Where is the Haddix Bell?

By Stephen D. Bowling

In a short article in the March 26, 1953 edition of The Knoxville Journal, the paper ran an announcement from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad that the company was donating a bell to a Breathitt County church. The bell was one of the hundreds that the railroad would give away as they dismantled old and outdated engines for scrap.

The L&N Engine 769 sits in the scrap yard at Louisville waiting to be cut up for scrap. Notice the bell harness is sitting empty with the bell already removed and most likely donated to a rural church.

The bell donation program, started in 1950 by the railroad, was a huge success and hundreds of small, rural churches got bells as retired L&N steam engines were cut up and replaced by modern and more efficient diesels. The March 1953 announcement indicated that the Haddix Brethren Church at Haddix, an affiliate of the Riverside Brethren Church, would receive one of the latest bell donations.

The article from page 8 of the March 26, 1953 edition of The Knoxville Journal.

There was no further mention of the donation. No article appeared in the local paper to celebrate the conation or the installation of the bell. So, what happened to the bell? Is it still at Haddix? Does the owner even know the history of the bell if it still exists? There are so many questions that are currently unanswered. There are most likely many people who have heard the ringing of the bell throughout the river valley at Haddix but never knew where the bell came from.

The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, nicknamed the “Old Reliable”, was chartered in 1850 and operated in Kentucky independently until it was purchased by Seaboard Coast Line in 1971. A merger of companies in 1982 turned the old L&N into CSX Transportation.

How many L&N bells were donated to churches in Breathitt County? Sadly, the L&N did not keep great records of their donations and that old bell in your yard just might have traveled thousands of miles on the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

The story of these bells is just another piece of Breathitt County’s amazing history almost lost to time.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Railroad, Religion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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