By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
It’s no secret that Olive Hill holds her railroad legacy near and dear. Though no trains have run through the city in many years, the name of Railroad Street, the beloved Depot, and the caboose setting on Tom T. Hall Boulevard all bear witness to the city’s once flourishing love affair with the rails.
Back in 1919, though, the thoughts about the trains weren’t always so warm. Sure, folks appreciated the access to other areas the train line afforded them, and the goods that the trains brought into town. But they also worried about reckless train operators.
In the April 17, 1919 edition of the Carter County Herald, the editor wrote about a “murder trap” for the citizens of the city at the railroad crossing in town, noting how he watched a girl of “about seven years of age,” Jessie Marie Jarvis, nearly get hit by one train while trying to avoid another that was ignoring the city’s speed limit on trains, moving through the town at the dizzying speed of “about 25 miles per hour” more than double the city’s 12 mph limit for trains. The article goes on to champion an even tougher ordinance, which would have halved the speed limit in town to six mile per hour.
This was, of course, several months after the paper advocated for a crossing and, perhaps, even a gate and crossing guard for the railroad in the September 12, 1918 edition.
The incident with young Ms. Jarvis was also just a month after the Chamber of Commerce issued their complaint about how a proposed change to the train schedules could negatively impact Olive Hill business if it made it more difficult for people in outlying areas to catch the train into and back out of town.
So, while Olive Hill may love the legacy of her railroad history today, that relationship was a bit more complicated when they were a part of everyday life, even if a necessary part for the success of the city.
Editor’s Note: This is the 21st in a series of articles drawn from the historical newspaper clippings and documents in the scrapbooks of Jack Fultz. We thank Sally James of Sally’s Flowers in Olive Hill for sharing her uncle’s collected clippings with us and the community. – Jeremy D. Wells, editor, Carter County Times