John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller was as disciplined in his personal life as he was in his business life. He was punctual to a fault, hated postponing or cancelling meetings and always pushed himself to the very limit. So, when he set out to taking a train from Cleveland to New York City on the morning of December 18, 1867, you could have put your bottom dollar on Rockefeller catching it. For once, however, he was late, and in this instance, his lateness most probably saved his life…
Though he was only 28, by Christmas of 1867, Rockefeller was already a very big deal in American business. And like many successful businessmen, he hated delegating tasks and responsibilities, which is why he frequently travelled from his Ohio home to the Big Apple to check on his company’s East Coast operations, overseen by his brother. He packed Christmas presents for friends and family in New York and set off for Cleveland station. But, while the luggage he sent on ahead made it onto the train, Rockefeller himself did not. Just hours later, that same train was involved in an accident that’s the stuff on nightmares.
Dubbed ‘the Angola Horror’, the disaster occurred that same afternoon, when the train was crossing over a high railroad bridge just outside of the village of Angola, New York State. It’s believed that a loose wheel hit a broken part of track, causing the back two cars to rise up into the air and then off the bridge, down into the icy waters below. Around 50 people were killed and the tragedy made headlines across the United States. The nation was gripped by a sense of morbid fascination, including Rockefeller himself.
The tycoon visited the scene of the accident just a couple of days later. Here he learned that all his luggage had been lost amid the carnage, so he too would probably have been killed had he been traveling with it. If he was shaken by the close shave, he didn’t let it distract him from his business endeavors. Rockefeller would go on to become the richest person in all of the United States before dedicating the last few years of his life to his religion, family and philanthropy.