Echoes From The Past

By JUDY MAUPIN *- Echoes From the Past
(A Column of historical and genealogical anecdotes, stories and family notes.)
Calloway County, Ky.

Casey Jones

July 22, 1978
"Come all you rounders, I want you to hear, The story told of a brave engineer. Casey Jones was the rounder's name. On a big ten-wheeler he rode to fame."

Thus goes the ballad of Casey Jones, the hero of all railroad men, but, unlike Paul Bunyan - the legendary hero of the lumberjacks - Casey was a real person. It is debatable about his ride to fame, although Is biographers seem divided as to whether he performed a heroic act or one that was just a bit stupid.

John Luther Jones grew up in Cayce, Kentucky, a little town on Highway 94, on the other side of Fulton. However despite popular belief, he was not born there; he was born on March 14, 1864, in Southwestern Missouri. From the time he was a boy he wanted more than anything else to be a railroad engineer.

And sure enough, as soon as he turned 18, he was hired by the Mobile and Ohio as a fireman, the first step in that direction. He had already worked for the railroad, starting at the age of 15 as a telegrapher. But, in spite of the fact that he quickly became skilled at it, his ambition was never sidetracked.

In 1888, a yellow fever epidemic resulted in many of the engineers and firemen on the more prestigious Illinois Central Railroad being laid low. As soon as Casey Jones heard that the I. C. Railroad was hiring engineers, he switched from the M & 0, hiring on as a fireman. By the time he was 26, he was a full-fledged engineer, on a fast freight run between Jackson, Tennessee and Water Valley, Mississippi.

Casey was a tall, dark-haired young man, standing a bit over 6 foot 4 inches. One of his firemen, Perry Walker, once recalled that Casey was "so tall that he couldn't stand up in the engine cab without sticking his head outside a foot or so, reminding some of his friends of a young giraffe." But he was well-liked by everyone and was quickly gaining a reputation as a fantastic engineer, despite his record of nine suspensions.

These suspensions were the result of Casey's rule Infractions, all happening while on the freight service. But Casey was still proud of the fact that none of his accidents had ever resulted In the death of an employee or passenger. Although it isn't clear what the cause of these suspensions were, it seems fairly obvious that Casey's love of speed was involved.

Caseyhad two loves in his life - his wife, Janie Bradey Jones, whom he had married in 1886, and a beautiful locomotive engine that he spotted at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It seems that Casey had been chosen to man one of the fast special trains in Chicago that shuttled passengers back and forth to the Exposition the summer in 1893.

It was love at first sight for Casey, when he saw the huge Consolidation type engine with its eight drive wheels and two pilot wheels, the very latest thing in locomotives. Casey visited the exhibit where the train was time after time, and when he wasn't gazing at it, he was writing to his wife back home, describing its beauty to her. Evidently he decided then and there that the engine would be his.

No one seems to know how he accomplished it, but on the last day of the Exposition, Casey Jones showed up with all the proper papers in his hand for the transfer of that locomotive from display to active duty. He was assigned to this engine - N. 638 - for regular freight service from then on.

For the next seven years, Casey and No. 638 were inseparable. When he wasn't at home with Janey, he was with No. 638. All the engineers were allowed to decorate their cabs as they chose, and Casey chose to embellish his love with a six-tone calliope whistle, which made the famous "whipporwill call"

that soon became indelibly linked with him. "The switchmen knew by the whistle's moan that the man at the throttle was Casey Jones."

Next week, I will continue with the saga of Casey Jones and his famous ride to glory. ______________

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