The Hero of 1923

Heroes sometimes come from the most unexpected places. In 1923, one hero saved a life by being in the right place and having the fortitude to take action. The actions of Eugene Hyden would be forgotten today except for a small article in The Kentucky Post and a tribute in The Jackson Times nearly one hundred years ago.

The Sandborn Insurance Company mapped Jackson in 1920, and the Crain and Hyden homes were included on Cherry Street.

The Crain and Hyden families lived next door to each other on Cherry Street for many years. The Jackson Porter and Bess Crain family filled their large, two-story white house with the sounds of three children, Jack, Martha, and Mary Kathleen. Next door, the family of Eugene Crittenden Hyden consisted of his wife, Sallie, and their children, Mary J. Eugene, Nettie, Thomas, and William. The children of Cherry Street were not unlike those in Jackson who spent their days playing marbles, swimming in the river, and playing various other pastimes, including baseball.

Jack Crain’s mother, Bess Crain, stands on the porch of their home on Cherry Street.

One event in 1923 changed the lives of two of these children. The story was printed on the front page of The Kentucky Post on Wednesday, July 4, 1923. 


Neighbor Finds Body on Bottom of River

JACKSON, KY.:  The timely and heroic work of young Eugene Hyden saved the life of Jack Crain, the 10-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Crain when he had gone under for the last time in the river here while swimming.

James Horton was in swimming and the little Crain boy asked him to take him across the river on his back.  While in the very deep water Horton became helpless and both went under.  Horton was able to again founder to the surface and feebly reach shallow water in a state of collapse.  

However, the lad was drowning when young Hyden, who was on the river bank, jumped into the water, making several dives and, failing to find him, treaded for a distance of about a hundred feet where he found the boy on the bottom of the river.  He carried him out and when on the river bank called for bystanders to bring him a barrel and at once used first air to bring life back to the boy.  By the time physicians arrived Jack was recovering from a watery grave.

Horton had suffered a nervous collapse and required the attention of physicians.  The heroic work of Young Hyden is being praised in the highest terms.  Few people would have the presence of mind in such an exciting time to have done the quick and efficient work that he did.  The Hyden and Crain families have been neighbors for a number of years and the children are almost like sisters and brothers and it seems that fate has played a part in the affair, in as much as Hyden happened to be present to go to the rescue of his young friend and neighbor.
A view of the North Fork of the Kentucky River just above the South Jackson Bridge.
Jack Crain’s obituary appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Friday, December 8, 1995, edition.

Despite the requests of Eugene Hyden, The Jackson Times printed an account of the incident. He asked that they not mention the rescue because he had “not done anything more than his duty.” The Times ignored his request and published a column-long account because “too much can not be said in praise of him and the heroic deed he did.”

Both men would recover from the event, and both lived productive lives. The Jackson Times reported, “Mr. and Mrs. Crain feel under the deepest obligations to Eugene whom they always held in the highest esteem.” Jack Mitchell Crain, who effectively drowned in 1923 at the age of ten, died on December 6, 1995, at 82. He is buried in the Paris Cemetery in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Dr. Hyden’sobituary from the October 12, 1957 edition of The Lexington Leader.

The eighteen-year-old hero of 1923, Eugene Hieronymous Hyden, continued to save lives over the next 29 years. After high school graduation, he attended the University of Louisville Medical School and graduated in 1930. He settled in Paris and practiced medicine for many years until his health forced him to limit his efforts.

Eugene Hyden died at 52 on October 12, 1957, at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. He was survived by his wife, Margaret, and three daughters, Margaret, Mary Jo, and Sissie. Services were held at the David Funeral Home, and he was buried in the Paris Cemetery not far from the grave of Jack Crain.

Heroes come in every shape and size. There is a hero in every one of us fueled by the desire to help others. One eighteen-year-old chose to dive into the river in 1923 and did not give up until he found his neighbor. Let the example of this hero guide us when our opportunities to help others come, regardless of how big or small they may be.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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