Johnathan Luther "Casey" Jones

Casey Jones was an engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad. He became famous after a song was written about the train wreck in which he lost his life. The accident occurred on the Illinois Central Railroad near Vaughan, Mississippi.

The following is a copy of the official report of the accident in which Casey Jones was killed.


Chicago May 10, 1900

Subject: Collision of trains 1 and 83
Vaughn, 4-30-1900.

Mr. J. T. Jarahan
Second Vice President

Dear Sir:

Referring to 478 report No. 26 of the Water Valley District, Mississippi Division, and various telegrams from Asst. Gen. Superintendent Gilleas covering case of passenger train No. 1 engine No. 382, Conductor J. C. Turner, Engineer J. L. Jones, running into rear of freight train No. 83, Engine Nos. 870 and 871, Engineers J. Markett and C. W. Marchison, Conductor E. Hoke at Vaughn, Miss., 3:52 A.M. April 30, 1900, in which Engineer Jones of No. 1 was killed and the following persons injured, settlement of various cases having been effected as shown by amounts opposite names:

Simon Webb, Fireman Train No. 1, body bruises jumping off engine 382 $5.00
Wm. Miller, Express messenger, slight injuries $25.00
W. L. Whiteside, Postal Clerk, Jarred $1.00
R. A. Ford, Postal Clerk, Jarred $1.00

Reports received to date indicate that Engineer Jones of the passenger train, who lost his life in the accident, was alone responsible for the accident as train No. 83 which was obstructing the main track at Vaughn while sawing by train No. 26 was properly protected by flagman, who had gone back a distance of 3,000 feet, where he had placed torpedoes on the rail; thence continued north a further distance of 500 to 800 feet, where he stood and gave signals to train No. 1; which signals, however, were apparently not observed by Engineer Jones; nor is it believed he heard the explosion of torpedoes, as his train continued toward the station at a high rate of speed, notwithstanding the fact it was moving up grade; collision occurring at a point 210 feet north of the north passing track switch. It is also stated that Engineer Jones of Train No. 1 failed to sound whistle for the station when passing whistling board.

Jones entered the service of this Company as a fireman in March 1888, was promoted to position of engineer in February 1890, since which date his record has been as follows:

Engineer Jones was promoted to position of engineer in February 1890 and had a reasonable good record not having been disciplined for the past three years. He had been assigned to passenger service between Memphis and Canton about sixty days before collision occurred and at the first opportunity thereafter Supt. King had talked to him about the importance of the trains to which he had been assigned, instructing him to use good judgement, especially in stormy weather; to keep close lookout for signals at all times, particularly in approaching and passing through stations and yards; adding that the train he would handle had been successfully handled by other engineers who are on the runs and that satisfactory time had been made. He particularly instructed Jones not to attempt to do any reckless running with view of establishing a record of making fast time, or better time than the other men on the runs. Jones work up to the time of the accident had been satisfactory.

The actual damage of this collision amounted to $3,323.75.

Trains 1st 72, 83, 1st 26 and 2nd 26 were at Vaughn Station for No. 2; first and second No. 26 occupied the house track, which was clear, and 1st 72 and 83 occupied the passing track, which lacked about ten car lengths of holding the two trains. After sawing the two sections of No. 26 in at the south end, 1st 72 and 83, while moving south on passing track to clear No.1 at North end, stopped before going into clear account air hose bursting on a car in 1st 72, the rear end of No. 83 fouling the main track.

Flagman J. M. Newberry of No. 83 who was provided with necessary signals had gone back to place torpedoes, also to signal the Engineer of No. 1 to stop and altho he had an unobstructed view of the flagman for 1-1/2 miles, he failed to heed the signals, and the train was not stopped until the collision occurred. The explosion was heard by crews of trains at Vaughn Station; by Fireman S. Webb (colored) on No. 1 and by the postal clerks and baggagemen of the train. Fireman Webb states that between Pickens and Vaughn Stations after putting in a fire, he was called to the side of Engineer Jones, who lost his life in the accident, and they talked about the new whistle which had been put on the engine in Memphis; Jones stated that going into Canton it would arouse the people of the town. This was the first trip with the new whistle and Jones was much pleased with it. Fireman Webb states that after talking with Jones, he stepped down to the deck to put in a fire, and just as he was in the act of stooping for the shovel he heard the explosion of the torpedo. He immediately went to the gangway on Engineers side and saw a flagman with red and white lights standing alongside the tracks; going then to the fireman's side he saw the markers on caboose of No. 83. He then called to Engineer Jones that there was a train ahead, and feeling that the Engineer would not be able to stop the train in time to prevent an accident, told him he was going to jump off, which he did, about 300 feet for the caboose of No. 83. Fireman Webb further states that when the torpedo was exploded, Train No. 1 was running 75 miles per hour; that Engineer Jones immediately applied the air brakes and that when he left the engine, speed had been reduced to about 50 miles per hour. He also states that had he or Engineer Jones looked ahead they would have seen the flagman in ample time to have stopped before striking No. 83. Train 25 was also flagged by flagman Newberry and stopped where he stood which was in the same location from which Train No. 1 was flagged.

Train No. 1 met Train No. 2 at Goodman Station, No. 1 arriving at Goodman on time and taking the siding; it left there five minutes late, and at the time of collision was two minutes late.

Trains Nos. 1st 72 and 83 would not both have been at Vaughn Station for train No. 1 but for the fact that No. 83 while pulling into the siding to let No. 25 pass, pulled out two drawbars, which resulted in delay that prevented No. 83 from going beyond Vaughn Station for the two sections of No. 26 and No. 1

As shown above, Engineer Jones was solely responsible for the collision by reason of having disregarded the signals given by flagman Newberry.

(s) A. W. Sullivan
General Superintendent

Casey Jones is believed to have been born on March 14, 1863 in Southeastern Missouri, but spent his early childhood in Cayce, Kentucky. His first railroad job was as a cub operator in the Mobile & Ohio Railway yard in Columbus, Kentucky in 1878. He received the nickname Casey since he was formerly from Cayce, Kentucky. He worked his way up as brakeman and later fireman on the M&O between Jackson, Tennessee and Mobile, Alabama. He married Janie Brady in 1887 and they would have three children, Charles, Helen, and John Lloyd. In 1888 he moved to the Illinois Central as a fireman on the Water Valley and Jackson (TN) Districts. In 1890 he became an engineer on the Illinois Central. In 1893 he attended the Chicago's World Fair and obtained permission to bring engine 638, which was on display, back to Water Valley, Mississippi for service in the Jackson District. The engine was primarily his for the next seven years. In 1900 he was promoted to passenger engineer. He was assigned engine 382, a Rogers Ten-Wheeler, to pull the train between Memphis, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi. On the morning of Monday, April 30, 1900 Casey Jones died in the accident at Vaughan, Mississippi that made him famous. A Negro engine wiper from Canton, Wallace Saunders, who had been a close friend of Casey composed a ballad that created the legend. Engine 382 was repaired after the wreck at Vaughan and placed back in service. It was wrecked again about 1903 in south Tennessee and scrapped. A similar engine is on display numbered as 382 at the Casey Jones museum in Jackson, Tennessee.

Photo of the Worlds Fair engine Casey drove for seven years.

Casey's engine in Water Valley, Miss. after being rebuilt.

Two photographs believed to have been taken at accident site.


There are many conflicting stories about the wreck.

May 10, 2012