The Day the Whistles Cried: The Great Cornfield Meetat Dutchman’s Curve is the true story of America’s worst train wreck. A cornfield meet is railroad slang for a head on collision. This mother of all train wrecks took place in the cornfields along Richland Creek in West Nashville in 1918, and may have been the inspiration for the archaic phrase.
Tracking down descendants of the “One Hundred and One Victims” to interview and spending long hours in archives, Thorpe gathered a plethora of material. Condensing over 5000 pages of research notes into 200 pages of riveting reading was her biggest challenge. Most rewarding? “Seeing people’s names from a 1918 newspaper death list come to life before my eyes, as I discovered what they did for a living, why they were on the train, and who their families were. It’s the story of a time gone by, told through these real lives. It’s not just a story about a train wreck. On the inbound train rode two brothers and their cousin, domestic workers from Kingston Springs. “As their story unfolds, so does the story of those turbulent and changing times.
This busy waitress-turned-author is ready to bring this tale to a larger audience. To help do so she launched a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign to raise money to pay for publishing this dramatic history of America’s Worst Train Wreck.Her expertise about the wreck is already acknowledged in a television special, “Tennessee’s Black Heritage” that aired on Nashville’s WKRN, in 2011.
Waiting tables is a good career for a person who needs flexibility and Thorpe started working at Shoney’s Restaurant on Music Row in Nashville in 1988. She traveled many years with her late musician husband and found that waitressing at Shoney’s was the perfect job for her. Now she’s become a writer, publishing articles and blogging and still works for the company.
You can meet this busy waitress-turned-author and hear some of the stories she must leave out of her book at two upcoming free events. On September 12, at 2 p.m. Chris Limbos, Realty Association presents An Afternoon with Betsy Thorpe in the Belle Meade Plantation Wine Garden. The beauties of the plantation was the last view for railroad engineer William Lloyd, and many of the passengers on the inbound overnight train. They passed the plantation just before they rode into eternity. Thorpe will also explain how her interest in local history led to becoming a memory-keeper: interviewing, researching, writing, and now, publishing. On September 14th, at 2 p.m. she will lead a guided walking tour through the wreck site on the Richland Creek Greenway. The sixty minute walk will start at the old White Bridge near the intersection of Harding Road and White Bridge Road.