Sights, sounds permeate train trip to Nashville

This article was found in the Helms Family Bible and was contributed by Helen Jane Helms Strode. The described trip to Brown County took place before 1913.

Ever visit Brown County before the motorcar became the common mode of travel? Up at the break of day and off to the Union Station, to catch the “morning train” the Illinois Central (maybe it was then called the Indianapolis Southern) bound for Helmsburg. The chug-a-chug trip paralleled the Three Notch Road to New Bargersville where the road made its way westward to strike Morgantown.

Morgantown! Who can forget the jerking and switching about as the crew replenished the supply of water and coal! Here we crossed the old Big Four “jerkwater,” made famous for its “combination trains” of freight and passengers. On down the valley of old Indian Creek the train chugged.

Soon, the customary blasts announced the approach to the first Brown County station, Doublin Track. Some say it was so named because it was there the trains passed. This name — we called it “Dubblin’ Track” — soon gave way to the more sophisticated title of Pomona. But this did not last long, the next and present name being Fruitdale. Hogs and chickens in crates, wire fence, farm implements and crossties dotted the station platform.

On into the hill country to Helmsburg, our getting-off place. Helmsburg grew like a mushroom when the railroad was built through Brown County. There were dreams someday of being the county seat. John Helms, farmer and later liveryman, whose farm homestead stood near where the train station was built, gave the town its name.

Off the train a throng of men, like carnival criers, greet us, yelling “Nashville!,” all soliciting the business of hauling us and our baggage to the county seat in Peaceful Valley. Three distinct “hack lines” were in competition for our business. We chose the one headed for Pittman’s Inn.

The hack, drawn by two trusty steeds, John and Caesar, was driven by Grover Pittman, whom we knew affectionately as “Duck.” The line was owned by Orville Pittman, Grover’s cousin, and was operated in connection with the hotel owned by Orville’s father, Billy. Who can forget Billy with his congenial smile and his mouth full of brightly shining gold teeth?

With a crack of the whip we were off across Bean Blossom Creek, on down the “branch” past John Snyder’s and over the “dug” hill and into Owl Creek valley. Just in front of the old Tomlinson home the road turned abruptly east over a long hill. On the flat and down into the Salt Creek Valley we went. The road swung ‘round the old fairground and past Anne Winchester’s.

Then Nashville. The horses stopped short in front of the Pittman House. Proprietor Billy Pittman met us. “Any room, Bill?” “We’ll make room,” was the quick reply. When the hotel was filled, Bill rigged up the house next door as an annex. If that became inadequate, then he rented every available room in every available house in the whole town.

All settled, we tramped about on the gravel walks of Nashville. We saw the old log jail, then toured the county. Somehow, I always miss Bill Pittman every time I visit the old village.