"Their bodies were covered with the wreckage of logs"

Posted by | November 27, 2017

The 1912 Barranshe Run mishap was one of the more dramatic log train wrecks in West Virginia history.

As the Nicholas County story became legendary, Cherry River Boom and Lumber Company‘s runaway train gained additional notoriety as the subject of a local blind poet, who supported himself by selling copies of his works for a nickel on Oakford Avenue in Richwood,WV. The poem brought additional attention to the accident, popularizing it more than recounting of the wreck circulated by word of mouth.

Like so many items from the past, today there are several uncertainties about the poem. In one version of the poem, Charles Lough [one of 3 railroadmen known to have been killed in the accident] is replaced by Luke King, and the identities of the loadermen seem a bit uncertain. Although the poem leads to a degree of confusion, it is invaluable in many respects-including verifying the date of the accident.

As for the story behind the poem, one version is that J. A. Howell of Diana wrote and peddled it with his other poetry. Another recollection is that J. A. Collins was the blind poet from Diana. Jim Comstock, editor of the West Virginia Hillbilly, prefers the story that J. A. Howell originated the rhyme, adding that Howell wrote other poems about mountain railroading.

Log Train Runaway on Barranshe Run 1912, by George Deike, publ. in The Log Train, issue 80, Nov 2004

log train runaway on Cranberry RiverOriginal photo caption reads: Before the clean up: wreckage strewn down the hillside on Barranshe Run. Visible are several tracks from the skeleton log cars, the Barnhart loader, and Cherry River Boom and Lumber Co. No. 7’s diamond smokestack.


On Cranberry River,
Up Barren-She Run,
The trainmen seemed jolly,
Were having their fun,

Eight cars they had loaded,
And four empties, it seemed,
The crew got on board and
turned on the steam.

Ivan Green jumped off
As she started down hill;
They had lost all control,
It was running at will,

Dick Green and Luke King
Both jumped off alarmed;
Near eighty rod further the
excitement grew worse,

The further the faster
Those loaded cars flew.
Frazier Adams, engineer,
Jumped off and was killed;

His head struck a tie,
His brains they were spilled,
Joe Taylor, conductor,
And Russell Berry turned brake.

Both stood to their places,
Which was a mistake.
For the cars jumped the track,
And their lives fled as fog

Their bodies were covered
With the wreckage of logs.
The engine still rolling
And left on the road

Pete King, (the log rollerman)
Alone left on board.
The engine turned over
In Barren-She Run

But, Pete, he slipped out
Of the cab as she turned.
So, he took a tie-ticket
For Camp Four, so they say;

And he arrived there quickly,
The very same day.
For he thought himself all
That was left to tell now

The crew, cars and engine
Broke up in a row.
Squire Thomas and Doctor McClung
Got the word and rushed

To the scene – as quick as they could,
Ivan Green and Dick King
Were both badly hurt,
So Doctor McClung was
Soon put to work.

I must speak of an act
Joe Taylor in Life;
He left some support for his
children and wife.

Sixteen-hundred dollars,
In a check that was good,
His wife she received from their
good brotherhood.

Taylor, Adams and Berry
Were three youngful men,
So prompt in their business,
But sudden their end.

Their bodies were mangled,
In all abscess.
Their spirits departed:
They greatly are missed.

But, those four should be thankful,
To God for their breath,
He, the Great Prophet,
Hath saved them from death,

That they may have time
To prepare for the grave:
God is always able and willing
to save.

I am grateful to Paul Richard Greathouse of Richwood, WV for the generous research assistance and time he offered on this post.

Barranshe+Run Richwood+WV log+train+wrecks blind+poet+of+WV JA+Howell appalachia appalachia+history Appalachian+ballads appalachian+mountains+history

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