W.J. Barksdale

A True Virginian
Barksdale uttered one of the most memorable quotes on that dreadful night in July of 1889. In a panic to escape from the wreckage, some of the men in the crippled “Beverly” sleeper scrambled to freedom and left several ladies behind. Barksdale was not one of those men, and he reassured his fellow passengers that he could be counted on for help when he declared, “I will not leave, ladies, until I see you all safe; I am a Virginian.”1

Barksdale’s chivalry made him one of the more interesting passengers on the train, but little is known about him before or after that night. Norfolk & Western listed him as W.J. Barksdale of Richmond, Virginia.2 The Dallas Morning News related the story of Barksdale’s heroic efforts in a July 27, 1889 article which listed him as W.I. Barksdale of Richmond.3

The city directories for Richmond around that time do not provide any additional clues. There were a number of Barksdales in Richmond in 1889 but none with names that match up with W. Barksdale.4 For now, his heroic efforts in the aftermath of the wreck remain all we know about Mr. Barksdale.

Do you think you know who the W.J. Barksdale was on the train that night? If you think he might have been an ancestor of yours, or if you have some additional information that might help identify him I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!


  1. “I Am A Virginian.”, The Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX), July 27, 1889, Volume IV, Number 301: p.5.
  2. Fourteenth Annual Report of The Railroad Commissioner of the State of Virginia, J.H. O’Bannon Superintendent of Public Printing, Richmond, VA, 1890: p. xlv. http://books.google.com/books?id=CFopAAAAYAAJ
  3. See note 1 above.
  4. J.H. Chataigne, Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, VA, 1889, p. 129.

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