John Braden

An Encounter With A Wagon Load of Fireworks

JOHN BRADEN was an old-time driver. As far as can be learned, he left his home in Pennsylvania or Ohio when quite young, and in the later '50's was employed by the Northeastern Stage Company, driving in Minnesota and Iowa. His first job as a driver on the Overland Stage was on the Platte River between Diamond Springs and Alkali Lake. For a time he drove between Liberty Farm and Fort Kearney, and also out of Leavenworth for the Kansas Stage Company. In the later '60's he drove on the Smoky Hill route for Wells, Fargo & Co. Braden was a good man and very useful.

After leaving the Smoky Hill, he went west, and for some time drove on the Bitter Creek division of the overland line, between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City. After Holladay sold the stage route to Wells, Fargo & Co., Braden worked for the noted express company a few years; then drifted south-west as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico, where, for about fifteen years, he was employed in livery stables, being a fine judge of stock and a very capable and efficient man. While in the prime of life, he met with a sudden and horrible death at Albuquerque at a carnival parade, on the night of October 17, 1896, during an explosion of a wagon-load of fireworks. He was in the wagon of fireworks driving a spirited team, which ran away upon being shot by rockets during the parade. The horses were only stopped when the vehicle collided with a hack containing four little girls. During all this time, while being badly burned, Braden remained at his post; but, when the crisis came, fell to the ground exhausted, though he remained conscious. His last words before he closed his eyes and expired were: "Did I save the little girls and the queen of the carnival and her attendants?"

The funeral was one of the largest and most imposing that ever took place in Albuquerque. It was held at the opera-house, which was jammed, hundreds being unable to gain admittance. The funeral cortege to Fairview cemetery was nearly three miles long, the police, the marshal and staff, first regiment band and company, fire department, school children, in hacks and on foot, and all the civic organizations in the city being in the procession. Every minister in Albuquerque participated in the services, and every school--public and private, Protestant and Catholic--closed doors and allowed the children to attend. To show in what esteem the old driver was held for the heroic work he did in saving the several little girls from burning to death, in which act he lost his life, a beautiful monument, furnished by the citizens of Albuquerque, was erected to his memory in the city park.

Send comments, suggestions or inquiries: Overland Trail

[Overland Trail | Links ]

Created and maintained by Elizabeth Larson
Copyright 1996-2000