The Bullitt County History Museum

Museum Newsletter - 9 Dec 2006

Friends of the Bullitt County History Museum
December 9, 2006 (Volume 2, Number 19)

Dear Friends,


>> Bullitt County Genealogical Society Holiday Social December 21.

Come visit with us at the December meeting of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society! The Society reserves its December meeting as an informal holiday social in which we all just bring some finger foods and be with one another for a little while.

Everyone is also encouraged this year to bring some "show and tell" item related to genealogy or history to share with the group.

Meeting is at the usual place at the old Shepherdsville City Hall at 170 Frank E. Simon Avenue at 7:00 p.m.

Free. Just bring some snack or finger food if you can.

Museum Activity.

>> New volunteer Judy Richardson now helping at the museum.

I am very happy to say we currently have some excellent volunteers regularly staffing the museum. Since the museum opened, Society President and genealogist Barbara Bailey has been faithfully covering the museum on Fridays. Bob Cline now covers Tuesday afternoons and has speeded up our program of scanning our photo archives into computer format. Artist and retired teacher Dennis Shaffner covers Thursday afternoons and has also helping on the photo scanning program.

Now we are very fortunate to be adding another great volunteer. Mount Washington resident Judy Richardson has been training with us and will be covering the museum on Wednesday afternoons. Judy has done genealogy work for a number of years and knows computer research tools like In fact, on her first day at the museum she successfully helped a visiting researcher find information on computer that I would have had much difficulty finding (if I could at all).

I am increasingly proud of our growing list of volunteers at the museum.

These great people, along with a few more that I hope will be joining us soon, will make it possible for the museum to step up yet another notch this year in several areas. With more available time and good people helping, I hope to expand our museum research and publication capabilities in 2007, as well as improve and expand our already popular displays. I also hope to expand our outreach programs by doing more talks and presentations to various groups outside the museum.

We have never been short of ideas...just short of capability. Many of you know that I have long joked about my "Hundred Item List", to which I often add ideas and projects to do when (and if) we can ever get the time or money.

Well, with good people like these, along with a few more, we may actually begin to reduce that number down a bit!

>> Salt Kettle display finally coming together.

The museum was given a huge (78 gallon) old pioneer salt kettle about a year ago, but several things delayed us from making a display that the item deserved. Well it is finally, nearly complete. The four-foot diameter iron kettle now hangs from ancient-looking tripod that was custom- made for us (and donated to us) by local blacksmith and artist Phil Fortwenler some time ago. The tripod sets on a platform that appears to be a real, burned-out log fire, with a smaller salt kettle laying to one side and a copper apple butter kettle on the other. I still need to add some "grass", some better signage, and eventually a better backdrop, but the kettle no longer sets forlornly by itself on the museum floor. Again, having more volunteers on staff is allowing me to get some of these long-delayed projects done!

>> Photos donated of 1961 and 1997 floods.

Jason Crenshaw has been stopping in the museum from time to time and visiting with us. The other day Jason donated his collection of photos of the 1961 and 1997 floods in Shepherdsville, as well as several old newspaper clippings. The clippings have already been scanned into our computer archives and the flood photos added to our growing collection. Though a collection of photos of an event so recent as 1997 might not at first seem worthy of a museum, we all know that one day they will be. I just wish someone had done such a thing during some of our more ancient local events.

And that we had had a museum to store them in and to preserve them! But hey, Friends!, now we do!

>> Trunnell Cemetery progress.

As I reported back in November, at the request of several folks, I have been looking into restoring the old overgrown Trunnell family cemetery off of Chapeze Lane. Well, I am happily surprised to report what is looking like good success! I think I have a commitment of some good people to remove the brush, along with scrub and dead trees, for the firewood that is in them. I might have a great offer from a fence company to provide the fencing material for free (only charging for labor). I also have access to a small supply of special epoxy for repairing stones, and leads for help on some other work such as resetting a beautiful old toppled monument that will probably be 18 feet tall when reassembled.

We'll see if it all really happens, but for now possibilities are looking surprisingly bright.

>> Lloyd House book signing goes well

I am happy to report that the book signing at the Mt. Washington Historical Society's Lloyd House Museum, that we had told you about in these e-newsletters, went very well. Donna Hall tells me that the "Kentucky's Civil War" book signing drew some fifty people, a huge crowd for such a local event. That's great news! I regret personally missing it, but, unfortunately, my father went into the hospital with apparent heart trouble just before the meeting. Dad's doing better now and is home, but Time continues to take its toll on all of us..

Historic Preservations

I was surprised to learn recently that it is no longer recommended to oil leather and wood items for long-term preservation. At a training session at the Kentucky History Museum, Mike Hudson, Director at the Callahan Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind, said that current thinking is that oil just attracts dust and other pollutants. It is far more important to store the item, such as a leather glove or shaped wood piece, in its proper shape, supported by archival forms or acid-free paper. By the way, visit Mike's fine museum in Louisville when you get the chance. It is a real learning experience in itself.

Most of us know that light is one of the worst enemies of artifact preservation. I was recently reminded of this when some old newspapers were shown to me that had not been taken out of a deep, dark trunk for some sixty years. Though getting brittle, the papers were in surprisingly good shape. You can see quite quickly how light damages items such as paper with this simple experiment: Take a brand new newspaper from under a stack of papers; quickly place one page somewhere very dark; place another out in bright sunlight; compare the two after just a few hours and you may be amazed at how much difference there is in the paper color. Today's cheap newspaper material is particularly acidic and prone to damage, even when stored carefully, but almost all items are prone to damage from light. A museum has to strike a balance between total preservation that would keep items stored away forever, and displaying items out where they can be seen (and light damaged).

For Your Information...

>> Kentucky Explorer Magazine on web..

The Kentucky Explorer is a paper magazine that is published (I think) monthly, containing some hundred pages full of information, photos, and stories about Kentucky history. More than I can usually read before the next one comes out. The magazine has a web site at

Finally..."The Christmas Eve Train wreck of 1888"

I have written a few times in the past about the great train wreck of December 1917, the worst train wreck in L&N Railroad history that killed some fifty people right here in Shepherdsville.

Well, thanks to the November 2006 issue of the Kentucky Explorer magazine, I have learned of another Christmastime train wreck in Bullitt County, this one right on Christmas Eve.

This 1888 wreck occurred at Bardstown Junction, a few miles further south than the later 1917 Shepherdsville disaster. Today Bardstown Junction is barely noticeable, with only a fruit stand and a couple of houses. But in 1888, and for many years after, Bardstown Junction was a pretty busy community, with its own nice depot, a store, railroad work buildings, and I think even a small hotel.

The Kentucky Explorer, republishing a long Courier Journal newspaper report that had been published on Christmas day, gives much more detail than I can go into in this newsletter, but I will do my best to give the main story here.

The accident occurred at 9:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The morning mail and passenger train (known as Number 23, bound for Knoxville) was standing at the junction, "delayed by the unusually heavy holiday express business". Travelers leisurely stretched outside their two passenger cars and people from the neighborhood thronged the platform.

"Suddenly there appeared from behind the curve, on the Louisville side of the station, another train (known as The Cannon Ball, Number 5, heading for Nashville), moving at frightful speed straight down on the motionless train." Bystanders did not have time to even react before the oncoming train, "backed by a heavy train of cars, crashed full speed" into the mail/passenger train. In an instant, the moving train plowed right through the middle of the passenger cars, scattering wood and iron like toothpicks. What was left of the first cars were jammed into the rest like a telescope. Dust, steam, and smoke covered all.

Conductor M.C. Haight, Engineer Milton L. McFerran, and Fireman Charles King ran the Cannon Ball, expecting a clear track ahead and planning to blow through Bardstown Junction without needing to slow down. The conductor of the mail train was O. S. Ray.

The speeding train was already only a few hundred feet from striking the mail train when a few shouts of horror went up. Fireman King, seeing what was about to happen, leapt from his engine, hoping to avoid death but knowing his slim chance of survival. Engineer McFerran hit the brakes and reversed engine but there was no time for it to take effect. The engineer could be seen in the cabin fixedly staring at his situation as the train rammed through.

The first of the two passenger cars was split in two "from end to end" and the second car nearly so. The forward cars were smashed together much as soda cans would be smashed today. Smoke, fire, and steam erupted from the locomotives. People that had been standing nearby dove in to rescue the injured. Miraculously, no one had been in the first car, thus many potential deaths were averted. The locomotive of the Cannon Ball was deeply imbedded into the second coach, with scalding steam erupting from the burst boiler, making rescue impossible there until the steam subsided. A man, named miller, appeared in a broken window at the forward end of the car and he was rescued, though very badly scalded. Engineer McFerran was pried out from the engine cabin, "more dead than alive". A woman and a boy had died instantly in the rail car, "mangled beyond recognition". They were later identified as Mrs. Mary Perkins and Willie Houston, of Hodgenville.

Amazingly, they were the only deaths. Mary Kinnaird of Louisville, and Johnny Mount (ten years old, who might have later died as well) of LaGrange were pulled from the wreckage and were the worst injured. Mrs. J.R. Mount of LaGrange, Phil B. Thompson of Shepherdsville, and Bertha Robner of East Bernstadt were seriously injured and several others sustained minor injuries.

Fireman King, who had jumped from the Cannon Ball, was found unconscious and very badly hurt.

It was charged that Engineer McFerran and Fireman King violated one of the most stringent rules of the L&N in running fast through Bardstown Junction.

So much of this story is hauntingly similar to the much larger wreck to come in 1917, but with trains coming down the L&N tracks nearly every twenty half hour in those days, rail travel was much like expressway travel today. And I believe I read recently that some forty THOUSAND people die every year on U.S. roadways.

Still, the death of each one is dramatic and painful whether by train, plane, or car.

Death can come so quickly, tragedy so suddenly.

Let's enjoy one another this Christmas season, while we have one another to enjoy.

Abundant Blessings to you all.

Thank you for being a Friend of Bullitt County History.

David Strange
Bullitt County History Museum
Executive Director
Museum Phone: 502-921-0161
E-Mail address:

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 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. 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: 12 Sep 2020 . Page URL: