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Out of the Depot

Caulfield Was The Railroad In Water Valley

By J. K. Gurner


A. D. Caulfield was not a rough and tumble railroad man, according to railroad historian Bruce Gurner. He was a southern gentleman.
Caulfield started as a telegraph operator and moved up through the ranks to dispatcher. After working in Louisiana, he moved to Water Valley shortly after the turn of the century and became chief dispatcher then later trainmaster.
In 1913 he married Helen Leland, the daughter of a wealthy Water Valley merchant in what Bruce described as the biggest social event of the season. Soon after, in 1914, he became Superintendent of the Mississippi Division of the Illinois Central Railroad, the most important position between Jackson, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi.  
Mr. Caulfield never did anything ribald or robust, Bruce said. He only knew two curse words.
Railroader “Hot” Thomas told of the time he was flagging on the company motorcar headed south with Caulfield between Holly Springs and Oxford. They headed in to the sidetrack at Gillton and Mr. Dunn was coming up fast behind them on number five. They were all standing by the motorcar when Charlie Dunn went by about 100 miles an hour.”
The partial vacuum created by the fast moving train sucked everything along with it including Caulfield’s expensive straw hat. Caulfield used one of his curse words. In fact, Thomas told Bruce, he used the word twice for emphasis then said he was going to have a talk with Dunn about running so fast.
Caulfield was the railroad, Bruce said, describing the way people felt about the small, precise man who could fire the dickens out of you.
The world was in good order during those times. The folks in town knew that God was in Heaven and Mr. Caulfield was in his office at the depot. The future was rosy. God and Mr. Caulfield were going to take care of us, Bruce said.
Some people believed that if anything ever happened to him, Water Valley would lose the division office.
Mr. Caulfield died in 1940. By 1945 everything was gone.

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