Event Person

James Ratliff Beheaded by Valley Train

“As the passenger on the Scioto Valley, that is due here about four o’clock PM, was turning the curve on the Davis farm about two mile a half this side of Lucasville Thursday, the engineer saw a man just ahead lying across the track. The brakes were immediately applied to save the man but not in time. When the train stopped it was found that the head of the unfortunate man had been severed from the trunk and had rolled down the bank some distance from where he was hit. The conductor, with a coolness born of practice, picked up the frightful thing and placed it beside the bleeding and mangled body.”

Approximate Location of the Accident

“Coroner Dr. Fulton was summoned at once, and he went up on the evening train. The remains were buried under his orders, but no one was seen that knew anything about the matter and so no definite information was learned. It is said that the man’s name is Jim Radcliff, and that he lived near Lucasville, and leaves a wife and family. It is also said that a man by the name of James Harness, had been talking with Radcliff on the track just before the train came along. It is the supposition that Radcliff was drunk and in a stupor had lain his head across the rail.”

“Northing was found on his person to identify him.”

“The engineer of the train is known as ‘Spot’ Jimmey, and is reputed a careful engineer. At present it appears that the accident was an unavoidable one, but a thorough investigation will be made.’1

James Ratliffe Record of Death

In the Report of Death in Scioto County, Ohio2 a James Ratliffe, is recorded as having been killed by a railroad train on February 28, 1889 in Valley Township, Scioto County, Ohio. While the name spelling may vary, the incident location, date, and incident type coincide with the above story. Additional research does not reveal any conclusion to the investigation or provide a location of burial for James Ratliffe.

  1. Head Cut Off. (1889, March 2). Portsmouth Times, p. 3.
  2. “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6WSS-3Q8?cc=2128172&wc=7DZ2-PHP%3A1297168401%2C1297131364 : 30 September 2014), Scioto > Death records, 1867-1880, vol 1 > image 326 of 491; county courthouses, Ohio.
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