Hank museum receives gift of mugs featuring ‘Old 14’

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Way down in the Southland in Old Alabam,’ we lived in a place that they called Chapman Town, and late in the evening when the sun was low, way off in the distance, you could hear the train blow . . .”

Butler County’s most famous native son, Hank Williams Sr., penned those words, lyrics from a song called “Log Train,” written in 1952. And the train whistle was that of Engine No. 14, driven by Hank’s dad.

Now, “Old 14” is back in Georgiana, so to speak.

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Keville Larson, grandson of J. Greeley McGowin, owner of the W. T. Smith Lumber Company of Chapman where the elder Williams worked, just donated more than 100 mugs featuring the image of the little black locomotive to the Hank Williams Museum and Boyhood Home in Georgiana.

Although the circa-1881 4-4-0 locomotive was moved to the Pike Pioneer Museum in Troy in the 1990s, many of those who grew up in or traveled through Butler County on Highway 31 fondly remember Old 14.

The locomotive first arrived in Alabama in 1912. Retired from service in 1925, the little steam engine was moved just off the much-traveled highway between Georgiana and Chapman.

“Everybody stopped to get their picture taken there, and to ring the bell,” recalls Georgiana city clerk Ann Browder.

The locomotive stood in its roadside location for almost half-a-century. That added up to a lot of snapshots and plenty of pretend rides in its cab, locals say.

Folks can now enjoy a piece of Butler County’s past with a purchase of one of the black and white mugs, which sell for $5 each at the museum.

Larson said he originally had the No. 14 mugs made in 2005 as the McGowin family celebrated the 110th anniversary of the founding of W.T. Smith.

“They were so popular I ran out – and so I reordered,” Larson said.

The mug gets Browder’s seal of approval. “I’ll take odds there are a lot of people around Georgiana who would love to have one of these,” she said.

Margaret Gaston of the Hank museum heartily agrees.

“The log trains and lumber companies are a big part of Butler County history. Many, many people worked there over the years and of course, we have Hank’s family ties to this, too,” Gaston said.

“We really appreciate Keville for donating this wonderful mugs to help our museum.”