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The Nefarious Mr. Burns and His Fivescore Vapor-Mule

The last heard of the Danville, Scottsville, and Columbia Railroad was in the April 15, 1908 Adair County News.

By "Jim"

"We hear some railroad talk, but we would rather hear the whistle." (Ella community correspondent, in the February 18, 1908 News.)

"The Danville, Scottsville and Columbia railroad is certainty."

Thus stated the unequivocal lead in the top-center front page article of the March 25, 1908 Adair County News.

This latest incarnation of a railway through Adair was to be part of a much longer rail system with a southern terminus near Savannah, Georgia, a mere 540 miles beyond Scottsville. The previous week's edition of the News, in a piece datelined Danville, had reported "Work on the construction of the road will begin in the course of a few weeks" and that the route would run from McKinney, in Boyle County, through Hustonville, Liberty, and Columbia.A Mr. J.F. Allen was president of the Danville, Scottsville and Columbia Railroad, and no less a personage than former Secretary of the Treasury Leslie M. Shaw was the treasurer and director of the Company. The March 18th News article concluded by stating (via the Advocate newspaper, Danville) that
"Secretary Shaw is expected to arrive soon and spend several days conferring with President Allen. The same paper makes the statement that from 700 to 800 men will begin work as soon as practical.
There were additional articles over the next few weeks, all reporting progress, of course, including the one in the March 25th News headlined "Large Deposit of Coin of the Realm Sent to Danville to Defray Expenses," with the said deposit (supposedly from a syndicate of eastern capitalists) "to be used in purchasing the rest of the right-of-way and defraying the regular expenses."Then came the April 15, 1908 edition of the News -- and a front page bombshell:
"More Railroad News

"Last Saturday evening [April 11th] when the mail arrived from Campbellsville quite a number called at the News office for the purpose of looking over the Danville Advocate--to read the railroad news.

"They were much gratified to see an article that Mr. Burns, a railroad contractor, of Springfield, Mo., had been awarded the contract for grading the road to Scottsville, and in lieu of a bond Mr. Burns had placed $10,000 in a local bank which was to be held as a forfeit if his work did not come up to contract.

"Mr. Burns stated, after the contract had been signed, that he had 100 mules in transit from Springfield, Mo., to be put to work on the new road.. The matter of the coming great enterprise was discussed until late bedtime, every body retiring to dream of the whistle of the locomotive.

"Morning came and also the Louisville [Friday] afternoon papers. In the Post this announcement appeared, sent out from Danville: 'A sensation was sprung here this morning when it became known that President Allen, of the Danville and Scottsville railroad, had been duped out of $2,000'"It was this way: Mr. Burns gave Mr. Allen drawn by the First National Bank of Gainesville, Ga., on the Hanover Bank of New York for $12,000, Mr. Allen giving him $2,000 which represented the difference. The $10,000 left by the contractor was his forfeit. Mr. Burns took his departure from Danville; the draft was a forgery; Mr. Allen is out $2,000, and Mr. Burns is having a good time in some congenial clime. That is all. When we have more encouraging railroad news we will be sure to write it."
This was the last mention in the News of the Danville, Columbia and Scottsville rail line. The "more encouraging railroad news" never materialized and alas, the Ella community correspondent never got his wish to hear the whistle.Contributor's note: This article is for Messrs. Billy Joe Fudge, Joe Moore and Ed Waggener, all of whom "still cherish this dream and look forward to its completion sometime soon."

This story was posted on 2010-08-29 15:11:04
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