One hundred years and one week ago the deadliest train crash in U.S. history occurreed here in Nashville at a now mostly forgotten spot called Dutchman’s Curve. Officially the death toll is 101, although historians think that’s low, and since most of the victims–68 in the official count–were African-American there probably were many who weren’t counted, or who died later. Most of the victims were African-American because they were forced to ride in old, dilapidated train cars–many from the Confederate era, part of the history of oppression that didn’t end with the Civil War, and that, in many ways, still hasn’t ended. There’s a historical marker for Dutchman’s Curve on White Bridge Road–an ironic name, considering the tragedy. Local author and historian Betsy Thorpe has written about the tragedy in her book The Day The Whistles Cried.
At the time it happened the tragedy was overshadowed by World War I, but the centenary was marked by speeches and walking tours. Decades ago the path of White Bridge Road was altered slightly, and a new, higher, wider bridge was built. The old bridge is gone but has been replaced by a footbridge. Nearby, next to a transformer station, is the Richland Park Greenway. People can walk by Dutchman’s Curve today. History and nature are preserved side by side.