Downed historic obelisk returns: Riggs to sign her book on history of monument
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Jun 26, 2014 | 1460 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUTHOR Debbie Riggs speaks to WOOP-FM radio personality Randy Jarrett about her book “The Day Cleveland Cried.” Riggs will appear at the Museum Center at Five Points on Saturday to sign copies of the book, which is in its second printing.
AUTHOR Debbie Riggs speaks to WOOP-FM radio personality Randy Jarrett about her book “The Day Cleveland Cried.” Riggs will appear at the Museum Center at Five Points on Saturday to sign copies of the book, which is in its second printing.
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“The Day Cleveland Cried” chronicles the history of one of downtown Cleveland’s historic icons — the Steed-Marshall-Hardwick Monument. A book signing is planned by the author on Saturday.

The monument, which was toppled in an April 25 two-car crash, is to be re-installed today while officials continue to review options to modify the intersection. The crash broke the obelisk top into three pieces.

The Steed-Marshall-Hardwick monument was originally set July 2, 1889, at the intersection of what is now known as 8th and Broad/Ocoee streets. Other events revolving around the historic monument are in the works and will be announced later.

Debbie Riggs’ book tells the story of the monument and the individuals it memorializes.

It has been called one of “Cleveland’s most infamous tragedies.”

Riggs will appear at 10 a.m. Saturday on WOOP radio (99.9 FM), on the “Old Town Cleveland” program hosted by Ron and Debbie Moore.

She will then go to the Museum Center at Five Points for a 1 to 3 p.m. engagement to sign copies of the book.

The book is the only work printed that investigates a train crash that occurred July 2, 1889. The accident took the lives of three Cleveland residents and made headlines around the world.

Riggs’ book was first printed in 2012, but copies quickly became scarce. The Allan Jones Foundation arranged for a new printing in 2014 and donated 100 copies of the book to the museum in June. The copies will be on sale during Riggs’ Saturday appearance.

Riggs said the legendary crash occurred in the unincorporated community of Thaxton in Bedford County, Va., and happened when heavy rains washed a portion of the train tracks away.

“As the locomotive approached in a drenching downpour, it went into the washout and the engine reportedly exploded as sleeper and passenger cars began to pile into the ravine,” said Riggs.

“Some of the passengers drowned. Others were consumed by the fiery explosion and flames which reduced the heavily fortified wooden cars to their iron skeletons.”

Among the 17 killed were William Steed, who was a partner with his brother at Steed’s Pharmacy in downtown Cleveland.

William Marshall, the city recorder and secretary/treasurer for Marshall’s Planning Mill, was also killed.

The third Clevelander killed was John Hardwick, son of C.L. Hardwick, who founded Hardwick Stove and Hardwick Clothes.

The three men were en route to New York and then to Paris.

“Steed’s body was recovered and returned to Cleveland, but Hardwick and Marshall’s bodies were never found, and what happened to them remains a mystery to this day,” said Toby Pendergrass, director of the Allan Jones Foundation.

Riggs recently revealed that Hardwick had a premonition of the tragic accident.

Hardwick reportedly stated in the days prior to the famous trip:

“To tell you the truth, I feel like backing out. I’ve dreamed for three nights in succession that we were all killed. It has been the same dream on each occasion and I dreamed it last night with greater vividness than on the first two nights.”

Another prominent Clevelander, George R. Stuart, didn’t make the trip because his mother didn’t want him to. Instead, Stuart took another trip and when he returned home to Cleveland, he hugged his mother for her caring outlook.

Pendergrass said the Jones Foundation had the book republished due to the accident’s prominent place in Cleveland history.

“Going to Paris in 1889 was a big deal and a large crowd came out to see the men off,” Pendergrass explained. “Everyone was excited — and then when the news came back that all three had been killed and two of the bodies were missing — it was devastating for the community.”

Pendergrass said the train wreck became the talk of the town twice — initially in 1889 after the crash in Virginia and again in 1911, when a marble monument memorializing the deaths of the three Clevelanders became the center of a controversy.

“This monument had been there since 1890. When there was an attempt to remove it, the whole town became divided,” Pendergrass said.

The controversy began after the United Daughters of the Confederacy representatives of the Jefferson Davis Chapter approached the City Council and made a request for a 12-foot-square plot of ground a few feet north of the memorial that had been placed at the intersection of Lea and Pine streets (Broad and 8th, present day).

The monument was to be dedicated to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War, according to Riggs.

“An iron fence around the monument was removed, then later, the memorial was completely dismantled and laid to the side of the roadway as construction of the Confederate monument was ongoing — thus resulting in the division of the community and the placement of the memorial marker,” said Riggs.

According to Riggs’ research, J.H. Hardwick, at the request of his mother, gave reasons for wanting the monument relocated to the city cemetery.

“He felt as years passed and the family members of the train wreck victims died, no one would bother to care for the monument and it would be destroyed. He also stated the new Confederate monument made the older monument look ‘insignificant’ and that the old monument would look better at another site. Pressed further in his testimony during one of the legal battles, Hardwick admitted, ‘I never wanted it there, for I did not want my brother’s graveyard almost in my front door,’” according to Riggs.

Pendergrass noted the Hardwick Family resided 200 feet from the site (now a part of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library).

Mary Marshall, mother of William Marshall, disagreed with the removal of the monument.

Eventually after taking the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Hardwick allowed the monument to be re-erected on the original site, according to Riggs.

The monument made headlines again this year, when, a car crashed into it and sent the landmark tumbling to the concrete. Repair is scheduled for later this summer.

Riggs has lived in Cleveland since 1971 and graduated from “the Old Bradley High.” She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, to a military family and enjoys genealogy.

For more information on the Saturday appearance by Riggs, call Pendergrass at 423-473-4227.