Mrs. Casey Jones

Mrs. Janie Brady Jones, wife of Casey Jones, was 90 when railroad historian Bruce Gurner spent an afternoon talking with her in Jackson, Tennessee. “Her mind was as sharp as could be as we talked about her life as a young railroader’s wife in the 1890’s. In speaking of Casey, she invariable referred to him as Mr. Jones,” Gurner says. “I was perplexed at the formality but didn’t ask the reason. We talked for several hours about events and people whom I never knew but had found their names on old seniority rosters or in the records of the Brotherhood lodges.”

Mrs. Casey Jones, born Janie Brady, grew up in a boarding house which her mother operated in Jackson, Tennessee. She came to know railroading and the men who ran into Jackson on both the Mobile and Ohio and the Illinois Central Railroads. Casey was firing on the M & O between Jackson and Mobile when he and Janie met and married in 1886. Two years later he transferred as fireman to the Illinois Central with his seniority board at Water Valley. For most of their married life the Jones’s lived in Jackson. They moved once to Water Valley for two years when Casey took a job running as engineer between Water Valley and Canton, Mississippi.

“I asked about the stay in Water Valley,” Gurner says. “She said they lived in two locations while there. One home was on north Main Street, the other up on top of Wood Street. Her third child, John Lloyd, was born during the time in Water Valley.”

At the time of Casey's death, Mrs. Jones received insurance payments from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. He was "doubleheading"; belonging to both organizations and had $1500.00 insurance with each. In addition she received, a year later, a settlement from the Illinois Central of $2650.00. In this latter settlement, she had the services of Earl Brewer, a young lawyer in Water Valley who was to become Governor of Mississippi.

After Casey's death, Mrs. Jones established a boarding house for railroad men near the Illinois Central shops and yards in Jackson and here raised her children; Charles, Helen and John Lloyd. Her hospitality, along with the fact that she was known to most of the men, assured a thriving business so that "Mrs. Jones Boarding House" in Jackson was well known and well patronized for many years.

Frank Calender tell the story about the time he was firing passenger into Jackson for Mr. Peter J. Gaffney. " A bunch of us got caught away from home up there one Christmas. Mrs. Jones fed us a good supper and afterwards we decided to have us a little poker game. Didn't last long though, and when she knocked on the door I cleaned the table of money, cards and everything. I came out pretty good winner that night."

No gambling, no drinking and very little profanity was the order of the day. Once in a while Mrs. Jones would run a fellow off and dare him to come back. This happened to one particular engineer of unusually dirty habits who insisted on going to bed with his overcoat and shoes on when the weather was extremely cold. Mrs. Jones counseled with him so forcefully about the matter that he thereafter sought lodging elsewhere.

As the years passed after the wreck and Casey's fame grew, Mrs. Jones was frequently asked to appear on radio programs or ceremonies honoring her husband. Being a very

Mrs. Jones was a special guest of the St. Francois County Railroad Club at Bonne Terre, Missouri, on October 8, 1949. She is shown with a model of the 382 which was built by Harry L. Woodson, sheet metal tinner at St. Louis, and the whistle from Casey's engine.
resourceful person she most frequently set out alone. She thought nothing of getting on the train in Jackson and going all way to New York City without the benefit of ticket or pass. She had a little card on which was typed: "I am Mrs. Casey Jones of Jackson, Tennessee. I wish to ride your train," or words to this effect. Conductors were usually very gracious to her and took her as far as she wished. Only once did one give her any problem, she said, and after the "boys" talked to him she had no more trouble. Widows of Brotherhood men “in good standing” were treated in a very considerate manner by railroaders.

Gurner asked Mrs. Jones if she remembered the time when Bob Moore broke his leg while taking water at Shandy Tank. "Sure I do,” she said. “Frank Newell picked Bob up like a baby and carried him to my boarding house where the company doctor set his leg. They carried him down that evening late and put him on #5 and sent him back to Water Valley. Frank was a big strong fellow-- but son you are not old enough to remember that."

Gurner told her that he certainly didn't remember it but had found an account written in the old minute book of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen in Water Valley where the lodge had paid the hearse to carry Brother Moore from the train to his boarding house. “This happened in ‘97 or ‘98, and Mrs. Jones recounted the incident just like Mr. Moore told it when I asked him during one of my visits to his home in Winfield, Alabama. He was taking water at Shandy, coming north, when the slack ran out of train and moved the engine just enough to pin his leg between the down spout and the side of the tank.”

She told of the time that Ringling Bros. Circus train got caught behind a wreck north of Water Valley and decided to unload part of the circus and show right there in Water Valley. This was a great event, for a little burg like Water Valley hardly rated a big circus like Ringling Brothers. She wanted to see that circus real bad and Casey couldn't lay off so he got a couple of "the boys" to take her and the children. “The boys” was her term for Casey’s friends and lodge brothers.

Among those friends were Jack Kirby and "Red" Myers, two young engineers who were his closest Water Valley buddies and John Wesley “Mac” McKinnie who fired for him in the late 90's when he was running the 638 on the Jackson District. Truth of the matter is, Casey had many friends; he was genuinely liked by the men he worked with.

Mrs. Jones said she was never too happy living in Water Valley, but she liked to come down to the Watermelon Carnivals in the 1930's. One carnival day she came down on #23, the morning train, and spent the mid-day hours at Knox's Drug Store where the retired railroaders "hung out." She had a good visit and was enjoying herself so much she forgot about the time. Northbound #24 came in, loaded up and was ready to go and there was no Mrs. Jones. Knowing well that they better not leave her, Dick Reynolds, the engineer pulled up and stopped clear of the Wood Street crossing. Rip Horton, the flagman, went over cross Main Street to the drugstore. "Mrs. Jones, you're holding up a mighty important train out here; are you going back with us.

“Rip, boy, you better not go off and leave me in this town; let's go." And with that they stopped traffic and escorted Mrs. Jones over to the waiting train where Conductor Stevenson and Porter John Knox helped her aboard and off they went. They might have left some folks, but they sure weren't going to leave Mrs. Jones--she had raised them to know better.

Gurner says that mention of the great 1893 World Fair at Chicago brought light to Mrs. Jones eyes. She had read and heard

Mrs. Jones with Conductor E. E. Jolly and Engineer William Boedeke before the first run of the Panama Limited. Photo is believed to have been taken in Chicago in early 1942.
so many good things about the fair that summer that she was very anxious to visit Chicago and the fair. Casey was able to "borrow out" in suburban service because most of the burden of transporting the thousands of visitors to the fairgrounds had fallen on the ICRR. A call was sent out for trainmen who wished to work in commuter service to come to the big city so the Jones’s went to Chicago. There was, fortunately, a reliable person available who would care for the children, so they did not feel afraid to leave them.

Since 1937 when the Railroad Retirement plan was put in effect widows of railroaders have received pensions, but such was not the case with Mrs. Jones. Casey had died long before there was any retirement or pension plan so his survivors got no assistance at all, except his insurance. Mrs. Jones operated her boarding house, raising her family and supporting herself into advanced years. Only in her last years did she agree to break up her home and live in a rest home. She was 92 when she died. She was buried alongside Casey in the Catholic cemetery, Mt. Calvary, in Jackson.

Mrs. Casey Jones's Obituaries

MRS. CASEY JONES has now joined her husband in the "promised land." Since 1957 she had been the lone survivor of the triumvirate that linked her in legend and song with the famed engineer and his fireman, Sim Webb. Word of her passing at Jackson, Tenn., on November 21, reached the magazine just as the December issue was coming off the press.

Janie Brady was scarcely out of pigtails when, about 1884, she met John Luther Jones. Hailing from Cayce, Ky., he had recently arrived in Jackson to take a flagman's job on the old M&O. Janie's mother ran a boarding house in Jackson and it was here, while helping her mother serve a group of hungry railroad men, that she first met the tall, handsome, Irish youth. They soon fell in love and were married at St. Mary's Catholic Church in 1886.

Casey, who had been nicknamed after his hometown, soon proved he was a "natural born railroad man." It wasn't long before he was piloting trains on the Illinois Central. It was on the Jackson-Water Valley, Miss., run that the engineer gained his reputation as a fast roller, known by the

Mrs. Jones had a new permanent and a new dress when a (Jackson, Tennessee) SUN photographer made this portrait August 23, 1956. On her hand she wore a gold wedding band given to her by Casey.
distinctive "whippoorwill call" of his locomotive whistle. Casey was driving Locomotive 382 on the Memphis to Canton, Miss., run on the night of April 30, 1900, when his Cannon Ball Express rounded a curve at Vaughan, Miss. Seeing a freight car ahead, he commanded his fireman, Sim Webb, to jump to safety while he rode into eternity and American folklore, not knowing he had saved all but himself.

Casey left his widow with two sons and a daughter. A motherly woman, she lived quietly in Jackson, Tenn., but as time passed she became somewhat of a celebrity. Frequently over the years she was feted at various events such as the World's Fair in New York in 1939. She also appeared on Ripley's Believe It Or Not" radio show and at the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948. In addition, she took part in the ceremony at Vaughan, Miss., when a state highway historical marker was dedicated beside the scene of the fateful crash and, in her home town, on Casey Jones Day in Tennessee in 1950 when three-cent stamps honoring the famous engineer went on sale.

One of her last public appearances occurred when the Casey Jones Railroad Museum was opened in Jackson, Tenn., in 1956. At that time she snipped a red ribbon opening to the public the door of her former home. This is a little white house where Casey and his family lived and which has been restored as much as possible to the way it looked when Casey lived there. Mrs. Jones never profited a cent from her husband's fame. Although she liked the song about him and honored his memory, she avoided listening to it whenever possible because of the last verse.

Mrs. Jones was a member of War Mothers of World War I, and was active for some time in Catholic church organizations. Survivors include her son, Charles B. Jones, Illinois Central pipe fitter, Jackson Shop, and his son, C. B. Jr., machinist, Fulton Shop; a daughter, Mrs. George McKenzie of Mobile, Ala.; eight grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren, and one sister, Mrs. W. J. Ryan of Dallas, Tex. One of Mrs. Jones' sons, John Luther, Jr., was killed in action in France during World War I. The Negro fireman, Simeon T. Webb, died in Memphis in 1957 at the age of 83. - Illinois Central Magazine - January 1959

She and Casey
Met, Married
In Jackson
Mrs. Casey Jones is dead.

The hundreds of newspaper magazine articles written about her before her death told the world that Casey Jones was more than the product of a songwriter's imagination.

It was about the year 1884 when Janie Brady, scarcely out of pigtails. met John Luther Jones, He had recently arrived in Jackson to take a flagman's job on the old M&O. The handsome six-foot-four inch Irish youth pulled up a chair at Mrs. Brady's boarding house and a group of railroaders seated around the table welcomed him.

"Here's the new flagman on M&O."

"What's your name, boy?”

"Jones. John L. Jones."

"Where you from?"

"Cayce, Kentucky."

“Well, sit down Casey!”

And thus the hero of an American railroading legend was christened.

Janie, helping her mother serve the hungry men, fell in love with the clear-eyed, strong jawed boy. They were married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Nov. 25, 1886. Casey was 22 and Janie was only 16.

Casey Jones soon proved he was a "natural born railroad man." Before long he was promoted to engineer on an Illinois Central freight on the Jackson-Water Valley, Miss., run. Here he gained a reputation as a "fast roller" but the thing that set him apart from the other engineers, it is said, was the way he handled the whistle cord.

The sound of the whistle has been described variously by old-timers as "a sort of whippoorwill call" and "like the war cry of a Viking."

Was Casey Jones a hero? "Perhaps not to those with small imaginations," railroad historians have written. "Casey Jones was something of a swashbuckler and a show-off, perhaps like Babe Ruth," they say. "But genuine and down-to-earth, like Johnny Appleseed. A man who did his job, enjoyed life and put a little color and romance into what some would call the ordinary. He was a truly American hero." - unknown newspaper

Mrs. Casey Jones,
Widow of Engineer
And a Legend, Dies

Mrs. Janie Brady Jones, 92, wife of legendary engineer Casey Jones, died this morning at 4 o'clock at Blue Haven Nursing Home on Muse Street She had suffered a stroke several weeks ago. Her body is at Griffin Funeral Home where it will remain until funeral services Saturday at 9:30 a. m., at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Father Vincent Hines will say the Requiem Mass.

A Rosary will be said tonight at 7 o'clock at Griffin Chapel.

Mrs. Jones was born, reared and educated in Jackson. Her parents were the late Charles B. and Annie C. Brady. She was active in her church until failing health prevented her from taking an active part. She was a member of War Mothers of World War I, She was a member of the Altar Society and had served as president of that organization. She also served as secretary of Catholic Knights and Ladies of America during the organization's existence.

Her husband preceded her in death April 30, 1900. One of her sons also preceded her in death, in 1935. She is survived by another son, Charlie B. Jones of Jackson; one daughter, Mrs. George McKenzie of Mobile, Ala.; eight grandchildren 18 great grandchildren; one sister, Mrs. W. J. Ryan of Dallas, Texas.

The following pallbearers are requested to meet at 9 a. m. Saturday at Griffin: Robert W. McKenzie, Bob T. McKenzie, Charles B. Jones Jr., John Howse, John E. Coughlin, Judge LeRoy Pope. - The Jackson Sun - November 21, 1958

Casey Jones Main Page


Web page created by Jack Gurner
For more information please contact:

Copyright © 2000 Jack Gurner