From “The Great Train Wreck of 1856” a survivor crawled up the riverbank. As he died he gave Willard Peale his pocket watch. The hands spun and Willard was taken to the killing field of the Mormon War, along the slave routes of the Mississippi river, onto the Confederate victory at Chikamauga and down steel rails to the carnage of America’s Great Train Wrecks. Willard Peale was involved in all of them, The Angola Horror, The Ashtabula Railroad Bridge Disaster, The Tarifville and Chatsworth Train Wrecks and finally, The Crash at Crush.
Though raised from the dirt poor obscurity of a cabin next to a railway line, Willard Peale achieved the American Dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. On his journey he crossed paths with heroes and villains of the American Wild West. General ‘Old War Horse’ Longstreet, Philip Bliss, John Stith Pemberton, Kate Shelley, Soapy Smith, Texas Jack Vermillion and Canada Bill Jones were just some of the famous characters who were influenced by this unique American.
Forewarned of impending disaster by his silver time piece, Willard declared, ‘God and Time are on my side, I am righteous’. With such confidence Willard became one of the most powerful men in nineteenth Century America.
Now he stands before St Peter and with clear conscience puts forward his case. Carpetbaggers and Scallywags are admitted and still he is kept waiting. Fearlessly Willard justifies his plagiarism of the Hymns of the Slaves, misappropriation of the finances of The Scientific Brethren, rigging America’s first lottery and importing opium to use as an ingredient in “Coco Loco”. Without shame or guilt Beavis contends, ‘The ends justifies the means for both the individual and his nation’.
Willard Peale was a great American, a man his country looked up to. Was he wicked or were his actions a reflection of the attitudes and morals of his fellow Americans. God is considering his verdict. Will it be Heaven or will it be Hell.