By J. K. Gurner
Now that I have introduced you to Casey Jones, the most famous railroad engineer who worked and died on the railroad, I want to tell you about some of the others who worked for the railroad but were not so famous. The year that Casey was killed over 300 other railroad workers died in the United States.
But, because of the twist of fate of having a song written about him, only Casey became famous.
The man I want to tell you about this week is engineer Tom Myers. Tom was almost three when he came to Water Valley with his family in 1888. His father and one brother went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. When Tom was about seven years old, he went to work in the Yocona Twine Mill. At the age of 16 the Illinois Central hired Tom as a callboy. As the story goes, when Tom was hired by the railroad he went to the Twine Mill and got his mother and told her she would never have to work there again.
Tom was promoted to fireman at the age of 19 and was moved to the right side of the cab as an engineer at 23. Engineer Myers worked for the ICRR for 45 years, and only retired then because of bad health.
Tom – like many others at that time – had no formal education. But, he was never held back due to lake of knowledge. He was always very concerned about the city of Water Valley and the people who lived here. Tom ran for office and was first elected as an Alderman in 1923. For the next 26 years he served as Alderman, Vice Mayor, and Mayor.
In 1923 Tom was married to Miss Lois Gean of Water Valley. The ceremony was held in their new home and they raised a family and lived the rest of their lives in that house that Tom built. Mr. and Mrs. Myers kept their home at 1212 North Main Street in spotless condition. The back yard was full of roses that Tom tended to himself. Tom thought that white made a place look clean, so he whitewashed everything; the wall around the yard, the tree trunks and the fence around the rose garden. The folks living in the neighborhood would tell their children not to stand still too long if they went over to Mr. Tom’s house or he would white wash them, too.
I have lived in Water Valley most all of my life. My father was a railroad engineer and I knew most of the railroad people who lived here. I chose Tom Myers to write about because he is a prime example of a good citizen and a railroad man. But, so were most of the hundreds of other people who worked for the Illinois Central Railroad and lived in our community.