Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum E-Newsletter
March 8, 2007 (Volume 3, Number 4)
>> Bullitt County Genealogical Society meeting March 15 at 4 p.m. (New Time, New location).
The Bullitt County Genealogical Society begins meeting this month at the new Ridgway Memorial Public Library in its fine new facilities. The March meeting will feature a special tour of the new building with a focus on its new genealogical studies room.
Officers are trying a different meeting time, namely 4:00 p.m. It is hoped this earlier time will actually be more convenient for many people, allowing them to get home earlier in the evening. The plan is to try it and see how it works out.
Let the officers know what you think.
So come if you can, and see the nice meeting room and genealogy room!
>> Genealogy Class Opportunity.
Our own Betty Darnell and Deborah Campisano will present "Solving Your Family History Mystery: Genealogy 101" as part of the Spring 2007 "Options" at the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Louisville, Shelby Campus, on Shelbyville Road, just east of Hurstbourne Parkway. There will be four sessions on Thursdays, 1-3 p.m., Mar 15, Mar 22, Mar 29, and April 5. Fee is $40. To register: (1) online at www.delphi.louisville.edu; click on "Continuing and Professional Education," then "Personal Enrichment." Or (2) by phone, with MasterCard or VISA, 502-852-6456, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Or (3) Mail registration form and payment to Continuing and Professional Education, Shelby Campus, University of Louisville, Louisville KY 40292.
For Your Information...
Do you know what "cagers" are? Well I did not until last week. I had seen several old local news clips in our archives talking about them, so I finally asked. "Cagers" are basketball players. Apparently Bullitt County had some pretty good ones in the 1940's.
>> It is exciting to see an ever-increasing rate of participation at the Museum, and ever-increasing donations of photos and other items.
Cub Scout Pack 100 toured the museum this month. They were a great group and sent the museum a whole packet of thank you cards and a photo.
A senior group from Pleasant Grove Baptist Church also came for a tour with us. I love groups like that because we can share history stories with one another.
Randolf Settles and Publishers Printing graciously did a large job for us at no charge. They scanned 186 large-format photos for us that were too large for our small scanner. That will be a huge help to us as we try to complete our project of scanning our photo collection onto computer.
Staff Volunteer and Friend Bob Cline donated note pads and other office supplies lately, and had a steel guard/shield made to better protect the sensitive workings of our tollbooth display. It seems that boys (I'm sorry, but it was ALWAYS boys!) just couldn't resist trying to tinker with the machine and would often break the coin sensing switch. Bob's new shield is taking care of that problem so far.
Magistrate Buddy Shepherd has been bringing us several great photos, mostly from the 1940's and 50's, including parades and group photos. One great group photo includes him in his letter sweater (and a handsome young devil he was!). By the way, I hope someday to have a complete collection of letter jackets or sweaters from all the past high schools. A leather-sleeved letter jacket from Bullitt Central was donated some time ago. If I can ever get good ones from all the past high schools (LJ, Mt. Washington, Shepherdsville, even Pitt's Point?) and all the new ones, I intend to make up a special new school days display case that would include some of the great school photos that we have.
Steve Masden and others are stopping by more and more often with more great old photos for the museum. Past Judge/Executive Neil Farris visited and gave the museum copies of the famous "Enola Gay", the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb. During WWII, Neil was stationed just a few yards from the plane.
We are continuing to add detail to our pioneer salt making kettle display, having added firewood, ashes, and "grass". Friend Madonna Cash has handmade a salt-collecting basket reminiscent of what the salt makers would use to scoop the wet salt into to drain. It has been hung over the kettle and is being made to look like it has just been used, with fake salt brine "dripping" from the basket (actually clear acrylic casting resin poured in the basket just before it hardened). A background scene mural is also being painted. I will tell you more about that after we install it.
>>Speaking of Displays, we are planning a special new display of the 1917 Train Wreck for the courthouse hallway, but we need your help!
As you know, our museum is housed in four rooms in the county courthouse/government center, but we are generally limited to those four rooms. This week, Fiscal Court granted us permission to place a special display case out in the hallway for a memorial display to the terrible train wreck of 1917 . As I have written in these newsletters before, that wreck was the worst in the history of the L&N train line. Some 51 people were killed and many more maimed and wounded.
It must have been a dreadful scene. One descendent of a survivor recently described to me how "blood flowed down the steps" of the nearby houses in which the wounded and dying were taken.
Well, a person can stand at the window of our courthouse second-floor hallway and look down on the exact site of that heart-wrenching event.
We are designing a custom display case, some twelve to fourteen foot long, that will house a ten foot Lloyd Mattingly model of the wreck, along with artifacts, photos, and stories. The case will be of oak and glass, set low just below the window, so the viewer can ponder the display, while looking out at the disaster site.
A sitting bench will be nearby facing all.
Here is where I need your help. Fourteen-foot display cases do not come cheap. Quotes are running at about $2,500.
I ask especially those of you who have connections to that tragic wreck to donate to this cause, so we can make this small tribute a reality. Help me spread the word to those who do not read this newsletter to contribute. We have the special place, the design, and most of the items (though I would love to have still more). All we need is you. I'd love to be able to say on the display that it was made possible by those who hold dear the memory of their lost loved ones.
Donations are tax deductible (as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, the museum is a 501c3 non-profit). Checks should be made out to the Bullitt County History Museum, for the 1917 display. If we are so fortunate to receive more donations than needed for the 1917 display, excess funds will be used to further enhance that display, to erect an outdoor marker at the site, or to build other display cases for the museum.
Finally...a "reprint" of The Train Wreck of 1917.
Because of the effort to build a memorial display about the 1917 train wreck that I described above, I thought it appropriate to re-run a story about it that I had written in December, 2005, just before Christmas, on the same date of the wreck.
The Christmas season was proceeding much as it is right now. Friends and family were rushing to get their last-minute shopping done before the holiday arrived. Children (and some adults) were busy fantasizing about what "Santa" might bring.
Things were a bit more worrisome than usual because World War One was raging in Europe, but Christmastime was Christmastime. Most everyone tried to be a little more "merry and bright" than usual.
But just a couple of hundred feet East of the courthouse building where our museum is now housed, a terrible and sudden tragedy was about to change the futures of over a hundred people and their loved ones.
Families from Bardstown and from Shepherdsville had taken the little Number 41 train, "The Bardgy", into the big city of Louisville to do their traditional Christmas shopping. The crowded train of people...mothers and children...fathers and friends...had just arrived back at Shepherdsville, everyone joking, discussing the day's events, and loaded down with newly-wrapped presents. The two passenger cars were a bit rickety and small, being some of the last wooden passenger cars still being used. But no one seemed to mind, as some of the passengers began to disembark and others waited for the train to start up again and head on to Bardstown.
Just then the conductor looked up the track and was horrified to see a train coming full speed directly at them. At the same time, the engineer of Number 7, a fast new "flyer" all-metal train that was racing south on what he had thought was a clear track, realized that Number 41 was just 400 feet ahead of him. Desperately, the engineer of Number 7 slammed on his breaks. The conductor of Number 41 managed a quick scream of warning to the unsuspecting passengers.
But it was too late.
The modern steel train slammed full-speed into the old passenger cars, leaving not much more than splinters.
The carnage was awful. Presents, babies, and body parts were strewn onto both sides of the tracks. Some mothers and daughters died in an instant. Other passengers suffered gruesome injuries, some dieing days later, or crippled for life. Survivors and local folks quickly turned nearby houses into emergency hospitals and morgues.
Fifty-one people died in what I am told is, to this day, the most deadly train wreck ever on the L&N railroad.
I do not have a full accounting of all that died that day, but here are most of them, as taken from a newspaper of the time:
Miss Josie Bridges, age 20, and her brother Hollis Bridges, 18; Mahlon H. Cambell, conductor on Number 41; Father E.A. Bertello, priest; Raymond Thomas Cravens, age 2; George Duke; Virginia Duke, 12; Redford Cherry, Jr., 38; his wife, also 38; and their son Redford, Jr., 16; Lawrence Grenwell, flagman on Number 41; Mrs. Mattie Harman; Kate Ice; W.O. Johnson; Mrs. Joseph Hurst, 20; and her 7 month old son, Joseph Raoul Losson Hurst; Mrs. H.H. Mashburn, 40, wife of a Baptist minister; Elizabeth McElroy, 16; Mr. & Mrs. Mack Miller, both 33; Mrs. R.L. Miller, 38, wife of a Bardstown doctor; Mrs. Thomas Miller, 30; Lucas Moore, 60; Mrs. Tom Moore, Sr., wife of a Bardstown distiller; James Morrison, 12; Mat Muir, 65, a Bardstown Banker; his wife, age 50; and their son, George, 16; Frank Nunn, ticket agent; Mrs. Stella Nutt; Forrest Overall, 19; Maggie Overall; David Phillips, 27; John Phillips, Bardstown Chief of Police; and his wife, 55; Mrs. Arch Pulliam, 35; Emory Samuels; Thomas Shafer; Althea Sims, 18; Mrs. Carrie May Simmons; Thomas Spalding, 22; Ben Talbot, 60; James Thompson, 50; N.H. Thompson; J.W.Stansberry.
That moment on that day drastically, instantly, and irreversibly changed families and communities forever.
May this Christmas season, nearly ninety years later, be a happier and safer season for us all than that tragic wreck of 1917.
Be careful out there. And love your family and friends while you have them.
You never know what the next instant may bring.
Thank you for being a Friend of Bullitt County History. Remember to give to the 1917 Train Wreck display fund if you can.
Bullitt County History Museum
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address: David.Strange@BullittCountyHistory.org