Ben Dewberry's Final Run
DESCRIPTION: Ben Dewberry tells his fireman never to fear, and that there are two more roads he wants to ride, and otherwise forecasts disaster. After passing over a trestle and switch, without warning the train derails and Dewberry is killed
AUTHOR: Rev. Andrew Jenkins
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (copyright)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Ben Dewberry tells his fireman never to fear, and that there are two more roads he wants to ride, and to "put your head out the window, watch the drivers roll." It begins to rain; he predicts that they "may make Atlanta but we'll all be dead." After passing over a trestle and switch, without warning the train derails and Dewberry is killed
KEYWORDS: train death railroading work crash disaster wreck floatingverses worker
Aug. 23, 1908: According to Norm Cohen [internet communication; the information is not in _Long Steel Rail_], Engineer Benjamin Franklin Dewberry killed when the Southern Railway's #38 crashes after young boys place a bolt on the tracks because they "wanted to see what a wreck would look like"
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Lyle-ScaldedToDeathByTheSteam, p. 176, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-LongSteelRail, pp. 158-162, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia1, pp. 312-313, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (1 text)
Frankie Marvin, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (Brunswick 153, 1928; Supertone 2055 [as The Texas Ranger], 1930) (Edison 52436, 1928; Edison 20002, 1929) (Banner 7179/Challenge 691/Conqueror 7164 [also issued as by Frank Nelson]/Domino 0253/Jewel 5351/Oriole 1297/Regal 8605 [all as Frankie Wallace], 1928)
Jimmie Rodgers, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (Victor 21245, 1928; Bluebird B-5482/Montgomery Ward M-4224, 1934)
Irene Sargent, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (AFS 13125 B17, n.d.)
Hank Snow, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (RCA Victor 20-4096, 1951; in album P-310; RCA Victor 47-4096, n.d.; in album WP-310)
Joe Steen, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" (Champion 16258, 1931)
cf. "Casey Jones (I)" [Laws G1], especially the subgroup "Kassie Jones" [Furry Lewis recording] (lyrics, structure)
cf. "Joseph Mica (Mikel) (The Wreck of the Six-Wheel Driver) (Been on the Choly So Long)" [Laws I16] (lyrics, structure)
NOTES [226 words]: While clearly a composed song, Norm Cohen notes its strong affinity with older forms such as Furry Lewis's "Kassie Jones" blues-ballad and the "Joseph Mica/Milwaukee Blues/Jay Gould's Daughter" family of songs. Indeed, three of the five verses are shared with those songs. - PJS
Said verses being instruction to the fireman not to fear; the two more roads Dewberry would like to ride; the suggestion, "put your head out the windows, see the drivers roll"; and the prediction "we may make Atlanta but we'll all be dead."
Lyle notes that this song is unusually inaccurate for one composed based on immediate news reports; her suggestion is that Jenkins wrote it very quickly, on the day the first news broke, before full details were known. I don't think this follows; Jenkins never cared much about facts (withness all the errors in "Floyd Collins" [Laws G22] "Frank Dupree" [Laws E24]; also, in "Thomas E. Watson," he praised a man whose stock in trade was racial vitriol). But it's possible.
Lyle reports that the boy who put the bolt on the track was one Lewis Cooksie. Reportedly Engineer Dewberry and his fireman stayed with the engine after it derailed, and were fatally scalded; this helped the passengers to survive (Lyle does not say how). It took some time for Dewberry to die; he had time to summon his wife, who reached him just before he died. - RBW
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