Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: March 14, 1864 - John Luther “Casey” Jones

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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
John Luther ("Casey") Jones, railroad engineer, was born on March 14, 1864, in Fulton County, Kentucky. His nickname came from his hometown, Cayce. At the age of eighteen Jones went to Jackson, Tennessee, to work for the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. In 1888 he became an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad. As tribute to his skill, Jones was made engineer in January 1900 on the New Orleans Special, popularly known as the " Cannonball," the fastest passenger train between Chicago and New Orleans.

On the foggy evening of April 29, 1900, Jones pulled into the Memphis, Tennessee, station, the end of his run. Because relay engineer Joe Lewis was ill, Jones and his fireman Simeon Wells were asked to take the Cannonball through to Canton, Mississippi. They agreed and their engine, No. 382, was attached. Close to Vaughan, Mississippi, near the end of the run, two freight trains prepared to pull onto the siding to allow the passenger train to pass, but the air hose on train No. 83 broke, freezing the wheels and stalling the caboose and three freight cars on the main track. Jones's attempt to divert was futile, and seeing the impending disaster he told Wells to jump to safety. Jones was able to slow the train sufficiently to save the lives of Wells and all of his passengers. He was the only casualty of the crash, dying on April 30, 1900, at 3:53 a.m. His courage in staying with the train was commemorated in the well-known ballad " Casey Jones," written by Wallace Saunders a few days after the accident. It was recorded in the 1920s by both Fiddlin' John Carson and Furry Lewis. A special U.S. postage stamp in honor of Jones was issued as part of the series Railroad Engineers Of America in 1950.

Jones married Janie Brady of Jackson, Tennessee, on November 25, 1886, and they had three children. Jones was buried at Jackson.

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Randolph, Vance. The Truth about Casey Jones and Other Fabulous American Heroes, including Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett, Roy Bean, and Mike Fink. Girard, Kan.: Haldeman-Julius, 1945. Print.
920 K658, Special Collections Research Center

Lee, Fred J. Casey Jones; Epic of the American Railroad. Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern, 1939. Print.
TF140.J6 L440 1993, Special Collections Research Center

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