“The Angola Horror,” a historical account of a 19th century railroad accident that happened in Western New York and the first book to be written by Buffalo News Staff Reporter Charity Vogel, will be released today.
The book, published by Cornell University Press, weaves together details of the Dec. 18, 1867, derailment of the New York Express near the high truss bridge over Big Sister Creek in Angola.
It tells the stories of many of the roughly 200 people who got on the train that day, as well as those of some of the local residents who responded to the grisly scene of the disaster.
Vogel wrote a story about the tragic if little-known incident for American History magazine in February 2008.
She writes in the book that the research began when she recalled childhood memories of hearing people speak of a tragedy that had occurred in Angola long ago. She subsequently heard about a train wreck, and spoke to local associates about the possible involvement of John D. Rockefeller in the wreck. But no one she spoke with knew much more than that. “Those first discoveries set me on a path of research that would open up avenues of investigation across the state and, indeed, around the country,” she writes in the book. “ ‘The Angola Horror’ became a story that went much deeper and farther than I could have imagined.”
Vogel said her goal was to “shed light” on the tragedy and the people who lost their lives that day – many of whom lie in Buffalo in an unmarked grave.
“I wanted, in the only way I knew how, to mark their graves,” she writes.
Vogel, the granddaughter of a Buffalo News typesetter and daughter of longtime Buffalo News Reporter and Editorial Page Editor Mike Vogel, has worked at the newspaper since 1997. She also served for 10 years as an adjunct instructor of journalism in the English department at the University at Buffalo, where she received her doctorate in English in 2004.