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Casey Jones was a railroad engineer known for his speed who died in 1900, when he collided with another train. He was immortalized as an American folk hero with the release of Wallace Saunders's song "The Ballad of Casey Jones."
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when he collided with another train. A ballad written by Wallace Saunders entitled "The Battle of Casey Jones" made Jones a permanent figure in American folklore.
Famed American folk hero Casey Jones was born John Luther Jones on March 14, 1864, in a rural part of southeastern Missouri. When Jones was a young boy, his father, Frank Jones, a school teacher, and his mother, Ann Nolan Jones, determined that the backwoods of Missouri offered little opportunity for their family, and, subsequently, the Jones family moved to Cacey, Kentucky—a town that was the source of Jones's nickname: "Casey."
While growing up in Cacey, Jones became extremely interested in the railroad and aspired to become an engineer. The American railroad passenger system was a relatively new and exciting mode of transportation, as people were able to travel great distances at high speeds.
At the age of 15, Casey Jones moved to Columbus, Kentucky, and began working as a telegrapher for the Mobile and Ohio railroad. In 1884, he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he was promoted at M&O to the position of flagman. While living in a boarding house in Jackson, Jones met and fell in love with Joanne "Janie" Brady, the daughter of a proprietor. The couple wed on November 26, 1886, and moved into a place of their own in Jackson. They would have two sons and a daughter together.
Jones was successful at M&O, quickly moving up the ranks. In 1891, he was offered a job at Illinois Central Railroad as an engineer. Jones earned a reputation as an engineer who would always stay on schedule, even if it meant pushing the train to great and sometimes dangerous speeds—a trait that made him a popular employee. The public began to recognize Jones for the "whippoorwill call" he would make on the engine's whistle while driving through towns.
On April 30, 1900, Jones volunteered to work a double shift to cover for a fellow engineer who was ill. He had just completed a run from Canton, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee, and was now faced with the task of returning on board Engine No. 1 headed southbound. Sam Webb, a fireman for Illinois Central, accompanied Jones on the journey. The train was originally running more than an hour and a half behind, and Jones, determined to arrive as scheduled, ran the steam locomotive at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour in an effort to make up the time.
As Jones took a turn into Vaughan, Mississippi, Webb warned him that there was another train parked on the tracks ahead of them.
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