass today is four lane, the curve on the north side of the bridge has been reduced, the bridge has been lowered some but remains on the crest of the hill in the center of the curve going south.

Pictures of City Hospital and it’s staff courtesy of the Spartanburg Medical Society. The City hospital was privately owned by stockholders with the Drs. Hugh and Sam Black being major stockholders. 

My appreciation to George Hunter, brother of Custer Hunter for reminding me of the tragic wreck.

Clarence Crocker, November, 2010

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