Freaky Flint History with Joe Schipani - Stampede April 23rd, 1921

Flint is well known for its modern violent crimes but Flint's history is filled with little known stories that read stranger than fiction. Gruesome murders, weird accidents, and violent deaths. Join us every Thursday as Joe Schipani details some of the odd but true deaths he found in Flint's archives.

Stampede April 23rd, 1921

Trolley, more commonly known as a streetcar back in the early twentieth century, was a major form of transportation in large cities.

On this Saturday afternoon while businessmen were coming and going to work and shoppers were going to the bustling city center to get the latest deals, a streetcar tragedy was happening just outside the city’s center.

Just north of Fifth Avenue on Detroit Street, the north bound streetcar had an explosion when the controller caught fire. Flames flew through the car while the passengers scurried to exit the back door of the moving streetcar.

Mrs. Caroline Kessler was one of the first to get out of the streetcar.

While jumping off the back, Mrs. Kessler lost her balance and fell to the ground. The other passengers desperate to escape the inferno did not notice the forty six year old woman lying on the ground.

After dozens of people trampled over the woman, the streetcar was empty. 

A doctor that lived in the house on Detroit Street noticed the woman lying there. He acquired help from a few of the gawkers to bring the woman inside his home to administer first aid until the ambulance came to take her to the hospital. Mrs. Kessler suffered multiple head fractures with internal bleeding that caused her to die later that evening at Hurley Hospital.  

Another woman jumped from the streetcar covered in flames. The woman had her bag filled with her shopping finds clutched in her hand. Needless to say, the shopping bag had also caught fire. As people scrambled to find something to put out the flames flaring from the woman’s body, she fell to the ground. The crowd tried endlessly to stop the fire, but the body had been sprayed with a lubricant when the controller exploded. The lady’s body was so burnt that she was unidentifiable.

No missing person’s report was ever filed to match her description. The body remained unclaimed and was buried in an unmarked grave in Flint Memorial Cemetery.

Three other people suffered minor injuries. The driver of the streetcar suffered third degree burns and lacerated his ankle jumping out the side door. Mrs. Ed Maynard and Mrs. Eleek Hart suffered minor burns and major bruising. 

~ Joe Schipani is the Executive Director of the Flint Public Art Project and the FFAR Project Assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.  Find him on Facebook at 

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