We met with Historian, Norma Taylor, in Jackson, Tennessee, who helped us uncover the story of Casey Jones. We were curious to know if he was an American Legend or a real person. She assured us that Casey was a authentic Tennessean named Jonathan Luther Jones, who joined the railroad at age 15.
“Casey Jones probably was the most famous railroad engineer who ever lived. His home was right here in Jackson, Tennessee, and we honor him with this Casey Jones museum today so people can still know who Casey Jones was and what he did was heroic.”
“It was a really great job to drive those trains; it was important to the entire American economy. Little boys wanted to grow up and drive trains and be railroad engineers. Casey Jones was no exception. From the first time he saw a steam engine that is what he wanted to do – drive those engines, and he accomplished his goal.”
“Of course the first question anyone asked him was, ‘What is your name?’”
“He answered, ‘John Luther Jones.’”
“‘Where are you from John Luther?’”
“His reply was, “Casey, Kentucky.”
“‘Well, welcome Casey!’ was the response. From then on for the rest of his life, he was Casey Jones.”
Casey loved working on the Railroad. He was an engineer on the Cannonball for the Illinois Central. The ill-fated event, which began the legend of Casey Jones occurred in 1900. Casey volunteered to engineer the Cannonball on the morning of April 29, when another engineer called in sick.
Known for always bringing his train in on time, Casey was determined to make up lost time from the delay in schedule change. He “highballed” it to get to his destination on time. At speeds to over 100 miles per hour, he made up 55 minutes by Grenada, Mississippi, and 30 more minutes by Durant. Then approximately seven miles from his destination, Canton, Mississippi, at a curve near Vaughn, Casey saw a stalled freight train on the track in front of him.
“In those last split seconds of his life, Casey thought of what to do to save everyone else. He told his fireman, Sam Webb, to jump out. Sam jumped out and he was fine. Casey pulled on the whistle to remind anyone who still might be on the stalled freight car to get out. With his other hand he pulled on the brake to slow his train down as much as possible to lessen the impact of that crash. By doing that he slowed from 75 to 35 miles per hour before he crashed into the back of that caboose. When he crashed, his engine turned over and Casey was killed, but everybody else was fine. Casey died saving everyone else. Casey Jones definitely died a hero.”
Casey’s bravery and devotion to duty became the basis for the song written in his memory, “Casey Jones the Brave Engineer,” written by Wallace Sanders, a black engine wiper. The railroad men began singing the song as they worked the railroad.
The story of Casey Jones has literally traveled the world, and he became an American legend.
For more information on Casey Jones, the Historic Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum visit: www. Caseyjones.com or call: 731-668-1222.
Casey Jones historic home which he lived now a railroad museum.
The watch that he wore is on exhibit.
The engine on display is the type of engine like the Cannonball.