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The Remarkable Legacy of Uncle Lem and the Surviving Strength of Annie Reed

Bardstown, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of Kentucky, owes a great debt to the indomitable Lem Reed, affectionately known as Uncle Lem. With his remarkable, self-taught musical talent, Lem Reed made an unforgettable impact on tourism in the region. Armed with his trusty banjo, he would greet visitors with his melodic rendition of "Welcome to My Old Kentucky Home" from the mid-1940s until his untimely passing in October 1955. His captivating banjo plucking and soulful singing became a magnetic force, drawing thousands of tourists to the park each year. Visitors were enchanted by his performances, returning time and again and eagerly bringing along friends to witness the magic of Uncle Lem.

Annie Mitchell, born on April 24th, 1885 in Nelson County to Addie and Nelson Mitchell, played an equally significant role in this tale of resilience and triumph. She grew up as an only child, and on December 12th, 1901, she joined Lem in matrimony. While Lem worked as a farmer, Annie served as a dedicated nurse for the esteemed Joseph Hurst family in Bardstown.

One fateful day, on December 20th, 1917, tragedy struck during Annie's duties as a nurse. Aboard a train departing from Shepherdsville, bound for Bardstown after a shopping trip in Louisville, Annie found herself accompanied by Mrs. Joseph Hurst and her 8-month-old son, Raoul. Due to the train's crowded conditions, Annie was forced to relinquish her seat and move elsewhere. Little did she know that this seemingly mundane turn of events would save her life. As fate would have it, their train was struck by another, causing the two rear passenger cars to collide violently. The impact threw passengers as far as 150 feet into a vast snow drift, claiming the lives of forty-seven individuals, including Mrs. Hurst and her young son. Annie Reed, having heeded the instruction to vacate her original seat, miraculously escaped the grips of death. However, she was forced to navigate through debris and shatter a window to secure her safety.

Annie Reed, an exemplar of resilience and strength, went on to raise a remarkable total of thirteen children. At the time of the devastating train wreck, she already had seven children and was pregnant with her eighth. In the years that followed, Annie would bring five more lives into the world. The significance of her survival cannot be overstated, for without it, the voice recounting this story would cease to exist.

I, Lisa "Reed" Sheckles, am a living testament to the endurance and tenacity embodied by my grandmother, Annie Reed. My father, Joseph Alphonso Reed, was the last child born to Lem and Annie Reed. Reflecting upon the impact of that harrowing Shepherdsville train wreck in December 1917, I cannot help but acknowledge the profound influence it had on the course of our family's history. Had our grandmother not emerged from that tragedy unscathed, my father, Joe, would have never graced this world with his presence.

As custodians of our family's remarkable history, we are steadfast in our commitment to preserve and share this extraordinary tale. The legacy of Uncle Lem and the surviving strength of Annie Reed shall forever endure, perpetuated through our narratives. We hold firm to the belief that the profound impact of this life-altering event must be shared with all who are willing to lend an ear. It is through our storytelling that the spirit of resilience and the triumph of the human spirit will continue to inspire generations to come.


Submitted by Granddaughter Lisa “Reed” Sheckles

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This is one of the true stories of our African American histories that is very seldon told!


Ceaser Beavers
Ceaser Beavers
May 25, 2023

Awesome story!!!

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