by Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator
On May 21, Historic Oakland Foundation premieres its newest special topic tour, “From Terminus to Terminals: People Who Put Atlanta in Motion.” Developed by Oakland volunteer Pat Powers, this dynamic tour explores the history of transportation in the Gate City and how several Oakland Cemetery residents had a hand in Atlanta’s transformation, from small-time rail town to bustling metropolis. One story that tour participants can expect to hear is the tale of Ben Dewberry.
Benjamin Franklin Dewberry was born in 1857, and began working for Southern Railroad as an engineer when he was 25 years old. As an engineer, Mr. Dewberry operated the train and was responsible for driving the engine, train speed, and all train handling. As he traveled his routes, Mr. Dewberry would often toss apples to children from his engine window. Mr. Dewberry was popular and respected among his fellow engineers, conductors, and brakemen.
Mr. Dewberry’s choice to sacrifice the engine was later immortalized in song. Reverend Andrew Jenkins, a composer of songs popular with southern gospel singers, wrote “Ben Dewberry’s Final Run” several decades after the engineer’s death. The song was recorded in 1927 by Jimmie Rodgers, a country music pioneer. Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, and Johnny Cash also recorded the popular ballad. Ben Dewberry may be gone, but his name lives on in song.
Stationed near the graves of Great Locomotive Chase hero Jeff Cain and Atlanta pioneer Richard Peters, Ben Dewberry’s grave marker sits within sight of Bobby Jones’ final resting place and the Memorial Drive gate. He is buried next to his wife, and his epitaph reads “A faithful servant, Rewarded in heaven.”
Attend the premiere of “From Terminus to Terminals: People Who Put Atlanta in Motion” this Saturday, May 21, at 7:00 pm to learn more about the actions of brave engineer Ben Dewberry and other Oakland residents who shaped Atlanta through transportation. Spaces are limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance at ticketalternative.com.