The Bullitt County History Museum

1917 Train Wreck Memorial

The following is excerpted from the December 27, 2007 Museum Newsletter, written by David Strange, Museum Director. You may also view photos taken at the event on another page.

I am very happy to report that our memorial meeting for the 1917 Shepherdsville Train Wreck disaster went very well.

While planning the event, I had set in my mind that attendance of under fifty would be disappointing, and one hundred would be successful. But, because of possible holiday conflicts, it was difficult to guess.

Well, over 120 people attended and it was a standing-room-only crowd!

(If you are new to our message group and not aware of the 1917 train wreck story, you can read about it at our web site. The web site also carries a list of those who died or were wounded, It even provides access to the death certificates.)

The memorial was planned around the time of 5:28 p.m., which marked exactly when the tragic wreck occurred ninety years before.

We had a special surprise planned for that time but were not sure at all if it would come about.

The memorial started at 5:00 p.m. with welcome speech and introductions. Reverend Drew Prince of First Baptist Church of Shepherdsville led the introductory prayer, in memory of Emily Haycraft Mashburn, who died in the wreck. She was the wife of Baptist minister Henry Hamilton Mashburn.

At that point I saw that we were way ahead of schedule for the 5:28 surprise (don't panic Dave, don't panic!!), so I adjusted the program a bit.

I introduced the donors that made the permanent $3,000 display possible. They are, by the way, Mary Lou Hackett, Burlyn Pike, Charlie Long, Edward Barrell, and Gary Kempf, and explained the purpose of the display, remarking on the model made by Lloyd Mattingly and the mural made by Carole Powell.

More or less back on schedule, Charles Hartley read a very moving short version of the train wreck story.

At 5:28 the "surprise" had not yet happened. Not sure if it would happen at all, I proceeded with a brief projector slide show that flashed twelve vintage photos of the wreck. With each flash of a photo, the sound of a church bell sounded.

Then I heard the "surprise".

Off in the distance I heard the faint cry of a train whistle. I pointed to the window overlooking the wreck site and said something like, "and the train came". People were confused at first, but then they heard it. A long, sad refrain. A train getting closer and closer, louder and louder, the ground beginning to rumble beneath the dead-silent audience. The train's horn sounding the entire way. Nearly everyone edged up slightly on their seats. As the train passed on by, there was an almost audible sigh of relief.

No wreck this time, but the real train made the past tragedy seem far more real. Several people commented later how goose bumps came up and the hair stood up on the back of their neck.

Many thanks to CSX Railroad for adjusting their schedule to make this special part of the memorial possible.

Then I read a list of the fifty-one people who died in the wreck and a bit on who they were.

After that, scheduled speakers County Judge Executive Melanie Roberts and Mary Lou Hackett made a few appropriate and welcome remarks. Ms. Hackett's grandmother died in the wreck, and her purse and Christmas shopping list that were found at the wreck are part of the memorial display. Ms. Hackett also donated the bulk of the funds for the custom-made display case.

Father David Naylor, of St. Aloysius Catholic Church, presented the closing prayer. Father Naylor was asked to do the closing prayer in memory of Father Eugene Angelo Bertello, the founder of the first St. Aloysius church and a church on Chapeze Lane. Father Bertello was another casualty of the 1917 wreck.

The memorial meeting ended at about 6:50, but many people stayed until nearly 8:00, looking at the display, visiting, and discussing wreck stories with one another.

Many thanks to everyone who made this event such a success.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: