Casey Jones
"Casey Jones" (John Luther Jones)
St. Mary's Church Calvary Cemetery
Jackson, Tennessee

       ....After becoming an engineer, Casey earned the reputation for running on time. It is said that people set their watches by Casey's train as it passed by. Casey was promoted to the fast train run, the Cannonball Express, between Memphis, Tennessee, and Canton Mississippi, only two months before the tragic wreck occurred.
       ....At 12:50 AM, April 30, 1900, they pulled out of Poplar Street Station 95 minutes late for the run to Canton, a distance of 188 miles. They must have run at speeds near 100 miles per hour, for when they reached Grenada, Mississippi, 100 miles down the track, they were just 35 minutes late. At that point he hoped to reach Canton, a distance of 88 miles, on time. He made up time all the way down the track and was practically on time when he reached the curve at Vaughan, Mississippi, 12 miles north of Canton. He was estimated to be going 75 miles per hour at that time. A "saw-by" was planned at Vaughan, as there were two long freight trains on the siding. [A "saw-by" is necessary when a train or trains are too long for the passing track, or siding, and require movement from one direction to the other to clear the main line for the train passing through.] Because of their combined length, four cars extended onto the main line north of the siding. Sim Webb, Casey's fireman, saw the caboose lights and called to Casey, telling him there was something on the track. Casey told him to jump and he did, receiving only minor injuries. Casey could have jumped too, but chose to stay in the cab and try to avoid the collision, athough once the emergency brakes were applied and the engine reversed, there was nothing more an engineer could do. But the lights of the caboose had been sighted too late, and it is estimated that the Cannonball was going about 50 miles per hour at the time of impact. It ran through the caboose, a car of corn, a car of hay and part way through a car of lumber before coming to a stop. Engineer Casey Jones was the only person killed.
       Why did this wreck receive so much publicity and why was Casey Jones immortalized? It is generally agreed that the song composed by Wallace Saunders, a friend of Casey's, is the single most important factor. Saunders never bothered with copyrighting the song, and is said to have only received a pint of gin for the rights to it. In 1909, Saunders' original verses were revised, shortened and very sucessfully commercialized by T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton:

Come all you rounders if you want to hear
A story 'bout a brave engineer;
Casey Jones was the rounder's name
On a six-eight wheeler he won his fame.

The caller called Casey at half past four,
Kissed his wife at the station door,
Mounted to the cabin with his orders in his hand,
And he took his farewell trip to that Promised Land.

Casey Jones, mounted to the cabin;
Casey Jones, orders in his hand;
Casey Jones, mounted to the cabin;
And he took his farewell trip to the Promised Land

          —above information adapted from two small booklets about the famous accident, The Choo-Choo Stopped at Vaughan, by Massena F. Jones, and Casey Jones and the Wreck at Vaughan, by Bruce Gurner


Map of Accident

Casey Jones postage stamp